Thursday, July 30, 2009

Stuff I need to read

Not much in the updates... Cash is doing fine and is back at Paint Creek Ranch. Elias (the malamute) seems no worse for his Pyrex snack. Saga... well, I can't take him out of his stall until tomorrow at the earliest.

In the meantime, I may catch up on some reading: 2009 USEA Rules for Eventing (pdf). I think the last time I looked at a rulebook was 2009... you know, back when three day events included roads and tracks.

*Sigh*. Yeah, I've been out of it for a while.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

They say these things happen in threes...

When last I left you, dear readers (all three of you), Saga had done something to his right front during our ride. Wednesday, my friend over at Donkey Sense was kind enough to go out to the barn mid-day to check on Saga. She reported no swelling or anything that looked funny, and that he seemed fine at the walk, so that was good news. However, Wednesday night when I rode him, he was fine at first but then started taking off steps in the trot on circles to the left. So I hopped off, and contented myself with taking some pictures of my handsome boy.

"Oooh! Hay! Must... vacuummmmmm"

"Not sure who left this chair it the way,
but I think it would look better if I moved it over here..."

"Here, let me check your other pocket for treats..."

"OMG! EEEW!! GROSS!!! People germs on my NOSE!!! ICK!"

"The things I put up with for one of those sweet snacky thingies. Sigh."

Due to life, Saga got off again until Saturday, and he seemed fine again when I got on him. We walked and trotted both directions and he felt great, but as soon as I asked for the left lead canter, it was obvious he was still off. So I pulled him up and went for a walk around the pastures, but he kept taking funny steps, even just walking. As I went to get off him, I noticed a vet wandering around the barn, and not one of the regular vets (at least one of whom I refuse to use). I asked FuzzyPony to flag him down, and he came over and took a look at Saga for me. After listening carefully to what I told him about how it happened, he pressed right where the deep digital flexor tendon is, right above the bulb of the hoof, and he got a slight reaction. His assessment was that Saga essentially sprained his ankle, and with a good week of stall rest and some Bute, should be fine.

Because Cash is so colic prone, I'm always very hesitant to use Bute. However, Saga's not Cash, and the vet suggested three days of two grams, followed by five days of one gram. He said you shouldn't give it to them for more than 10 days, but that it could be very helpful for inflammation and not to be too cautious if it was needed. Anyway, I quite liked the new vet and appreciated his time, and he didn't even charge me for looking at Saga. His name is Dr. Carl Reicher, and apparently he works out of his truck. It's hard to find a vet that makes farm calls, and while I only had a few minutes to chat with Dr. Reicher, I liked his demeanor with both me and my horse, and he seemed very professional. I've added his number to my phone, just in case.

So, Saga's got a week off. Oh-kaaay... not the best, but at least the prognosis is good (if he's not 100% in a week, I'm going to haul him to Elgin for a full work-up). And speaking of Elgin... last night (Saturday) I got a call from Paint Creek Ranch, where Cash lives, saying that he was choking and was on his way to Elgin vet. So at 9 p.m., I hopped in the car with my husband, picked up FuzzyPony, and drove like a lunatic to Elgin, about 45 minutes away. Apparently the choke was very bad - over 12 inches of feed material in his esophogus - and he had aspirated some food as well. He had bile coming out of his nose as well as blood. However, by the time I got to Elgin, they had cleared the choke and his prognosis was very good. He was drugged to the tips of his fuzzy little ears (they have to to clear the obstruction), so we all left him in peace to recuperate.

Today I went out for a visit and to clean him up. I very gently curried him (he's sunburned) and brushed the worst of the dirt off. I spent a long time cleaning his face and nose with a sponge, since he had caked-on bile and blood everywhere. He was NOT PLEASED to have me wash his face, but then, he's never liked having his face brushed or washed. I also cleaned around his eyes, which tend to get gooey in the summer sun. He's lost a lot of hair on his face from the flymasks, but his face didn't seem too badly sunburned so that's good. He's always had issues with sunburn, and until this summer, has been up in a stall during the day so that he wouldn't get so burned.

Cash's lunch was delivered as a soupy mash, and he slurped down the watery part. However, he didn't seem to know what to do with the rest, so I added some more water. He drank that too, but it took him a while. Even after he's had his feed for an hour, he hadn't finished it, so I'm a bit concerned about his eating.

