Sunday, November 15, 2009

How to beat your horse in three easy steps

Today, the hubby and I went out to practice some mounted combat on horseback. This is a game we do in the SCA where we fight from horseback using padded rattan weapons. The target is the other rider (you get disqualified if you hit the horse in any way) and both horses and riders wear armor. However, generally for practice we don't wear armor since we're just playing around to get the horses used to being maneuvered and having a foam sword swung around their heads.

Getting started... nobody seems to care much, although Red is eyeing the grass.

This is really Saga's first time with this, aside from the day we did the demo at Pioneer Farm, and he was really great. We followed Red around while the hubby hit some fence posts and the side of the round pen - we do this to get the horse used to the noise. Saga was interested but calm. We moved on to swinging the foam sword over Saga's ears, and he really didn't care. Eventually, I picked up a sword too and started to pretend-hit my husband, who can block pretty much anything I throw, seeing how he's been fighting on foot for so long. And then, as we started to maneuver around, Saga decided that he would try a new technique for disabling his opponent.
Yup, it's the old "head-in-the-lap" technique. Disable your opponent by blocking them however possible! (This is the view I had when this first happened.)

We quickly discovered that this disabling technique is pretty effective, and that both Saga and Red were content to stand there all day while we laughed at them. It also made it easy for me to play whack-a-mole on my husband's helmet, since he wasn't going anywhere in a hurry. So we called FuzzyPony over to take some pictures...
So exactly HOW does one defend against this? Hubby is not sure...
Getting the hang of fighting while sitting on an immobile horse sofa with a Saga head in his lap...
And of course, when you can't beat 'em, hug 'em!

We had a short but pleasant, fun-filled ride. I need more of those! Alas, the weekend is over; back to the grind of the work week. Hopefully I'll get a bit more riding in, but that remains to be seen.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Impressive video of indoor eventing

No, it's not a video of me, but this is just really neat!

2005 Indoor Eventing

I'm especially impressed by how balanced the horse was - the rider really moved her up for the XC-like fences but rode her steady for the stadium-like fences. And the fences themselves, in an INDOOR ARENA! I counted ~20 jumping efforts (some combinations), including the bank, the window, and a cute skinny fence.

This looks like way too much fun... I wonder if there's anything like that around here?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

An excellent excuse to drink

This weekend, we went foxhunting again. All I can say is WOW, I want to do more of this!

The fixture for this weekend's hunt, which included the blessing of the hounds - i.e. opening of the official formal hunt season - was 7IL Ranch down near Bellville, TX. It was a nice fixture if not quite as much land as our last fixture. As with last time, we hauled over to our friend's property in Brenham on Friday night, then headed over to the hunt on Saturday morning.

This time, my suspicion that foxhunting is merely a British excuse to drink copious quantities of alcohol and run one's horse madly over hill and dale was confirmed. And a fine time it was too! The morning started off with a stirrup cup of port with a side of pound cake. Thus fortified, we headed over for the blessing of the hounds.

Readers will be glad to know that I at least managed to get a few pictures this time, although none of us galloping about (YOU try taking pictures while hauling a$$ over the countryside in a group of horses!) Unfortunately, I took them with my iPhone's camera, so they're not all that great. Oh, and none of them are of me, since I was the one with the camera. Nonetheless, there is photographic evidence of our excursion.

Heading over to the blessing of the hounds. That's the hubby on Red on the left, and D. on his horse Booker on the right. And Saga's ears right of center. Funny how everyone looks so darn SHORT from atop Saga! :)

Getting ready to bless the hounds.

The field listening to the blessing of the hounds. The blessing itself was quite lovely, asking for the safety of the horses and riders, blessing the land, the hounds, and of course the coyote, asking that he be swift and crafty so that we could chase him another day.

The hay wagon for the non-riders (and the beer cooler. Did I mention that hunting is an opportunity to drink?)

After the blessing, we headed out. I opted to go second field since I got so fatigued last time, and apparently it was a good choice. The husband later told me that they had quite a few really long gallops, where Red, despite his short stubby legs, had no problem keeping up. Saga was a dream for the entire ride - he stayed collected and was very content to be in the middle of the second field group. However, the sand footing was deep so I think that had a lot to do with how well he carried himself - getting through it was hard work. I actually got a lot of compliments on him!

Mostly the day was trotting, canter, and a lot of standing around. The hounds never found anything except a deer, so the chase was somewhat limited for 2nd field, although 1st field had a lot of running. No jumping for anyone, however.

I took the next couple of pictures at some of our stops... when I wasn't taking sips from the flask, of course. :)

New-found friend R - she was the event rider I met last time. Lovely to visit with her again!

First flight on a hilltop, taking a break. Yeah, I know they're little dots... iPhones don't have a zoom on the camera!

We intersected with first flight at one point - they took a short break near us. You can't really tell in these pictures since you can't see faces, but this hunt is the first time in my life that men actually outnumbered women on horseback.

It's hard to see because of the lighting, but the husband is on the short horse in the middle of the picture.

We were out for about 1.5 hours or so - not as long as last time due to the heat (nearly 80!) and the lack of things to chase. We eventually headed back to the trailers for beverages - the alchoholic kind, of course. After passing the flask around every time we stopped, we were greeted by beer and mimosas on the hay wagon! See, I told you it's just an excuse to drink. I had a mimosa, but the husband ended up wearing most of his due to trying to catch someone else's runaway horse. Got to get the hunt coats dry cleaned!

Untacking back at the trailer.

After we untacked, we took the horses back to Brenham, unloaded and turned them out, then went over to the huntsmaster's house for the hunt brunch. In true Texas style, it was BBQ - with mimosas, beer, and wine (did I mention the drinking?) We got a tour of the facility, which included a lovely barn, kennel, very nice turnouts, a lovely sand arena, and a full Novice and Training XC course! When I exclaimed over the XC course, I was immediately invited out to school sometime. Yeah, I'll be taking the huntsmaster up on that offer!

After a day like that, it's hard to get back to the real world. So I leave you with this complete non-sequitor: my cat Freya in the bathroom sink.
Yup, a cat in a sink. What will I think of next?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Eyeballs? Take two, they're small!

What do eyeballs have to do with riding? Not a thing, but it the saying struck me as being so funny that I just had to share it. Tonight as the trick-or-treaters came to the door, my husband answered with our bowl of candy, saying, "Eyeballs? Take two, they're small!" to the kids. We found this so very amusing since the responses varied from, "Oooh, cool!" to "Are they REEEEEAL?" Apparently, chocolates covered in eyeball-looking foil for Halloween are all the rage... and just think of how much fun you can have asking kids if they'd like an eyeball!

