Thursday, April 26, 2012

Two things, one exciting and one amusing

Thing the First: I will be all vested soon!   I pulled the trigger on an Airowear Outlyne vest.    I decided to go for just the black and gray version rather than ordering custom cross country colors, just to save a few shekels and several weeks' worth of shipping time.  Royal and white would have been nice, but an extra $60 and four to eight weeks extra processing time didn't seem reasonable.  I'm really excited -- finally, a vest that'll fit!   I was able to order the  exact size and length that I need.  (What's more, I didn't have to order anywhere near the largest size -- this makes me disproportionately and unreasonably happy, to tell you the truth.  After trying on a RaceSafe, I almost got discouraged.)  

I also got the shoulder protection, because after breaking each collarbone (only one in a horse-related accident, I swear!) and tearing the cartilage in my right shoulder (possibly left too, but I'm staunchly ignoring that), I just don't have any shoulder left to injure!  

Anyway, so far I would recommend Amira Equi Ltd. for their wide variety of options and the fact that VAT is waived when shipping to non-E.U. countries.  That might be an all-UK policy, but whatever the case, it's helpful.  Shipping's expensive enough as is. 

Now the timer can start counting down on Mail Watch!

Thing the Second:  This is actually the amusing one.  So when I was something like eight years old and first learning to ride, at Westbridge Equestrian in Austin, TX, I made some really bad cartoons.  They were of horses saying little things that my teacher told me, kind of my attempt at the goofy cartoon posters you see in elementary schools or other kid-targeted things.  You know the sort, the Motivating Slogan! posters, or Friendly Reminder! things.   I think my art skills haven't progressed much since then, to tell you the truth.

ANYway ... the one that I remember the most clearly is the horse that was holding up a hoof, grinning, and saying "Eyes UP!   Heels DOWN!"   It had arrows in bright red for UP and DOWN.

I don't recall if that was something my teacher at the time told me a lot, but it was apparently something I thought I should remember.

I DO know that ... now?  MT tells me that a lot.

Maybe I should pick up cartooning again, go for the laughs ...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Yknow what, RP? I give up on you.

Screw it.  I'm ordering an Airowear Outlyne vest.  I need a vest, and this one gets great reviews, plus it's got the same characteristics I liked about the RP: wide selection of sizes, shoulder protectors available, BETA 3, shaped for female form, and last and least, lots of XC colors available.

I am not waiting around any longer.

(Twin Rivers and Favorite Stuff posts below, btw.)

A few of my favorite things

Favorites post! Here are my favorite brands of things. Your mileage may vary, for sure, but this is what I love and will stick with.

Summer shirts: I got one of these at Twin Rivers, and they're so, so cool, literally and figuratively! And flattering, with the side panels. I am SO getting a bunch more, in plenty of colors. Plus, I can wear them to work. :) Technical polo with side panels

Breeches: Do I even have to say it? FITS! FITS FITS FITS FITS. Worth every penny. The segmented, pinpoint-holes, deerskin full-seat panels make for complete ease of movement in the saddle and out of it, and they're sticky like whoa. The fabric is comfortable -- wicks sweat and keeps cool in the summer. I really want a set of winter FITS, but I don't have one yet, so I can't comment on them. I won't buy another brand of breeches ever again.

Saddle pads: TOKLAT all the way. They're sturdy, fit well, and have all kinds of colors and styles. My favorite is the Classics line, like this one. Classic II, Classic III, don't care. Love them. When I had a bin of horse gear get rained on and molded, I lost everything in that bin EXCEPT the Toklat saddle pad. It washed and held up perfectly. I'm a convert forever.

Bridles/Strap goods: Another "do I even have to say it?" one: Five Star Tack. Gorgeous design, excellent customer service, charitable, highest quality leather, and fits well. One of these days I'll have another FST bridle for jumping, and when I graduate to Training level, I'll give myself a five-point breastplate as a congratulation gift.

Horse boots: I can't say enough good things about Davis splint boots. They're not hugely fancy, but they're protective, sturdy, easy to clean, and hard to damage. They also come in all kinds of awesome colors. Granted, I prefer white, but ... there you have it. I also prefer the way these close, with metal rings and turning the velcro back on itself, to the straight elastic/velcro of things like Woof boots.

Lead rope: I am completely in love with my Big D braided nylon lead rope. I ordered royal blue and white, and it's lovely. It moves well in my hand without being too floppy, and it's strong. Very, very happy with this purchase.

