Friday, December 28, 2012

Better late then never.....

I just love this picture that Donna took at what proved to be the last Hunter show Pippi is likely to attend. It was at the very least the last Hunter show that Pippi jumped fences at. For the season I added some snow, and there you have it.

Happy New Year Everyone!!

After riding in the Dressage saddle twice, and finding no fault with it, I have decided to buy it. It is a Kieffer, and both my booty and Pippi's back seem to like it. My last test was the Canter as I wanted to see how I liked that gait with this saddle, but you know what that meant......I had to Canter!! 

Pippi has Cantered on the lunge line, but not under saddle since her injury, with no affect at all. So I knew I could go for it, but I kept putting it off. I am a highly intuitive person, and tend to act on feel. And there we were, trotting away, and then calmness and still sunk into our fibers and I asked for the Canter. And boy did we ................Trot at high speed, I asked for the Canter, ..............and holy smokes, who knew a horse could Trot that quick? Oh, right............ I had asked for the Canter! Caaan-Ter!! CAAAAN-TER!!! OK, well timed used of stick and Pippi propelled herself into it, tossing my innards about like wacky-mac tumbling in Italian dressing. But I found the rhythm, and for several glorious strides we cantered. Until I lost my beat and she wisely dropped to a Trot. We walked, halted and she was praised as though she just discovered the gait on behalf of all Equines. Treats, pets and loud exclamations telling her that she was indeed a "very good girl."  This was the first time Pippi was given a treat under saddle, (not sure I should do that, oh well....) and she learned that skill right away. She is quite a bit bendier than I thought, seems treats are just the incentive to whip that neck around.
After a little walking breather, we trotted again, and I asked for the canter again. This time going clockwise. And this time Pippi did not really hesitate, just propelled herself forward and we were off. Once again I was the cause of the drop to trot, and this time Pippi was already giving me "treat face" as soon as we halted.
That was "so totally treat-worthy" according to her, and her muzzle twitched and wrinkled with clear communication.
I may not have explained this but Pippi sounds like a college girl. Not quite a little girl, but surely not a woman, and with a lot of attitude and feelings of superiority as she a beautiful and knows it. She tends to exhale and turn her head away from me, saying "yeah, I knoooow!" before she gives in to my ridiculous "rules." In other words she is the Equine version of my daughter, who trained her, and who she fought epic battles with. And I adore them both, and they both have a tendency to make me want to kick puppies. But I digress....

So we are now cantering, and so I feel ready to start tackling lessons with BO. Guess I should tell her that..... EEEK!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Girth Tightening help / Dressage saddle trial.

Tightening the girth on my Synthetic saddle is a huge hassle. I struggle to get it tight enough and with the very stiff straps I have a hard time, which leaves the saddle too loose.
For me it is a matter of not having enough grip strength, my fingers just can not grip the straps hard enough and they slip. If I could just get a grip with my whole hand...........

After thinking about this on my way home from the barn, a solution came to mind and I post it in hopes that it may help another  weak grip rider out there.

I brought with me an old belt from home, and chose one that was made of canvas. I fastened it here so you can see what I did, although this saddle is clearly tight enough.

Slip your girth buckle on the strap first (no need to find a hole), and then slip your belt on strapping it into a hole below where you would like to fasten your girth buckle. Just like the picture.

My issue was that I did not have enough girth strap to wrap it around my hand, and not enough strength in my fingers to hold on when I pulled hard. With this extra belt, I could wrap it around my hand giving me A LOT of leverage when I pulled up. (I also stand on the mounting  block).

I hope I explained it all well, and that I helps make tacking up a bit easier for anyone with some arthritis like me. There are tools on the market, like The Belly Buster Girth Tightener, but I hear they make it quite easy to over tighten. Plus who wants to spend money when you can use an old belt. I chose the canvas belt since it is easier to wrap around my hand.

The irony in all this is that right after I figured all this out I found a Dressage saddle, and with that saddle the leather is so much softer I was able to tighten it with no assistance from the extra belt.

A friend is selling a used Kieffer Dressage saddle, and I am trying it out. Love that about buying from a friend; I can try and see if it fits Pippi! and I! So last night I tacked Pippi up, and we gave it a whirl.

 Here she is. Tacked up and wearing the new saddle pad I stitched for myself. (Saddle pad stitched on both sides with a Dressage rider and the words "And We Danced." So happy to make myself something!) 
Well, no one told me how much easier it is to hold position in a Dressage saddle! Wowser - it was like moving into a Luxury Sedan after riding the Greyhound bus. My legs dropped effortlessly below me, and I was snug and held upright by the design of the seat. I asked BO (and new Trainer) for advice on Stirrup legth and we dropped them another two holes which is about 3 inches or so. She thinks, and I agree, that I should go one more hole down, but I will have to work up (down) to that. At this point I would lose them probably.