I did give him a bit of a bath while I was there - he was just so sweaty from the sedatives they gave him, he was sort of covered in salt. I also brushed out his mane and tail, picked his feet, and put on hoof oil. He didn't seem quite his old self, but he was a far cry from last night. I took a few pictures of him while I was there, post clean-up.

"What IS this mushy swill? BLECH! I want a CARROT!" (You can really see where the hair has worn off his face in this picture.)

All that sunburned pink skin. Poor guy.

As for trauma #3, that would be my malamute mix Elias, who managed to escape from his crate while I was off visiting Cash. He went counter-surfing, something he's never done, and managed to dump a 9x13 Pyrex pan of banana bread on the floor, shattering the Pyrex into about a million little pieces. He apparently ate the banana bread, and I would imagine ate some Pyrex along with it. I called the emergency vet, who told me to feed him bread, which he didn't mind one bit. He's currently quiet and snoozing on the floor, but he usually does that mid-afternoon. I'm just hoping that any Pyrex he did manage to ingest doesn't turn into a medical emergency.

Because really, I've about had it with the medical emergencies for four-footed critters this week. Sigh.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Well darn it to heck

Tonight started off fabulously well. The horses stayed in last night and all day today due to a chance of rain (it didn't), so there was a bit of excitement when everyone got to go out. I had decided to work in the outdoor arena with some ground poles, so I pulled out a few and set them up as trot poles before getting on. Saga looked around a little at the beginning of our ride, and he was definitely energetic during our walk warm-up, but listened to me well enough.

I pulled up my stirrups two holes from normal dressage length since I wanted to work on two-point tonight, and was very pleased at how I felt in my saddle with my stirrups shorter. I am hoping that the saddle will work as a jumping saddle as well until I can get a jumping saddle that works for him, and the dressage saddle has a shallow enough seat that it just might work (I've jumped in a dressage saddle before - not my favorite thing, but I can make it work). Anyway, we did several minutes of trot work both directions, with me in two-point. Saga was nicely forward but very steady and listened well; when he wanted to fall to the inside to the left, he moved away from my inside leg when I asked him to stand up. Success!

We took a short walk break, and then I got back into two point and asked for a trot transition, then a few steps into a left lead canter. The canter depart was lovely and smooth (ok, not round, but he didn't rush into it, which is wonderful) and the canter was also lovely. He was light in front and had a wonderful steady rhythm, it was just a joy to ride. We went down the log side and were turning through a corner when he practically dropped out from under me.

Have you ever had those moments that happen so quickly but you remember everything so clearly? Just a stride or two before, I had been thinking about how my weight felt heavier in my left stirrup than my right, and had deliberately put more weight in my right and relaxed my right ankle more - and if I hadn't done that, I probably would have pitched over his head. As it was, I stayed with him as he went down, but when he came back up, asked with my inside leg for him to move on as I thought he had just tripped a bit. The next stride he took, it was clear that something was drastically wrong with his front end, and I immediately pulled him up and jumped off almost before he stopped. Given the way he was suddenly three-legged lame in the front, I expected to see blood gushing or a broken bone (although I didn't hear anything) when I got off, and he was standing holding his right front up. My first thought was "oh shit, I've broken my horse." I saw nothing immediate - no blood, no swelling, nothing broken. I checked his hoof, thinking maybe he had a big rock stuck in it or had wrenched his shoe. There was nothing in his foot, his shoe was fine, and there was only a minor cut on the bulb of his heel that I'm pretty sure was there Sunday. He put his foot down but held it out in front of him to keep the weight off, and I figured that I needed to either get him to the vet or get a vet out ASAP.

Of course, I was riding alone, but I asked another person at the barn to go get the barn owner. In the meantime, I managed to lead him about 30 feet out of the arena and toward the barn, and each step was clearly painful for him. As we stood there waiting, I debated whether to try to get him to a vet or have one come to us, and then the barn owner showed up. I was about to ask her to call the vet please, or hold Saga while I went to get my phone to call the vet, when he took a step forward that was apparently fine. No kidding. Fine.

