Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February "Five Pieces of Equipment I Love Right Now" Weekly Post #5

Mountain Horse Rimfrost Rider Winter Boots

In the summer I ride in Ariats. In the winter, when it's freezing, I need more warmth for my feet. Years ago I bought these boots and they are great. Zipper up the back for easy on and off, waterproof (up to the zipper), and nice and warm. I only wear them in the winter, but they really seem to have held up after a few winters since they are synthetic and not leather. My only complaint is that they are a little short. Being a dressage snot I like my boots tall and right up to the back of my knee. These fall about 3 inches short, so it feels a little like I'm wearing flood pants. Oh, one other thing I've noticed is that, since they are thick boots, the sole is thicker. This makes me have to ride with my stirrups one hole longer than with my Ariats. Not a big deal, just an observation. Oh, and sometimes they squeak on my saddle. I have no idea why. They aren't making a rub mark or anything, just the squeak. It's worth putting up with to have warm feeties.

They run about $110 right now, but it looks like they have a new style that I'd like more. The Active Winter Rider boot is more expensive at $176, but they look more fitted and are almost two inches taller.

If I have to buy another pair of winter boots, I'll probably go for these babies. The only drawback I see is that the zipper on the Active boots comes down almost to the sole of the boot, where the Rimfrost zipper is above the heel. In the winter sometimes I'm stomping through water and slush and it's nice to have the zipper up higher so I don't get a soaker in my boot. (
Equestrian Collections carries both kinds!)

March's theme - Four Exercises I'm Using Right Now

Monday, February 27, 2012

February Schooling Show, 2012 edition

I was really nervous about this schooling show. True, it was only a schooling show, but I really didn't like how upset Phil got at the last one, and we didn't even show! Still, we were entered and so we were going. We did the same thing as last time - drove the horses over Saturday afternoon, and had them spend Saturday night at the show stable. Then show on Sunday.

When I rode Phil on Saturday he was nervous again, but he seemed to be handling it pretty well. I was hopeful that Sunday would be fine. Like last time, I got to the show at 7 am on Sunday to lunge and ride before the warmup was packed. Again, Phil really seemed to have his act together. I kept up with the plan of not letting him blow through my hand, and we got to ride in the show ring a bunch. He spooked a few times, but he never bolted. Every time he spooked I just repeated the same "You cannot run though my hand" conversation. I did it calmly, and nicely, but firmly. Then he responded beautifully, and I praised him.

We did Intro A, and scored a 71.25%. No joke. My little boy was awesome.

Then Intro B. 68.13% Aww yeah!

He was great. I couldn't ask for anything more. He was calm, obedient, and wasn't completely freaked out. Sure, there is a lot to work on, like a more consistent contact, and a more driving trot at times, but overall it was just what I wanted. No major freak outs, and I didn't get bucked off. Mission Accomplished! Next show we will do Intro B and C. I think we should be fine.

Here's the awesome part. He won both classes! There were 13 horses in Intro A and 19 in Intro B. I'm so proud of him!

My friend Debbie rode Kaswyn in Intro A and B also. She did a fantastic job, considering it was her first dressage show, and she's only been seriously riding dressage for four months after just riding horses as a kid. Oh, and also, Kaswyn was so excited he could hardly contain himself. When they warmed up for her tests, Kaswyn started yelling. She said to me "Why is he doing that?" and I told her that he was excited. He just wanted everyone to know "Kaswyn in da hizzouse!" I figured he would do this, but I didn't know how bad it would be. Maybe a little screaming and too quick of a tempo. Not too bad, right?


Kaswyn made it a bit difficult for Debbie in their first test. He was all pumped up, and was trying to trot really big. Since Debbie doesn't know how to balance him in that big trot, he looked all wonky and uneven. He also picked up the canter instead of the trot in Intro A. *sigh* My big handsome old guy just loves to show! Her next test was much better, and she did a really nice job. If she lets me I'll post her videos too.

I'm just thrilled with both of my horses. They are both fantastic partners, and I'm so proud of them. I hope they had as much fun as I did. I'm sure Kaswyn did, but the jury is still out on Phil. We'll see what happens next month at the schooling show. We're already entered!!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Show completed!

