Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A few things, as briefly as possible

I'll try to keep this brief, because Lord knows I can go on sometimes.

* My little mare is turning into a really nice ride. :) I have had several great rides in the past week, the sort of rides I could never have had last year. For example: I didn't get to ride at all during the week of Christmas. We did have a lesson on Christmas Eve, though, and I wasn't about to skip it. So I got Rev out, tacked her up, longed her a bit, and hopped on -- and she was completely ridable for the lesson. Com. Pletely. Then, on Monday, after not riding on Sunday, she was so good under saddle, so willing, that I just wanted to squeal and hug her neck like a kid. It was one of those days when all she has to do is exist to make me just the happiest camper in the world, and all I really needed was to sit on her to feel like we'd done something. So I pulled the saddle off and we hacked around a while bareback. I love getting to do that. :) And it's something I could never have done a year ago.

* I got a gift card to the FLTS from my best friends for Christmas. OMG, y'all. The Sprinkler Bandit and I went to the shop and absolutely banditized it. Okay, maybe not banditized, but I felt like I got a lot for the money. We traded a couple of things, and after a few more things moved from her place to mine (a great relief to her husband, I'm sure!), we're even on the trade of the Tipperary vest. The final tally, after trades and purchases, ended up being:

1 fleece jacket on consignment
1 pair of cedar boot trees on consignment (the woman at the register tried to insist that the boot trees were $20 EACH, not $20 for the pair. I was boggled. And glad I caught the error.)
2 saddle covers
1 bottle of Effax Ledercombi (more on this in a bit)
1 set of black ThinLine reins
1 pair Kerrits Sit Tight & Warm breeches
1 nibble net
1 Ultimate Hoofpick
1 royal blue grooming tote

So yeah. I am utterly thrilled with all of it. :) Of course, I need a new lead rope and completely forgot to get one -- ah well. They're inexpensive.

* 25 years ago, my parents gave me my very first piece of tack: a Courbette bridle. It was gorgeous, top of the line for the price they were willing to pay, and very well-made. I used that bridle up until two years ago, is how good it was. My father also picked out some leather cleaner and conditioner to go with it. He was the sort of guy who believed in buying something nice and then taking good care of it, so he got the best cleaners he could: Effax Ledercombi and Lederbalsam. I suspect that the fact that he spoke German and believed in German engineering and quality had something to do with it.

I hadn't bought another bottle/bucket of the Effax products again since -- other tack shops didn't carry it as I was growing up, and all I remembered was that it was in an orange container, smelled like something utterly delicious, and the package was printed in German. Once I finally made the connection, though, I wanted to get some for myself as an adult.

The smell of the cleaner and the conditioner evokes incredibly strong memories of my father and of the horse-crazy girl I was and remain. I was so unutterably thrilled at having My Own Bridle then, and I cleaned it as often as I could. I had finally become an official horse rider, because I had a durable thing as proof of my commitment.

Ledercombi smells, to me, like commitment, joy, and my dad's belief in quality -- and his desire to get me the right thing, the most effective thing, and the thing best designed to help me get where I wanted to be.

I cleaned my dressage tack this afternoon after I rode. I can't think of a better smell than the combination of warm, dry horse, leather, and Ledercombi. This is my favorite life ever.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Yule eve

So as I mentioned before, I don't usually ride on Monday and Tuesday evenings. Something about getting a new week going takes me a bit, and seeing as we usually ride on every other day, including Saturday and Sunday, letting Rev have a weekend doesn't worry me at all. I wasn't sure I was going to get to ride tonight, though. I'd finished my Christmas shopping and had X amount budgeted for gas and food.

Then my cat got sick.

The vet bill? Was X - $2. Welp, okay, I had it, and I have enough in my pantry to keep me fed. Not so much in the gas tank, though, with how much running around I'd had to do last week. So I used the last of it to go to work yesterday and planned to work from home today.

My best girl friend Paypalled me some money on Monday, but it takes time to get from there to the bank, so I was ready to accept having to stay home tonight too.