Back to the point of this blog - riding. Life got away from me this week and I was only able to make it out on Thursday. We had a nice ride, and Saga was surprisingly mellow given how long he'd been in his stall (it's still muddy) and that there were four other horses in the arena. He didn't even try any head tosses! I was having a really hard time getting him off my right leg - we eventually got it, but it was tough. Because I figured out that I'm not keeping much weight in my right stirrup, I decided to do some work without stirrups. To the left, I was fine at the trot, but to the right, I kept sliding off to the left. This makes sense if I'm not sitting even. I'm hoping that I can talk FuzzyPony into doing some longe stuff with me. I need to get my position back!

Today I had a lovely ride and actually got to ride in the outdoor and around the outside of the arenas. Since we're going foxhunting next weekend, I decided to do some interval training work. We started off in the outdoor with a lot of walking and then a long trot on a loose rein. We took a break and then did a bit of canter, but I was concerned because the footing in the outdoor was deep in places and really chunky in others, so I decided to go ride out of the arena. We did a super long trot set, probably 8-10 minutes, where I alternated between two-point and posting trot. We popped over a few trot poles and a tiny X. Saga was really tired at the end of that trot set, and I could feel it in my legs, so we took another walk break.

A little unbalanced in the trot going downhill, but soft and listening to me.

We finished with a three-ish minute canter set, both directions. FuzzyPony very kindly took pictures of us and got some really fantastic ones.

Ignore Saga in this picture and focus on the tips of Taran's adorably fuzzy ears that frame this so perfectly!

Nice uphill left lead canter. I tried really hard on this ride to keep my lower leg forward and under me. Not too bad here.

Right lead canter goign downhill. He's still pretty balanced but reaching out in front. I'm sitting up a litte here to balance him as well.

More right lead canter downhill. I love this shot because he's cantering past the resident sheep without batting an eye. Such a good boy!

Coming back uphill on the right lead. My leg has slipped a bit but I like the way this shot looks.

I was really pleased with how the ride went. Riding out of the arena means that we got some work on uneven ground, and he kept his balance really quite well. He was rateable and steady up to the little X and we got very nice spots each time. He's still hard to balance when he gets tired, but I think that if we keep doing this sort of thing it will be much easier as he gets stronger and I become better able to rate him.

Aren't Taran and Saga so handsome? And thanks FuzzyPony for taking all the pictures!

Monday, October 26, 2009

So much fun, it should be illegal! (TM)

(TM) Today's blog title brought to you courtesy of Daun over at the Eventing Percheron.

This weekend we went foxhunting at Independence Foxhounds. OMG, it was SO MUCH FUN! If you haven't been hunting (on a safe, sane hunt horse), YOU MUST TRY IT. I absolutely cannot wait to go again!

The hunt is near Brenham, TX, about 2.5 hours from our barn, so we headed over Friday night so that we could be there in time for the 9 a.m. start Saturday morning. Some friends of ours, D & T, who are also riders, had invited us to meet them and stay overnight at their property, which is also near Brenham. We rolled in around 9:30 p.m. and enjoyed some drinks and snacks and several hours of great company Friday evening.

Saturday morning we were up bright and early, loaded up the horses, and headed over to the hunt. We arrived a bit later than we had intended and scrambled a bit to sign waivers, pay the capping fee, and groom and tack. I agonized over using my Wintec AP saddle on Saga, which doesn't fit him well at all but is grippy and more designed for jumping, or using my dressage saddle which fits him great but is made of ultra-slick French bridle leather and doesn't do as well for jumping. I decided that I'd be better off in the AP even if it meant that Saga needed a few days off for his back, so I padded him up and off we went. My husband was on Reddums, who was feeling exceedingly feisty.

We met up with the leader of second field and she kindly allowed us to join her. We started off taking it pretty easy with some nice forward trotting and a good bit of walking and waiting while the hounds cast for a scent (you'll have to pardon me if I get the terminology wrong, I'm still very new to this). Red was feeling a bit feisty as he kept tossing his head and jerking the reins, but I think my husband had a bit of a tight hold on him. Saga was very good - I did have to continually ask him to be steady and not try to pull out in front, but he didn't jerk me around and throw his head or anything. There were several times when first field went flying by us trying to catch the hounds, and Saga just stood like a rock.

It was a completely different experience than when I'd taken Cash cubbing years ago up in Maryland. He's always been rather antsy in a crowd, and I really wanted to try foxhunting but didn't think it was a good idea... and you know, I was right. I spent three hours having my arms pulled out of their sockets by an absolutely frantic, maniacal horse. It was the first and last time I ever took him hunting.

Anyway, we followed the hounds for a bit through several large fields with grazing cattle, then stood for a while longer and I had the opportunity to chat with R, a lovely dressage and eventer with a beautiful Danish warmblood gelding. As we chatted, we figured out that we had been in the same Beginner Novice division at Pine Hill just a few weeks ago! It turned out that she had been in second place, just before me, after dressage, then had a refusal in stadium, allowing me to move up. It's a small world!

We did a nice canter and trot through yet another field (the fixture for this hunt is about 4000 acres, with one side bordering the Brazos river) and then did quite a lot of waiting while the hounds cast around again for a scent. I was having some technical issues with my equipment, namely that I had put my stirrups on the outside of the saddle flap instead of underneath, and the T keeper on the Wintec webbers was rubbing right against my calf (and I have a lovely set of bruises to prove it!). I almost hopped off to fix them but they rounded up the hounds at that point and then went to cast them off at a new location, so I just sort of dealt with it.

At that point one of the folks from first field came over and asked us if we wanted to go with first field. I said yes after checking to see if there were options to go around jumps, since I didn't want to be faced with a 3' coop and no alternatives. So, we headed off at a mad hand gallop over to a set of woods where the hounds had gone, then went tearing through the woods.

I should mention that by this time I realized I didn't have nearly the stamina for this that I thought I should. My legs in particular were quite fatigued, although I was having a relatively easy time of keeping Saga at a steady pace by bridging the reins over his neck. As we were hauling ass through the woods, I was really having a hard time with muscle fatigue. Add that to the fact that I was wearing sunglasses and it was very dark in the woods... suddenly I thought the trail went left and Saga thought it went right, and I parted company over his left shoulder. It was a fairly slow fall though, and I managed to avoid falling on a dead branch, although I think Saga's knee hit my left thigh on the way down (I got a huge bruise from something, anyway). I landed in the soft dirt - but not in the mud, thank goodness! - mostly on my feet, reins in hand. I even managed to keep my white shirt clean! Everyone stopped, I assured them I was fine and asked them to go on, but R very kindly stayed behind with me. I stood there for several minutes waiting for my legs to stop shaking (my right leg was visibly trembling) and then got back on. R and I walked and trotted back out of the woods to find the other folks in second field and joined back up with them for the rest of the hunt. My husband stayed with first field and helped set up a line to chase coyote, but they manged to escape in fairly short order into the land adjoining the fixture we were on, at which point we all headed back to the trailers.