I'm home from the show. I'm processing videos and writing commentary. I'll post it when it's done.

Stay tuned...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Schooling show this weekend.

This weekend is a schooling show, and this time we are actually entered. We have ride times at 10:18 and 10:36 on Sunday. I'm feeling a little bit more prepared for this than I was last time, and not just because I've had a month more of work with Phil.

My main issue was the spooking thing. Phil will spook like any young horse will, but the problem is when he does spook he gets scared that I'm going to punish him. So it makes the spook like ten times worse.

I tried just riding it out, trying to be really gentle and forgiving, but things didn't seem to be getting much better. The spook would turn into a bolt where he would be running blind across the arena. This was scary, and I tried really hard to just relax and try to ride. It was difficult, because it didn't always happen, and it didn't happen enough for me to really make progress on it.

I spoke to a few people, and then talked to my trainer. She thought that maybe I wasn't really insisting that he yield to my hand aids, and that he didn't understand that he shouldn't resist my hand. She also thought it would just take time, and we'd just have to work on it.

The next time I rode him I realized that I was being kind of lax about his acceptance of my hand. I would let him push through my hand at the half halt, and during transitions. He would be come resistance and use this as an evasion to being submissive to my hand.

Well, that needed to stop. I decided right there that he was no longer allowed to evade my hand by being resistant. When he ignored my hand and tensed up his neck, I would gently but firmly take his head away from him to the side. I would remove his evasion without punishment, and then when he submitted I praised him and carried on riding.

Then I had an idea. A gal was walking though the arena and I said to her "Hey, can you wave your hands at my horse as I ride by to spook him?" She said sure. All she did was wave her hands and sure enough, he spooked. But I was ready. He spooked, then prepared to check out, but I was one step ahead of him and I took away his head, which diffused the steam he was building up. Then I praised him, and rode on. She spooked him for me on purpose three other times, and by the third time it was a much smaller spook and not as big of a deal.

I am hoping he will see that spooking is not going to result in punishment, and that it's ok to spook as long as he gets back to work. I was trotting him when the controlled spooking was going on. I figure a few weeks of this and then I can move to spooking him at the canter. That's when things usually result in a huge uncontrolled bolt. So if I'm ready, and we've been practicing the "it's not acceptable to resist my hand" plan, then the spooks should become less and less of a big deal. I'll be more ready to deal with them, and he'll get spooked enough that he'll get used to it.

Now let me be clear - I'm not having people severely haze my horse. All they will do is wave their arms, or do something unexpected like stamp a foot in his direction. He needs to get used to making what he thinks is a mistake, and then not being punished. Eventually he'll see that it's okay, and I'm not going to be mean. I'll be firm, but fair.

So, what that plan, we shall prepare for the horse show tomorrow. Here we go!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

February "Five Pieces of Equipment I Love Right Now" Weekly Post #4

Wintec Stirrup Leathers - (Webbers)

I admit. I always that those Wintec Stirrup leathers were stupid. That they didn't make a difference. I mean, a stirrup leather is a stirrup leather, right?


When I moved to my barn I was riding a few different horse because Kaswyn was busy recovering from his surgery. All the saddles had the Wintec leathers. It took me a bit to get used to adjusting them, but riding in them was just like riding in normal leathers. No biggie.

But I wasn't hooked until I went back and rode Kaswyn in my old buckle-at-the-top stirrups. The bump under my thigh was SO annoying after riding for weeks without it there. I ran out and bought some Wintec leathers for Kaswyn's saddle and I've never looked back since. They are great. They run about $40, depending on where you pick them up (Equestrian Collections has them!)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

February "Five Pieces of Equipment I Love Right Now" Weekly Post #3

Schneider's Gel-Lite Split Support Pad with Inserts

The last one was a pad for Phil - this one is a pad for Kaswyn. Again, the trainer/barn manager at my barn has one of these pads that she uses on her older gelding for lessons. It has pockets in the front and in the back that you can put foam inserts in (also available from Schneider's).