So I walked him around for a moment and he looked 100% better. I wasn't even sure that he was actually lame! I got back on him and asked for a walk, and yes, he was still off, right front. I hopped off, walked him back to the barn (he was still pretty much fine), and trotted him on the pavement in the barn aisle. He was very slightly off, but it was hard for me to see much since I was both trotting him and trying to see him move.

What to do? Five minutes before he could barely walk, and now he's fine??? I ended up cold-hosing both front legs for about 10 minutes and palpating the heck out of them. He didn't show any signs of pain anywhere in either of them, and I poked and prodded pretty hard. So, I threw his bell boots on (just in case) and put him out with his two buddies. I figured it can't be that bad since he recovered so quickly and shows no signs of pain or swelling, and he'd just go nuts stuck in his stall for another 24 hours. I suspect that he stepped on a rock, since the outdoor arena does have some pretty big ones, no matter how often we pull the damn things out. If he bruised himself and it abscesses, then we're looking at a couple of weeks off. If it's something more serious... well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. I will probably go out first thing tomorrow or during lunch to check on him, and see if I can find a set of hoof testers. Assuming that something else is not obviously wrong with him.

Gah. Just when things were going so well. :(

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Or maybe it wasn't a fluke after all

Today was another amazing ride on Saga. We rode in the outdoor arena today, since it was actually cloudy and there was a breeze (alas, we didn't get the promised rain). It was only 83 degrees at 8 a.m., not bad at all.

Once again, our walk warmup focused on serpentines, but it wasn't as focused as usual since I was working a bit with my husband. Still, it went well, and we then did some trotting on a loose rein. I noticed today that he was less forward than usual, I think he wasn't as forward yesterday either. Not so much that it was bad, per se, just that it wasn't quite as much like riding a racehorse as it usually is. I also got some canter in both directions in the warmup, and to the right when I asked and reinforced it with my whip, I got a bit of a hop. Nothing serious, just him letting me know that he didn't think he had to canter right away when I asked, and me letting him know that playtime is over, and yes, he does.

After a walk break we went into serious trot work. And doyaknowwhat, the trot was there again today. I did have some trouble getting him forward and over his back, as he kept wanting to suck back, but he was steady and even in both reins and there was definite improvement to the left. We did have some jaw-setting head-tilting moments left, but when I remembered to let go of my left rein and ask for more forward, it resolved immediately. It's amazing how nicely your horse goes when you ride right!

Anyway, the trot work was brilliant. I asked for a bit of shoulder fore down the long side both directions, and got it. AT THE TROT. It was wonderful! We still have lots and lots of work to do on steady rhythm and coming over the back all the time, but the good moments are by far exceeding the OMG horrible moments.

On to the canter. It must just have been our day, I don't know. On the left lead canter depart, he started to run into it but I brought him back and asked again, and he got it almost right off. Not pretty, but SO much more responsive. We did some very nice 20 m circles and a shallow serpentine on the long side, and he really sat back, came from behind, and was steady and soft in the front. Wow! To the right the departure was very clean (yay!) and the canter was so balanced and steady. I swear I don't know where this horse came from! I even asked for a bit of lengthening down the long side, and the canter just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. What an incredible feeling! Saga's apparently got some big movements in there, and I'm so excited to see them starting to come out.

Tomorrow he gets the night off, but it's back to work on Tuesday. I'm so excited that our dressage work is finally progressing, I'm actually starting to look forward to the fall show season!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Some days it just WORKS

Some days things just work. I used to have days like that pretty often with Cash, my retired eventer. I have them pretty regularly with Red, my husband's horse. But this is the first time I've ever had a day like this with Saga.

We did the usual walk outside warm-up, then headed into the arena. I worked a lot on 10 meter serpentines up the center line, as those seem to help Saga bend and move away from my leg. I noticed he was much more able to change bend quickly, and was even in both reins for a few steps in the middle of each serpentine, which is new (and good!). We did some trot on a loose rein and he was a bit sluggish but at least wasn't rushing. We also did some canter in the warm-up, and the transitions weren't quite as disasterous as they were on Tuesday, but they were still pretty crummy. I have GOT to tell my right leg to stop creeping up on the left canter departs... today I was pointing my toe so badly that my calf cramped. See, my body knows when I'm wrong even when my brain is sending the wrong signals!

