Saturday, January 31, 2015

dramatic interpretation of saddle shopping (via gifs)

The following is an interpretive dance between a mechanical pony (representing me) and my cat (the voice of reason), reflecting on the saddle shopping experience. 

unlikely dancing partners

Via gifs bc duh. 

me: "woot woooot i found a promising trial saddle!! so EXCITE, much HOPE!!"

cat: "it's an all purpose with questionable leather and reviews saying it's not great for jumping"
me: "no no, not listening... la la la i can't HEAR YOU"

cat: "oh, it also doesn't fit your horse"
me: " ... boo"

You can pretty much replace the cat's points with anything - who knew there are so many ways to derail a potential saddle?!?! So I feel this realistically conveys the general saddle shopping experiences - both the highs and low low lows lol.


Re: the Stubben - after my first test ride I'm feeling.... conflicted. It was comfortable and Isabel went very nicely. And it seems to mostly fit her, tho it maybe moves a little bit over fences? Or was that just my imagination? Perhaps that's something that a reflock can fix?


But also, my position in the saddle reminds me of the Wintec - particularly pinching my knees, tipping my upper body forward and swinging my lower leg back. Like I'm 'perching.' I'll be curious to see what trainer P thinks... 


A LOT of this probably just has to do with my own positional flaws... And I obviously don't expect a saddle to magically transform my eq into something it just isn't. But idk... things felt better in the Bates - like my legs felt longer and wrapped around Isabel (rather than curling or pinching) and I stayed more centered over the saddle? 


Altho maybe I'm just imagining things bc these three pics video stills don't really look very different, do they... Thoughts anyone? 

Friday, January 30, 2015

special delivery: saddle style

My trial saddle is here - yay!! It arrived right on time and is even better in person than expected! 

Opening the box was a very exciting moment - somehow it seemed different than standing in a tack shop browsing over a whole wall covered in saddles.. lol

The leather is in excellent shape, and actually not what I would deem slick or slippery. It's very red, sure, but the color isn't as bad as I expected. It definitely needs a good conditioning tho - however that will have to wait until I decide whether or not to buy it. 

The rep wasn't kidding about the saddle being barely used. There are some marks on the seat and stirrup area, and the billets have had a girth attached... but it's all very minimal. I found the serial number tho and plan to call Stubben North America for a little more research. 

Naturally I took it out for a test ride right away - with my nephew doing the honors of the inaugural ride haha. 

Then it was off to the barn to try it out on Ms Isabel. It seems promising - tho I'll hopefully be able to get an appointment for the fitter to look at it during the trial period. 

It's interesting - the saddle actually seems pretty small given its measurements. The points fit well behind Isabel's shoulders (with no rocking!!), but the rear panels are still in front of the rubbed down hair from the Wintec. So perhaps the geometry of this saddle will suit Isabel better?

(she's standing 18 kinds of weird in this photo - but she's cute so i included it anyway lol)

There isn't really anywhere to ride at the farm and dusk was fast approaching, but I couldn't resist at least sitting in the thing. So I pulled Isabel out and walked/trotted back and forth on the short gravel path you can see behind her above. 

Right away I noticed that my stirrups were lonnnnng - even tho I started on the same hole I used with the Bates and the Wintec. A barn mate said it could be bc Stubben typically places the stirrup bars farther forward? Not really sure... 

My initial impression of sitting in the saddle is very positive. There was a moment when I felt slightly pitched forward - but it's hard to tell just walking back and forth and only really trotting in a straight line for 8 steps. The proof will be in the pudding lol. So I'll try to withhold judgement until after some actual full rides.