For the older horses with backs that have dropped some, the foam pad inserts in the back help lift the saddle and level it out. Kaswyn was really ready for a pad like this, and I think it fits very well. The pad is $45 and the inserts are $11. Still pretty reasonable, I think. (Find them at

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Schooling Show We Didn't Get In To - Part 3

Sunday morning came much too early, but I knew that if I wanted to school Phil before the show started I needed to get out of bed. It was really hard, but I didn't want to school in the warmup if I wasn't going to be showing. I didn't want to take the room (and possibly create an issue) in the warmup when people who needed to actually show were there.

Luckily one of the gals who brought her horse to the show lives right across the street from the show stable, so she headed over at 6:00 to feed. When I got there at 7:00 Phil was fed and ready for work. He seemed calm when I was tacking him up, but as soon as I got him into the arena it was the same story. Anxious, rushing, nervous. Sigh.

However, he seemed to get a lot of that out of him on the lunge line, and I didn't feel as if I had to lunge him for as long. I was just finishing lunging him when the first horses started coming into the warmup. I hopped on and we did a few laps in the warmup, but what I really wanted to do was get in the actual show arena and let him see the scary lounge through the huge windows at the end of the arena.

Just as I was heading into the show ring, three riders from the warmup had the same idea as I did. I think Phil felt like he had safety in numbers, because even though he was nervous he willingly blended in with the small herd. I took my time and let him look at everything and made sure he got a good look at the windows and the lounge. He seemed to be able to handle everything, so we began to trot.

Overall it went pretty okay. There was a trainer coaching some of her students who was standing outside the show area by A, and Phil didn't like the looks of her for whatever reason. He kept avoiding trotting past her, and even when I walked him past her he really didn't like it. She wasn't being loud, or waving her hands around, or anything else that I could think of. We had just trotted past her for the 5th or 6th time when I spotted a man up in the loft.

Uh oh.

The man was being very quiet, and careful not to make any noises, but he needed to grab an extension cord that was up there. I saw it coming before Phil did, and I was stopping him when he saw the man.

It was too much for Phil. He leaped in the air and flew sideways, jerking his head up to look at the man. I stayed in the saddle and got him stopped. I let him take a good look, patted him and told him he was a good boy, then asked him to trot on. At first he didn't want to go, so I gave him a little bump with my leg. He jumped forward, I said good boy, and then I did my best to just carry on like nothing happened.

Amazingly, he also carried on like it never happened. He was still nervous but he didn't view the loft are where the man was as "the scary place". I was really happy about that.

We trotted around a bit, and I decided not to canter him. That had the potential to get too exciting, and I was going for calm and easy that day - as much as was possible that is. One by one the other horses left the arena, and I could sense that Phil was watching them go, and could feel him getting anxious that he was alone. We went to the walk and I just talked him down, and he seemed okay.

A few laps later and I called it done. We had a good experience, and that was my goal. My next worry was getting him back on the trailer. It worked the first time thanks to the Rompun, but would it work without it?

Turns out it wasn't a problem, even though there was lots of snow on the ground, plus ice under the snow. Twenty seconds of gentle coaxing and he was in the trailer. Again, he traveled like a prefect gentleman and didn't kick or fuss.

Overall I would call our schooling show trial run a success. The next schooling show is the last Sunday of February. I decided to drop him back to Into A and B. When I told my trainer I wanted to show him Training Level she said "Oh my, well, that's a big jump for him." Which I think was really supposed to mean "Don't be stupid. Try Intro first." So after the test run, I took her advice. Start slow, and work up.

That whole weekend made me realize that Kaswyn has spoiled me rotten. Yes, he was trained as a hunter pleasure horse, just like Phil, but I broke Kaswyn and trained him myself. So I had no fear issues to deal with when we starting dressage. I'm not saying Kaswyn didn't spook, but he wasn't afraid of me, or afraid of showing. And by the time he was eight he was pretty solid. I could take him to any show and know that he'd load in the trailer, not be an idiot in the strange stall, eat, drink, poop, and go to work when asked. He's smart, tries really hard, and has a heart of gold. And he loves to show. I am eternally grateful to have that horse in my life. He's one in a million.

I'm grateful to have Phil too. He's allowing me to learn a lot. Gentleness, compassion, and most of all patience. I really want to show this year, but if Phil isn't ready we'll just have to wait for next year. It will be hard, but I'll be okay with it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Cool diagrams!

I stumbled on this page while looking for something..

