Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Junior's 11th Birthday

Look what the handsome Birthday Boy got for his special day!!!!

It even looks nice without the party hat. :)

It's a touch darker than my saddle since the saddle I was comparing it to in the store was a little older, but it still looks very nice and now that I've seen it on him I'm convinced it was a good choice. And it was on sale. Woot! Plus, they'll make me a 2nd ear piece if I decide I can't live without one. :)

And to say thank you for the pretty headstall (and probably not for posting pictures of him wearing a stupid party hat) he gave me this:

THAT, if you are unfamiliar, is the foot pattern of a darn near perfectly executed pivot on the hindquarters to the right, complete with deep center circle where is inside hind hoof did not budge and the front feet moved in a circle around it. We did a few really good ones today and one darn near good one the other direction. Progress.

Happy Birthday Junebug!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

It's HERE!!!!!

Look what the saddle fairies brought me!!!! Squeeeee!!!!!

Yes, it's the light color. And I don't hate it! In fact, I like it more and more! I went back and forth and considered many factors and bits of advice. I think I made the right decision. It took just over 6 weeks to arrive so not bad!

Junior doesn't really care, but it seems to fit him really well. You can see how much shorter it is front to back than the original model. In so many ways I think it fits me better than any saddle I've ever had. I think we as women (and by we I mean ME) gravitate to bigger saddles because we feel smaller. Like when you're sitting in a committee meeting and you look over at the really large lady who's rear barely fits in the chair and then you become conscious of how much room YOU have between the chair arms and you feel slimmer. Same concept. However, the saddle should fit you. So I had been looking for 16" saddles when a 15" fits just fine and feels more useable.

The seat pocket is deeper than I thought it would be but I found it very comfortable. My lower back was very appreciative of the support as it has been forced into that English saddle for months. I did find posting a little uncomfortable which will help make me use my English saddle more, which is a good thing.

I was terrified when I first saw the "Youth" fenders they put on. I gave them my inseam measurement and I had to trust they knew what they were doing since they obviously know more about fitting their saddles than I do, but they looked more like "Toddler" fenders when I pulled the saddle out of the box. A little adjustment to the length and to the way they were hanging and we had a winner! They're not properly adjusted in the first photo but they're lower than when they came out of the box! Once I got them adjusted they looked a lot more normal and they felt nice and free moving and I felt good contact with Junior's sides. I think having the longer fenders put the wide part of the fender right where I would want to make contact with the horse, not to mention a whole bunch of extra leather wrapped up in the stirrup rigging.

I also noticed that for possibly the first time, I can hold my rein hand where it's supposed to go! With my last 2 saddles it was so difficult to get my hand in front of the horn without either leaning forward or having my arm straight out of the socket. But now it feels right.

Now it's time for a show headstall! I can't decide if I should get a simple headstall amore like the saddle, or a fancier one since the saddle is so understated.

What do you think?
I've only seen C and D in person.
A. is a two-ear with barrels which I don't trust. They always feel flimsy to me.
B. and F. are semi-custom from an Ebay seller. I think she just replaces the hardware on them. F is a two-ear. This one just seems like a lot of silver.
C is in stock at Rod's and looks very nice with the saddle. I do like it, but I wish it were a two-ear, and there's something about the shape of the cheek I'm not sure about. The ear slider is cool and it seems like good quality.
D would have to have the hardware changed out so I don't really want that one after seeing it in person.
E is by far my favorite. It's simple but unique and quite pretty.... but of course isn't in stock yet at Rod's. It's on their website so I saw it an began drooling and squealing, but called and found out it won't be in for 3-5 weeks or who knows how long. I'd have to do at least my first show with a different headstall. And what if I wait and then I don't like it when it comes in?!? I really like it and it reminds me of THIS ONE that I cannot afford from Hobby Horse's new tack line.

Here's a better shot of E and C. Don't assume they're to scale.

The saddle is at my house waiting some conditioning and fender bending. I'm doing some research on that but I'm also going to call the store and check to make sure I have the right plan. I've never had a brand new western saddle before. :)

Please don't judge my scruffy horse. He's FINALLY started the last phase of his shedding and I didn't have much time to get him out into the remaining daylight. And yes, as per usual; I'm riding Wenglish. :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Happy Birthday to the Old Grey Mare.

