August 19, 2016

Did He Really Just Say That???

Wyatt has always enjoyed sitting in front of me up on top of Gem with Dusty leading us around. He begs to go faster and has done walk, trot and canter both in an arena and out on a trail all with me holding him tightly and Dusty jogging beside us holding the reins. In the past, he was never comfortable up there on his own.

That all changed last weekend.

After I did a short ride to trial the new to me saddle, Wyatt asked if he could ride. I grinned and prepared to try to find room for him in front of me in the dressage saddle. He wasn't having it. He wanted to ride "by myself".

I hopped down and with only a slight hesitation and inward cringe at his incredibly filthy body touching my lovely saddle, I hoisted him up and grabbed the reins. 

I led Gem around at the walk while Dusty walked beside Wyatt, but Wyatt wouldn't let him hold on to him. He wanted to do it all by himself. We walked around and Wyatt asked to go over the ground poles that were set up. There was a row of 5 set up for trotting and we walked over those multiple times. There was another pol e all by itself that was raised off the ground as a cavelliti and I urged Gem to a small trot to jump over it which she obliged to do. I heard a string of uncontrollable giggles behind me and he begged to do it again. 

When I finally convinced him to be done, he climbed down with a huge grin and announced to the world:

MOMMY, I LOVE RIDING HORSES!!!!!



As my own face split into a grin I heard Dusty mumble "Welcome to a whole new level of being broke".

August 15, 2016

Best Saddle Shopping Experience Ever

Armed with the wonderful opinions of my fellow bloggers, I took to the internet to begin a full bore search of used jumping saddles. My eyes feasted upon leather goods of all makes and colors: forward versus straighter flaps, round versus square, deep versus flat seats, havana, tan, and luxurious chocolate brown.

Not a jump saddle

The options seemed limitless with hundreds of jumping saddles flooding the used tack sites and dozens upon dozens within my price range in good used condition. As I flicked through the images I began to grow disappointed though. None appeared to have the features that I needed for a good Gemmie fit.

I did more research and found the brand that I knew would fit her like a glove. I put out ISO ads, looked frantically on all the used tack sites online and on facebook and then jumped the ocean and began looking on the used UK sites as well.

Nothing.



Eventually, one saddle popped up. It was at the high end of my budget without figuring in overseas shipping. I was excited as I flipped through the pictures until I saw a hole worn into the flap. Darn.

Additional research brought up the higher quality cousin of my saddle, which retails new at over twice the price and was a little easier to find used overseas although still absent on the US market. Unfortunately, even used ones were double my measley budget.

I regrouped. Maybe I could buy one of the other dozens of saddles and take it to a fitter to have it altered to fit my Gemmie. Add on those features of my beloved. Some searches for saddle fitters able to modify saddles proved that while it could be done, it would end of costing the same as a new version of my beloved saddle and was still out of budget.

Then it happened.

I stumbled upon an ad for the dressage version. With stirrup irons, leathers and girth included all within my price range. The best part? Even though I found it on a national English tack page on Facebook, the woman lived one town over from me.

The reason it fits Gem. Movable front billet and sliding rear V billet

We messaged back and forth a bit as I debated whether or not to jump ship and go full blown dressage or not. I hemmed and hawed, made an appointment to meet her and then cancelled it. Friday morning she messaged me again. I gave in. Believe what you want, but sometimes the Universe is literally screaming at you to get your attention. I chose to listen.

I bailed on a couple of hours of work Friday afternoon and drove over to meet her. She knew I was only 50% sure I would buy it. It would depend on how the rigging was set up, the channel width and the quality. When she pulled the saddle out of her trunk, I was sold.

It was everything I needed.

Money exchanged hands, my horse funds PayPal account is now down to $0 and I am insanely happy.

Saturday morning, I drove out to the barn to try it on her with a small amount of trepidation. What if it didn't fit after all?

I could even use my old red and black trail pad with pockets once again

I needn't have worried. It fit her like a glove although the girth is a bit too long and will eventually need replaced. The benefit of living in Hades is that you can get a great sweat pattern with minimal effort and I was pleased with it once we were finished with the ride.

I will give a full write up about the saddle, the reasons I purchased it, my thoughts on Gem fit and my fit in a future post once I have ridden in it a bit more, but for now I am really, really happy. I know it isn't a jump saddle and that I won't be jumping in it, but I am perfectly fine with that. I started this year off with a goal of taking dressage lessons over the summer and the eventing thing only happened because BO events.

