Monday, October 29, 2007

A new plan

Today Kaswyn's left front pastern seemed less stiff than it was the past two days, but it was still a bit stiff. It had improved, which is a good thing. I pointed out to my trainer what I was seeing and she also saw the stiffness I had seen. After a discussion with her, I have decided two things.

First, no matter what happens with this current situation, I'm going to modify Kaswyn's work schedule. When he was a young horse I found that I got much better work from him if I rode him every other day. I got a fresher horse, both mentally and physically. So I'm going to apply this same plan to his training now. For the past month there have been times where I rode him three days in a row, and all of those days were "training" days and not "hack around" days. I told my trainer that this was because I can be a bit of a task master, and she was kind enough to say "No, you're just focused." Overly driven, maybe? Excited about my horse returning to the show ring? Absolutely. Still it's no excuse for over riding Kaswyn.

I don't know for sure if this had anything to do with what's happening now, but I know that if it was a good plan for Kaswyn as a young horse it certainly can't be bad for him as a 16 year old boy. I want to give him two days completely off, and then have one or maybe two days of very light work. Maybe just walking, or a warm up just to get him moving. This is important especially in the winter so that he doesn't get stiff from standing in the cold. It will also raise his body temperature and encourage him to drink a bit more water, which can be a problem when the weather cools off. I really don't need a bout with colic to contend with on top of everything else.

Secondly, I've decided that I'm not going to try and force this horse to do anything anymore. I've finally gotten it into my thick skull that if I feel he needs to be forced then something is wrong and I need to stop. He doesn't always offer to do something perfectly the first time, and he does resist at times, but for the most part if I insist he do something he is more than happy to comply. Refusing to do as I ask just means that he can't do it for one reason or other; pain, discomfort, stiffness, fatigue, whatever. And I need to listen to my horse. Every. Single. Time. I trust him implicitly to be honest. This horse has a heart of gold and I know that he would sacrifice his body if I asked him to and if he thought it was what I wanted and it would make me happy. This is not something I will overlook again.

While I was watching the US Nationals live feed on, I heard the announcer say this about a past US National Champion who was being honored with a special award - "A horse like this comes along once in a lifetime." I believe that Kaswyn is my once in a lifetime horse. I need to make sure I get as much quality time with this wonderful animal as I can. He has given me everything I have asked for, and continues to offer what he can to me every day. I owe him love, happiness, health, understanding, and so much more.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Today's Observation

As I was walking Kaswyn today I noticed that his left front fetlock wasn't flexing as much as it should when he put his weight on it. It was flexing much less than the right front, which was adequately absorbing the shock and weight of his stride. This would make Kaswyn flat on the left because the pastern/fetlock joint would be stiff and less flexed than it should be, thus making it harder for him to push off and get suspension from it. Think about if you tried to jump in the air without first bending your knees. It would be pretty hard to get much upward movement.

So what could this mean? I'm thinking most probably arthritis, due to the fact that it looks like a joint problem and not a muscle issue. Or it's possible that he has always moved that way on the left front and I just never noticed it, which means that he's got some other issue. The good thing is that we have many, many x-rays from last year to compare to new ones if needed.

I know I just need to wait and see what happens, but it's hard not to over analyze. It's also hard not to worry. Keep your fingers crossed for me that this will end up being no big deal.

Friday, October 26, 2007


JDLR = Just Don't Look Right.

I can't remember where I first heard this term. It was probably from a show like Cops (which I fully dig) or some other real life cop or investigation show. Simply put, it's that little voice in your head that says, "Something isn't right here." Slightly modified, JDFR could mean "Just Doesn't Feel Right."

Kaswyn JDFR. Last week he felt like he was doing something funny with his right front leg. I checked the calendar and saw that he was due for shoes. His right front foot grows much more toe than the left front, and it kind of felt like he was flipping the right front over faster in an effort to break over the long toe. I figured that was the problem, and I scheduled for him to be reset. He got new Buster Browns on Wednesday.

