Archive | June, 2013

These boots were made for riding

24 Jun

Footwear has always been an issue for me. I don’t know why, as my feet are a size 8.5 which is well within the realm of “common”. For whatever reason, shoes always give me blisters, or eventually feel too small or big etc. I love summer when I can just put on a pair of flip flops. Sadly, flip flops and horses don’t mix.

I always look rather high maintenance when I show to up to the barn…this is a necessity however since I ride at 2 locations. I have a bag with my helmet, gloves, treats for human and horse, and water. In the winter this bag has additional hand/foot warmers, a scarf, multiple gloves/mittens. I used to leave my riding boots at the barn, until about a year ago when they were stolen from my tack box. The guilty party is no longer at the barn, but since then, I also truck around my riding boots too.

I am quite tall (5’11) which can make finding tall boots, which are also comfortable, at a relatively reasonable price, quite difficult to find.

I had a pair of fairly inexpensive Auken field boots which were nicely broken in, but then they were stolen. I thought I’d branch out for their replacement and decided to try Equicomfort-brand dress boots. Big mistake. While they broke in really nicely, the zippers kept unzipping themselves. At first I thought it was because they needed to be broken in further and stretched, but this continued. Then, the side popper came off. Last summer, I took them back to the store and the sales girl said she’d never seen these issues before and that she would have to send them back to the manufacturer. I explained that I needed a pair of tall boots as I had shows lined up, so based on her opinion, I just exchanged them for a new identical pair on the assumption that my original pair was a dud. That was a mistake. My second pair has been doing the exact same thing although to date, the snap hasn’t come off.

I was in a different tack store a few weeks ago and decided to check out their boot selection. And that’s when I found the Ariat Heritage Contours. I tried them on but they didn’t have the size I needed. The tall regulars fit but were too wide. They didn’t have any tall slim in 8.5’s so I tried the size 8, tall regulars whose width would fit similar to the 8.5 tall slim. They fit and were comfortable but I couldn’t help but worry that I’d get them home and find the size 8 too snug. I decided to think about it – also because they were $319 and I think that price warrants some thought…although I’m well aware people regularly spend several hundred more on nice boots.

Well, yesterday was the day. I went back to the store, tried on the 8.5 tall slims and they were dreamy. I wore them around the store as I picked up some other items and then made the big commitment at the cash. They are all mine. I wore them around my house yesterday to begin the break in process.

I’m planning on re-returning my Equicomfort’s back to the other store and they can send them back to the manufacturer. Murphy’s Law says they’ll offer to replace them with the same boot (useless to me) but I’m hopefully going to be able to negotiate a store credit instead…maybe even a refund but I doubt it due to the time lapse!

My cat, Sunshine, thought my purchase was acceptable due to the purrrrrfect cat box they came in…

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Corona goes French…

20 Jun

Tonight I decided to switch up Corona’s bit. Since he arrived, I’ve ridden him in a single jointed eggbutt snaffle. Tonight I switched him to a loose ring french link. My reasoning for switching was threefold:

1. If I were a horse with a bit in my mouth, I think I would appreciate a double jointed bit;

2. I’m hoping that having something that moves a bit more in his mouth will assist him in relaxing;

3. I’ve been wanting to switch for about a month now but wanted to see what the Boss thought, as I’m no bit expert. Then, the other day she suggested it after we were discussing Corona’s tendencies to “fiddle” with things while being ridden.

Tryout 1 went really well, he felt super soft and light in my hands and was much quieter than normal. I’m anxious to give it a few more goes before I determine whether it was coincidence or not….

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A photo shoot with Amber

19 Jun

Recall how back at the beginning of May I had that awful ride on Amber out at TB’s? Well, Monday was THE night that I got back in the saddle on Amber (I have been riding Quinn ever since). I was pretty excited to ride Amber again, mainly to see if the issues we experienced back in May could have been attributed to her being in a long and drawn out heat cycle.

Tacking her up we had no issues except for her trying to nab treats from someone’s bag. She was hesitant for any movement over her head, like when I would take off her halter or put on her bridle, but we got lots of practice since someone had borrowed her bridle so I had to put it on and take it off about 3 times to adjust it.

