For Sale

Not the horse, lol! I am selling a few riding-related items …

Lo-Ride breeches, black, 28, excellent condition

Goode Rider Legacy Breeches, beige, 28, good condition

And not pictured … 2 belts and an Aztec Diamond top that is size medium but fits like a small/petite small.

As for price … all reasonable offers entertained.

Know When to Fold ‘Em

First off, on Friday when I got to the barn after work, one of the horses in the front row had managed to slide his door open just enough so that he could push it open with his head and let it bang shut. Fun toy, I’m sure, but the doors need to be secured. The thing is, Eli’s stall is well within view of the front row, and the look on his face when he saw me go up to the other horse’s stall was priceless. He also literally screamed at me. MY STALL IS OVER HERE. So maybe he is as obsessed with me as I am with him?

Anyway, I honestly didn’t think anybody would be riding on Saturday because it was pouring rain in patches as I drove out to the barn in the morning. When I got there, it wasn’t raining and the radar had a little alcove of clear skies right over the barn, surrounded by rain. No one was turning out horses in case of the weather turning to the tropical monsoon around us, but we all tacked up in a hurry to get what riding in we could.

Clearly not tense here

Eli warmed up quietly, but once we started jumping he got SUPER tense–especially in his back, I can feel the difference and it’s stark. He hollowed out and tensed his back and started kind of scooting forward in a short, quick step. Not the canter, or even trot, that I want for jumping. And of course his tension makes me a bit tense, at least at home. At shows I am in a different frame of mind, expecting it, but not at home.

I suppose I could have gone down to the barn for his fly mask, bonnet, running martingale, etc., but didn’t even think of that at the time. He still had to work, but I dumbed down the expectations by a lot, and took him over to the smaller ring and made him trot and canter crossrails, with lots of walking around in between. There was a lot going on — mowing, lunging, the weather, and of course the horses in the adjacent field just existing — coupled with no turnout time and Eli didn’t have much of a brain between his ears.

Maybe I should have put this on him …

90% of the time now, he’s totally chill. Everyone has a bad day or gets overwhelmed by what is usually routine stuff. Probably because something not routine happened — in this case no turnout. No turnout = no brain. Which I know. My fault for not letting him hang out in the round pen and roll first, but we were trying to beat the rain. I think he wouldn’t have even worried about the other stuff if he had had even just 20 minutes of free time outside.

At least he seemed merely curious about the measuring tape and didn’t mind that part. He got to play outside on Sunday and had the day off. If the rain keeps holding off I might try a “do-over” and jump around in the big ring a little bit this evening.

 

 

 

 

 

Rides This Week

Imagine how it feels to stand in front of an open oven heated to about 400F. Then imagine all the air you experience whilst outside is like that. Then maybe try to tack up and ride in it.

So … rides this week have been low-intensity. I gave Eli Monday off, and he is also getting today off. Tuesday was very lightweight, and Wednesday evening, the air remarkably cooled down at sunset more quickly, felt cooler (I mean “cooler” but still hot) and less humid. I took the opportunity to work Eli over a few low jumps, primarily for me to practice leads and not so much the jumps. Again, he did another right-to-left change after a line, and I all I did was balance up before the corner and kept my body straight. Getting him to land on the right lead was easy. He landed on the left lead once, but I just stopped straight rather than ask for a change right away. I want to reinforce the straightness and balance through the turns that we need for lead changes, and some times that mean NOT doing lead changes.

Gah damn. I have been lucky to have had a slew of experiences with horses who had easy changes, because it is taking all of my brain power to get them ironed out in Eli. And they ARE getting ironed out.

I have been obsessed with this horse for four years, but I am still liking him more and more.

Fleeceworks Therawool™ Show Hunter Saddle Pad Review

Let’s just say that I have not owned a suitable saddle pad for the hunter ring since, like, 1999. The 2017 options are staggering and widely range in price and quality. But I had to start somewhere …

I looked at the Ogilvy show hunter pads with memory foam, but for ~$280 they were a bit more than I wanted to spend on experimenting in the hunter ring. So I started looking at other options.

I knew I wanted some kind of sheepskin or wool for the properties–it’s kind of like nature’s memory foam and sheepskin is anti-bacterial because of the lanolin. I started looking at Fleeceworks products and found a good price at Riding Warehouse for the Therawool™ Show Hunter.

In our first try in the hunter ring, I used the saddle pad with no inserts or shims and I was very satisfied with its performance. Eli seemed quite comfortable and didn’t develop any back soreness. But, I did notice the saddle sat a bit low in front, more than I am really comfortable with, so I got the Ecofelt inserts .

