Odds & Ends: Spurs, Browbands, and Antlers

watchfulThe fields and the small arena dried out enough to ride by Wednesday, so ride I did, and Eli, true to regained form, physically felt pretty much as he usually does. I am hoping to be able to accomplish a lot more this evening, as far as with flat work and pole work.

feetI’ve been flatting him in roller ball spurs, which seem huge to me, but I like Eli’s responsiveness to them–responsive, but not reactive. There is definitely a difference between the roller balls and the PoW spurs I had been using. I guess the PoWs are pokier, and Eli seems generally more easily irritated by them than the roller balls. Either pair, I wear quite low, so I have to actively raise my heel if I want the spurs to reinforce a leg aid that Eli is not paying enough attention to. It rarely happens, but having that secondary aid as back up is pretty important as far as keeping any horse responsive. The longer I ride, the more I profoundly realize the beneficial truth of George Morris insisting on a rider always wearing spurs. But of course, I usually take the roller balls off for jumping–I’m not THAT confident in my leg position. Ah, well, I can hang onto that as a tangible goal for later.

brightblueEli scored a little more sparkle. If he’s going to wear the fly mask, I guess the sparkle isn’t as visible. But I KNOW it’s there. This alone is satisfying enough. Eli’s browbands and bonnets will continue to twinkle. He will also be scoring some white BoT polos …

graybrowbandPolling the internet is always fun, yes? So I’ve been seeking a healthier and more environmentally-friendly alternative to Conrad’s Nylabones. He’s a voracious chewer, so he’s got to have something. But he goes through the Dura Chew Nylabones in a matter of days before they are so chewed up I have to toss them, and they are not recyclable (I asked the company). And it bothers me that he can bite off tiny pieces that for the most part I watch him spit out, but what if he did swallow them? I’m not happy about that possibility. So I scoured the internet and found a lot of positive things about antlers. I had given him a small whole deer antler once, after trying antlers the first time around, but the shape of it was hard for him to hang on to for him to chew. So then I read that split antlers might be better for smaller dogs. And EVERYTHING I could find said that antlers themselves would not splinter. So I picked up a few splits and gave Conrad one last night. And of course he managed to splinter off a small chunk of antler within an hour. No, not the marrow–I’m fine with him drooling on that and eating small pieces of marrow, as it is spongy and digestible. I eat cooked marrow occasionally myself and it’s so funky and velvety and amazing. No, this was actual antler, splintered off. This meant sharp edges that resulted in me distracting Conrad with bacon so I could toss the antler, plus I think he may have cut his gum because some of the marrow looked a little pink. My next idea is to give him a whole elk antler in the hopes that he will not be able to splinter that. I also do give him ball and rope toys, but those are not as satisfying for him to chew on and he loses interest quickly. I have thought of soaking cotton rope in beef broth or something like that, but it would have to be homemade beef broth or the sodium would be way too high, and I don’t exactly have occasion to cook stuff that leaves me beef broth. He has a few Kong toys, but again, he’s not that into them. (Except this one squeaky piggy Kong thing that I had to take away from him because he got completely weird and stressed out while trying to chew it–normally the chewing relaxes him.)

antlerSo dog people, what do you think of antlers? Or raw marrow bones from the butcher? What do you suggest for a smallish dachshund with the jaws and chomping alacrity of a bull breed? I am also slightly worried he might crack a tooth, but the benefits of chewing outweigh that worry right now. He does have a sensitive digestive system, so I can’t give him “greenies” or rawhide, and I’m worried hoof or horn would be too much like rawhide. And I won’t give him anything that isn’t made in or from the US or Canada (another reason to like antlers–the good ones are hand-harvested after being naturally shed).

Strawberry Update

healingEli’s stifle scrape looks much better already. I’ve given him Sunday and Monday off, so I’ll see how he’s feeling under saddle tonight. He might get a bonus liniment bath depending on how he feels. If he’s off behind at all I’ll be consulting with his vets, but he looked spry enough in turnout.

