2.29.2016

Too Soon To Say Goodbye

5

RIP Holly

AKA Polly Wog, Holly Wogus, Wogus Dogus, Woggo Doggo
The original Dachqua


I remember the night mum and dad brought you home. You were the ugliest dachshund I had ever seen. Your buggy eyes and gigantic forehead instantly garnered you the title of dachqua, the term our father coined to explain your chihuahua-like features.

You never did like me much. Dad was your favorite. You spent hours on his lap, claiming it as your own, and snarling/snapping at everyone who came near - including me.

You had the heart of a lion with the vocal capacity to shatter eardrums. Your voracious barking was never intimidating, yet despite countless warnings we could not quiet you. If you had an opinion, everyone heard about it.

I remember the countless walks we went on as a family. Your favorite activity was to perch on dad's lap and bark at passing cars.


I saw a piece of my father break on Sunday when we let you go. I know you're up there, watching him from grandfather's lap, biding your time until you are reunited. I bet you were jealous when he brought home a wrapped beef stick to let Hannah, Haelie, and Halo unwrap. Please know that it was only a tribute to you and your amazing plastic unwrapping skills.

Our family misses you so much. We love you and can't wait to see you again.

2.25.2016

PS of Sweden Conclusion

13

After a relatively abysmal ride last night in which we 'practiced' (and I use this word loosely) our T-1 test, I finally made up my mind about the new PS of Sweden bridle.

To recap, the experiment progressed as follows:

    • Full PS of Sweden Bridle (great ride)
    • PS of Sweden bridle with Albion reins (great ride)
    • PS of Sweden bridle with Albion reins & cheek pieces (OK ride)
    • PS of Sweden bridle with Albion reins, Albion drop noseband, and PS of Sweden cheek pieces. (Abysmal ride)

Conclusion? The first ride was probably a fluke - Fiction was feeling good after a week off. While I don't think the bridle cures any of our problems, I don't think it makes any of them worse. It's pretty much just a nicely made anatomical bridle that is a good choice for a schooling bridle with some changes.

Puppies~ :)
I may write up a formal review about this bridle eventually, only because my relative indifference to it seems to be in the minority. I have read such rave reviews about their bridles, which is what prompted my to buy one of my own. I have, unfortunately, not been impressed.

I have decided that I will never buy from PS of Sweden again, for various reasons. Primarily, I do not feel the bridles are all that spectacular, and, after an inspection today, prices have increased. Either it was a bug before (or now it is a bug), but VAT is no longer showing as excluded for me (in the US) and shipping has increased from $25 to $31 (on top of which may be added tariff/taxing. I had to pay an additional $16).

No thank you.

That being said, I will be selling the bridle. The drop noseband portion does not work for us. It is too small to sit where it needs to sit and still connect around his muzzle. And, to be honest, I've decided I don't mind continuing to ride with the full Albion bridle.

So, if anyone is interested, I have the following pieces up for sale (pictures on request):

    • PS of Sweden FULL sized black Youngster Revolution bridle. Used a handful of times. Excellent condition. $200 (includes shipping). Comes with throat latch!
    • PS of Sweden FULL sized black softy/supergrip reins. Used once. $65 (shipping included).
    • Full set (both items) $260, shipping included.

You can reach me via email or in the comments here :)  SOLD! :)

2.24.2016

Experiment #2

3

On Sunday I progressed to part two of my PS of Sweden experiment - I replaced the cheek pieces on the PS of Sweden bridle with my Albion cheek pieces, thus removing the elastic inserts.

I also found him looking like this.
From the moment I got on him I could tell the difference. He was not as responsive. There was a fair bit of head tossing when I asked for the halt/back-up when compared to the elastic cheek pieces, and he seemed a bit tenser in general.

That being said, this was the third day in a row I was on him, and the day after a trail ride with some pretty strenuous hills, so he could have just been expressing displeasure at the work load. Fiction needs numerous mental breaks to succeed at horsing. Three days of riding in a row was probably too much for him.