After a walk break, I picked up the reins and we went in for some serious trot work as usual. I really focused on being steady with my left hand to the right so he would have something consistent to go into (amazing what our horses teach us, no?) We did a few 20 m circles both ways and a few changes across the diagonal, and I focused on keeping him soft and forward and keeping my seat soft so my leg and foot wouldn't go all tingly on me again. And then I noticed... he wasn't setting his jaw, left or right. He was standing up straight in the corners, both directions. He was taking rein contact equally in both reins, especially when changing directions. And suddenly, instead of feeling like I was riding on my horse, I felt like I was riding with my horse. What a beautiful thing!

After that, the most fabulous trot I have ever had with him (even Fuzzypony said it was nice, so you KNOW it had to be at least halfway decent), I thought about calling it quits, but I did want to get in some canter work. The transitions were messy but not as bad as they have been, and the canters were fairly nice. We kept getting one or two nice strides in here and there, so the pieces are there, it's just a matter of practicing them. After that, we took yet another walk break, and then I put him back to work for just a few minutes to work on walk. We actually had a decent shoulder-fore both directions (not so hot to the right, but at least he did it), and a few steps of leg yield both ways. To the right, we had about three steps where I really felt him cross over and where he was soft in his poll, so I count that as a huge success. To the right, I tried to really relax my left thigh to keep from blocking his motion, and I think I'm getting better with that - which shows because he's actually moving left.

Of course, I may have a completely different horse when I ride tomorrow morning, but that's what keeps this fun, right? :)

Did someone say left?

On Tuesday, I made it out to the barn to ride. I was very concerned about the tingling sensation in my left foot and leg from last week, so I took it easy this weekend. When I rode, I concentrated carefully on keeping my left leg and buttock relaxed, and this seemed to help. I still had a few tingly sensations, but nothing as bad as last week.

We started out with the usual walk outside of the arena, where I really worked on forward without nagging with my leg. I know I nag too much, and I need to break myself of the habit, especially since I think it may be contributing to the tinglies in my foot. After coming into the arena, we worked on bending at the walk, and moving away from my leg. I worked on a lot of 10 meter serpentines up the centerline, counter-flexing on the left-hand half-circles and really moving his shoulders to the left. I remembered to take a lot of stretching breaks throughout the entire ride, which is something I need to do more often.

Tonight I decided to do some canter as part of the warm-up, so we had two disasterous canter transitions (you'd think I'd never ridden one, UGH) but nice relaxed canters. He fell in rather impressively to the left but was oddly straight to the right. We took another walk break and then went to do some serious trot work.

I really don't remember much about the first part of the trot except that it was its usual mess, with him falling to the inside rather horribly to the right. At some point I put my left hand down so the knuckle of my pinky finger touched the saddle and informed my hand that it was going to STAY THERE AND BE STEADY. I really moved his body over with my right leg and asked for right bend with a leading hand, and suddenly... we had it. He was in my left rein, standing up in his shoulders to the right. Holy cow. What happened to my horse??? It was like I was suddenly riding the outside of him, and it was working. Wow, what a feeling! We did a bunch of circles right, went around the arena right and actually bent to the right in the corners (O.M.G.), and it was just lovely.

Of course, then I had to jinx it all and go left, at which point he informed me that he could not possibly go into the right rein, that today we were ONLY going into the left rein, and that was simply too much for me to ask. He stiffened and set his jaw to the left at the least teeny half-halt on that rein. He tipped his head at the poll. It was generally ugly, so we went back right... and he was an angel. WTF???

So, now my horse goes fabulously well to the right (for one night and one night only, I suspect) but we had a serious fail to the left. At least some of the pieces are starting to come together though, even if it's only one direction!

Last Saturday and Sunday

Yeah, I'm a bad blogger. No posts for a whole week. Fortunately, that doesn't mean that my horse hasn't been ridden in a whole week, just that I've been negligent on the blogging front.