That's twice I have come off over Saga's left shoulder in situations where I really shouldn't have. I know my right heel comes up in canter transitions, so I think I simply don't have enough weight in my right stirrup and it's causing me balance issues. It's time to go back to riding without stirrups on a regular basis, apparently.

The other issue is, once again, fitness. I was having a really hard time keeping up - I am just not strong enough. Realistically I'm only riding two or three times a week, and then I'm doing dressage. It's not like I'm doing 2-point for an hour while interval training out in a field of rolling hills, like I should be doing. Saga, while he sweated a good deal more than the horses who do this every weekend, seemed to do fairly well. As he got tired toward the end I had to work harder to keep him together, but he did OK, as did Red. In fact, after we got back to our friend's property after the hunt and turned the horses out, Saga and Red went trotting and cantering off into their two-acre grass turnout. They both looked none the worse for the wear.

The folks at the hunt were incredibly friendly and helpful, and we really had a lovely time. We've been invited back for the blessing of the hounds on November 7, and I would dearly love to go. I have already been looking on Ebay for hunt coats and boots for my husband, and a flask for each of us. And then there's the small matter of a jumping saddle, but I'm getting ahead of myself...

Tally ho!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Muddums

We've been getting rain here. LOTS of rain. So much rain it's nearly made up for the summer without rain. Alas, with rain comes mud.

Red, being out in the back pasture (he HATES being stalled), gets to live in the mud when it rains. The barn is on Texas blackland, which is well-known for turning into thick goo when it rains. Normally it gets to be about ankle-deep at the gate, but this fall, it's nearly knee-deep, and I am NOT making this up.

Last Thursday, B., who leases Reddums, went out for her weekly lesson, and went to get Red out of the pasture. She sent me this little gem to describe her experience:

"I had a nice adventure this evening with acquiring dear Reddums from the pasture. The mud at the front of the pasture was literally knee deep (waders would not have helped me keep clean today...). Although I usually use the tractor tracks to avoid this issue, the only ones were about 7-8 paces away from the main gate, and I would have had to recreate the "Swamp of Sadness" scene from the Neverending Story to cross it. Instead, I went through a 2nd pasture to reach where the horses were standing. Alas, I could not take Red through the fence with me. Thus! We got to pick our way through the mud back to the main gate where Red refused to go a couple of times ("Don't let the sadness get you, Artax...").

After about 20 minutes of negotiating ground (Red: "I'm not going that way" B: "How about here?" Red: "Nope." B: "I have cookies..." Red: "Oh ok. But this other way's better."), I finally got him out of the pasture with mud up over the knees of my breeches and halfway up my thigh...and upper arm....and...nose?? The lead rope was now brown as was part of his halter, where my muddy hand got to grab. We made it back to the barn with a whole 7 minutes left before my lesson started. Much washing, then riding (which went well, he's just out of shape), untacking, cleaning tack, then adventure #2: Leading out to the pasture...: stumble stumble stumble fall, open gate wide...."Ok Red let's go." Red: "Nope." B: Opens gate wider. "How about this way?" Red: "Hell no." B: Opens gate wider and steps in mud up to knees. "This is the way we came earlier....I still have cookies..." Red: "It's dark and there's an empty stall inside. I saw it." B: "You're supposed to be out here. Let's go now....whoa!" Loses boot and part of half chap. Grabs gate before falling. Red: "Now can we go inside?"

Anywho, I tried several means to get him into the pasture via coaxing and tried to safely force him (he kept slipping then backing up) to no avail. Since I couldn't walk in it, I had a hard time trying to convince him he needed to walk in it too."

The long and short of it is, Red got to stay in a stall for one last night before being tossed back out into the mud. At this point I am hoping that his shoes, especially the hind one with the pad protecting his old abscess, don't get sucked off and buried. And that he doesn't get hurt in all the goo. It is impressively muddy out there!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Parental visit

This weekend, my parents came to visit. I don't think I ever explained on this blog how I came to have Saga, but to make a long story short, my parents bought him for me as a graduation present when I finished my Ph.D. in May.

I should probably mention that I asked for a horse at every birthday and Christmas since I was in 8th grade. I dropped oh-so-subtle hints, like reading the following poem to them, repeatedly:

Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony
By Shel Silverstein

There was a girl named Abigail
Who was taking a drive
Through the country
With her parents
When she spied a beautiful sad-eyed
Grey and white pony.
And next to it was a sign
That said,
FOR SALE—CHEAP.
“Oh,” said Abigail,
“May I have that pony?
May I please?”
And her parents said,
“No you may not.”
And Abigail said,
“But I MUST have that pony.”
And her parents said,
“Well, you can have a nice butter pecan
Ice cream cone when we get home.”
And Abigail said,
“I don’t want a butter pecan
Ice cream cone,
I WANT THAT PONY—
I MUST HAVE THAT PONY.”
And her parents said,
“Be quiet and stop nagging—
You’re not getting that pony.”
And Abigail began to cry and said,
“If I don’t get that pony I’ll die.”
And her parents said, “You won’t die.
No child ever died yet from not getting a pony.”
And Abigail felt so bad
That when she got home she went to bed,
And she couldn’t eat,
And she couldn’t sleep,
And her heart was broken,
And she DID die—
All because of a pony
That her parents wouldn’t buy.

(This is a good story
To read to your folks
When they won’t buy
You something you want.)


So the long and short of it is, I never got a pony growing up. In fact, I was so desperate for a horse, I went out and found a great couple who happened to be good friends of the family and adopted them as horse parents, since my parents were not particularly horsey inclined. When I got my first job fresh out of college, the first question my Dad asked me was whether or not I'd be able to afford a horse. My response: "Oh HELL YES." And so I bought Cash off his previous owner for the low, low price of $1 and shipped him up to Maryland where my new job was... but that's a story for another day. The point is, I didn't get a horse growing up, but my parents finally did their parently duty and got me a rather... um, large... pony.

The last time they saw Saga was not exactly the best impression. He was 100 pounds underweight, had no muscle, and was not going very well seeing as how I'd only had him for a week or two. I'm pretty sure they were horrified by what I'd picked out. I think it was a different story this time - they kept commenting about how nice he looked and how handsome he was! My mom kept sneaking both Saga and Red carrot bits as we were tacking up - I think Saga found a new best friend!

We finally got to ride in the outdoor arena (first time in over a month) and we worked a lot on canter. I did one pretty long canter set both directions, then took a break and worked on some trot work, including leg yields. He was much better than in our lesson last week, I think because I really got him going off of my leg at the walk first. I really do need to start wearing nubby spurs, because it's just not pleasant to take my foot out of the stirrup and boot him with my heel. The dressage whip just isn't effective sometimes. Anyway, leg yields are coming along, and the bending on the trot was better to the right. His head is getting straighter to the left, or I'm not letting go with the outside rein as much, or probably both. Whatever, it was nice.