The saddle was great, and with a bit of elbow grease I think it will good enough for showing too. I plan on trying it one more time before deciding, as I want to make it does not pinch the Pipster. I hear Kieffer is a great brand, not that I would know anything about that, and after checking online the price is more than fair.

Pippi did quite well for me. I was able, with the help of the new leg positioning, to get her to walk forward and quite straight at a very lose rein. New for me, as we are normally weaving. (all my fault) She is getting used to the longer leg, but our transitions are not crisp at all. Must get swifter at all gait changes and halts. Still just going walk/trot, and will wait a bit more before asking for the canter. (which should be an adventure, as she is a MAC5 at that gait and the transition (on her) tends to leave me behind) We are working on bends, and trot circles, and mostly just on getting in sync. I am having a blast, and find that I am not nervous (to my surprise) but just really enjoying riding her. Love this horse so much.
Please to enjoy some after ride pics:
"Do Dressage Saddles make me look fat?" (she is chubby)

"The other horses are eating........oh man....."

Monday, December 10, 2012

And then we Rode!!! (boring video)

I know I stated that I was going to wait to ride Pippi until December 29th, but I changed my mind. I changed it the moment Pippi, fully tacked, led me over to the mounting block last Wednesday, sidled up next to me and said "I'm ready, let's go."

Well, I didn't have my helmet with me, so I was not ready. Regardless of what Rick Gore says in his asinine Article I NEVER ride without a helmet. And you shouldn't either. But I digress.....

So Friday Donna came with me, and boy were we excited. You would have thought we were going on a cruise around the world. Counting the minutes, laughing with excitement the whole way there. What would happen? How would Pippi handle a rider again? Would she spunk out on me? How would I handle that?

I lunged her, and then mounted up with the lunge line still attached and lifelined to Donna.

  Oh, I know, wasn't that exciting?  Kind of hard to film when the horse keeps following you. And why oh why do I have to look like such a doofus in a helmet. Good ol' roundface. (Any suggestions for a helmet for an oval type head?) Since Pippi seemed totally calm, and the lifeline was such a hassle, we unhooked and free wheeled.

We are the "Green Team." (Another fascinating, can't take your eyes off of it, ride)

Mostly we just meandered about. Just enjoying the experience and chilling out. Donna and I joked about how anti-climactic it was. And about how the reason Pippi loves the hay there is because there is a lot of "weed" in, and that is why she is so relaxed and lazy. The extra poundage is more likely the reason, and hopefully the groundwork I have put in.
So we are back in the saddle. Since I waited it out until she was fully healed, only lunging during rehab, we can do both walk and trot right off the bat. I will do that for a while, before asking for the canter. After riding the other day her leg did not swell, and there was no heat at all.
So we are off.......

Friday, December 7, 2012

I'm Scared with you! (lightbulb moment)

As I may have mentioned a time or three (hundred) Pippi and I are tight, like................two flakes in a bail. I just came up with that one, and I like it. Like two flakes in a bail. That is how tight we are.
And I may also have mentioned that Pippi is a spookin' fool (literally a descendant) and so tends to over react to......the world. She is getting better, maturing and de-sensitizing has done some good. But if she feels that something is not safe, well then it is not safe. In the past I have shown her that the item, flapping feed bag for instance, is safe by walking right to it and touching it.

"its fine, Pip, juuus' fine, see?"

And she sees. But it does little to appease her, and so "the process" begins. She pulls away, we retreat/approach, I reassure, and we spend a lot of time depending on her level of fear.

So the other day, with a feed bag laying on the ground I did the same thing. Showed her that she was wrong, but this time I paid more attention to her. I really tuned in, and I could almost feel the "click" of her hanging up on me. The connection was broken, and she pulled back before I even approached her with scary object. I stopped and really looked at her, and tried to get the connection back.

We are tight, like two flakes in a bail, we feel together and stay together, but I was not doing that. When she was scared, it wasn't her that disconnected           IT          WAS       ME!! I was the one that left her, left her feeling all kinds of things by herself, and by just dismissing it I was actually making it worse.

So I changed tactics. I moved the bag up on the wall ledge, we walked around a bit, and then we approach it again. I was with her this time. The moment I felt her stiffen I also "noticed" the bag, and it also made me stop. I looked at her and acted like a curious but fearful mare. Snort, stretch neck, approach, retreat. The whole time making sure we were together. Lots of eye contact, I breathed in and out quicker, and just acted like a nutcase. I was scared mare too, but I was just a tad bit braver than her. I finally stretched my face all the way over to the bag and gave a loud sniff. I chose not to touch it, because Pippi does not have hands!!!!  Pippi looked at me with admiration (humanize animals much?) and followed my lead. She sniffed it too!! Found it was not scary either and we moved on.

This new process took less time, and the results were longer lasting. We could pass the by feedbag much sooner without a repeat performance. And so I learned another valuable lesson. Dismissing someones feelings never leads them to "get over it." Listen, feel and empathizing is the way. I knew that from my work experience, but I had not really applied it to the horse world.

Lessons learned.