Check it out. I love the diagrams!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Giving an elbow

So I've had lots of comments about my elbows being straight. I agree, you should ride with your elbows hanging at your sides, shoulders relaxed, straight line from bit to elbow.

I'm here to tell you that would be a very bad thing for me to ride like that all the time with Phil. Please read the following carefully and you will understand why.

A trained dressage horse will make contact and go to the bit, allowing the rider to accept the pressure that the horse is exerting on the bit. What develops is a subtle give and take between horse and rider to maintain the perfect contact for that horse, keeping in mind that each horse likes a different amount of pressure in it's contact with the bit/rider's hand.

How do I know this? Because Kaswyn is a trained schoolmaster who I have shown Intermediare I, and have schooled all the Grand Prix movements on. He makes proper and consistent contact. Through this contact I am able to CONNECT him from back to front. And I can ride with my elbows in perfect position, resting near my hips, soft, and relaxed, giving and taking. I'm not a beginning dressage rider.

Phil is young and green, and has been trained to set his head in one position and avoid bit contact. His previous "head set" looks like an upper level horse who is too deep and overflexed. Poll down, chin in, crest up, and avoiding bit contact. I'm here to tell you that if I just put my arms in perfect position he would set that head again. This is completely undesirable for what I'm trying to achieve.

I'm fixing this my allowing him to stretch into my hand the moment that he offers it. To do that, rather than let the reins slide through my fingers, I straighten my elbows. The contact that he will accept is very light from having been taught to avoid contact. So we only get a few strides of contact before he begins to evade again.

Yes, I also come out of position because I'm leaning a bit too far forward. Another consequence of trying to allow any contact and stretch into my hand that he will offer.

I will not ride him like this forever, because I will not need to. Eventually his 3-4 strides of acceptance of contact will be a full circle, then a few laps around the arena. I've only had six months to re-train four years of previous training. This will take patience and understanding.

And as far as excuses, and fear? I'm not making excuses, I'm explaining why I'm doing what I'm doing. I hardly think I need to make excuses for my riding, considering I ride Phil four or five times a week. Frankly, I work my ass off and have no excuses to make. And absolutely, I have some fear when riding Phil. He's young, still green, and unpredictable. I would be a total idiot not to have some fear.

That being said, I know that Phil is a good horse. He is smart, willing to please, and athletic. We'll figure this out. And I'm not flying blind here. My very accomplished trainer is with me on this journey. I trust her completely and absolutely.

So, I'm not saying "don't make comments". Go ahead and make them. I'll publish them. And although I'm asking for opinions, remember that I know more about what it's like to ride Phil than you do, and when I say "that won't work" or "I can't do that" it's not because it's a bad idea, or incorrect. It's just because I know my horse better than you do.

Friday, February 10, 2012

February "Five Pieces of Equipment I Love Right Now" Weekly Post #2

Schneider's Dura-Tech Brand Half Pad (Wither Pad)

The trainer/barn manager at my barn has one of these pads, and when I got a saddle for Phil it didn't quite fit, so I borrowed her half pad. I've used the brand name half-pad before, but they always seemed kind of stiff and a little bulky to me and I didn't really care for them. This one, however, is a bit thinner and very flexible. It really molds to the back and the saddle. In Phil's case it helps keep the saddle from sliding up on his withers, and it works really well. At $20 you really can't go wrong! (Find them at

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

New Phil video

I'm sure you want to see the 3rd post in the show series, but this is not it.

What this is is a new video of Phil, taken tonight. I sent my trainer my last video, and here are the highlights of her suggestions -

* Remember the training pyramid - relaxation, rhythm, and contact. His rhythm looks good, and the contact improves when he's relaxed.

* He needs to respect the half-halt more - or I need to be more effective in giving it, or both probably! So do more transitions, and give more definitive half-halts.

* Add transitions within the gaits, and some leg-yields.

* Overall work on suppleness and having him be deeper in the contact - more seeking the bit.

So I have been working on all of these suggestions, and I think things are improving. Here is the new video I'm sending her.

What do you think? I think he's slower, and deeper, and you an see that I'm giving on the inside rein more without it being a huge issue. I think he still has moments of resistance, and moments of crookedness, but I think it's better overall, and certainly better with the contact. Right?