Yesterday I rode him in our normal warm-up, which is walking for 5 minutes on a long rein with stretching, then trotting and cantering in a lower frame which encourages him to work over his back. After the warm-up we took a short walk break, then I asked him to trot. I have been trying to ask for a bit more of an upright frame from him a little sooner, which I do by raising my hands a little bit and sitting more. He was fine at first, but then I got after him a little for blowing me off in a leg yield. After I corrected him, he got flippy with the right front and was behind the bridle (which means he was avoiding contact with my hand but still moving forward). This was a problem that I've had before and I've been able to solve it by going into a medium posting trot and pushing him back into the rein contact.

This did not solve the problem. I tried some other things, like cantering, walk-trot transitions, but we seemed to be a little stuck. At one point I pushed and then gave a half-halt and he did a few steps of passage (to be eventually added to my Video Glossary), which seemed to solve the problem. We continued to school , with me asking for just a few passage steps when he would get funny with the right front. The whole time he still felt fine at the canter and walk.

Today, we had a lesson. I explained to my trainer what had happened yesterday, and we started working on the shoulder-in to try and re-establish a solid contact with my hand and a respect of my leg aids. It was pretty awful. He felt terrible, and I felt I was doing a bad job of executing my trainers commands. Finally she suggested that she get on him. She was able to make him a little better, but not back to my normal horse. That's when I was really able to see the right front in action. He didn't look right, and I was starting to feel that something was wrong.

Kaswyn is not a horse that you have to fight with. He's not perfect, and will usually try the easiest way of doing things. But when you get on his case and ask him to be obedient, he usually backs down and gets to work. But not today. It was like he was saying "Hey, I'm trying, but I just can't do what you're asking right now."

I got back on him briefly, and while he did feel better I still got the flippy right front after a decent shoulder-in right. It's hard to tell for sure if he's flipping the right (which I think) or just really flat on the left (my trainers thought), but we agreed that it was just wrong. We discussed giving him some time off with meds just in case he had tweaked something or was sore someplace.

I called Dr. B's cell phone and left him a voicemail (at 5:20 PM on a Friday night). Three minutes later my phone rang. Did I mention I love my vet? Anyway, I filled him in on the situation and he agreed that Kaswyn could have some kind of inflammation somewhere and that we should try and quiet that down. He suggested the following regimen -

Ten days off with 14 days of medications.
Days 1 through 5 = 2 grams of bute per day
Day 6 = one scoop aspirin
Day 7 = 1 gram bute
Continue to altenate bute/aspirin each day until day 14.
Ride on Day 11 and call with results. If he's not better Dr. B. will come out and evaluate.

Apparently the aspirin gives good support to connective tissues, so that will help with any tendon/ligament issues. The bute will help with any kind inflammation.

This is how the whole mess started two years ago when Kaswyn didn't feel right to me. But I'm trying not to get too nervous about this because instead of just pushing through this we're giving him time off and treating him, in a way. This makes me feel like if there is something happening that maybe we can nip it in the bud, or at least get a handle on it. However, I'd be lying if I said this wasn't bothering me. He's been going along so well. I hope after a brief rest we can continue.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Saddle Up - Part 6

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

When I got pregnant with Lily, I asked my doctor about riding Kaswyn. He told me that he didn't think I should ride. I told him that I knew plenty of people that had ridden until very late in their pregnancies (Blair, for one), and besides, I really trusted my horse not to pitch me into the dirt. He replied, "Well, you can ride if you really want to. Just remember that if you fall off and the placenta detaches from your uterus, we can't save the baby. So it's your choice."

I chose not to ride.

It was really hard watching my trainer ride Kaswyn for nine months. Not that she's a bad rider or anything - it's just that Kaswyn hadn't ever been in training before (except once for six weeks when I had hurt my back) and, well, I wanted to be the one riding him. While I was thrilled with how much he learned both of the times I was pregnant, I was really glad to get back on after the girls were born.

A lot changed while I was pregnant with Macey. Craig lost his job (again!) and I was forced to lease Kaswyn out part time to be able to save some money. The gal that leased him owned a mare who wasn't as trained as Kaswyn so the rider was able to learn a lot from him. Her mare also had many physical problems, despite being a young horse, and the rider did everything she could to help her horse feel better. This horse, who was eight or nine, had (if I remember correctly) navicular, degenerative hocks, arthritis, and possibly some kind of brain tumor that was giving her neurological problems and making her spontaneously lactate. She spent a lot of money on vet bills, special corrective shoeing, and a saddle.

