Friday, October 31, 2014

Two Cat Night

Last night the cats were simply pathetic looking and wanting to snuggle, so my husband and I let them sleep in bed with us. Normally this is a big no-no because I am somewhat allergic to cats (I've been able to take it down a notch using a herbal allergy medicine- "Bio Allers Pet Dander" or something like that, if you want to know more, ask). But last night, Penny snuck into bed with me, then Nickels wanted to be in front of the space heater (it was in the 30's last night), and well, we don't really deny him anything. He's sickly and cold all the time and just wants to be warm. I'm tempted to make him a fleece lined sweater. My husband tried putting him out in the hall, and Nickels just looked at him like, "why can't I come in?" and then marched right between his legs to go sit by the heater.

I actually slept through the night, which was great, and woke up to find Nickels nestled against my stomach and Penny between the comforter and sheet nestled in behind my knees. I was cold when I went to bed, but add two snuggling cats and I was quite warm! And of course they've learned if they don't want to be kicked or pushed in the night, come sleep by me, because I will never disturb them.

No pics today, sorry!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Remembering Freely Forward

Mikey has been extra lazy on his right hind leg. It's always been so, but the past couple days it's been worse.

I hurried out to the barn yesterday to ride before the rain came though (it never did) and before it got dark (it did). Ha. Anyway, days like that I will work Mikey straight through as much time as I can get before having to go back to the barn. Sometimes it's 20 min, sometimes 40. I got about 30 min in yesterday.

I remembered from my lesson that I had used my forgotten whip to help get jump in the canter. I used the same idea on the right hand side of my horse in the trot yesterday. He was really leaning on my right leg, and not bending well. I remembered the more forward from lesson, and the forward lesson I gave to my friend's horse a week ago, and decided to time a tap with the whip with the step of the right hind. Any time I lost the freely forward in the trot, or her leaned in the corners, tap, and he straightened right up and moved out.

I had been struggling with connection yesterday as well. I try not to ride in his double too much because I find when I go back to his micklem and snaffle he doesn't always connect well. He's lazy, his trot is hard to sit, and combine the two and I'm exhausted just maintaining what he's doing so I sometimes forget that I carry a whip all the time for a reason, to use it in times like these! The tap tap with the whip found the extra energy I needed, and he connected right up in trot.

After that we worked on maintaining the softness and connection in shoulder-in to half pass, and shoulder-in to haunches-out. I stuck with simple stuff that we can get right quickly since I didn't want to open a can of worms and run out of daylight (ie flying changes are for the weekend).

We had a lovey stretchy trot to finish, then I walked him back to the barn.

And how did I reward a good job? I pulled his mane.

Sorry Mikey!


Neat and tidy again. I shaved his bridle path, whiskers, and "goat hair" (the hair under the jaw) too.
He got treats before and after. Yesterday was a good day to do it because it was 79 degrees, he had just worked, and so theoretically it should be easier to pull out. He also needed to dry a little, he was sweaty!

I plan on riding him the same way tonight and possibly tomorrow, then he's on vacation Friday and moving to our new barn Saturday!

And now in honor of National Cat Day, an amusing picture of Penny from last night for you to take with you on your travels:

"Whacha doing?"

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Quiet Sunset Walk

Last night I took Mikey out for a quiet walk around the fields. If you mosey, it takes about 15-20 min. There were no rules tonight except walk/mosey on the buckle. I always trail ride/walk him in his cross country gear... one so it sees use, two just in case he does his spook and spin and gets stupid.
No rules and a lazy day also translated into me unhooking the cross ties and taking off his halter when it came time to put his breastplate on, and never reattaching anything while I got his girth on and put on my tall boots and helmet. I just popped his bridle on after I was ready. He's such a good boy, he knows to stay in the isle and wait for me.
He was so thrilled to do yet more work. When we didn't turn to the outdoor he perked right up!

Staring off at the horses that were out on the hill.
Ed is 18 hands of naughty!

I didn't cross tie him fully after we got back. So he checked his feed bin for leftover dinner. Don't ask what's up with that hind foot. He had it out behind him as he stretched to his bin, then decided to relax it.

He's lost a little weight since growing his winter hair... and topline because I just haven't been working him as hard in Sept/Oct as I did all summer. And he's got withers, that's for sure. He's not a real pleasure to ride bareback.

And I let him get away with the cross tie shenanigans because when he is hooked to both, he stays there and doesn't move a muscle. When he's not hooked to both, he doesn't try to go in the open stalls or leave, he just stands to the side and looks in his feed bin. Majority of the horses in our barn either ground tie or are taught to stand in the cross ties without moving until we take them out. When I take him places, everyone complements me on his excellent manners and how he just waits patiently for me to come back. Anyway, last night was rule free and he enjoyed it!

Monday, October 27, 2014

More Flying Changes and a Haircut

I had a lesson Sunday morning since it's the last one I'll have before I take Mikey for the winter, and since it's on a weekend, we wouldn't be on a time constraint. I wanted another lesson to work on the changes. He's been good, but I wanted to make sure I was on the right track.