However, in a Yule-eve small miracle, the money arrived this morning. :) I get to ride tonight after all! And I can go to the grocery store and pick up a few things like lettuce, bread, lunch meat, eggs, and Ramen! Life is so good.

Seriously, y'all, it doesn't take much for me to be a happy camper. Joyous Yule to you all, happy second night of Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, happy Kwanzaa, and have a wonderful secular winter celebration.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Little show

Well, the winter jumping show was a qualified success. :) Success in all the ways that matter, though.

Reveille was an absolute superstar! She loaded in the trailer with only one "er, I'd rather not," unloaded fine, and was perfectly content to stand tied and inhale her hay. The quasi-new place didn't faze her a bit. I went to put her on the longe line before our pre-show lesson, and her comment was "ho hum!" What a relief, completely. I'd come loaded for bear -- fresh vet wrap around my stirrup pads, neck strap, saddle stickum, running martingale -- but what I found was fluffy little squirrels. :)

After the lesson, that's when the "qualified" part of the success started. We had rafts of people entered in the ground poles class. Rafts of them. Juniors, seniors, green horses that needed experience, experienced horses with green riders, and so on. Just lots of people, and lots of rounds, because you could do a schooling round before or after your competition round. So the schedule got way behind very quickly.

I ended up dropping from Plan A, 2' and 2'3 jumpers, to Plan B, crossrails and 2' jumpers. Then, when it was 2:30 and we hadn't even started the crossrail class, it became clear that my friend, whom I'd caught the trailer ride in with, wasn't going to be able to ride in 2'9 until after sundown, and my classes weren't going to be much earlier. So Plan B became Plan C: just do crossrails, have a great round, and call it good. It almost became Plan D: screw THIS for a bag of soldiers!, but then I got a peanut butter sandwich and some juice, and I re-sane-ified.

Optimum time at this show for a 10-fence course in a smallish indoor arena was 1:47. The ground poles classes had the same time limit, and the riders hitting the time were having some trouble on course and going at a very slow trot, even a walk. So yeah. I knew going in that I was throwing the OT out the window and just having a smooth ride. I mentioned to my friend that with the way I planned to ride the course -- in a smooth, rhythmic, forward canter -- we weren't even going to break 1:30.

Yeah. I was right. 1:16. Heh.

So my lovely, forward, balanced ride with good position and patience earned me an official sixth place. Do I care? NOPE! :) Reveille was a superstar, we had the ride I wanted, and that's good enough. It's a great start to a successful 2012 season.

Now home, trying to rehydrate (idiot me!), and crashing out. More jumping fun in the morning!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

We had a productive ride last night! After the slight chaos that was our lessons last weekend, I went in with the goal of a calm, quiet ride with good lines and turns over the cloverleaf exercise; if she spooked, my goal would change to be keeping myself in charge, bending her away from the spooky thing, and insisting on my line, my pace, etc.

I also had in mind something I read on one of y'all's blogs (Little Red Mare, maybe?) the other day: the talk given by top riders on riding green horses. They all agreed that especially with a green horse, you set a goal, and when your goal is achieved, you stop. I don't know that Reveille is as green as the horses they were talking about, but she's definitely emerald at the center. :)

The other thing I did to give myself a better chance of achieving my goal was to put the running martingale attachment on. She'd been tossing her head to avoid contact again this last weekend, so it seemed like a good idea to add a little to the "plant your hands in her neck when she does that" solution. Tonight she started out tossing a little, but the hand-planting combined with the martingale took good care of that. I made sure to keep my hands as soft and my contact as consistent and elastic as I could.

Warming up slowly, until she has a nice, free, swinging walk, really helps us both. Even if everyone else in the arena is trotting already, I need to let Rev warm up at her pace. Pushing it leads to pissiness -- letting her free up her back and shoulder leads to a much more pleasant ride. An obvious sort of thing, but ... well, there you have it. Need to be sure to have enough time to warm up correctly.

