Tuesday, July 25, 2017

hell or high water

The heat wave has continued, bleh, and this past weekend was particularly hot. Like, really nasty. But surprisingly we actually had a pretty big group for our weekly jump lesson at OF. Definitely not something to be missed, apparently!

uncharacteristically, i forgot my half pad when packing the trailer, so opted to use this Success Equestrian pad with built in extra cushioning
Charlie has been working really well and really hard for the last couple of weeks - really figuring some stuff out about his new life. So I was eager to see where he'd be for this lesson.

i love the look but unfortunately it still needs a half pad, sits too far down on him
Verdict? He was pretty good, but not great - but did have some stuff to teach me about what he needs for warm up and riding consistency. Meaning, I had kept our warm up very short and sweet due to the heat, but then ended up needing to continue schooling our flat work a little bit in between jump turns bc he wasn't really where I wanted him to be.

trotting like a whole new horse on his way to his first liverpool 
He was STRONG for this lesson. Having moments of softness and give on the flat (like I said, he's really figuring it out), but also moments of basically blowing right through me. Then it started drizzling and the wetness + his sweat slick neck meant I had a lot of trouble hanging on to my reins. Not a great feeling on a strong horse haha!

game faces engaged!
The lines were all measured at not really great distances for us too - everything seemed to be set at fairly open distances, at 4 and 5 strides. Ideally I'd love to work on schooling the add stride, but that's pretty tough to do with lots of long straight approaches and 4 stride lines.

visually interesting "skinny" jump - note the single very high cross rail?
We tried tho. Managed to figure out how to get the add for 6 down the outside line that only involved my life flashing before my eyes once when Charlie almost got to the add but decided to go long after all. But like, LONG. As in, rider basically sitting on the horse's ass, slipping reins all the way to the buckle as the notoriously careless horse stretches out to superman over an oxer.

Luckily, Charlie seemed to agree that this style of jumping wasn't actually super fun and went for the add down that line after that lol.

he has such a great tail <3
The rest of the lines tho.... not so much. Particularly the two diagonal lines - you can see in the video that I'm finally starting to be able to form and influence his canter in the spaces between jumps. Charlie's developing a half halt (finally!), aided in no small part by me finally learning to sit down more haha.

just in case you thought i only ever got left behind over fences, here's a shot of me jumping ahead too lol
But it still takes too long to make it happen, and we don't land in the same canter we jump from. Which you can totally tell in the related distances. We get the in jump ok on a canter that almost looks like it could compress to the add stride - but then we land a little messy and the horse stretches out down the line to do the step, which ends up a little long bc of how we jumped in.

i think he likes the jumps up a little bit!
Eventually, obviously a horse this size can't and shouldn't necessarily always be doing the add stride - he's got a really lovely comfortable ground covering stride and doesn't need to be packaged down into nothing. But for right now, his tendency is to get strong and a little excited and rushy about the jumps - while kinda blowing through me as he goes.

i was quite pleased with how we reached some of the jumps
And as in all things with horse training, we spend the most time focusing on the things that are most challenging to the horse. This horse struggles in compressing his body and stride, in holding himself up while pushing from behind. So.... that's basically what we work on.

wheeee but not all of them lol
It's getting better all the time tho. Like, even tho Charlie was kinda strong in this lesson and kinda wanting to run through the bridle, there was still a LOT to be happy about. He made a lot of good choices, had a lot of really nice jumps, and felt pretty rideable through the ends of the arena (as opposed to careening off like a rocket ship).

jumping cute with a little extra gusto lol
Plus he was unfazed by the height of any of the jumps (some of which were about 2'9) or styles of jump - including his first liverpool, and a funny end jump with a barrel and a large cross rail coming across half of it to make it a skinny.

turbo tail!!
He was basically game to tackle anything, and I mostly felt pretty darn good about our communication and being 'in sync' with him (even tho I ended up ditching the gloves bc they seemed to be making things MORE slippery vs less).

this could have been such a much nicer photo if my leg was better behaved. sigh. 
All the same tho - I'm planning on adding a curb chain to the bit. That doesn't seem to be something commonly seen with this style elevator bit (tho apparently curb straps are less uncommon?) but it's been something I've been thinking about for a while. I actually bought a chain a while back but hadn't gotten around to adding it, esp after a couple jump rides of being pretty soft and consistent.

fun game: try to count the # of times charlie gets a little long to the fence then has to add in a little extra "gas power" to make it over lol. toot toot!