Last Saturday, Ziggy's dad rode Saga for me while I was out of town. You can read his synopsis of his ride over at Twenty Dollar Horse. And he sent me a text message saying he's going to steal my saddle. I know you're reading this, R, and I have a tracking device on that saddle. Just so's ya know. :)

FuzzyPony rode Saga on Sunday. She sent me a synopsis of her ride, which I'm posting here, in blue:

Saga and I started out with my usual warm-up routine. This consists of walking around the full arena, both directions (normally I only go around once but since Saga and I are new to each other I went twice). Then trotted the same pattern. This give the horse a chance to see all the ‘scarey things’ at a slow pace (so they don’t jump out of their skins at the rake leaning against the wall next to the arena, etc). At the trot I tried to keep him as forward as possible though he kept trying to A) fall into the arena or B) stiffen horribly in the corners and anticipate canter. The use of my inside leg exacerbated the stiffening and canter thoughts. So we went back to the walk and did some circles in the corners with me working hard to keep my leg aids soft and steady. We continued to circle in a corner until he went around it at least semi-relaxed. It would take 5 to 10 circles per corner though. He still wanted to stiffen so I took him to the center of the arena and we worked on turn-on-the-forehand. He was confused at first but started figuring it out. After that I went back to circles in the corners and, with much concentration, managed to get him to be more or less relaxed through all four corners with out having to circle in the same corner several times. ;-) After that we did some more forward trotting and quit on that. We worked for a good 45-50 minutes and he soaked the saddle pad completely. All in all we had a good ride/workout. At least from my perspective; Saga might have other thoughts.

It's always nice to hear that your horse is bad about the same things for someone else as he is for you, but what I found was interesting was Fuzzypony's report that he was worse to the left. The right has always been the hard side for him in the past. But hey, it will be nice when he's better to both sides!

Friday, July 10, 2009


Yesterday as I was sitting in my chair, I noticed that not only was my foot asleep but the back of my left thigh and also my left calf were intermittently falling asleep. My lower back was a little tender too, and after sitting through a few meetings where I simply could NOT find a comfortable position, I decided to get an appointment with my chiropractor. A little more research on the Interwebs made me suspect that I had done something to my sciatic nerve. EEEEK!

My chiro, who works on lots of people who ride, informed me that my lower back was extremely compressed. Oddly, my back didn't hurt, but holy cow when he adjusted me I sure felt it! I am pretty sure that every single vertebrae from my last rib to my tailbone moved. And then he did my hips... yeeeks! It was one of those adjustments where you can't breathe for a second or two afterwards. I was also told to consume more Vitamin C (need to get some OJ, even though it's not the season for oranges around here). Oh, and to go home, take some ibuprofen, and lay on my back for the rest of the day.

Back at home, I spent even MORE time on the Interwebs doing research. Wikipedia, while not the end-all source of info, had a nice overview of what might be going on in my spine. Since my foot tingled more when I bent over, chances are the nerve is being squashed in the L5. As I was reading, the info about the Piriformis muscle caught my eye, mostly because my leg and foot didn't really hurt as much as they were tingling strangely, as was my hip. The sciatic nerve runs either right through or right next to these muscles, and the muscle can put pressure on the nerve. If you read through all the medical-ese, it sounds like some of the positions you put your leg in for riding might cause the piriformis muscle to complain. Since I've got a new saddle and since I'm trying to ride a horse with a REALLY BIG trot (compared to what I'm used to riding), this makes sense.

Anyway, I found a few stretches (and here are a few more) to do for the piriformis muscle. I tried them, and OW! Whether or not that muscle is what's causing the sciatic pain, I don't know, but it needs to be stretched. Come to think of it, my entire lower back and thighs are pretty tight, and only strong in the way they need to be strong for riding. My husband has similar issues, in that he's very strong from his martial arts, but he's not very flexible and it gets in the way of his riding. We discussed the possibility of trying some yoga to see if that helped us at all, since we'd both like to be more flexible and stronger. I think we may get a video and see if we can do it at home before we go sign up for classes somewhere.

In the meantime, this weekend Ziggy's dad is coming to ride Saga on Saturday since I'm out of town, and Fuzzypony has promised to do her fabulous spa treatment on Saga's mane and tail. I'm so lucky to have such fabulous friends!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Hey! My foot's asleep!

Last night as I was posting around the arena (forward! FORWARD!) I noticed that my left foot was falling asleep. I thought that was kinda strange so when I walked, I took it out of my stirrup and realized it was just the top of my left foot - even more strange. I finally figured out that some combination of my new saddle, the way I am sitting, and the anatomy of my seat bones has come together in some weird cosmic relationship so that I am apparently pinching the nerve that runs under my left seat bone and to the top of my left foot. Actually, as I'm sitting in my chair typing this, I'm still feeling a bit of tingling in my left foot.

