Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Best Laid Plans

I got the brilliant idea from Amelia Newcomb to create this shirt (with masking tape) to help me easily check my alignment if I video myself.  I was really pumped to try it, and managed to execute a proof of concept but unfortunately had my tracker turned off for all but the last minute of our ride, when we were just walking around.  Whomp whomp.  

Here I'm turned sideways talking to someone outside the arena, but it gives an idea how it will look.

Now here I'm basically just neck reining Cupid on a long rein, at least my shoulders are level but there is really no reason for my spine to be that curved.

And after that turn even going into the corner I'm still holding some of that crookedness, making us counterbent going into the turn.

I think this will be a helpful thing to try a few times - assuming I'm not a total dummy with the camera again. 

Friday, May 21, 2021

Horse Camping - How to High Line

I was very excited when I saw there was a Trail Trials just over an hour away - most are about 3 hours.  I was decidedly less excited when I realized the park it would be at has "horse camping" sites but they do not have any sort of pens.  I immediately disregarded the high line poles they offered, and started searching for where I can rent portable corral panels (apparently not a service that exists, though it should along with horse trailers you can rent!), and then started looking at barns in the area that would allow an overnight stay.  Then I started to look into portable electric tape-type fencing and finally settled on the QuikFence available on Amazon, which has tape strands integrated into the posts.

We were also initially debating between going up Friday afternoon or Saturday morning, but for traffic and work/school/family considerations decided to only stay the one night.  

The estimated delivery time for my fence was between Monday and Wednesday the week of the trip.  On Monday Fedex tagged the package in Kansas, heading to California.  On Wednesday there weren't any further updates, so I called FedEx and told them it was imperative I receive the package on Friday.  I was a little concerned when the rep told me he would try to locate it...

Same thing on Thursday, and I called them somewhat panicked Friday morning.  They still seemed totally unsure where the package was and when/if I would receive it.  At this point I pretty much shrugged my shoulders and threw a long rope in the truck and hoped for the best.  At least I knew I would have a lot of horse camping experts around, and sure enough several people helped me get set up and Cupid was high line tied overnight!

The high line poles are just very tall sturdy wooden poles with an eye hook screwed in, so tall I needed my mounting block to reach.  The rope needs to be taut, and it is pretty much impossible to get it taut enough without a ratchet which someone was nice enough to lend me.  I initially envisioned a ring on the rope so the horses can move along the length of it, but I was told that is not what you want.  I did not have a swivel snap, so I just tied a loop in the rope and attached a carabiner to that (I'd rather Cupid get loose than tangled...)  You want the horse tied so they can just barely reach the ground.  (And since the high line rope is up kind of high, the trick is to throw the lead rope over the top and use that to pull the high line rope down to tie the lead rope to.)

I tied Cupid to the high line after our ride so he would have time to get used to it, and I could observe him the next few hours.  He was totally fine being tied there.  During the day I had his hay net there, but for night time I just put the hay loose on the ground.  And this may be somewhat controversial, but I did not leave water out for him because he likes to dump it but I offered him water regularly throughout the day and he drank a good amount. 

I'm not going to lie, I was somewhat terrified going to sleep that night (right nearby in a tent), and also felt like a pretty terrible horse owner for doing this to my horse.  But I tried telling myself that the portable stabling at some shows isn't any bigger, and can be hot and horses get cast in them all the time...

We stayed up talking with a group of other Trail Trialers, and I went to bed around 11.  I woke up at 1:30 (which is usually around the time my son wakes me up so I'm just used to waking up then), and took a peek out to see Cupid peacefully sleeping lying down!  Not stretched out on his side but with his legs under him.  My barnmate's horse was dozing standing up.  They both seemed perfectly content.  I woke up again at 4:30, and Cupid was still or again lying down.  Then I woke up at 6 when birds started chirping and horses rustling.  By then Cupid was also standing up and happy as can be. 

So our first experience high lining was a success.  I'm still going to be a little scared if I have to do it again, but at least I'll be better prepared!

And of course on Sunday I came home to this...

Monday, May 17, 2021

Trail Trials at Skyline Wilderness Park

Last year Cupid and I went to a Trail Trials clinic, and we were finally able to put that practice to use in our first Trail Trials!  We went to Skyline Wilderness Park in Napa, about an hour and a half away and camped overnight.  Despite the name, the park is actually quite suburban, just minutes from town and with amenities such as a disc golf course and archery range.  Even though there were lots of hikers and bicyclist on the trails, they were very polite both passing on the trail and when obstacle judges asked them to wait while someone was completing an obstacle.  Dogs are allowed in the camping area, but not on the trails.

