Thursday, September 29, 2022

keepin' it simple

Are you tired of me talking about ground poles and cavalletti exercises yet? Um, well... too bad.

dusty late summer canterin'
We're easing rapidly into my favorite riding conditions -- except, damn the ground is still really hard. I wanna sharpen everything up and enjoy the pleasantly cool temps while we still have daylight... But I also don't really wanna slam Charlie around on hard ground, ya know? 

trit trottin' over six ground poles, spaced 9' apart
So. Eh. We improvise. Rain is in the forecast (which.... ugh, stay safe Florida! and then please send your leftovers our way!), but until then I'm enjoying tinkering with poles. 

i know it doesn't *look* like my right heel is down. but it *feels* like it lol
This time around, tho, I just kinda threw down an old faithful, didn't bother looking into the Grid Pro Quo book (tho, have no fear --- plenty more to come from that book soon!). 

c'mon tho, what's not to love?
I basically just took apart a short line of cross rails and turned it into a long line of what can either be spacious trot poles or easy bounces at canter (about 9' between each pole).

ooooh hey lookie, we can do it the other way too!
I kinda like trotting through more spaced out long lines of poles bc 1) the extended space is more forgiving if you wobble somewhere along the way; and 2) the longer the line, the longer the horse has to hold his posture and balance.

atta boy, chuck!
And Charlie, for his part, felt quite steady thru it all! He never really looks as good as he feels bc... Well... he's a big giant rangy brontosaurus lol. He is who he is, and I am who I am, and so we go the way we go. And it's good enough!

same distance but just two poles instead of the full line
I was nice, tho, and set up a much shorter line -- just two poles, but set at the same 9' distance -- elsewhere in the arena so that we could work up to the long line at all gaits. 

We started by walking through everything, then trotted through the two on a circle off both directions until it felt smooth and balanced, then made our way down the big line a couple times on both reins.

but oooh we can in fact canter the whole line too <3
The nice thing about this 9' distance is that it's good for cantering too! So obviously that was next up! I'm kinda sad tho bc Charlie was basically perfection our first few passes thru -- being his big bad self stepping from walk to canter then acing the ground poles. 

Tho... as is our habit, after a little break while we waited for a friend to be able to video us, he was a little more dull when we went back to put it together into a little course -- including the same grid we did last weekend (tho at even smaller heights this time --- basically cavalletti). 

So if you think it looks a little weak and underpowered.... Yea lol. 'Twas. Nbd, tho, we did another quick pass (not on camera) with slightly more gusto, then called it a night. 

I love this type of work for Charlie bc... Yea he can be a sluggish uninspired horse when it's just me nudging him along on the flat. But give him some actual physical landmarks, some exercises that are self-evident to him, and.... he gets it done quite nicely! 

It's also nice too, bc I can use these types of set-ups to get him moving in a 'jumping' sort of way, but without all the pounding in bad ground conditions. Or at least, that's the idea haha. Whatever keeps it fun and fresh, right?? And maybe if we're lucky and get some rain in the next day, we'll put the poles back up again and see what that pony can do, eh?

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Gear Post - 2022 Edition

Way back in the day, I used to do annual "Gear" posts summarizing all the various pieces of tack and equipment necessary to conduct my day-to-day horse habit -- including both show gear and schooling togs. Last one I could find was 2017, which also links to 2016 and 2015.

we have seriously simplified our equipment inventory and i'm loving it
Those posts were always a super fun way to catalogue all my favorite odds and ends, and sorta document the progression of my "collection," if you will. Bc things have changed significantly in the tack department since my earliest days with Isabel lol. 

L'Apogée cross country monoflap saddle
purchased used (with trial) from Farm House Tack
These days, Charlie and I do every ride in my jump saddle, purchased in Feb 2019. I love this thing with the fire of a thousand burning suns, and oh my dear god, it is a far cry from Isabel's Wintec featured in my first ever "What's in Your Tack Trunk?" blog hop post.... omg.

Upgrading to this divine chunk of French leather was a lengthy iterative process -- from the Wintec to two Bates (one jump, one dressage), an awful Kent and Masters jump saddle somewhere in there, then that gorgeous Hulsebos dressage saddle that was like five sizes too small for my butt.... Plus countless trialed and demoed saddles along the way... We're here now, tho, and this L'Apogée ain't going anywhere any time soon!