Basically what we came up with was he's too quiet and not connected enough. Quiet was good when he was nervous and bolting to the poles and jumping around the arena. We failed a bunch of times on the good one til I got more forward, and then my trainer asked to sit on him when I tried the other way and just never got an answer from him.

She asked for a lot more forward, and used more of everything except her seat to hold him together- he shuts down on the changes if we use too much seat right now, but he splits the front and back end and disconnects right before and into the change. Essentially, we're going to hold him together when he wants to split, and carry much more impulsion and jump in the canter. Eventually we'll add seat back so we can ask from the seat, but right now he's so iffy on giving anything that we're going with a lighter seat and a little more of everything else, only if he goes to split.

And keep the straightness before the change. Very straight or bust.

I sat on him again after she did, what a difference! The hop and jump were there, and he was there, so when he went to split or rush, it was easy to hold him together and force him to do the change actively and correctly. Basically, quiet is good, but he needs to be jazzed up a little and up and connected. I need to play the fine line of being nice to him because he's learning, and forcing him to remember what he's supposed to be doing.

And I'm excited that we either get the clean change, or nothing at all. Yes, it's an all or nothing, but that means when I get it right, he gets it right, and when I'm wrong so is he. Fixing the late behind is harder to do I think.

I also think I'm going to go back to 2nd after getting my bronze. I'll ride 2nd 3 and 3rd 3, or whatever they decide on for the new tests. Centerline scores is implementing a new rider rating system, detailed here. I'd like a 3* rating eventually, and to get that I need to go back and get 7 more points at 2nd level. I don't mind hanging out at 3rd and getting those scores. I will put my medals above the rider rating though, I don't have much time left with Mikey to get to PSG, and I'm not a professional so the rider rating doesn't do much for me.
I did clip Mikey on Sunday before my lesson as it's going to be 70 and 77 today and tomorrow, and I knew he would be too sweaty after my lesson yesterday to clip him. Right now he has what we're calling a "blanket clip" where I full body clipped him everywhere under his blanket. So he has all his neck hair still and looks slightly ridiculous, but it's better than that shaggy horse.

Shaved pony. I'll shave his neck later this week when I get his blankets. I'll clean up the edges at that time too. And pull his mane, trim his bridle path and ears and whiskers. Basically make him show worthy!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Quiet Saturday... and a Creepy Evening

So this post is about the last 24 hours.

I rode Friday night, and realized Mikey needs his winter hair cut. He's disgusting looking. This was from about 20 min of work. He also needs a mane pull.

Sweaty, hairy mess. I hate that he looks like a backyard pony instead of a nice dressage horse.
I got up early Saturday morning to head out and ride during the day when it won't get dark on me. That was very exciting! We had such a great ride. He was feeling lazy in the trot so I skipped right to our canter work. When he's feeling especially lazy or quiet, trot just doesn't do anything for him. We worked on our flying changes today since I had the daylight to work on them until I was happy with where we quit. We are still using poles, but they are on the short diagonals near X instead of on the rail like the German Riding Master had them. This is because while Mikey respects the boundaries of the dressage arena wall, sometimes he gets a head of steam going into the changes and I don't want to accidentally jump out of the arena because he misread the pole question. I came to the follow conclusions:

To get the left to right change:
  • Forward canter
  • Straight and through
  • Softer hands than usual and allow the head and neck a bit lower than desired
  • Very clear seat bone and leg changes
To get the right to left change:
  • More forward canter than the other direction
  • Extremely straight and very through
  • Extraordinarily light contact, allowing the head and neck to become much lower than desired in almost a stretchy canter
  • Lighter seat than desired while still trying to be clear with the seat bones and leg, but not leaning forward so much that I put too much weight over his shoulder and thereby discourage the change.
The right to left change is much harder for him. He has more trouble with the left hind when it comes to all things dressage, it's just a weaker leg so I'm trying to make it easy for him while he learns how to change his body.

The L2R changes were all very good today until I botched the forward or straight requirement. The R2L changes failed unless I was very straight, very through, very soft. That's the harder direction for my hips, so that's not helping Mikey either. I got 3 or 4 good ones L2R, so I left those alone and worked the R2L until I got 2 good ones in a row (we were pushing 45-50 min by then).

This is where I do my dressage. The jump field surrounds the arena. It has a lot of stadium jumps and a handful of XC.
Meandering around the jump field.
Mikey was a disgusting mess when we were done again. I talked to my trainer about clipping him now and using an old blanket to keep him warm until his are back from wash/repair/waterproof. We decided he'll be fine with the extra medium weight I have in addition to his sheet and rambo fleece cooler. I contacted the blanket lady, she'll have them for me by next weekend, so only a week or so. I am still going to clip him now because Monday and Tuesday will be in the 70s and he'll be way too warm and I'll be working him and I don't want to be at the barn til 9pm drying him.