Blankets: I've had good luck with my Schneider's Saddlery lightweight turnout. It fits Rev well, and it held up well. For the price, I can't complain. I ended up needing to mend a small tear on the outside and redo some stitching on the liner, and I re-waterproofed it, but overall? I'm quite pleased. Good price, good product. I might switch to a Rambo if I had lots of money, but really this is a nice blanket. Recommended.

Saddles: I hesitate to even say anything about saddles, because it's so personal and there's so much range. If I had my druthers, I'd have County or Black Country saddles custom fit, bought new, etc. I looked at Stubbens, Karl Neidersuss, Courbette, and Thoroughbred saddles, and the original way I was leaning ended up being the right thing: Collegiate. They fit the three primary criteria, all equally important: they fit me, they fit Reveille, and they're in the budget. Most saddles are designed off the rack for more banana-shaped backs. Reveille has a flatter back, having QH blood, and these fit her beautifully. I find them comfortable. And I found them for under $1000 each. Win, win, and WIN!

Helmet: Charles Owen. All the helmets have to be certified to a certain standard, but I really think the CO has the best safety record and gives me the most peace of mind. Unless I find myself in a really tight spot, I won't buy any other brand. Incidentally, I discovered I should have been wearing the J3 skully all along. Who knew? Next time I buy a helmet ...

Safety vest: Well, I don't know yet. I know I don't love Tipperary or Charles Owen vests, and I am really keen on a Rodney Powell. Let's hope my instinct is right. I like RaceSafes, but they have the same problem as the Tipperary: not enough customization available. KanTeq would be a great choice, but they don't think they can fit me quite right. I have huge respect for this company. Anyway, if I can't get a RP, I'll have to settle for a CO. Humph.

And I think that's about everything you can do with shrimp. If I think of anything else I'm hugely partisan to (other than my teachers!), I'll add it.


So I'm back from Twin Rivers, and I can say with great confidence that that was one of the best things I've done for me and Reveille. It was hot and dusty and tiring, but it was a LOT of fun, and it was EXTREMELY educational. I have a much better idea of what's going to be needed from us both, skill- and fitness-wise, as well as confidence-wise. This is going to be hugely helpful in my prep work.

I kept Facebook updated with pictures and comments; I'll put those here too in a while. For now, here's a quick recap:

Tuesday: Boise -> Winnemucca. Winners casino/hotel. KR won money gambling; I ate, read, and slept.

Wednesday: Winnemucca -> Twin Rivers. Sam the horse lame, Brego the horse healthy but dirty. Stalls cleaned, horses walked, hotel settled into.

Thursday: Stalls cleaned, horses walked, horse ridden, horse bathed, horses walked, stalls cleaned, walked Novice XC twice, scoped BN jumps twice, walked back and forth to dressage several times, horses walked.

Friday: Scribed for Vicky Stashuk-Matisi, who is super-awesome. Her rubber stamp comment is "needs to be rounder in connection, needs more activity." Duly noted! Everyone from our barn did great in dressage, especially KR -- she had the ride of the day, albeit not the score of the day. Her horse gave her the finger five minutes before entering at A (last ride of the day, poor horse and poor KR), and so she had a tough ride. She rode with great patience, humor, and persistence, and the judge rewarded her as much as possible. Well ridden, KR.

Saturday: Ran around site a lot, stalls cleaned, watched and took pictures of barn mates showjumping. Fun! Hot. Office was begging for volunteers for the next day, threatening no XC until late if they didn't get jump judges. That was my cue.

Sunday: Jump judged from dawn until the bitter end. Had a great view of the whole course except the top water, but I could crane my neck for that even. No wrecks at my fences, not even any stops. No, the stops and wrecks came at other people's fences. :/ Interesting variety in skill/knowledge/ability of jump judges through the day. After spending all day out on course, jumped right into minivan to start motoring toward home. Twin Rivers -> Reno.

Monday: Reno -> Boise. Wish I could have stayed longer; we stayed at Circus Circus. My comment upon arriving at 11 PM and upon KR's announcement that she was going to gamble for a while: "Once I go in that room, I am not coming out until morning." And so it was. Comfy bed, nice shower, zzzzzz. So happy to get home to pets and home and friends.

Tuesday: Worked from home, then met the Sprinkler Bandit for lunch and halter handoff, then went and puttered around the barn for hours. New nameplate is on halter, Rev ridden. She was a little bratty, but that's to be expected. She worked out of a lot of it, and we'll keep going.

