Thursday, 11 May 2017

Sectional Saddle

Who knew that sectional fit could be as complicated and expensive saddle fit? 😂

A couple weeks ago my SO and I ordered a sectional for our house. There is a full foot difference between my height and his height so finding furniture that feels comfortable for us both is a challenge. I was amazed when we found an affordable option that both of us liked AND that would fit in our family room (though we had to rearrange almost every other piece of furniture to do it). I liken it to finding a saddle under budget that fits the horse and two very different riders.

The sectional arrived this week. Unfortunately, we had missed out on one important component of sectional fit: hallway fit. The first half came in fine, but the second half was a few inches longer. We got it through the doorframe (after removing the door), down the stairs, and then had to stop. We tried maneuvering it every way imaginable but it was just simply too big to turn the corner between the hallway and the room it needed to go in. It has been in the hallway for two days while we tried to think of every conceivable option, but the furniture store is retrieving it today. I've certainly never had this problem with a saddle!

Exhibit A
(and no, we cannot just stand it up, it's taller than the ceiling)

In other news: Last weekend I was in Saskatchewan for a family reunion thing. This weekend I am organizing and riding in another clinic with Sandra. Next weekend is the dressage show I am organizing. In between all of that, I have to go to dragonboat practices (the season started this month), deal with the fact that my car needs a new compressor (thank god for extended warranty), come up with a replacement for the sectional, oh and also juggle that pesky little thing called my full time job. Stress levels are high and time is short. Unfortunately I haven't been doing as much riding as I would like. I am really excited for the clinic and the show, and a lot of my busyness is a good kind of busy, but I still might need a mental breakdown or some heavy alcohol to get me through until the end of the month.

How's your May going? Have you encountered anything that was harder to fit than a saddle?

Monday, 8 May 2017

Monday Musings

Yesterday, on my way home from a family reunion in Saskatchewan, I pulled into the barn after a six hour drive and walked through the cold, wind, rain and mud in my dress and flats to check on Kachina and throw a rain sheet on her (it had been hot and dry when I left on Friday). I'm sure that many of you would do the same, but I can't help but think that being horse people makes us a little crazy :-P

Double rainbow from different day, but I figured they were appropriate photos for this post

She's my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow ;-)

Friday, 5 May 2017

Progression Plan - April Update

I made a progression plan in December to try and keep up the forward progress we were making. I'm finding that this is a great tool to keep my rides focused so I'm going to give regular updates on where we're falling on the list from month to month (this one is a little late, sorry):

Grey - achieved previously
Green - achieved last month
Yellow - working on currently

Good = relaxed + rounded topline + even rhythm + slow tempo (not overly slow, but not running) + correct bend in neck and body + acceptance of bit (eventually this definition will expand to include more, but this is what it means right now)
Consistently = means the movement is confirmed enough that we can achieve it every ride, even when it's a "bad" day, it doesn't have to happen on the first attempt though 