Her saddle was new on the market and was a Freedom Holistic UltraFlex dressage saddle. It's basically a treeless saddle that flexes in every direction possible. I don't know if it really helped her horse any, but at least it wasn't hurting her back because it was a custom saddle.

When I got back to riding after the pregnancy the rider asked me if it would be okay if she tried her saddle out on Kaswyn. She said she really didn't like my Cobra, and found her saddle much more comfortable and easy to sit in. I told her no, I really didn't want her to do that. First of all, it was a custom saddle that was made to fit her horse, not Kaswyn. Secondly, I didn't think it was a good idea, now that we were sharing rides on Kaswyn, for him to be ridden in two different saddles all the time. I had heard about the UltraFlex and I didn't have a doubt that it was a nice saddle. My concern was that Kaswyn would prefer it to the Cobra, and then when I'd put the Cobra on him he'd be sour and not want to work. Lastly, I knew at that there was no way I could afford the saddle at that point. Besides, one night I had ridden her horse in the UltraFlex and I absolutely hated it.

One day it appeared that she had ridden Kaswyn but my saddle had not been moved, so I asked her if she had ridden bareback. Turns out that she had gone behind my back to our trainer, who had told her she could try the UltraFlex on Kaswyn. I was not amused. She tried to plead her case, saying how much better he felt in the saddle and how it was better for his back. But I put my foot down. I told her, once and for all, she was not to ride him in that saddle. Period.

A few months later, I ended her lease with Kaswyn. He hadn't really felt right since I had been back to riding, and in an effort to try and at least figure out what was wrong with him I thought it was in his best interest for me to be the only one riding him. There were other factors too, like the saddle incident (which I thought was a childish, underhanded, and manipulative move on her part), the fact that one night she refused to allow me to help her with a problem she was having with my horse (she said she wanted to just think about it and figure it out on her own), and the fact that she told me flat out that she didn't always warm him up as much as she should because sometimes she just didn't have that kind of time and just wanted to get down to work. It was a relationship that needed to end.

Right around the time the lease was over was the beginning of the long, painful, and expensive game of "What is Wrong With Kaswyn and Can He Be Fixed?" For eighteen long months we spent diagnosing, laying off, medicating, and analyzing Kaswyn. During that time he did very little work due to his constant, nagging lameness. Much of the time was spent simply walking my horse. I bought a bareback pad and we spent weeks and weeks just walking around bareback and in a halter.

When we finally fixed him, and I was bringing him back to work, I still rode him bareback. I really enjoyed how much I was able to feel his back and the connection I had with him. I could easily get him on the bit and walk, trot and canter him. I thought it was great for both of us at the time, but soon I really felt like we were working enough that I needed the saddle.

I put the Cobra on Kaswyn and got on. We walked around on a loose rein for ten minutes, then I asked him to get on the bit. He pinned his ears, tightened his neck and back, and threw his head in the air. He had never done this when I was bareback. He was giving me a message, and I heard it loud and clear.

It was totally obvious. Kaswyn hated the Cobra. I needed a new saddle. Again.

To be continued...

Part 7

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Live from US Nationals!

They are broadcasting a live feed of the US Arabian National Championships!

Click here.

You have to register to be able to see it, but registration takes less than a minute. I actually got my computer to work for me, and was able to watch some classes. So cool! Much easier than going to New Mexico.

If they have this for Sport Horse Nationals in 2009 then maybe you'll be able to watch Kaswyn and I live at the show! I know I'll watch next year if they have it.

Am I the only one excited about this??

Monday, October 22, 2007

Eight things you don't know about me.

I've been tagged! Show Your Pony challenged me to come up with eight things that people probably don't know about me. So off we go..

1) I don't like nuts in things. I like selected types of nuts on their own - peanuts, cashews, almonds, and macadamia nuts - but nuts do not belong in ice cream, cookies, cakes, icings, or fudge. The only exceptions are Hershey bars with almonds and Snickers. Walnuts and pecans are the devils kidney stones. Do not give them to me in anything or on anything edible.