Licking the gate after eating his treats. I don't know why, he always licks metal or wood after eating any kind of treat. I like this field the best, it has lots of tree cover by the gate, but opens up to a couple acres of grass.
Close up of the previous pic. See? Licking away.
I spent the afternoon at the bank dealing with an account that should have been closed and got overdrawn when I paid my Macy's bill. First time I've ever overdrawn an account :( I didn't realize I didn't put my new account into my Macy's online bill pay, so my bank name popped up and I was like, yes, that account please. Only there's no money in it cause it was closing! Afterwards I picked up cat food for Nickels, had lunch with my mom, and walked in the park with Mom and her dog.

My husband lit a fire tonight, first one of the winter season!

Nickels warming his butt.
Penny laying on top of the cat tree in our front window.
So before the fire, my husband was on his way back from doing car stuff with my dad in OH. So I was home alone, and I had the front curtains cracked open for the cats in our 9' b 6' picture window, porch light on, tv on, and I feel asleep on the couch. I'd been hearing things all night, but around 8:30pm someone came to the door, rang the doorbell and woke me up, and then wasn't at the door when I looked through the peephole. Way to creep me the hell out. Not cool. I found an axe and put it near the door. I was on high alert already from the banging outside (I figured it was the wind), but the doorbell ditch put me over the top. All I could think was they watched me sleep through the crack in the curtains then rang the bell so I knew someone was watching me. Come ring my doorbell again, I'll answer with an axe in my hand. Best I can do on short notice. We're going to get some motion night cameras and put them outside and hook them up to a DVR or something so it records when anything happens outside.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Importance of "Freely Forward"... or even just forward!

Not a whole lot going on. The weather is finally breaking and I'll be able to ride almost every day before Mikey moves to his new barn.

I went to visit my friend that owns Mikey's new barn on Tuesday, and saw her ride her horse (swedish warmblood) and I got to have a sit on him. He's a neat horse and a very, very safe horse. He's never going to be naughty in a way that makes his rider nervous, and he's in general lazy. He's going to make you work for every step.

He also is a horse that never had a forward button installed. He knows how to canter pirouette and piaffe and is offended by your seat. I used my seat to ask for shoulder-in in walk which was fine, but I asked for it in trot and he piaffed away. To the point where I couldn't get him to stop. No rein contact, leg on, clucking, kicking, whip, he just piaffed more. I quickly found that when you don't hold him together (aka hold his face) and try to ride him properly from your seat and leg he becomes quite offended and quits on you by either piaffing (if you're in walk or trot) or starting canter pirouettes. It's not his mother's fault he needs held together, she said his old owner put him in a double to help get the frame and tuck his nose in. Basically fake it til you make it.

He and I went at it for a little while, meaning I skipped to canter to get more forward and as soon as I added leg and seat to push him to continue cantering when he tried to quit he switched to cantering in place and hopping back and forth. I eventually settled on the thinking, "Fine, if you don't want to go forward my way, you'll slow down/go backwards my way." It only took 3 cycles of this, where he would quit cantering for one reason or another (I kept little to no contact on his face so he had no excuses, and I kept my seat almost electric to keep the forward- Mikey would have been in the next county), and as soon as he'd break or hop or anything, I'd force him to stop all motion immediately and back up. This is not my favorite method because naughty horses tend to think about rearing or doing something else naughty, but he was none too pleased at my insistence. Three back ups later, I had a very through, connected, round horse who continued to canter until I said otherwise.

I tried to go back to a little shoulder-in in trot so his mom could understand how to ride it better by watching how I asked, but we went back to that same piaffe stuff. I ended up taking a very light steady contact, the same as I would on a green thoroughbred who just needed to practice searching for the bit and accepting the light contact, and then electric-seating him until I got my forward. He's not very quick to make the change to piaffe, so any time he'd think about switching, I'd take my outside rein and pull his nose towards the arena wall to break his thought process. He'd change from evading to saving himself from running into the kickboards and then end up going forward like I wanted him to (he was in no danger of hitting the walls or scraping his face on them, I promise. I'm not a sadist.). I maintained that forward to the bit feeling, and about 5-10 min later of constant support he finally switched from halfway connected to fully connected and light in my hand.

As soon as he softened a little, I would soften a little. He softened all the way, he got rewarded with posting trot. He lost connection, back to sit trot. We did a little more of this, then I gave him back to his mom.

She got on him and said "Wow! His back is up!" and then I coached her to getting that same forward trot (she stuck out the sitting trot like a champ!), on the soft rein (she's good at light contact- she never liked holding him together as it was not correct), and through. I had her focus for forward and straight. Keeping herself straight, him straight (we sacrificed bend, but once he has forward back consistently it'll be fine), and her hands on both sides of the neck and when she used one to use it from the elbow with the soft wrist. Once she got him through and soft, she practiced switching between posting and sitting trot following the same rule I set. I then had her change directions on the diagonal, and if he broke the connection at all, 20m circle back around and try again, coming out of the corner forward and straight. I told her don't give him an inch, because he's not going to give you an inch! He has to give first. She was fabulous! I also told her I wouldn't work on anything lateral until he answers the forward question off the seat. You have to be able to get out of the lateral movement promptly if he shuts down, and right now you'd end up in piaffe.