I may have cried. This was on BOTH sides.
We started off to the left with very little success with the trot. Probably the worst trot he has given me in a while. He simply would not relax, with his nose to the air and his neck bulging to the inside. In in attempt to break his mindset, I put him into a canter. His canter was beautiful, but the moment we dropped back to the trot his nose returned to the air and he hollowed his back. So, out of ideas, I suddenly pointed him towards the tiny little crossrail set up in the arena. I could almost see the big ? pop up between his ears as his entire body hesitated for a millisecond before he popped over the jump pretty calmly. Cue a soft canter, then a very soft, responsive trot....for about 30 seconds.

It took me an hour to get him clean.
So I repeated the jump twice more and each time he dropped into a beautiful soft trot to the left after the jump. We then moved to the right and spent a lot of time working on traveling in a straight line vs a circle. This was followed by some trot-halt-trot transitions, which he made way harder than they needed to be. He simply did not want to stop and instead continued to very slowly inch forward at the walk.

We ended with some more work to the left. He was far more pliable by then, though still frustratingly uneven in his carriage. However, I called it quits after some super nice stretchy trot.


I'm really having a hard time wrapping my mind around these troubles to the left, so I've decided it's time to call in my chiropractor. Fiction hasn't been seen in quite some time. He's not lame, he doesn't feel stiff or off in any way, it's just like he can't bend in that direction. Like it is physically impossible for him.

I'm also trying to vary the exercises a lot more to prevent boredom. We do circle a lot still, but I move him around the arena, change directions, and incorporate leg yields now. We're going to really start working on our T-1 test for our first show, so hopefully that will help with the brain wandering.


As for the PS of Sweden bridle...well, at this point I would say it may be the elastic cheek-pieces that are causing the difference, but I'm still not sold. Fiction will get a few days off before I head back out to try experiment #3 before making a final verdict. Right now I'm not too keen on the bridle (or PS of Sweden for that matter) for various other reasons (including an import hassle that cost me an additional $16 on top of the $25 I paid to ship it in the first place), so it looks like it may be offered for sale shortly.

Note: USEF got back to me - elastic inserts in cheek pieces are allowed, which means the bridle is dressage-legal.

2.23.2016

Too Good to be True

4

Saturday was trail ride day. Despite the fact that it was in the 60s and sunny, there was a fair bit of wind going that still made for a chilly ride.


Fiction and I ventured around the 100 acres of property for a good 45 minutes.

And, despite the anxiety that plagued my gut and the tightening of my muscles in anticipation of a blow-up....Fiction was a gentleman.


No crazies at all. We meandered on the buckle the entire time.

Apparently now I need to be trained to relax!



2.22.2016

Musical Horses

0

I started my bridle experiment on Friday. I decided to take it slow and just replace one piece at a time until I found something Fiction objected to, or his behavior changed noticeably.

No horse pics, so enjoy one of Ueda with the baseball he found on our walk :)
So, experiment #1 saw me replacing the PS of Sweden reins with my Albion reins. When I got on, Fiction was all business. I also felt immensely more comfortable with these reins, as, while thin, they are not quite as thin as the PS of Sweden reins and fill up my hands a bit more.

We spent quite some time in walk warm-up while conversing with J who was giving Penn a small break. I then progressed into trot work. Fiction was pretty great, albeit a bit sluggish. To the left he gave me a really hard time, so we concentrated on spiraling in and out to try to get him to listen. The canter was beautiful, per usual, though he did attempt a few times to tell me where he wanted to go rather than listen to where I wanted to go.

I popped him through the ground poles J had set up. He did well. I had to make sure to half halt right before entering the poles and then push him through them. He's still pretty wiggly through them because of his intense hatred for all things pole-related, but he did well.


After a good 45 minute workout, I let him off and then asked J if she would like to ride him. We ended up swapping horses. I walked Penn out while she put Fiction through his paces to the right. I wish I would have gotten a picture or video of her on him. They looked great!

The beast got some nice alfalfa pellets after his ride and then was turned out in the field for the night since the weather was so nice. He got moved into a new field because he was acting a bit too alpha-ish with a new horse. So far there have been zero problems with his new friends!

2.18.2016

I Don't Believe In Magic

14

Despite my last post, I did not make it out to ride until Wednesday night.

Fiction had been moved into a stall with a window next to a mare he is in love with. She doesn't return his affection. His best friend Penn was also moved into the stall next to him.