Dover sheepskin half pad, no shims
purchased used from Maryland Saddlery
I'm one of those riders who just sorta generally prefers riding with a half pad. Ymmv, but for me it's essential kit. Over the years I've tinkered (extensively) with various styles and configurations of half pads and shims and whatnot.... But this basic sheepskin has proven to be the best fit. I like the black too bc it's obvi easier to keep "clean" and kinda disappears in pictures.

Stubben maxi grip stirrup irons
purchased as-is from Stubben booth at Kentucky Vendor Village
Another love of my life --- these Stubben irons. And possibly my best ever buy at Kentucky -- they were on the floor under a rack of sales saddles, and clearly a little scuffed up from doing demo duty. I sorta impulsively asked the sales reps what the "as-is" price for the irons might be, and they offered to knock $100 off sticker price. SOLD! 

These clean up nicely, are conservative enough for basically any ring, while still being just a little extra with the brushed finish. They're extremely light weight, have a comfortably wide footbed, and massive traction thanks to all those sharp little spikes. I luff them <3

Passier nylon lined stirrup leathers
purchased new
And finally during the Covid lockdown, I completed the picture by treating myself to some nice nylon lined leathers after years of stubbornly sticking it out with my utilitarian cheap-o consignment leathers. 

no-name fuzzy monoflap girth, $7 consignment (Maryland Saddlery)
Have no fear, tho --- that's not to say that we don't still have some kinda rough-ish tack LOL! Charlie is extremely particular about his girths. Like, extremely. He requires the softest squishiest fuzziest least-edged strap of basically yarn and fluff that can be found. This ratty tattered no-name dressage girth has been his distinct preference ever since I found it on consignment for $7. 

I *do* have a backup brown fuzzy HDR monoflap girth for the day when this thing eventually gives up the ghost. But... Until that day, Charlie gets to wear the girth he wants lest I risk him standing up (literally) for his rights. 

DIY classy cat bridle hooks still going strong!
Alright so moving on from saddling... Let's talk bridles! Charlie does in fact have a broad array of bridles, but aside from the (very) occasional flat school or dressage test, we go almost exclusively in his hackamore. This is a new trend for us this year, but so far it seems like it's sticking. 

even our cobbled-together bridle can't detract from Charlie's charms <3
ancient Stubben headstall, Dark Jewel Designs custom snap-on browband, Back on Track poll cover cushion, no-name standard hackamore plates + noseband
It's.... not a very nice bridle tho. Which maybe means its our next candidate for an upgrade. I have no idea where I even got the hackamore plates and nose piece --- maybe consignment? 

The headstall was just an old spare Stubben from my bag of strap goods, padded out with a Back on Track poll cover... It's spiffed up a little by a browband I've had for a few years -- the snap-on custom interchangeable bead strand browband from Amelia at Dark Jewel Designs! 

Tory leather rubber grip reins, buckle ends
purchased as discounted overstock from Maryland Saddlery
I had a pair of consignment rubber reins that I LOVED for being super grippy... But you can see them in the background of the above photo -- they did not have a super long life and are probably at risk for snapping mid-ride. So I picked up this pair of Tory leather reins on consignment sometime last year. 

The price was right, they're SUPER long (which... obvi they have to be for bronto Charlie), and I actually kinda like the muted red hue. 

Hamag leather bridle number holder
purchased on sale at Kentucky Vendor Village
Last little extra bridle-related accessory is this leather bridle tag also picked up from a Kentucky trip one year. Idk what it is about bridle tags, but I just strongly prefer having my own. Previously just used the basic plastic tag from Dover.... But the leather is a very nice upgrade. 

Plus it means that at most shows, I never even need to take my registration packet with me -- or worry about returning the bridle tag at the end of the day (most of our schooling shows reuse tags). We also have at least one or two venues around here that don't even do paper tags, and instead just assume you'll wear your pinny for everything -- including dressage, the horror lol. So. I have my own tag and it's nice. 

One-K Defender helmet
purchased new
Alright alright, let's keep going. In terms of rider gear, these days I don't wear spurs or gloves, or use much in the way of gizmo or gadgetry. I do wear a helmet tho --- and the One-K Defender has been my go-to (through multiple iterations) for years now. I think I own maybe 3? 

janky AF Horze half chaps + Blundstones
purchased as discounted overstock from Maryland Saddlery
I definitely need more tall boots, tho. I love my QHP Sophia long boots intensely -- to the point where I kinda went to the ends of the earth (sorta literally / digitally) to find a second pair when the zipper on my first pair died. Oooh, and I still have that first pair to eventually maybe repair said zipper....