Afterward she said she had stopped working him from the seat because it had pissed him off so badly, and that I'm not the first one to say "more forward!" The big wig trainer that her trainer goes to see and another not quite local trainer had also said that she needs to find more forward, and you can never go wrong with more forward. Her boy just needs a week's worth of very forward, no nonsense rides and he'll be done with the shut down stuff. He's not bad, he just knows what he can get away with! She said she likes consistent lessons and supervised work, so she'll see her trainer once a week and then I'll teach her two lessons a week while I'm there. We're very excited for a good working winter!

Here is a horse graphic because I don't have any new horse pictures.

And I am totally stoked that I got to ride a piaffe, even if I didn't mean to! He's a super neat horse that likes doing the dressage "tricks" and after we get this forward thing worked out, I'm going to ride him a few times to practice flying changes simply because if I am even halfway right he'll give me the change. That way I get confident and quiet about them, and I can take that back to Mikey.

But here is my little sickly cat in our front yard with his scarecrow army:

Monday, October 20, 2014

On the Road to the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** 3 Day Event!

I forgot something else I wanted to share yesterday!

I work with a 3* event rider instead of a straight dressage trainer. I like it that way. I go visit straight dressage people every now and then, but I love working with my event trainer. She's near the top of her sport and isn't afraid to tackle something she doesn't need to do on her own horse in competition (ie canter pirouettes or tempi changes or piaffe/passage), and she's a smart rider who can figure out how to ask for things she's never done and know if the answer is right or not. That's why I stick with her, she develops independent thinking riders. She got me out of my need for hand holding that was holding me back.

Anyway, she went to Fair Hill's CCI 3* this past weekend to get the last qualifying score she needed for Rolex, and she got it!

Road trip to Kentucky for Rolex 2015!!!

Orange Net Magic

My sister-in-law got married on Saturday, so Mikey and I last worked at my lesson last Monday, and last rode on Tuesday when I took one of the barn kids down to the creek. Mikey earned his trail blazer award that night. The trail down to the creek had a bunch of trees down and we cleared some brush and branches out of the way and ducked under trees etc. He was a patient horse while I cleared stuff and a champ walking through the random crap on the ground.

So I went out today after I got home from our trip, and tried on Mikey's new Don't Shoot Me fly bonnet. Here are the results.

"Noooo Mom! The other kids will make fun of me!!!"
Yes, my horse "sings" on command. The ear net fits him really well, and it's made of good solid materials. I wish I could buy this net in a different color for use in public! The ears fit perfectly.

I got him all dressed in his dressage finery with the wrong shaped orange pad. That's one of my pet peeves, using an all purpose pad with a dressage saddle. I swear, I don't do it often. In fact, I've only done it when I don't have a dressage pad. Except now. This orange stuff is new and fun, and it's fun for now wearing bright orange.

So we tried to have a nice pic, and then what Mikey really thinks.

He refused to be photogenic.
He was absolutely wonderful today on our ride. My trainer has her full size dressage arena out (it came out a couple weekends ago for a clinic), which is fabulous because I actually have walls to work in instead of our baseball field. I opted to work today because Mikey is usually best for me when he's off for 3-5 days. He might be a bit stiffer, but he's much more lively. I've gotten away from the gallop sets, I need to get back to them. They were good for both of us!

Anyway, we started with what we worked on with my trainer at the start of our last lesson- fixing the shoulder in. I paid attention to not overdoing it while keeping the bend, and softening myself so Mikey could soften. We're starting to get very precise changes to shoulder in and back to straight before the corner- as long as I don't ride him into the corner and as long as I ride softly and from my seat.

After both directions were good, we moved on to what we worked on with the German Riding Master- using lateral movements to help collection, and pirouettes in trot and canter to get the engagement and activity. Mikey was nice and sharp today. He developed his nice strong super through and light in the hand trot very quickly. I'm trying to teach him a differentiation between what it means when I apply both legs at the girth (extend his step) and both behind the girth (collect the step). I'm also applying the extra pressure in the walk and trot at the girth as each front leg goes forward to get a little extra zazz from that leg as it goes forward- and it's working! He's catching on very quickly and is even starting to develop a Spanish Walk and an extended trot with more "grandeur" as one of my judges requested. Back to my point, he understands the leg placements very well and is beginning to shorten and lengthen just by my leg placement. It lets me use my seat in a much more supportive manner and let's me help him instead of fight him. We did a couple half circle canter pirouettes, nothing very exact, and I finally got that sitting hind end, raised front end feeling. Yes, I've done them before, but it finally clicked that that is the feeling I need to develop somehow and then carry on with. I used the canter pirouette to develop the feeling, just as simple as half halts, raising my shoulders, a little more outside aids to help the sideways, leaving the door open for circling, and he'd promptly sit and raise his front end. I'd release him from the sideways and send him straight and paid extra attention to maintaining the feeling. He can't maintain it that long, but we have a good start and he has lots of try. We'll build the muscles up this winter.