Once I had the inserts, they looked a bit big and I thought I might have to cut them down a bit. I decided to try shoving them into the shim pockets before trimming to estimate how much I’d have to alter them, and as it turns out, they fit in very snugly and perfectly–no room for shifting around but not too big, either.

For our next attempt at hunters, I used the saddle pad with shims in place, and I was even more pleased with the performance of the pad than before, and Eli had no objections. I felt like with the Ecofelt, the saddle was more balanced on Eli, with pressure more evenly distributed along the panels.

Size Large fits my 17″ Bruno Delgrange PJ.

One of the nice features about the Therawool™ is that it is machine washable. After the first show, I did wash it in the machine and hung it up to dry, and brushed out the Therawool™ with the wire brush that came with the saddle pad. It definitely shed a bit that first wash, but that’s what lint rollers are for. After the second show, the saddle pad was hardly even dirty, so instead of washing it I just hung it up to air out a bit and after it had dried completely I brushed the Therawool™ again with the wire brush, and the loft recovers quite well.

This is an extremely nice, well-made saddle pad and for less that $150 I think it’s a great deal.

Horses Can Think for Themselves

Both on the ground and under saddle, horses are expected to follow a human’s lead. Human does something and horse reacts in a way human wants, horse gets rewarded. Human does something and horse acts in a way human doesn’t want, horse gets corrected. Horse learns to do things human wants. This is a very black-and-white version of a very complex conversation between two species and I think some horses are capable of problem-solving beyond just reacting to a human. If horses weren’t smart enough, humans would have given up trying to domesticate them for riding, working, and companionship long ago.

Genius, right here

What does Eli do that makes me think he can think for himself? In our Saturday lesson he backed himself off the jumps without me doing very much at all other than staying out of his way as much as possible. The less I do, the more he shines over fences. He is learning that I am learning to make his job easy. He is learning that I will be there with my leg most of the time to support his efforts. He is learning distances and getting them much better than I ever will. He is learning from gridwork. Is he idiot-proof? No. But is he getting amateur-friendly? I think we are headed that way for sure. Although I couldn’t get him to land on the left lead, we did get a left-to-right change which is his harder side. I was so surprised! But happy. The more chances I give him to do something right, the more he responds positively. The “simple” theme continues. (Maybe I will actually get media of it next weekend.)

Human makes a bad decision. Pudgy bunny hops anyway. (5-12 Photography)

Even on the ground–probably more so than under saddle–Eli is behaving like regular sweet gelding and a pet. Don’t get me wrong–if a stranger invades his personal space unless a treat is immediately forthcoming he will pin his ears and bare his incisors, but all very lackadaisically. His aggression is nearly non-existent. I give him chances to do the right thing and it may take him an extra second or two, but he complies eventually. This is most illustrated by the wash rack. The wash racks are a step up from the aisles and are probably a bit spooky to a horse unfamiliar with them. For whatever reason, Eli needs a moment to think about how to step his hind feet up into the wash rack EVERY TIME. He always walks half way in and stops. No idea why after doing this hundreds of times he still needs an extra second, but I give it to him anyway. He steps all the way in with minimal drama, and I really didn’t have to do anything. Maybe some other people would get impatient with this and expect him to walk right in, and who knows what tricks or methods people would use to get him to walk right in, but I don’t much see the point of all that because he does walk in eventually. His terms are fair in my mind. Why pick a fight about something the horse isn’t sure about? Why not reassure him instead that this is no big deal?

Eli, by far, has taught me more about how horses learn than any of my other horses. This is partly because I am paying attention to it more with Eli–my other horses didn’t come with the baggage Eli came with as they were all 3 or 4 year olds. With Eli, it hasn’t been so much about teaching what to do as it has been about undoing some aggression to see what’s underneath all the reactiveness. I ignored so much of his weirdness early on and I think that has been the most powerful communication between us–I don’t draw attention to things I don’t like. Instead, I ignore them and go about my business, establishing a routine that Eli can count on. Yes, of course, I reprimand him for kicking out directly at me, but he does that so little now, and the last few times he’s bitten me were more like a foal nibbling a pocket for a treat, not aggression. But he has gone from a horse that couldn’t stand still to be groomed to one who stands for grooming and loves being curried (because ITCHEEEZ).