But I just can't be so hard on them all the time. So I need to find another pair of tall boots that can be more of my "beater" boots... Until then, it's back to Blunnies and half chaps lol. Word to the wise -- these half chaps are kiiiiinda hideous lol. But they work, so.... Eh, good enough. 

And obviously, Blundstones are basically the best basic boot that was ever invented -- perfect for transitioning seamlessly from chores to riding to anything else you might have to do that day. 

Professional's Choice VenTECH leather open front boots (maybe discontinued?)
purchased used from Maryland Saddlery
And as for Charlie, his leg wear is pretty aggressively simple. He almost never wears boots any more, except for competitions -- and then still just open fronts. Homeboy does not need any extra invitation to be less careful lol...


So. That's kinda it -- maybe kinda a lot, but also definitely a lot less than in years past when we had entirely different kit by phase lol. Are you sorta like me, where you find something you like and then just stick with that forever? Or do you like more variety? Do you prefer to buy new or used? Does it depend? Any plans for your own next big tack upgrade? 

Monday, September 26, 2022

taking a page out of Ingrid's book

It's Grid Pro Quo time again! Last time, we looked at a cavalletti exercise authored by Ryan Wood, and this week we tried a new configuration by Ingrid Klimke! 

i kinda doubt we'll actually attempt ALL of these exercises.... but who knows, we'll see!
If we learn one thing from this book, it'll be how to better visualize, anticipate and.... adapt the concepts and setups to fit our needs etc. Bc.... Not gonna lie, this particular attempt was kinda a fail. 

Ingrid designed a line of three cavalletti set at angles. Sure... Superficially, the exercise looks simple and straight forward enough, plus also looks super versatile in terms of picking your lines and patterns through the various poles. 
sticking with the theme of "keeping it simple, stupid!"
It's basically a serpentine -- but could also be ridden as two separate circles (just catching two poles at a time), or also as a straight line (hitting each pole on an angle). 

I figured I'd mostly focus on the latter ideas, since Ingrid's idea for the serpentine was to use each cavalletti to prompt a lead change. Which... Eh, is a little above our paygrade at this point.

instructions called for cavalletti or small jumps, but, eh, ground poles were fine
The "fail" part came in realizing, after I'd set it up and gotten on, that the idea of riding each half of the serpentine as part of its own circle meant my circles would be half the width of our dressage court, since I set it up on center line. So.... canter circles about 15m. Which was a liiiiiitle smaller than I'd had in mind. 

you can see how setting this up on the diagonal (red box) allows for bigger circles than when the same exercise is set up on the center line (gray box)
If we do it again, maybe I'll try to set it up on a diagonal line so there's more room for a circle on each end of the serpentine? Or maybe I'll just set up each separate line of two poles (one at 33', the other at 44') on each quarterline? 

I actually liked the distances a lot, and could see value of just working on those sized circles off both leads. Putting the whole serpentine together for us was a little iffy just bc of the necessary lead change lol.... Anyway, the 33' section wanted 3 bending strides, and the 44' section wanted 4 bending strides. 

since the dressage ring was kinda a fail, we got our footwork patterns in with this fun little pinwheel setup
Luckily, after kinda not really getting what I wanted from that ride, our next session found us up in the jump ring where some interesting pattern-ish kinda stuff looked promising. Specifically -- see the little orange and white x-rail in the top right corner? 

There was another one around the bend immediately to the right out of frame -- making for a perfect bending line that usually came up in 5 or 6, and was kinda maybe the same-ish ideas that we had intended to practice with the Ingrid exercise. 

trainer P had set up a line of short ones too, and yes that standard snapped in half, womp. jumped it exactly as it is anyway
So I did a couple sessions off each lead, circling through, trying to get consistent, then adding in the little pinwheel set of jumps. One circuit all left leads (jump, land, loop around left, jump the next, land, loop around left, jump the next, etc etc etc), then repeated the whole thing off the right. 

Finally, when we felt like we were clicking right on along, I took a couple passes down the above grid off each lead. It's very short distances -- probably about 18' -- so maybe will help Charlie get a little snappier? 

random barrels were fun too! 
Idk lol, it was what was set up, and I didn't feel like getting off to change or move anything. So we made it work, and it was fun! 

