Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Working at the Farm, Lesson, and the Stubben Euphoria

I took care of the farm over the weekend while Trainer was at 4H states. 22 horses by myself? No problem. They spent most of the time outside, coming in for feed and going back out. That makes life a little easier, aside from walking that many in and out (hello leading groups of 2-4 at once). They're pretty super about it.

Some pictures:

Penn got to try out his new feed bag while I was around to watch him. He's a sloppy eater, the feed just goes everywhere. His old owner said he recently had his teeth done, but I'm inclined to have them looked at again. The feed bag works perfectly. No more grain  (or expensive supplement!) over the wall and on the floor for the dogs to eat.
Three of the geldings enjoying a good roll Sunday afternoon.
Ah! All three with 4 legs in the air going at it.
Anyway, I got to ride Cody again this weekend because he needed to go for a walk, and I rode one of trainer's new baby horses (ok so she's 8 or 9 and was just recently broke to ride). So I got some extra riding in, yay!

4* horse Cody is coming back from vacation this month and will be going back to work.
BTW, doesn't he look sharp in the navy DSBs? I texted Trainer this pic and said "Cody wants his own Navy boots."
I ended up taking Monday off of work because I wanted a lesson, the weather was going to be good, and I just wanted a day off. Penn had been super all weekend, but with the show next weekend, I wanted to address picking up the wrong lead with Trainer.

I told her that I had been keeping Penn on a three loop serpentine for most of my rides last week - the constant bending and changing of directions seemed to really help him (and me keep after him). Our best canters had been on the loops of that serpentine.

I had an aha moment - Trainer had me ride as if I was asking for haunches in, but not actually asking for it. It was just to get me to put my outside leg on and keep the outside hind stepping up. I told her when things seemed iffy this past week, I'd been putting that outside leg on to engage the outside hind, and I felt like that's something she's been telling me for years, and it's probably how I should have been riding Mikey all this time, and I'm sorry it only now just clicked in my head.

She laughed and essentially face palmed herself. Yupp, I finally understand the concept. I think it helped that Penn and I have little to no baggage together, so no problem on adding more outside leg. She once again pointed out that for every horse you bring up from nothing, you don't make the previous mistakes and you get better every time. So alrighty then. One mistake fixed, plenty more to come.

She had me switch between sitting trot/posting trot and "collected"/lengthened trot to help mix up what was happening on the serpentine to keep Penn's interest. Once again, she had me pay attention to how much pressure he put in the bridle in the transitions. She also had me work on softening my wrists - my fingers and elbows are soft, and my wrist is quite rigid which makes my fingers very mechanical in their movement when I use them. I had to think about someone pulling my pinky towards the bit in order to soften my wrist and get the funny break in it out. It's hard!

I had wanted to work on the canter transition a bit because I couldn't pin point where I was failing Penn in them- some days the left lead was elusive, some days it was the right, and some days it was neither!

We attacked the canter by first finding the good trot we had in the first part of lesson, paying attention to keeping my outside leg on, then just asking for left lead canter and seeing what happened. He was prompt, inverted and not running off, but not calm and cool either. Back to trot. Except when going back to trot, if he so much as added an extra ounce of pressure to the rein as he stepped downward, tap with the whip on the right hip to keep the right hind working.

She had me do at least two transitions to and from canter per circle. The point before was getting in canter and staying there. Now the point needs to be getting there and having what you get be a better quality canter. To the left, he never really missed the leads because I was good about my outside leg being back and supportive of his outside hind, and then my inside seatbone naturally sat deeper and he figured out the leads easily.

Something to think about, and I'm not sure where I heard it but: the step or two before asking for canter, slide the outside leg back without actually pressing it into the horse and asking for canter, half halt, and then press the outside leg and ask. This tunes the horse into the fact that a canter transition is coming and then they're ready. It was almost that kind of idea.

As we progressed to the left, she had me pay more attention to softening my rein in the upward transition and not holding him together. With the outside hind support, he quite naturally carried himself in a balanced canter and I never fought for my circle (something I always did with Mikey when we got the outside leg going). If he got leaning on me, she had me "take a tug" with the outside rein and tap the outside hip with the whip, but then give the rein back almost immediately so he had nothing to lean on. A couple of those and I had a neat little horse who was carrying himself nice and through in canter on a circle! The same idea applied in the downward transitions. Ask from the seat, very little to no hand, and if he leaned on me, take a tug and give and tap with the whip.

We repeated for a short time to the left, then went to the right. We only did a handful there- the right is much easier for him. I did get a couple wrong leads here, mostly because I wasn't clear enough with him about the outside leg/inside seatbone etc. She had me find a bigger trot (aka that elusive "more" that gets written on tests), and ask from that canter. What a difference!