A little research on the Web shows that what we commonly call seat bones are actually Ischial Tuberosity bones. Apparently cyclists also experience numbness in their feet and toes because of sitting in the bike saddle or having shoes that are too tight. Obviously this is not normal and I need to do something about it, so I've got an e-mail in to Carol about it. Since it's only on the left that tells me that I'm not sitting straight (tell me something I don't know). I'm hoping it's fixable, because dammitilovemynewsaddle.

Otherwise my ride was very good. We again went walking outside to start off with (seems to be a trend) and then came in the indoor. There were two ladies on drafts who persisted in riding right next to each other and stopping on the rail, which made it challenging to ride around them (people who have no sense of arena etiquette annoy me). Anywho, I made the mistake of getting on Saga's case for not bending to the right when I asked, and suddenly, we were doing the crappy canter thing. So I threw my reins away and asked for forward again. I'm a moron, I need to stop paying so much attention to his head and get the rhythm and back moving and then the rest of it will improve. Yeah, I know I'm supposed to ride my horse from back to front, but dammit, I'm not used to a horse blowing off my half-halts. I need to stop thinking of him as a more-or-less made horse and think of him as a greenie with no clue. And I need to ride the horse I have and not the horse I think he should be. And the horse I have needs to learn to move forward off my leg and stay there, accepting contact and responding to it appropriately.

Of course, all this is good to know in theory, but practicing it sure is challenging! I guess that's what keeps me coming back for more though is the challenge of it.

We also did some canter before he got too tired. The transitions were much better but I am completely losing my position in them. I need to balance him better and ride the transition better. The canters themselves were fairly unbalanced but we did have one nice 20 m circle in each direction. I need to remember to do canters earlier in my ride instead of later so that I still have some horse - and some energy left myself! - to do them well.

I won't get to ride again till next Monday since we have plans for the weekend, but hopefully Saga won't forget everything we've worked on between now and then.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

forward, Forward, FORWARD!!!

Tonight's ride was all about forward. We started off with a big forward walk around the barns, and I really worked to keep that when I picked up the reins. We went into the arena to work (the ground outside is too hard to do much but walk on), and we continued with forward. I didn't worry so much about bending as I usually do, although we did do 10 meter walk serpentines where I counter-flexed him to the left and made him move his shoulders left. Then when we would go back to the right, I would ask for true bend and really focus on keeping him forward and his shoulders underneath his body. And you know what, it worked! We actually had some nice bending to the right at the walk, without the stiffness in the neck and jaw that often accompanies a half-halt on the right rein.

As we moved on to trot, Saga was a bit rushed, so we worked on a steady rhythm and keeping him straight. To the right, he has a tendency to drift off the rail, especially on one side of the arena, so I chose to stay on the quarter line and be straight rather than fight the tendency. Sure, we have to fix that, but one thing at a time. After a bit of trotting, we took a walk break, then I picked up the reins again and asked for some walk lateral. I again made sure that my left hip and thigh were loose so that when I asked him to move left, he had some place to go. And lo, we got some good steps of shoulder fore and some actual leg yield steps. Nothing beautiful, but at least there is movement in that direction!

We then went on to the serious trot work. I have noticed that Saga does not always respond promptly to leg cues, and has offered to canter when he wanted to pop his shoulder to the outside, and I tried to close my outside leg to prevent him from drifting. I also noticed in our video from this weekend that he popped his shoulder more when he was sucking back, so I really focused on moving him forward no matter what. I used my voice a lot tonight to back up my leg, but tried not to go to the whip since sometimes that seems to be not so effective with him. Every time his head went up, he'd lock his poll or jaw to the right, or he'd think about sucking back, I'd send him forward with leg and voice.

And you know what, we had a lovely ride. Now, it wasn't consistent. He came behind the bit a lot, but I lowered my hands and closed my leg. I did not do the circles on the outside end of the arena where he really pops his shoulder to the right. But we did lots of 15 meter circles, plenty of half circles, changes of direction, serpentines... I tried to mix it up but just keep it forward. I also made a very conscious effort to hold my left rein and to point my shoulders where I want to go, both things I have trouble with.

