Monthly Archives: March 2012

Faxx gets a new saddle. And I get poorer!

Recently I’d been having trouble with Faxx’s saddle continuously sliding to the left. No matter how tight the girth, at some point during my ride, the saddle would end up canted over to the left. I did not realize just HOW much it was slipping until I was at Marie’s during a lesson and got a head-on look at us in the mirror. My left stirrup looked 4 inches longer than my right one! I knew it had been a year or more since I had Faxx’s saddle fitted – unfortunately that is one of the disadvantage of having one’s own place – difficult access to many equine professionals that make regular trips to large boarding barns. Saddle fitters being a perfect example. Marie opined that she did not even think his saddle COULD be made to fit him anymore. Oh joy. The one he was wearing was Lisa’s old County WB that I loved, and that I purchased brand spanking new for $1200 after she had Fling in 2000 and no longer could ‘fit into’ her old saddle. After she had Fling, those ribs really spring out and they did NOT go back to their original shape! I had it fitted to him originally when he was a 4 year old and had it fit twice since then.

But the slipping was a bad sign, and he was also starting to really come off the bit and back off. So I knew the writing was on the wall.

Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately for my checkbook!) Jan Hulsebos was coming to Marie’s the following week.The only time I could go was after work. So I raced home , threw Faxx in the trailer and headed to Marie’s. Of course when I got there they were running behind, AND it was like a hurricane, the wind was blowing so hard. I do not know what it is about Marie’s,but it always seems to be windy there. It was definitely not the ideal conditions to be trying saddles.I am still a bit wary of Faxx after getting dumped, and add to it strong winds and unfamiliar/strange saddles. I did draw the line and told Jan ONLY used saddles.

The first one I tried had huge thigh blocks and I continually fought with it.None of my saddles currently have much in the way of thigh blocks, but it seems all the new saddles have such big ones, they ‘lock’ you in place. so it was a no go for Saddle #1. Of course it was ‘only’ $2300. The second one, I thought was pretty – brown and black two toned – but really preferred not to get one that was not just solid black. It just did not look ‘formal’ to me. But, it was like Cinderella’s slipper – for both me and Faxx. And of course it was much more than Saddle #1. Of course. But, he goes better in it, and another plus – he no longer can pull me out of the saddle when he coughs mid-stride! But one down side  – other than the price tag – it makes him feel 3 inches taller!!!

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Faeryn gets gold stars!

Faeryn was a little star yesterday – in more ways than one.

Her trot has gotten super fancy. I have finally learned to use my seat to influence not only the length of her strides, but the amount of suspension within each stride. I can see now how you train passage – although it takes a HUGE amount of core strength and perfect timing to achieve that. And we are light years away from that yet. I learned that from the brief time I rode one of Marta’s Andalusian stallions at passage once. Debbie Bowman told me once I really needed to SHORTEN her stride for her to be more balanced. She said she moved too big to balance herself. At the time I thought that was a very strange statement, since she certainly did not feel like a big mover – nothing at all like Faxx. But I now understand what she meant – every horse can only move as big as their self carriage/innate sense of balance will allow. And Faeryn was moving ‘out of her balance zone’ so to speak.Which prevented her from being truly in self carriage because she was always sort of scrambling forward, always slightly out of balance.  I am also asking her to do ‘half steps.’ – although I do not think they are truly piaffe half steps at this point – but she is learning to sit, and to shorten her stride but maintain activity of her hind legs – all of the ‘building blocks’ you need to have in place before they can truly do a piaffe. You achieve this in two ways – by teaching them to REALLY burst forward from walk/halt to trot transitions — and by repeated transitions within the trot – small, small, small, then medium, medium, medium….repeated many. many times. The “small” needs to be as small as possible, and the medium really does not have to be a big booming medium – just a definite bigger gait than the ‘small.’

The most progress has been made in her half pass lately. Her right half pass has been fairly good for a few weeks now – but I kept ‘losing’ the left half pass – mainly because of that nagging slight head tilt that she still has off and on. It is still not completely gone, and I still have not diagnosed what I think is the ‘end all be all’ solution – but a large part of it has to do with a combination of me not riding her enough with my right seatbone and not using enough outside rein. Yesterday it was magic. NOT ONLY was the quality of the left half pass as good as the right half pass – but I was able to do some decent half pass ‘change of hand,’ or ‘zigzag’ as it is sometimes called. I dare say she will be better than Fling at this some day. I also for the first time asked her for a canter half pass to the right, and got a quite nice one!! GOOD GIRL!

And even more astounding perhaps than all of the above, is that I can FINALLY pull Faeryn’s hedge of a mane without drugging her, threatening her or being in danger of getting body slammed by a crazed 1,000 drama queen! I started working on her mane after I’d ridden her because I had read that the pores open up and that makes it easier and less painful to pull the hair. I also learned not to ‘yank’ the hair out – but to apply steady pressure to pull it out. I have read that when you do that, it gives the follicles a chance to ‘let go’ of the hair. Seems it is an evolutionary self-preservation mechanism designed to allow a horse to escape being tangled in something by their mane or tail. I don’t know if that is truth or just a bit of hooey, but I do know that managing it that way has made all the difference with her. She tolerated it fairly well – and actually got better and quieter about it the longer I worked. First, I think she finally had a chance to process the information and realized it really did NOT HURT as much as she thought. Secondly, I think she really likes the part where she gets her mane combed. And third, I learned that pulling fewer hairs was actually more irritating to her, and started pulling larger sections of hair at a time. Her mane has been neglected for so long, it is going to take quite a few sessions to get it ‘tamed’ but at least it now is not a huge ordeal and I can do a bit at a time, and hopefully within a few weeks Faeryn will look like a properly groomed elegant show horse and not a ragamuffin!

