Friday, May 28, 2010

Saddle Musings

As you know, I am thinking about saddles lately. I am considering replacing my western saddle(s). I have never fallen in love with my show saddle, and I have an inkling that my training saddle does not fit the best. It's not a violent ill fitting or I would be having increased issues with him and not have had the good positive growth we've had over the past (nearly) 2 years. Once I move to the new barn in a month I am going to have their chiro take a look at Junior and our saddles. I'm not riding much in the mean time due to my foot and if we've lasted this long in a less-than-ideal saddle fit I doubt we're in any immediate danger. I LIKE my training saddle. It's comfortable, not too heavy, and I don't have to worry about keeping it in any sort of pristine condition. I can set it down, toss it around, bump into doors, let the cats sit on it, let the rain hit it on the way to the arena, you name it. I LOVE that about the saddle and it makes me hesitant to get that pretty fancy one from my last post. On the other hand, I know perfectly well that Junior is not a western pleasure horse. If anything he's a hunter under saddle and maybe even a dressage horse. I mean, come on, we've spent the last two years riding in western tack, trying to get him to slow and collect and he's still not placing well in the western and yet we toss English tack on at a show and come home with ribbons. Clearly he is better suited to English. I also know that I really ought to be riding in an English saddle more often. It's harder. It works more muscles. It takes better balance. I know this, and now that I have my balance and seat at a much better place than when I got back into riding 3 years ago and I should stop using that western saddle as a crutch. I needed that deep seat, that high swell, and that rough-out leather. I don't NEED that anymore. It makes it too easy. And yes, I can do it the easy way if I want to, but it won't make me a better horsemaster. Western saddles were developed to make it easier to spend long hours in a saddle, easier to stay in the tack during quick maneuvers. But I think of that as something to earn. Hard work in the saddle earns you an easier ride. It's why pony rides and trail strings (at least in the USA) use western saddle, and why so many of those weird (sorry) weekend people who never ride except on multi-day trail rides on weekends while drinking beer use them: they're harder to fall out of. It's why they call what I have a "training saddle" it's supposed to be for training. It's rough out so it's stickier. But I never have had a use for all those giant dees.

I guess I'll see what the chiro/saddle fitter has to say and go from there. It might all be in my head, or it might be a chiro issue but NOT a fit issue.

The only thing I'm NOT ready for with riding English more is that it makes my feet hurt. The bottoms of my feet go numb where they sit in the stirrups. Any ideas on how to fix that? Offset or flexible irons perhaps?

I took my fall and winter blankets to the laundromat today and now they're drying on my patio. For the first time I used this spinner machine they have to "cut drying time in half" and WOW they were SO much drier afterwards. TOTALLY worth the extra $1. I also used Schneider's Blanket Wash for the first time and I am VERY pleased with how clean the blankets look/feel and how they did NOT smell like wet blankets afterwards, even when I left them wet in the car and went in to the grocery store in 80 degree weather!

Once they're thoroughly dry they'll be put into those giant zip lock bags (I use them like space bags) and stored for next winter.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pleasure Pony!

One of my students came out last week to photograph our lesson for the club. I selfishly sent him images of pleasure horses and asked if he could try to capture my horse looking like one....

Ta Da! A Pleasure Pony!

Ignore my short legs, I keep my training saddle stirrups a little high so I can still post in it. Ignore my back, too, clearly I need to roll those hips back a bit.

But the lope isn't that good...

We still struggle with that. I've come to the realization that his lope is the worse in my training saddle than it is in my English saddle, or even my show saddle, and when TJ rode him in my saddle she felt it, too. I had thought it was more about slow lope vs. canter that made the difference in the English saddle, but I loped him at the show in the English saddle and he was MUCH more even than normal.

Greaaaat. Just what I want to have to do: buy a new saddle. Although since I really don't like my show saddle, maybe I'll get rid of them both and get this one for work and for show:

It's technically a "classy working" reining saddle, so the fender placement is a little farther forward than the Equitation seats, but not severely. I think it's really pretty and understated. When you show a bay roan paint you could use a little understated! What do you think? It has a headstall to match...