2) I don't like brownies. Yes, I know they are the epitome of chocolately goodness, but they have that "brownie" taste. And I realize that they are one short step away from being cake. However, they are not cake. If I want cake I will eat cake, not a cake-like brownie.

3) Despite doing their best to get me out of this silly horse business, my parents and I have a really good relationship now. We talk three or four times a week. I remember a time when I wouldn't speak to my parents for weeks, and when they'd call I'd procrastinate about calling them back. I think having them accept the fact that I'm a horse person and even get involved with my purchase of Kaswyn really healed a lot of the gap between us, at least on my end.

4) I hate peppers. Hot, green, yellow, orange, red.. any kind. They are like giant stink bugs that permeate whatever dish they are in with their sickening vile bug juice.

5) I suck at playing instruments. I tried the flute in 5th grade and almost passed out trying to get it to make any sound at all. Then I took piano lessons for six months before the piano teacher told my parents to stop wasting their money and her time.

6) I have been clinically diagnosed with mononucleosis...twice! Supposedly you can only get it once, but I have had two positive blood tests for it. The first time I didn't feel sick at all, I just had huge swollen glands. The second time was years later and I couldn't even get out of bed. It sucked.

7) This past week I was involved in a situation with a police officer that could have sent me to jail for thirty days. I'll probably write an entry on this at some point, but right now it's too scary. When I can laugh about it, I'll write about it. Needless to say, by some miracle I won't be going to jail.

8) I'm taking pictures with my horse today! Yay! So I need to get a move on and get to the barn.

Right now I'm going to tag Wiola. I'll have to think of more people later! I gotta go!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Saddle Up - Part 5

Part 1

Yes, I appreared I needed to find a new saddle. At first I resisted. But then I started thinking about what it was like for my horse to be ridden in a saddle that hurt his back every day. I thought of what it would be like going to work in high heels that were a size too small and how my back and feet would feel at the end of the day. That did it. A new saddle was a must!

As I began looking for dressage saddles, I got advice from my trainer as to what brands were good and where I should be looking. It began to dawn on me that I had ben extremely lucky when I found my Collegiate. It seems I wasn't going to be able to get a nice saddle for under $1000. Yikes. But it was worth not destroying my horse's back or making him not want to be ridden.

It just so happened that while I was saddle shopping a gal at the barn sold her horse, and started saying how she should sell her saddle too. So I had her bring it out to the barn and had the saddle fitting lady look at it on my horse. She said that since the panels were wool stuffed it could be made to fit my horse much better than the Collegiate - however, it was not perfect. She said my best option was to get a custom saddle, which I knew I couldn't afford. I asked if this saddle, a Cobra, would work for the time being. She said that it would be a vast improvement over the Collegiate and she was sure Kaswyn would be more comfortable in it.

Then it was time for me to ride in it. Well, I didn't like it. It was a saddle I thought I could get used to, but it had really big knee block and knee rolls, and I felt like they just got in my way. The Cobra also made me feel like there was a whole lot of saddle between me and my horse, which I really thought reduced my feel. Again, since my needs were secondary to Kaswyn's back, I decided I could live with the Cobra and we discussed price.

$1800. Wow. Luckily she allowed me some time to come up with the cash. I was able to put my Collegiate on eBay, where it quickly sold for $350! I made a huge profit, but it only made a small dent in the total price so I still had to come up with the rest of the money. I was able to scrape it together and soon I was the proud owner of this saddle -

You can see that the knee blocks are considerably bigger than my Collegiate. But please don't get me wrong. It was an excellent saddle and well worth the price, especially since I'd be riding in it five times a week. Or so I thought.

Shortly thereafter, I found out I was pregnant with our second daughter.

To be continued...

Part 6

Monday, October 15, 2007

Saddle Up - Part 4

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

I loved my new Collegiate dressage saddle. It had a nice close contact and I was really able to feel my horse. Plus it felt a lot like my Crosby all purpose saddle, so it wasn't that hard to get used to.