The cloverleaf exercise went really well, which was a bit unsurprising after taking all those preliminary steps. Sit up and kick -- check. Straight lines that I choose -- check. Turns as balanced as we're capable of -- check. Soften hands on approach to pole -- check! That helped a lot. I even remembered which way to turn. ;) So all that, plus the fact that I couldn't find my inhaler yesterday morning and was having breathing issues, added up to a short-ish ride.

Short was a-ok, though. Reveille's attitude when we were riding and when we were done was soft, willing, and interested, instead of irritated and resistant. I wasn't sheepish or exhausted (despite my breathing hard!), and it was a good feeling. That's my main goal for the next few rides: that attitude.

And this morning? New winter gloves. SFLTS to the rescue! And only $15, too! Hooray!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Focus ... I might haz it

I'm pretty sure I have some focus around here somewhere, but I think it's lost under the idea of CHRISTMAS SOON. :)

If I were going to be able to ride tonight, I'd have to leave work at 4. Seeing as I didn't get in til my usual-non-ride-night 11, that's not going to happen tonight. Which is okay; I rarely ride on Tuesdays as it is. Mondays, almost never, Tuesdays, rarely. Wednesday through Sunday, almost always. Anyway, in lieu of a riding entry, here are a few randoms.

My SSG Winter Gripper gloves are about a ride or two away from giving up the ghost entirely. I'm thinking I want to replace them with a pair of SSG Winter Training gloves. One of my lesson partners swears by them, and it seems like the cloth gloves wear out pretty quickly, so I think I'll give them a try. The trick is, though, that they're close to $40 on Dover and Smartpak. They're more like $27 on State Line Tack and $30 on Amazon.

I could justify paying $27, even $30, but do I want to then pay shipping and wait a week or two to get them from SLT or Amazon? I can't count on my friendly local tack shop to carry them, either. And if they DO carry these gloves, it's a crapshoot whether they'd be in my size ... and if they DO have them in my size, I'm assured of paying the highest retail price possible. :/

As the Sprinkler Bandit put it, I've heard of places where they sell all kinds of horse things -- tack, breeches, boots, shirts, everything -- and you can actually try things on! Touch them! before you buy.

Some say these places lie in the lands to the east. Some say they are a myth.

Anyway, it's possible that the other, much smaller and yet somehow more productive for me tack/feed shop might have a pair, but ... I'm not holding my breath. I might need to just buy a cheap pair, because right now I'm feeling like expedience outweighs precision in the kind of winter gloves I buy. I won't be able to get to the FLTS before the show on Saturday, but the SFLTS is on the way home. I definitely need a new set before the weekend. Hrm.

The good thing about Amazon is that if I'm patient, I can get them for FREE. I'm a Swagbucks member -- it's turned out to be incredibly cool. I was really skeptical at first; you basically earn points, or Swag Bucks, for doing things like using their search page, doing surveys, watching videos, et cetera. It sounded like a complete scam. It turned out to be really useful, though, and easy. It's basically a mechanism for advertisers to get their ads in front of your eyes and to do retail surveys. Very little commitment on my part, and huge rewards. In less than 2 months of swagging, I've gotten more than $50 in Amazon.com gift cards. And I'm not really even swagging hard at it! I could work harder and get $75 or so in Amazon cards in a month.

Anyway, this is pertinent because ... Amazon sells horse stuff. :) Up to and including saddles. And FITS breeches. So I definitely plan on picking up a pair of FITS when I have the gift cards saved up -- FITS for free? Sign. Me. UP! So yeah. I could grab some gloves by the end of the month. But I do kind of need them now ...

Anyway, if you want to check Swagbucks out, do a girl a favor and use my referral link! :) Swagbucks.com I am really liking it. It made Christmas for several people on my list MUCH cheaper ... as in FREE.

Tack and breeches and gloves FREE. Just think of it. :) How blissful!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Evening in the Life

I have a text entry one down. For musings on what inhabits my cranium, see below.

But now, an Evening in the Life of Rinsie and Reveille: Pictures from a Friday Night.

I have to race the sunset to the barn, because Rev's on pasture and I don't like to catch her in the dark. I win the race this evening:

I get Rev in the cross ties and get her blanket off - dirty horse is dirty!