Charlie can get a little lazy about small jumps, and I can get complacent.... So trying to do more of these cavallettti type exercises will hopefully be good practice for staying focused on the execution even when it's not like... big or scary lol.

visiting with the shetland council
I swear, tho, there is more to that Grid Pro Quo book than ground poles set on a straight line --- and we'll definitely get to some of that eventually too! 

For now, it's just nice having that book in my locker to help give me a sense of purpose and inspiration for our rides where we might otherwise kinda just dink around getting our reps in lol. 

all done! 
In the meantime, there's a couple weeks until our next planned outing so it's a good time to just play around lol. Anyone else experimenting with new and interesting exercises??

Friday, September 23, 2022

friday foto finish + helmet cam

Woot woot, happy Friday, y'all -- we got a couple pro fotos!! Not like, many. But some. And we like some. Bc we're junkies around here, mkay? 

Ooh, and.... We also have 4K helmet cam video footage if you're into that sorta thing lol, skip to the end ;) 

charlie will always be more handsome than me in pics, let's be real

the best boy over jump 1!

nothin to see here

d'aww probably the one good shot from the bunch!! <3 <3 <3

"just happy to be here!"

Happy Friday, y'all :)

Monday, September 19, 2022

year of the dragon (slayer) -- CT edition

Charlie and I haven't ridden at any of our home events since, ahem, our mortifying spectacle of 2020. You know the one. 

The events are always desperate for volunteers anyway, so I've just focused on making myself useful rather than risk reliving any of those bad memories, ya know? 

just me and my favorite bronto -- out doin the thing we enjoy
Except. Eh, by the time this year ends, I'll have logged somewhere around 100 volunteer hours -- just counting recognized events (vs schooling stuff, which I also do). Wayyy more time than has gone to my own personal competition schedule this year.

And maybe after making it around Plantation's show jumping a few weeks back -- after years of angst about that venue -- something important shifted inside of me. And almost out of the blue, two weeks ago, I impulsively decided that, YES, I will ride in our home starter trial! 

quite literally my local neighborhood church sign as i drove home from the show. feels fitting, not gonna lie. 
Obvi not the full three phase horse trial, tho. Let's not go crazy, guys, lololol.... No no, just the Novice CT. Idk what it is about CTs, but I like them. And ya know, I like Novice too. So, let's do the things we like doing, yes? Yes. 

ok guys, an attempt at quarter marks was made lol
And, not to make a long story too too long.... It was good! We had fun! I was definitely nervous going into it.... But.... Like, normal nervous. Not awake at night fretting. Not a tense nightmare on show day. And not like... crippled by the task that lay ahead of us. 

Just normal butterflies that didn't at all interfere with any of the steps along the way to getting shit done. Yessss. If there is one big win from the year 2022, it will be that we're finally starting to feel just a little bit more resilient again. Finally

not like you could see them thru fuzzy screen shots anyway LOL -- but hey-o, lookin at me doin the things i said i'd do -- cantering around before entering at A!
So. Details? As you all might recall, Charlie and I rode in a fun little fix-a-test clinic a week and a half ago when we seemingly randomly chose Novice Test B for our victim.

charlie was a seriously good boy too <3
As I alluded to then, the choice was driven by this new event on our calendar. So it was the perfect prep to really learn the test, and get a good and solid scolding reminding me to please ride more forward. 

trying to channel our feedback from the fix-a-test
And I can't exactly brag on what was not a particularly competitive dressage score, except lol you know me -- I'm totally gonna brag. My horse was SO GOOD! Any of you longtime readers will see what I mean if you watch the video. Charlie worked it, and really really tried. 

d'aww look who's sorta going kinda uphill-ish!!
I made it my business to do a little counter canter in warm up, and then canter again right before entering the ring, and feel like it really helped him bring all his quarters together. It also just felt like.... He knew. Knew I needed it, or something. Whatever. He was so good. 

sadly a little bit of an itch-apocalypse at the end wrecked a couple scores.... curious if any of y'all would have ridden out the itchy nose differently?  
Canter still needs more work -- particularly the transitions into canter (down transitions are actually nice enough I don't plan on fucking with them). And this judge did actually want me to be a little more accurate with hitting the letters. 