Anybody want to buy a 1991 16" Circle Y Equitation saddle with matching headstall and breastplate? Come on, you know you do!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fun With Flymasks - Trial Run

The need for a new flymask became more imminent yesterday when I got a call early in the morning that Junior's eye was swollen shut. Great. Long story short; sometime in the night he hurt his right eye and had a small spot on his cornea. Not as bad as the cornea scratch he had on the left, but certainly more swollen. So the vet came and we are following the same procedure which will probably be followed the same bill. Sigh.

So after the vet visit I went out and bought him a Cashel with ears and nose. I may have gotten the wrong size. In all the catalogs I've looked at them I've never seen the size chart they so helpfully print on the box. Of course I don't know his head measurements off hand, I just know his head is too big for an Arab sized halter, but I always need to poke more holes in the crown of "average" halters. I chose the SM QH/Arab/Cob size. I think it fits, but maybe a little more fitted than it should be. It seems to be away from his eyes and after an initial rub on the fence he seemed to leave it alone. His swelling was way down when I went back out in the evening so I let him try it out for an hour and I don't think I can return it, but I might go get the next size up and see if that's too big. It was still on when I got him out of the field. It's a much nicer design than the first one we had before. It doesn't go as far down on his nose but his nose is buried in the grass most of the time anyway. I just hope he gets used to it and I don't have to resume the fly-mask-in-a-grass-field game every day.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

"The Tack-Box-To-Be" Part II

Since I've been sofa-bound since Friday afternoon due to a small surgical foot procedure, I had a spare few moments to make some decisions on my future tack storage. I've nailed down the following:
  • Outside Dimensions: 30" wide x 36" deep x 58" high (not counting casters)
  • Single Door will be 5" deep
  • Storage areas are a combination of plywood compartments and pre-made storage from Container Store
  • Interior of the Box showing the saddle area and lower storage spaces that will fit specific Elfa baskets:
  • Interior of the Door with space on left for bridles and space on right for this:

I calculated the estimate for lumber (using the nicer "hardwood" ply) and other materials (not counting stain/paint/varnish or labor) and it ends up being a tad less that $300. A figure to which my dear Mother gave a dramatic intake of breath. Sure, that sounds like a lot, until you try to find ANYTHING comparable. There is only one ready-made thing I've found that will house ONE western saddle (see, if I only rode English this would be less of a problem) and it costs a modest $728.95 from our friends at Smart Pak.

Max's girls have the English version (holds 2 English saddles) and it is nice, but since I have to be difficult and need two saddles, one being a western saddle that takes 38" x 30" x 25" all by itself, I need something else. I did find a site that offers one of Elite Tack's designs finished for $699. Hopefully I can do better than that and either have a piece that I can keep with me for many years to come or sell to someone else when I no longer need it. I already know that some barns won't need/allow them, and some will. Who knows how many more places Junior and I will find ourselves?

Next step is to get an estimate from my carpenter on how much he's going to charge me, then we'll need to get the lumber and decide on a finish. I'm leaning towards stain and varnish rather than paint at this point, and since it's a single door I'm looking at either painting my logo on the front or having it printed onto a vinyl decal. BUT, customizing it that much may make it more difficult to sell so I haven't made that decision yet.

I'll keep you posted as always.

Now I'm going to find some lunch and see if I can hobble out to the barn. That poor pony's been in jail all weekend with me laid up and KAT at a show on Friday. I'm a terrible mother. But soon he'll have 7-day turnout! SOOOO very soon!

Friday, May 21, 2010

"Fun" with Flymasks?

I have a horse with nearly a "bald face", clipped ears for show, and a Corpora Nigra cyst in his right eye. Triple whammy for the need of a fly mask. So I need a mask that blocks UV to his eyes, keeps the bugs out of his ears, and keeps the UV off of his precious pink nose.

Shouldn't be a problem, but the one I have, at left but in the nerdier blue plaid version as seen here has not met Junior's personal approval and he's developed a sure-fire way to get rid of it. Both the TOG and myself have given up on that one. First he just ripped the nose piece off which is held on by velcro on top and bottom. I shortened the front piece hoping that would help but next he pulled it off completely.... over and over again.

So the two I'm looking at are the Cashel Crusader at right, and a freaky looking one from Schneiders that resembles a sleazy with big mesh bags over the eye holes. Yup, it looks as stupid as it sounds. You can see it here. But like my friend in2paints pointed out, if it works and stays on who cares if it's ugly. She's so smart.

I can go feel one of the Cashel masks at EquusNow but won't be able to fully examine the one from Schneiders unless I order it.