We'll try it now, tho, I think. If it ends up being too much or sitting funny or messing with the action of the bit, I'll try a plain leather strap (instead of a chain). But somehow I think it'll be just right.

He's a big strong horse who loves to run and seems kinda excited about this whole jumping thing. I'm getting better about staying with him and softening when called for - but it's also hard to be soft and giving in my arms and hands when I don't trust the brakes. Ideally I'd like to be able to get in there with my half halt, then give back and soften - rather than constantly feeling like I need to take a hold.

yay team!!
We'll see tho. In the meantime, Charlie's just been pretty exciting. I love the feeling of a horse starting to 'get' it - starting to feel schooled. It's addicting haha, and every time I get even the briefest moment of that feeling from Charlie, it just makes me hungrier for more.

unimpressed charlie is unimpressed
And in an effort to continue helping him develop, I'll be making some fairly significant changes next week in our standard day to day life. Like anything else, this means some sacrifices and trade offs - but I'm optimistic that it'll be a really good decision for the horse. Fingers crossed!

Monday, July 24, 2017

HKM Italia Soft Leather Tall Riding Boots

For the last few years I've worn brown Mondoni Kingston tall boots for basically everything except dressage tests. All schooling, all time spent hanging at the barn. Everything, always, all the time. I loved those boots and they served me well, but alas they reached the end of their useful life.

Meaning: I needed new schooling boots. Specifically: brown boots (bc duh) that cost < $200.

glamour shot
The biggest complicating factor here is that my calf size has changed in my left leg since breaking it almost two years ago. That leg in particular is .... bleh, just not really the same any more. Which meant that simply ordering the Mondonis again was off the table (the zipper on that leg wouldn't stay up any more, even on my well-broken-in boots).

yep that's a box!
In fact - I had begun to worry that the leg was maybe no longer off-the-rack sized any more and that I'd potentially be looking at needing to go the custom route - which would obviously blow my < $200 criterion. This is, from what I can tell, a common conundrum lol.

And honestly I actually looked at everything priced up to about $400. The only other promising boot was an Ariat, but sourcing them in brown proved problematic as well.

with boots in that box!
But lo! Stubborn persistent internet sleuthing uncovered what appear to be the single pair of brown tall boots that match my size specifications and were affordably priced. I found the HKM Italia boots on Tackville, with the size guide on yet another site haha.

not a lot of frills in this design - love that high top tho!
These are dress boots when I would have preferred field boots, and there was just one single photo on the website that didn't show the zipper situation on the boot. Honestly, the boots didn't even seem super attractive - and were maybe even kinda dubious in quality by appearances.

very simple detailing, a solid snaps
So obviously I clicked "order" haha.

I figured, these were legitimately the only boots that definitely matched my size specifications, were brown and were very reasonably priced. It felt worth the gamble on them maybe being kinda ugly. So long as they could potentially be functional, I wanted to take a shot.

plain shoe string pull tab for the zipper. and notably: not a lick of elastic anywhere
I remained some strange mix of cautiously optimistic and mildly dubious while waiting for the boots to arrive. Tackville shipping was ridiculously cheap ($7.79 for international shipping!), but also kinda ridiculously show. Trade offs, I guess.

detailing on the toe cap would make these boots look a little nicer, but i like the simple look
Finally tho, they arrived. Coming out of the box, I was underwhelmed by both the color of these boots (kinda chocolatey) and the feel. It is leather. But like. Maybe not what you think of when you think "Italian leather" lol. And getting them zipped up the first time was.... challenging.