Tho if any of you saw Peter Gray's recent EN podcast where he dissected a Michi Jung dressage test, you'll recall hearing him say "sure sure deep corners are great, but not if they interrupt your flow!" Which.... yep. Sure, this judge dinged me in the comments for geometry... but still scored us a 7.0. Good 'nuff for now! 

Only sad part was at the end of the test. Obvi I ride Charlie bitless the vast majority of the time. But on this day, the poor pony suffered through a normal bridle AND A FLASH STRAP OMG THE HORROR. And he is so spoiled omg, watch him repeatedly stamp his foot at me when he wanted to rub his nose.... Sigh. The judge called it "some fussiness today" but WE know the truth lol. 

True story tho, I'm legit curious -- those last four scores got a little dinged from Charlie's urge to itch (6.5, 6.0, 6.0, 6.5 respectively). In a similar boat would you have just sacrificed one movement to let him stop and itch, then proceed? Idk what that would do to a score, or whether we could make up the difference in later moves... But I'm curious! Let me know what you think! 

anyway -- onto the jomping part!! and yes, i am hopeful there will be pro pics later <3
Anyway. Let's move this marathon post onto the FUN part!! Jompies yay! 

I really don't know what to say about jumping this horse. He is so good to me. So kind, so capable. And, let's be real, after 4 years at this height.... He basically knows what he's about out there. 

jump 1: straight outta the pan and into the fire!
I have a couple jobs as a rider, sure. But.... At this point with Charlie, my job is actually back in the barn. Keeping him sound. Keeping his joints lubricated, his toes trimmed, his muscles loose. Ooooooh, and giving this big bad boy the grip he craves. 

not gonna lie, i hated this jump -- an oxer going downhill lol
If there was one big win from the weekend -- it was in the studding department. Now I've studded Charlie for about 4 years at this point, bc he likes it and I like it when he likes it. On this day, tho, I tried a newer-to-us set of grass studs behind. 

They are slimmer and pointier (and thus more able to pierce the hard ground) --- but also a bit "taller" if you will. That last dimension is kinda what has made me hesitate from using them much... But after this ride I'm 100% converted. 

obvi it doesn't matter when you're on the best horse in the world tho <3
Starting as early as warm up, which is on very uneven and occasionally off-camber ground, Charlie was.... well... grounded. And I don't mean "earthbound" either. 

It was like he knew *exactly* where each hoof was, particularly his hind feet. And could reach up underneath himself and propel forward -- especially on turns and slopes. Like he had every confidence in the world that his hooves were gonna stick where he placed them. 

squint a little and you can sorrrrta see the quarter marks lol, and also me being a good dog by holding my neck strap -- until death (or very long spots) do we part!
I jumped more warm up fences than I usually do... But mostly bc I was trying to actually like... Idk, do my job? Find an issue, fix an issue -- rather than just survive warm up then hope for the best, ya know? 

Charlie was obvi aces, tho. The "issues" we had were basically all at the rider level, and all at the "forward" end of the spectrum vs "weak underpowered" end. BUT -- importantly -- not in the chaotic out-of-control way of that 2020 ride. 

ok so we did end up getting a little wild toward the end
Which brings us to the other big win::: The hackamore will continue to be our go-to for the foreseeable future -- noting that it's all leather at this point, including curb strap. 

The amount of "whoa!" power this thing gives is incredible -- esp when you consider how easily Charlie can push right into and through it when he needs to. It's strong enough without being overpowering or backing him off. 

finished strong tho!! and definitely loving this hackamore for us 
And sure, we still jump the left of every fence (LOL) but I don't see that as a hackamore-related steering issue. In fact, the horse steers quite well -- and even better when I can be bothered to like... Idk, ride lol. 

So. Anyway. If you want details on the course itself.... Eh, watch the video. It's 2min lol. We I had a couple rails -- including the vertical out of the 2-stride, something that's common enough for us to merit future attention. And we got a little wild and wooly at one point... but kept it together. 

All in all, another one of our patented "doesn't really pop on paper, but was actually a damn good day" type shows. I'll take it, haha. 

Also. For interested parties. Gold's priced at roughly $1.55K per ounce. With 16 ounces per pound, and considering Charlie is worth his literal fucking weight in it... Anybody wanting to acquire this beastie from me best be prepared with about $34.7M, kthxbai.