He's been acting a bit girthy lately. I started him on SmartGut two weeks ago and I've seen minor improvements. I also did some research and decided to start giving him 2 cups of soaked alfalfa pellets before each ride to give the acid in his stomach something to do rather than just slosh around. I'm sure he doesn't mind the extra calories.


Last night was our first ride in the PS of Sweden bridle. As I mentioned before, the bridle isn't bad. The padding on the poll and noseband is great. I would have loved to have seen padding on the chin strap, but I don't keep it tight so I can live without. The leather quality is about the same as the Micklem bridle. Not amazing, but not bad for the price. The reins on the other hand....I hate them. Hate. Hate. Hate them. I have never loathed a piece of tack more haha. The only redeeming quality I feel that they have is the leather seems nice. Other than that they are flimsy, too soft, and way too thin. I had a hard time dealing with them while riding. Definitely not for me.

Anyways, here comes the creepy part.

From the moment I got on Fiction, I noticed a complete change in the way he carried himself. He was soft. He was elastic. He held a frame far more competently than he ever has. We still had issues to the left, of course, but as the title states, I don't believe in magical fix-alls.

He was crazy hyper, so we had some firm discussions on acceptable speed. Started with the walk/back up exercise. We only had ONE instance of rooting. And, when he backed up, he, for the most part, did it without throwing his head up like a giraffe.

When we moved on to trot, to the right he was pretty much consistent the whole time, save for when we passed Penn or went over the ground poles. To the left he was a bit wonky, but I switched to sitting trot and evened him out.


His canter was fabulous. Even the canter transitions were great. After cantering we spent some time on trot-halt-trot transitions and saw marked improvement. He was crazy light off of the leg though, so I really had to mediate my body.

He was huffing by the time we were done, so I let him off with some free walk. The foam dribbling from his mouth was excessive - he had drooled all over himself.

So. What changed? If we compare the PS of Sweden bridle to the Albion bridle, there is only one obvious difference - the elastic band inserts in the cheek pieces and the reins. I'm not ready to declare this bridle as some sort of magical piece of tack, but, for right now, Fiction seems to enjoy it. For our next ride I'm going to switch out the cheek pieces and reins and see what happens. And, if he continues to respond in the way he did last night, the PS of Sweden bridle may also become our show bridle. Can anyone chime in on whether or not the elastic inserts are USEF Dressage legal? I haven't had a chance to comb through the rules.

Oh, and if changing the reins makes no difference at all, the PS of Sweden reins I purchased (softy with rubber lining) will be up for sale. Black. Horse sized. I'll keep you posted.

2.14.2016

Happenings

3

It's been cold. Very cold. -9* F this morning. So yeah, no riding has been accomplished this past week.

Valentine's Day picture of the best partner :)
On Wednesday, Fiction got his tootsies done. I love my new farrier. He is simply fantastic. So happy to have found someone who takes great care in what they do.

On Saturday night I got a message from the BO informing me that Fiction came in with a cut on his leg that was bleeding pretty profusely. She cleaned it up and put a compression bandage on it to stop the bleeding, but said there was no swelling, heat, or lameness.

So tiny.
I headed out early Sunday to take a look. There was blood speckling the snow and the aisle. Apparently they noticed the blood on the aisle after they brought horses in and went around checking until they found Fiction literally standing in a puddle of blood. BO was freaked out, but after inspecting the wound, she concluded that he must have just hit it in some way that caused a lot of blood, but no real injury.

Bandage was soaked in dried blood.
I pulled the bandage, cleaned the wound, and took a look. It was about the length of a fingernail and very shallow. No idea how it caused so much blood, but it was definitely nothing to worry about. I sprayed it with wound coat and left it open to dry out, since Fiction never heals if you wrap or slather goop on his cuts.


It was too cold to ride, but I gave him a nice grooming and tried on his new PS of Sweden bridle. I was seriously worried it was going to be too big when I pulled it out of the bag, but it fit him just right. Tomorrow will be our first ride in it together, so I'll take some pictures. It's a nice bridle for the price, but I'm pretty spoiled by my Albion KB bridle, and the PS of Sweden just can't compare. But, I bought it as a schooling bridle, so the quality is fine for that.