I also got some more professional pictures from the show! Love it when the photographers have everything available for purchase the next day.

prophotoThanks for all the positive comments yesterday–I’m feeling the ammy love. In that spirit, here’s a brief clip of one of the lines that rode well for us:

Yellow line.mp4 from rennikka on Vimeo.

Nothing wrong with that! Although I noticed that Eli seems to have filled out in his shoulders and chest a bit. The three point looks somewhat constrictive in the pictures. I have a few more holes I can let it out to, but if he gets any beefier, I’ll have to size up to the full. I’ll be sticking with the PS of Sweden three point if that becomes the case. The black has even grown on me!

One last thing for fellow ottb owners whose horses are campaigning for jobs in the Ministry of Silly Walks every time any kind of wrap or boot is on their hinds: Sheepskin Eskadron fetlock boots. Eli doesn’t walk like a drunk rooster after I put them on. The down side is they fill up with arena dirt, but every fetlock boot I’ve tried has done the same.

Look for another Rider Adapts post later this week!

USG Bonnet Review

mintyeliEli makes a pretty good bonnet model. I’m just a bad photographer.

It’s no secret that I’m into bonnets for my horse. Bonnets keep the flies from bugging my horse’s ears and muffle sounds just enough to make it easier for me to keep Eli’s focus (kind of?). George Morris isn’t into bonnets for that same reason. Well, we can’t all be perfect. My horse will wear a bonnet, God of Hunt Seat Equitation! Heresy is not new to me.

So of course, when I say I “needed” a bonnet for schooling, just smile and nod. I want to keep my nice custom bonnets nice, but I still want to use a bonnet at home. As far as price and fit go, the USG bonnet fit the bill for a good schooling bonnet. And once I got my hands on it in person, I realized this bonnet would be nice enough for the show ring, as well.

bonnetwithstrapgoodsDouble cording, scalloped edge, nice material, a nice, open stitch (probably machine-stitched), subtle branding on the ear … I am very impressed with the quality of this bonnet for the price, ~$30. SmartPak has some colors, but KLSelect.com has MANY colors. I picked up this mint & anthracite bonnet from KLSelect.com.

bonnetearsPeople indulge me by complimenting the color, but it kind of does look good on a bay. The bonnet is also available in more show-ring appropriate colors such as black or white, and I like this bonnet enough to be seriously considering a white one.

Eli had no problems wearing it. In fact, the bonnet has a feature that makes me think its designers KNEW how popular anatomical bridles would be.

topbonnetThere is plenty of material behind the ears–enough to keep this bonnet in place even with the wider, shaped crownpiece of my PS of Sweden bridle. This is probably my second favorite feature or the bonnet, the first being its cotton construction. I will definitely be using this bonnet all summer long.

The bonnet does lose some of appeal in my eyes for one reason.

dyebleedThe color bleeds. A lot. I hand washed this thing three times and color was still bleeding out into the water. I set it out on a towel to air dry, and the color bled into the towel. If you get this bonnet, hand wash really well it before using it. I think I’ve got the excess color out of the bonnet to where I feel comfortable to put it on my horse’s head without having to worry about the dye/color irritating him or staining him.

Overall, however, the USG bonnet is an excellent value. I recommend it, with the one reservation being that the dye washes out of the bonnet.

A Bridle for All Seasons

If you are looking for detailed, well-written, helpful reviews of the PS of Sweden High Jump Bridle, you can find them on $900 Facebook Pony and SprinklerBandits.

What you will find here is an illuminated ode in free verse to my new favorite Bridle.

Photo courtesy of She Moved to Texas
Photo courtesy of She Moved to Texas

New favorite Bridle, you don’t look like anything I’ve known, but eventually I came to realize you were next on my list of bridles I’d like to own.

You see, my gallant steed can get testy, irascible even, about anything he doesn’t like.