It's funny tho - I stowed the saddle in the tack room and got a kick out of my seemingly growing collection of saddles (none of which actually belong to me). That's Isabel's owner's Wintec on bottom, with the trial Bates in the middle and the Stubben on top. Should probably return that Bates soon tho... 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

warm day inside

Sunday afternoon B and I loaded up the horses for another trip out to FV. It was actually a really nice (relatively speaking) day out - about 46-48 degrees with some sun! But alas, our outdoor (which gets very little direct sun) was still covered in ice, and the fields are all slippery gooey mud. So off to the indoor we went!

naturally our mascot Mini Izzy (Izamini?) accompanies us everywhere :)

It was a little windy tho, and there are all these fans in the roof that make some god-awful high-pitched squeaking and squealing noises (audible in the video). Fortunately the horses didn't care at all (tho Isabel took offense at some muck buckets, go figure...)

There was another duo that shipped in to school their horses too - so it felt kinda luxurious to have all the extra space so that four riders doing their own things was nbd. 

I learned at our lesson the day prior that there are two dressage shows in the not-so-distant future (including a fix-a-test clinic!!), so I tried to really buckle down on our flat work. And Isabel rewarded my efforts with some very nice moments. Tho we had some issues at canter... whenever I would get her where I wanted - ie really feeling her push from the hind end - she'd break. Maybe it's a question of strength?? 

In any case, the flat work seemed pretty solid, tho honestly we still really don't have consistent or steady contact.... ugh why is it so hard to schedule lessons with the dressage trainers around here?!?

We moved on to a little jumping, and Isabel was again very good - I could actually feel her lock onto the fences. 

But for one reason or another the striding wasn't really there for us today. After a couple lines where I landed and really kicked for more, only to still chip at the last second, I decided to just go for the slow-n-easy adds - rather than gunning it over the fairly small fences. 

This was somewhat complicated by not actually knowing what the striding should be - so it was a bit trial-n-error (pilot error, that is). But we made it through without any drama. 

enjoy the video! i like almost everything here - except, uh, needing to establish a better canter rhythm earlier instead of consistently hitting the second element fences at half strides... oops! 

This farm is actually hosting a few hunter shows in the not-so-distant future too, and I plan to enter the 2'3" classes (must not wuss out!!). Very suddenly we're shifting into prepping for the season in earnest, and I'm very excited about it! Especially since our first four (4!!!!!) shows will be at familiar venues. :)

'let's do it!' - isabel

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

BCS Photo Challenge

Jennifer from Braymere Custom Saddlery was inspired by She Moved to Texas's recent photo scavenger hunt to come up with a challenge of her own. The rules stipulate that all photos must be property of the entrant - which appeals to me (esp since Poor Woman Showing and the SprinklerBandit already totally owned SMTT's challenge using just their own horses as a model)

BCS is a really interesting blog - from which I've learned TON about different breeds, equipment, and disciplines. It's primarily dedicated to the model horse hobby, tho there's plenty there for all horse enthusiasts. Definitely check it out!

Without further ado - my photo challenge entry:

1. Vintage

drill team circa 1999

2. Nekkid

'look ma - no whiskers!'

3. Scale issues

spotted at Maryland Saddlery. The saddle appears fully functional (complete with billets!)

4. I see spots 

it's in the eyes (and nose)
(this might also qualify as vintage haha)

5. Unbridled passion

6. Rare breed

not one but TWO Akhal Tekes. so majestical :)

7. Portrait

8. Conga 

variations of the same picture over different obstacles is *almost* like multiple versions of the same model, right? 

9. The great outdoors

10. Best in show

Thanks for hosting the challenge!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

ghost town lesson

Lesson day was an odd Saturday bc we were told to expect loads of snow days in advance and right up through Friday night. In fact tho, it only rained (with a little wintery mix) but stayed warm enough that only harmless slush accumulated rather than slippery ice. All the same tho - Isabel's farm and OF were both total ghost towns. 

So there were only FOUR of us in the lesson, and nobody schooling!! I think that's the fewest horses I've ever seen in this arena (which, keep in mind, is about 20x40m). It felt downright spacious!! Wonder of wonders, we could all canter at the SAME TIME!! lol

P capitalized on the lighter arena traffic by having me work on lateral stuff. I don't do much on my own (even tho I should...) bc I'm such an uncoordinated mess and Izzy just gets pissed off. But P had me break it into smaller pieces: turn up the quarter line and leg yield (or some semblance thereof) back to the wall. And maybe back and forth a few times. Just to get the horse on my outside aids. You will be SHOCKED to hear that it actually helped! 

this jump configuration is actually very versatile!
(30' between the center vertical and the diagonals)

The extra breathing room also meant we had a little more space for jumping, since we didn't have to share the rail with schoolers. The indoor is neat in that it has standards built into the wall around the long sides, so you can really maximize every inch. 