Oh what fun!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Product Placement - TOTD

Okay friends, I know you can see my links on the right sidebar of the blog, but today I must redraw your attention to one of my favs: Tack of the Day.

Tack of the Day is a weird little site that posts a new Equine related item (and a bonus item) every weekday at noon. It's usually things like closeouts, overstocks, and sometimes I swear it's beta tests, but I've always been happy with what I've gotten, including my awesome Mountain Horse Inferno Jacket that I wear in the winter.

Today the main item is a type of Wellies for less than $35 with shipping... I may or may not have used Junior's account and ordered a pair in brown for myself....

Enjoy! Happy Shopping!!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

"The Tack-Box To Be" Part I

***EDIT*** Noticing that there is a HUGE number of hits on this blog entry, I'm adding the "Tack Box Project" as a topic in the sidebar. You will be able to see all of the entries about this project from start to finish. Enjoy!!!

Since my soon-to-be barn has ample room for storage I finally get to build the type of tack storage unit I've wanted for a good while. The last Arab barn I was at in MN had a tackroom full of these big vertical armoire type boxes. My new tack area is also exposed to barn dust from the indoor round-pen, shavings, etc. so covered storage will be great. I can also use the closed tack rooms, but this area is much closer to my stall. The final plans are not in place yet, but I'll give you the journey thus far.

Though my job has makes me have to stay in a cold dark basement on a gorgeous saturday like today, it also provides me with talented student carpenters who will do darn near anything for cash. Thus I am able not only to have it built, but have it engineered to my exact specifications. WIN.

In my OB I have a trunk type box sitting outside my stall to hold my stuff and my saddle and bridle are in the office tack room where there aren't really enough saddle racks for all the boarders. This means that if I want to keep both my saddles there they have to sit atop one another. Though I am proud of the well choreographed swapping technique I've mastered (with the help of a nearby chair) when pulling my western saddle out and replacing my English saddle in one fluid motion (... okay maybe it's a few more than one...) I would prefer not to do that, so I need a box with two racks.

I started looking for plans even before I bought Junior, but ended up scrapping the project because I couldn't keep a box that big in front of my stall. I'm glad I didn't take the chance since the front of my current trunk shows evidence of a tractor (or six) driving by. I found Elite Tack Designs and I'm mostly basing mine on the Armoire and Western designs, but with space for two saddles instead of one and I'm trying to use as little plywood thingies as possible, opting for some things I found at The Container Store. The only problem with this is that the plywood interior sections actually help keep the box more stable, so I have to make some engineering decisions to make up for that.

I am currently working on my fifth and hopefully final set of basic dimensions and cutting diagrams. Here is the first four:
I'm playing with the options of one door or two, and with a dimensional door or just a simple flat door. I'm trying to consider size and weight, balancing a box that's big enough to store all of my tack and supplies in an organized and easily accessible way, but not so gigantic or heavy that it becomes a cumbersome behemoth. I'm also stuck on a desire to have a box that's wider than it is deep, but with a western saddle it needs to be at least 30" deep.... then if it's wider than that it takes up a LOT more sheets of ply. More ply = more money.

I'm also going back and forth between 1/2" and 3/4" plywood, a combination of both, or a combination of plywood and "one-by" lumber. Though the plans for the Elite boxes use primarily 1/2" ply my engineer suggests using at least 3/4" for any surface that needs to have items (bridle racks, baskets, saddle racks, etc.) screwed into it. The thicker the ply the more expensive and the heavier the box, but more stable, too.

I'm going to buy two racks from Schneiders to use. These seem to be the best option for what I need, even though I'll need the blanket bar removed from the top one to be able to stack them close enough to get the English saddle tucked up underneath the western. Here are the minimum dimensions I need for the two saddles:
The racks will have to be bolted through the back wall rather than screwed into the wood.

If I do the dimensional door storage I'll use THESE or THESE and if I use just the flat door I'll make the cabinet wide enough that they can go along one wall. After digging through a box for so long I will LOVE being able to see and grab whatever bottle or tool I'm looking for. I'll also need somewhere for bridles to hang, either inside the door or along a wall. I like the door storage better than wall storage because I can just see how often I'll bump the side items while taking the saddles in and out. BUT a dimensional door packed with stuff will have considerable weight to it which will stress the hinge(s). I will be putting casters on the box, too, but more to make it move a little if necessary, not intended to be trucked around. I could also put the door on a caster, though, too and that would certainly help with the weight of it but might look silly.