The final bit of the ride was another long canter session, with lots of transitions and lengthenings, as well as some counter-canter. It's really the first time we've done either lengthenings or counter-canter, and I was very pleased with both. He's really got a big stride in there and I can feel him move out, but he doesn't get a whole lot faster. Certainly I think he'll get better marks on that than Cash ever did. He did have a tendency to get a little strung out at the end of the lengthening, but that's always going to be an issue, so we'll continue to work on that. We changed rein across the diagonal and did counter-canter along the short side of the arena both ways, and he was steady and stayed bent.

All in all, a fantastic ride and my dad commented how we were really starting to look like a team!

Visiting with Cash

Yesterday (Sunday) I went out to visit Cash. It's just started to turn cooler here, and now's the time of year when he is most prone to colic. If I'm going to lose him to colic, it's going to be in the fall... so I figured I'd better take whatever opportunities I have to go see him.

Other than being a touch sunburned, he looked fantastic. Fat, healthy, and getting fuzzy. I took him a tub of baby carrots, since after the choke incident he's not supposed to eat anything big. Even his Senior food gets turned into a mush so it's less likely to cause choke. He happily munched through those and then was polite enough to pose for a few pictures.

Hi there!

Is that camera carrot-flavored?

You say it's not? Did you check???

This inspection will only take a moment, just hold stiiiilllll...

EEEW! You were right! GROSS! That camera has PEOPLE GERMS on it!!!

Yes, I know I'm still the most gorgeous spotted pony you've ever seen.

Damn, but I miss him more than anything sometimes. I had a good cry in his mane before I left. Every time I see him I'm afraid it will be the last.

Another lesson

Last Wednesday, I had another lesson with Joan. I'd ridden Monday (Saga was FABULOUS) and Ziggy's dad rode Tuesday, so at least Saga had gotten out of his stall before the lesson. The horses have been in for most of the last month due to all the rain, which we desperately need. Unfortunately, lots of rain makes for not much turnout time!

The lesson was definitely not our best. There were five other people in the arena, and Saga wasn't best pleased about going head-to-head with them, although the head tossing was minimal and got less as the ride went on. I told Joan about the dressage show and Pine Hill and what I felt we needed to work on, so we got right into canter transitions.

Frankly, even after doing probably 20-30 transitions per side, I can't say that I feel like they got much better. I think the biggest problem is that I'm giving up my position and allowing him to run a few step (sometimes quite a few steps) into the canter. When I commented about that, Joan said that must be it.

Whoa, wait a minute. If I'm giving up my position and it's screwing up my transitions, why aren't you telling me?

Joan is very, very focused on how Saga goes. If he's not round enough, or bent enough, she tells me immediately. She might tell me I need more inside leg for more bend or whatever, but in general she's not telling me what to do with my body to get more of X out of Saga. This has been working so far, because we have progressed so, SO much in just 6 weeks. However, I'm starting to worry that I'm not a good enough rider to train with her, except on an occasional basis. If I'm not riding it right, I need someone who will tell me exactly what I need to do with my body (chest up, heels down, whatever) so that I can make my horse do it. If I'm not correct, the obviously he won't be correct.

I'm not sure where this leaves me. I definitely want to continue riding with Joan, but I feel like I need her to be more picky about me. I need her to focus on rider position just as much as she focuses on horse position. I'll talk to her about this in my lesson next week and we'll see if we can work through it. I just need her to help me be a more correct rider so that Saga will go better!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Traumatized

Last weekend, my husband and I participated in a jousting demo at Pioneer Farms. We took Saga along for the experience but left Red at home, since we're still dealing with his abscess. Fortunately for my husband, a good friend of ours was kind enough to bring an extra horse for him to joust on, since Saga hasn't had any training to prepare him for jousting.

Saga was horribly traumatized about horses wearing trappings. First, my husband rode up to us on his loaner horse, Bandit, and Saga was ABSOLUTELY CONVINCED that the trappings had eaten Bandit and were now coming after him. We followed Bandit around for a while (horses are always braver when they're chasing the scary thing rather than being chased by it) and Saga just could not believe that Bandit was OK. He kept reaching over to touch Bandit with his nose... it was pretty funny. My poor traumatized horse!

Our friend Azulox was out taking pictures - he's a professional photographer and I don't want to steal his pictures, so here's a link to Bandit and his trappings: Saga says, "Eeek! Red and yellow, kill a fellow! RUNNNN!"

Unfortunately, at that point our friend Alexis came galloping up on his horse, Booker, who was also wearing trappings. Well, apparently Saga does have some Quarter Horse in him because he did a maneuver I've only ever seen working cow horses do - essentially, he dug in and skittered sideways with his belly about two feet from the ground. This would have been fine except that my boots were covered with slippery mud, and despite my grippy stirrup pads, my right foot slipped out of the stirrup. Normally, riding with one or no stirrups would be fine (note our disastrous stadium round at Pine Hill a few weeks ago where I lost a stirrup after fence 6), except that Saga was still skittering to the right, so all my weight was in the left stirrup... and my foot slipped out of that stirrup too. I had that one eternal moment to think, "well shit, this is going to hurt," but I somehow managed to get my right leg over him (I'm pretty sure he just slithered out from under me at this point, still going sideways to the right) and landed, quite neatly, on my feet with the reins in my right hand. Not only did it not hurt, it was actually much more graceful than many of my intentional dismounts after I've ridden at home. Of course, nobody saw my graceful maneuver, but everyone asked me why I had gotten off!

After hopping back on Saga again and walking around a bit more, I put him away to go help with the games, combat, and jousting. We did a little work with Saga on the mounted combat, desensitizing him to the foam sword. He did pretty well with that but needs lots of practice. It takes a lot of work to get a horse to play the SCA games and joust, even if the horse has a laid-back personality and is generally amenable to humans doing crazy weird stuff. Hopefully that's something we'll have more time for this winter.

During the breaks, Saga and his buddy Lucky hung out at the trailer. Unfortunately, Lucky took exception to the fact that Saga had hay and he didn't, so he kicked Saga. (Aside: WHY OH WHY can I not own a horse who will stand up for himself? I used to call Cash the Great White Weenie Horse, he was such a pushover. You'd think that a 16.2 hh gelding would stand up for himself, but noooooo... sigh). Anywho, Lucky managed to land a kick on Saga's left rear cannon bone, leaving a nasty cut and slightly swollen leg (Lucky wears hind shoes). I hosed it and cleaned it out and was happy to find that it didn't go through all the layers of skin. Then I went to wrap it, only to find that I had no vet wrap. Seriously, if I don't have my own trailer, I forget SO MANY things, it's crazy. So I asked around for vet wrap and guess what... the only vet wrap around belonged to Duchess' mom, whose favorite color is... you guessed it...