We did a good amount of trot and a bit of canter both ways. His canter transition, especially on the right lead, was icky and rushed - he just sort of fell into it. Left was better. Both were fairly balanced but steering was iffy; however, we were both pretty tired by then and I just wanted to make sure we got it done, since we hadn't cantered in our last two rides. We walked out since he was really tired and blowing.

A couple of other details - Saga got kicked on his right flank, toward the end of his rib cage. It's a pretty bad one, and it was swollen, but went down with hydrotherapy and riding. It was also quite ouchy to the touch, but we put some dermazone cream on it and we'll keep an eye on it. Also, the saddle pad I used tonight is not big enough for the panels on the saddle. I've only got two pads that fit, and I need to make sure I use those. On a good note, Carol e-mailed to say that the saddle's previous owner had THREE of the special Reactor Panel pads, as well as a saddle cover, so that's awesome! And, also on a good note, Saga's getting much better at carrot stretches to the right, and when I did stretches at the end of the ride, he lifted his back almost TWO INCHES! My best friend, Fuzzypony, saw it and was really surprised too. What a great end to a great evening!

Article on using side reins

A friend just sent me a really good article on using side reins. Thought I'd share.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Saturday and Sunday

Yes, yes, I know, I'm behind. It's Monday and I'm posting about Saturday and Sunday, but I was waiting for pictures.

Saturday I got to the barn around 7:20 a.m., hoping to beat the heat, only to find Saga finishing the last bits of his 6 lbs of grain. I decided to give him a chance to digest and cleaned out my trailer and my tack locker, both of which were in desperate need. I don't think they've ever been cleaner!

I saddled him up with my new Reactor Panel saddle, and when I went to put it on his back, it just sort of settled into place. No more guessing if it's too far forward or too far back, it was just THERE. How cool is that! He's still a little girthy due to the saddles that didn't fit, but I went slowly and offered him a few treats along the way. That improved his outlook on life considerably.

Our ride was nothing to write home about, but I warmed out outside with a long walk around the place. In the arena, he was more forward than ever, but that could be a due to sitting in a stall for five days. We are having some major issues with right turns, especially at the far (outdoor) end of the arena - he likes to pop his left shoulder and ignore my outside leg - or he chooses NOT to ignore my outside leg but interprets it as a canter cue instead. After a few rounds of that, I asked for counter-flexion instead, and lo and behold, our circles started to improve. Then he decided that he didn't like that and started sucking way back. He ended up getting into this "I will only canter or walk" frame of mind, so we went back to the left, established a trot, had a good circle each direction, and called it quits. I probably rode him too much with not enough breaks for the first time back in three weeks, but for all that it wasn't too bad of a ride.

Sunday I started out by going to Duchess' mom's house for a little ride on Duchess. What started out as work on trot rhythm soon became work on bending and flexing in the poll and jaw. When a half-halt on the inside rein gave me nothing but a brick wall, I really started to ask her to move her head when I asked for give. She's very stiff in both directions and just doesn't seem to register a half-halt. I would really like to work on this with Tina when she's back in town because I didn't like how much I was having to move Duchess's head to get her to unlock her poll and jaw, but I quite ran out of tricks to try. However, I really didn't encounter any problems with the trot rhythm, and when Duchess's mom got on her, she immediately noticed the difference. She practiced unlocking her poll and jaw and a little counter-flexion to get her attention and keep her from leaning on the right rein, so that was a good experience. I suggested changing Duchess's bit to a loose-ring (she's in an eggbutt now) so that she has less to lean on, and using a flash noseband, which apparently she had been using but her mom had taken it off. I'm not a huge fan of flash nosebands, especially when they're cranked down, but Duchess has a unique ability to blow off half-halts from the reins, so I think it could help for a while. I'll be interested to hear from Duchess's mom if the loose-ring with a flash helps any.