Ike the amazing barn dog.
Lots of changes going on in the barn. They are adding in new tack lockers, a washer and dryer, more tack cleaning areas, water pipes/hoses to each horse's stall for easy bucket filling, amongst other things. I'm so happy to have found such an amazing place to board Fiction. They're even working on cleaning up a few stalls along the outside wall and they have reserved one for Fiction so he will be able to have a window to the outdoors.

2.11.2016

Asking Why

9


I've always loved learning. If I could go back and stay in school the rest of my life, I would. In my daily activities I always find myself asking why. Why does my cat stare blankly at walls for hours at a time? Why does my car make that strange noise? Why is my computer constantly freezing on start-up since installing Windows 10? (Side note: Windows I hate you).

I usually consult numerous sources to answer these questions. The internet, my parents, friends, adults more adultier than me. And I normally never settle on just one answer. I look for multiple answers/solutions.

So, why is it that I can't seem to apply this same practice to my riding?

Not asking why is what wasted three years of my life in a training situation that didn't suit me or my horse. Not asking why is what started the formation of nasty riding habits. Not asking why is what created Fiction's fear of rider reaction.

Instead of asking why, I tend to take my Instructor's words of wisdom as gospel.

Granted, I've been questioning why internally a lot more now, but I still don't vocalize it.

When my saddle fitter came out to drop off the Loxley, I mentioned to her my last lesson with I2 and what I had learned, especially in regards to how I was to hold my reins. She immediately asked me "Did you ask her why?"

Why no, I did not.

According to my saddle fitter, who I trust 100% and who has pretty much mentored me the last year when it comes to decisions with my horse, that method of rein holding is essentially 'cheating' and is akin to riding the horse from front to back.

I'm not going to say who I believe at this point. I do know that this new instructor teaches in a style I've never been taught before, nor ever seen in books. It could be a shortcut - who knows. I certainly wont condemn her for it. But my saddle fitter, who is a fantastic rider and wins championships left and right, would never try to steer me wrong.

So, instead of dwelling on who is right and who is wrong, from now on I'm going to make a point of asking why.

2.08.2016

A Perfect Weekend

13

Saturday started off with some grooming, a quick tack up, and then an excellent schooling in the arena. We started with a walk warm-up per usual, coming to a halt, backing up, and starting forward again. He is still protesting the halt by flipping his head despite total relaxation of my hands. Not sure what his deal is here, but we're going to concentrate on halt transitions a lot more in the coming weeks to try and nip it in the bud.


We then moved on to leg yields at the walk (wonderfully easy in the new saddle), the circles + shoulder-fore at the trot (the left is coming along nicely, so long as I remember to balance myself properly and relax my arms), some leg yield at the trot, and then finally canter work. His canter is fabulous right now.

After we finished in the indoor I took him outside for a nice trail ride. It was buckle-walking all the way to the top hay field and until we turned around. Once we turned back towards the barn his usual jigging and head tossing ensued, but nothing too bad. I just calmly walked him in circles, practiced halting, and started again. We made it home with very few problems.


On Sunday I headed back out, gave him a good groom, and then headed to the outdoor arena to work. He was even better on Sunday than Saturday. We worked primarily on the halt transitions (improving slowly), then the trot (to the left it was pretty darn good!), and then quite a bit of canter. I incorporated a lot of straight lines this time instead of just residing on a circle and he handled it like a complete champ. He really likes riding outside more than inside, though he does lose focus a lot more since there are many things to look at outside.

BTW: I have video! He was a bit grumpy because he thought we were done - I had gotten off to give my phone to someone to video. Still, so much progress!

After a stellar ride, J from Codex Dressage and I went for a 20 minute or so trail ride. This trail ride was the single most fun I have ever had on Fiction on the trail. No jigging. No head tossing. No wiggling. No spinning. Nothing. He walked calmly the entire time. I felt like crying. It was amazing.


In other news, I bought Fiction a fancy new PS of Sweden bridle + reins because I'm tired of using his insanely expensive Albion bridle as his everyday bridle. I also started him on some minor supplements - SmartDigest and Tri-Amino to help with some muscle development and some girthiness that he has been experiencing lately.