old v. new
Actually I was surprised to see the boots don't have any elastic panels anywhere. Which, like... This is 2017, give me some damn elastic on my tall boots haha. But I put the left boot on first - the true test to see if they'd fit my weirdly sized calf. And - wonder of wonders, the boot went on! Put the right one on next and we were in business.

came with a pretty significant scuff out of the box. it cleaned off tho
The boots started off pretty tight around the middle of my calf, but fit really well at the top. They're also taller than the Mondonis (a definitely plus) and are generously enough sized at the top to keep the zipper up in place rather than trying to slide down.

they fit pretty well around the ankle. also why is it so hard to take pictures of yourself wearing boots?
The foot bed fits very well (I'm like, the most standard of standard size 7), tho there isn't a lot of cushioning. Might add some orthotic inserts bc #oldladyfeet haha.  All in all tho, with each subsequent ride, they've zipped up more and more easily (tho you better believe I'm gonna baby that zipper), and have broken in fairly quickly.

kinda shocked that they fit around the calf with no elastic lol
There have been no blisters or rubs - not in the ankle, nor behind the knee. Even when worn day after day, and for long periods of time.

first ride!
They also seemed to have a protective coating on them as water initially beaded off pretty easily. I've since cleaned and oiled them, which they've handled well with no discoloration or dye transfer.

no spur rests but that hasn't made a difference
After a week of regular use, my uncertain and skeptical feelings about these boots have melted away into feeling pretty freakin pleased with them. They fit well, are comfortable, and are brown boots that cost me less than $200. Check and check.

The quality is exactly what you would expect for those criteria: meaning, slightly rough around the edges. And I don't expect them to last me until the dawn of time.

boots in action!
But if they can hold up as long as the Mondonis did, I'll consider it a pretty solid success.

So for those of you out there looking for reasonably priced brown tall boots (or "long boots" as they apparently say in Europe haha) with harder-to-fit calf sizes, these HKMs are a solid option.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

things Charlie can do now

I'm not sure I ever wrote about our last dressage lesson, but it was about six weeks ago. So. Ya know. The trend continues with not getting enough face time with dressage trainer C. Hopefully that'll change in the near future tho!

However we've been working working working away at home, trying to really help Charlie understand what I'm asking him re: carrying himself in a new way.

i seriously love this arena tho!
And remember when I wrote about our lesson with Dan, lamenting that it would be difficult to replicate that work without Dan's constant instruction? Ha! Joke's on me, bc Charlie apparently internalized that lesson beautifully and has been super game to keep chipping away at it.

So when we finally got back to see dressage trainer C this past weekend, I basically had a whole new horse to show her. Well, being realistic, she sees a whole new horse almost every time bc six weeks in Charlie time can be fairly transformative lol. 

charlie is saving those carrot flecks as a snack for later, obvi
But I was able to show her our latest "new normal" this weekend: A horse who is learning to be softer and light in the bridle, who is starting to have a half halt (until he gets tired haha), and is showing the beginning of what will be a very nice rhythm to his trot. We're finally able to slow the tempo down without losing the push from his hind end. And she liked it!!

he still stands funny, but imo he looks pretty good right now!
And decided to really test it out, play with it, see if Charlie will do tricks haha. Essentially: to begin pushing the boundaries on the horse's nascent lateral and longitudinal suppleness.

Things we played with in this lesson:

- Leg yield from wall to quarter line
- Leg yield from quarter line to wall
- 15m trot circles
- Pushing the trot out across the long diagonal
- Trotting across the diagonal, walking after X
- Canter leg yield from quarter line to wall
- Canter across the diagonal, trotting after X
- Canter across diagonal, counter canter half circle to the long side, then trot before corner

he fairly hilariously got very excited about this random mound of untouched grass in the parking lot
Which like.... that's actually a lot of stuff for Sir Charles! The leg yields and 15m circles aren't exactly new, we've been playing with them for a while now. But going both toward and away from the wall was new - tho occasionally we'd throw in just a straight track down the quarter line to keep him from anticipating.