Love, love love where it naturally puts my leg
Right now Gem and I need to focus on our flat work more than anything and we will see how the fall and winter go. If I feel the need to add jumping to our lives, hopefully by next spring I can afford to start looking for the jump version again.

Look out dressage world. Here comes Team Gemmie!!!

Not looking particularly amused to be working in the late morning heat with a screaming, mud covered toddler monster playing behind her on the mountain of sand. 

August 11, 2016

Product Review: Irideon Synergy Tights

Thank you to everyone who gave their opinion yesterday. I really appreciate the insight!!

Typically I ride in Irideon Issentials and I absolutely adore them. The medium fits me perfect in all aspects and they are perfectly comfortable to ride in down here from Spring through Fall. I never chafe and they are not slick in the slightest. I highly recommend them except for one thing: no pockets.

For endurance rides, this isn't an issue because I always wear my Camelbak with side pockets to hold my phone, ride card and a granola bar. I don't ride with it unless I will be out for over 2 hours, so for those shorter rides I have found it difficult in the warm months to safely house my phone while riding.

Having loved the Irideon Issentials, I opted for the Synergy tights with two very generous pockets. I ordered a medium in grey and have now ridden in them twice: once for a trail ride and once for a lesson.

Bottom line for those who don't want to read the entire thing: Not recommended.

The details:

Fit: At first I got a small based on both measurements and some self delusion. The small fit perfectly in the legs specifically the knee down and were manageable in the waist and butt if I had no qualms with showing off everything I've got. I quickly decided to return them for a medium. The mediums fit perfectly in the waist, butt and thigh but now the lower leg is baggy. For reference, I am 5'4" and 130 pounds and mostly equally proportioned torso and legs.

loose and wrinkly fit
These do have a high waist which I personally dislike. I am much more of a low rise pants type of gal. The waist band is wide and does stay put without the need for a belt.

The bottoms are a sock type bottom, yay no velcro!, but they are too big for my skinny ankles and bunch up under my half chaps. I don't ride in tall boots, so no clue how they would feel in those, but I suspect they wouldn't feel too great.


Fabric: So these boast 4 different types of fabric to allow maximum stretch and compression. I find it to be overkill and a little annoying, to be honest. The thighs, waist and butt are a lovely stretchy, but soft material that is a bit thicker than the Issentials but not suffocatingly so. Much nicer than my old cotton breeches.

Then they added a weird, super thick and ribbed material as a line down the outside of each leg. I'm not sure of the technology behind this, but it is just odd. It makes the breech warmer and a bit stiffer.

And to make it an even bigger jigsaw puzzle of fabric, the material below the knee is a flimsy, supposedly breathable yet still close knit fabric. I guess this is to fit inside boots or chaps without bulk, however it doesn't hold any actual form and so it bunches up instead. I'd rather they just used the same fabric as the thigh.

So much fabric. I am not a fan of the thicker band along the outside of the leg
Durability: I've worn them in my endurance saddle with wool seat saver on a 2 hour trail ride and then for an hour in a full leather jump saddle in a lesson. 3 total hours, one wash. They pilled at the inside of my thigh and above the knee.

Pillng. I hate pilling. 

Additional Features: The entire reason for branching out to a new style of tights was to gain pockets. The Synergy tights do not disappoint here. There is a massive pocket on each thigh which is large enough to easily hold my cell phone and granola bar. I could probably even fit a bottle of water in there. Since they are full pockets that run down nearly to the knee my phone stayed safe and sound even during crow hopping attitude. It was simple to get my phone in and out during the ride as well.

Very large pocket
Overall: I will keep these for those rides where I need a pocket in the pants: warmer months when I don't ride with a vest and shorter rides where I am not using my Camelbak. I fear that they won't stand up to much use without becoming a pilled up mess, so we shall see about the longevity. One these are worn out, I will switch to the Kerrits line with the pockets.

August 10, 2016

All Purpose or No Purpose??

Big dilemma in Team Gemmie land.

I need want an english style saddle. The BO has been very generous in letting me use her demo saddle in lessons and I can't thank her enough for the privilege to do so. The problem is that I need want something that I can practice in. The Advantage I use for endurance is perfect for that job and gives Gem all As on her scores and no white hairs, but it doesn't help my position any for dressage and is very uncomfortable for jumping. I also can not use my saddle in schooling shows around me as they all require traditional english tack.