I did have to completely change my seat, however. Riding hunt seat in the all purpose saddle I used a much shorter stirrup and a slightly more forward lean to my body. I also gripped the saddle and horse with my knees to stay on, only using my lower leg to squeeze the horse to get more speed or to ask for another gait. With dressage you really want to stay open at the knee, not gripping there, so that your lower leg can wrap around the horse and be more effective. So in the beginning my dressage lessons were very hard. I had to change the way I had ridden for the past 20 years.

My first dressage trainer told me that after our first lesson that there were so many problems with my horse and I that she didn't even know where to start. But she made a plan and let me start off with my stirrups a little shorter than they should be. In dressage your stirrups should be longer and your leg should hang straighter down from the hip, but if you all of a sudden make your stirrups much longer than you're used to it's hard to keep your leg in place. You lose your stirrups a lot too. Even though I loved my saddle, riding in it with a dressage seat was a struggle. But I adapted and soon I felt more comfortable with the correct dressage position.

It was probably a good year before my trainer actually got on my horse. He had never had anyone else ride him, and he was nervous and tense. She had a fine ride on him, but commented that she didn't really like my saddle. I think the next few times she rode him she used her saddle, which was fine with me.

After a few years with this trainer, even though I really liked her, I switched trainers (I'll tell THAT whole mess of a story some other time). My new trainer commented almost immediately that she didn't think the saddle fit my horse very well, and that I should see about getting it fitted to him. I thought that was really interesting - you can make a saddle fit a horse? Wow. So we had the local saddle fitter out to look at the saddle. Turns out that the panels on my Collegiate were filled with foam. Most dressage saddles have wool filled panels which enables the saddle fitter to be able to mold the panels to better fit the horse's back. They could not do anything with the foam filled panels.

This didn't bother me very much because I still loved the saddle. My trainer HATED the saddle, and she formulated a plan to make it go away forever. She had me come to the barn while the saddle fitter was there so I could see exactly what the issues with the saddle were. The saddle lady put the saddle on Kaswyn without a pad on and began pointing things out to me, and explaining about saddle fit and the shape of my horse. I learned a lot about saddles and backs that day. The major things were that the Collegiate tree was too narrow for my horse's shoulders, which restricted his movement and pinched his wither/shoulder area. Also the panels were not properly fitted to his back, and that was making him sore in a few spots.

So it was time to get rid of my beloved Collegiate. Armed with my new found saddle education, I had a list of three very important criteria which had to be met for my next saddle purchase.

1) Good fit for my horse
2) Comfortable for me
3) Something I could actually afford

To be continued...

Part 5

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The PSG trot sequence

I had a great lesson today. At the end my trainer was kind enough to video that trot sequence from the PSG test that I talked about in my previous post A rare Monday lesson. When I asked her to video me (not only so I could see how the movement looks when I ride it, but also for this blog), she said "Not problem! I love watching myself ride!" Realizing how that sounded, she quickly added "You know, for training purposes so I can make my riding and seat better! Not just cause I like to see myself on video or anything!"

Uh huh. Sure. ;)

Anyway, here is the sequence to the left.

I think the shoulder-in looks better than it feels, because it really doesn't look bad. After the circle (which is fairly decent as well) he drags his haunches in the half-pass, which I know he's been doing. I just need to get him a little sharper off of my right leg there I think.

And now, to the right.

Again, pretty nice shoulder-in and circle. A nicer half-pass here, although I think he could have been just a little steadier in his contact with my rein/hand. But overall, I'm pretty pleased. Except I wish the video quality was better, and wasn't so dark. I had every light on in the arena, but that didn't seem to help in some spots.

And, I know I haven't put half-pass on my Video Glossary of Dressage Movements. There is a very good reason for that. I'm in the process of getting permission from USEF to use the official definitions and figures from the rulebook in my blog. I'm expecting paperwork from their legal department, and it's taking longer than I expected. Until I get that straightened out I'm planning on not adding to the page. I might get impatient if this takes too long though. We'll see. There's no point in pissing off the USEF.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Air Kaswyn

You know it's going to be a good ride when your trainer says "What's with your horse?"

When I got to the barn today it was a good 25-30 degrees cooler than it was for my lesson on Monday. Welcome to Cleveland - if you don't like the weather, wait a few hours and it will change. Anyhow, as I was grooming and tacking my horse I heard the CD player in the arena and I knew that my trainer was running through a musical freestyle (which is a dressage test set to music) with one of her other students. Kaswyn heard the music too, and was a little more perky than usual. He's done a few freestyles and he always gets really jazzed about the music.

