Saturday, 31 August 2013

Busy Week

It was a busy week for me so unfortunately I got out to the barn on Monday and then not again until Friday.  On Tuesday, I got my back done, and on Wednesday, Walker got his back done.  By Thursday, I was so exhausted and so far behind on everything I needed to do in the apartment that I ended up just taking the day off.

One of the books I got for my birthday
a couple weeks ago - fitting and
Friday, I went out to the barn and tacked up the old beast.  He was a little lazier than usual, and I wasn't able to get that nice trot out of him that I had going on Monday.  Instead, I decided to do some lateral work - leg yields mostly - and I also worked on our breaks.  He's not too good at going from the trot or canter to a halt so I worked along one end of the arena.  I would canter/trot for several strides, stop, back up, and then go forward again for several strides, etc.  When I got to the end of the arena wall, I would do a turn on the forehand and repeat back in the other direction.

I know that some of our downward transition problems are my fault.  I just cannot seem to drive my seat into the saddle.  I always feel like I'm perched in the saddle instead of really using my seat.  I use it fine enough for upward transitions (although that could still use some work too), and I seem to be able to slow his trot to a jog with my seat, but everything else is a disaster.  This forces me to be harsher on his mouth than I probably should be.  I'm hoping that a new saddle will help with this as well because I just don't feel like I have as much contact in the Western saddle as I would like, although I'm sure that's just an excuse I'm using the justify my problems to myself!

Speaking of saddles, do any of you know of any good websites/tack shops where they sell good used saddles.  I contacted a couple retailers in Canada and have been perusing a few American websites.  I'm not overly worried about getting it over the border. We Canadians have our crafty little ways of getting stuff that American shops won't send to us!  But mainly I just want to peruse a bunch of different websites to help me find the best saddle for Walker.  Suggestions?

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Engaging the Lazy - Rider Edition

I don't normally ride on Mondays. I like to give Walker a day off, but I also like to give myself a day off. I had already succumbed to giving myself a day off on Sunday, and then I found out I had an appointment Tuesday. I decided that I should stop being a lazy butt and ride my horse Monday anyway.

I'm glad I did because I was sooo proud of him. And I was also proud of me. And I say this all with the knowledge that at one point, he would not stop when I asked him to and kept careening around the arena. Apparently we need to work on our breaks.

The ride started off just as lazy as usual, but I started my transitions and changing directions and really got Walker moving out. This is why I was so proud. It was by far our best trot in a very long time, and since it was 100% rider-initiated (for a change...), I would go as far as to call it the best trot we've ever intentionally done. He was really extending those legs of his and just careening around the arena. He even had a nice forward canter - not as impressive as his trot, but an A for effort.

We only did that for about 40 minutes because he was drenched in sweat pretty quickly. I then decided to cool him out bareback. I drug his saddle off and then couldn't seem to reposition him in a way to make it easy to mount so I mounted from the right instead. Walker didn't care.

I started just walking since we were cooling off and then decided to trot for the hell of it. BIG MISTAKE. He thought I still wanted him to do that big trot, and remember where I said that he had no breaks last night? Yeah. He starts flying around the arena and I start sliding menacingly towards the wall. I signal him to stop but he was like, "No way, human. Check out my trot. Continue to be proud at how I work for you." So I'm now sitting at a 45 degree angle grasping the mane and thinking to myself, "Thank god I never got around to trimming this!" By the time we got to the gate, he slammed on the breaks and I could almost feel the smile inside him as if he was saying, "I done good, right?"

I mean, Walker is 15.2 hands high and normally doesn't have a trot. How do all you crazy people ride your humongous bouncy trotters bareback? I have a new appreciation for your plight.

Oh and as an addendum to my post yesterday about tail bags: buy material that is not slippery or that your horse can't easily tear off and leave in the sawdust for you. Oh, who am I kidding. Don't even bother! Horses be destroying everything.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Tail Bag

One of the ladies at my barn has a horse with a gorgeous tail.  She got me started using Cowboy Magic Detangler, and I love love love it.  It works so well, and it is already helping make Walker's tail less gross, tangled, and dry.  I highly recommend it.

Anyway, she uses a tail bag to help keep her horse's tail clean.  There are many different types of tail bags, but I really like hers the best.  It turns out that a friend of hers made it for her, so I decided to make one too.  Thus, a project was born!

For those of you who may be interested in making one yourself, here's how I did it.

1. Dimensions
You will need only four strips of fabric of the following dimensions:
- one @ 1 metre by 7-10 cm
- three @ 1 metre by 14 - 20 cm (i.e. double 7 - 10 cm so you can create tubes)

If you are wondering why the dimensions are so loosey goosey this is because it depends on the thickness of  your horse's tail and the stretchiness of your fabric.  I thought my fabric was less stretchy than the fabric on my barn mate's tail bag so I used 10 - 11 cm sized tubes (20 - 22 cm in width) instead.  It turns out that my fabric wasn't really that stretchy at all and I probably could have used some more width.  The stretchier the fabric, the easier it is to stick your hands up the tubes (like you would with pantyhoes) to grab the tail.  Otherwise, you will need wider tubes.  Pick a width that makes it easy for you to stick your hands up the tubes.  Trust me.

Similarly, the only reason that the strips are one metre in length is because it depends on your horse's height and length of tail.  I used one metre so that I'd have lots extra, but in reality I ended up cutting off maybe 30 cm of the tubes when I adjusted it at the barn.  Better to start with plenty than not have enough.  It is easily chopped off.

What the tail bag will look like.
Remember that the tubes at the bottom are 7 - 10 cm in diameter
and thus need to be double that size in width to sew
2. Reinforcement 
After that, you take the one 7x100 cm strip and simply sew around the entire edge of the fabric (like a rectangle).  This is simply to reinforce the fabric from tears and from fraying.

Do the same with one of the short ends of each of the other three strips.  There's no need to do the other three ends but you can if you so desire.  In fact, I actually made a bit of a hem with these three - as in, I folded over a cm or so and sewed there to make them stronger.  This reinforced edge is the edge that attaches to the long strip at the top so you want them to be sturdy.

3. Making the Tubes
Next take the three bigger strips, fold them in half lengthwise, and sew along the long edge to create three tubes.  If you made a hem, like I did, make sure that the hem is facing outside when you go to sew (so that it will be inside when you turn them inside out).  Turn them inside out so that the seam doesn't show. 

3. Attaching the Tubes
Then you are going to sew the three tubes to the one 7x100 cm strip.  Turn the seam of the tube to the middle outside as in the picture below and sew the other side of the tube to the middle of the one 7x100 cm strip.  The end that you are attaching to the top strip should be the one that you reinforced in step 2 above.

When you go to sew the other two tubes onto the strip, overlap them slightly to help reinforce the structure.  I actually went across this line (the three tubes) twice with the sewing machine, just to be sure.

4. Fitting and Putting It On
I actually found it 10x easier to make the tail bag than I did to put it on.  This is because Walker hates me fussing with his tail and likes to rip it from my hands.  All you need to do is tie the long strip at the top around the horse's tail at the part where you're going to divide the tail into three for braiding.  At this point, you can pull out the ol' scissors and chop off the excess length that you no longer need.  Divide the tail into three parts, feed each part through one of the tubes, and then braid the three tubes.  Secure with an elastic at the end, and voila!  For good measure, I like to redo the long strip at the top after I've braided just to make it extra secure.  I will tie it several times and feed it through the tail for good measure.  I also left a bit of the tail unbraided at the end so that he has something to swat the flies with.

Sunday, 25 August 2013


Last night I had another good ride.  I worked on a lot of the same things - transitions, transitions, transitions.  I've noticed that the key to getting Walker really moving out is to do a lot of transitions and changing directions.  Then he picks up the speed a bit because I'm asking him for a faster response time.  I will trot halfway around the arena, ask him to go straight to the walk, back up (to encourage him to use his hindquarters in the downward transition), and then immediately ask for a trot or canter from the halt.  Sometimes I go to a halt, get him to do a turn on the forehand towards the wall, and ask for an immediate departure.  It does a lot for getting his lazy mind to start working.

Because he's really panting these days, I only do these things for about 15 minutes and then I let him walk around the arena for a few minutes on a loose rein.  I've pretty much started breaking our rides up into 15 minutes at a time.  We may only ride for 30 - 60 minutes, but it's all done in 15 minute chunks to give him a chance to catch his breath.

The other thing I was doing was spiral-ins and leg yields.  So far I only ask for the leg yields at the walk because the other day when I put my leg on at the trot, he thought this meant canter and did a mediocre attempt of the leg yield at the canter.  While slightly impressive, I don't want to confuse him just yet.  He's trying to be light off the leg and so I can tell that when I put the leg back, he thought that's what I meant, despite all the other clues that said "to the side" instead of "forward".

Then, for the last 15 minutes of our ride, I got wild and crazy again and went back to the scary outdoor arena, although no one was around at the barn to supervise the insanity. I should be clear that Walker isn't afraid of the outdoor.  I'm afraid of the outdoor.  Walker just looks at that lack of fence and thinks, yeah, I can totally get out of work now.  Considering his propensity to bolt when there's an actual fence, I'm just waiting for the first day we tour the woods of the new barn unintentionally.  But I need to get over that thought process because thinking it is simply bound to make it happen.

Anyway, we first just walked around the outdoor since we were in the cool-off phase of our ride anyway.  Then I decided to jog for a little bit.  We didn't do too much jogging, nor an entire circle - more like bits and pieces of straight lines (interspersed with lots of fights in a circle).  I'm still proud.  And all the while that we were doing this, three deer were grazing in the paddock right beside us.  It was pretty cool.

Another picture taken by my mother.  Notice the
signs of the angry dragon: bright eyes, tail swished violently,
and mouth open, ready to breath fire.
I'm told that there are horses out there that actually like
to work.  They must be a rare breed of equus.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Engaging the Lazy

In preparation for my ride tonight, I spent some time taking a step back and asking myself why my pony is heavy on the forehand. Sure, he's behind the leg, and sure, he has always been heavy on the forehand, but he is also unfit. Remember those 6 months where we couldn't ride? Yeah. Needless to say, expecting the ponykins to prance around like the dressage superstar he'll never be is unrealistic.

I also came to another decision: spurs. I just gotta use 'em. As lovely as it is to say that I've finally (mostly) weaned him off spurs, I can't get things accomplished when I'm panting because I'm not strong enough or we're fighting over the stupid things. One can be light in spurs. They are, after all, merely reinforcements for when your horse isn't doing what you want. 

I also decided that I should look at Walker like a brand new horse - one that I didn't already invest a year's worth of work into getting to a certain point just to have it all come crashing down. Looking back on where we were does nothing to help me get past where we are.

Finally, I think it really is all about that damn half-ok stride. Better to have three really beautiful strides than ten really horrible ones. Better to have thirty minutes of sweat and awesomeness than an hour of strung out.

So tonight we focused on transitions, and while he really loves to dive down, he gave me some good effort.  I could tell that I was working him, and we had some moments where we really accomplished some balance (even if it only meant a slight improvement).

I also got a little wild and crazy and decided to cool him down in the outdoor arena.  The unfenced outdoor arena.  It was quite the treat.  He fought with me the entire time, even though we were just walking, and can I just say, circles are my friend.  One of the ladies at the barn was kind enough to stay with us so that we didn't end up on the highway.

Also, here is one of the pictures that my mother took last night.  It is one of the few decent ones from the pack.  You may look at it and disagree, but trust me - once I start posting the bad ones, you will agree this is a nice one too!  Plus, I am extremely impressed that although he is totally nosed out in this picture (which is because I was giving him a completely free rein), he's actually stepping up under himself!  Yay for the little things!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Horses are a pain

I didn't make it out to the barn last night unfortunately, but I did get out tonight.  My mother tried to take some pictures of me riding, but they didn't really turn out.  We have some pictures, which I will try to post once she sends them to me this weekend, but it was so dusty in the arena that they simply aren't that clear.

What is clear, however, is how bad Walker is on the forehand in every gait.  I mean, he has always been one to really lay it on excessively on the forehand, but nothing makes that more apparent than pictures.

It really frustrates me to no end because I simply don't think we will ever see much improvement in that area.  He's constantly behind the leg, and even though I'm so happy with our efforts to get him more forward, he's still the laziest creature that ever called himself a horse.  He makes me work 10x harder than any horse I've ever ridden just to get one stride of a half-ok canter.  There's only so much a girl can do.

I've been debating putting him in training (you know, if I find money...and a trainer...), and while trainers are magical people who accomplish all kinds of wonders, I don't know what they can do with a horse whose whole identity is invested in being the way he is.

Essentially, every ride with him is:

WP training + lazy horse + horse with attitude + mediocre rider = disaster

I mean, I have switched out some of these variables with other horses and have had much more pleasurable rides.  And I own a goddamn Western PLEASURE horse.  Talk about irony.

Anyway, the weekend's plan is pretty simple:
- work on being in front of the leg
- start to take up a little more contact again (because the loose rein only exasperates the problem)
- half halt, half halt, half halt
- send out an email to my saddle fitter (because my Western saddle isn't helping either - too bulky, not enough contact)

Horses are a pain.  Literally.  My back hurts.  Time for another back appointment with my massage therapist. Oh the joys of equestrianism.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Back to the Grind

I managed to tear myself away from the zoo in my house to ride Walker last night. I was there pretty late so we had the barn to ourselves. It was also blistering hot so it didn't take long to work up a sweat. Naturally I forgot my phone so I have no picture evidence (and for those of you following me on Instagram, this is also why I'm behind on the challenge).

I was pretty happy with our canter work - nice and bouncy, all on a loose WP rein. He wasn't behind the leg and kept himself in a semi-nice frame (considering that I haven't tinkered much with that yet). I definitely could use a bit more work on my own seat at the canter. Perhaps it was just the change back to the western saddle, but I felt a bit too bouncy in my own way.

As usual, our trot work left a lot to be desired. As in, "Trot? What is that? I think we should jog." Same story, different day. When I did get him going a bit better, he kept breaking to the canter, but its understandable considering his fitness level and the heat. He was dripping with sweat within 5 minutes and panting hard, so I didn't push the issue too much.

In summary I'd say we have a few things to work on. Walker needs to move out at the trot and stop being behind the leg. He needs to get muscles again so we can trot a straight line and, you know, do circles and stuff. For now, I'll keep it at that but frankly, he's back to fighting a little bit about stupid things like cutting corners despite my directions and other stupid, lazy Walker things. If I can get him in front of the leg, I expect to be able to manage these things better.

As for me, I need to find a stupid saddle. In the meantime, I need to work on getting Walker in front of my leg because 1.5 years with him has made me a nagger. I'm half the problem. I also apparently need to work on my seat, as usual. Despite my quick attempt at a month-long boot camp, I still need to get back into shape myself. Oh well! That's what horses are good at!

Tonight my mom is visiting so I don't think I'll make it to the barn. Hopefully tomorrow depending on how long she stays, but I'll be out again at the very least by Thursday. Then a full weekend of work!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Meet Izzy

Meet Izzy: the reason for my prolonged absence from blogger world.

Truthfully, it has been a crazy week.  I haven't seen Walker since last Tuesday :S  I had a work "emergency" on Wednesday and was at the office until 11 PM.  We need not discuss my feelings on that topic.

I took Thursday and Friday off and went home to see my parents for awhile.  Thursday was my 25th birthday (or 22nd - as I have trained one of my friends to tell people).  On Friday I adopted Izzy from the SPCA and it has been a whirlwind ever since.  We just finally arrived back at the apartment late Saturday night and we've been spending Sunday trying to return to some sort of normalcy.

Izzy is an 11 month old "terrier mix" - or at least this is what we were told at the SPCA.  Upon further research, I believe she's a pointer because of several tendencies she has, not including her overall look.  She was owner-surrendered by an elderly lady who simply was not prepared for how active she is.  While I have no doubt that the lady was generally quite good to her, she was using a pinch collar on her because she couldn't control her.  She is only about 25 lbs, and while she's strong on the leash (and needs some training in that regard), you can easily control her.

Other than that, she actually has a lot of pretty great training.  She is clearly very intelligent.  She already knows how to sit, stay, give me her paw, and lay down.  She is house trained and crate trained, and used to being in her crate for long periods of time.  This is ideal for me since I want to crate her while I'm away at work and probably during the night (at least for now).  She has only been at the apartment for under 24 hours, and she already knows that she's not allowed in the second bedroom which I have designated as the cat's safe space (and my wind-down space).

She laid at the edge of the doorway
while I sat in the forbidden room.
She is quite timid though.  She is absolutely TERRIFIED of the cat.  Of course, I don't blame her.  The cat has threatened to eat her whole on several occasions, and although Izzy is probably 3 times his size, Chester already chased her around the house and attacked her several times.  So much for the "supervised introduction" I was attempting.  She is afraid of other dogs and some birds (like pigeons, which have also been known to carry off medium-sized dogs).  However, I believe all this stems from the simple fact that she never got much exercise and thus never got any socialization.  She LOVES to run and would much rather run than do anything else, including play with a ball or any toys.  Needless to say, we'll wait a while before she meets Walker.

On Monday, my mom is coming down to the apartment for a few days to help smooth over the transition for me going back to work.  She is also bringing Chester, who didn't make the trip with Izzy and me.  Hopefully they can learn to co-exist.  We will give it all our best.  Hopefully I'll make it to the barn by Monday or Tuesday, especially since, you know, I'm allowed to ride my horse again.

Never a dull moment on Natalie's Funny Farm.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Puppy/Pony Show and Tell

Last night I brought some new friends from work out to the barn to see Walker. I'm sure as horse-crazed people you can understand that any chance to show off your baby to people who are genuinely (or even remotely) interested is a chance worth jumping at.

Feast your eyes on this adorable thing
Actually we had a puppy/pony show and tell since one of the girls just got a new puppy. Walker seemed mildly interested in the puppy but stopped caring the minute I brought out the apples.

One of the girls even rode him last night, despite having no experience with horses. This is why I love my horse. On Monday, he tries to buck me into the dirt, and on Tuesday he's a total babysitter. I walked with her at first, but it was clear that he was on his best behaviour. They even jogged a little.

I was also impressed with my friend who seems to be a bit of a natural. I explained to her to use her legs to turn before she asked with her reins, and I demonstrated how I could direct Walker around the arena with no reins (he's very good at that). After a little fiddling, I was wildly impressed to discover that she was actually using her legs. I thought to myself, if she can get over her instincts in 5 minutes flat and listen to directions that well, she should take lessons.

I hopped on Walker for a few seconds before she did and put him quickly through his paces so I could gage his mood and show them the difference between the gaits. Other than that, he didn't get worked too hard, which I'm sure he appreciated - I know my poor aching body did! He seemed a little stiff even though I stretched him, but that's only to be expected after his self-imposed workout Monday night while we rode. Besides, I was purposely trying to bring out the well-behaved slow-moving WP horse in him, lest he decide to scrape my new found friend along the arena wall! 

But he was a good boy. Mommy was so proud.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Straight and Forward, Honest and True

Last night I rode my horse. Like for realz.

And he was bad. Of course.

Another woman was there with her horse and decided to ride with us. I'm glad that she did because Walker is a show off. He likes to misbehave when other horses are around if he's feeling fresh, and I wanted every excuse for him to be forward. I didn't even lunge him first.

I really wanted to work on the foundations - forward and straight. We weren't so straight, but he was definitely forward. He kept trying to break into a canter and was throwing little temper tantrums when he couldn't get his way. He also threw a couple little bucks (and one impressive little buck with a squeal), but we soldiered on. Sorry, buddy. It takes more than that to deter me.

It might sound weird but I like when Walker's bad. Not all the time of course, and not in every way. But Walker equates speed with bad behaviour because of his training. I'm trying to teach him otherwise, but at the very least, he picks up the pace when he's feeling it. It also gives me something to work on. I get very frustrated when I ask for something and he doesn't understand or simply can't do it (don't we all?), but I don't get frustrated when he acts out. It's just like a challenge to get the upper hand, and I do love a challenge. 

He'll settle with time. For now, we have to re-establish that I'm the boss and he actually has to do what I tell him to do. But let's be honest, he always has a little flair for the dramatic even when he's on his "best" behaviour.

I also rode in my western saddle. After many discussions and several measurements, I decided that my Western saddle is simply deceivingly narrow. It's actually wider than most FQHBs and so suitable for the meantime. However, I haven't ridden Western in about a year, and I can guarantee that while I was glad to have the security, I wasn't so glad to loose the closer contact of an English saddle. I was perpetually yelling, "Where are my heels? Can you feel my heels?" I'm classy like that.

Needless to say, after six months of little riding, I am sore as all get out this morning. My seat bones are sore and I might simply collapse from exhaustion at my desk.

I expect to do it all again tonight.

Last four days of the 30 day Instagram challenge

Friday, 9 August 2013

A Lesson in Perception

More often than not, our vision of our horses is skewed by other horses - horses we know, horses we see on tv, horses we see in our imaginations.

For instance, when I was a little girl, I rode a lot of what I will fondly call "the ranch style Quarter horse". They were roughly 14 hands and definitely short and stocky. At a whopping 15.2 hands, Walker seemed like a giant when I got him. In fact, my parents still think he's huge.

At my last barn, he was average. There were only a couple horses taller, and 95% of the horses were quarter horses. Walker is the stocky breed of QH, not that appendix sporty model. So when he fills out, he looks quite plump. When he was at the old barn, I was pretty sure I had an overweight QH on my hands.  I was definitely debating diets.

At my new barn, the horses are huge. They are still mostly QHs, but they are built like tanks. I mean, if one of those things plowed into you, they'd take you out. They dwarf Walker significantly.  This led me to believe that up until this moment, I must have been delusional about the size of my QH. He is not actually overweight, I said to myself. He must be small and could still use a few more pounds.

redneck saddle fitting
Tonight I "measured" him for a saddle with a bunch of templates I printed off the Internet. Yes, I know - redneck saddle fitting. Don't worry. I'm not actually going to put the well being of my horse in the hands of a piece of card board and pipe cleaner.

Anyway, I was DEAD CONVINCED that Walker had a normal size withers (compared to, you know, all the horses on the planet).  He looks normal to me, and compared to these monstrosities in the stalls next to him, he might even be narrow (I whispered to myself).  Nope.  No matter how I measured him, he was coming out Wide/Extra Wide.  OBVIOUSLY I was doing it wrong.  I mean, Walker is clearly not EXTRA wide.

Finally, another barn mate showed up.  She let me try her horse's Western saddle on Walker's back (god bless her), and we confirmed that Walker is your normal broad-backed QH - Full Quarter Horse Bars all the way.  Then I told her my theory that Walker would probably need a standard English gullet.  She used to ride English as well so she promptly informed me that no, I had a QH on my hands, and he was definitely wide or extra wide.  Good to know.

It just goes to show that you can get an idea of what you think your horse is and be completely wrong, just based on other horses you see.  This doesn't just translate to saddle fitting, but to all aspects of equestrianism.  Don't compare yourself to others.  It gets you nowhere.

*Also, don't give your horse a weight complex.  That's important too.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

30 day challenge

It probably would have been smart of me to mention 8 days ago that I am doing L. Williams' 30 day Instagram challenge. But I like to march to the beat of my own drum.

Day 1 Your Horse
Day 2 Tack
Day 3 Favorite Riding Outifit
Day 4 Helmet
Day 5 Ribbon
Day 6 Riding Buddy
Day 7 Barn
Day 8 Riding Arena
Day 9 Fail Photo
Day 10 Treats
Day 11 Riding Discipline
Day 12 Biggest Success
Day 13 Bareback
Day 14 Trainer
Day 15 Bond Photo
Day 16 Equestrian Idol
Day 17 Horse Show
Day 18 Horse's Feed
Day 19 Boots
Day 20 Favorite Pony
Day 21 Favorite Horse
Day 22 Pet Peeve
Day 23 Riding Photo
Day 24 Action Photo
Day 25 Favorite 10
Day 26 Throwback
Day 27 Funniest Photo
Day 28 Barn Pets
Day 29 Riding Goal
Day 30 Favorite Photo

The following is a summary of my photos so far. Feel free to add me to Instagram or participate yourself! The Internet can never have enough pictures of ponies.

Note: my Instagram is natstew04. That would probably be helpful information

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Saddle Dilemma Magnified

My saddle dilemma went from bad to worse last night, as most things tend to do with Walker and me.

The masseuse came out and worked him. She was actually happier with how much better he felt but agreed with me that he continued to look stiff on the lunge. We decided its because he always reverts back to WP. His default is the jog/lope and so he doesn't stretch under himself. She wants me to get after him to really push him forward. Yeah right. When he was cantering, she said, "Oh yeah. He's really Western Pleasure. Look at that lope." Which almost made me laugh because it was definitely not his WP lope and while slower than most people's idea of a canter, that lope would be worthless in a WP ring. Sigh. Not good enough for WP, not good enough for English. We fit nowhere.

the face that launched a thousand heartaches
Anyway, we discussed saddles, and she explained to me why she doesn't think the wintec/bates would work. Mainly it's because he has such a wide back (to make a long, complicated story shorter and easier). 

This was bad enough but then we drug out the saddle I had. I knew nothing about English saddles when I bought it (and know very little more now, especially when it comes to fitting). In her words, my saddle is so narrow in the back that it is practically a "pony saddle". Thanks for that great news. It is not only ill fitting but not something I should really continue to ride him in.

Oh, but she agrees that he's 100% sound and that I could be riding him RIGHT NOW. You know. If I had a saddle - any saddle - to ride him in. In a barn full of Western riders, I'm definitely not finding an English saddle anywhere...  And for similar reasons, I've decided that my Western saddle is no longer suitable as well.

So besides putting out a few calls to some friends to see what they have lying around, I'm going to have the masseuse back out to do some tracings, and yes, we will probably end up with a used saddle. At this point, I just want to curl up in a ball and cry ride.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Dilemmas - Aren't Those All I Have?

As usual, I have a few dilemmas. Don't I always?

Dilemma number 1 has to do with my laziness/indifference. Frankly, I'm running out of motivation to work my horse - or at least work him on a lunge line.

Painted my nails.
Julie told me it would never last at the barn.
She was right of course.
I feel like its somewhat of a waste of our time. I don't mean to discount ground manners because believe me when I say that I'm sure every horse could use a refresher in that now and again.

The fact of the matter is that I was only lunging him to prepare him for work. He is no longer a lunatic with excess energy, and I'm mildly impressed with his relatively crisp transitions. They leave a lot to be desired but they are WAY better than they used to be, even before he was sick. Although he still pulls a few moves on me that make me ugly, like rapid spins on the haunches instead of moving out on the line or lunging in a square/rectangle/oval/starfish as opposed to a circle, I've been having some good luck beating lunging manners back into his brain. 

But he is still stiff and simple lunging is not improving that.  I know that every moment you are with your horse is a moment you can be training him and that I should be appreciating the fact that I can do something with him, but frankly, I spent a lot of "moments" with him while he was sick.  My main goal now is to have a healthy, not-so-stiff pony that I can ride, and this is the only reason I want to lunge him.  So now my motivation to work him has decreased to nil and so I just go through the motions pointlessly to do right by him.  Sigh.  The masseuse is coming tomorrow, thank god.  I intend to pounce on her with ideas.

I took a drive to the Bay of Fundy this weekend
which boasts the highest tides in the world.
When the tide comes in, it covers these rocks up to
the treetops and fills the caves.  
Dilemma number 2 has to do with saddles.

I researched and researched and researched saddles. I calculated numbers, counted my pennies, and planned out costs. I FINALLY convinced myself that maybe I'll just try a Bates saddle (despite their mixed reviews) when my "saddle fitter"/masseuse tells me that she really doesn't recommend them and she's not 100% sure it would even fit my wonky QH. Well thanks a million.

Now for context, she is not an actual saddle fitter, but she has all the rigs and the knowledge, without perhaps the qualifications and the corporate backing. This is as good as it gets where I live. I didn't expect to even find her.

She has two wintecs/bates, even though she says neither fits either of her two horses.  Why would you buy two ill-fitting saddles, you ask?  I will be asking her that very question while I say to her, "What exactly makes these saddles ill-suited to Walker?"  She wants me to do tracings and send them away to a tack shop in Ontario who can then send me a used saddle from their extensive collection.

Dipping my toes
I don't want a used saddle.  Perhaps I am being childish, but Walker and I have had a hard couple of months.  Then I uprooted him and moved him to a new city away from his friends.  I took my WP QH and told him I wanted him to forget all his training and be a happy little English pony.  He tries, despite himself.  I don't think it's so unreasonable to want a brand new saddle that actually fits to reward us for all of our hard work and our new lease on life.

Dear Saddle Fairy,

If you can't fit Walker's new saddle under the pillow, feel free to leave it by the bedside table.  I will find it just fine.  

Yours truly,

Sunday, 4 August 2013

A Wild Long Weekend

I have been having a pretty wild long weekend - not.  I have pretty much been lazing around the house, reading a good book, and forcing myself to go to the barn to lunge Walker.  Unfortunately, he just doesn't seem any less stiff despite our daily lunging sessions, so we'll see what the masseuse has to say on Wednesday.

I decided to oil my bridle last night.  I figured that it has just been sitting there for months now and could probably use a little cleaning.

I also got an interesting email from my current barn owner.  I emailed him to let him know that I would be staying on, and all he emailed me was "I'm on vacation.  I'll call you next week."  Normally, this wouldn't be ominous but he doesn't ever call me so I can't imagine a reason why he would.  My guess: either he is going to tell me that he expected me to leave so he filled my spot or else he is going to tell me he doesn't think I should ride my horse until xyz (which probably includes The Program).  He has told me the latter before, and I had mentioned in passing in the email that I was going to start riding again soon.  It wouldn't shock me, but I will not be impressed if he does.

With this going on, I figured I should explain why I chose to stay.  There are three main reasons why I was going to leave:

1. money
2. lessons
3. turnout

In my search for another barn, I found only a few that were suitable.  Either the care was substandard or there was no indoor arena, which simply isn't doable for me.  Frankly, I think all barns in Atlantic Canada should have an indoor.  Just sayin'.  One barn I found was just around the corner and would have been a perfect place - if I had been able to get a hold of the owners and go visit.  When I spoke to a horse friend in the area, she said that she wasn't surprised that I couldn't get a hold of them and that this was probably the type of treatment I could expect from them anyway.  So that got crossed off the list.

The main barn I loved was the one that was 40 minutes away.  I know that 40 minutes doesn't seem like a long distance, but I can sometimes work very long hours (like 8 o'clock at night wouldn't shock me if I was busy).  This was problematic enough since it meant coming home after 10, driving on dark Winter roads, etc., but then I did up the finances.  It turns out that even though the barn was cheaper, the cost of gas was going to double for me.  In the end, that barn, despite being absolutely perfect in every other way, was going to cost more (there goes the number 1 reason for moving), and if it cost more, I wouldn't have any money for lessons (which takes care of the second reason for moving).  The only thing we'd be getting out of the situation was better turnout.  Which is important to me, that's true, but perhaps not the best reason to rush out of my current barn.

So I decided not to give my notice so rashly and be forced into another situation that might not work for us.  Assuming that we are not about to be evicted, I will probably reevaluate our options on a monthly basis.  Things can change.  Barns can open up.  Finances can improve.  And when that one necessary factor does, Walker and I will move on.  Or maybe we won't.  Maybe things will improve where we are.  Who knows.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Still Stiff

Isn't it funny that I seemed to have so much more to say when I couldn't work my horse for 4 months, and now that we're back in the lunging routine, I'm at a loss for words.

We've settled into a bit of a routine, the kid and me. I go for a "run" on a trail not far from the barn and then mosey out to lunge him. He plays either the part of the lazy quarter horse or the crazy "I don't get out enough" lunatic.

Last night he was lazy. And still stiff. You never notice how much you miss your pony's swinging hips until some lady devoid of any horse knowledge can see that your horse is still stiff.

The masseuse, as I've taken to calling Walker's massage therapist, really managed to get some of that swinging back when she last visited so now I anxiously await her return next week. Since he's overall sound, I think I'll start riding him by mid-August to see if a little more intensive work can help as well.

In other news, I did not give my notice to change barns. I know, I know. I went on about it for weeks, but when it came down to it, I really only had the one option 40 minutes away. I LOVED the barn owners and facilities, but I did the math and the extra gas money was really going to put me in a tight spot and not really add anything to what I have now if I couldn't enjoy it. I'll probably revisit the issue again once August is over. 

But on that note, I learned yesterday that my BO has an instructor who comes from a dressage and eventing background. Maybe there's hope for our future yet.