Then it was off to ride Saga. We started out with a long walk warm-up again, and he has a HUGE powerful walk that I'd never gotten before. I think his back is more comfortable so he's willing to do it more. We worked on moving off the leg at the walk and not sucking back when I pick up the reins. Actually, we worked on not sucking back, period. He does it at both the walk and trot (we didn't canter), and I need to be faster about correcting it. I did get a few steps of lateral work to the left, and I really focused on relaxing my left hip, which I found I was tensing when I was riding him bareback (riding bareback is REALLY GOOD for figuring out what your body is doing that it shouldn't be). His trot was much more forward and through than on Saturday, it felt so much better. At one point he was so engaged through his back I really couldn't sit it - I think there's a lot of power in there, and I'm going to have to learn how to keep it coming and how to ride it! We had less of an issue with the right circles at the outdoor end of the arena, mostly because I didn't set him up to fail like I did on Saturday. We just didn't do those circles, and focused on areas of the arena I knew he would be consistent in. Eventually we will get back to that, but not before he's moving off my leg better and I've got more tools to win that argument.

My best friend took a few pictures of us at the very end of our workout, but by then Saga was well done and not anywhere near his best. She also shot a short video of him - he's not great, but this gives some idea of him popping out his right shoulder while going left (he's about 10x worse to the right). Hopefully I can save this rather icky video for posterity and laugh at it six months from now. :)

After, she took a few still shots of him sans rider and saddle.

Right side - compare this to the earlier pictures I took of him May 26th for saddle fitting.
Left side - he has definitely gained some weight and muscle tone!
Handsome boy!

What a cutie!

After my ride on Saga, I headed over to visit Ziggy's dad and give him a hand with his two-point. Despite being an amateur and jealously guarding my ammy status, I really enjoy helping my friends, and Ziggy's dad wanted some more suggestions on improving his two-point. We worked over trot poles and a few small x's... I'm sure you can read more over on Ziggy's blog. Anyway, it was a great horsey weekend, and I can't wait till my next ride!

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Last night, Carol from Capstone Saddlery came out with more saddles to try on Saga. The main candidate was a Reactor Panel Baker saddle, a strange-looking creature to be sure. But, it had fit my butt when I sat on it in the shop, and it's got a very flat tree, so we had high hopes it would fit Saga.

Not only did it fit him, it fit him PERFECTLY. When I went to put it on him, it just settled on his back oh-so-snugly. I always guessed if my Isabel was sitting in the right spot (too forward? too back? who knows?) but with this saddle there was no guessing. It just FIT. The thing comes with four (FOUR) billet, so at first we used the front and back billet.

I should preface my ride with the fact that he hasn't been ridden for three weeks, and he's been in his stall since Wednesday due to the two inches of rain we got. So, I was expecting a somewhat forward ride. Coupled with the mini (eeeek!) standing outside of the arena and the girl laying her horse down inside the arena, I was definitely looking at an interesting ride.

We walked for a few minutes when I got on, then picked up a trot. Saga almost immediately started his head-tossing hopping ickiness, but as I moved him forward he started working out of it. After a few minutes, Carol asked me to stop and readjusted the billets - she moved it to the second and last billet. Immediately I felt the front of the saddle lift up and suddenly his shoulders were so much more free. The head tossing stopped as if someone had flipped a switch. We even tried a little canter (buck included) - he was extremely stiff but willing, so we only did about half a circle and then came back to trot.

In retrospect I think the initial ickiness had to do more with his expectation that this would be unpleasant due to past poorly-fitting saddles. Once he figured out that it was comfortable, he started to relax. As for me, I found the saddle to be quite comfortable, but much flatter than I am used to. It has more of the feeling of an AP or jumping saddle in the cantle, but the seat itself is very comfortable. I also find myself bouncing quite a lot less in the trot than in my Isabel. I think it will take some getting used to, but it fits me nicely and is comfy.

My best friend also found a new saddle, a used Borne (not sure what model exactly). It's got a VERY deep seat, which she likes (I rode in it too and found it comfy). It also really freed up her horse Taran's shoulder, and he moved better than I've ever seen him go. This is especially impressive since he's had almost 6 months off!


First ride is tomorrow morning, 7 a.m. sharp. While it's still below 90 degrees, I hope!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Great article by Jimmy Wofford

Kind of old, but an excellent article about what's happening to eventing.

Eventing lives in balance.

As for Saga, not much going on with no saddle, but the saddler comes out tonight to try out some dressage saddles. Keep your fingers crossed!