Hunterize Me

It’s not that I haven’t ridden in hunter classes ever before, because I have. I just haven’t ridden terribly well in hunter classes before. I don’t really have a problem with the under saddle classes. I like using the entire ring to plan a track for my o/f rounds, and not being so concerned about efficient turns on Eli is a nice change. Staying on the same pace the entire round is also pretty much fun times. I feel fancy in the tack and attire.

Wish I could’ve bought this guy

My problems are thus:
1. I struggle with getting the “sit two strides out and close leg” jumper mode activation out of my brain.
2. I chase distances when I don’t sit two strides out and press.

Recipe for carnage.

Baby jumper did the hunters at shows first

Eli’s brain has caught up to the job and mine hasn’t (probably because it’s the job he wants, duh). He still obliges me with responding to jumper mode activation, but that’s not really what we are going for any more. I am about to set a grid, drop my reins, and put on a blindfold to get my brain in gear, for staying in one place and letting the horse carry me and jump up to me instead of hammering to the base of the fence. The exercise* my trainer has set us to is working really well, but goddamn I am a slow learner compared to Eli. I think I need something more drastic to get my mind right, like the aforementioned blindfold.

What extremes have you gone to, to learn a new skill?

*The exercise is to canter until about 2 to 3 strides out and then trot over the fence. The exercise is to slow down MY brain.

Benchmarks in Eli’s Career

Eli truly is a changed … uh … gelding … and honestly I can’t get over a few of these fairly significant benchmarks that demonstrate he is less basilisk lately and much more horsey. Which is to say adorable and almost easy on the ground. (Or completely easy on the ground if you think his snapping turtle impression is funny.)

He has pretty much turned into a pet in the barn. People who control food and cookies and turnout are in the barn. So the barn is a good, safe place filled with carrot dispensers. And that one favorite cookie lady ever … the one that gives massages!

He is also genuinely rideable now. Does he still spook at the UPS truck driving along the driveway when were just going for a leisurely walk in the wildflowers? Yes. However. 

A junior has ridden him a few times now on days I can’t but I still want him exercised. (THANK YOU, OLIVIA!) Even better, my trainer rode him last Friday and declared him “comfortable.” That’s downright normal, y’all. (And yet no one recorded visual evidence for me. Boo.) And kind of a big deal because until recently, I had been the only rider he’s known since I bought him in May 2014. And even before that, I rode him the majority of the time he had been at the barn. 

I am so excited about this horse. I’ve peeled through a lot of layers of this little monster and it turns out he is a really cool horse that I can share with people now! 

Good Rides, Bad Eyes

Thankfully, I had a lovely hack on Eli on Tuesday evening. It kind of made my whole week, right there. Like, hey, we’re not that out of sync and I need just to remember how to ride him–no cruise control on horses, duh. Somehow the weather provided just enough rain at the barn to make the footing perfect, and the light was low enough that I didn’t need my sunglasses, but not so low as to make Eli think, “LIONS.” And a gorgeous sunset capped off the day!

trotting from patentlybay on Vimeo.

canter poles from patentlybay on Vimeo.

Wednesday evening, I didn’t get away from work until 7:15, so that meant riding under the lights. Again, Eli, although a bit pokey, rode quite well and we even took a few canter poles. Miffed them the first time through but the following passes from both leads worked out well–I think he understood that he had to pay attention to where his feet were going. It was a later night than usual for me, and I am a bit more tired that I would like today, and work is just as hectic as ever (do we not already have all the laws ironed out?).

The following video is just Eli practicing standing still — but his tail cracks me up.  Otherwise yawn.

dismount from patentlybay on Vimeo.

Now, on to a non-horsey topic, and not one I would typically give too many details on, but this was so novel to me and I think sharing a little could help some people. My eyes are still a problem, but I also now have treatments that seem to be working. I have a few things going on with my left eye, and one of the symptoms was a persistent dull ache; another symptom was photosensitivity. I went to the eye doctor on Monday (something tells me I’ll be visiting much more frequently than once a year from now on) and we discussed my symptoms again. He checked a few different things about both of my eyes and examined my left eye more thoroughly. He then said, “You have rosacea. Have you heard of that?” My response was, “Yeah, thanks, I know. What about my eye?” Doctor: “You have rosacea in your eye.”

WHA … ??? Huh … ??? Whhffphh?

High confidence of efficacy of dexamethasone … IN HORSES. Seems to be working on my eye …

PSA, readers. You can get rosacea in your eye, and it can mess with your vision if left untreated. If you have ANY bothersome symptoms in your eyes, go to an ophthalmologist ASAP. You might be thinking it’s just allergies but it might not be. I am treating the rosacea now, and I think the treatment is helping at least some. But mostly, how freaking weird is that?!?!  I can’t recommend googling images of ocular rosacea–mine must be a mild case that we’ve caught early. Maybe just stick with reading the Mayo Clinic pages about it, if you’re curious.

Weenie Wednesday

Conrad has figured out where treats and toys come from …

he knows where the treats live from patentlybay on Vimeo.

He got yet another stuffingless toy to maul, which he did do.

killing a fox toy from patentlybay on Vimeo.

I’ll have a little bit of an eye (my eye) update for y’all tomorrow … normally I don’t like to share too much detail related to medical information, but I think this might be helpful for people to know about, because it surprised the crap out of me!

Easter Weekend Rides

I really bested my record for how completely out of it I was while trying to ride on Saturday. And also how easily I got frustrated over the stupidest crap I usually ignore. I have no interest in reliving the details, except, thankfully, my trainer gave me an exercise to work on with Eli.