Thinking about all this didn’t come out of the blue–I think about this kind of stuff frequently. So when I found a “position statement” on social media related to horse training, I read it because that’s what I do. I am not very familiar with the International Society for Equitation Science, but I am learning more about the organization by exploring the website. I am fascinated by their position statement on dominance and leadership concepts in horse training. It’s not exactly a quick read, but I am pleased to find an organization that treats the relationship between human and horse as a science, and cites studies related to the topics they pursue. I am still digesting the import of the position statement, but I found a lot of things that ring true for me in my experience. Especially toward the end of the article, this:

“Some horse people believe that, to get the ‘respect’ of a horse and make the horse obey orders, the person handling it must be the ‘alpha individual’, i.e. in the top position of the social hierarchy. The person must be the dominant part of the relationship and the horse the submissive one. Even if horses had a concept such as ‘top position’ in a hierarchy, it is questionable whether that hierarchy would even include humans (McGreevy et al., 2009). Undoubtedly, part of the reason for these and similar beliefs is anthropomorphism (i.e. our tendency to transfer human characteristics such as respect and authority onto the horse). This attitude often does more harm than good (see McLean 2003 for examples).”

Be there carrots or lions in yon woods?

Why not allow our relationships with horses to have a novel language, not one dependent on the way humans think horses communicate with each other? My horse does not think I am a horse, nor do I want him to think that. My horse comes from a long line of animals domesticated for work and sport, and most definitely recognizes humans as agents of both good and bad things, like grain or whips–that is the very nature of domestication. We can communicate with horses in a language unique to the horse-human relationship, one that evolves over time, one that is informed by evidence-based, peer-reviewed concepts and methods, one that makes no anthropomorphic assumptions about a dominance hierarchy. Eli doesn’t walk into the wash rack because I’m the alpha. Eli walks in the wash rack because I give him a chance to.

Simple

One word I have been thinking about a lot lately, in the context of riding, is “simple.” I can hear the word in my head now, a check on my fussier inclinations when it comes to nagging with my leg, or snatching with my hand, getting distracted by my eye, or shifting my weight around in the saddle. I hear “simple” and it’s a good reminder to exhale, soften, support, follow. I don’t know that it’s a word applicable to every discipline, but it definitely applies to me and Eli and trying our hand in the hunter ring.

Maybe one day instead of just hearing it about my riding, I will be able to say it about Eli’s way of going. He is gradually getting there, and his responsiveness to our switch to hunters makes me think we will get there pretty soon.  Do you have any profound words that constantly echo, reverberate, or resonate in your head about your riding?

Rocking E Cowgirl 10 Questions Blog Hop

Rocking E Cowgirl is keeping it interesting with these 10 questions!

What is your earliest, clearest horse memory?
Visiting the Budweiser Clydesdales when I was 4. I tried to run up to one. My mom had to grab me and pick me up so I could pet them, while pushing my brother around in a stroller. I have never not been obsessed with horses, and I think those Clydesdales cemented my coat color preference in horses right away–blood bay with some chrome.

Describe the perfect summer day.
One with access to cold beer and air conditioning.

Are you reading anything right now? Tell me about it!
The Castle of Wolfenbach by Eliza Parsons — one of the seven “horrid novels” listed in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. I love Gothic fiction. I am also trying to read a bunch of other stuff, but this book is short and holding my attention the most right now.

Do you follow a celebrity (horsey or non) that you’re embarrassed to say fascinates you? Tell me. NOW.
Dear James Comey,
Please write a book.
Thanks!

What is your single most biggest horsey dream or goal?
Really just to keep doing what I’m doing for as long as possible.

If you were at Starbucks right now, what would you order?
An almond croissant.

What is your biggest equine pet peeve?
Pet peeve that horses do: cribbing
Pet peeve that people do around horses: leaving halters hooked up to the cross ties–especially annoying if it’s a rope halter, which why are you crosstie-ing a horse in a rope halter?!?!?!

With everything going on politically and in the media, tell me, do you follow it religiously? Tune it out? Or something in between?
Obsessively following. Make no mistake … That awkwardly-scripted “cabinet meeting” yesterday? That is what fascism and despotism look like. This is worse than Watergate because a hostile foreign power is implicated. The First Amendment could not be more important than it is right now.  I recommend EVERYONE watch the film All the President’s Men. Or read the book.

If you had to show your horse to a song, what would you choose?
I’m just really into Duran Duran’s “Rio” right now so probably that, although I am not sure how much that would go with a hunter round?

What are you most looking forward to this summer?
Cold beer and air conditioning.