Monday, November 24, 2014

Double No-vember

Successfully have not ridden with stirrups yet this November.

Spoilers: it's not because I have great discipline or muscle tone.  It's because I still haven't ridden my horse except one bareback ride this month.  

And honestly, that's okay.  It's not really about the riding for me.  It's about the horse.  I mean, it's nice to ride, and to do well riding, but I am not a competitive person at heart.  I'm a curious person at heart, and I haven't settled into that thing that I really want to do deep in my bones just yet, partly because there's so much I know I haven't tried. I'm loving the English riding, and I'm really happy with how it's helped me improve and get better feel for what my horse is doing, but there's not that feeling that I'm on that track I really want to run with.  I've been having a blast jumping little baby trot fences (and learning what being jumped out of the tack means the hard way.  Jazz jumps like a moose).  And there's a big possibility of it just being me projecting, but I don't think Jazz loves it.  She loves barrels, something I'm happy to mess around on in my summer Gymkhanas (which I sadly couldn't make this year), but have almose zero interest in pursuing.  She likes having things to do like obstacles, so I've considered trying cowboy challenge (which is also put on by the gymkhana club I'm a part of, and which I also was unable to attend this summer).  That said, she hates being micromanaged, and I know there would be a lot of tiny steps back and forth and micromanaging to get me lined up for obstacles like gates.  You can't argue with a good trail ride, but Jazz is not a trail horse, and would need an experienced horse with her, which can be surprisingly hard to come by.  That and her feet weren't the best this summer, so I wouldn't have really considered much trail riding without boots, and I haven't found boots that work for her yet.  Jumping is fun, but I'm not sure yet if Jazz really likes it, and I'm not so sure I want to learn to jump on the greenest of the green jumper ponies (not that that's stopped me from learning basically everything else I know about riding from Jazz).  I also have two things I really, really want to try still that I think Jazz may like.  Of course, I have no real idea, and I don't even know if I like them.

One is polocrosse.  I have a few friends who play in the local club, which is close by and has great programs in place for new riders and horses to the sport.  For anyone not aware, polocrosse is basically a mix between polo and lacrosse.   

Here, have a longish Australian promotional video for the sport.  Many will say Australians are the best polocrosse players.

I have basically no hand-eye co-ordination, and at no point before have been good at a sport involving throwing or catching, but polocrosse looks fun. 

The other is cattle work.  Jazz is a quarter horse, so I figure it's in her blood somewhere.  It also looks fun.  The other day I was messing around on the ground getting Jazz to trot after me and channeling my inner calf.  I learned I am not as in shape as my horse and get tired quickly when running around like a cow, but it was an absolute blast.

Well that certainly got off track.  What I really wanted to say in this post was that in addition to this being the busiest week in my second life (the non-horse one),  Jazz has been a little sore, so I hesitate to ride.  I've been visiting a lot to clean her up, and lots of groundwork, but no riding.  Poor horse tends to get upset tummy when hay changes or the phases of the moon don't agree with her or a tree falls in the forest (not really, it's not like it's all the time, it just seems that random occasionally).  And when she gets upset tummy, she gets diarrhea and gets her bum all rubbed raw.  It makes her generally uncomfortable and cranky (no wonder), so I clean her up gradually.  She really hates the cleaning; it must sting something awful.  I consider myself lucky Jazz has decided not to hate me often, because in addition to her incredible rearing capability and head-tossing accumen, she can kick.  When we were having our hour-and-a-half trailering nightmare en route to our show last month, I handed Jazz over to someone else to try to get her in and she reared up at least twice as high as she'd been popping for me, and K said, "Yeah, she only doesn't rear on you because she likes you."
Of course, it's bad enough I'm telling the internet about the poor horse's tummy troubles, so no photos.

Luckily, I have a few other photos from recent visits and groundwork sessions to catch up.
She was standing at the gate when I drove up yesterday <3
So pretty
She was not waiting at the gate because the bobcat was running and she thought she was getting hay.  Nope.  It was definitely that she knew I was coming.  