The list of things he doesn’t like is long, but you, Bridle,

You are not on it!

psofyes
like wearing pyjamas

He finds you comfortable, and he harbors sensitivity more exuberantly than the Princess of the Princess and the Pea. You, Bridle, are comfortable indeed!

uniquecrownpiecePoll and jaw pressure relieved!

bridleprofileYour unique form, it grows more favorably in my eyes by the day.

O, the endless number of easily-adorned sparkly browbands piques my desire.

And so, Bridle, I leave here for you a testament to the athleticism you inspire:

oxer
Photo courtesy of Diane Segura

My horse will don, ever constantly as we ride, your elegant and uncommon contours!

 

 

The 27 Stages of Mortification

stallwindowsThis is important, y’all. I want to clarify something I wrote in my show recap that, understandably so, y’all might have thought was just hyperbole on my part. But there actually ARE 27 stages of mortification.

It is possible to go through the entire process in about 6 seconds.

  1. Confusion as to why my body just did something my brain did not tell it to do
  2. Curiosity about whether I may be under the spell of a witch
  3. Or a body snatcher
  4. Or whether I am experiencing amnesia
  5. Decide amnesia is least likely
  6. Get control of rebellious/possessed/enthralled body
  7. Realize that what rebellious/etc. body just did is actually pretty bad
  8. Feel shame
  9. Feel remorse
  10. Crave doughnuts
  11. And beer
  12. Feel thirsty
  13. Get brain back on track, and tell body to get its shit together
  14. Sit tall
  15. Piercingly gaze forward
  16. Accept that body has made a mistake and that brain is a slacker
  17. Focus on the beer waiting for me at the end of all this
  18. No wait, brain, focus on the task at hand
  19. Attempt to accomplish task at hand
  20. Wonder what body looks like accomplishing the task at hand
  21. Wonder if people are watching me
  22. Confirm that people are indeed watching me
  23. Piercingly gaze forward again
  24. Suppress urge to scream and whimper
  25. Accept the difficulty of the situation and pursue it to its natural conclusion anyway
  26. Sigh
  27. Shrug shoulders and smile awkwardly

I imagine each stage is highly gif-able, too, possibly even exclusively with cat gifs, but I’m not that fancy.

EliIsSparklyPS of Sweden High Jump bridle reviewed tomorrow!

Long Weekend: TWO Lessons

Looking for pictures? Skip to the second half of the post.

Last minute decision from the people in charge of people at work resulted in the library being closed for Good Friday. Hooray! I asked my trainer on Thursday night if we could school Eli on Friday and she said “sure!”

Eli has been doing great flat work, so I was looking forward to a productive lesson, and I think I got one. One thing that I’ve been working on–and it still needs work in the form of finessing so it will never not need work–is how I ride to the base of the jump. Last summer, I got into a rut of picking up the reins, taking my leg off, and thereby chipping in. So how does one work on not doing this, and instead stay on pace, keep hands steady and relatively low, and close leg (just a little, not a lot)? Mental game. I am trying to develop it. Basically, I am trying to program my muscle memory in to just knowing that if I don’t know where I am in front of a jump distance-wise, my reaction needs to be close leg, not pick up rein. I think I kinda am finally getting that down, as quite a few times during my lesson Friday, as soon as I felt my self hesitating, I closed my leg. Consequently, Eli was all “RAWR” and trainer was all, “um, could you maybe, um, you know, LESS.” However, I ride in a program where trainer would rather ask me to chill out and drive a little less than tell me to step up my game and get going already. It’s a good feeling, knowing my horse and I have the energy and the desire to attack the jumps now.

However, the bad thing in the lesson was our turns. And not just the turns themselves, but the ride to the jumps we’d roll back to. The turns were messy, and therefore, twice, I reverted to the pick up the reins habit instead of the new close the leg habit I’m trying to hone. Each time, trainer asked me to come back through and correct the ride. The turns were still messy, but I kept Eli going forward through them, instead of trying to hold him in the turn, and we got to much better, easy, non-chippy distances. (We jumped a 3’6″ Swedish on an angle, for crying out loud–of course I’m going to miss at that the first time! Ha! Trainer still insisted I plan for success and nail that s.)