  • Good walk work - achieved in 2015
  • One good 10-15m trot circle - achieved in late 2015
  • One good 20m trot circle - achieved in spring/summer 2016
  • Consistently (every ride) able to get one good 10-15m trot circle - achieved in December 2016
  • Consistently able to get one good 20m trot circle - achieved in December 2016
  • Multiple good 20m trot circles - achieved December 2016
  • Consistently able to get multiple good 10-15m trot circles - achieved December 2016
  • Good trot circles with good walk-trot and trot-walk transitions - achieved December 2016
  • Consistently able to get multiple good 20m trot circles - achieved January 2017
  • Consistently able to get good trot circles with good walk-trot/trot-walk transitions - achieved January 2017
  • Good Walk/Trot test patterns (circles, large arena, diagonals, transitions, direction changes, etc) - achieved February 2017
  • Consistently good Walk/Trot test patterns - achieved March 2017
  • Good stretchy trot circle - achieved January 2017
  • Consistently good stretchy trot circle with transitions in/out - working on it, I really should have separated this into two items because we have a consistently good stretch now, but still need to work on smooth transitions in and out
  • Good trot circle with a few strides of lengthen/added impulsion - achieved January 2017
  • Consistently good transitions within trot - I've been focused on doing more test pattern riding, so I haven't worked on lengthened trot recently (I'm not practicing first level tests)
  • Good canter circle - achieved February 2017
  • Consistently good canter circle - working on it and this keeps improving, but I'm not quite prepared to say I've succeeded yet
  • Good trot-canter/canter-trot transitions - working on it, right now when she does quiet transitions they aren't on my aids, and when she transitions on my aids, it gets a bit fast and hollow, we'll get them both together at some point
  • Consistently good trot-canter/canter-trot transitions
  • Good Training test patterns - working on it, but until the canter transition is good, the test isn't fully good 
  • Consistently good Training test patterns
  • Add more strides of lengthened trot - achieved February 2017
  • Consistently good lengthened trot diagonals
  • Good trot leg yields - achieved February 2017
  • Consistently good trot leg yields
  • Good canter circle with a few strides of lengthen/added impulsion
  • Consistently good transitions within canter
  • Good long side of lengthened canter
  • Consistently good long side of lengthened canter
  • Good First 1 & 2 test patterns
  • Consistently good  First 1 & 2 test patterns.

No green this month. I had a lot of good rides in April and I feel I've made good progress on the items I'm working on, but it takes time to build the consistency. I'm more and more confident we can achieve these, it just needs a little longer to happen. 

Have you ever had a month that you felt was really good but it didn't quite translate that way on paper or when comparing it to your goals? I think it's important to remember that not all progress can be measured. 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Throwback Thursday

Throwback to 2009 or 2010 when I was riding my anglo-arab mare and heart-horse Ellie and scoring pretty well at First Level.

8s! Four of them! I definitely didn't appreciate those as much back then as I do now

I was going through some old ribbons and tests and found this one. It was just from a schooling show, but 63% is a respectable score. More importantly, check out those four 8s! Also two 7s in the collectives, on First Level Test 4! I would be thrilled to get these scores now, even at training level. This seems like so long ago and a level that feels so hard to get back to, but it's good to remind myself that I was there once. I trained one horse (who had never done dressage until me) up to second level and I can do it again (Unfortunately I can't find my later tests, but we improved at First Level, were solidly schooling second, and then showed at Second once in 2012 before she foundered).

Ellie and I circa 2009

This time around I have a different horse who needs to learn more slowly, and I have more problems with my equitation to fight, but I also have a lot more knowledge about what I'm aiming for and how to get there. We can do it!

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Cow Horse

Continuing the trend of posting about stuff that happened over a week ago, Kachina and I actually did some useful ranch work!

It's currently calving season at the place I board so the BO has been checking his herd multiple times a day. One night when I was out, he drove around the field with his truck and noticed a new calf separated from his mother. He came back to the barn and started saddling his gelding. I was tacking up myself at the time so I asked if he needed a hand. Kachina and I aren't exactly experience cow hands, but sometimes an extra body is helpful to direct a cow, even if it's just standing in a certain spot, and we can at least follow directions. I also think it's good exposure for Kachina.

We went into the ~120 acre pasture that has a couple hundred head of cattle, located the cow, herded her to her calf, and then brought them both into the front smaller pasture.

I didn't take any photos during the adventure because I didn't want to drop my phone and/or die, so here's a super awesome paint/map diagram of what we did:

BO's property: cattle pasture fences shown in blue, approximate path in white
(horse pens, arenas and house all in bottom left)

- Circled some hay feeders looking for the cow. BO's description of her was a "big black cow", which could describe more than half the herd, so we had to get close enough to read the ear tags.
- After finding the right cow, we separated her out and started herding her at a walk to B