All the work across the diagonals was new tho - both pushing him out and bringing him in for a down transition. He actually had one big trot across the diagonal where he stayed round, but also stayed really balanced as he opened his stride. It's not a medium yet by any stretch of the imagination, but there was a distinct transition both into and out of it. Baby steps, y'all, I'll take it!

"mmmm but it's so good tho!"
The counter canter work was the really exciting part too - bc Charlie just kinda.... did it haha. I was especially pleased with getting to practice it, as I had been struck by just how much counter canter everyone seemed to be doing at Windurra during our tour. Apparently it's an important exercise?

i'm pretty sure it's from some old pile of dirt or whatever that should have been moved ages ago, so charlie is just doing his part to keep the grounds tidy!
Anyway, tho, the biggest takeaways for me to remember from this lesson were that I need to be really purposeful with all my transitions now. Wait for softness, roundness, before asking for the transition. Always. And forever. That I need to continue riding my horse as he feels in that moment even as trainer C is calling out movements.

Charlie needs me to be very present for him right now, especially as he's beginning to understand the game - he needs reaffirmation, reward for good effort, and consistency in what I'm asking.

"dis my special grass!"
Really tho? He was so good! Trainer C was very impressed by how he just kept going, just kept doing whatever. And actually looked pretty pleasant in his expression while doing it. At one point she kinda joked that he looked like he was concentrating so hard haha. Good boy :)

I really need to get some new dressage media bc I'm dying to see what he really looks like. He goes so differently from Isabel that I'm still very much learning my feel for putting all the pieces together. But things are feeling really good.

It feels like Charlie kinda sees what I'm trying to get at now. He's such a thinking horse that once he understands the point, understands what I want, he just kinda does it. Which is obviously helpful haha. I'm actually really eager to see how it all might play out in our next competition too. We're still not quite consistent enough to expect a seismic shift in scores.... but I'm curious.

Anyway. Transformations, yo. They are cool. And it's really cool to feel when something starts to "click" for a horse. It's downright addicting haha, now I just want more and more! I'm feeling greedy haha. Do you ever feel that way? When something finally really starts working and you just want to keep going and going with it?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Adult Camp Adventures: MDHT & Pony Club!

Last Friday I wanted to keep the magic of Adult Camp rolling after a great day spent at Windurra. So I got up early to get that big bad bay boy ridden before the heat of the day, then set off in the afternoon to Loch Moy to catch the 1* and 2* show jumping!

Molly Kinnamon and The Diesel Boy were the final to go for Intermediate.
It started off super promising too - when just as I walked across the parking lot I passed Buck Davidson on his way to dressage, and Phillip Dutton coming back from show jumping.

Naturally, I smiled and said hi to both (remembering the friendliness of everyone at Windurra!) - and they were each kinda puzzled, trying to figure out if they should know me or not lol. #creepstar3000 strikes again!!

video of their lovely round here, with just the last one down

Anyway, I made it over to show jumping just in time to catch the very last rounds of the Intermediate - including watching Molly Kinnamon put in a nice effort with her handsome black horse, The Diesel Boy.

It looked like a pretty tricky but also pretty fun course - a far cry from the stuff that's usually set up in that ring when we show haha!

can we say #riggoals?
Since there would be a break in the jumping while they reset the course, I booked it back to dressage to watch Buck finish warming up and ride his test. Tho to my surprise, he was already in the court by the time I got there. Guess the horse didn't need much warm up!

the epic battle between the primal urge to run away from the storm, and the need to be fancy as fuck while doin it lol
Except, just as I arrived ringside, the skies opened and it poured, complete with lightning and thunder. Sigh. Buck kinda looked at the judge in the middle of his test and then.... just left haha. Trotted out of the court, out of the warm up, and around through the parking lot back to the barns.