Some brushing takes care of that dirt. She's warming up her ocular lasers, though.

In the time it took for me to brush her, the sun has gone completely down and the full moon is shining gloriously.

When I come back in, Rev's ocular lasers are at power, and Grayson doesn't think I'm a threat.

Hazel the sometimes-evil barn cat examines the small pile of ash that was me, contemplating equine ocular lasers.

We ride, but I forget to take my camera for an ears or mirror shot. This is the result of the ride. I think we worked hard enough, eh?

Reveille is tired of the paparazzi now, and she would like some cookies.

I turn the camera off and turn my attention toward putting my horse away. You'll have to take my word for it, though.

I have a brain around here somewhere ...

I don't know what was going on with me this weekend, but I could not remember a course to save my life. I haven't been feeling good at all, which could be part of it, but jeez! The simplest things -- start here going this way, turn right, jump, turn right, jump, turn right, jump, etc -- were just giving me fits. Even more than that, just riding my dang horse was giving me fits! Reveille does not trust frosted-up mirrors. So a few spooks and a lot of tension later, I ended up asking MT to hop on her and school her a little bit. Granted, on a normal day, I could have gotten us through it. But for some reason -- actually, I think I know why -- I just couldn't make it over that hump yesterday.

The good part is that in the last 15-20 minutes of each lesson, my brain finally screwed in all the way and I was able to not only get the course right but also actually ride like I'm competent. Sheesh! Note to self: when at show on Saturday, keep Reveille moving forwardForwardFORWARD. To quote MT: kick 'er!! :) Both days, when we started jumping, we both forgot about the horse-eating frost in the mirrors. Change of focus on my part results in change of focus on her part, and she likes jumping way better than flatwork in jumping tack.

If I didn't know better, I'd suspect Rev was punishing me for the argument we had Friday evening: I wanted left bend in a corner instead of falling over her shoulder, she didn't want to bend left or I wasn't asking correctly, so we did very small circles, which pissed her off royally. Enough that she objected by lifting her front feet off the ground a ways. Hmph! I decided I need to change my approach, so we went around with me thinking only about keeping her neck and shoulders straight in front of me and keeping elastic contact. THAT worked WAY better.

Anyway, I know horses don't think that way. If they did, we could apologize!

So tonight is a rest night for Rev after getting ridden five days in a row; hope she chills and relaxes some. And I hope I do too.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Pictures, sort of.

I apologize in advance for the poor quality of the pictures -- I forgot my regular camera and only had my phone camera, which is craptacular. Still, I have some pictures! I might even have better pictures tomorrow, but we'll see. Pictures in the barn are difficult at best, so I'd need sunlight to get the full pretty-ness of the bridle and the mare.

Anyway, without further ado, pictures!

I forgot I had this one on my phone -- I think it's cute. I was playing around with my phone camera, trying to get a good picture of us. I look at it now and laugh at how similar our expressions are. A friend says "You buy what you are" in relation to horses, and I have to agree! Short? Check. Brunette? Check. Smart? Check. Stoic? Check. A little on the lazy side? Check! Not impressed by pictures? CHECK! Chubby? Check, check. ;)

Here's the signature Five Star Tack silver Celtic cross! Seriously, this bridle looks SO good on her. The proportion of the width of the straps to her head is just perfect. I will probably need to shorten the cheek pieces and put a few holes in the flash, but still. PERFECTION.

Margie was trying to help get Rev a little more interested in pictures by snapping carrot bits while I stood near Rev's head, trying to get the picture. Rev seems to know that she never gets carrots with her bit in; she was kind of puzzled and nonplussed at this whole endeavor. She kept stepping forward to keep her head at my shoulder -- good girl! That's what I want in general! -- but it did make pictures a little tougher. Still, you can see the pretty bridle in this shot. :)

Meanwhile, I've got a sinus/bronchitis thing going on at the moment. I should be wise and not go out in the cold (very COLD cold) to ride. However ... I need to ride. And I told Margie I'd be there, so. I'll bundle up and carry my inhaler, which my doctor, with a concerned expression on her face, told me to use every four hours for a few days instead of "only occasionally when you're short of breath." At least the pulse oxygen meter didn't make alarming beeps this time when the NP put it on my finger!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Also -- just because I'm thinking of it: among the barn chores I want to do this weekend is Clean Out Brush Caddy. To include Clean Brushes.