You can really see her dished face here, hence the strong belief in her Arab-ness

Needless to say, I was totally in love with how adorable she looked at the gate.  I scurried out to get her and she was still there when I got back with the halter.  She was a big sweetheart giving me kisses (literally. It was adorable) and nuzzling me with her itchy head.  Yesterday was actually a really nice day at the barn.  Jazz was in a good mood (with the exception of trying to clean her up.  She is very clear she is NOT a fan), and I saw several good barn friends I rarely run into.  One of my good friends even offered to let me try a probiotic she uses to help with Jazz's tummy to see if I like it before buying a whole bucket.
Indoor pony is also cute.

Definitely more awkward though.  I prefer liberty photos for a reason.

"Are you going to just stand there or are you gonna be useful? I have itchy spots for you to scratch."
Stoically ignoring me not petting her. 

"What's over there?"

"Oh no it's gonna eat me!" (Spoilers: it was the barn owner who did not, in fact, eat her)

 I also found some pictures from our groundwork session the other day

Add caption

Radar ears. 


 And so, to wrap up this incredibly unfocused post, I hope everyone has a good week.  Have fun with your ponies no matter what you're trying to do (or not do)!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


As my week-late show update and a few other clues may indicate, I am having a bit of a hard time keeping on top of my blog, and a lot of the reason is that I'm having a bit of a hard time keeping on top of my horse.  I had big plans of improving myself during 2pointtober, and I think I took times maybe three times.  That's sad.  I mean, I was pretty busy with show prep, but that's no excuse. I also had grand intentions of participating in No stirrups November.  If I'm being technical, I actually have been doing well because I have not used stirrups once so far.

I hadn't ridden my horse yet this month. November has been kind of a perfect storm.  It's getting cold, and both me and my horse just looooooooooove winter.  It's getting to a busy time of year with my other extracurriculars (goodbye, saturdays).  I wasted a couple of days where I could have gone to the farm waiting on someone else to call me back who I was supposed to meet up with (totally not their fault, they had an emergency come up).  All of that adds up to waaaaaaay too long since I've actually ridden my horse.

I went to check her on Sunday, but some cold, wet snow lead to a cold, wet, shivering horse.  I spent an hour and a half drying her off and moving her around to warm her up.  I discovered that the cooler I own is slightly too big, but it's serviceable for drying and warming my naked woolly horse.  Though it wasn't exactly what I'd intended to do that day, it was nice to see her and play a little with re-finding my groundwork buttons.

I also went to check Monday evening, but since I was a little short on time, and Monday was the coldest night of the week. I decided to be content knowing that she was warm and dry, and just ended up leaving after I saw that she was both.

I was not feeling the most encouraged re: me accomplishing anything.  Then I went out this evening, caught my fuzzy horse (naked ponies are the fuzziest ponies), and brought her into the arena (the barn isn't heated).  She wasn't really feeling this whole "standing still" and "ground tying" thing, and considering her recent mini-vacation, and the fact I was trying to situate her by the door, I didn't blame her.  Have I ever mentioned how extremely gate oriented this horse was for the first year or so I had her?  It was NOT fun when I was struggling to learn lunging in a round pen with a gate Jazz found simply irresistible.  Either way, I gave her the benefit of the doubt, and decided to get moving before I tried to make her stand still.  I was then reminded why I don't lunge first thing.  Jazz was lazy and distracted, and kept wandering around.  Granted, lunging is an important part of my groundwork arsenal, but it really shouldn't be my first line of defense.  Jazz does much better if I start off with some leading, with lots of stops, backing, and yielding of hindquarters and shoulders to get her mind on me.  If she's not listening, or pushing me around too much, I can always lunge before doing those types of exercises, but I like it better when I lunge second, if at all.
Don't be mistaken, I can take equally awkward photos in show attire with ribbons, and in 8000 layers.
P.s. look forward to a winter of photos in the indoor arena with its terrible lighting! 

I hopped on bareback to a slightly naughty pony (no stirrups at all so far this November).  She did NOT want to stop, or stand still as soon as I was on her back for that matter.  I decided not to get sucked into it, and instead to work on forward until her mind came back a little.  It turned out to be a good choice, because she sorted herself out and chilled without me really having to do much at all.  I just had a nice chill ride, working on leg yielding (I will sharpen her to leg cues one way or another). I did some posting trot bareback (side note: yay!), but Jazz had lots more energy than I was willing to ride out (just because I can trot bareback now, doesn't mean its pleasant for extended periods of time).