That work went so well I quit while I was ahead and we moved on the the flying changes I worked on with my trainer in my last lesson. She had worked with me to ride them much more forward and much more through and straight. It took a while for us to get out of the very collected work and into the forward through strides I needed. Once I stopped micromanaging him, aside from holding him straight from my seat and thigh, he offered up changes quickly and cleanly. I'm still using the pole on the ground, and asking for the change a stride before it and instead of using the pole the change, he's changing right when I ask! We'll start taking the pole away as soon as I work myself out and can be consistent for Mikey.

We worked on a lot, but we were only at it for a half hour to forty min. He was great, so I took some after riding pictures:

I accidentally took this one while fiddling with my gloves. I thought it was neat.

Bright orange ears.
One thing I'm also happy about is I'm getting better at using the double reins. I hold the bradoon rein under my ring finger, and my curb rein under my middle finger. I've finally gotten comfortable working my ring fingers and middle fingers separately. Mikey gets the relaxed curb rein he needs when he's soft, and I keep the contact on the bradoon but can still work the curb rein.

Anyway, all this good news must be the work of the magic orange net!

Anyway, it's very late on a Sunday night and I have to get to bed so I can get up for work in the morning!

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Great Feed Collection, Part 2

So I ended up having to pick up the next set of feed bags in my car, so I'm still missing feed. The weather around here will not allow me to drive my truck (no tonneau cover = no picking up feed in the rain) to the feed store to pick up all of the last 970lbs of feed. I brought an additional 460lbs home with me the other day, leaving 510lbs for the next (and last) pickup.

I added 6 bags of Proforce Fuel and 4 bags of Empower Boost to my stash. My stash is currently 780lbs.
And for those concerned and thinking I'm stupid for storing all of my winter feed: My husband built a custom pallet for the bags to sit on (6in off the ground I think) that has support bars and air holes to circulate air underneath. The bags are living in my mostly finished basement that has a dehumidifier (running 24/7 these days, but winter will fix that) to keep the humidity between 35 and 45%. We have cats which prevent mice. My trainer and Feed Store Dave have agreed that my feed will be fine.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Throwback Thursday

You're all being spammed today. I have several posts I've been thinking on.

This is Mikey and my first couple jumper classes, from 9/20/2009. We'd evented and done hunters up until this point. Ah the days when I was thinner! Gotta figure out how to get back to that.

Mikey and Blaze Orange

Well, blaze orange is not Mikey's color. I promise I will get more navy blue items for him to wear after hunting season! He was not in the mood to be photogenic.

"Mom, I look like a pumpkin."
I did find another fly bonnet that was blaze orange with a cute horse print and a fabulous price from It only took a week to ship to me from Canada. I won't be able to take it out to try on Mikey until this Sunday at the earliest, but I wanted to share it!

And then here's my two other fuzzy children inspecting a pumpkin my husband and I got from a farm that does a very high tech corn maze (it's cut into the corn using gps!). The pumpkin is in great shape and big, and was only $10. We're going to carve it closer to Halloween.

Our two shelter cats: Penny is the calico Manx mix on the left, Nickels is the tabby on the right.
 Nickels is our first cat that we got when we were still dating and had just moved in together. He's about 3 1/2 years old and has well outlived his life expectancy (he's very sickly and possibly has FIP, but my husband and I doubt this). He's very light on his feet, and is very light in general- around 6.5 lbs. He has a chronic upper respiratory infection that we can't get rid of. We've tried 4 different antibiotics, a couple steroids, and several natural remedies. If anyone has something else that might help, please share!

Penny is our second cat and about a year and a half old. She has food allergies (no grain, fish, or chicken- good luck finding a food without those!) and I finally found a food that works for her, and luckily Nickels will eat it too. She's a little tubby (around 11 pounds, could use to be 10.5 or so), but that's my fault for leaving free range food out since Nickels is so thin. I wanted him to be able to eat whenever he wanted! I don't do that anymore though.

An Eventing Side Note

As many of my readers (if I have any!) may or may not know, the USEA is looking at a rule change that will increase the size of a maximum of two show jump fences (a vertical and an oxer) for BN-T and increase the speeds and speed penalty times for BN-T. For readers who do not know about eventing, these are the basic current rules:

Beginner Novice:
-Equivalent to a training level dressage test
-2'7" max height in show jumping and cross country (brush fences up to 3' on xc)
-XC spreads 2'9" at the top of the fence
-XC speeds of 300-350mpm, XC speed fault time of 420mpm (training level speed)
-SJ spreads of 3'3" oxers, 3'11" triple bars

-Equivalent to a training level dressage test
-2'11" max height in show jumping and cross country (brush fences up to 3'7" on xc)
-XC spreads 3'3" at the top of the fence
-XC speeds of 350-400mpm, XC speed fault time of 450mpm (training level speed)
-SJ spreads of 3'7" oxers, 4'3" triple bars

-Equivalent to a first level dressage test
-3'3" max height in show jumping and cross country (brush fences up to 3'11" on xc)
-XC spreads 3'11" at the top of the fence, 5'11" at the base
-XC speeds of 420-470mpm, XC speed fault time of 520mpm (prelim level speed)
-SJ spreads of 3'11" oxers, 4'7" triple bars

Just to note, rarely do BN and N max out their widths on SJ or XC. At the horse trials I've been to, they keep the jumps in SJ fairly square (not as in a square oxer, but the width rarely exceeds the height), but you will see a handful of jumps on XC that are wider than they are tall. What I do see most often however is optimum time (you must complete the course between OT and the speed penalty time, otherwise you get penalties for going too slow or too fast) is usually set at the top of the pace range for the level.