- There was a group of calves in this area so we went in this direction to try and find and pick up the right calf.
- We got there and found that the calf in question was right beside the fence, but was on the wrong side of the fence at C. BO dismounted to try and get the calf to come under the fence, but no dice, and the calf ran off.
- Kachina was starting to get more tense at this point because cows and calves were moving more quickly around. I started circling her while I was waiting for BO to do his thing, she stayed with me until...
- Once BO was back on, the cow started to run off, and BO started to gallop after her to head her off. Having her buddy come from behind and run past her made Kachina immediately accelerate upwards and forwards to follow. I maybe should have just gone with it, but in the moment I decided I wasn't prepared to have that happen and I brought her back. This led to a lot of prancing and circling while I tried to get Kachina to focus and relax. She half listened to me, but we essentially jigged a lot of the way until we caught back up to BO and his horse near the opening in the fence in the middle of the field. I was worried I was going to be more of a liability than a help with the round up but I decided to keep going.

- this is the area where BO had seen the cow run to so we trotted up to see make sure we had the right cow again
- turns out that the cow at D was a different big black cow so we went over to the dugout at E to search the right one out again.

- BO took the near side of the dugout and I went to the far side to read tags of some potential matches over there. I was proud of Kachina for staying calm when we moved away from her buddy.
- We found the right cow and separated her again to walk her up to F.

- This is where we found the calf and eventually reunited cow and calf together. It took a few tries and some time for them to properly re-aquaint themselves and so we just hung back and supervised.
- Once they were paired up, we started to move them back closer to home, slowly so that the calf could keep up and wouldn't get spooked. We also stopped regularly to see if the calf wanted to nurse because we weren't sure how much milk he had gotten.

- our original goal was to herd the pair through the same entrance in the fence that we had gone through before, but there were several other pairs in this area and that didn't seem like it was going to work well.
- BO decided to instead take them through a gate in the corner at H

- here we had the cow and calf separated a good distance away from the rest of the herd
- there were some removable posts to go through here, but BO had to dismount to open up the gate, I was in charge of holding them in place while he did that. This is where I feel like I was actually useful and not just along for the ride.

- another gate, another place where I was to hold them while BO got it open
- we herded the pair through the gate into the smaller front pasture where BO had been separating some of the smaller calves.
- from this point we were done and just walked back to the starting point

Overall we rode for almost two hours, with a lot of walking but some trotting and cantering. It was clear that Kachina isn't accustomed to this type of ride. I had to be heavier with my hands than I would like at some points, but I was proud of her in general. The one shaky moment at B was pretty understandable, and she stayed with me for most of the ride even though I was asking her for strange things. She was calm by the time I dismounted so I don't think the experience unnerved her too much. She might make a cow horse some day yet! I on the other hand need a lot of work to be worthy of a cowgirl title, I was noticing how much of an art it is to guide the cow's shoulder and get them to move appropriately. I can imagine that it takes a lot of years of experience to get a good feel for it.

A previous time we helped move cattle,
this time we did it in our dressage tack!

P.S. When I told my SO this story, he asked if "cow-horse" is what they are calling hybrids these days (he always jokes that Kachina looks like a holstein cow because of her markings), that is NOT what I meant!!!

Have you ever worked cattle with your horse? Do you find it's good for them even if it's not their primary job?

Monday, 1 May 2017

Mane Event Overview

I'm behind on my posting again, but last weekend (April 22) I went to The Mane Event in Red Deer. I didn't actually go for the weekend, just for half a day, because I also had to squeeze in a trip to Edmonton for some family stuff.

Mane Event is a giant horse expo. It started in Chilliwack BC, then expanded to Red Deer and now is also in London, ON, and Scottsdale, AZ. The Red Deer one is the biggest and it is massive. I tried to see if I could get photos showing the scale, but it takes up 3 massive halls, and all the booths and displays go higher than my head so you can really only see one row at a time. There is a full schedule of events all weekend that take place in two indoor arenas, a round pen, and a lecture area. Then there is the tradeshow. The Mane Event covers every horse discipline imaginable and it's really cool to have so many clubs, associations, and tack stores in one place.