My old girl, Banee, is 32 years old today. Hard to believe she's still doing so well, but I am thankful for that. I first met her when we were both 14 or 15. Each year I rue my own birthday, but I cherish hers. I'll get as old as you want, Girl, just so long as you keep getting older with me. She became my primary riding and show horse off and on in 4-H. She ran me through the barrels the first time I pointed her at them, she could do tempi changes and a piaffe. She had no tail and the roundest belly I'd ever seen, not to mention a bit of a sway back. She was a fireball. She was tough to ride but I loved the challenge. She was the first horse I fell off of, and she was my worst fall to date when she tripped at the canter and we went sliding across the arena floor in a tangle. That Piaffe I mentioned? Yeah, she did that when you wanted her to walk, doesn't exactly gain points in pleasure classes full of dead-broke QH's. But I thought she was perfect. She still is.

Happy Birthday, Banee-nay.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Momma's Special Boy

After a second day with the bit I think it's actually a no-go. I was able to see his shadow today so I could see that he was gaping more than I initially thought. I also took some video and didn't like what I saw. He tossed his head up several times. I also don't like the look of the long shanks. The bit itself is pretty, but it's not a pretty picture on his head. The cosmetics are the last of my concerns, but I do show so the overall picture needs to be considered.

So I'm back to shopping. Big thanks to Nicole and eventer79 for telling me about the Myler bit trials. I have already found a few sources so I'll be considering that service in my search.

After watching the Versatile Horse and Rider Competition at Equine Affaire on Friday, we started to get itching for obstacles. We have a ton of stuff at the barn but dragging it all out and putting it all away by yourself sucks, So today, along with a barn mate and another friend, we set up a bunch of obstacle stuff to play around with. He is soooo not afraid of things. He doesn't always understand what I'm asking for and sometimes doesn't want to do things exactly how I want him to, but he pretty much "does" everything. Not always pretty, but done. He's getting a lot better at moving one foot at a time to get closer to something or to maneuver around something like the rope gate.

Our one real goal for today (other than giving the bit a second go) was side passing over a barrel. He doesn't love side passing over objects, and large objects are the hardest, so it took a good while and many attempts to get him to do it. Then it wasn't a big deal. I cannot wait for the first Cowboy Challenge!!!

From our bath yesterday, taken by Max's Chloe: I call it "Momma's Special Boy..."

Saturday, April 9, 2011

New Bit Trial

**Disclaimer- I know long-shanked leverage bits look ridiculously harsh to folks who have never been in the western side of things. In English we use constant contact. In Western, we use as little contact as possible. English needs horses to go forward forward forward - scope out jumps, follow the hounds. Western needs horses to stop quickly and spin while the rider's other hand is busy with a rope or a gate or a gun. If you've got a softly draped rein and you pick up slowly on your reins and the horse responds, you don't keep up the pressure. You give an immediate release. That's how we use the bit. Yes, a long shanked bit makes it much easier for the rider to exert lots of pressure on the chin and poll, and a broken mouth shank can have a "nutcracker" effect, but ANY bit can become cruel in the hands of someone who is ignorant of it's proper use. I don't know everything about bits. I learn what I can about bitting and I watch my horse for signs of discomfort, evasion, or inattentiveness when trying to make good bit decisions. I do the best I can.**

First, a little history of Me, Junior, and Bits:

When I bought Junior, he was being ridden in a slow-twist snaffle. My first lesson horse, Dino was ridden with one so I bought one of those as a place to start. On a good day Junior would do everything I asked. On a bad day he'd blow through that bit like it was made of Jell-O. But, we all know we were having other problems at that time, too. Since you can't show a 9 year old horse in a snaffle, over our first winter KAT started working him in a broken-mouth shank, or a "shanked snaffle" as it's sometimes called, or that dirty word: Tom Thumb. He took to it like an old friend. I don't know what he'd been ridden with before I got him. Supposedly he was trained as a cutter, but who knows. When we started showing, KAT put me in a square-hinged-port bit. I was terrified of it but he seemed to be really responsive to it, and I am pretty soft with my hands if I say so myself. I also borrowed an English Myler bit with a very similar mouth piece for the shows that year since he was "framing up" so much better with a leverage bit. And let's be honest, in the stock horse world the Western "frame" and the Wenglish "frame" are pretty much the same so why not use the same type of bit? **I roll my eyes at this, too. Which is why I cross-train with Dressage lessons and Cowboy Challenge obstacles for a little "field cred", BUT if I'm going to these "open" shows.... well, "when in Rome...."**

Anywhoo. So I was unable to use the English one but Max's mom had a Myler curved snaffle with curb hooks she said I could borrow. He seems to LOVE that bit so I bought it and he has been going really well in it. Until I had my first Dressage lesson and the first thing Monet did was take my chain away - which was not a surprise. We've been working without it since last fall. I have since found out that it's technically "illegal" in APHA and AQHA to use a bit with rein ports if you don't use a curb chain. Not that I'm showing breed anyway, but I'll probably need to use the chain at the shows to keep his mind in the arena and on me.

I finally found a used square-hinged-port bit on Craigslist and bought it for $12. The port itself is really wide and I think it bothers him a lot. It almost seems like the port is so wide it's on his teeth. I can jog him around in it but if I have to actually USE the bit he tosses his head up and gets all inverted. So that bit was only used for two rides. It was a fail. I forgot to take it to the tack swap. Durn.

That means I still need a bit. I used my regular long shank snaffle at the shows last year, but I tend to have to get more aggressive with it to get his attention at shows and I don't want the "nutcracker" effect. He tends to giraffe and gape when I have to take contact in it for Horsemanship. He did the same with the square port and I would get really anxious about it because I was afraid to get too heavy handed, which in turn makes him anxious and that's a bad bad cycle.

I'm also a frugal shopper and as much as I like Myler bits I think they're overpriced. Again, I don't have a closet full of free bits to try, so a $100 bit that isn't what I need isn't a good purchase. They're tough to find used for much less than that. So I've been shopping around and decided to try to find something with the same mouthpiece as our English bit since the curve shape seems more comfortable and doesn't do the "nutcracker" thing nearly as much.

At Equine Affaire I found one for a good price that has ALMOST as much curve in the mouth. It's the closest I've found, but it has longer shanks than I'd like to have. It is also rather heavy compared to the weight of the aluminum cheeks on the square port. That part I don't know what to think about. Will it encourage him to keep his head low? The tag says "mild effect" which is relative, of course.

The overall cheek length is just a hair longer than the square port I had, but about 2" longer than the other "shank snaffle" I have. It's about the same "purchase" or "lift" as the others which means it has a higher amount of leverage than the others. It has about the same "pull distance" as the snaffle but more than the square. All that I "get" but how do you know what your horse will work best in when there are thousands of bits out there?!?! All I know how to do is try it out.

Comparison of the square-hinged port to the new bit:

Comparison of our first shank bit to the new one:

So today after I worked him in the English snaffle without the curb chain I switched over to the new bit. I fit it on him first and let him feel it. I wiggled it around from the ground to let him feel the action. He gaped his mouth at it a bit but I realized he'd gotten his tongue over the top of it so I picked it up a hole. I mounted and let him walk around a bit. He didn't seem comfortable at first so I just let him have his head until he was walking straight and relaxed. I asked for a jog and of course he trotted off like we were in a Dressage lesson so I gently bumped him back down and he did as he was asked. I checked my breaks and he stopped nicely. I played around with walk/jog/back, neck reining and jogging over some poles and all seemed well. Then I bit the bullet and asked him to lope. He was fast but responsive. The bit seemed to be working really well so I even did some quick stops (not sliding, of course) and roll backs. I even had him do a barrel pattern around two barrels and the mounting block. It was a VERY tight pattern and he is not a barrel horse but I found it really refreshing that I was able to keep him where I wanted him without a lot of direction and he seemed to be working easily and comfortably. I wasn't asking for any speed until the run home, instead working on keeping him collected, lifted, and softly changing the lead. I kind of wish he wasn't so big... I forgot how fun barrels are! Oh, and nothing says Wenglish quite like running barrels in a hunt saddle!