I also want to mount a light on the inside so I can see even if the barn is dim.

And then there's the finishing... stain and varnish? Paint? What color?

Is your head spinning yet? Mine sure is! So many things to consider and when you make one decision it tends to snowball into a bunch more. My goal is to have the basic dimensions to the student by the start of July. Plenty of time to get it done, finished and moved to the barn before school starts. Though the student can do the intricate drafting parts I still need to make a bunch of decisions on dimensions.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

As Promised... with a Twist!

The comments left on my post "The Double-Edged Sword" were the most thought provoking I've seen here and though I think there were a few bristles raised of my own as well as others, I am glad you all spoke up. If I hadn't already made my decision I'm sure I would have leaned sharply that direction after reading the comments.

So will Junior continue to be a lesson-pony? The answer is: Sort of.

He will continue to be a lesson pony... but not at our current facility. :) We are moving. Official notice has been given in writing, the new stall has been reserved, and we will be heading there around the 1st of July.

The barn was purchased in the last few years by someone I work with at the college and she kept the same full-time barn manager on site that has been there for several years. The BM lives just outside of the barn and can even hear horses kick inside the barn! The BO and I started talking about her place ages ago but I wasn't ready to leave yet. Now that I am I contacted her for a tour and found a very bright, attractive place (makes the OB look like a cave) with many amenities I do not currently have. Including stalls with gates during the day so the horses can stick their heads out. Junior will LOVE that!

Though I've kept quiet about this on the interwebs, I've been mulling it over a good many months. I never intended to stay at this place, now to be referred to as the OB for Old Barn, but rather went there because I was impressed with KAT as an instructor and purchasing my first horse required the help of professionals. I will not be able to continue taking lessons from her unless I trailer to the OB, but if I can get to shows she's at I can still pay her the day fee and she can coach me.

So why am I leaving a trainer I like? All of these reasons still exist, but mostly it's the level of care provided by the facility. Though I stated that "I know he's taken care of" back then, it really hasn't been the case. I feel like if I don't go every other day, or ask another boarder to check on JR I'm neglecting him. They will only dump/remove buckets if there is visible poop in them, though I've found his buckets with poop that clearly had been topped off anyway. They don't break ice. Stalls are "cleaned" 6 days/week but if I don't also keep up during the week my Saturday cleaning is ridiculous. All the boarders clean their own stalls often and there is a big difference in the cleanliness of the boarders stalls and the non-boarders stalls. I'm tired of relying on other boarders to check up on each others horses. That's not "full care" in my opinion. I'm happy to look in on a friend's horse, but it shouldn't be the only way we can be sure they're okay. Now, I don't think we're in any certain danger, but the new place certainly offers a higher level of care. Max actually moved there last weekend and his mom is thrilled with the place. She used to clean Max's stall and dump/rinse his buckets every single day without fail and she hasn't done it at all at the new place. If SHE doesn't feel compelled to clean I sure won't! I am SOOOO glad Junior will go there to find Max waiting for him. I am curious to see if there's an interesting reaction to their meeting. Seeing his stall empty at the OB is weird.

Unlike the OB, the owner and manager's horses are in the same barn with us, getting the same hay, the same level of care, not in some other barn getting pampered with the best hay while ours get icky stemmy weedy yellow "hay."

I can agree to clean my own stall and then get a board reduction. I also get a reduction on board for providing my own grain. There's 7-day turnout with indoor turnout if the weather is nasty. They have sand lots (not rocky mud lots!) and grass fields as well as indoor and outdoor roundpens and arenas, all with much nicer footing than I have now. It's a smaller place, only 32 stalls and I'll be horse 20, I think, so there's lots of room if you want to come too! :) There is a TON of room for storage. Max and I basically have our own private tack room! I finally get to build the tack armoire I've always wanted!!! Oh, and 2 miles of trails. WIN!

Of course there is no equine boarding utopia, so right now I see 3 downsides: I will miss KAT's instruction. This place has no trainer, per say, but I can have anybody I want come and give me lessons. I will miss the friends I've made in the other boarders, but luckily Max and his family have already gone to this place. I will have less access to shows, but I only do a few anyway.

