Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Schooling Ride: 5/27/2012

Sunday I had a great ride on Guinness. Since moving to his new field he's been 100% of his normal self (if slightly tired). Unfortunately, the rough attitude of his field mates might be too much for him. He seems to be getting really beat up ... more on that in another post. 

Here's our ride!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Lets all be friends ... (Clinic Update)

Early last Sunday morning, I dragged myself out of bed. The sun was shining reservedly, hiding the hints of the blisteringly hot day it would later become. My drive to the barn was quiet and contemplative, as I wondered what the morning's lesson would bring.
Guinness greeted me as the first horse at the gate. His eagerness was heartening, especially after our recent arguments under saddle. As I curried a deep shine into his shoulders, I gave thanks that he was still spotless from the night before's bath. He stood quietly, not dancing as before. I fitted his saddle and bridle to him and we headed out into the arena for our dressage lesson.

It was excellent. The whole lesson we focused on tactics to get Guinness to stretch down into the bridle, relax his head and neck and lift his shoulders. We were very effective, and the ride felt incredibly productive, if also incredibly hard.

My instructor pushed me hard, and after the last two weeks, I really needed it. She challenged me to stay soft and seeking in my hands and to work hard on stretching my legs down and around, instead of letting them creep up and driving my heels into my horse. Since I have moved to spurs, this is more important than ever. My riding flaws must get better before I can advance this horse.

Guinness will never be a packer pony, he makes me work for every bit of relaxation and impulsion. I have to thank him for that, as I tend to work harder and care more when riding a horse that really makes me work for everything.

We have a schooling show on Saturday, and I'm nervous. It's a first for so many things. Let's hope I don't forget anything, let my brain stop working or do something incredibly stupid. I think we'll be okay though. Just stay relaxed and let that back swing through. That's all, right?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Saddle Fitting Sucks (but other things are awesome!)

After observing some ever worsening changes in the way my dressage saddle is fitting Guinness,I had the saddle fitter out to look at my old, old, OLD County saddle (I'd like to tell you how old it is, but the County rep couldn't actually find the year stamp on it anywhere. It's a mystery, even to the makers ...).

The rep was nice, and pointed out how my saddle has a slight rock and that the weight bearing is much more focused in it (due to the age and style) than a newer one would be. Um ... okay. She told me she could maybe work on it some, but that it wouldn't change it much. Okay ... Then she asked if we could ride in it, and then try some other saddles to see if they made a difference in me or the horse. That sounded reasonable ....

Guinness was a complete terror the whole time. He refused to stand still, screaming repeatedly for the mares in his pasture. Every touch to his sides or legs resulted in kicking, as did every fly that flew near him. His dancing and constant pooping only stopped long enough for him to pee in the crossties (something he'd only done twice prior to this!). I was mortified. My normally dependable, mannered gelding was acting like a boss mare in heat. His behavior has been on a downward spiral since being turned out in this group of mares, but this was intolerable. The bad behavior continued under saddle where he called repeatedly and bucked HARD for the first 15 min. I don't think I could have held things together if there weren't other people there.

One and half hours later (in 90 degree heat!) Guinness and I were dripping in sweat. We had tried five saddles, and I hadn't felt a difference in any of them but one, and that difference hadn't been terribly noticeable. The seats were certainly more comfortable for me (but so is sitting on a slab of concrete!). Guinness had finally worked through his issues and was traveling nicely, and focused on me again. I wasn't feeling like murdering him so much, but also wasn't enjoying being sold to by the rep.

I asked the rep again what we could do for my saddle. She told me that the saddle as currently configured and padded isn't doing any harm to my horse. "He moves more freely with the other ones, but this one isn't causing any pain or rubs. It does rock slightly, but that is the style of the saddle, and you have it padded securely." That was enough for me. Thanks!

The price of the saddle she wanted me to buy? $4,500.00.

As the rep packed up, I patted Guinness on the neck.

"That saddle costs more than you did, dear."

He was too tired to respond.

Saddle, shimmed up with a different shim. That one was much too large. Guinness, staring at his field full of ladies ... 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

New Field, Saddle Fit, Equipment and More!

A friend sent me this photo she captioned "Pig Heaven?" I can't think of anything better!
A few updates, I'll go into greater detail on most of these later.

1. The "Big Pig's" move into his larger field has not come without drawbacks. Mainly, his new inability to have respect for people. This includes not wanting to be caught at feeding time, walking intolerably slow on the lead line, and an absolute inability to stand still in the cross ties or keep attention while being ridden. This is more than annoying, it's beginning to be dangerous.
So far, I've been combating his behavior by instigating "Mama is Boss Mare" rules. This has even included schooling him on the ground in his field with his mares. That worked okay, but I think this is just going to take some time and consistency (something I, unfortunately, don't have a lot of!). 
On the plus side, all of this testosterone has resulted in some pretty spectacular movement (when he can channel it).One the further down side, it has also resulted in some spectacular rider/horse arguments. One of these included Guinness bucking and spooking all the way around one side of the arena with me kicking and shoving him forward while tears streamed down my face and I screamed "I've already had a completely crappy day, DON'T. YOU. DO. THIS. TO. ME. YOU. IDIOT!" 
It was not one of my finest moments ... 

2. With the introduction of lush late spring grass, lots of suppling work and long conditioning rides, Guinness has been changing shape radically. He doesn't have any pain in his back, but I have noticed a disturbing trend in his sweat and saddle marks (see below). The saddle appears to be rubbing in weird places. I've been experimenting with padding and hope to have the saddle fitter out.

The woes of saddle fitting. Just look at that huge gap under the withers! Ugh!
3. Schooling show. We're going. May 12 at the Hoosier Horse Park. Wish us luck. Kay bai!

4. Finally, I've been trying some new equipment to try to improve our safety and riding ability. First, these Eskadron knock-offs by Centaur. They are pretty awesome. I'm sure the quality is much better on the Eskadron brand, but at only $16 (instead of $60), these were a no brainer. They do keep Guinness' legs cooler and drier, and they allow me to wrap tighter, thus helping keep swelling in his ankles down even more. Hooray!
Second, we've been experimenting with a loose ring snaffle with a lozenge. Apparently one of these with a thin mouthpiece in the $30 range is the holy grail of horse bits. Seriously hard to find. I finally tracked down this one at State Line Tack (wow, haven't ordered from them in years!). So far it's working well, and Guinness seems to chew on the bit more than just flip it. Hooray!

Climate Control polos. Probably not as good as Eskadron brand, but pretty darn awesome for only $16! Let's not laugh at my sad attempt to wrap with these ... it has gotten better, I promise!