The new proposed rules for speeds and jump height:

There are more proposed rules that basically allow more difficult combinations of jumps on Beginner Novice and Novice cross country as well, but in the interest of not making this post a million pages long, you can check them out here.

To whom it may concern,

I have not evented in several years, but when I did, I had no plans of ever moving out of Novice, if I made the move up successfully. I mostly did not want to move up because the jumps were 2’11” high and wider than I was comfortable and I am not the most confident jumping rider. I made the switch to dressage because I wanted to keep moving up and getting better, but I just wasn’t confident enough to jump the higher jumps. I can now ride the Advanced Dressage tests. If these new rules had been implemented when I was eventing, I probably would have quit because I was having enough trouble as it is.

Here is a rule my trainer has: if you want to show BN (which is 2’7”), you need to be schooling Novice show jumping and cross country questions at home (2’11”) so when you get out in public, none of the questions at BN surprise you. In changing even just one fence to 2’10” tall and 3’5” wide, you’ve blown the 'schooling a level above' rule to hell because that’s almost Novice dimensions. Now I’d have to be schooling Training heights (3’3”) to make the rule work, just to show BN. I don’t know many perpetual BN riders or riders with very green horses who school Training level on a regular basis. If you want to jump higher, either move up to the next level or do the hybrid divisions so you can jump higher in SJ. That’s the point of having different levels. When you’re comfortable and willing to jump 2’10” in public, you move up to Novice.

As to the pace, why aren’t we forcing riders to learn the pace appropriate for the level and jump height? I have a thoroughbred who when we started eventing, I couldn’t get him to make the optimum time (we were slow) because I couldn’t keep a consistent pace because I was afraid of the jumps and just letting my horse settle and do his job. I wore a watch, I walked courses with a wheel, I found where my minute markers were, and those helped me find the right gallop (more like canter). More experience helped too. Yes, as we got better and steadier with our pace, we started covering more ground. I was able to find my pace because I was able to stop worrying about the height and width of the jumps. When I rode my first novice mini trial, I figured out my markers simply by guessing as I walked without the wheel, and because I had learned to stay out of his way and just let him canter, I was well under the optimum time. I was close to the speed penalty time, but at no point was I pushing my horse to gallop and I never circled. The track was simply a flatter track that encouraged a big rolling stride that was set at the bottom of the Novice pace range (as appropriate since it’s a schooling horse trial). I shifted my seat to slow him a little in the back half of the course and all was well. Riders need to learn to adjust their pace. If that’s difficult to do so on their horse, they need to learn to do it anyway because as combinations get harder, you can’t be “balls to the walls” galloping at the jumps or yanking on the horse’s face to slow him down because you couldn’t rate your horse and never learned how. The horse needs to be adjustable, and it’s the rider’s job to figure out how to make him that way. Whether it’s a trainer that teaches the horse to be more adjustable and then puts the rider back on to teach the rider how to adjust, or the horse and rider learn together, it doesn’t matter, it just needs to happen. As for riders who want to ride faster on a BN course to practice the pace for a N course in public, let them and penalize them for going too fast. We can all make a choice to slow down and get a solid experience and slow time faults, or speed it up and get the speed time faults.

Additionally, the recognized events I've gone to usually have their optimum time set for the top of each speed range, or near the top. Increasing the speeds will allow course designers to use the new top end as their pace, forcing riders like me to ride faster than they're comfortable with just to make time. That's not allowing a nice experience since the rider is not free to trot a spooky jump or section of the track with bad footing. If anything, the speed fault time for BN should fall somewhere in the Novice range, not the training level range. We're jumping 2'7", not jumping down the head of the lake at Rolex. No one at BN needs to be allowed to go 520mpm (preliminary speed for jumps 3'7").

As for this part of the new rules: “The change of speed at which speed faults are calculated is to have one meaningful speed that competitors can learn and remember.”  Seriously? Riders that are capable of remembering dressage tests, show jump courses, and where that next jump on cross country is hiding are surely capable of opening the rulebook and looking up the new speed penalty time, if they even have to look it up at all after the first glance through! Please don’t insult your riders. They’re not stupid. Part of riding the next level is looking up what are allowed questions and speeds and learning what to expect on that next level. And why on earth should a BN rider and T rider have the same speed fault time? They’re competing at almost a foot in height difference, and more than a foot in jump widths. That is not making the speed appropriate to the jumps.