Today (Wednesday): TOC, in theory. We'll ride if it's a go, and I won't have high expectations. Just work on transitions and getting an effective warmup and getting her forward and not bucky or head tossy in the ring. Note to self: she's objecting to leg cues for canter; bump with seatbone instead. If it's a no-go due to weather, we'll ride anyway, working on transitions, etc.

That's all I have for now. I have a Favorites post planned, so stay tuned. And pictures, albeit crappy cell phone pictures.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Louisville Slugger or ball?

I discover I have some sneaky, lurking readers out there, including my Teacher's Eldest Daughter, who's claimed her own pseudonym. Hi TED! *wave* TED's a riot and one of my favorite people to have around the barn, and I'm happy to report she'll be around much more this summer and early fall! TED brings the party with her whereever she goes, so it'll be an awesome summer. :)

ANYway. A random thought: a long time ago, at my very first hunter/jumper barn when I was something like eight, the teacher there objected to being called a "trainer" by her students. She pointed out that horses have trainers; people, she said, have teachers. I've always liked that distinction, even though its accuracy is fuzzy at best. You can absolutely teach a horse something, and people can absolutely be trained. Plus, my teacher is also a horse trainer. At any rate, I kind of like that pattern, so I stick with it.

ANYway anyway ... yes. Last week was kind of a pain as far as life and work went. I mentioned that I wasn't going to make it on Monday or Tuesday and would have to just cross my fingers for the TOC night. However, on Wednesday, TOC night got weathered out. Bummer. I'd planned to go ride inside anyway, but then I sat down for just a minute, I swear!, with the corgis ... and that was all she wrote. Lovely nap, though. :/ Thursday and Friday went much the same, with work substituted for nap, etc.

So Saturday I saddled up for jumping lessons without having ridden at all that week. Sub-optimal, but sometimes that's reality.

Reveille was quite good! I, on the other hand, ought to have done better. We're getting good at figuring out our pace and striding in the sand arena, but I think the lack of jumping lessons lately is showing. (It's times like this that I really appreciate the rule about no jumping outside of lessons at our barn. Some people argue that it's ridiculous and you should be able to practice whenever, but I really believe that I would do way more harm than good to my confidence, skills, and correct performance if I jumped without MT there. I'm not good enough or experienced enough to solve problems in my jumping technique on my own.)

Out in the cross-country field, though, I really feel like I should have done way better. In my defense, Saturday was the first xc jump i'd jumped since last fall. For the prosecution, though, are all the other facts. I was tense, way more nervous than I needed to be -- I mean, come on. Rev's a good girl these days. I was anticipating much more spookiness and squirreliness than she even thought of offering. And of course, that gets in Rev's way and does no one any good at all.

If I could just relax better and let Rev go forward, just steer and chill up there, we'd have a way better chance of getting around without any drama. MT demonstrated this for me on Sunday, after I freaked and overworked Rev (even though she was indeed cranky on Sunday, way more than on Saturday, and a slightly more opinionated ride) -- he got on and galloped her around and jumped the little barrels and the rolltop several times. I was glad to get back on and do some jumping myself. MT told me to take a bridge in the reins and get comfortable with it and put my hands to her neck. And ride in two-point, which automatically releases some tension for me.

And it turned out to be the most fun I'd ever had on xc. Took the bridge, got up in my stirrups, and just let her come on to the fence. And she kept on coming on ... and I was with her all the way instead of behind. It finally felt like flying. Like Rev just moved up to the jump and sailed over and then went on.

So THAT's what it's supposed to be like! Right. I'll try to keep doing that. We'll be doing lots more xc in lessons over the spring and summer ... when I told MT that I was excited about that and that it'll get me the experience I so very much need, his comment was that it'll at least help me relax out there.

Heh. True dat.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Spoons, Twin Rivers, and ticks.

Here, have a picture of cute corgis!

Because of a serious lack of spoons on my part, last night's visit to the barn involved just handing money to MT and chatting with ... er ... uh, a code name ... AM? That'll work. Just making sure the world's best corgis have a place to stay while I'm in California for Twin Rivers.

For which I am stupid excited, even though I'm not even riding. :)

I'm looking forward to lovely weather, great rides, excitement, supporting my friends, spending time with barn folks, and seeing how these things work. I'll miss my little horse, but she won't mind the break, and I'll be learning while I'm away.