Saturday's ride was about 5 miles, with 12 judged obstacles.  Sunday's ride was shorter, about 4 miles with 8 judged obstacles.  They were considered separate events, we did both days and there were no repeats in the obstacles.

We rode as a group of 4, though ended it up more riding in pairs and meeting back up at the obstacles.  It was a little hard for Cupid to have horses "leaving" him, and then he was too distracted to focus on some of the obstacles.  Both days the first two obstacles did not go very well for us, but afterwards he started settling down and getting the hang of it and things improved considerably.  

I read the rules and had attended the clinic, but the obstacles were more difficult then I expected.  I guess I've gotten a little used to working equitation - I thought just crossing a bridge would be an obstacle but it was more complicated.  One of our bridge obstacles it was: walk onto the bridge and stop between the flags; trot the rest of the way across the bridge; walk at the next flags and turn on haunches 180 degrees, walk back across the bridge.  Luckily that is all easy to do (well maybe our turn on the haunches isn't a true turn on the haunches...), just sometimes hard to remember all the directions!  One Cupid and I had trouble with had us step with front feet up a slight bank on the side of the road and side pass.  Cupid stepped off the bank a few times, and each time you step back it counts as a "refusal."

Another sneaky one was the very first obstacle on Saturday.  You were supposed to enter the course dismounted, and mount.  So for Trail Trials that involves a bunch of rules where you need to make sure your reins are secure (I used a carabiner clip since my saddle doesn't have a horn) and lead from your halter and lead rope, stirrups are run up while you're dismounted, and check your girth before you mount.  But the real test was a bale of hay next to the mounting block!  We got penalty points because naturally Cupid had to try to take a few bites!

There is some terminology specific to Trail Trails that I didn't understand, that messed me up on a few obstacles.  I hadn't practiced dragging something behind Cupid, and one of the obstacles had a noisy bag tied to a rope we had to pull on the ground.  (Similar to the bag we picked up and carried in our most recent working eq clinic, which Cupid was very good about but I wasn't sure about dragging.)  To my pleasure Cupid did it perfectly!  Unfortunately for us, in Trail Trials "pulling" means you have the object in front of you and rein back, and what we did was "drag" which means have it behind you and walk forward.  So we got all 24 penalty points for the obstacle because we didn't fulfill the objective.  I was still thrilled with Cupid because he did exactly what I asked, but so disappointed I didn't understand the directions!!  But now I know the difference for/if there's a next time.

Overall I was happy with Cupid, although we have several things we need to work on.  Side passing for one!  And I was thinking maybe he doesn't see me like the leader and that's why he gets so focused on being with other horses.  It's a hard one, even when there were horses still behind us he wanted to go with the others heading on ahead and it was a bit discouraging at times because we messed up some obstacles I know we should be able to do better on!  I'm not sure I'll go to any more Trail Trials this year because there aren't any more that are close-ish to me, but if I go again in the future at least I'll have a much better idea of what to expect!

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

One Month Later

 Whoops, that last month went by quick!  Here's a quick recap of what happened.

-No shows.  It's been kind of light year so far, but I have a few I'm planning towards this summer and then the Regional Adult Amateur Competition in the fall, which we've already qualified for, for Training Level.  Hopefully we can move up to First at the end of the year (technically our next show year).

-We got to go back and do more cattle work!  I was worried Cupid might be a little more keyed up the second time since he would kind of know what to expect, but he was super and we had a lot of fun!  I wish it was closer (it's a 2 hour haul), but hopefully we can go again soon.

-We've been trail riding fairly regularly!  I finally found someone at my barn who wants to go with me, and has a fairly similar schedule plus our horses get along (she has a mare and a gelding, and even the mare seems to like Cupid) and walk about the same speed so it's worked out perfectly!

Golden poppies

-I haven't been going to biomechanics lessons, but I've made some good improvements in my riding!  Hopefully this summer I can go back for a few tune ups.

-I've been averaging a weekly lesson with my trainer, but sometimes we skip a week and then try to get 2 in the following.  Our biggest focus lately has been getting more push from behind.

-On light days I've been playing around with neck reining and jogging, and practicing opening/closing gates.  

-We have a Trail Trial coming up next weekend! 

-Cupid has been super good in the outdoor - he hasn't been spooky or distracted at all like he sometimes can be out there!

-Screen shots from a recent run through First Level Test 1.

Trotting down the center line


Halt at G

Friday, April 9, 2021

A Hunt For Show Breeches - Tredstep Nero II and Ovation Destiny Super-X

My show breeches are starting to look a bit dingy, so I thought I'd start the hunt for a new pair.  I have previously written about my favorite curvy fit breeches, but I decided to look for some with silicone seats.  And preferably closer to $100 than 200+.  