This can, however, be problematic when you're riding a horse that drifts left (and obvi doing nothing to address said drift).... I had one pretttty dicey jump where I almost lost my kneecap, but fortunately it was jusssst close enough to get me focused on our straightness. 

when i talk about our shitty right lead canter, this is what i mean

Isabel was very good - especially when compared to our previous two lessons. I'm fairly certain that the difference is because we actually worked a couple times this week. 

We usually had one crap fence per course - esp after the jumps went up. Oddly tho (and I swear this wasn't on purpose or selective editing!), the most disastrous fences somehow didn't make it onto video - even the course we got 3 fences into before P told us to stop and start over (you know how it goes)... oh well, I probably didn't want to see those again anyway haha.  

The problems were all my own tho, as they so often are. Instead of balancing after each fence and through the corners, I was just gunning it out of each corner then pulling before the fence. Not a recipe for success, emma!! I needed a forward ride - yes - but NOT by throwing my upper body at the horse. I needed to sit up and back and bring Isabel's hind legs underneath her to generate forward that way.

We made it through well enough tho, and at the very end P bumped up the center vertical to a 2'6" oxer, which Izzy and I kinda ate the first time (not terrible, really, just not very smooth - and again not caught on video lol), but handled very nicely the second time to end on. 

gif version for those who don't watch the videos

The approach for the oxer was essentially the same as a turn up the centerline for a dressage test (since it's a 20m wide arena) - and P really wanted me focusing on my outside aids (and Izzy's outside hind) around the turn and to the fence. Worked out well!

plz enjoy this video of us mostly doing ok (except for some 'splat' moments here and there)

So I'm pretty happy about the lesson - and also very happy to see the difference in Isabel after getting back into semi-regular work via hauling out to other indoors. Definitely makes me think it's worth the extra time and energy! 

random aside: is this stuff on the shoe borium? never noticed before but was curious!

Monday, January 26, 2015

new trial saddle!

I found a fairly promising trial saddle in Virginia! The shipping fee is good ($25) and the trial period is flexible. And the saddle is priced competitively relative to similar listings on eBay and other shops (tho naturally nothing else is the right size)... 

Stubben Edelweiss CS 
17" seat / 29 cm tree

According to Stubben North America, the CS tree description is: Half deep, slightly wider seat, square cantle, forward flap, long points, front block (rear block optional).

Reviews of this saddle vary (and include different tree types, most commonly the NT). Mostly they are very positive (and say this color will deepen nicely), with a couple folks saying they simply don't like Stubbens, and then a few more saying the leather is slick and this saddle isn't great for training level or beyond (down banks were most contentious).

(Point definitely taken, but I won't judge the saddle on it's merits for running training when I still give 2'3" the hairy eyeball and moving up to BN is a long shot this year...)

*not a training level fence

I spent a while on the phone with a very helpful rep at the shop, and her impression was that the leather is a little slick - but in the 'new and barely used' sense rather than the 'stiff and neglected for ages' sense (like the Bates...). She thinks a little TLC would bring it around.

The measurements are right and the saddle is wool flocked and doesn't have mountainous gusseting... So theoretically it should fit Izzy (re-flocking is budgeted just in case). Tho maybe the CS tree will be too deep for Isabel's flat-ish back? Or perhaps it will be too all-purpose-y?

I'm admittedly feeling invested and biased in favor of this saddle, simply by nature of paying to ship it in. So it'll be important to still judge it impartially / objectively once it's here... (famous last words, right?)

All the same, tho, wish me luck!

this accurately represents my excitability lol