Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 In Photos

As a take on the "Favorites" blog hop made popular by Amanda at $900 Facebook Pony, I'm going to recap the year month by month with favorite photos and minimal text. Hope you're attached to good internet...

JANUARY
I kicked off the new year in West Virginia with Liz, hiking in -8 temps and enjoying our silly husky dogs.
I spent the rest of January moving, so Bast went for some nerve wracking hacks and occasional arena rides. Mostly he was on the back burner.
I did enjoy all the time I could spend with my boys, though.
But I did get to spend time supporting (and photographing) friends at their outings!

FEBRUARY

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We really put in a lot of good work.
Except for when we didn't...
I also took my favorite photo of Emma and Charlie.
MARCH
We were beset by injury setbacks when Bast popped a big splint on the outside of his front right. Obviously this slowed him down... 
APRIL
Pig's system started showing signs of struggling, as he developed a body-wide fungal infection that we just could not kick.
For Bast month started well...
But ended poorly...
My wallet bled, but the vet assured me we were just looking at hematomas to a massive degree, not anything broken.
MAY
We moved to a new, lower key, farm. Despite reservations, Bast settled in quite well.
Pig and I started teaching the little guy confidence through regular ponying adventures on the property.
The pastures were in terrible shape, and Pig struggled hard to put on weight and look good. I became militant about making sure his forage levels were adequate.
By the end of the month, Bast had finished his ulcer meds and returned to limited work. He was showing a lot of mental stability and trainability, despite a love of coming behind the bit.
At the end of the month, I got to cheer on Emma and Charlie. I also got to snap this awesome photo. Way to go guys!
JUNE
We returned to cantering, which led to lots of awkward moments as Bast worked his hind end around those breaking up hematomas. 
We also started the unfortunate trend towards leaping in to the canter like a methed up drunk giraffe. #attractive
I welcomed Asterid into my house, and she has been the best thing ever.

JULY
Bast went for his first solo trail rides at the new property, and was a total star.
We also started working with my trainer. Our first lesson was just after a huge thunderstorm, which left a lake in the ring. Bast was so thirsty after our lesson he drank from this pond for 5 whole minutes, leaving trainer and myself in stitches.
(summer summary)
AUGUST
I spent the summer legging up a friend's endurance horse, with the plan to compete in several LD races. Unfortunately he ended up coming up with an injury that flared at our first outing and cancelled his whole season.

Bast and I went off the property for our first horse show experience at Loch Moy's Twilight Eventing.
He was a genius. I was so proud.
SEPTEMBER
Jan came to visit. I got to see someone else ride Bast for the first time in almost a year, and we also played around a lot.
Bast and I messed around with jumping.
And did lots of galloping... on purpose.
We also went back to Loch Moy for more show experience. I was again blown away by Bast's work, though the judge was less impressed with both of us.
OCTOBER
Both boys had a lot of down time and more relaxed schooling.
Though that doesn't mean we weren't still working on straightness and going forward into the reins in every ride.
Still, the focus was mostly on building relationships, enjoying days it wasn't raining, and keeping them both at optimum health as winter approached.
Also my dogs are amazing, and I love them.
NOVEMBER
I bought an older Custom saddle from my trainer, and it changed Bast and I's life immediately for the better. Turns out being balanced in a saddle makes a huge difference.
Liz came to visit, and I loved watching her ride my boy. He was a total unicorn for her.
He was pretty amazing for me too.
We even showed off our field galloping skills on the side of a steep muddy hill without dramatics or scary moments. This horse has come so far in the last year.
We pulled out Pig and I warmed him up for Liz.
She was nervous about galloping him, but I couldn't get over how good he looked once he got going. This old man is just the most amazing bionic horse.
DECEMBER
Weather, work, and holidays kept me from riding my horses much this month. Bast took full advantage and spent most of his time smushing his body into squishy mud. Gross.
Pig meanwhile has stayed mostly spotlessly clean, confused about why I would ride him with his blanket on, and overall pretty happy about hay bales being returned to the field.
Meanwhile I spent time standing out in the rain taking photos of Emma and others at a local Philip Dutton clinic, which yielded some amazing photos.
REFLECTION
This year was very up and down, but I think it's ending on a very positive note. I'm off now to do some very exciting things with Bast, which I'll be talking about soon. Hopefully these things lead to a much more positive 2019, complete with a good show season and positive development from my young horse. Keep your fingers crossed!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Kavalkade Bridle Review

Eyes off the mud, friends. We're focused on the bridle here. The bridle, and the cuteness. Always the cuteness.
This summer I purchased the Kavalkade Isabella Bridle. I had been searching high and low for a vendor of monocrown drop nosebands, to no avail. Giving up, I decided this monocrown drop noseband bridle was a similar cost to a custom noseband and pulled the trigger. What follows is a history of the ways I've used this bridle and a scattered review of its qualities.