I think it'll be tiring, especially because I'm not feeling my best, but I'm still stupid excited.

In other news, I don't know if I'll be able to make it out to ride tonight. I have a sleep study thing tonight (unlikely to find anything, but a hoop to jump through), which means I need to be at the lab at 8. I need to work until 6 at least -- 7 would be ideal but un-doable -- and then I need to get home to the world's best corgis, let them out, feed them, and take care of the cats too. Getting home involves a 20-30 minute drive from work. Then another 15-20 minutes to the lab, after I get the home things done. I should jam some dinner in there somewhere, too.

All this means I think I'm going to have to take my lumps tomorrow in the dressage arena. I'll work Rev as usual before we go in, and then we'll see how the test goes. Sometimes life interferes.

In other other news, I've read about people using Frontline on their horses to combat ticks this year. It's going to be a nasty tick and bug season, according to all the folks who know these things, and people on Teh Intarwubz are concerned about tick-borne diseases. Not wanting my horse to get any of these nasty diseases, I called my vet about this to see what his take was.

I know, I know, I'm so picky, not trusting Teh Intarwubz for reliable information. But the Local Keeper of All Horse Knowledge was still on the road home from Galway, and I needed to ask someone before I forgot, so I called the guy with a veterinary medicine degree and experience. ;)

Anyway, in all seriousness, Vet's take was that Frontline causes some nasty skin reactions in a significant number of cases. Plus, apparently the ticks in this area don't carry the same awful diseases that the East coast ticks do, so it's not as much of a concern here. Plus plus, he says he doesn't see ticks on horses very much around here. So overall, off-label Frontline isn't worth the trial here, not by a long shot.

Good to know. I do need to pick up some more Pyranha soon, though. And some sunblock sticks for Rev's nose.

Summer Is Coming.

Monday, April 9, 2012

tl;dr, I know. Again. :)

Ah. Yes. Right. A friend reminded me that I haven't been updating lately. It's true; I haven't. That doesn't, however, mean I haven't been riding or anything! :)

Mostly we've been working on dressage; specifically, improving Rev's connection through the left rein. This involves lots of flexing left, flexing right, straightening her neck, spiralling in and out, and leg yields. I haven't been working so much in draws lately, but I did last Friday, and Rev was lovely. We've managed to get some acceptable leg yields in the trot now, which is an improvement.

We're riding Beginner Novice Test A in the Test of Choice night on Wednesday evening, assuming the weather allows the thing to go off at all ... in an Idaho spring, this isn't a sure bet. But we'll be preparing tonight and tomorrow anyway.

As far as jumping goes, we haven't had much opportunity to practice lately for various reasons. But we finally did get back into Free Jump Friday and jump lessons this last weekend, whee! FJF saw MT focusing on Rev not sucking back in front of fences, which she was able to achieve. (As an aside, I adore watching her jump things I consider e-freaking-normous, like 3'6 - 3'9. *grin*)

Jump lesson this Saturday and my own ride on Sunday focused on cross-country skills. Not cross-country jumps, but the skills for doing it well. Galloping, allowing a forward and steady gallop, the rebalancing half-halt in preparation for a jump, stride adjustability, and rider position. These are all new skills to me and my lesson mates! Not that we're unfamiliar with the concepts, but we've never focused on this stuff in this particular way in lessons before. It was really instructive, actually. I'm learning to not worry so much about Going Fast(tm) and still -- always! -- learning how best to get Rev to jumps. We had some good jumps on Saturday, some not so good, but overall a successful lesson.

Sunday was just all about the galloping and the position, sans jumps. By the time we were done, we were both Done. Sweaty and tired. (Note to self: CARDIO.) I felt like I made progress in getting comfortable at a gallop and in my position, but after Wednesday, the next thing to add into the mental list is to keep a steady, rhythmic pace.

Anyway. In other news, I think a RP vest is in my future after all! Soon, I hope. I do think I'll need to borrow back the vest I sold to the Sprinkler Bandit for this coming weekend, but ... soon.

I did take a bunch of stuff to the FLTS to sell on consignment. I'm debating taking my show coat and selling it too, then using the money from all of the stuff to get a new coat, one that'll fit well instead of meh. I know which one I want -- a cheapie, but tailoring makes all the difference -- and I think I can swing it pretty easily around the first of May or when I get the consignment money.

Yeah, I think that settles it. Sell the old coat, get a new one and get it tailored. *nodnod* That was easy, yeah?