TB was there, along with her friend Anne who is a horse person and a professional photographer. As I was about to go into the arena, TB announced, “we’ll be right there, Anne is going to take some photos!” this was quickly followed by, “it may not be a good night for photos considering this horse hasn’t been ridden at all since the last time you rode her, but we’ll see how it goes!” My thoughts exactly.

Into the arena we went, where I mounted without issue and the warm up began, as did the photo shoot! Things were going really well but Amber was still quite fussy in the bridle. She flips her bottom lip when being ridden until she relaxes which can take anywhere from 10 minutes to half an hour or more. TB had a brilliant idea of seeing whether letting her canter might assist her in her relaxation – in particular since she’s an OTTB and at the track this is how they warm up. Given my one previous experience of attempting to canter her, my initial thought was, “oh sh&t!” but then I figured what the heck. I got up in two point (as much as I could with long dressage leg position) and asked for a canter. Superb! She was quick but extremely responsive so I just focussed on not getting in her way. We changed reins and I asked again, excellent! Then we tried it in full seat just to see how she would respond – the answer – with tension…so we’ll work on that. I asked for trot and TB’s brilliant idea turned out to be an “ah ha!” moment, Amber was SO much more relaxed. I could even put my right leg on her a bit stronger without her kicking out at it.

Anyways, I’ve uploaded some photographic evidence of our wonderful ride. You can see her flipping her lip in a couple of them and my leg in a funny position in a couple of them (avoiding putting it on her). You will also notice that I’m grinning like a fool in most – it was an excellent ride and this smile was not for the camera!

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Report of Show #2

18 Jun

I would have had this post up earlier, except I somehow deleted the draft copy and had to start from scratch!

I’m thrilled to say that the show on Saturday was more than I could have asked for! I am so proud of Corona that I’ve been grinning ever since!

The day started out great, with Corona loading into the trailer with only a slight hesitation. I was so relieved at this because I’ve been working with him on loading and unloading since the great trailer meltdown of Show #1. Roller also was a very good boy and loaded without causing any rope burn injuries. Both horses were rewarded with maple crunchies for their bravery.

I didn’t really know what to expect from the venue as it was brand new and we’d never been there before. They had it set up with three HUGE sand rings, the first for trailer parking, the middle for the warm up ring, and then the third as the competition ring. With the venue being brand new, there wasn’t much landscaping done so it looked a bit vast, however I think this worked to my advantage because there were no trees or bushes to hide Corona-eating monsters that seem to follow us at shows. In the show ring, there were only 2 flower pots by the judges booth and while Corona looked at them, I guess they passed his scrutiny and he didn’t seem too bothered.

Our warm up went very smoothly. At one point, Corona squealed like a pig when I asked him to work away from Roller (yes, he literally squeals when he disagrees with something), but he quickly settled again and was very responsive and attentive to what I was asking. When we were called into the show ring, I took advantage of the previous riders’ slow exit from the ring, and took Corona on a walking lap around the outside of the ring so that he could have a look at things. He was a bit hesitant in some places, but there were no huge spooks. The judge rang the bell and we were up! I picked up our trot and immediately felt Corona tense up as we headed down centreline. His head went up like a giraffe and I thought, “oh no, not again!” We managed a halt with immobility at X (more than I could say for Show #1) and proceeded to C in working trot. I decided to do sitting trot for the test because I could feel how tense Corona was, and he tends to settle more with a lot of seat. Once we tracked left at C and began our first 20m circle at E, I could feel him begin to settle. I was very conscious of my breathing and trying to stay relaxed. It seemed to pay off because Corona was amazing for the rest of the test! The only spook we had was when a bird flew over and the shadow went right in front of his feet. It was during a canter to trot transition at F and Corona jumped a bit to the right going into the corner. I managed to flex him to the inside and then get our correct bend back before turning down the centreline at C however, so it was a good recovery! I was absolutely thrilled with our performance and was grinning like a fool once we completed our final halt at X. We left the ring and even the Boss said how happy she was with us.