So my flat work project for this week is circles. I’d been working on transitions and some lateral stuff, and that has done wonders for Eli over fences, and even helped him get leads while we’re cruising around the jumps. But rollbacks? We just haven’t done anything lately that translates to easy turning and steerability on course. Adjustability, yes, but if you get stuck at the apex of a rollback turn you can’t get out of, you immediately lose the ability to adjust. You can’t turn anywhere if you can’t go forward, and you can’t go forward if you’re trying to turn with your reins instead of your leg and seat. My oversight. Flat work circle camp starts today.

So after this lesson, which over all was great, not because we were great, but because I made mistakes that I then successfully corrected, trainer and I discussed doing a grid the following day. Something easy, to take Eli down a notch, as he was pretty amped Friday around the jumps.

I consulted my Linda Allen book, and decided a good exercise for Eli to keep him relaxed but also not lackadaisical would be:

easygridEli was pretty easy through it. Trainer and I were both happy that he was relaxed enough without being dull. He certainly tried to tell me that we should be cantering a few times, but I just relaxed my hand and pet his neck and he decided that he could then trot to the exercise. He’s getting that jumper go button. I love it. One last MAJOR take away from the grid was that I am chasing the jump a little with my shoulders, so I need to really concentrate on not doing that, and let Eli jump up to me instead of ducking at him. The rest of this post is media.

bigtrot
Okay, so when I said easy and relaxed, I meant specific to Eli.

 

jump

air

trotpole

oxer

leapafterleap

odetokneesAnd since it’s obvious the above photos are screen shots from videos, it’s only fair I post the videos. We didn’t film every time through, just a few times.

20150404_113914.mp4 from rennikka on Vimeo.

20150404_114232.mp4 from rennikka on Vimeo.

Sunshine and Swelling

Friday’s ride went fantastically. We had the ring to ourselves, no distractions, and perfect weather for a light hack.

blorgh
Eli is like, no.

But Friday, you may remember, also involved my car getting worked on. And it was really sunny. And the cedar pollen count was astronomical, I’m sure. So after riding, I felt a little headachey. Here’s the thing. I get migraines. The combination of stress, bright sunshine, and allergens was certainly enough to trigger one, so I took some medication as soon as I started getting a headache, even though I didn’t have any aura leading up to it. The medication makes me feel kind of weird. I got a ride from the barn to pick up my car (thanks, Mom!) and decided I needed a crap ton of protein and fat to make my brain feel better (literally–there is a complex relationship between food and migraines; fat helps nerve tissue, so I draw my own completely unsubstantiated conclusions about what does and doesn’t make me feel better during migraine symptoms). Enter Whataburger.

whataburgeristhebest
Must have fat. And chocolate shake. And more fat.

If you are not from Texas, you are missing out on this stuff.

frieswiththat
Also a good hangover cure

Saturday I just rode Eli around at the walk in the fields because the ring was super busy, and I let him go for a roll in a turnout after, but watched him the whole time as the turnouts were still muddy/tacky and I didn’t want him to pull a shoe. He walked right up to me right after he rolled anyway. I brought him in and cleaned him up and gave him peppermints and let him graze a bit more.

Sunday was a perfect Texas winter day. It was also busy at the barn. Eli played in turnout, as the turnouts were now all dry. I bring him in, let him get a drink and chill in his stall for a bit, then tack up, get on, pick up a trot to the left which goes okay, I then change direction and half halt because Eli’s getting a little quick, a little on the forehand and BAM! Giraffe-mode. And okay, we need to longe. Plays, bucks, and runs on the longe. Cheetah-mode. I get back on, but there is now too much going on in the dressage arena, and the jumping side still too wet. Plus the footing in the dressage arena needs more grooming. (At the rail, it’s almost cement, but toward the center it gets more forgiving.) I go up to the field and never get a good trot but do get a good canter with an occasional opinion from the pony, but nothing melodramatic. Wrap giraffe cheetah pony and curry lots.

cutiepie
Post workout cuteness
demonface
Or perhaps a face fit for a freaky horror movie. One photoshop away from demon clown.
nopestillcute
and back to being cute.