I decided instead to do what I affectionately refer to as horse treadmill.

I trotted her in hand over the cavaletti a few times, and learned that my horse is WAY more fit than me.  Jazz did her usual protocol of doing weird trotting in the front, jumping in the back mishmash the first time or two, then five or six nice jumps, then figuring out that its a little baby jump and suddenly its 'psshhhh I don't even need to pick up my feet its just a baby jump' and biiiig trot over it.  Please enjoy this video evidence, and the super professional videography including finger on the lens for the first half.  

P.S.  my last post marked the 50th on this blog yay!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

STFS blog hop: Tack Wants

A quick aside before this post: as of yesterday, I have officially known Jazz for three whole years!  I celebrated, of course, by completely forgetting about it until the day after, and then noticing "Jazz-a-versary" on my phone calandar once I no longer had time to go see her today. 

First, I wanna know: what is the ONE piece of tack (or clothing) that you simply cannot live without? Put function aside for a moment and try to decide which piece of your tack ho collection is your favorite. It can be anything for you, or for your horse. Second, I'd like to know what you're currently saving up for or lusting after. Basically, what item do you have your eyes set on right now? If someone handed you enough money, what would be the first thing to buy on your list? 

Two favourites come immediately to mind.  I would be tempted to say ALL the halters (I have a well-documented halter problem.  I have one horse and either seven or eight halters, I'm not entirely sure).  That said, though I love to buy halters, I probably have more love for two other horse things that come to mind.  

The flat blue halter

The original breakaway trailer halter.  I've since bought a new one that hasn't made it into any pictures yet.

The original rope halter.
The four-knot groundwork halter.  I actually did not like this halter at all, and only used it maybe ten times.
I also own a purple flat halter, a burgundy breakaway trailer halter, a new rope halter (which fits better than the original and is almost the exact same color as the other two rope halters I own).  

The first is my Gumiponi (formerly Custom Stall Signs) custom Jazz hat.  

Jazz approved.
It's adorable, it's of good quality, and the color is perfect.  I also love that they made sure to incorporate the dot in her blaze at my request, because it's one of her important features in my opinion.

My other favourite is my purple lettia coolmax saddle pad (it's the third or fourth down on the page). 

Previously featured here

And here.  I took it to the show because it is my favourite.  
I love the bright purple color, and it looks really sharp on Jazz.  Plus the coolmax works amazing! It really does keep her cool, and she dries much faster when she's sweaty (a big score for my unblanketed wooly horse beast in the winter months).

The item I've been lusting after is definitely not a likely reality.  For one, it is not something like my halters, where it's acceptable to have eight (a lot of them don't even fit jazz anymore anyway), or saddle pads (I only own two english saddle pads right now, but I want about seven thousand more. They might become my new answer to buying halters).  I already own the item I want, and they are perfectly functional, despite how much I may complain and claim otherwise.  

I speak, of course, of my tall boots.  I bought my tall boots at the local consignment tack shop about a year and a half ago.  They were the only boots that fit me, and they actually fit really well.  They seemed to be customs made for someone else, but they weren't even broken in.  They were pull-ons, but they did fit pretty well, and I was just buying them for once-weekly pony club lessons, so I figured that was okay.  The price was right, at $90 for practically brand new boots that fit perfectly, so I bought them.  And they did work.  It wasn't exactly the most fun to break them in, but they worked.  I started having more issue when I started riding English primarily back in July or so.  I still think I have yet to figure out the magic formula for arranging my breeches and socks to help keep them from pulling up my leg four inches when I get my boots on, but it can get really frustrating when I have to take them off and put them on ten times before they're livable.  They've also only gotten worse since I've been riding more.  I suspect all the English riding has been building up my calf muscles, because my boots that have always been manageable and comfortable enough have been getting harder and harder to get on, and my lower legs and ankles are getting sore when they weren't before.  I might have to get room put into them or bathe them in boot stretch to make them livable.  Also, the leather cracked a little where it breaks above my toe, and I've conditioned the living daylights out of it with little help.  I asked at the tack shop, but they told me that all I can do really is to just keep doing what I'm doing, because they are bound to crack based on the quality of the leather.  