I would love to buy a Stubben from my BO and hope to some day, but at the rate I am able to save up money (which has slowed down significantly since I am all out of things to sell) and a $2400 price tag, the reality is that it will take about 2 years to get there.

I need something sooner than 2 years from now. Currently I have $500 saved up and it will take me a while to get much more than that. I've been scouring the internet for used options, but Gem needs a few very specific things in a saddle to make it work for her and those aren't popping up. I'm also not a big fan of purchasing a saddle with a fixed tree that is measured in "narrow, medium, wide" instead of actual centimeters. It is kinda like buying a pair of jeans: each brand measures differently. I know what she needs in centimeters, but good luck finding many used saddles that are 28 cm. I don't have the money available to purchase and hope it works, then resell and purchase again. There are also no good consignment shops within 2 hours of me. Womp...womp.

I do believe that I may have found my perfect solution that is basically within my budget if I stretch it just a tiny bit.

Here is my big question for you all though and I would really, really, really love input here so please speak up!!!

The entire purpose of said new to me saddle would be for flat work/beginner basic dressage and low level jumps. To me this sounds like the perfect scenario for an all purpose/general purpose saddle. Flap straight enough for a longer flat work leg yet forward enough to raise the stirrups and jump small jumps. That way I could do both in the one saddle I can afford to get.

However, BO says that AP saddles are really "no purpose saddles" being neither good for jumping nor dressage. I understand the point of view.  She would prefer I have a jump saddle to skate by in flat work and do well in jumping on versus a dressage saddle where I could do well on the flat but be very hard pressed to jump in.

Since I am really not actually doing any jumping at all and just doing ground poles, I'm not sure a jump saddle is the way to go though. Wouldn't a dressage saddle be better for what I am currently doing?

If I could only figure out the style of saddle to purchase, I could much more easily hone my searches. I don't have any wiggle room in my budget, so I need to focus and get what is going to work out for us for the next several years in a back up discipline on a senior mare.

So....AP, dressage or jump???

Help!

August 9, 2016

Gem Brings Her F(u) Game

Sunday morning dawned blazing hot and all my motivation to trailer out evaporated. I grumbled around the house in a pissed off mood until the hubby just said to head to the barn anyway and see what happens.


As I pulled into the barn drive, I texted the BO to see if she was available for the next hour. I honestly don't know how else I could possible take lessons right now if it wasn't for being able to just send a random text and then poof! out walks the BO to fry in the heat and teach me.

We tacked Gem up in the Roxanne jumping saddle and headed off to the grass field. To date Gem has been on her very best behavior. While she is still confused as to what I am asking of her in my very confusing green ways, she has been willing enough to deal and give a good effort.

It was getting to the point where I feared the BO thought I was just being a big wimp and making things up.

Food? Do you have food?
We started off on the 20 meter circle with walking. I am pleased to say that my position has improved 1000 fold already. I no longer brace against the stirrups and have a much more solid leg underneath me. Now to only unlock my insanely stiff elbows and quit tipping forward.

Walking went well and it was obvious from the start that Gem had ants in her pants (I now officially sound like I am 90 years old using that saying) and was extremely forward at the walk. It was nice to have some energy underneath me for a change. Eventually we began to trot and really work on the half halt using my seat and core and quit being so darn grabby with my hands.

Soaking wet with sweat just coming out of the pasture at 10 am. When will it be fall??
All was going really well until BO added a new, second and much larger log as a ground pole in line with the original shrimpy one.

Going to the left, the logs were on the uphill and when I focused on being straight before and after it went really smooth as if they were not there at all. Yay team Gem!! She then switched it up and had us attack it from the right therefore forcing Gem to go over them on the downhill and really sit back.

The first trip around startled Gem a bit and she decided to pop over the large log (now the first of the series) with both front feet, but then that caused her to be at a really long spot and land nearly on top of the second one which she made it over by the skin of her teeth.

Once we were clear, she made it a point to let me know that she was pissed off about the entire thing and crow hopped, shook her head from side to side and gave me a nasty, nasty side eye.

BO laughed at these shenanigans because really it was all Gem's fault yet she was taking it out on me. I held her straight, was sitting well and it was a small log she could have easily stepped over no problem. She goofed up and was mad at me for it.

Unfortunately, this checked Gem out for the rest of the ride. I did ride her back over the sequence at the walk next then the trot and while she handled it much better she was racey, braced through her back and not really listening all that well. I worked on transitions for a while, but she kept trying to race back up the hill to the gate, then would crow hop when I didn't let her.