The first one I decided upon was the Tredstep Symphony Nero II.  My only previous experience with Tredstep was boots, which I didn't really love but I hadn't tried any of their clothing.  Neither Smartpak nor their own website a size chart, but a few comments mentioned curvy fit and Tredstep had a little booty diagram  that seemed promising, lol.  Since I wasn't familiar with the brand I decided to size up to a 26.  

These breeches have a light weight, stretchy fabric they describe as a "new fabric with the incorporation of Meryl Actisystem™ which is a new complete system of innovative fibers, that is lightweight and breathable."  They are not see through, though you can kind of see the outline of the pockets in the front. 

They are a mid-rise - I have a short torso and they come about 1.5" below my belly button, but are a bit higher in the back.  When I first put them on they looked like they were kind of gapping in the waist, but they quickly somehow molded to my body and then lay smooth.  I have a 29" inseam and they hit right at the top of my ankle bone.  They are a bit loose especially around my knee and lower leg, but I'm not sure the 24 would be comfortable.  They fit my basic criteria, and at $109 I think I like them well enough to keep and use for summer shows.

The second one I tried was the Ovation Destiny Super-X.  These normally retail for $150, but are currently on sale at Smartpak for $105 which I why I decided to try them.  I also got the size 26. 

The fabric feels pretty similiar in touch to the Tredstep, maybe just a small fraction more substantial.  They are described as "mid-weight, woven Super-X™ nylon spandex material that is super soft to the skin." You can't really see in the picture but the white silicon seat is a pretty paisley pattern, and there is some grey paisley detail along the back pockets (which admittedly I don't love for show breeches), and on the sock bottoms.

They are also mid-rise and hit about the same as the Tredstep in the front, but go up a bit higher in the back.  They are also a bit longer in the leg.

Even though they are stretchy, and actually seem to fit well, they somehow felt weirdly tight across my hips.  Even though I love the perceived value at 30% off, overall I just didn't love these and am sending them back. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Riding After Kids - 2 Years Later

I've seen a lot of questions on COTH with people wondering how having kids will affect your riding habit.  Of course it's different for everyone depending on your personal circumstances, but I thought I would share my experience if anyone is interested (or feel free to skip this entry if you're not.)  I previously wrote about riding while pregnant about midway through my pregnancy.  Then I didn't really address it specifically because it was pretty much business as usual; I was fortunate to have a very easy pregnancy and was able to ride normally up until delivery, and then started back up 3 weeks later.  I rode in my last rated show at 6 months and last schooling show 8 months pregnant.  That was the last show of the season anyhow, as my son was born in mid-November.

As you can see from my blog, I remain very active now 2 years later.  I am very fortunate to have a very supportive partner, and also my parents live about half an hour away (or half an hour from the barn) and will occasionally watch my son on the weekends while I ride.  And I'm also fortunate to have a very healthy and happy, easy to manage baby / now child!

I consider riding part of my self-care so for the most part I don't feel guilty about taking personal time to do it.  I know that can be really hard, sometimes even if you have the support just getting over the mental hurdle.  But it's good for your partner to spend one on one time with their child too!  (Even though I breastfed my son was also equally good taking a bottle from a young age.)  Yes sometimes I feel guilty, especially if I'm gone at a horse show or trail riding most of the day or miss bedtime or something.  But then I tell myself it is a good example I want my son to follow to work hard and pursue his passion.  As an adult now sometimes I look back and feel kind of sad for my mom who seemingly didn't do much for herself and was always dedicated to taking care of her 4 (!!!!) daughters.  

For the past year I feel like I've had less time than ever - somehow that hour I'm supposedly saving by not commuting to work never materialized.  Last spring to early summer our daycare was closed, which posed an additional challenge but again my very supportive partner did his best to make sure I had time to ride most days.  (I usually ride Cupid about 5 days / week.)  

I used to go to the barn very early (with my partner taking our son to daycare), then to work from there, work out at the company gym at lunch, pick up from daycare around 5, and finish work in the evening after my son goes to bed.  Now I usually spend mornings with the family and take my son to daycare around 8 (which is about 3 minutes from our house), and if I have no morning meeting I go to the barn from there, go home and work, work out late in the afternoon, pick my son up and have dinner and family time until he goes to bed around 8, and then either relax and watch tv or finish up work if needed.

Plus now I bring him to the barn with me usually one weekend day each week.  He has always been comfortable around horses, and enjoys his barn time.  I started sitting him on Cupid when he was about 1.5 years old.  Initially I would lead Cupid while my partner walked alongside - but luckily we've never had any sort of near miss as he seems to sit well balanced.  I use my jumping saddle and put a grab strap on the d-rings, although Cupid's chiropractor offered to bring a kid saddle her sons outgrew next time she comes.  We walk around the property, and if we pass by anyone my son tells them "I'm riding Cupid!!"  As soon as my son says he wants off (which is usually after anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, his attention span is not very long!) we are done.  It's not worth pushing it.  

I also tell him he can't ride unless he helps groom Cupid before, and feed him after - teaching responsibility!  He is not super into grooming but loves taking Cupid's bucket to the feed room and scooping up the grain and measuring supplements.  And then tries to eat it himself, lol. 

Now my partner is not a horse person and is a lot more nervous having our son around horses.  I know things can happen even with the most laid back horse, and we talked about the risks.  I try to demonstrate good habits and make sure my child is paying attention, but yeah sometimes he walks between Cupid's legs under his belly, or pulls on his tail or pokes his face.  Cupid is very tolerant (it probably doesn't help that my son gives him about 10x more carrots than I usually do!) 

If my son wants to continue riding, I'll be very happy to give him that opportunity.  But if he decides it's not for him that will be fine too.  For now I will continue enjoying both my alone and family time at the barn. =)

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Working Equitation Clinic, Gate Work, and Neck Reining

On Sunday Cupid and I went to a working equitation clinic.  Actually it was a bit more of a playday/free practice session, not structured but there was a trainer there offering help.  There was a course laid out, most people worked on the obstacles individually and then went through the entire course once or twice.  (If you stayed to the end, there was an opportunity to run through the entire course without other horses in the arena and with the trainer helping you through, but I left before this.)

My main goal going into it was to practice the gate, which we still have not really been able to do as usually Cupid backs up when I start opening it.  So the trainer offered to help me, and helped me break it down.  So first I was just to stop Cupid alongside the gate, let him halt a few moments, and walk off.  Then we halted by the gate, backed a step and halted, took a step forward, and halted.  Then I unlatched it and back a step, halted, stepped back forward and latched it shut, and walked off.  Then she partially opened the gate and held it there, and had me stop Cupid in the new position.  Then she opened the gate further and had me stop from the other side.  And finally stand by it shut from the other side.  She suggested I try this a few more times, breaking it down into steps and preferably with someone on the ground to help and make Cupid very comfortable with each position.  

This was really helpful - though I must say I was a bit sad that there wasn't a quick fix and we are now opening and closing gates no problem lol.

Photo by S. Roundy

Cupid was very good with the other obstacles.  The only thing really new for us was a feed sack, stuffed and tied, sitting on a barrel that we needed to pick up and carry around one of the other obstacles then back to the barrel.  Cupid seemed to recognize the sack as what his food comes in and had no hesitation approaching it.  He was a little concerned about it bouncing on his shoulder as I carried it, but got used to it.  And I have to say, we've been practicing a bit of neck reining at home and I was very happy with how he good he was with me reining one handed with the sack in my other hand!  For novice level apparently you need to pick the sack up from a trot!  But if I show it will be at intro, where you are allowed to walk or even stop to pick it up.

We also worked on our neck reining with the pole (garrocha).  In the competitions and practices I've done before we just had to pick up the pole, spear a ring, and put it in a second barrel on a straight line but this course actually had you carry the pole and ring through your next obstacles (ground poles to step over), turn 180 degrees back around and place the pole back into the barrel you got it from.  And Cupid was a rockstar at this!  (As intro level, we just did it at a walk.)  We also practiced putting the garrocha in the barrel and walking a full circle around holding it, again more neck reining.

Photo by S. Roundy

The clinician told us it is not really about the obstacles themselves, the obstacles are just place holders.  You are judged on bend, square halts, smooth transitions, etc.  (unless you're me and you drop the gate, give up and get a 0!)

This course was also quite a bit more technical then ones I've done before, and really made you think about your route.  At intro it is a bit easier because you trot in between obstacles, but the clinician said for the highest points most judges want to see you riding the same as if you were in a higher division and had to canter - so think about which lead you need to be on and how you will approach each obstacle straight.  As well as making sure you don't cross an obstacles you haven't completed yet (for instance ride in between barrels or poles), as that is an automatic elimination.  It was interesting hearing the clinician and some of the more experienced riders share their thought process on how they plan their route.

I was really glad we did this clinic - it gave us new things to work on and was also just low stress and fun!  I'm not sure if we will be able to attend any WE shows this year, I wish they were closer, but it sounds like there will be one only an hour away this fall so maybe we will aim towards that.