PINK.

Have I mentioned how much I HATE PINK?

So it was my turn to be traumatized for the day since I had to put pink vet wrap on my horse.

The world may never be the same.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tonight's featured guest... Reddums!

Poor little Reddums is still stuck in a stall with his abscess. I trotted him out tonight and he didn't seem off, but he still has a hole in his foot where they drained the abscess, so no way am I putting him back out in the knee-deep pasture mud.

Sooo, since I needed to soak and re-wrap his foot tonight, I figured I'd snap a few pictures and explain what I do for an abscess, since it's a good thing to know in general.

First, fill a bucket about 1/3 full of hot water, then add about 1/2 cup of Epsom salt. Swirl it around the dissolve the salt, then convince your horse it's fun to stand in the bucket. Red is not a good patient for this part, so we have no pictures, but I did manage to get him to stand there for about 10 minutes. Why Epsom salts? My understanding is that they have a nice anti-bacterial property, so they keep any critters from making a home in the drained abscess.

While your horse is soaking, gather the rest of the stuff you'll need: a towel, Vet wrap, Icthammol (take the cap off), a gauze surgical pad, and (of course!) Duct tape. Make sure everything is handy because once you take that foot out of the soak and dry it off, you don't want to put it down again till you've got the whole thing wrapped.

Next, if necessary, hose the foot off with hot water to get any debris out. Then dry it off with a towel (it really needs to be fairly dry to get the wrap stick to it).

The abscess is the dark spot that's in the center of the picture.

Now this is the tricky part. From the time you dry the hoof to the time you're done with the wrap, you don't want to set the foot down. This is why you laid everything out within easy reach while the foot was soaking.

First, get a nice glob of Icthammol on a cotton gauze pad.

Mmmmmicthammol. Don't get this stuff on you, it's nearly impossible to get out of clothing. However, it's great at drawing the pus out of an abscess.

Next, apply the Icthammol and gauze to the abscess.

Use Vetwrap to hold the Icthammol and pad on - wrap the entire hoof, including the edges of the hoof wall.

Cover the whole mess with duct tape. Don't be shy about using lots of it - the purpose of the duct tape is to provide a temporary "shoe" to protect the foot. It will wear through in a day or so, maybe a bit more if your horse is on soft bedding.

Now you can put the hoof down. Here's what it looks like:

Notice how the Vetwrap and duct tape go up over the coronet band? That's a problem - if it's too tight there, it can cut off the blood circulation to the hoof.

Fix the problem by taking a pair of scissors and carefully snipping down about 1/2 inch into the wrap - you can see where I've peeled the wrap away from the coronet band. The little yellow bits are flaps of the Vetwrap underneath hanging down (sorry, the blurry picture makes this hard to see).

Finally, because I have one, I put an Easy Boot over the whole mess. This just gives Red a little more cushion but is not necessary. Staying in a well-bedded stall should provide his foot cushion enough.

After our little vet clinic, I took Saga and Red out to graze for a while. Saga looks none the worse for the wear after the show this last weekend, despite continuing to be stuck in his stall due to the weather - and we're supposed to get even MORE rain tonight!

I tried to get a few pictures of the two of them, but they kept moving and there wasn't enough light for the camera. However...

Now I'm not saying that Red's short or anything, but he does appear to be a bit smaller than Saga...

Well, what can I say? Saga is the star of this blog after all... :)

So does anyone else want to share tricks of the trade for handling abscesses? Other than shoeing with pads, of course. Red will probably stay in but be OK for light riding until the farrier comes out next week and we'll see if either the abscess isn't deep enough to worry about, or if he needs shoes and pads until it finishes growing out. I'm hoping for the first option!

Testing...

So the videos I've been uploading the past few times have been pretty miserable in terms of quality. Now granted, they're being shot with a little digital still camera and not a fancy-schmancy HD video camera, but still, the quality I get on my computer is WAY better than what Blogger lets me upload.

Daun over at Eventing Percheron suggested trying Vimeo instead, so here goes.



So if you want the password to watch the video, it's the name of my horse :) I'll figure out the privacy stuff in more detail some other night.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pine Hill 10/4/09

My weekend started out rather interestingly - Friday night late I went to check to see if ride times were up, and they were - but I was not on the list. I had turned in my entry form in the box at Pine Hill on September 5, when we went schooling there. And my name was not on the list of ride times!!!

I called Pine Hill early Saturday to see what was going on. Apparently they had never gotten my entry, although they had received my coggins, release form, and fee for schooling that day. This was really odd, since I had bundled everything together in one little packet and paper-clipped it all together. Ok, no matter, they could fit me in, and they had a stall as well as RV hookups as I had requested. So it was a GO after all.

But first, the list of chores was quite long. Fill up the truck. Pick up the trailer ($970 gets you new brakes but no ramp - the ramp will be ready on Tuesday). Find some Wellies (we went to FOUR STORES before we found any, but Academy had some for $20 and they're super cute). I also happened to get a few new dry-fit shirts while on the quest for Wellies, so that was a bonus. Oh, and then lunch, because by then Fuzzypony, who had agreed to be my partner-in-crime... er, groom, for the weekend, and we were both hungry.

Wellies! Fortunately, my step-daughter and I wear different sizes... otherwise, I'd never see these cute boots again, except on her feet!

We finally made it to the barn and loaded up, then pulled out around 2 p.m. It started raining about halfway to Pine Hill, and was still raining when we got there around 4:30. We unloaded, got Saga comfy, and got set up. I tacked him up to go for a short ride and look around the place - in the rain.

The maniacal grin of someone trying to convince themselves that riding in the rain is in fact fun. Saga has other ideas.

We headed on down to the dressage arenas and worked in both, since I wasn't sure where I would be riding the next morning. Saga was very looky and distracted for about the first 10 minutes, as there were people out schooling on the XC course nearby. He eventually settled down and we got some nice work in, although he had a tendency to kick out on the left lead canter departs. That was new and odd.

After riding, Fuzzypony and I cleaned Saga up, tossed him some hay and alfalfa (OMG he thinks alfalfa is CANDY), and then headed out for some tasty Mexican food. I ordered a burrito that was as big as my plate, and managed to mostly do it justice. Apparently I was hungry! After dinner we headed back to do night check. We found a couple of friend there who mentioned that there was a good chance the show would be cancelled tomorrow, since it was still raining and the forecast was calling for rain through noon on Sunday. I have to say, I wasn't too upset about that, since riding in the rain and negotiating super-slick footing is just not all that fun. Saga was cheerfully munching his neighbor's hay (why, but WHY do they always do that???) having finished all his alfalfa, and had sucked down most of two water buckets. We refilled buckets, replentished hay and alfalfa, mucked, and headed to the camper for bed. I think we were asleep by 9 p.m.