I did a ton of research, and learned that my standards are impossibly high and my price range is impossibly low, so I'm likely to have to stick it out with my current boots a while longer, but a girl can dream.  

And I dream big, apparently.  My favourite boots were far and away the DeNiro Leuca Field Boot that I found on Smartpak.  They've got a really unique zipper that curves around, and I really like both the design, and the abstract idea that there are people out there who never have to fiddle with boot pulls and boot jacks for fifteen minutes before being able to ride their horse.

Aah.  So pretty.
However, at $700, I consider them HIGHLY unlikely.  If I were to purchase new tall boots, I think the most likely (for online anyway) would be the Ariat Heritage Contour boots.  At $289, the concept of the price hurts a lot less, though still more than my $90 consignment boots I'm in a constant love/hate relationship with.  

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Measuring up

I am officially finished holding out on you after this post.  It's been torturous not updating on our progress, but I was really disinclined to either spoil it or jinx it, and I can't wait any longer or I'll explode!  Though I technically made the vaguest possible allusion to my plans recently, I'm so excited to share that Jazz and I did our first show this past Saturday!

As a quick aside,  I want to note that I'm purposely pretty anonymous. I'm just not comfortable sharing too much personal information on the internet, so I tend to err on the the side of saying less. That said,  it's probably quite obvious I'm young. While I'm still not being specific,  I'm young enough that I'm still in pony club. So,  when my pony club leader sent out an email back in August about some shows coming up, I thought to myself,  "Hm, October 25th... I think I could be ready by then."  So,  it's been a couple months of accumulating proper show attire (a jacket, show shirt, bridle,  new bit without the fancy sides, medical armband, etc.), and working with my awesome trainer on show prep to do the trot poles, and it all came to a head Saturday.

The day started bright and early, with a 6am wakeup, and the show team headed to the barn.  A friend, K stayed over to come and help out at the show, and we went to catch the horse while the slaves  helpers hooked up the trailer.  Just after I'd caught a very confused Jazz - "Why are you here? It's dark and stuff"-, K said, "Are there supposed to be horses there?" while pointing to two horse-shaped silhouettes over by the barn.   I assumed it was the barn manager, who had told me she would be there about that time to load her horses for a different event she was going to.  I told my friend, "It's probably just [barn manager]'s two horses."  At this point it was tactfully pointed out to me that this was three, not two horses running loose in the yard, and the barn manager's car was not there yet.  At this point I called the barn manager and my friend hurried to close the perimeter gate.  I ushered Jazz into the barn where she would be out of the way of the loose horses (all of which were strangers to her).  Meanwhile K was trying to herd or catch the horses back into their pasture, the six  kittens were running around in the dark, and it appeared as though both lights had burned out in the rather dark barn where I was walking around my half-asleep horse (plus my half-asleep self).  Not the start I had pictured for the day. 

Before long, the trailer was hooked and parked in the yard (with the perimeter gate still closed), the horses were herded back into the nearest empty pasture, and the barn manager finally arrived.  Then all that remained was to load the horse.  Har har.  An hour, more than a couple tears, a few scary rears (thanks, young horse attitude), many failed bribe attempts, and much more struggle than could be considered necessary, the horse was on the trailer, and I was trying not to consider the fact that my classes were due to start 55 minutes from the time we got into the truck to leave, with the show being approximately a 50 minute drive.  I was not happy at the prospect that all that work, time, effort, and money may end in missing the show (thanks, early morning start times for baby trot pole classes), and mostly held it together as I also tried to figure out how to do my hair (the show hairnet/clip I had bought was defective and broke a few times before I could rig it servicably), changed, and attempted not to freak out some more.  My trainer was waiting for us at the show grounds, and she had let the officials know we were coming at least.  

This was the beautiful sunrise on the drive over, another welcome distraction.

