Sunday, November 1, 2020

Happy Halloween!

We had a dressage judge come to our barn on Halloween to practice ride dressage tests.  Cupid was a unicorn, and I was a butterfly.   

My unicorn!
Warming up

We did Training test 2 as a warm up. It was going well until almost the end, when just as we picked up our right lead canter Cupid spooked coming out of the corner.  Mind you, he had been perfect the whole time with my wings flapping (we had a dress rehearsal a few days ago, and even hopped some jumps with the wings on!) but he spooked at seemingly nothing, go figure.  

The judge spoke to everyone after their ride with some additional comments.  She said the best part of my test was actually the right lead canter departure, which she said was very balanced and uphill, right before the spook.  And she said something to work on was our stretchy trot, and to think about a bit of shoulder fore feeling in the corner before it to get him lifting his withers.  She said since he does a nice job stretching at the walk she thinks we can get it in the trot too.

Then for our final test of the year I finally got to ride First level test 1!  I know we're not quite show ready with it yet, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to practice.  The test started out okay with the trot 10m half circles.  Our stretchy circle was a bit better than the first test, and the walk as usual was fine.  For our canter to the left it went okay, though we need to show a bit more in the lengthening.  But then the test ends almost the same, with picking up canter at C (instead of between C and M as in Training 2) and down the long side, and Cupid spooked again in the same spot, worst this time.  And then went into the wrong lead, so instead of lengthening we were trying to fix the lead.  So the end was a bit of a mess.  

The judge said the best part of our test was our second 10m half circle, to the right.  Obviously the canter was the worst.  She said I need to be a lot quicker about fixing an incorrect lead if it happens, which is true.  She also said we need to be just a bit more consistent in our connection, but I told her my goal was to show it early next year and she said we can definitely get there.  She suggested a lot of circles and serpentines, and also leg yields.  Big leg yields as well as just a hoof's width over then straight again.  The feedback was helpful and encouraging, even though it was frustrating having Cupid spook in both tests, at our home barn!

We went first in the day, before most people got there and a few people asked to see my costume.  So after everyone was done we got dressed up again and did a little loop around with some of the other people who had costumes. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Our First 8! =)

Cupid and I went to a show at a new to us venue.  It turns out he does not love this venue, and was pretty tense.  I knew it was bad when he wouldn't even eat a carrot the whole day, which is very unlike him!  I'm not sure why he was so tense, he's been handling other new places fairly well and I thought this place was pretty inviting in that the warm up was adjacent to the show ring, so you always had other horses around.  

We did Training 2 and 3 again.  I wasn't thrilled with how it felt because Cupid felt tense and braced.  He kind of leapt into the canter both directions.  But there weren't any major mistakes, and the judge was seemingly in a generous mood.  So I was thrilled to see two 7s on our first test.  And our first ever 8 in our second test!!  It was for our first halt, with our final halt earning a 7.5.  I was equally thrilled to see a 6.5 for the canter circles both directions, which I think is also a first. 

Photo purchased from show photographer Artistic Equine
I think the scoring was generous, but I was ecstatic nonetheless!  Kind of made up for our last show, which felt a lot better to me but our scores were dismal.  We earned a qualifying score in case we want to think about pointing to championships next year, though I'm not sure if it's worth it for us.  My main goal will be getting ready for First Level hopefully early next year.  I'm a little sad we weren't able to finish the year there but now that I'm finally starting to understand dressage I can see we're not quite ready.  Haha, the more you learn the more you realize how little you actually know!  (or something like that)

Monday, October 12, 2020

Can a Thoroughbred Work Cows?

Obviously the answer is yes, but can Cupid?  This weekend we went to an Intro to Cattle clinic to find out!  Cupid has seen cattle from a bit of a distance, and ridden through cow pastures without problem, but I wasn't sure how it would go being in close quarters or if they take off.  Luckily, Cupid handled it really well!  This clinic was organized by our regional Working Equitation group, and led by Heather Kornemann. 

The day got off to a bit of a rough start, as I had packed my trailer the night before but couldn't find my keys in the morning.  I spent some time looking for them, then gave up and grabbed all my back up tack so I could still ride, but unfortunately not with what I planned to use.  So instead of the comfort snaffle we've been riding in, we had our double jointed snaffle (which led to a bit of chomping), and instead of my jump saddle I had my dressage saddle (having recently sold my western saddle, which Cupid hated anyways).  And instead of my short boots, I luckily was able to zip my tall boots over my jeans (but also confirms what I have been suspecting, that I should probably go with slim boots next time).  So a bit behind schedule, and without my preferred gear, we missed the orientation but  made it just in time to ride in our group.

There were about a dozen cows in the arena, all huddled down at one end.  There were 4 horse and rider clinic participants including Cupid and me, and our trainer Heather and I think 3 mounted assistants in the ring.  The participants took turns letting our horses approach and get used to the cows, with Heather staying close.  Cupid was interested in the cows, and not scared to walk right up to them.  We walked among the herd, between the herd and the fence, and started playing a bit with pushing them.