Technical difficulties solved!

I’ve tried several times in the past week to post here, but it never showed my log in screen, so I could not post! I found a back door in.

The weather is finally cooperating! We still have wet spots in the pasture,. but the arena is dry. Only half of it is still usable – I have talked to my dozer guy and hopefully we will get a break in the rain in the next month or so and will be able to finish it. Or at the very least get to the next step – which is to fine tune the base by adding fill (I have a pile next to the arena that should be enough), scrape the sand off the one remaining corner and also the old bad base underneath it. Then it needs to rain on that a few times to make sure it is crowned enough and  has no low spots, and THEN we can put the sand back on it.

In the meantime, my new job is going well, although the learning curve is steep and I have little ‘mental energy’ left for much else.  Plus I get home about 20 minutes later than I used to, and once when it was raining it took me two hours to get home. Despite all that, with the help of the time change, I have managed to get back in a riding routine.

Connie my barn help works M/W/F so those days I ride Faeryn and Fling. On T/Th I clean stalls and ride Faxx. On the weekend I try to ride all three each day but that doesn’t always happen. I am still working on my master bath – and the weekend is the only time I can devote any energy or time to that.

However, they all are benefiting from the regular schedule – Faxx probably most of all.  He is learning walk/canter, his shoulder in is getting better, he is working on turn on the haunches and half pass. His half pass to the left is getting almost show quality – we won’t talk about the HP to the right! 😉

Faeryn is getting much better in her self-carriage and is no longer impersonating a ship’s anchor! We are doing half steps and she is learning to shorten and lengthen her stride just from my seat. The canter is improved, her half passes are show quality most days.

Fling was a star the other day – getting 3 reallly good strides of canter pirouette, and managing three ‘sets’ of the canter half pass zig zag… ie, half pass, flying change as you change direction of half pass, then change direction  again in half pass and do another change, and then back again. I had hoped to show her fourth level this spring, but had too much going on in my life. i am now aiming for a May show, and plan to also show her in June, and between the two shows I get my two 60s I need at Fourth level toward my Silver. And then next year, the goal is Prix St. Georges. I can hardly believe it myself! I love her so much and she is such a cheerful worker bee! I think even Debbie Bowman has been impressed with her lately and the other day I commented to marie that  maybe Faeryn would be a better upper level horse than Fling and she said  to me, “Fling is a pretty darned good upper level horse.”  I love her so much and just wish horses did not have such short lifespans compared to humans.

Faeryn gets ‘busted’

Despite the rain, I hauled to Marie’s for a lesson on Faeryn this morning. It was sprinkling on us as we tacked up and untacked, but oddly enough was not raining while we were actually riding in the covered arena.

Marie reminded me again that I need to really raise the bar on Faeryn. The reason she is pulling my arms out of their sockets is that she is not carrying enough weight behind, and also just plain not carrying herself. So we did many transitions, and also a lot of work in renvers because she also is not using her right hind as much as her left hind. So we did a lot if work in renvers at trot and canter. That also turned out to be the ‘fix’ for the slight head tilt she’s had for probably a year now. It would come and go, but never completely went away. We also started working on  half steps and Marie said I need to keep her shorter in the frame, more rocked back on her haunches and ask her to take quicker – but not faster – steps. Faeryn was definitely not happy to be told that ‘the jig is up’ and she is going to have to work harder from now on, and threw some ‘mini tantrums’ to show her displeasure. When I would give ‘the mother of all half halts’ to get her back to her haunches, she would just shake her head – but then she would respond to the half halt. At one point during the lesson she was in such terrific self-carriage that I could just give the reins – she was so light. So, I have my homework. I need to ride Faeryn like I ride Fling.

Faeryn impersonates an anchor

It was very windy today and that is not the best time to ride Faeryn as she hates the wind and does at least one fairly impressive bolt – but predictably whenever I turn her with her rear end to the wind. Today she was pulling my arms out. I do not know if the wind had anything to do with it or if she was just feeling lazy but it took me half the ride to convince her to listen to me and quit leaning on my hands AND ignoring my half halts. I had to deliver many “Come to Jesus” half halts just to get her attention. And repeated, through clenched teeth,  “Carry your own %$#@ self!” many, many times. It took awhile but it got better, and actually ended with some very nice canter. Still working on the slight head tilt she has, only going to the left, and only at the canter. I was telling Debbie Bowman about it last weekend, since I did not actually ride Faeryn in the clinic, and she said it probably would need to be fixed at the trot, even though it showed it self during the canter.

Fling was good. I ran through parts of the Fourth 1 test. I am taking her to a nearby schooling show tomorrow to ride through the test. Still trying to pick a place and a date for her Fourth level recognized show debut.