I woke up at 3:30 a.m. to hear the rain positively POURING on the camper, then woke again at 6:30 a.m. to hear more of the same. Figuring that the show was cancelled for sure, I went back to sleep till 7:30, and which point I rolled over, looked out of my window, and to my surprise saw someone carrying a saddle and wearing a pinney. Apparently, the show was on after all! And it was STILL raining!

I got up, got a power bar, and headed down to the barn to feed. Saga was napping but came over to inspect breakfast. After feeding him, I went down to the secretary's booth to get all our paperwork taken care of, then headed out to paddle through walk cross-country. The footing was actually pretty good except for fence #13, a rolltop with a slightly downhill approach. Due to the rain, the whole course was pretty much one big water obstacle. The most challenging part of that course is that many of the fences have awkward approaches where you can't see the fence till 4-5 strides out. Many of the fences are very small (single logs), so it's a nice inviting course. I planned to trot most of it, given the footing situation.

While I was off taking care of that, Fuzzypony was back at the barn braiding Saga for me. Didn't she do a lovely job?
Saga decked out for dressage. Look at those lovely braids!

I tacked up and got all my stuff on, including a raincoat over everything, since it was still raining. Our ride time was 11:00 a.m., and we were right on schedule.

Warm-up was a mess. Saga started off high as a kite, but settled down within about 10 minutes. The footing was miserable, and understandably he wouldn't move out much. The canter transitions were nice except that he kept kicking out with his hind on the left lead departs (I think I have figured out that I am cueing him too far back and he objects to my leg on his butt), but immediately went back into a lovely canter. He was very slow and careful, and very balanced, I think because of the footing.

Lovely warm-up footing. And yeah, it's still raining.

11:00 approached and we went to the arena, waiting for the rider I had been told was in front of me to go. Then I noticed another rider circling the arena, and she told me that she was next. The arena steward said I was next. Since she had been waiting for some time, I let her go first, assuming that I would be able to go immediately after. No, I was told I had four more rides to go now. So we went and stood. With two riders to go, we started warming up again. Saga was a little more heavy but still responsive and careful. We went back to the arena and started circling, then the judge told me that I was not next but had been moved to go last in the division. I was upset but tried to be gracious about it. I went and stood for another four rides, then warmed up again. Saga was heavy. He was ready to be done and was not at his best. He was still kicking on the left canter departs, and when I dropped my whip before going into the arena, he refused to even do a canter depart. When I showed 10 years ago, whips were not allowed in dressage for eventing, but I had seen several people go in the arena with a whip and figured, what the heck. It was either ride with a whip or have a disastrous ride without one. So, in we went, with whip in hand.

Our ride was actually very nice! He stayed steady, bent, and listened. We didn't careen around any corners and the bracing against my hand was minimal. Our canter departs were beautiful both directions (thank you Saga for not kicking out in the arena!). The canters were a little heavy but he was tired. Our free walk wasn't too great because we didn't get much stretch, but it was on the short diagonal in a 40 m arena so there wasn't much time. I'll ride it better next time. Overall, I was actually happier with that test than the ones from the show last weekend!

video
Unfortunately, the dressage judge this week wasn't quite as nice as the one last week. We got 7s on most everything except the free walk (a 5) and the halt (a 6) because his haunches were left. AAARGH! And we have been working on that! Oh well, we scored a respectable 33.2, which landed us in third place. (NOTE: If you are ever with me at a show, please DO NOT tell me what place I am in until everything is done and over with. You can tell me my score, but don't tell me how I'm doing in relation to everyone else!)

After hurrying up to wait for dressage, we had to do a speedy turnaround for stadium. I pulled off my coat, threw on my armband, shortened my stirrups (woohoo! jumping in a dressage saddle!), and changed bridles. I did end up getting a Waterford bit for Saga last week and rode him in it once, and he definitely didn't lean into it as much as the other bits I have, so I had decided to go with that for jumping.

We did a speedy warmup consisting of three fences, then headed over to the stadium arena where we only had to wait for a few minutes for our turn. The arena was incredibly sloppy even though it had stopped raining for about an hour. All divisions used the same basic course, so the path was well-worn by the time it was our turn to go.

video

I would pretty much describe our stadium round as a train wreck. Saga just got more and more sprawled out as the course went on, and I simply could not sit back enough to balance him. You can't quite see it in the video, but I lost my left stirrup after the barrels when he jumped really big and barely got it back for fence 7. We came in crooked on several fences and we were just unbalanced in general. I think we were both kind of tired after dressage and just didn't put in a good round. Somehow we managed to make it around without refusing, knocking anything down, or me falling off. Not quite sure how we managed that, but I guess it counts.

After that we had quite a bit of time before cross-country, so we untacked Saga, hosed him, and then I went to get lunch and lay down for a while. Fuzzypony even made me a sandwich! At 2:40, when the BN XC division was set to start, we headed back down toward the barn only to be told that if we were riding BN, we'd better get our butts down to the course NOW because they were almost done! Fuzzypony and I did the speediest grooming/tacking/getting ready job EVER, then we zoomed down to the warmup, jumped two fences, and went straight to the start box. I was the last rider in the division to go and we'd made it just in time.

Saga was a total MACHINE. We trotted to the first fence since it was downhill from the start box and I knew the footing would be bad, and from there out we cantered most of the rest. The footing was surprisingly good and Saga just got into cruise mode and WENT. It was such a change from having to fight with Cash to keep a steady pace! The problems we had were where I had to balance him in front of a fence and he didn't balance well, and then after the fence he would be sprawly for 6-10 strides before we could get it back together. Somewhere around fence 4, I remember thinking to myself "Holy cow, we're not even 1/3 of the way around and I'm SO tired. I'm going to DIE!" But Saga just cruised on and took pretty good care of me. Some of the fences were pretty klutzy but we made it around OK.

Time wasn't an issue but I had my watch going and checked it a couple of times - optimum time was 5:31 and we made it in at 5:44. There was a section toward the end of the course where the footing was rocky so we trotted and lost a few seconds there. But, apparently his cruising speed is about 350 mpm, which is good to know. Obviously we will need to bump it up a notch or two to actually make optimum, but for our first go I was very pleased. Fuzzypony managed to get video of our first two fences and the last fence - everthing else was back in the woods.


video

I was SO TIRED when we hit the finish line. I am WAY out of shape for this. Saga was blowing hard and didn't recover quickly either. Part of it was the humidity - it was super hot and even though it wasn't raining, very humid. But most if it is just that he's not in shape. We haven't been conditioning and he's been standing in his stall for most of the past 3 weeks due to the weather. Clearly, even if we have to do interval training in the arena, we have to do it. And me, I have GOT to get in shape. This desk job of mine is not doing me any favors.