BO asked if I wanted to try to canter to loosen her up, but that made it all the worse and by this point I was also getting very reactive and braced and Gem feeds off of that. So, I hopped off and handed the reins over.

BO climbed on board the Gemmiebus and had a go around.

I don't want to work. This is hard!!
She worked for a long time to just bring Gem back to earth. It was great to a) watch someone who is really talented ride the mare and b) see what she does to get Gem back when she is that tense. I learned more from watching her ride than riding myself.

Fine I will calm down, but I won't be happy about it
As they went around, she gave me commentary on Gem's behavior and her own reaction to it. Basically, Gem was running through all her tricks to try to get out of working: go fast and hollow, go slow and strung out, drop the inside shoulder and spin, counter bend. As BO held a steady contact and seat and ignored each of these attempts, Gem eventually had to settle and just do what was being asked.

Gem: Trotting for 100 miles was way easier than this dressage crap
She did get a really nice canter out of her in both directions, remarked that she thinks Gem will really turn out to be excellent once she figures out the game and that she is super intelligent and athletic but hates to work any harder than she has to, and then got off because we were all dripping with sweat by that point.


Once I get some things sorted out, like how to add 5 hours to a day and turn the thermostat down on the world, I really do plan on practicing in between lessons. Most of what I am doing is just teaching her to be consistent with her pacing, relax into the work and pay attention to her own feet. All this is being done at the walk and trot and are things I can do on my own without too much fear of screwing it all up. These are also things I can easily work on out on the trail, so I am in no way stuck to the arena to see improvement in my own position and riding as well as her attitude about it all.








August 8, 2016

Gem is Stylin'

A big, huge thank you to Olivia at DIY Horse Ownership!!!

If you don't follow her, please do. I really look forward to reading her posts each day. Not only does she own the cutest Mule and a Mustang, but she is also very crafty and goes to the most gorgeous trails.

A while back she hosted a contest and I was lucky enough to win. I've been wanting to get a new fly bonnet for Gem and was excited when my prize could be a hand made bonnet.

It arrived on Saturday and was the perfect catalyst to force myself up to the barn and try it on her. Since I was there anyway I took an impromptu lesson too.


Why must you dress me up?

When I pulled it out of the box and saw that it was a happy shade of bright red my little raccoon heart went a pitter patter.

But then it got even better when I saw that the ears were half mesh (great in our SE heat) with black backs and adorned by gold unicorns. It doesn't get much better than that folks!

Gold unicorns. Enough said.

August 2, 2016

Shut the heck up!

2 miles. Nothing earth shattering or life changing. A simple warm up for the week. The entire schedule only exists in my head: Monday 1/2 the long distance at a moderate pace, Wednesday intervals, Friday twice the short distance.  There isn't anything riding on this: no scholarships, professional deals, awards. I'm doing it so that I can still fit in my pants and enjoy eating the foods I like.

It was 7:30 pm as I headed out the door to run two miles. It was actually below 90F and with low humidity due to a late afternoon storm, so Einstein could come with. Wyatt decided he wanted to go running with me too and so the whole family headed outside and down the hill. Wyatt ran for 0.43 miles before calling it quits and heading inside a sweaty ball of excited toddlerness. I was very proud of him.

I kept going. I had 1.5 miles left to go.

The first mile went great. I was feeling good and having fun. But then it started.

"I'm moving like molasses, this is going horribly"

"At this rate I'll finish two miles in like 30 minutes! Faster, must go faster!"

"I suck at running."

"This is embarrassing. Why do I even bother?"

"I don't think I can even call this running. It's more like slogging"

And on and on and on.

Truth is, I wasn't going that slow. A 10 minute pace even up steep hills at 7:30 pm after a long day at work in 85F heat and after crawling on the floor before dinner acting like an AT AT so Wyatt could tie me up and make me crash.

And even if I was going that slow, it doesn't matter.

It is an achievement to just change into running clothes that late at night and move at all. Anything beats sitting on the couch.

As I turned up the last hill and walked some to catch my breath during the steepest part, my brain was screaming at me. I stopped and very sharply told myself to shut the heck up.

The last 0.5 miles went much better as I let myself go the pace I could without feeling inadequate about the pace or the distance or the terrain. I let my body relax and flow into my stride proud that I was moving at all. Nobody is judging me or my abilities. I could walk or jog or spring and still walk in the door to a smiling son asking me how my run went. The only person being harsh on me is me.

And that needs to stop. Immediately.