I don’t think raising the jump height and max allowed speed is in the best interest of the horses and riders. If a rider wanted to jump higher, or stop getting speed penalties for going too fast on XC, they should either learn to ride the level as required, or move up. If moving up is not within their ability, then they need to learn to ride the level as required. If riders don’t have the ability to move up, why change the level to force the move up? If the rider simply has no desire to move up, or a horse is simply not capable of moving up, why change the level to force them? Why should a rider who complains they get speed penalties because their horse is hard to adjust be allowed to move on? The levels don’t get easier. Make your horse’s pace match the size of the fence. Don’t make the size of the fence match the horse’s pace.

I also have an issue with the new rules about what is allowed on cross country. It seems these rules are to retroactively make already existing questions OK. Hold your TDs and course designers accountable for fences that are deemed inappropriate by the riders instead of adjusting the rules to allow for inappropriate jumps. For example: Beginner Novice is the starting point for most horses and riders who have little to no experience. The rules will now allow for a jump to be before and after the water crossing. How often have you seen more experienced horses (at say training level) jump a jump before water and then suck back and go, "whoa, there's water here!" They are surprised by the water elements still. How is a Beginner Novice horse supposed to react? How will a Beginner Novice rider (who has not competed above BN) convince a horse to jump the jump before the water when he's staring at the water? It's asking for a fall. Why are you asking the green horses and riders to navigate obstacles that are set in spooky and "gotcha" ways? Right now the most they have to to is steer to the next fence and keep their leg on, and have a good, safe experience. If a rider is bored with a level, they need to move on to the next, plain and simple. Don't adjust the levels so bored riders don't have to move up.

One thing I could support are standard championship level classes having a fence or two that are bigger in SJ, and combinations and questions on XC at the current level’s height, but the next level’s difficulty. If you’re going to a championship (area championships or the AEC), you’re probably bringing your A game and are a competent enough rider to handle the next level. That and it is a championship. Championships aren’t supposed to be hand holding events, they are a test of skill. Create a championship series at lower levels that allow the more difficult questions for riders who are looking to move up to the FEI levels eventually and the world stage.

Don't punish the backbone of the sport: the juniors on ponies and adult amateurs on their tried and true horses or adult amateurs that are nervous and just want to have a bit of fun. The professionals will continue to train their horses as they deem appropriate and move through the levels, but the thing to note is that they are professionals and it is their job to be better than the rest of us. They're the ones that will handle the changes the best. I know most lower level riders will probably be ok riding the changes. But in doing so, you've ruined the safe and fun environment that the lower levels create, as well as isolate and exclude the riders who pay the professionals.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

One of these things is NOT like the other...

One of these things should die alone... I mean, should be returned to Amazon. Sorry, I have a Big Bang Theory problem so I had to steal Amy's line.

Note the blaze orange saddle pad and the brown cloth in the other bag.

That brown cloth in the little plastic bag is the "peach" ear net I ordered. I'm sorry Amazon, that is brown. I didn't expect blaze orange, but I did expect orange! Especially when the picture looked like this:
Note the chestnut horse. The net is a lighter color than said horse What I received is darker than every chestnut horse I've ever seen.
It's too bad the net is the wrong color. It does look like a lovely net, and if it was in navy or black I'd keep it even though it's the wrong color. Maybe I'll exchange it. Mikey's blue net is almost as old as he is! I bought it in 2001 for trail riding the little gray quarterhorse I was leasing at the time. Though at a second glance, the ear hole looks like it's pony sized. Of course it's in a sealed bag so I can't open it to find out, knowing it's the wrong color and I will be returning it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Great Feed Collection, Part 1

Why yes, 9 bags (360lbs) of alfalfa pellets fit in the trunk of my car! And it still drove home!

The Great Feed Collection, Part 2 will be in a couple weeks when I bring another 21 bags (970lbs) of feed home!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Blaze Orange

My husband informed me this morning that archery season starts tomorrow and I was not to "traipse through the woods on Mikey anymore" (His exact words). Ha. So I ordered an orange ear bonnet and orange saddle pad for Mikey and an orange mesh vest for me from Amazon Prime and will have them Monday or Tuesday next week. I asked him if that met his approval for traipsing through the woods on my horse and he said yes. Ha, like I need his approval to wander in the woods, but they are all things I really should have ordered a long time ago since I trail ride all year round and have been out in the woods when hunters are going deer crazy in Dec-Jan.

Next on my list is an orange helmet cover and maybe an orange fuzzy girth or maybe I'll buy fabric from the craft store and make a mesh quarter sheet or something. Maybe I'll buy orange fleece and make my own fuzzy girth cover and some covers for my 5-point breastplate. Just a little more orange.

Today's damage:

We rang in the New Year this past January (yes 10 months ago) by 6 of us taking horses out for a trail ride on New Years Day through the Christmas tree farm next door, by the big power lines, and down our rural road. Halfway through, hunters started shooting like crazy on other hilltops. None of us had heard shooting that close while out on a trail ride before. One horse was upset, but everyone held their ground because we had a couple horses that just didn't care. Mikey was somewhere in between. When he gets truly scared he freezes while he evaluates and you can hear his heart beating and see his body pulse. I am not kidding. It's the freakiest thing. If he ever has a heart attack when doing that, I would not be surprised. But anyway, he did that a couple times, but stayed quiet. Horses can be stupid individually, but you gotta love herd mentality (in this case). When the herd doesn't run and you wedge the scared horse in between quiet horses, no one falls off and no horse bolts. Everyone got home ok, and we're able to laugh about it now.

Anyway, enjoy your fall trail rides everyone, and stay safe!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Relaxing... and a bit of shopping

I have not been up to much, however I have a bunch of little things. Mostly Mikey and I have been relaxing and not working. We're going to work hard all winter so we're both taking some down time. Mikey seems good with it, he's walking over to me in the field when I go fetch him after work. Not that he was a hard horse to catch, usually I have to walk to him, he doesn't just offer himself up.

I went to a schooling show at the end of August, got similar scores as my rated shows. I did get to be the "big fish in a small pond" as the only rider riding above 1st level out of 8 hours worth of show. I know I shouldn't crave attention, especially for the mediocrity I'm putting out at 3rd level, but it was nice to have strangers come to the ring and fill the bleachers just to see me ride, and they even clapped for me at the end of my tests. After a kind of disappointing summer at 3rd, it still felt nice. I also feel out of place at my event barn- I train alone usually and I don't go to the shows and outings with everyone else. Partly because I don't really jump anymore so hunter shows hold zero appeal and events are out of the question, and partly because my schedule doesn't work well for me to go xc schooling with them on Wednesday afternoons when they're starting while I'm still at my desk. I've tagged along to those in the past, Mikey and I still enjoy hopping over logs and milling around with the group and being lead pony for young things that are afraid of water and jumping off banks. So all I'm saying was a little recognition in my own world was nice.

I'm not one for new gadgets that promise to 'free your horse's back, let him stretch, and cure cancer!' (as a side note, I love my Micklem bridle and will peddle it anywhere!) But I am allowing myself to indulge in a $125 Total Saddle Fit Shoulder Relief Girth once Mikey is at his winter home. At my last lesson with my trainer, she was happy with his collection but commented on his trot and half pass being correct, but lacking the grandeur up front that gets the extra point in dressage. She had an OTTB like him that had a very average trot, great walk and canter (let's look at the facts, a thoroughbred's first and foremost job is run as fast as he can on the flat which doesn't involve trot). She ended up putting slight wedge-like pads on his front feet (he still needed to be able to navigate 3'9" xc jumps) to give him a tiny amount of extra action and said we might want to do something like that next year. I also saw the German Riding Master last week and asked to work on collection and engagement because that's where I'm losing points all around and the work isn't getting easier. We worked on getting to half steps in prep for thinking about passage/piaffe, and he said he was very happy with the action and engagement behind, but Mikey's front end just didn't match the action. I figure I'm going to try to rule out shoulder tightness with this girth (it apparently frees the scapula) before I change his very simple, straightforward, and cheaper shoeing. Mikey's saddle fits him very very well so I doubt that is a problem, and he doesn't complain when something doesn't fit, but he does reward me when I get something that fits him a bit better. At a 110% money back guarantee and 30 day trial period, I can only lose out on some shipping. I also may spring for their 6-Point Saddle Pad sometime in the future. Mikey likes his sheepskin and has massive pointy whithers. It is the only pad that makes sense to me as true whither relief. I don't need the shims, but it's nice to know they're there if I need them. It also comes with the same return policy. Nifty.

"The girth" image from Total Saddle Fit's website.
6 Point Saddle Pad, image from Total Saddle Fit's website.

I also allowed myself a bit of fun and got these from Amazon. Also if you shop at Amazon, please look into Amazon Smile! Portions of your purchase price will go to your favorite charity, horsey or otherwise! :-) My charity is a local animal shelter that we got one of our cats from. Not much goes, something like half a percent, but I figure I buy a lot there because we have Amazon Prime, a little will add up over time.
I'm always writing my own numbers on the backs of old bridle tags so Mikey has a number on his halter and bridle at all times, none of this switching them or anything. This seemed like a classy way to do it and I can stop hording old numbers on the whip rack in my trailer. It hooks onto the browband like a regular number, but there's a leather strap with snap that goes around the cheek pieces that really holds it on.

And last but not least, we finally went out to find my trainer's secret creek crossing spot that she takes horses to that need to learn about crossing water. It's a great spot, very wide (24' at least), and easy to navigate. Where you enter it's a good beach with flat rock under water that is only hoof deep, then you can walk upstream or downstream where the water gets deeper in places.
I swear he's not this scruffy looking. And my disgusting saddle bag saddle pad came along for the ride because I needed nippers to trim some thorn bushes that were trying to take my face off!
Love my big red horse.

Mikey walking with his new best trail buddy Ed, who at 18 hands has a big enough stride to keep up with the walking speed of an impatient Thoroughbred.