Tired after XC, but I'm pretty sure there are bugs stuck to my teeth I was smiling so much!

After XC we could see a storm rolling in, so we loaded up and got ready to go as fast as we could. I put poultice on Saga's legs and wrapped him, and just before we left they posted the scores for my division. Second place, and we finished on our dressage score!

Yeah baby! Not bad for having 10 years off!

As soon as we pulled out, the skies opened up. It thundered, lightninged, and poured so hard we could barely see to drive. Fortunately the storm was short-lived, but it rained HARD. The drive home was fortunately uneventful, and we arrived around 8 p.m. Saga got his legs hosed, then tucked in his stall with his dinner (1 g of bute just in case) and a full net of hay and alfalfa. I still have to clean out the truck and camper, although the trailer got taken care of for the most part, and drop the rig back off at the trailer place so they can fix the ramp and figure out why my left turn signal won't work (no, it's not the bulb or the fuse - the problem seems to be in the connector to the truck). But for now... success is sweet!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Um... fabulous

Here's the weather forecast for Bellville this weekend.

Yuck. I think I'll pack my floaties, a pair of hip waders, and a rubber ducky for Saga.

No word on ride times yet, but supposedly they'll be up tomorrow morning. At least the trailer is ready - they didn't get the ramp finished but the lights work and I have new brakes.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Hy Court Farms Show 9/27/09

First of all, I want to put out a huge THANK YOU to everyone who came out and helped yesterday. Special thanks to D.A. for not only trailering to the show even though Duchess was lame and you had to scratch, but also trailering Red all the way to Elgin Vet Hospital after a looong day at the show. I can't thank you enough and I'm pretty sure I owe you enough margaritas to keep you sloshing for a month! Oh, and you also make an excellent Horse Show Mom, keeping everyone hydrated and making sure I was at my test on time.

Thanks also to R.D. who came out to cheer, watch, and took the video and picts of dressage. Your talents are much appreciated! Maeve, thanks for horse-sitting Saga, making sure I had water, and keeping track of the puppies. E.R., thank you for taking care of the puppies and cheering. FuzzyPony, thanks for cheering and reading my tests. And congrads on your fabulous tests yourself!

I also should say that the crew at Hy Court Farms were absolutely amazing. The staff was so kind and helpful, they really made Saga's first experience out wonderful. In the Hunter Versatility class, the judge had lovely things to say about both horses and riders. It was just such a positive experience, I highly recommend anyone who's thinking about showing to go to Hy Court. It's great!

Ok, on to the details. Warm-up for TR1 was fairly short and uneventful. I worked to get him out and in front of my leg in hopes of avoiding the canter hopping episodes of Saturday. Every time he thought about sucking back, I pushed the reins forward and clucked him on, closing my leg softly. We had a few moments early on where he thought about hopping, but he never really got into it. I only did one canter depart in each direction, and those went reasonbly well. However, we were warmed up and then we had to sit and wait for a bit because they were behind. It was super hot and humid, so we did a lot of standing in the shade, which was bad for our warm-up but good for Saga.

Training 1 was not my favorite test ever. We got off to a poor start because the footing at A was really chunked up and so we got screwed up on the entry. Saga was counterflexed on the long sides and especially in the corners, but he was nice on the circles. Our canter departs were decent, but he cantered with his haunches to the inside on the long sides, which is new. I rode very conservatively and didn't really push any of the issues, which made for a lackluster test. Our upward transitions were quite nice but our downward transitions were really downhill. The trot-halt transitions were especially divey, which was difficult for me to ride because he's so strong. Watching the video, I think our transition from free walk to medium was nice, and our right trot and canter circle were quite nice, along with the downward canter/trot transition to the right.

video

What did the judge say? Well, I should have listened to Joan... she totally pegged our score with a 69.56% ! We got 8s on both trot circles and our center line entry. Everything else was 7s with the exception of the left lead canter and the trot/medium walk transition, where he dove down into the bridle right in front of the judge.

So, in between our tests, I went and schooled better bending, more responsiveness off the leg, and better downward transitions. I also decided to just GO for it and not ride so conservatively, and as a resulty I felt that Training 2 went much better. He was straight on the long sides, we had more bend in the corners (but not perfect), and his downward transitions felt more responsive and less divey. I was very happy with our second test!

video

We got 8's across the board for our trot work and 6's on the left lead canter transitions (both up and down) and left lead canter. Everything else was a 7 except for medium walk, which was an 8. I have never, EVER gotten more than a 6 for any of Cash's walk work, so I'm pretty thrilled about that! Overall, I felt like the test was much steadier and more consistent, and we scored a 70%! If I had been scoring our tests, I would have scored TR1 lower, but I thought the score for TR2 was fair. Clearly, I know what we need to work on!

After our tests, I tacked him down, hosed him, and he drank a bunch of water (did I mention it was super hot and humid?). I got a snack and then went back and tacked him up again for the hunter versatility class. Maeve was kind enough to hold Saga while I went and walked the course, which was a mix of 2'6 jumps and some trail-like obstacles, including a bridge, serpentine among stumps, 360 box, and backing through an L. My goal was to have a quiet, rateable jumping round where I didn't throw him at the fences, and the rest of the obstacles I wasn't too worried about. I also wanted to see how he did in a field full of jumps that he'd never seen before.

I wouldn't say our jumping was exactly quiet, but he was rateable and I think I only threw him at one fence. I sort of laughed my way through the obstacles but he actually did pretty well and figured them out, despite never having done anything like backing through an L. The "flat class" part of it didn't go too well since he was pretty wound up from jumping, but hey, I was out there for fun. The judge was complimentary of my ride and said she appreciated how considerate and positive I was with my horse over new obstacles, and what a lovely bold jumper he was. I thought her comments were very kind!

D.A. got two really nice shots of us jumping. I like that it looks like we had good spots on both and that I'm not jumping ahead of him, but my leg is slipping back. I really need to work more on two-point interval training to get my leg to cooperate more - I'm just not as strong O/F as I used to be.

You know, somehow this 2'6 vertical looked a lot bigger when I walked the course. In this picture, it looks like it's so small he can barely be bothered to get his knees up. Oh well, at least our spot is decent!

He's trying a bit harder here but still making this fence look tiny. See those fake green grass bits sticking out of the hay bales under the fence? He tried to eat those while we were waiting for our turn to go. My horse is so smrt.

So for the day, we ended up in 1st place for TR1, 2nd place (behind a pro) for TR2, and 1st place in Hunter Versatility (there were only 2 of us though, so that doesn't count for much!). I was very pleased with our day and it was a good confidence builder for the event next weekend.