We pulled in, finally, at 8:52.  Eight minutes to go.  I pulled on my boots (which co-operated and went on correctly for the first time in probably a month.  I really need to sort something out for my boots), and by the time they were on,  my trainer had found us, K had unloaded Jazz, and she was getting ready to tack her up when she asked, "Hey, where's the brushes?"  I said they were just in the back of the truck, and opened the tailgate.  Nope.  "Oh," I said, "I guess we must have thrown them in the trailer tack room." Nope.   "Hey, did anyone perchance grab the brushes from the (dark) barn aisle when we went to load the horse?" Nope.  In a burst of extreme luck, Jazz was spotless (seriously, she is never that clean), and we didn't have to beg the people at the trailers nearby to use theirs, because she was more than passably clean, and there was not a speck of dirt on her saddle patch.  Then my trainer pointed out that I should go start memorizing my course, and the lifesavers grooms got to work tacking up my horse for me.  I read the pattern and then went to walk the course with my trainer who suggested where I could cut corners and where I would have to go around.  Then, the ring stewards kicked us out and called everyone in my division for tack check.  I ran back to the trailer and found a (thankfully) tacked up horse and thanked everyone about a million times before briskly walking back to the ring with horse in hand, and tightening the girth as we went.  

Naturally, based on the course of events of the day so far, I was the first rider to go.  I was registered in three classes, the easy trot poles, the challenge trot poles, and the walk/trot equitation.  

First was challenge trot poles because the show officials accidentally put it first before easy trot poles. Jazz went into the ring nice and easy,  and I decided to trot a little circle before the timer like I always used to do at gymkhanas, but she spooked at one of the jumps. It was a Halloween show,  so there were all kinds of spooky obstacles and decorations. The jump at the front gate that was causing the present issue had two large tombstones leaning against the front standards,  and a skeleton propped up on the back one. Apparently she didn't get the memo that it wasn't really haunted. 

Either way, it was a minute or two before we were ready to actually start the course. Technically, I did try once before we actually did start, but she backed up (apparently the first jump was just as scary as the skeleton jump).  By the time I got her over the first pole,  I was so stoked about starting that I completely forgot my course and where to go. I knew which pole I was supposed to go to next,  but I was not lined up for it at all,  so I circled. Jazz also thought this one was scary,  so she backed away,  at which point the officials in the ring thankfully reminded me I was supposed to approach from the opposite side. Oops. After that I mostly remembered my course, and Jazz paused to consider a few more obstacles (there was one with a big fake spider she really leered at, and I don't blame her. Spiders are creepy). We survived,  and before I knew it we were exciting the arena. 

At this point Jazz decided to pull out her inner rock star and be the chillest chill horse while we waited and watched the other riders. She was behaving really well,  so I left her with K while I went to go figure out my second course.  It seemed much easier, basically a big loop of the arena with a figure eight in the middle.  While we waited, I watched the other competitiors, and talked to the girl next to me, who was riding an adorable little bay pony dressed up as a wizard.  He had a little wizard hat on, and the little girl riding him was wearing a long velvet cape.  Talk about a good pony!  I also noticed at this point that Jazz was, for probably the first time in her life, the tallest horse in the arena.  She looked positively huge compared to all the ponies.  If she's really stretching, she still might not brush 15 hands, but she's been doing so well lately, really starting to use her muscles better and coming into herself, that, odd as it may sound, she just feels bigger when I'm riding her.

After all the riders had gone and I had remounted in preparation for the second course,  they announced the placings.  I came in fifth, and I'm fairly sure the girl on the wizard pony got first.  I was thrilled, as I knew I wouldn't place high since I'd gone off course.

 Almost immediately after the placings were announced, I found myself back in the ring.  I tried to stay nice and relaxed, while still being prepared for spooks.  As it turned out, that was relatively unnecessary, because Jazz kicked into gear and ROCKED IT!  It was probably the best trot poles course we've ever run (to be fair, I did a limited number at home, and they were all bumped up in difficulty to prepare for the highest level of technicality at the show).  Before I knew it, I had crossed the electronic timer eyes, and I was done.

K remarked to me after the second course that my horse was calmer at this show than her very experienced show horse (whose last show was a national finals with her previous owner) was at any show she'd taken her to (so naturally, I had to brag a little about that here).  Our next class was equitation, so my trainer gave me a few tips as I double checked her girth and watched the last few riders do the trot poles.  When the class was over, they announced the placings, and WE WON! I couldn't stop smiling.  What a good pony!