Friday, February 03, 2012

The Schooling Show We Didn't Get In To - Part 2

Schooling Session #1

Phil seemed okay when we arrived at the show stable. The way they have it set up is there are a bunch of temporary stalls around the outside of this big arena (the warm-up ring), which is connected to the main barn and the show ring. Both arenas were being used for kids jumping lessons when we were ready to school. The warm-up had less horses and two small jumps in it, while the show arena was full of jumps and horses and ponies. They hadn't set up the show ring for the dressage show yet, and that was the ring I was more concerned about since it has windows and a lounge attached to it right behind where the judge sits. I had lunged Phil at home for about 20 minutes before we left (and before the shot!). So I figured I could just tack him up and ride in the warm-up since it had less traffic in it, even though I wanted to try and get in the show ring if I could.

Well, I got on Phil and he was was vibrating. He was super anxious and was getting himself really wound up. I was reassuring him, trying to get him to relax a little, but he just wanted to go, go, go! I made him walk around the arena, trying to stay out of the way of the kids taking lessons. But Phil was so distracted. It's not that he was scared, really. It was more like he was just freaked out about being at a show.

Of course, he didn't know what to expect from me at a show, since this was our first one. He had been to two other shows, but at those shows they WANTED him to be wound up and flying around the ring. They probably tried to get him all revved up and frenzied so he would trot bigger. So that's what he expected that I would want, or try to do with him.

I can't say that he was particularly spooky, but little things were setting him off since he was already jumping out of his skin. The horses in the temporary stalls, people walking by, someone moving the wheelbarrow, it all was too much for him. He was overstimulated and just couldn't handle it. So I thought that I'd trot him and hopefully he could settle down and focus on work instead of everything else.


We went a half a lap at the trot and somebody opened the door at the end of the arena. We were heading away from it, so he didn't get a clear view of it, but saw it and heard it behind him and that was it. He couldn't take it anymore and leaped into the air and flew sideways.

Luckily the kids were taking turns jumping, so most of the horses were standing in the center waiting their turn. And I'm lucky that they were school horses and didn't really give a snot about the silly horse leaping around. I stopped Phil next to all the other horses and just let him stand there and watch the lesson. He seemed okay with this and we just stood there for five minutes until the lesson was over. When the other horses started to leave, Phil started to get upset again, so I got off.

One of the gals who came with us offered to get me my lunge line, and I accepted. I then lunged Phil for another 15 minutes or so. I know he was tired, but he was getting dangerous and I didn't want to get hurt, or hurt anyone else. Finally he seemed like he was running low on steam, so I got back on.

I needed to be smarter about this, so I made a 12-15 meter circle in one end of the arena, and did lots of walk-trot transitions and changes of direction. This kept him occupied, got him focused, and the few times that he did try and leap around I was able to control it because we were on a small circle. Eventually he was calm enough that I made my circle bigger, and went to the other end of the arena also. In the end I could trot him completely around the outside of the arena, both directions. He was still on alert, but focused and working. I'm not sure I'd call him relaxed, but it was pretty good considering what we started with.

I knew I was tired, and I wanted him to end on a positive note, so I decided to stop and put him away without taking him into the show arena. That could wait until tomorrow. I would have to get up super early in order to lunge and ride in the show arena, but if that's what it took I could sacrifice some sleep, get there early, and take a nap in the afternoon.

Because I couldn't go to bed early that night. I had to run home and get all prettied up for Craig's company party. I was dragging by the end of it, and we didn't get to bed until after 12:30 am. Sunday morning was going to be rough in more ways than one.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

February "Five Pieces of Equipment I Love Right Now" Weekly Post #1

This is the first post for February's weekly theme. Enjoy!

Magic Stretch Gripper Gloves

These babies make great winter riding gloves, and they are super cheap! I don't care for the ones that don't have the rubber gripper things on them, but the gripper dots or even the patches of rubber (in patterns of skulls or flowers, whatever they might be) make for nice gripping of the reins. And at $2 a pair, it's hard to care of you lose one or get a hole in the finger, which is what usually happens when I buy expensive gloves.

Check your local Walgreens, CVS, or Dollar Store before they pull all the winter merchandise. I try and pick up a few pair when I see them and keep them in storage for next year!

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr