Monday, October 30, 2017

Fast Acting Abscess

I rode Cupid on Friday, everything was normal.  We had plans to go to the Horse Park the next day, so I didn't go to the barn my usual early hour.  Then Saturday morning I get a call from our shoer, asking if he should do Cupid's feet.  Normally he just comes on a regular schedule, I wasn't sure why he was asking me.  The only thing I could think of was maybe he wasn't quite due but if it doesn't get done today then maybe he wouldn't be able to until he's overdue.  So I asked how long it's been, the shoer said 6 weeks.  I said go ahead and do him.  Then the shoer asked what happened, I'm still confused.  Finally I realize he's saying Cupid is lame!  Not just lame but totally dead lame!  I told him I'd be there in half an hour.  I get there and sure enough Cupid can barely hobble out of his stall.  The shoer tested his hoof but couldn't see where it was hurting.

I soaked his foot with epsom salt, then poulticed and wrapped.  Even though Cupid has had several abscesses I decided to call the vet.  The vet confirmed the diagnosis, and tested his feet but wasn't able to locate it either but suspected it may be in the bar.  I poulticed and wrapped, and Cupid stayed in his stall.

By Sunday morning Cupid was walking comfortably.  In fact when I brought him out for a walk he was full of energy, prancing instead of walking.  I couldn't see that anything had burst, but it was hard to tell since I had put icthammol on it.  So I soaked his foot again, and this time wrapped with a dry poultice.  By his second walk Cupid was still full of energy, so I decided to try turning him out for a little bit while I watch to make sure he stays out of trouble.  Cupid looked like he wanted to play, but the other horses ignored him so Cupid decided it wasn't worth it running around by himself.  After about an hour I put him back in his stall.

While I was hanging out with Cupid this weekend I got a lot done, cleaning most of my tack and also practiced my dressage braids!  I haven't braided a horse in over 15 years, but my trainer recently showed me her method.  The best part is I don't even really have to pull Cupid's mane for it, yay!
First attempt
Day 2 attempt

I also got the opportunity to ride one of my trainer's horses, a thoroughbred gelding much further along than Cupid.  It felt strange and was a little scary riding a different horse, but he was was good.  He did test me a little, luckily just by taking small steps and not by running or bucking! 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Fixing my Arms and Hands

We had a flatwork lesson on Thursday.  My instructor has been on my case for a long time about how my inside hand still likes to do a leading rein.  She thinks I forget that Cupid is not a green 3 year old who needs it anymore; in truth I don't even realize I'm doing it.  So in sheer frustration I help my whip in both hands, horizontal over Cupid's withers under both thumbs.  Now my hands are locked together so the inside one can't go floating towards the center!  As an added bonus it prevents me from twisting at my right wrist, another bad habit of mine.  I need a catchy name for this, on par with T-rex arms!  Whip hands?  Sorry it's the best I can think of.

We had been riding on a 20 meter circle, alternating an outward bend, then switching back to an inside bend and doing a 10 meter circle.  It was in the 10 meter circle that I was really having the inside rein problems which led to the whip hands.  So I did the whip hands and my trainer said great idea!  I told her I didn't think I could do a 10 meter circle with whip hands, so we just aimed for going from a 20 meter circle to a "smaller circle".  It did feel pretty weird, and was hard to maintain the circle.  But I guess this is what it should feel like if I'm actually using the outside rein?
Trying to emulate the proper position (but my elbows are still too forward)

We then practiced trot-canter transitions with the whip hands.  Cupid was still a touch behind the leg, though after a few he started anticipating them. 

On Friday I tacked up in my jumping saddle for a group lesson with one other rider, to add a little variety for Cupid.  We ended up doing flatwork the majority of the lesson except a few minutes of trot poles on the end, but I'm still trying to nail down those transitions.  I did a bit more of the whip hands.  Cupid seemed a little tired (or maybe was just ignoring me, but I'll give him the benefit of doubt), so we had a few where he just starting trotting super fast so we regrouped and tried again.  But we had a few good ones. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

T-rex Arms - Riding with Whip Behind my Back

I had my first lesson in my new saddle today, and was excited to get my trainer's feedback on whether the improvements I felt where real or just in my head.

Cupid was very lazy to start.  I tried getting a good walk going while we were warming up, and he would respond but then quickly taper off a bit.  I was even worried that maybe Cupid didn't like the saddle!  But as we kept going I could feel him start stepping under himself.

My trainer confirmed that I was indeed sitting up much straighter in this saddle.  Yay!  But my arms and hands still need work.  So we revisited what I call the t-rex exercise; riding with the whip behind my back, in front of my elbows.  I need to be careful because it does tip me forward a little, but it is pretty much the only way I actually bend my elbows!  While I'm doing it it doesn't feel unnatural, but as soon as I remove the whip my elbows go straight again. :/  It also helps me with some of my other bad habits, like pumping with my arms/upper body, pulling the inside rein, and doing weird things like lifting my hands when I ask for the canter.  But it does make it hard to keep a steady contact, or shorten the reins when I inevitably let my hands open and the reins start to slip.

We did a lot of transitions between trot and canter, on a 20 meter circle.  It is still definitely a work in progress, but we had a few decent ones.