It was at this point, with probably 45 minutes of very patient waiting, that Jazz started to get a little antsy. In fairness it was largely my fault for getting on too soon.  The jumps crew were still moving poles to get the track around the rail clear for the equitation when I mounted up, and Jazz was ready to go right that second.  Of course, considering the fact I literally drove up eight minutes before my classes started, I hadn't been getting on until right before I had to go for the previous two classes, so me being on her and not directing her to do something right then was a little confusing.  I did a little movement, circling and the like, until she chilled out a little, and then hopped off.  Naturally, about 45 seconds after I did so, they welcomed the riders into the ring to walk around and warm up until the judges were ready (the officials were also waiting for a rider who had just gotten there and wanted to make their equitation class).

Jazz went in nice and steady, and when I tried to subtly ask my instructor over the fence how I was supposed to manage passing, one of the officials kindly helped me out.  All the little ponies in the class were awesome and quite well behaved, but moved a little slower on their shorter legs than Jazz, who was energetic but still listening perfectly.  She was just in that perfect sweet spot where she was neither lazy nor raring to go.  Apparently my plans to have 45 minutes to warm her up to that perfect degree (you know, the ones thrown out the window because of the trailer debacle) were unnecessary.
The equitation class was overall quite good.  I felt pretty centered and balanced, and my legs were feeling fairly solid.  There were a few tiny hiccups when I had troubles with speed and distance between the other horses, so I circled through the middle and kind of got stuck.  It took a few tries and redirects, but I eventually ended up back on the rail.  There were a couple of little hiccups where I would apply a little too much leg and Jazz broke to the trot for a couple steps, but overall I felt great about it.  At the end, we lined up in front of the judge, who commented that everyone had very good leg position, and every rider had occasional issues with contact.  She then told us the results would be tabulated and the results posted soon.

We walked straight out the door and across to the racetrack once the class was over.  I probably should have mentioned the show was being held at a racetrack that had been closed a few years ago. I'd had grand ideas of messing around on the track for a while before cooling down, but the ground was pretty hard, so I opted to dismount as soon as she was cooled down sufficiently.  My trainer, and everybody else for that matter, asked how we'd done and what the judge had said, but we were still waiting for the results.  We took a few more photos and headed back to the trailer to get Jazz some food and water.

Demon pony has glowing eyes.

I know I already have this picture at the top, but this was her expression for the entire show.  What a great horse.

I left her with K to go find water and return my number, and headed over to the officials' table to ask where I could find a hose.  Immediately they asked my name, and handed over my ribbons before I could even ask about the water.  They gave me the already expected 5th place green ribbon and 1st place red ribbon (from trot poles), and also a shiny blue 2nd place ribbon from equitation! I was thrilled because I honestly couldn't have expected better considering the little bobbles we had (the short breaks of gait and when I got stuck in the middle of the arena for what felt like forever).  I handed back my number and headed off in the direction I had been pointed to search for water.  The lady at the officials' table had thought there would still be water behind the bathrooms, but most of it had been shut off for the winter already.  I tried the bathrooms, but I couldn't fit the bucket into the sink, and I couldn't even get enough water to cover the bottom of the bucket.  I went outside to wander some more when C came looking for me.  I showed her my ribbons and we were excited about that for a few minutes before remembering that we had no immediate way to get water to my horse.  I suggested we might be able to get a cup or something that would fit under the tap in the bathroom and just dump it into the bucket, and we found a long abandoned water bottle that would fit that bill.  Once I had filled it up in the bathroom sink and dumped it into the bucket four or five times over, C went around the corner and said, "You know there's a shower here, right?"  Oops.  We were sure to let the officials know so no one else would do anything quite that stupid in search of water.

I arrived back at the trailer to an untacked horse eating hay happily as a crew of slaves grooms brushed her.  Jazz was less than impressed that I wanted to tack her back up for photos, but there was no way I was leaving my first show without ribbon pictures with a tacked up horse.
Unfortunately all of the pictures with just the first place ribbon turned out pretty awkward.

Awkward pony and rider are awkward.  Plus return of the demon pony. 

Luckily the ones with all 3 ribbons mostly turned out better.
Of course, the awkward wasn't gone for good.

This one was definitely my favourite. 

 After all that, the drive home was pretty uneventful, and Jazz was back in with her friends before most of the competitors at the show had even ridden.  The perks of riding in baby classes.

It was no sunrise, but my view on the way home wasn't half bad either.  

p.s. I'm hoping to get the videos functional soon!