Got to ride while it’s dry, so Monday (a state holiday woohoo) I get out to the barn and pull wraps off, everything looks good, I turn out the pon-pon. Eli plays in turnout, but is decidedly less amped, the tension is gone. Bucking very lackadaisically. Playing his pawing game with his pawing game friend Tophat in the adjacent turnout. Has a good roll. Same routine from yesterday, but the ride is great, seriously wonderful, no longe necessary. Lovely long trot and forward canter both ways, trot over all the jumps while they are set at cavaletti height. We go for a short walk out in the field. It’s warm enough for Eli to get rinsed and he dries while grazing in the sun. I put liniment on legs and notice localized swelling with heat on inside of his right hock going about 1/3 way down the leg. It wasn’t there before. Argh. Found no cuts or suspicious bug bite welts. For a minute, my brain is like fuuuhhhhhh I broke my pony but then I snap out of it, and focus on making sure Eli is comfortable. Too late for what ifs.

I wrapped him, and trainer/barn manager will check on him Tuesday. If it’s still swollen, she will put some DMSO on it. Turnout should be fine. I plan to walk Eli and cold hose the hock Tuesday night. Eli has not taken a single lame step over this entire time, so hopefully this inflammation is minor, is just a tweak or twinge and no connective tissue damage, probably from not working because of the weather and then working quite a bit on Sunday. Maybe he has a little arthritis (not exactly unheard of in an 11-yr-old OTTB). Maybe I’m going to try the BoT hock wraps. He has swelled up randomly before in different places, and the swelling has always gone down within a few days, if not just a day, and the swelling improves with movement and light work and standing wraps. If he gets even slightly lame in connection with this, I will want x-rays and ultrasound, and will go over every possible therapeutic resolution before deciding how to go forward, but we are not there yet. We’ll stick with wrapping, liniment, possibly bute (powder in some grain, preferably) if he seems stiff and see how he goes. Could try a sweat wrap for a few days. I can’t make it out Wednesday night, and Thursday’s weather looks like shit, so he’ll get a bit of a break regardless. Already got a text today from trainer saying he still has swelling but there is no heat. She went ahead and turned him out, which I’m glad for, as in Eli’s case turnout seems to reduce swelling rather than aggravate it. I’ll see how he is tonight after work.

In other news, I’m trying a Back on Track saddle pad. I used it for Monday’s ride, the one where Eli felt great. He doesn’t have a history of back issues, so this is purely for adding to our arsenal of things that make the pony feel good.

BoTsaddlepadIt came in all this packaging, in a zipped cover, like how comforters are packaged. I also had it monogrammed (duh).fuzzysoft The underside of the pad is extremely soft. So far, I like it, but I want to use it for a while before I know just how much I like it. It will probably be just a winter-only saddle pad, as we have no problem creating heat everywhere on every body part in the summer.

Fingers crossed Eli is sound tonight!

 

Cold Holidays, Warm Sweaters

starlightChristmas, come back! I need more time off to recover from time off.

lensflareweenieOver the break from the M-F grind, I rode when the weather wasn’t rotten, and for one ride it was rotten. I took Conrad out on walks, too, also when the weather wasn’t rotten. Lots of damp and blustery days over the long weekend that otherwise might have kept me inside, left me a bit tired, and also I have a cold that has settled into a lovely chest cough.

diggingBut Christmas was ever so enjoyable, and I got lots of cool stuff, including some books–maybe a few of which I might review.