To start, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the bridle out of the box.
New tack is always so exciting!
The leather wasn't as plastic-y as I had assumed it would be. In fact, Kavalkade impressed me with how nice this bridle really is for the money. It has a lot of features found in far more expensive models these days, including padding on the crown and noseband and a slight anatomical cutout around the ears. It also comes with reins, which I did not actually plan to use.

Like a kid playing with the box instead of the toy, I found the velcro keepers wrapped around the bridle the best part of the whole thing. I've actually used them a ton to keep my double bridle from tangling with the other strap goods on my bridle rack. Maybe don't buy this bridle for them, but they are really handy, so don't throw them away either!
Padded cutout monocrown and uber fancy browband.
Many of Kavalkade's bridles seem to come with some kind of over-the-top bling browband, and this was no exception. I did like how narrow the browband was, as well as the deep curve to it. Honestly I figured it would look good on both my horses and didn't mind it. (#bringonthebling) I do find I don't like the stainless steel keepers on the bridle, however. They make the whole thing feel much too busy in my mind.

My initial plan was to pull the drop noseband off this bridle and put it on Bast's Eponia bridle. I would then put the plain caveson on the Kavalkade and it would become Pig's new snaffle bridle. Until this point I'd been riding him in the double or his old Frankenbridle. I figured he'd appreciate having something new to himself.
It fits the orange boy!
I was pleased with how well the Kavalkade fit Pig from the start. The leather seemed to break in well, and didn't rub his ears. Plus the browband made him look very classy.
Soooo classy.
The buckles on the drop were a bit too narrow for the Eponia straps, but I made them work without damaging anything. Evaluating the fit of the drop on Bast was initially quite difficult because of how stiff the noseband was right out of the box.
I think it's maybe too wide over his nose? Or something. Basically it sits weird.
After adjusting it somewhat to my liking I took Bast for a spin in it. As he was just coming back to work, I had no comparison between the Eponia flash and the drop. He seemed to accept it better than the Micklem I had tried last fall, however. I left it on the bridle in hopes it would help him figure out how to better accept the hand.

Then we went to a show and I put the nicer looking Eponia flash noseband on the bridle again. No one needs that many clashing metals and styles in their photos, after all. I noticed no real difference in Bast with the flash vs the drop, so I left the flash on the bridle and continued his schooling as normal.

Until...
RIP cheekpieces...
Bast accidentally tangled his reins around his leg while walking out of the ring one night, and both cheek pieces on my Eponia snapped right at the buckle. I was really devastated by the loss, as all the buckles on the Eponia are rose gold and therefore impossible to match. (Eponia is looking for a set for me as we speak, and hopefully can ship them to me soon!)

Down a bridle, I thanked myself for hoarding them. Quickly I reassembled the Kavalkade with its original setup and fit it for Bast.
Not a bad fit here, either!
Somewhere in the last year, Bast's face has lengthened. This isn't surprising as his teeth had yet to all come in when I bought him. Thankfully, now he and Pig use just about the same holes on their bridles. This means very minimal adjustments are required to have them swap bridles! The bridle fit quickly and nicely.
Drop noseband doing its job, and not looking too ugly.
After riding in the whole setup for just over a month, I'm pretty happy. I see some minor fit issues that could be addressed. The noseband could use less width over the actual nose. I plan to bring it up a hole, which may address this or may interfere too much with my snaffle. The keepers on the noseband like to slip off, which drives me nuts as the ends flap in the wind. Also the noseband strap comes perilously close to Bast's eye.
Note: Raised the noseband up since writing this and am much happier with the fit. However, straps are still super close to his eyes.
This is common with most drops, but can be mitigated with the fit over the nose. I'm not really sure yet how to fix this issue, but Bast doesn't seem too concerned by it for now.
Ugh. Strap so close to his eye, and keeper undone AGAIN.
For close to $130, this bridle was overall a win. It doesn't look cheap. The leather is stiffer than some, but feels like it should hold up to quite a bit of abuse. While busy, it's not an ugly bridle. I do enjoy the lack of bulk behind the ears and the ease of cleaning, though.

If you're in the market for a less expensive monocrown drop option (and there are not many!), I can recommend this bridle. I may continue to school in the drop even if I get the Eponia cheek pieces. I feel like it's such a helpful tool with a young horse learning about contact. I can feel how much he's improved and begun responding to my hand over the last month. Once he's educated we can go back to the plain or flash noseband instead.
The unicorn approves of this bridle. And Liz, I suppose. ;)
Have you ever used a drop on your horse before? I put one on Pig for many years before he was ready to go into the plain caveson and the double bridle. It proved very useful when it came to steadying the bit in his sensitive mouth. As I said, I think they're more useful and educational for a young horse than a flimsy flash. So let me know of your experiences with a drop below!