If you want to try T-rex arms, I recommend wearing a long sleeved shirt, as I usually get some abrasions on my elbows from the whip!  (Unless you have a smooth whip, mine is woven nylon.  Or maybe I'm just very unsteady??)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

New Saddle - Stubben Juventus dressage

The dressage saddle I ordered almost 2 months ago has arrived!  After much deliberation, I selected the Stubben Juventus.  This saddle is designed for youths, or petite adults.  It only comes in one seat size and flap length, so it is quicker to make and also less expensive, so I was quite lucky that the size happens to fit me well!  I am 5'2", with I think average proportions for my height.  When I tried the demo saddle it fit me well, but was big on Cupid.  The saddle fitter said he is a 29 tree - which I didn't expect since his Stubben jumping saddle is a 31.  But they are different models, and that one is foam while this one is wool flocked. I was a little nervous that I wouldn't like it as much as I remembered from when I tried the demo.  I've also heard a lot of horror stories about people buying new custom saddles that end up not fitting at all.  I am happy to say that I am quite pleased with my new saddle, but I did have a shock when I opened the box.  The demo dressage saddle had a patent trim, and also rhinestones on the stirrup leather keepers and on the back of the saddle.  I asked the fitter if I could get it with all black leather, no trim.  I asked for the regular leather, not calf skin, so it would be more durable.  When I opened the box I realized the saddle had the rhinestones!  Ack!

I was panicking a little, thinking I would have to either live with a sparkly saddle or wait 6-8 weeks for another one.  But my rep told me the rhinestone parts were interchangeable, and when he comes out in 2 weeks to adjust the flocking he will remove it and replace with plain pieces.  Phew!

The saddle has a point billets (comes out from the bottom of the knee roll), so I'm still kind of getting used to that.  I think I only put the rear billet through the saddle pad keepers?  The saddle also comes with a velcro knee block.  My trainer helped me adjust it.  At first we had it a bit low and it wasn't comfortable, but I think it's in the proper place now.

I like the leather a lot.  Despite not being calf, it is fairly soft and had a nice light grip.  I opted for the Biomex seat, and a few rides in I think it does help my lower back quite a bit!  Sometimes my lower back is starting to hurt by the end of an hour long ride, maybe it was a coincidence but I didn't feel anything today.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


The air quality has been very poor due to fires nearby, so we have been advised to take it easy with our horses.  Luckily we are not in danger of the fires themselves, they are about 2 hours north of us, but that area has been devastated and horses and people up there had to evacuate.  I never thought about that happening to me, but at least now I have the trailer if I do need to move Cupid in an emergency.

We have been doing some flatwork, keeping it fairly light.  My trainer created a canter exercise meant to address our imbalance: when we go to the right we do a 20 meter circle at E or B, then shoulder in down the rest of the long side and circle again at A or C.  To the left we leg yield instead of shoulder in.  This exercise also helps me work on preparing better for the changes, since the elements in the exercise come up pretty quickly.  When we went to the left I let Cupid drop to a trot a few times; to the right I didn't really have to do anything to keep him going.  So note to self to make sure I keep my leg on, especially as we're going on his weaker side!

Cupid got his vaccines and his teeth done.  The vet said he did have some hooks in his teeth, hopefully he is feeling more comfortable now.  The following day I decided we should do a groundwork lesson instead of ride.  Cupid seems to have fun with it.  We worked on backing up straight; he tends to drift towards his right side so it was easier keeping him straight when I was on his right side.  But he is pretty good at moving off just following my feet.  A new exercise we did was moving his shoulders.  Right now I'm not able to quite isolate the front end, but my trainer said to accept it as long as the shoulder was moving even if his hind end followed.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Trail Ride at Runnymede Sculpture Garden

There was a local schooling show last weekend, and I thought it would be good for Cupid and me to go and redeem ourselves after the combined test disaster, but then I decided a trail ride would be more fun. :p

Cupid loaded up nicely, and we set off.  I parked down the road from my friend's barn (since it's too narrow to turn around closer), and tied Cupid to the trailer to tack up.  I had him stand along a fence to mount (I need to get a little mounting block/step stool for my trailer!) and headed up.  Cupid was looking around a little but walking calmly.  My friend met us midway coming the opposite direction, riding one horse and ponying the other.  Our original plan was to ride in Huddart Park, where we rode last time, but we got to the trail head and there was a sign saying it was closed.  So we decided to try the sculpture garden instead; I've heard of it but never been there and wasn't sure if Cupid would be bothered by the art.

The sculpture garden is flatter than Huddart, and the trails wider.  I kept Cupid behind my friend's horse and he was very good, walking along on a loose rein pretty much the entire ride.  We tried closing a gate, but the gate swung both directions and didn't stay in the middle so you had to hold it the whole time.  Cupid moved his butt over along the fence when I asked, but then he started backing up when I had the gate in one hand and the chain in the other, so my friend ended up getting it.  Oh well, something we still need to work on!

The art is mainly large metal abstract pieces, but there were some that were animals or people.  Cupid didn't bat an eye at any of them.  My friend's been through there many times on her horses so they didn't care, so I think Cupid followed their lead! 

We walked around for about 2 hours, and even though we only walked Cupid was sweaty.  We got back to the trailer and I realized I should have filled my water reservoir.  All I had was a 20 oz water bottle!  I poured it into a bucket and Cupid drank it all, I felt bad I didn't have more for him.

I was about to load him back up, when I realized there was a horse behind the fence next to us.  The horse came up to the fence, and then Cupid really wanted to go make friends.  Then he didn't want to load.  I hope he was just distracted by the horse, and not hesitant because he doesn't like my driving or the trailer!  But he got on and seemed quiet on the way home.