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.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Training Aid or Gadget? - Pessoa Lunging System

Sometimes I hesitate to put up pictures or write about something some people may find controversial.  (Not that there are that many people reading this.)  But this is my journal, so I'm just going to go ahead and say that I got a Pessoa and have been lunging Cupid in it about once a week to help encourage him to use his hind end.

The first time I used it I let Cupid warm up in the walk and trot without it.  Then I put it on with my trainer there to help me adjust it correctly, and he was pretty accepting.  We trotted both directions, and it was easier to get him forward and stepping under himself compared to when I just use side reins.  He bucked when I asked him to canter, but was fine after that.  

I am using the Pessoa the same way I am trying to ride him, with more push from behind into a steady contact.  Except unfortunately when I ride I don't think my contact is steady enough, which is why I thought the Pessoa will help Cupid figure out what we're trying to do.  I think he's looked pretty good with it and doesn't seem to mind.

I've heard the arguments against it, but I consider the Pessoa a training aid, and a useful tool if used in moderation and with knowledge.  Which is how I feel about most gear - some things I wouldn't use myself, but it could be useful for a given horse with the right rider/handler.  For instance I'm not opposed to draw reins under the right circumstances - but it is not something I would use myself because as I said my hands aren't steady enough and I wouldn't really be comfortable right now with 2 reins.  Even bits that may seem unorthodox I feel like for some horses and with a very quiet educated rider they are fine.  So I hope no one is judging me for trying the Pessoa!

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Neue Schule Verbindend, Splurge vs Steal

Eons ago, last fall, my trainer lent me her NS Verbindend bit ("NS") to try on Cupid and she thought it was an improvement and I should get one.  At the time, I was a little uncertain because it felt like some of the ride was very good with Cupid feeling quite round (still a struggle, especially at that time) but he also came above the bit with more reaction then either the single joing snaffle or Herm Sprenger double joint I was primarily riding him in.  But I trust her judgment and bought one during black Friday.  Then unfortunately a few days later I got a message that it was back-ordered, delivery date uncertain.  

I thought about canceling the order and trying a different retailer, but I didn't want to lose my black Friday promotion.  I scoured Facebook tack groups but unfortunately did not find any the right size.  But then I came across UK-based Expert Bits that makes something that looked quite similar.  I was a bit hesitant to buy something I wasn't familiar with that didn't have many reviews.  But the company seemed legitimate, and I like that it's a family owned company, and at 1/3 the price of the NS I figured it was worth a try.

I placed my order and received my bit a week later!  My first few rides in it felt pretty similar to the NS - the good parts were very good but there was still some resistance where Cupid threw his head up in protest, more reactive then our old bit.  But after a few rides I was quite happy with it.

Now after long last I finally received the NS and laid it by the dupe for comparison.  They really are quite similar.  One difference is the width - NS comes in 12mm or 16 (mine is 12), and the Expert bit is right in between at 14mm.  The center link is slightly smaller on the NS, and the holes in it smaller.  The NS is also a bit more sharply angled.  Both bits are a copper alloy but I don't know the composition - the NS is shinier and I think maybe a bit softer (I've only had one ride in it, but you can see some light teeth marks which wasn't the case with the other one.)

I've only had one ride in the NS, and it was good though I didn't really notice a difference from the Expert.  Our rides have been a bit inconsistent lately, so it just felt like any of our better recent rides.  Since I'll probably be using this bit for a while I don't regret buying the NS, but I think the Expert is a solid alternative.  Especially if you aren't able to test a NS before buying it and aren't sure it is right for your horse, or for young horses especially ones that chomp the bit, or just as a back-up to keep in your trailer, which is what I think I'll be doing with mine!

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Catching Up

Once again my blogging has fallen to the wayside.  Which also means I don't remember any details since I can barely remember what I ate for breakfast this morning.  So I'm just going to make a random list of some stuff I remember from the past few weeks.

-Cupid and I went to our first show since last fall.  He must have been picking up on my nerves because he was kind of tight through his body.  It wasn't great, but not a total disaster either (aside from a swapped lead and a few exuberant canter departs.)  We once again got an 8 for one of our halts, yay!  Plus I think we got the last needed score for our Regional Adult Amateur Competition this summer, so we are going to aim towards that!

Red ribbons for Valentine's Day

-We went on a trail ride, again at Wunderlich with the same pair we've been going with last fall.  My friend's mare has been doing very well her first few trail rides, but she does get nervous with wet ground or footing changes or sometimes just large objects near the ground (like stumps).  We took these two horses to a desensitization clinic, and discovered that the best way to help her through these situations is not by me riding ahead and hoping she follows, but by having Cupid stop right in/by the water/mud/scary thing and then have her come up alongside.  Discovering that in the arena has given us a very helpful tool to use on the trail!


-I've been continuing to ride with rainbow reins, and still find it very helpful.  The first few times I rode in them my hands felt tired by the end (since now I'm actually holding myself accountable for not letting them slide), but now I've come to prefer the added thickness and have ordered thicker black reins for shows.

-We've been blessed with nice weather for the most part.  Cupid's pasture is still muddy, and our outdoor arena has been closed several times, but overall it's been an easy winter so far.

The dark bay OTTB club

-I haven't had a biomechanics lessons the past few weeks, but hope to start back again soon.  I've also been having some trouble coordinating my regular lessons between my trainer's busy schedule and mine but hopefully we can work on that.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Developing Feel With Rainbow Reins

So after doing dressage almost exclusively for what, like 3 years now? I am still working on developing feel.  Unfortunately the last 3 years are pretty short compared to the rest of my riding "career" where I basically lived by the rule of don't touch the horse's mouth.  So as much as my trainer has told me to shorten my reins (and yes, I do understand that roundness doesn't come from the reins, but you do need a consistent contact which I generally lack), it never really sunk it.  So finally I resorted to good old fashioned rainbow reins.  Not just for 8 year old pony kids anymore. 😆  

It has been a huge help!  Now I know, generally in working gaits my hands should be right in between the green and pink (and no cheating with straight elbows!)  And then once I'm there, it really helps make sure I don't let the reins slide longer, which I usually do.  It still feel weird to me to be riding with that much contact, though Cupid generally does go better.  He does resist sometimes, and I think it's going to take him a little while to trust it fully since the poor guy is used to me dropping him constantly over the past 5+ years. 

So even though I thought it might be a little silly, I'm really glad I tried this.  Hopefully this will help me develop the feel and I will be able to replicate it without the colors to guide me!