When we entered the arena I saw that cones had been set up to mark the correct size for a regulation show arena because the arena itself is a little bigger than the competition area. Usually it's not a big deal to ride in a larger arena but when you are trying to choreograph a ride to music you really need to know how long it's going to take you to get from point A to piont B, so arena size is important.

As I tightened Kaswyn's girth, he started snorting a bit and was a little antsy. I walked him to the mounting block, and as soon as I got on he took off doing this really fast walk. He then started snorting and doing little spooks here and there. My trainer and her other student were discussing their session and both stopped to watch my horse be a big goof. A horse sighed in his stall - Kaswyn jumped. The cat ran through the arena - Kaswyn spooked. All these things usually would not have had any effect on him, but the cool temperature, music, and cones had him all fired up.

Then we started to trot. He didn't give me any funny business, but instead gave me the best trot I have felt out of him in years. Big, bold, reaching, energetic strides. Even the shoulder-in was pretty damned good. My trainer said how good he looked, and also said "He looks like he has Nikes on today." The canter work was equally as good, with lots of jump.

It was a fabulous ride. Now I'm hoping he can have some of that energy throughout this winter and can train with that much enthusiasm. We'll make so much headway.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A rare Monday lesson

Since my trainer and I are trying to make up for missed rides I'm going to be having two lessons a week this month if we can manage it. So yesterday I had a lesson, and Kaswyn was pretty good. After I warmed up we discussed how Kaswyn had been feeling. I think that Kaswyn is now on the downhill side of his rehab, and that he just needs to build muscle and stamina slowly. So we decided to work on one small part of the test that we'd like to show next year - the Prix St. George.

A little background - the governing association for horse shows in the US (with the exception of Quarter Horse shows - they have their own affiliation) is the United States Equestrian Federation, or USEF. They, in conjunction with the United States Dressage Federation, USDF, write the dressage tests to be performed at each level. These levels are Introductory, Training, First, Second, Third, and Fourth, with each level having multiple tests, up to four. After Fourth level, the tests used are from the The Fédération Équestre Internationale, or FEI, which is the International Federation for Equestrian Sports. These levels are Prix St. Georges, Intermediare I, Intermediare II, and Grand Prix, each having one test per level. Grand Prix is what you'd see at the Olympic games.

Kaswyn has shown both Prix. St. Georges (also known as PSG) and Intermediare I (I1)successfully, so we're going to start with PSG. There is a certain trot sequence in the test that gives us trouble. It's a shoulder in along the wall from the corner to the middle of the wall, followed by an 8 meter circle (a little less than half the width of the arena), then half-pass from the wall to the centerline. I should have gotten a video of it, and will try to during my next lesson.

We have problems with all three parts of the movement. To start with, his shoulder-in is not smooth and reaching. He tends to take shorter strides instead of putting more weight behind and reaching out with his front legs. Then when I turn him onto the circle he dives onto his forehand and doesn't keep the impulsion going. After the circle, he lets his haunches trail for the first part of the half-pass. I always feel we get a better half-passs out of the corner or down the centerline. I don't know why this is because it really shouldn't make a difference. A turn is a turn.

Anyhow, we worked on that and I felt a little improvement. I guess it's unrealistic for me to expect that every movement will be perfect, but I'd like to nail down the test to the point where I don't have moments in the show ring where I hold my breath and think "Okay, I really hope we get this!". In general I think his trot work is stronger than his canter work, so I'll try to focus there for a few weeks. But it's really hard to do more trot work when it's difficult to get correct, and the canter work feels so good!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A look at the week

My horse will be taking a min-vacation this week. Not because he's lame or anything, but just because of my schedule, my trainer's schedule, and the vet's schedule. Here is the week in a nutshell (warning - heavy on the dressage terminology) -

Monday - I wasn't going to ride, but ended up out at the barn and watching my trainer ride Kaswyn. He needed a little bit of convincing to get in front of her leg and stay there, but other than that he worked well.

Tuesday - We had a great ride. Especially his half-passes at both the trot and canter. I hadn't relaized just how much I had been letting him do more of a half-drag instead of half-pass, but now I'm insisting he takes big, slow, powerful, reaching strides in the half-passes. And I'm getting a great response from him and fantastic results. We also schooled three lines of flying changes, with me insisting that he stay in a slightly-more-than-usual collected canter. He did three perfect lines - 5 changes every 4th stride, then 5 changes every 3rd stride, and again back to 5 changes every 4th stride. They were simply wonderful! To top it all off I did three diagonal lines of medium/extended trot. I've had a bit of an epiphany that I really don't need to pull on my horse's mouth to get the down transition at the end of the diagonal - he's trained enough that I can now just half-halt with my seat only and he sits and collects. I can almost hear him saying "Gee, thanks for finally realizing that you don't have to grab my face every time you want something. I'm very proud of you."

Wednesday - Day off for Kaswyn

Thursday - Was going to be my lesson but the vet got suddenly scheduled to come out and give fall shots. That means both Thursday and Friday are out for serious training.

Friday - My mother-in-law is coming into town, so I won't be going to the barn. I was going to have my trainer school Kaswyn, but becasue of the shots she's just going to get on him and flex his neck and loosen him up. He tends to get big reactions from his shots now, and even with some Banamine he gets sore and swollen in his neck. So at least he'll get out Friday.

Saturday - Day off

Sunday - I'm going to try and get out to ride, but my mother-in-law will be heading home at some point and then Craig has afternoon plans. Hopefully I can get out to ride at some point.

I hate having my horse take so much time off when we are going along so well! I'm making progress, he's making progress, and I have high hopes for showing next year. Just because I'm not writing about it here doesn't mean I'm not thinking about it. And making plans. And getting really really excited.

Cause he feels fantastic.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Saddle up - Part 3

Part 1

Even though I'd been riding for years, and even bought a saddle (and two horses) on my own, I still didn't know anything about saddles except if I liked the way they felt under my seat. I asked my dressage trainer at the time for suggestions on what kind of saddle to buy. She said she was partial to Stubben brand saddles (I think), and that I should go to the tack stores and see if I could find a used one that might fit my horse.

I thought, fit my horse? Huh? Interesting. Well, he's a horse, and it's a horse saddle, so any of them should fit him, right? Knowing that my seat size is usually 16.5, I went down to the local tack store that carries English riding tack. They had many used dressage saddles, which was good. Then I looked at the prices.

Holy shit.

$900! For a used saddle? What else does it do for that much money? Does it come with solid gold stirrups or something? Forget that.

So I went on the Internet. I found lots of dressage saddles on eBay and other tack sites, and while many of the used dressage saddles were very expensive, there were some more inexpensive options. I was a bit lost though, because there were so many brands of dressage saddles, and I wasn't really familiar with most of them. I knew that the tack company Miller's had a line of saddles called Collegiate that were similar to the Crosby saddles but were less expensive. With a little research I found a few Collegiate dressage saddles that I liked the look of. Yeah, I was going on looks alone at that point, having never actually ridden in a dressage saddle.

I came across an online classified ad for a black 17 inch Collegiate Classic dressage saddle, leather girth and shipping included for $175. A 17 inch seat is a little big for me, but I thought it wouldn't really make that much difference. Better too big than too small, right? The gal selling the saddle and I emailed each other some info, made the deal, and I sent her a money order. A week later my second saddle arrived on my doorstep.

There are many reasons why I loved this saddle. If you look back at my Crosby, you'll see that it doesn't have any knee rolls. For non-horsey people, check out this pic from Wikipedia, which has a labeled arrow pointing to the knee roll.

Anyhow, my new-to-me Collegiate dressage saddle had very small knee rolls under the flaps, so it felt a lot like my Crosby. I loved this because having less knee roll gave me a much better feel of my horse. See, the knee rolls are big blocks of leather or padding designed to help the rider keep their seat on a big moving horse, or while jumping, or whenever you need more support to stay in the saddle. I didn't really need knee rolls to ride Kaswyn, so they would just get in my way and interfere with my feel. I thought my saddle was great.

Turns out that I was the only one who liked it.

To be continued...
Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr