A few weekends ago, Conrad got to open presents for his (completely randomly chosen) birthday. I think he likes opening presents even more than the presents. He got some cookies and some rope toys.
Perhaps the bane of ex-racehorse owners everywhere — horse can’t/won’t turn right: it has struck me and Eli. Even we are subject to such banal training struggles.
Of course, Eli turns right just as easily as he turns left. I pick a direction, he goes that direction. It’s not neurosurgery. Our difficulty is a bit more nuanced than that, and the blame falls solely to me. (As it always does to any horse and rider combination, when a horse can’t/won’t do something, the onus is solely on the rider. Blame placed elsewhere is gravely misplaced.)
So, whilst on course, have you ever turned right through a corner to face a diagonal inside line and just kind of hung on the right rein to do it, when you should have directed the turn with your outside leg and let go of the right rein? Yeah. Me too. It did not end well.
So let’s just go through the lesson play-by-play and figure out how it came to that and what we did to correct it. First of all, Eli warmed up easily as always with a few trot jumps and cantering a few singles. The lesson was a semi-private with a jumper rider, but for warming up, we did the same thing. The fences went up a bit after warming up, and the jumper rider and her horse did different courses that we did, but I still find it very instructive to watch other riders and hear what the trainer says to them. Learning by doing is best, but it’s not the only way to learn.
The first course for us actually went pretty well — the only issue I had was that I did not correctly ask Eli for landing on the left lead coming off the outside line toward the barn. So I had to do a simple change before the long approach to the single on the diagonal.
The second course was a little less great. Most of the jumps were fine — if I ride correctly, Eli responds beautifully. However, Eli can be demanding and there is no margin for error if I want to keep him on pace as opposed to lighting him up, getting quick, and jumping flat. We missed the lead off the outside line again, and worse, I COULD NOT get through the right turn to the inside diagonal line. I hung on the right rein, which Eli did NOT appreciate. Although I wasn’t exactly pulling back, I was in his face enough to piss him off, and he took off a bit in the line. I pulled him up HARD before the turn after the line. My trainer actually said she was glad I did that, because he needs to live with a few of my minor mistakes every once in a while and still do his job.
On our next turn, my trainer asked that we focus on just getting that left lead off the outside line. Not only did she tell me to put a little more weigh in my right stirrup, but after I didn’t get it on first try, she said I need to ask for the lead at the FIRST jump and then STAY on it through the line, asking again at the second jump. Big surprise, it worked. This is why we have trainers. She also wanted me to take the single off the long approach again, this time MAKE myself and Eli WAIT. Tempting as it is for me to move up, I held for the add step. It worked. Again. Of course. Again, why we have trainers. She also wanted me to go through the inside line one more time, too, this time approach it better, use some out side leg, and then chill the f out. The approach was better, but I was very weak through my core, so we pulled a rail at the first fence and rubbed the second, but the pace was spot on. My trainer had me take the single one last time, and didn’t seem concerned about the rail. She said she knew that I knew what I did wrong, and we can’t ask Eli to keep working when he is responding correctly–the rail was not his fault. All I have to do is get my shoulders back up and magically we’ll leave the fences up. Oh, wait, it’s not magic. It’s physics. I do have concerns about even just a rub — it may not make a difference in the jumper ring as long as the fence stays up, but a rub in a hunter round knocks you well out of the ribbons in decent competition. It’s not something I want to ignore, but I do have the tools to ride Eli well enough to prevent a rub from happening, I just have to, you know, ride that way.
As many problems as we had, we had far more successes during this lesson. Eli is so responsive now when I do ride correctly. If I present him with a fair question, he answers brilliantly. This was such a fun lesson, and reinforced so many things for both me and Eli. I feel like we are finally on the right path and can start fine-tuning our work.
Does it seem like there is a dizzying array of breeches flooding the market lately? Four brands in particular have caught my eye (for some this would not be the first time).
Botori appeared over the winter, and now their summer riding pants have hit the market, complete with colored knee patches and mesh. I guess these are more tights than breeches? A friend just got a pair, and she is loving them. I am still obsessed.
Not only can PS make stylish and functional bridles, saddle pads, and wraps — complete with sparkling browbands — they can make gorgeous breeches. I love this shade of dark blue!
I have enjoyed Ghodho’s breeches in the past, and they keep coming up with new designs that have my wallet running away from me. I want a pair, but I am balking at the price tag a bit.
Okay, THESE I actually own, and I have been very pleasantly surprised and impressed. This is a new line of breeches from the makers of Equine Couture, and they offer quite the palette of on-trend colors. I got a few pairs for my birthday, and y’all can expect a more thorough review soon!
I had a long weekend for good reason — I needed Monday to recover from working seven days straight. At least Saturday and Sunday were fun work, not desk work. Mostly.
The barn hosted a local schooling show on Saturday, which meant I got to play with ponies all day. It was a fun day, and all of the barn’s riders rode so well. Plus the prizes this time around were awesome and Eli got a few little tubs of treats that were left over from a division that got combined.
After Eli’s day off on Saturday, I jumped him a little bit on Sunday.
He totally gets his job, and I think I am getting more consistent at doing mine. I worked with ponies again Sunday afternoon, and then celebrated Mother’s Day and two birthdays with Whataburger and German chocolate cake.
Having Monday off helped me to recover somewhat from a busy weekend, and I just hacked Eli around very lightly, spent most of the time walking in the fields. He got Tuesday off (the weather was iffy, anyway–crazy lightning!) and on Wednesday he felt pretty much fantastic. He got to try his Veredus sheepskin pastern boots. Hard to say long-term whether they’ll help or not since we’ve only used them once, but they definitely don’t hurt.
Eli also got a new bonnet — embroidery on mesh ears is real and it’s amazing.
Conrad got a new collar! Country and Stable has a great selection of dog collars (and matching belts, too), so I picked out the Pampeano Tornado Collar for him, in size XS.
The collar runs true to size, and fits Conrad perfectly. The leather is supple and the woven design looks so good on him — the dark blue really pops against his coat color.
The collar has a regular buckle closure plus a ring to hang name tags or proof of rabies vaccination, or to hook a leash to. Conrad being his tiny perfect self wears a harness so I don’t clip his leash to his collar, but on larger well-trained dogs it would be perfect for that.
I just love how this collar looks on him. It’s a great way to show a little of Conrad’s style without being overstated. I think I might need to pick up the matching belt for myself! (It IS my birthday, so … )
I mentioned last week that I have been looking for solutions for Eli’s hind interference. Other than the pastern wraps that are on the way, I think I may have found a good one! I looked at Country and Stable’s selection of tendon and fetlock boots — they have an excellent selection of well-known, popular brands — and started really getting curious about the open front hind fetlock boots. I decided to try the Le Mieux Teknique boots because they met a lot of my criteria for the kind of fetlock boots I am looking for.
First of all, I wanted something with stud closures. No more Velcro, I am so irritated with trying to keep that clean and also sticky/grabby enough to keep working properly.
The Le Mieux boots meet that criteria right away, obviously. Honestly, beyond that, I have to say I was not familiar enough with the Le Mieux brand and I thought they basically did saddle pads and polos. I had no idea they made horse boots so I was curious about the boots’ features. The boots have a soft, squishy gel liner, but also a mesh layer to release heat through vents built into the boots.
Le Mieux also incorporates reinforced strike plates on the sides and back of the boot for extra protection, perfect for a horse that interferes.
Of course, the most important aspect of these boots is whether they fit my horse. I had reservations at first, because Eli fell on the line between size medium and size large — I went with large because I was concerned he would find the mediums too tight and uncomfortable. He does still rooster walk in these for a few steps after I put them on, but under saddle I can tell the boots don’t change anything about his way of going. The elastic straps have a good bit of stretch in them, so I think the larges would fit a range of larger horses, including big-boned warmbloods. One last thing I had to make sure of is whether the boots collect the arena footing inside while riding. I hate that, and it’s been the main reason I’ve been looking for different boots for Eli. While his sheepskin Eskadrons may be comfortable to him and offer good protection, they collect footing like they’re trying to build a sandcastle.
Some dust collecting inside the boots is going to be inevitable, but I am very pleased that there are no chunks of arena footing piling up in his boots, which also tells me they are a good, snug fit.
Overall, I am impressed by the quality and function of these Le Mieux fetlock boots. I think they are a good option for any jumping horses, offering protection while leaving the fronts open to remind the horse he doesn’t want to catch any rails. I can recommend these boots for sure! And now I am interested in other Le Mieux stuff, too, based on such quality and thoughtfulness behind the design.
Country and Stable carries a large selection of Le Mieux products, and based the the quality of these fetlock boots, I would definitely consider picking up other Le Mieux products from Country and Stable.
I am sure I have mentioned before that Eli has a jacked up hind end. He has wonky conformation, and I have discussed it with both the vet and the farrier (repeatedly). While there is no real fix for unconventional conformation, there are things that can mitigate it — correct shoeing, therapeutic maintenance, protective boots, not looking for too long at his hind end …
See how his left toe is pointing right, but the front of his left hock is pointing left? It’s even wonkier on the right, although not possible to really see in this image. And if you watch him walk straight at you, you can see how his whole right hind rotates as he pushes off the ground. His left leg is bow-legged, and his right leg stands a bit too close to his left. Pretty creepy, honestly.
I think at least partially as a result of this build, Eli can have trouble with interference behind. But of course he goes in turnout without boots. He clips himself quite a bit — he’s got two nicks, both with some swelling, on his hind pasterns. I was even concerned a fetlock boot had caused one, but once I put the boots back on I could see that the nick was lower than the boot. (And the boot didn’t slip during our ride last night.) When I took the boots off, Eli shifted his weight. He literally dragged the inside of his right hoof up against the inside of his left pastern — gee, I guess catching the trailer of his shoe could have caused that nick, huh?
I am a sucker, and I am paranoid. The Veredus sheepskin-lined pastern boots are ordered, shipped, and on the way to Eli. He’s still not going to wear boots in turnout, but he’ll be wearing these new pastern boots under saddle. Although I am sure he will find new ways to nick himself. Then I will have to find new ways to prevent it. So it goes with horses.
Let’s end this post on a higher note: early birthday present to myself! Mango Bay Design makes me feel so much better about everything. If you’ve been under a rock and not yet tried her belts or tees, you are really missing out.
One last birthday-related thing — if we are friends on facebook, please find my birthday campaign for the World Wildlife Fund and consider making a donation. OR friend me on facebook to find it! ANY amount is much appreciated! And thank you to any readers who have already donated. Polar bears, whooping cranes, Irrawaddy dolphins, and snow leopards thank you, too.