Now, about the lesson issue. He will still be used in lessons, but only one or two per week. The grooming/tacking is done on cross-ties under full supervision of the instructor instead of unsupervised on a single tie in a stall. The lessons are fewer horses and are super beginner lessons usually for kids, rather than big college kids so the physical strain will also be less. I think Junior will prefer that over his current schedule, and I can stop having to schedule my own rides around multiple lessons per day.

Financially it all ends up about even when I consider the cost of the lessons that I won't be doing anymore as well as the slightly shortened drive/gas costs.

So that's the news! You can expect more posts on things like the design/process of the aforementioned tack armoire, the move itself, etc.

We're still planning on doing two more shows with KAT before the move, too. Not sure if we'll get to do any more this year after the move.

Well, off to the OB!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Yellow Day

Yellow is actually my least favorite color. I can think of two yellow items I own - a spring jacket, and the toes of my rain boots that are made to look like the yellow bills of ducks. But despite my aversion to it, yellow is the color of happiness. The color of friendship. I'm not sure what it says about my personality that I hate the color, but I just do. That being said, Sunday was a Yellow day in all the good ways.

Overall, Junior was the best he's been at a show. We still had in and out-gate issues but they were minimal and though I had to ask KAT to grab his head to lead us into our first undersaddle class, all the rest was no big deal. It was a tiring day and I really, really need a show mom! I just can't do all of that physical and mental preparation by myself for two disciplines! Oh, and it rained all day Saturday and Sunday so that always helps!

The day:

I was up at 4am. We were lunged and warmed up by 6:30am. The show started with jumping at 8:00am and my first class was #7 so I had a long wait.

English Showmanship

He did better than I expected, but I tried to square him too well and took too long so I forgot to start moving with the judge began his walk around. Woops. We got 3rd out of 4 only because it was clear the last team failed worse than I did.

English Pleasure
It was a decent sized class of around 10 but I didn't keep track. We had issues at the-in gate but KAT led us in and we were able to ride at will because of a tack change and that helped. He was very good in the class. The only problem was the last canter-trot transition where he wanted to keep cantering but the judge was looking elsewhere. We got 3rd and that's the first time we've placed in pleasure! I think he really likes the bit we've been using. Right away when I put it on he started relaxing forward into it. He'll listen to my hands with it and I don't recall him even once tossing his head or fighting with it. I think we'll stick with this one for a while.

English Equitation

We had several classes between so we stood in the breeze for a while and then took him back to his stall to pee and rest for a bit. When it was time for the class I literally pulled him out of the stall, walked to the in-gate, got a leg up, sat outside the gate until I was called in, and then did my pattern. He was AWESOME. He never got fidgety or jumpy. He was relaxed and did all the transitions I asked for. We had an issue when I asked him to turn because it took us a few tries to get him to realize I was asking for a different movement than backing. Once he figured it out he did a nice turn. KAT was pleased and I was thrilled. We rode the rail portion without issues and I concentrated on my position, which I'm sure I was not good with during the pattern since I was concentrating on him so much. We did not place in that big class but I am so pleased with how he did that I could care less. Big step forward for us.

Western Showmanship

By this time I was exhausted. It was already late in the afternoon and my brain was fried. For no good reason at all I stopped him about 12 feet short of the judge somewhere half between cones 2 and 3. I even surprised myself with the stop and considered going forward again but thought finishing the pattern in the wrong place was better than breaking it completely by adding a stop. I figured it was game over any way so I just did the turn and tried to set up but he wouldn't stand and the judge started moving before I realized it and blew the quadrants again. Super fail. I started laughing (quietly to myself) as soon as I was excused after the backing.

I didn't end up riding western because I was tired and sore and hungry and my saddle is heavy and I didn't want to change clothes AGAIN. Lame, I know, but I can make those choices. By all witness accounts I could have easily won the Horsemanship, though. Only two riders in it and KAT described one of them as "that train wreck in lime green over there." But oh well. He could have also been a total jumpy ninny in the western bit so I guess I'll never know.

I'm considering getting a lighter weight show saddle. Mine is SOOOOO heavy that I absolutely HATE carrying it around. I don't think it's all that comfortable either. Probably too big for me and not at all close-contact. I also don't like the color.

So anway, it was a good day. I am pleased with how we did, despite the brain farts and me being tired. Our next show is June 19th at the same place but we haul in the night before instead of two nights before. Maybe I won't be so tired that time!