I was able to work at it again on Sunday, which is good because today calls for rain. I have no media of either Saturday or Sunday, because Saturday I just plain forgot, and on Sunday I remembered my camera but neglected to check whether it was charged. It was not.

Eli went really well on Sunday, excepting about a 15 minute intermission where he completely lost his mind over another horse working in the fields. This is usually not such a problem, so I just made him stand and watch the other horse (being completely well-behaved, of course) until Eli decided it was actually boring and he no longer cared. We went back to work and worked on the exercise my trainer gave us and you’d never know that he had to get over himself just minutes before.
Eli got a shampoo bath, too. I think he is pretty much shed out at this point and I’ll clean up his fetlocks with clippers this week. Not that he gets much extra feathering in winter or anything, but I do like to keep them trimmed.

I have also noticed, at least on the flat, a spur might not be a bad idea–summer Eli has started making more frequent appearances!

How Do You Choose a Bit?

Eli’s job is now in the hunter ring and my bitting choices for competition have dwindled significantly. Pretty much any bit is acceptable in the jumper ring, provided the show officials don’t deem it as cruel or abusive. I never really used all that many bits on Eli anyway–I like him in the Herm Sprenger Dynamic RS D-ring. Or the eggbutt. And sometimes the WH Ultra dee. However, these bits are easy for him to slightly ignore for a few steps, as he demonstrated by running through my hands a few times at the show in March. He still has a SUPER SOFT mouth and I am not about to ruin that with a “harsh” bit (in quotes because I think we will all have different versions of harsh).

But over the years I have used a variety of bits on different horses with different jobs and then of course bits are like precious jewelry so there are a few I’ve been coveting, too.

Ah, the Cheltenham gag. I rode with a trainer for 15 years who threw this bit on a handful of jumpers, including mine. He explained to me the action and the difference in the action when you use either rope gag cheeks or leather gag cheeks, and he also taught me how to use the gag rein on this bit (never without a snaffle rein on my particular horse). It worked out great for my jumper, although it wasn’t the only bit I showed him in. That choice was made the day of, and he went in HS KK Ultra bits, too, and a hackamore for a brief period of time while a lip injury healed up. (One day I will write a proper post about this horse!) The Cheltenham exerts a good bit of poll pressure via the gag rein and I wouldn’t dream of using one of these on Eli.

I used a Dr. Bristol eggbutt snaffle as a junior. My QH went quite well in it. I know that there are two ways you can put the Dr. Bristol–the nice way and the mean way. The plate is angled for a particular type of tongue pressure, and if you put in in your horse’s mouth the mean way, the edge of the plate slices right into his tongue. I used it the nice way, where the plate lies flatter on the tongue.

My first off-track guy, a little chestnut, seemed to go best in a rubber dee. He chewed through a few of them, but he’d only take a feel on the rubber dee and pretty much avoided any other bit by tucking his chin.

My favorite bit for Eli, the Dynamic RS dee. What can I say about it other than it works for Eli? I am a fan because of how anatomical this bit is, and also I like the double jointed bits generally because of the reduced nutcracker action on the tongue and I have also had problems with narrow mouth TBs getting hit in the palate by single jointed bits, which must suck for them!

But let’s not stop there with the Herm Sprenger bits. The hunter ring limits bits — you are pretty much going to see dees, full cheeks, and pelhams. The rules limit bits mostly to these types (eggbutts are okay, too, but NO ONE uses them in the hunter ring). Now, the mouthpiece on those dees … that’s where a little anything goes comes back into play, and many hunters go in custom bits that have mouthpieces tailored to their style in the bridle. But pelhams are okay, too, although not as common–I see them more in Eq. I’d be curious to see how strong Eli would consider getting in a pelham, although I think ultimately it’s too much bit for him. The pelham has both poll and curb action, as strong or light as the rider’s hands, so it’s a bit for educated hands only in my book. Pelham converters drive me up a wall. If you don’t know how to use a curb rein, don’t use a pelham.

And on to another common hunter option–the slow twist dee. The longer I work with horses, the less and less I like this bit. I think it has its place, and I used it on my jumper when he was very young and learning the show ropes in the hunter ring. However, I am not sure all horses react the same to this texture on the mouth bars–I think it panics some horses and actually makes them lean on the bit and take off (I think the same of corkscrews and twisted wire bits).

Now onto the bits I am currently coveting and am so curious about and want to try on Eli. Probably never will, but I can dream. First is a Bombers elliptical lock full cheek. Honestly, I have been wanting to try just about *any* Bombers bit for ages (okay, not all–they make some serious leverage bits and I don’t need that). I like the amount of thought this company puts into their work. Also, the blue sweet iron is SO PRETTY. Not that it lasts after oxidation, but whatevs.

I am also extremely curious about bauchers, and sweet iron, and copper, so why not throw it all together? Mostly just curious to see baucher action for myself on my own horse–the arguments are whether bauchers exert or relieve poll pressure. Maybe what the horse does with his head is a part of determining that? I can think about bit physics for hours.

Last, we come to the bit I have selected for Eli that I would like to try at our next show, the JP Korsteel copper ball link full cheek. So far, so good the first two times we’ve used it. I hemmed and hawed over quite a few styles–full cheek or dee, waterford or ported barrel … and settled on this. Barely more bit–just a touch more. I will probably jump him in it soon to see how it goes. I had actually tried Eli in a JP Korsteel copper lozenge dee, but the lozenge was too big for Eli and he was pretty fussy in it. I think the copper ball link is a better fit for him.

So tell me … how do you choose which bit for what horse and which discipline?