We finished with a stretchy trot circle, which he rocked because we have been working hard on it. The only nit picking comment she had was more forward. He had enough stretch, but he needed to cover a bit more ground.

Overall, she was very pleased and is curious how he'll score on Sunday. She did warn me about him getting too much bend through his ribcage. He's short backed and short legged, and the amount of bend that he gets is a lot for him to get switched over to new bend on the serpentine. She said to give him extra straight steps so he wouldn't tangle himself up trying to get to the new bend. Right now he needs that much bend to make it super clear in the canter transitions which lead I want. And the thinking haunches in without actually doing haunches in is essential for a quality trot and a quality transition to canter, and a quality canter. I'm hoping that when it's time, I can take that super bend in canter, straighten it, and ask for new bend, and it'll be quite natural for the flying change to happen without a fuss. I can only hope!

She said he's like looking at two horses right now- the front end is developing nicely, but his hind end needs time to catch up. I told her that he's going to have a quiet November because with Daylight Savings Time ending, it'll be dark long before I get to the barn on week nights, and I'm traveling the first two weekends of November, so I essentially won't see him even somewhat consistently until the weekend before Thanksgiving when I have my Thanksgiving vacation. She thought that would be best for him- he's been with us for 2.5 months and I've turned his world upside down. Let him have a break after the show and just horse on his own. Let him have a quiet winter to put on some more weight and then come out rocking in spring. He is supposed to go for hacks and do ring work when possible (no more than 1-2 days a week of ring work), but the hacks are more important for winter. That all sounds good to me, he's been quite good and I want him to keep being good and liking his job!

I tried to be artsy and take this picture of us walking down from the field.
I finally got my hands on a Stubben Euphoria last week.

The Stubben Euphoria.
Not sure how it got a dirt smudge. I'm guessing it came with it considering I was the first one to bring it home.
The tack shop called and said they were finally sent one for me to try. I got out there Thursday last week to sit in it and pick it up. I ended up taking home that saddle and the 1894 again so I could compare the two on Penn.

The Stubben 1894.
Even though the Euphoria is a 17" seat, it sat very nicely for my big butt. Too small, but it didn't feel too small. I preferred sitting in it over the 1894, but there was something nice about the 1894's thigh block that I actually enjoyed. The Euphoria has shoulder cut outs. Instead of slicing off a cross section of the front panel like Toulouse did, they curved the entire front panel back under the thigh block. A neat idea for sure, if it hits the horse in the right place.

I tried the saddles on Penn again (no pictures, I forgot, sorry!). The 1894 fits like a glove. The Euphoria.... ehhh it fits, but the shoulder cut out is too low to be of use to Penn, and it fills in the hollow behind his should a bit too much. It'll be squeezing him in no time, or we might end up with enough squeeze that he never builds the muscle right there.

Then there was the quality issue with the Euphoria. When I saw it in the tack shop, I very much preferred the 1894's look. As you can see from the above picture... the panels have puckering on the seams. The pommel had similar puckering. The sweat flap between the horse and billets was tacked on, not sewn on. There was a funny nylon strap tucked under the thigh block for no apparent reason. Trainer gave it the worst comment of all, "It looks like an Argentinian made saddle." Eek. I had to agree with her. Neither of us liked how it looked. At all. Especially not for the over $3,000 price tag.

I liked sitting in the Euphoria better than the 1894, it had that free feel that I liked about my Jaguar. It also has a nice narrow twist (the 1894 does as well, but it's not so pronounced... which makes me wonder if the Euphoria could end up being a crotch biting saddle).

So in the end, I'm sticking with my original saddle order- the 18", 29cm/B Tree, Stubben 1894. I didn't even bother riding in either saddle- the Euphoria was just wrong, and there was no reason to put more wear on the saddle I liked since I had to return it anyway. My saddle should be here in 6 weeks though!


  1. lol can i come ride cody too?!? haha seriously tho - Penn just sounds like he's developing super well, and i love your winter plans for him. he's gonna be one happy (and well schooled!) dressage pony! also, yay for deciding on your saddle!

    1. Haha, I love Cody. He is a cocky SOB and not easy, but he can be walked by pretty much anyone (not asking him to do anything? Perfect. He'll walk all day). He's pretty cool though. I'm so excited for Penn- I'm having a hard time not getting ahead of myself with training goals for him. He's been broke for less than a year! I don't want to overload him. And I'm super pumped about my saddle!

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you! I thought so, and I'm glad Penn likes it too!