The trick is this, though: how long does it take brushes to dry? Assuming I had permission to leave them in the heated tack room vice my unheated tack locker, of course. In my tack locker, the answer to that would be "until summer." They'd freeze solid, and I'm certain Reveille would not appreciate that in the slightest. If said permission wasn't given, I'd need to bring the brushes home with me. Which might be an option, actually. Probably the best option.

And one of these days I ought to get myself a royal blue brush caddy. The one I have is green. As I recall, my options were green or red when I bought it, so ... yeah. This, however, is so far down on my list of priorities as to rank with Pedicure. ;) I.E., "nice, fun, and wholly unnecessary."

tl;dr, I know. :)

You're right; I haven't updated in way too long. Let's rectify that. :)

Not much is going on, really, which is why I haven't updated. I was kind of frustrated last week because I only had one day available for riding -- work, haircut, game, et cetera. So I rode, but I would have liked to have more than one day to do it in. We'd started practicing counter canter in our dressage lesson two weeks ago, and although we could do the exercise okay, I wanted to get better at it.

The exercise was, like soooooo many other things horse-related, deceptively simple. Canter along one long side, make two good, balanced corners into and out of the short side, then canter one loop (KXH) off the second long side, returning to the second short side with a good, balanced corner in. Do this a few times, then do it on the other side, looping FXM. We were better on the right lead, only falling out of the canter once or twice. Once I figured out how to use my outside leg and seatbone a little better, we improved.

Still, I really felt and continue to feel like we need more practice. I need more practice.

The Sunday lesson after that was an indoor jumping lesson, yay! :) I had a great time, even if it'd been a while since we jumped and I was a little creaky. Reveille is a star, for sure. The primary things we worked on were me getting to soften my contact correctly three or four strides out from the fence -- more like three, sometimes two, in the indoor arena. Reveille really prefers that I soften quite a bit on the approach, but I absolutely have to be present and firm with my seat and leg. She has a cute jump, and I can really affect it with my riding. So that was fun. We did a few really tight turns, too, that made me really glad Rev is a sports car of a horse. :)

So one ride later, we had another lesson, this time doing a hurry-scurry pattern over ground poles. (Looking around Google, it seems like "hurry-scurry" isn't quite the right name, but *shrug*.) It's a cloverleaf pattern, basically. Put four ground poles in the middle of the arena in a + shape, with about two feet of space between the inner corners. Track left; trot (or canter) over one of the poles; track left and make a small, balanced 3/4 circle; trot over the next pole, going perpendicular to your last track; repeat until you've made two complete cloverleaves.

This looks easy. Don't be fooled. It's quite difficult to maintain pace, balance, rhythm, smoothness, bend, and position. Once you do, then you canter. :) So my takeaway from the lesson was twofold: first, no floating hands. Shorten my reins enough to be useful with small motions, then plop them on her neck and leave them there. Guide her with my balance and seat. Basic idea, right? Harder than it seems. Second, work on smoothing everything out. Make the lines straight, the turns balanced and even. Again, harder than it seems! Must practice this too.

I didn't do a lesson on Sunday, owing to feeling crappy, and didn't ride yesterday for the same reason. So more to be posted later, eh? :)

Incidentally, that "more" will include pictures of our NEW FIVE STAR BRIDLE!!! Matt sent it for Christmas, and I am utterly ecstatic. It's gorgeous -- the Waverly fits Rev beautifully, and the proportions are lovely on her (big ol') head. She's got a clunky head, all the better to hold the brains, but elegant, slim bridles just don't look good on her. That sort of thing makes her look like a draft horse with an Arabian-style bridle on.

So. Pictures soon. Of lovely horse in lovely tack!