I'll see how he does with the bit tomorrow, but today was a good first trial.

I also got to give him his first bath of the season. Can I tell you how much I LOVE having a wash stall with cross-ties and WARM water!?! I was able to wash his forelock for the very first time! I may love it, but Junior does NOT enjoy baths. Not surprising since he doesn't enjoy being groomed at all. (Although the last 3 days I groomed him ground tied and other than reminding me he hates it by swishing his tail at me and reaching his face around at me he stayed put. Sometimes he's so good!) This is why having cross ties made it possible to wash his forelock. He couldn't get away! By the time we were done he was absolutely amped UP. He was reaching out in front of him as far as he could so he could paw the mounting block (that's also how I washed his forelock) because it made more noise than the rubber matted floor.

I ended up taking him to the roundpen so he could work it off.... so of course in the 2 seconds I had my back turned to secure the gate he got down and tried to roll. Sigh. Oh, Junebug. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Monday, April 4, 2011


Shenanigans. They just never stop when you own a horse like Junior.

This morning was my first Monday morning as feeder at the barn. I've been doing Sundays for a few weeks and it just so happened my schedule allowed me to do Mondays, too. Yay for board discount and more pony time!

It was pouring down rain so instead of turning the horses out to the fields, I rotated them through 20 minute sessions in small groups in the indoor arena. Have I mentioned how much I LOVE the fact that my horse will get out of his stall and socialize EVERY SINGLE DAY no matter what?!?!

Junior goes out with his mini-friend Apples and Max, who does everything by the book. He is one of the most polite and well behaved horses I've ever met. He does not break rules. As you know, MY horse is not that kid. I am aware that Junior and Apples often go under the rope gate and hang out on the other side, just for fun. I blame Apples since he's small enough to walk under both the rope gate and the board, and since Junior loooooves his widdle Applywapply soooo much he figured out a way to follow. We put up chairs along the gate in a (clearly worthless) attempt to convince them it's a solid wall. The wash rack is over there, but there isn't anything obviously dangerous over there, and come on, what sort of mischief can a horse get into in 20 minutes.... oh wait... this is MY horse...

It seems today there was a random bale of shavings over there...

Those are not Apples sized hoofprints. Of course when I came to retrieve them to take them back to their stalls they were both on the correct side of the gate as if they heard me coming. As if I wouldn't think they were responsible. Max was waiting by the door to the barn with a look of "You KNOW I didn't do it." But Junior's nose was all muddy from nosing around the wash rack floor.

"See, Mohm, I canot fit unner dis bord so der is no way I was rerspunsable! It mustabeen Apples! See how small he is back there? Yah. Onlee Apples kin fit. I dinindo it."

See, he KNOWS he's not supposed to be over there...

Friday, April 1, 2011

WTFriday - Big Grade Gelding

From The Best of Craigslist:

For Sale:
Big Grade Gelding, Been used as a pickup horse until he got hooked by a bull. Think he has a split personality, some days he's great, some days he's a real prick. No secrets here, you need to tranq him to shoe him or he will try and kick your head off. He has been used for branding, moving cows, ranch roping ect. And like I says, some days he's great, we have had beginner riders on him and they have done fine, I have ridden him in the hills or gathered on him and he was fine. He is not great to catch, although we have him turned out on 140 acres so he can leave if he wants, but in a smaller pen he is much better. He just needs someone that isn't going to take his shit on a regular basis. He needs to be taken and used. If you are looking for a horse that you can ride twice a year, well then this is not the horse for you. But if you use your horse as often as you change your pants then he will probably suit you perfect. We bought him with the intention of selling him and because we have more than enough horses he has gone to the bottom of the priority barrel. He is not a horse for the faint hearted. If you are handy and need a project or if you think you are handy and need to try and prove it.. I think he is about 11 years old. 15.3 hands. Answers to the name Dick. Oh, so he doesn't answer, that's just what I call him. $25oo obo.