booksI tried to have a lesson on Saturday, but north wind blowing rain into my face and Eli’s pretty much convinced me to call it quits. Eli was totally game, and wanting to play and maybe even go for a bracing gallop, but I just wanted to curl up with a hot toddy.

suchafaceIt rained even more on Sunday, and I thought for sure I’d be hand walking, but the footing held up, so I got in one last vacation ride, and jumped a few jumps just to make sure Eli didn’t forget his job. He may have thrown in a few dolphin leaps instead of canter strides, but if we get to the jump, he jumps. He seems to enjoy the cold, at least for a while. I’m going to ride tonight, too, because the weather looks to be taking a downhill turn starting on Wednesday.

windywalkI’m over winter at this point, but it’s still just December.

thinkingI think I have finally settled on a breastplate & running martingale set up that I like, after trying, oh, about 7 different ways. So I may have some breastplates with running attachments for sale soon… I can’t decide if I want to keep them as back-ups, at least until I get a new saddle, because I may like a different set up with a different saddle.

doneridingI hope everyone had a fantastic holiday! On to the Internet window shopping of all the sales!

Tale of Two Elis

I own one horse who has many, many moods. So, here you go:

Tuesday night: Trying not to die in the jumping arena. Lesson horse lesson-ing around and breathing, Eli thinks, “I should be wary. That horse is breathing. Something bad might happen because that horse is trotting slowly and breathing.” I think, “Eli, please pay attention. Even at the walk. You can’t even pay attention while we’re walking???” Eli responds by jog-trotting and looking out into the murky dark darkness beyond the arena lights. And he may have squealed. He definitely swished his tail. I ask for a trot. Self, that was stupid. Eli trots, then trots fast and gets way down on his forehand like downward-facing-dog down. I rethink the whole trotting thing and ask Eli for a walk. Eli actually walks. Eli then spooks at something that may have maybe made a noise and possibly moved over by the water tanks. Nope, for sure–it was a giant swirling sharknado lurking in the darkness by the water tanks. I can’t tell what Eli spooked at, but he is completely sure of the sharknado and its lurkiness. Eli is completely evading the bit at this point by curling his chin under to his chest.

So, yeah, a whole lot of walking and trotting went on Tuesday night. Because cantering an anxious, squealing llama just doesn’t seem like a good time to me. And I did not feel like getting off and letting him run around like an idiot on the longe line.

Think, think, thinkthinkthink
Think, think, thinkthinkthink

Wednesday night: Lots going on in the barn aisle near the cross-ties, in the form of farriers doing their thing with torches and forges and mallets and smells. Eli doesn’t even blink at this. As soon as I pull him out of his stall, I notice a difference in his mood–he seems much more like his happy grumpy self than Tuesday night, when he was more of a angry grumpy self. Grooming goes well with a minimum of snappiness, and I decide this night is a great night for Eli to wear his bonnet.

The bonnet is clearly the important factor here. He didn’t wear one Tuesday night. I put one on him Wednesday night.

And it was as if angels came down from their lofty, fluffy clouds and touched Eli’s adorable white snip with their magical unicorn glitter wands of amazingness. My horse felt astounding! Back to himself, and even better, motivated to work! Yay! The instructor teaching lessons Wednesday evening even said that I need to go find a horse show RIGHT NOW because Eli looked fantastic. Go win that hack! What was different? THE BONNET. It is now known as Eli’s thinking cap. (Which cannot be worn in a hack, so that’s out.) He MUST wear a bonnet if it is less than 90 degrees outside. Seriously. I asked the instructor what she did to him today (she doesn’t ever do anything with him, I was just kidding around) and she said she just patted him an told him he was pretty, of course, so I was all, you must pat him everyday and tell him he is pretty, until the end of time. Deal. I stuffed Eli’s cookie face with cookies and took silly pictures.

Cookie lady, I need more cookies.
Cookie lady, I need more cookies.

Not sure if I’ll get to ride tonight because of inclement weather, but hopefully it won’t rain too much.

ANGELS, I tell you.
ANGELS, I tell you.