Oh, and it looks like we'll be heading to a schooling show at the end of February to ride T-1. We haven't been to a show in over a year, so we'll see how it goes!

2.04.2016

It's Here!!

7

And I love it!

Saddle fitter was out early on Thursday. I took the day off of work and headed down to clean Fiction up and make him presentable. She brought the saddle in and it was just as stunning as I thought it would be!


The grey piping is very, very subtle, which is nice. And the grey quilt stitching on back is a very nice, classy touch. Just enough flash for me - I really prefer classic and simple.


We tossed it on Fiction. It fit him like a glove. No flocking adjustment needed. Added some stirrups, a girth, and headed out for a test ride.


I'm so happy with it. This saddle puts me in the perfect position. My legs are exactly where they need to me. My seat is perfectly balanced. I feel exactly centered and when I'm not I can feel it, which is huge. The saddle is cushy, soft, and cradles me without being restrictive. I don't even notice the knee blocks, which are the absolute perfect size.


Fiction seemed to like it too. We had the most fantastic canter work I think we've had thus far and while his trot to the left was less than ideal, the saddle really helped me out with keeping my balance where it needed to be.

I'm so happy to have a saddle that fits the both of us so well, especially after the Albion left such a bad impression! The saddle also came with a super nice fleece-lined saddle cover that is beautifully embroidered.


I can't wait to ride in it some more!

2.01.2016

Instructor #2

5

Saturday was lesson day. I got out there early to give Fiction a long warm up. He was sleepy-eyed until I got on, and then he decided to be completely distracted by the open arena door. The outside world is terrifying when viewed from the arena, apparently.

I had just finished warming up with I2 appeared. We talked briefly about Fiction and I explained to her that we essentially started over from scratch a few months ago and right now we just want to concentrate on relaxation and acceptance of the bridle.

I haven't taken any new pictures lately, so enjoy a recycled one...

She remarked that he is a handsome horse but has zero topline (I'm sadly well aware of this) and slightly overdeveloped underneck muscles (doesn't look like it to me, but she's more of an expert than I am).

We started at the walk, progressed to the trot, and then to the canter, working on a single method of exercise to get Fiction to relax. This instructor's approach is completely different from I1's approach, so the lesson was very interesting, to say the least.

What I learned, condensed in a bullet list:


    • Keep my hands low and supple. Low as in practically by my knees. Reins need to be quite long to accommodate this.
    • Outside rein should keep contact and be close to the neck. Inside rein should keep contact but be open to encourage bend.
    • Nose should not be pointed further in than the eye.
    • My arms and wrists desperately need to relax.
    • The saddle I'm riding in (Hastilow), while great for XC and Jumping, is not conducive to good dressage work. It puts me too far back, as in I only make contact with my two seat bones and not the third point - my pelvis. Every time I fall back, Fiction throws up his head. We spent the lesson over-exaggerating my position until I was practically leaning forward. This was incredibly hard for me.
    • To the right Fiction is golden. To the left he wants to decide where he needs to go (I mentioned this in a previous post). I'm happy to say that we solved this problem! First is he needs to be slow. For Fiction this meant I had to drop to sitting trot to slow him down. Half halt with both hands to slow him down. Do not be afraid to take contact with his mouth if he is being naughty and ignoring me. Once he is slow, liberally apply inside leg and move him out. Since he likes to turn where he wants to turn, set up cones to aim for when circling, and alternate between circles and traversing the whole arena.
    • Steady with outside rein first, then open inside rein (do not pull back) and apply inside leg to create bend. Watch for the bulge in the neck, as Fiction likes to turn his head but still bulge his neck. Once he is bending properly, check outside rein to straighten him.

Sleepy puppy

I2 is a pure classical dressage trainer from Germany. She has her bronze medal and is working on her silver medal (though I believe I heard at one point she may have completed it? Not sure) while raising some very nice imported dressage horses. She is young but seems to know her stuff. I'm slightly familiar with her only because she helped an acquaintance of mine get her Bronze medal.

The lesson was enlightening. I'm primarily looking forward to practicing what she taught me once my new saddle comes in, as it should help put me in the seat she wanted me in during my lesson. I'm incredibly happy that I now have the tools I need to fix his problem to the left. I look forward to taking another lesson with her in the future.