The only down note was that about 5 minutes from home, I got a call from the barn saying that Red was found in the pasture 3-legged lame. And he was... he almost wouldn't put any weight on his right hind. But, there were no signs of a kick, cut, impalement, or anything else (no swelling even!), so that was odd. We pulled Saga and Taran out of the trailer, loaded Red up, and headed to Elgin Vet Hospital.

The good news is that they think it was just an abscess, which they lanced and drained. There is a chance that his coffin bone is fractured - three different vets looked at the x-rays and they all agreed that there is a "suspicious" area, but nothing definite. He's on stall rest with daily soaking and wrapping for a week, then he's supposed to be x-rayed again to see if anything's changed in his foot. Keep your fingers crossed that it's just an abscess!

Yeah. I just love this picture. :)

P.S. Whoever decided that white breeches were the "in" thing for dressage should be taken out and shot. I soaked mine in OxyClean tonight and washed them with a bunch of bleach... and they're still only *mostly* clean! Argh!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A picture is worth a thousand words


Yeah, we rocked! But, I came home to find Red three-legged lame (right rear). We unloaded Saga and Taran, loaded up Red, and took him to Elgin. It's either an abcess or he fractured his coffin bone. We'll know more when Dr. Hays looks at him in the morning.

I'm exhausted and going to bed. More on the show tomorrow...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Taking stock

It's only 9 p.m., and I think I'm packed. Tack's all clean, boots are polished. Got my show helmet, coat, shirt, stock tie, white breeches, and show gloves. I had to get a new hairnet today since I couldn't find my old one (of course I found it later today). I've got my clothes laid out for the morning, including some jogging pants to protect the white breeches, earrings, makeup (yeah, I wear makeup for shows), and hair stuff. The braiding kit is in the bag hanging on my front door, and all I have to do tomorrow morning is throw it all in the car. And hopefully not forget anything!

Carol is supposed to have the special pads for my RP saddle - three of them. But I packed a black pad and a white one just in case they don't make it for some reason. I have to chauffeur the kiddos around early tomorrow morning, so FuzzyPony's going to load Saga for me and then meet me down near my house. From there we'll head on over to the show...

Sorry, just remembered I needed to put a copy of Saga's coggins in my wallet. Done now.

Oh, and I put the camera batteries on to charge. Anywho, we'll head over to the show and hopefully have LOTS of time to get ready. I still haven't decided if I'm braiding or not. Saga's mane is nice and short now, but braiding seems like a daunting task. I'll probably try a few and see if I'm gonna manage to finish. I MUST braid for next weekend though, so it's not like it won't happen sooner or later.

I'm off to read a bit before bed and finish my cider. If you're coming to the show tomorrow, I'll see you there!

Did you say 70%? I'd say more like 50%!

Today started off by stopping off to pick some stuff up out of my trailer that I had dropped off on Monday to have the ramp repaired and the wiring checked. I expected to find that it had had some work done on it, but not a damn thing had been done to it. NOTHING. Seriously, it's been sitting there for a week and they couldn't even bother to call me and tell me? Grrr. I talked to the manager and he assured me it would be done for next week. I don't need it either this weekend or next since Duchess's mom has kindly agreed to trailer Saga both weekends, but nonetheless I feel better having it, in case of emergency or something. Plus it's got all my extra stuff in it, so I sort of feeling like I'm missing something without it.

So, FuzzyPony and I snagged our stuff and headed out to the barn. Saga was especially cranky when I put the saddle on him and tightened the girth, so I may have Carol check the saddle tomorrow since she'll be at the show. We did a loooong walk warm up since he's been in his stall since Wednesday (yeah, I'm horrible and didn't ride either Thursday or yesterday). His trot started out well enough but was a little divey in front. I'm not sure if I need a bit that he can't fuss with and lean on so much or if it's just a matter of him becoming more consistent in his body so that he's not so all over the place. He does seem to like the Happy Mouth and has even tried to pick it up when the bridle is just hanging there in front of him, so I'm a little hesitant to change it out. I guess we'll wait and see for now.

The disaster came about a bit later when he decided to continually try to canter when I wanted him to trot. Yeah, he hops into our trot transitions (though not as badly of late), but he sometimes also sucks back in the trot, throws his head up, and does this poky little canter thing. Ugh. Pushing him forward only begets a bigger canter, and slowing him down only ends up with a teenier canter or a walk. AARGH! Try as I might, we were just NOT getting the trot consistently. I muddled through it and then went on to canter work... which was shockingly nice. And then came the downward trot transtions. Except, it seems he forgot how to trot from a canter. All I could get was the aforementioned teeny canter or a walk. So, I asked for the down transitions, and if he gave me something crummy, we went back to canter. Again and again. Finally I went for walk transitions and then legged him back up into a trot, and that actually seemed to work. But it was really frustrating to have this issue, which I thought was mostly solved, come out of nowhere. Maybe his back is sore. Maybe he's sick of sitting in his stall. Maybe he was just having an off day, I don't know. But if that's the kind of ick that we get tomorrow, our score is going to more like a 50% than a 70%. Yuck. And frankly, I don't care about the score so much as we were doing so WELL and now we seem to have this big, ugly, new issue.

On a brighter note, a couple of funny things happened as I was tacking Saga down. First, I'd taken off his bridle and hung it on a hook that's right next to the tie point, then turned around to take off my helmet and gloves and put them in my locker. When I turned back around to continue untacking him, I saw this:

New for the fall season: bits on the browband ~ bridles double as hats!

Apparently he had rubbed his face on the bridle and managed to get it tangled over his ears. I just had to take a picture! Saga only managed to look put out that I was laughing at him.

Then, as I was pulling off Saga's saddle, I heard FuzzyPony laughing hysterically next to me. Her horse Taran was next to Saga (I was on Saga's off side) and Taran was apparently feeling salt-deprived, because the next thing we knew, Taran was using Saga as a salt lick!

Yup... tastes like chicken!

Taran must have stood there slurping on Saga for a good three or four minutes, until I moved Saga off to get bathed. The funny thing is that Taran has 24/7 access to a salt block in his pasture, so he shouldn't be so salt-deprived!

I shampooed Saga with Betadine since he's been itchy and has any number of scrapes, scratches, and bites on him, then shampooed and conditioned his sad, scraggly tail. I pulled and trimmed his mane (not sure yet if I'm going to braid or not) and trimmed his bridle path, ears, and whiskers with scissors. I don't do the inside of the ears, and I only trimmed his whiskers to about an inch long, so he still has use of them. I noticed that he had gotten a teeny bit fuzzy with the cooler weather we've had the past few days, but hopefully he'll stay shiny for tomorrow since it's supposed to be pretty warm both today and tomorrow.

This afternoon FuzzyPony and I are cleaning tack, and I still need to get my clothes together. Tonight is a late night for me due to step-mom chauffeuring duties, but I don't have to be up at the crack of dawn tomorrow so hopefully it will be OK.

Wish us luck!