We ended up scoring a 61.666% in our first test, which earned us 4th place in the class. The girl who came first blew us all away with a 68.333%, and then the scores for 2nd and 3rd place were 63.531% and 62.500% respectively. The comments I received on the test were not surprising to me. We lost marks for tension, suppleness and acceptance of the bridle and the judge noted that I should push Corona more forward to an elastic contact. I definitely agree with the comments and I think that as we work through our “show nerves” these things will get better and better.

My goal for the second test was to improve my scores and see what I could do to push Corona forwards. I was hoping to be able to ride the test in posting trot to assist with this but decided I’d see how he felt going into the ring and go from there. When it was our turn to go again, I once again took Corona on a walk around the outside of the ring and noticed immediately how much more relaxed he felt compared to the first time. The bell rang and I picked up the rising trot to see how it felt. He felt wonderful! I kept it up as we approached A and decided to go for it. We entered the ring at posting trot and there were no giraffes in sight! Halted at X, hindquarters bulged to the right (my bad) but immobility was achieved! Proceeded to track right at C and things just got better and better. I was focussing on keeping a good forward rhythm and at the slightest feel of hesitation I just did a few little plays on the bit to keep him focussed. We had an incredible ride and I could feel the difference in our free walk as well as with our 20m circle where we had to ask the horse to stretch forwards and downwards. This time, I was grinning like a fool from about a third of the way in! We finished our test and left the ring and I couldn’t stop praising my wonderful Corona! I was thrilled, the Boss was thrilled, and I’m pretty sure Corona was proud of himself.

We earned ourselves a 63.928% which put us in second place! The same girl won first place again with a score of 66.607% and the other scores ranged from 56.250% to 62.142%. As if this didn’t make me happy enough, I then found out that we had just missed being the reserve AA champion by 0.04%! Not too shabby!!!

Needless to say, I’m so proud of Corona and the effort that he put in from beginning to end. He was an absolute star all day, inside and outside of the show ring. His trailer loading was more than commendable, he stayed relaxed at a strange venue with lots of other horses around (some of which were being a bit naughty!) and together we achieved our goals!

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Show #2 is on the horizon

13 Jun

Corona and I are busy prepping for our second show of the season on Saturday. The ride times have now been finalized and they are very civilized (10:42 am and 1:19pm for me), the weather is supposed to be sunny and 26 degrees and I’m looking forward to getting out there with my noble steed!

I’ve continued to work on trailer loading and unloading with Corona, and he’s been super. We’ve also been having some really good rides and I’m confident that we’re show-ring ready. We’ve had a couple of rides where there have been quite a few distractions (riding with new horses, riding in the ring while others are being ridden on the track, dogs running around, people watching, etc) and he’s stayed calm and focussed 98% of the time. I’m hoping his calmness and attentiveness will carry forward into the ring on Saturday.

We’ve had quite a bit of rain here over the last week and each time I see Corona, he is absolutely covered head-to-tail in mud. Conveniently for CG, Corona’s turnout buddy Roller is always immaculate and shiny when he comes in…since the horses are turned out at night, needless to say I’ll be arriving to the barn early on Saturday morning to allow for a substantial amount of grooming time before we have to leave.

Added to the regular nerves I have about the show, there’s a chance that Corona’s old owner (CC) may be in attendance. She teaches at the barn that’s holding the show and I know that the Boss has told her that we’ll be there. CC is a very accomplished horseperson but to be honest, she is rather scary. I wouldn’t say she is mean (although others would argue this!) but she can be intimidating and no-nonsense. CC and the Boss go way back to when CC was a kid, and the Boss considers her like a daughter. For whatever reason, I think it would be amazing to show CC what a great horse Corona has become. He wasn’t a bad horse when he arrived, but he was super high strung, and he’s just so much more relaxed and happy now. I’d love to ride a good test in general, but it would be extra rewarding to ride a good test infront of CC.

All this being said, my fingers crossed for a Zen-filled Saturday. Once again I’m aiming for scores in the 60’s, no injuries for horse or human, and good behaviour throughout!

Quick video…

8 Jun

Not sure how to properly share videos on here, so have shared it off my skydrive.

This was taken during our bareback cool down at the end of our ride today. Don’t mind the laughing, and clearly we need to work on our abrupt stops!

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Success with my steed!