Mane Event is what you choose to make it, here's how I spent my time there:

Dressage AGM

Since a lot of people come to Mane Event anyways, the Alberta Dressage Association decided to hold their annual general meeting upstairs at the facility on Saturday afternoon. I haven't been to the AGM in previous years but I had a special interest in going this year to a) match faces to the names that I have been communicating with related to the show and clinics I have been organizing; and b) be there in case there were any questions when they voted to approve the new rule that created my directorship position. It was really great to meet everyone and hear what all the area groups have been up to. I am glad that I am a formal part of this organization because it is a great group of people who are doing a lot to try and encourage the sport of dressage.

Lateral Work Presentation/Clinic

Shannon Dueck was the dressage clinician at the Mane Event this year. Unfortunately I could only catch one of her presentations but I really enjoyed it. It was titled "From Leg Yields to Pirouettes - How Lateral Work Progresses". She had 3 demo riders of various levels (1st, 3rd, and I1) and she went through lateral work from leg yield -> shoulder-in -> haunches-in -> renvers -> half-pass -> pirouettes. All of what she said echoed things I have heard or read before, but I've never seen it all put together like that and it made it all fit and seem not so complicated. It was a very well prepared and well presented demo.

Trailer Looking

There were at least six different trailer sales places set up with several of their newest and best horse trailers to show off. There was everything from small two-horse rigs to massive 4 horse LQ 5th wheels. It was fun to look at all the features. I wasn't seriously shopping, but I have debated upgrading my trailer to one with a sealed tack room so I was giving it some consideration. Instead of making me want a new trailer though, looking at all the options made me really appreciate the trailer I have. My tack room is exposed to the elements with open stock windows, but it is larger than a lot of other two horse trailers, and the fact that my door doesn't have a lip with weatherstripping makes it a lot easier to load and unload hay and tack bins etc. The latch on my dividers is simple, but it's simple in a way that I don't worry about it failing. Some of the fancy spring loaded contraptions on the other trailers might not stand the test of time as well. I like that my trailer is bright and airy and has no rear tack, some of the new trailers I looked at were a lot darker and seem like they would be tougher to get a reluctant horse to load into. A living quarters would be nice, but it also makes for a much bigger trailer that would be tougher to maneuver, and I have an SUV not a truck and they were all 5th wheels. Just style-wise, I didn't see anything that I liked better than my own trailer overall. And then there was price.... even the most basic trailers on sale were around $20,000. I bought mine for $4000. I think I'll keep it! Looking at trailers did give me a few ideas of how I should maybe modify my tack room to give me better storage though.

Feed Recommendations

There were several horse feed companies at Mane Event. I took the opportunity to ask several for feed suggestions for Kachina. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I got some very different answers. It did give me some information to look into though.


There wasn't anything I really needed so I wasn't planning on buying much, but I knew I'd probably find something. I actually mostly succeeded at saving my money and I'm happy with the three things I did decide to splurge on:

1. Cell phone thigh holder. In the winter I keep my phone in my coat pocket at the barn. Lately I've switched to a vest to still have a pocket, but even that will be too warm in a few months. I frequently ride alone so I think it's important to have my phone on me, but I struggle with what to do in the summer when wearing breeches (I haven't yet found a belt clip that is comfortable. This seemed like the perfect solution. The strap is made from soft neoprene so it shouldn't mark my saddle, and my phone slides easily in and out. When it's related to safety, the cost is pretty justifiable.

2. Sports bra. You don't need a photo of that. There was one whole booth of just sports bras. I am kind of a weird size so don't usually have much luck in finding one that works, but these girls had a great selection

3. Ceramic plate. This small company out of the Crowsnest pass consists of a husband and wife team that make and sell some beautiful handmade pottery and jewelry. They always bring a selection of horse themed pieces to the Mane Event. Two years ago I bought a plate from her that to me is the perfect depiction of collection and extension. I have it displayed in my house and I love looking at it. This year she had another dressage themed plate that I decided to buy. I can see my collection of pieces from her growing over the years.