"and i'm siiiiiiinging in the rain!"
Naturally, he was closely followed by the other horses in the dressage area. While obviously I was disappointed by the weather, it was honestly almost comical watching these very nice horses come zooming out of the arena at high-speed fancy prancing on their way to safety lol.

The storm was intense - but brief. LOTS of rain, then over quickly. Alas with apparently a long line of storms on the radar, show organizers called it for the evening to resume the next morning, rather than risk being shut down by another incoming storm cell.

Which, like, kinda blew since I drove all that way out there and only really saw one full competitor's test - Molly's show jumping above. Oh well.

check out that sky tho! also. this is the same jump (now repainted) that had been immortalized as this blog's header when Izzy sailed over it to finish our last novice back in 2015
I made it worth my while tho by walking the Novice cross country course. This event didn't offer BN, but I want to start adjusting my eye up anyway. Reconnaissance and all that good stuff. Plus I was curious to see just how different the recognized course was from the unrecognized.

Verdict? Honestly not that different. Biggest notable differences were in length (it felt longer, but that could just be me) and in the number of A-B combinations: 3, where I'd only seen 1 on the unrecognized novice courses I've walked there.

pony clubber? or impostor? you decide!
The combinations were all pretty standard tho - a plain old four stride line between two inviting jumps; the entry to the water flagged as A then a coop three strides out of the water as B; and the ditch three strides to another coop type thing. So. Ya know. Pretty reasonable.

And naturally most of the jumps on course were things I'd done before with Izzy. There were maybe three or four elements that looked reeeeeally squicky to me (mostly the stuff with uphill approaches, and a giant brush table ((but emma, horses love brush jumps!))) but mostly? It looked pretty good. The future, yo. Ahhh the future.

dis austen's wine face
Obviously tho there wasn't much use in hanging around show grounds any longer - so I did what any normal person would do: met up at Austen's barn with her and her wine bottle to watch some pony clubbers (and her barn mates) have a jump night.

definitely pony club approved, right Stephanie???
I mean, tail gating is tail gating, right? And pony clubbers are basically the next best thing to 1* show jumpers, right? Right?? 

see, we even had stemware!
So. Ya know. That was fun. Lol.... At least we kinda sorta made good use of ourselves. Two of Austen's barn mates planned on schooling their horses through the jumper rounds too, and Austen got to act as photographer.

does this little pocket rocket remind you of anyone?
I took a couple videos for the riders too, but mostly just watched (and drank lol). In particular, my eye was drawn to this little red dynamo, for maybe obvious reasons lol. Remind you of anyone?

can't forget Pig tho!
All in all, not a terrible way to pass an evening (esp with pizza at the end!). Tho I was sorry to miss out on some upper level spectating. Ah well. Next time!

just a cute barn. nothin to see here, move right on along
As it is tho, adult camp has officially come to a close. Work resumes, pony boot camp continues, and we've still got another full month ahead of us before returning to the competition scene ourselves.

definitely nothing to see here either, damn those boots have seen better days!
And I'm trying to use this time wisely. Not only in schooling the horse - which, actually, is going really well - but also in doing my own due diligence in making sure we're set up for success.

Some of this relates to taking care of equipment and gear maintenance or replacements. And some of it relates to my longer term plans for the horse and his needs.

just the handsome big bad bay boy, sporting his super classy footwear (and shoes, plz for the love of god charlie keep on those shoes!)
Plus, ya know, anything that involves identifying a need for shopping is always pretty fun haha. Latest acquisitions include schooling and show breeches, and new tall boots. And maybe some other stuff too. Ya know. The usual.

Anyway. It's back to reality for now tho - with just the hope and promise of more fun spectating events and whatnot in the future!

What about you - what are your favorite horsey things to do when time is a non-issue, when you've got all the free time in the world? Is it attending big events? Touring facilities like Windurra or the big TB breeding farms in Kentucky? Shopping? Smaller get-togethers at friends' barns? Hardcore riding lessons or clinics for yourself? Or lots of quiet time with your horse? All of the above? Or something else entirely?