All photos courtesy D. Clayton

Investigating these strange creatures

In working equitation, you have three minutes to cut your designated cow from the herd and move it into a holding pen.  You are on a team of 3 or 4, but your team members have to stand behind a line until you get your cow past that line, at which point they can assist with getting the cow into the pen (but also have to keep the other cows behind the line, I believe.)  

In this clinic, our objective was to pick a cow, cut it from the herd, and move it down the arena across the line of other horses and riders.  We each took turns, and while you were waiting your turn you did not assist but stayed out of the way, and moved aside when necessary to create a hole for the cow to go through.  It was kind of like a group jumping lesson, which we haven't done in a very long time so it was also good for Cupid just to practice standing.  Sometimes starting out he is a bit antsy, but he was on his best behavior today (aside from some bit chomping, which I think was because I haven't ridden him in the double jointed bit in a long time.)

Waiting our turn
Not all cow horses where western saddles!

After making sure Cupid was comfortable, we gave the cutting and sorting a try.  Our first few turns I made the mistake of just going for the cow closest to the line we needed to cross.  And also trying to move them along the fence, thinking it would be easier because then I just have to watch one side.  But apparently these are bad strategies!  We did manage to get it done, if not gracefully.  Back to my original question, Cupid doesn't really have the instinct to cut a cow or anticipate where it's going to go, so he lets them get away but then seems to have fun chasing after them!  (Haha, maybe he wants to be a roping horse?  Let's try that next!!)

After a few goes, he seemed to start getting a bit anxious.  Heather said it seems like he is a very task-oriented horse, and to just forget our task for the moment and just relax and let him play.  Just before she said this, I had been thinking that it seems like he knows I want something, but can't quite figure out what it is and might be getting a bit frustrated.  I let me reins lengthen and let Cupid walk among the cows, sniff them, and trot after them - as long as he was remaining engaged.  Occasionally if he started to wander I would turn him back.  So some of our turns we cut and sorted, some we just played. 

Get 'em!


This clinic was a ton of fun!!!  I'm really glad I got to try something new, and build my relationship with Cupid in a different way!  It will take a lot more practice for us to learn to read the cows and really get the hang of this, but I'm definitely looking forward to trying again.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

DIY Dyeing Breeches for Us Mere Mortals (Fail!)

I read some blog posts and comments online about people dyeing their sunshirts and breeches.  And they made it sound pretty easy!  I had a pair of white breeches I got for shows, that just wasn't show quality anymore but I still didn't want to wear white to school is so I figured I'd give this dyeing thing a try.  And I'm here to say, for us mere mortals that are not particularly crafty, it is not idiot proof.  My hats off to those of you who were able to do this correctly!

My breeches were 95% cotton, 5% spandex so I got the "all purpose" dye not the one for synthetics.  Mind you, this is supposed to be the easier one because you don't need to do it over the stove.  I just dumped the dye into a large plastic tub with hot water and some dishwash detergent.  Then I put in the breeches, which I ran under water first.  I used gloves to submerge the breeches in the dye water, and gently moved it occasionally as I let it soak for about an hour.  Then, as per the directions I ran the breeches under running water until the water ran clear, and then put them in the dryer with a towel.

Clearly, I shouldn't quit my day job to pursue arts and crafts!  The results are far from perfect.  There are light colored blotches on a big section of the front.  And then a dark colored stain on the leg.  I'll keep them for schooling because I'm not one of those gorgeously put together people you see on other blogs, who look just as nice leaving the barn as they did when they arrived.  Sadly that is just not me, as hard as I try usually I leave the barn with the frizzy messy hair and smudges of dirt or horse hair. 

Overall the color is much brighter and lighter than I expected from the "dark green" dye.  (The picture below is a better representation of the actual color than the ones above.)  As you can kind of see in the picture above, the sock bottoms stayed white and the silicon is white as well.  This I kind of like.  The stitching on the seams stayed white as well.

I have a bottle of blue dye for synthetics that I was going to use for a lighter blue sunshirt I wanted to darken, but I don't think I should bother...

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Stretches for the Horse and Rider

Cupid and I have been gradually getting back to work, though we are still taking more frequent walk breaks and haven't done much cantering.  But after a little time off I think he's felt really good (aside from now his hooves being due for a trim.)

Since I don't really have a lot to say, I thought I'd share some of my stretches.  As an attorney, I spent most of the day sitting in front of a computer and struggle with the tight hips and rounded shoulders commonly experienced by desk jockeys.  So I try to incorporate stretching into my workout routine, but have some additional stretches I often do to start my rides.  