Plate from 2015

Plate from 2017

The Trip Home

I left Mane Event at 8pm so I knew I wasn't going to be home until midnight at the earliest. About halfway though my drive I pulled over to help a lady who's car was smoking badly. As soon as I stopped, flames started being visible and so I made the call to 911 to get the fire department. While we were waiting, the fire grew quickly. Nobody was hurt which is the important thing, but it was pretty crazy, I've never seen a car just go up in flames like that. I ended up standing outside in the ditch in sleet and rain for about half an hour while we waited for the fire department, kept other onlookers a safe distance back, and gave my statement to the police.

The amount of fire when I got off the phone with 911

Friday, 28 April 2017

Adventures in HJ Land - Part 4

Week 1, Weeks 2 & 3

Week 4:
I was riding Donny yet again. We didn't do any jumping this week but I did learn two cool new exercises that I think I'm going to try out with my own mare:

Donny ready to go

1: Posting Canter - this is something that I had never done before or even heard of. It's where you post the canter kind of like you would do for the trot, but with one beat down and two beats up, in time with the canter. Because it was such a foreign concept to me it took me a while to get the feel of it. First I was going too fast, and then too slow. Even by the end, I was getting the rhythm more than half the time but I would still regularly lose it for a few strides before figuring it out. Kt explained that this exercise has a number of benefits:
- giving riders a good feel for the rhythm of the canter so they can continue to move their legs with the canter once they start doing more two-point
- preventing riders from getting stiff in their position at the canter
- influencing the horse's canter tempo, the same way you can regulate trot tempo with posting
- is kind of an in-between between sitting and two-point so allows the rider to sit to influence the horse but then quickly get back off their back
- good for building leg muscles
It gave me a totally different feel for the canter rhythm than I normally have because it forced me to really pay attention to the speed and part of the stride. I think this is the part that will help with Kachina because she sometimes seems to have an odd canter rhythm (sometimes lateral steps, and sometimes she feels like she's on the opposite lead to what she actually is), I think paying attention to her stride differently by trying to post it might help me figure out what's going on beneath me and when I need to make a change.

Since I fail at getting any more related media you get a photo of this disgruntled
"driver" that I pulled up next to when I stopped at a convenience store
Not sure if it's funny to anyone else, but I was laughing

2. Count Down Trot-Canter Transitions - I don't know if there is a better name for this, but the exercise where you do 10 strides of trot, 10 strides of canter, 9 strides of trot, 9 strides of canter.... until you get down to a predetermined number (we stopped after 5 of each). I'm familiar with this exercise, and have done it at the walk and trot before, but never at the trot and canter. This is the type of thing that was excellent to practice on a lesson horse so I could get a feel for it before trying it on Kachina. When I started the exercise I was counting the number of strides of trot, but then it would take an extra couple strides to get the transition before I restarted the count at canter. As time went on I got better at getting the transition when I wanted it. It was a really neat feeling because it wasn't causing me to anticipate the transition, just know when to ask for it. Generally, if I tell myself I want a canter at a certain point, like letter K, I will end up tensing up beforehand and Kachina will anticipate and then we either get running or a late transition as I take time to rebalance her. With the stride counting, I wasn't changing anything in the strides beforehand, I was just mentally preparing and then making it happen as I counted "...and 10". I'm not sure how much sense that makes when I write it, but I could feel Donny respond to me better and I think it's a feeling I can probably reproduce with Kachina. I also found it a great way to get a good understanding of the tempo difference between trot and canter. I initially found myself struggling to fix the speed of counting in my head between trot (faster) and canter (slower), but when I figured out the count in my head, I could feel it more clearly in my body. I don't think Kachina is ready yet to work down to 5 and 5 strides, but I think spending some time on trot-canter transitions every 10 strides will be really good for both of us right now.

This was my last scheduled lesson with Kt and Donny. Next week I start another month of HJ lessons with N at a different barn. So far I'm glad I decided to do these HJ lessons. I think there is a lot you can learn from every discipline and I've been having fun while getting a different take on how I approach my rides.