6 Jun

Corona and I have been having quite a bit of fun lately, and I feel like a breakthrough was made when I decided “no more x-ties!” I’m not swearing them off completely, as I’m sure there’ll be some instances where he’ll be on them (ex: for the blacksmith etc.), but I’m making a concerted effort to not use them at all right now. Up until last weekend, I’d never had to contend with having dogs/people around while working on this, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when more distractions / excitement/ dogs (Corona hates dogs) were added to the mix. Last weekend, CG came to the barn with her 2 dogs, Gus- who is quite well-mannered around the horses and who is terrified of Corona (but not the other horses) and Meesha – who is relatively new and can be considered non-horsified. Since their doggie friends were out to visit, the Boss also had her three dogs out. Of the dogs, only one is a small dog (sheltie), the other 4 are medium to large (German shepherd, lab/Burmese mix, springer spaniel and a border collie). When all five of them run around, it’s like a circus and they haven’t quite mastered the art of staying outside and not running though the barn like a pack of hooligans at any given moment.

I had Corona in the aisle and was grooming him while keeping a close eye out for any dog-attacking thoughts to enter his mind. I had wondered if all the excitement would make him dance around in the aisle, but he was so well-behaved!!! He gave stink eye a couple of times, and he had an indiscretion where he actually lunged at Meesha, however, a) she stood in front of him and barked at his face and b) after he surged forward, he jumped right back into place where he was supposed to be even before I had finished yelling, “no!”

Once we had tacked up, CG and I had a nice relaxing ride with both Gus and Meesha. It was really interesting because the entire time, Gus was trying to teach Meesha the proper riding etiquette. Any time she would get out of line (getting too close to the horses, trying to chase them etc.) he would pull rank on her and put her in her place. I think having a relaxed ride with both the horses and the dogs was a good idea as it let them get used to each other and allowed for any necessary corrections to be made a lot easier than if we had been having a more formal schooling session.

The past few rides, I’ve been taking Corona’s saddle off and riding bareback for our cool-down. He’s surprisingly comfortable even though he has a really high wither and isn’t the chunkiest of horses. He actually seems to enjoy it as well as I find he’s very eager to stretch down and just relax without a saddle. This has made me question whether his saddle isn’t comfortable, but I’m pretty sure it fits him correctly and I haven’t noticed any issues previously. Maybe my seat bones are like a nice massage on his back?!?

After our ride on Sunday, I convinced CG to give bareback a try on Roller and she reluctantly did it. Once she was on she was happy about it, but I think she had some reservations about even being able to get on him without the assistance of stirrups (he’s rather high). Once she was on, I then convinced her to try trotting and she collapsed in fit of laughter as Roller picked up the trot. It was quite funny to watch and I think CG has added “practice sitting trot” to her “to do” list.

I rode again last night, this time with one of the Boss’ friends (M) who trucks in her young horses to the Boss’ property sometimes. We had a good ride and I found it good to ride with unfamiliar horses as it allowed me to practice getting and holding Corona’s attention. He did very well and M even said how well-behaved he was, i.e.: “Did he even notice the new horse? All mine wanted to do was go and say hi and yours just ignored!” M said this in front of the Boss and I was beaming in my proud horse-mama fashion. M and the Boss were talking about how M’s horses don’t really stand still and run around giraffe-like sometimes since they’re so green…And then it happened. The Boss said, “Corona used to be like that, but now he’s good and will stand still”. WHAT????? A COMPLIMENT????? ABOUT CORONA???????? Sure it’s not like she said he should go in the Horse Hall of Fame, but it means a lot considering she wanted the horse put down 2 months ago and she only ever tells me what an @sshole he is. It didn’t even stop there. After M left, I was saying how well behaved Corona was and then the Boss said, “Yes, he was good.” Lightning struck twice in one night! Time for me to buy a lottery ticket!

And just to save the best for last – recall the trailer incident of 2 weeks ago – the one where Corona wouldn’t load and ended up galloping around the track? Well, I’ve been working on this in hopes that loading for the show on the 15th will be a bit less chaotic. On our way out to the field after our ride, I stopped by the trailer for some practice. Who loaded 3 times in a row with only 1 mild hesitation? That’s right, Corona – my vote for the next inductee into the Horse Hall of Fame!!!!!

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