I like to start with my feet out of the stirrups, stretching my legs long.  I have a tendency to pull my legs up when I ride, so I use this stretch to try to set the tone for keeping my legs long.  (It doesn't work, but I still try!)  Then for my hips I lift one leg away from the saddle.  My hips are very tight, so this is pretty uncomfortable for me and I don't hold it very long.  I used to try doing both legs but that was just way too uncomfortable so I've been doing one at a time.

Then for my upper body, I like simple arm rotations, one at a time with the reins in my other hand.  This helps open my chest and get my shoulders back.  Sometimes I also like to raise my arm and stretch through my sides, while asking Cupid to bend and stretch through his side too.  I usually do that on the quarterline or centerline, and switch bend every few strides.

Cupid has stretches too.  His chiropractor showed me some stretches I do from the ground, though I'm not consistent about it.  Of course, like most horses, he loves carrot stretches!  

We usually start our rides in a long frame, but we don't usually get a good quality stretch until he's warmed up and has often not until after I've asked him to go rounder.  We've been playing a lot with moving between a working trot and stretching trot, and I've come up with a little exercise.  So we trot a figure-8 with two 20 meter circles, but we go twice around each loop, first in the working trot and then the second time in a stretching trot.  Before we get to the middle of the 8 we go back to a working trot and change bend.   (Regarding the video below, I'm working on not carrying my hands so wide! 😕)

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Curvy Fit Breeches - Romfh Champion and Smartpak Hadley

As an athletic hourglass shape, I can have trouble finding clothes that fit well, and that includes breeches.  When I say curvy, I mean my waist is 24" and my hips are 34".  To make finding pants even more challenging, I am petite with a 29" inseam.  But luckily I've found a few breeches recently that not only fit well, but come in cute colors and are good quality!  (These are breeches I found and purchased myself, and I am not getting anything in exchange for this review.)

First up, the Romfh Champion has been around a while and is specifically marketed as a curvy fit.  Per the manufacturer: "The Champion also features 'Curve Fit', a special cut to reduce any 'gapping' at the back waist, nipped in at the waist and cut fuller through the seat and thigh. Perfect for the curvy girls!"  I agree with this assessment!

It is a cotton-synthetic blend, with suede seat.  I purchased it in a 24R.  Oddly this size is not on their size chart but it does exist!  For reference, the 26R is listed at 27" waist, 34" hips, and 11.75" rise.  I would call this a true high rise, as you can see it comes exactly to my navel.  The bottom hits just above my ankle.  The pictures don't quite do the color justice - it is called nightshade / omber blue but I would describe it as a charcoal with a dark plum seat.  It has no piping or contract stitching.  It has small-ish pockets in the front; not big enough to securely hold most current model phones.  The belt loops are about 1.5" (it's a 2" loop but the top 1/2" is stitched separate).  

They retail for around $135, but I got a great deal at $65 at Tackoftheday!

Also if you like the fit of these, the Romfh Isabella is the same fit but with a different material (same as the Romfh Sarafina) and also comes with a silicon option instead of suede.

The newer kid on the block is Smartpak's Hadley.  I've long lusted after the cute colors of Piper breeches, and have given into the temptation several times even though I know they don't fit me well.  I always figure it's worth trying, maybe they (or I!) have changed but I always end up returning.  Thankfully they came out with the Hadley, which they don't specifically call a curvy fit but per the size chart a size 24 has a 25.6" waist and 33.75" hips, compared to 26.5" and 32.5" for the Pipers (hence the horrible gaping on me!) 
They are a lighter material than the Champions, and wholly synthetic with a synthetic suede seat. They are a mid-rise, sitting slightly below my navel though a bit higher in back.  One feature I like is the large zippered back pockets, big enough to hold a phone (though some people may not like the extra fabric bulk).  They also have a 2" belt loop.  
These retail full price at $124, but like most Smartpak brand items have frequent sales.  I think these are discontinued colors, so only had limited sizes which is why I ended up getting the green (called smoke pine) in a 26R and the purple in 24R.  I'm okay with the fit on both; you can see a bit of loose fabric on the leg and seat of the green ones but these are fun schooling colors anyways.
They are also available in a knee patch version (which I have a traditional tan pair in).  They were previously available in silicon (and I have a pair of a lovely light grey silicon full seats purchased about a year ago) but that option is not currently available.  I hope they bring them back because I think these breeches present a great value at the price!

Monday, September 14, 2020

Pony Rides

I haven't ridden in over a week, but my son has.  He's mainly been staying inside too because of the smoke, but we've made some short trips to the barn.  Every time I put him in the car he starts saying Cupid!  

Cupid has been very good around him.  Jack helps me brush Cupid.  I put a grap strap on my saddle, and I lead Cupid while dad walks next to Jack.  We walk around the barn for about 10 minutes, then Jack helps me get Cupid's grain. 

I'm not going to make him ride if he's not interested, but so far he seems to enjoy it and luckily Cupid makes a good kids pony!