Sunday, March 18, 2012

Yay for Better!!!

Two posts in a day?  I know, I couldn't help it, today was really great.  I got to the barn and two of my friends were grazing their horses in the yard so I went and got the Junebug out of his stall.  It was chillier and windier than I would have wanted and then it started to rain so I went in.  I decided to lunge a bit and then try the showmanship and see how it went.  Lunging was great.  I even made him trot and canter over a raised pole.  He needs lots of practice at those things because he is rather lazy and doesn't like to pick up his feet.... therefore he's clumsy.  Remember when I used to say he had 4 Left Feet?  Yup.

I actually got him nice and sweaty and he was a very good boy, doing (nearly) all my verbal commands when I gave them, going from gait to gait and even got him to lope off from a walk a few times!  He even stopped and switched directions for me without incident and NEVER tried to switch directions on his own!

Showmanship was great.  I worked mostly on setting up and he was his usual willing self this time, so I took advantage and really made him set up nice and square each time then smacking him good on the neck and telling him what a good boy he was.  Tiring him out first really helped with using the setting up as the release!!!  

Then, because he was sooo good we went out and I sat in a chair (I know, super safe) and let him graze around me at the end of his lead.  I stepped back to take a few photos.  We just upped his grain a bit trying to cover the ribs a bit more.

Then I cleaned my English tack and our English show halter and even the leather crown on his halter. Junior's stall is right across the aisle from the tack room so I watched him snooze with his head over the stall door while I worked.  I took the pad, saddle cover, half chaps and gloves home to wash last night and even gave my helmet a good scrub and washed the removable liner.  Such a productive day!

And while lucky Junior was eating lush clover, poor Beau was showing us how flexible he is!

Video Horse Show Scoresheet & How Infuriating My Horse Can Be

I got my scoresheet back for the Fuzzy Fun on Film Horse Show.  I was 2nd out of 3 in the Adult Showmanship class.  Here's what the judge had to say:

"Nice first impression - good pace transitions - nice 270.  Back average: more body/less hand - slow set up.  Line drifted in back to set up. Pos - inspection." Score: 16.5  The winner had a 17.

She also mentioned I need more consistent 45 degree angles during inspection and commented that it was the slow set up that really kept me behind the winner.  I'm not sure how to fix that.  On Thursday he absolutely refused to set up.  He knows the cue, sometimes he does it on auto-pilot and sometimes he's infuriatingly stubborn about it.  In fact I starting writing an angry blog post about how he was completely ignoring the halter pressure cues and there was nothing I could do. He just planted his feet wherever he wanted and refused to move his feet.  I tried making him back up and go forward again but he kept refusing to set up square. I tried chasing him in a circle to remind him who's boss, but he just wouldn't do the set up. The dressage whip in my hand was a dangerous item considering my temper, but thankfully there were lots of kids in the arena so I was able to keep my head.  Then of course I felt guilty and deleted the post.  Once I was hom and calmer (thank you, Pinot Grigio) I thought about it more rationally and remembered he did seem back sore when I tried to ride him, he felt all crooked and I couldn't get him to keep his back round (that's why I switched to showmanship) so it is possible he could just have been uncomfortable standing square. I watched some dressage instruction about the square halt and it became clear that the goal of the square halt is that the horse is so even/symmetrical that it naturally stops square and that a crooked horse cannot stop square... duh... sometimes I miss the obvious. So I called his wonderful chiropractor/massage therapist and left a message asking for an appointment.  We've ridden more in the last week than we have since November so I can't be surprised he's sore too.  I know I am.

I guess I need to drill it and drill it and drill it, but it's so hard with him because he gets bored easily and the square halt isn't nearly as fun as playing the move-my-feet-around-randomly-until-she-gets-REALLY-pissed-off game.  So I don't really know how to reward him when the "release" isn't as rewarding as continued punishment.  Know what I mean?  Got any ideas?  We know treats are out.  They last thing we need is him mauling me for treats in the show ring.

I rode him yesterday and he seemed just fine.  We just trotted along smoothly and then we did a lap or two of a canter and included a lope over a pole. It all felt very smooth and effortless, the total opposite of Thursday. The trail bridge was in the outdoor so we went over that a few times.  He was so good and so chill that I quit very early as a reward and then did several carrot stretches. I swear sometimes I'm an unwilling participant in some horrible reality show where there is actually an untrained clone of my horse that the swap out at random.  

I'm hoping to do the Adult Showmanship and the Jackpot Showmanship for this last Fuzzy Fun on Film Horse Show, but it's going to be a rather busy week at work and I might not be able to devote the time or find someone to video me.

Here are the two patterns if you want to play along at home, and I KNOW some of you do showmanship!  You should do it!  Deadline is March 31, more info HERE.  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pre-Show-Season Assessment

We are 7 weeks out from our (expected) first show of the season.  Barring any major disasters I think I'll be able to show this year after all.  So I've been doing a bit of pre-show-season assessing to see what needs to be done in the next 7 weeks.

1. Build up strength and endurance.  We're not going to be in top shape this year.  There just isn't sufficient time to get both of us back into anything other than functional show shape.  But I think we can still get out there and not look like complete fools at the small shows we plan to attend.  My current HUS trainer will be back in town mid April so I hope to get a lesson or two in before the show on May 6th.

2. Nixing the All-Around.  In the past I've been doing Showmanship (both Eng. and West.), Hunter Under Saddle, Equitation, Horsemanship, and Western Pleasure with a walk/trot class thrown in there on good days.  At this point I think it's wise to pare down a bit.  Even when we've been in good shape we lack the mental and physical endurance to do all of those classes.  So I think I'll be cutting out the western under saddle classes, at least for this first show.  This way I can concentrate on English and Showmanship and just get him working on a floaty trot and a ground-covering canter instead of trying to build his strength AND slow him down which requires muscle tone he will not yet have.  Better spend riding time on strengthening and conditioning.  So I plan to do the Eng. Showmanship, Hunter Under Saddle, Equitation, and Western Showmanship.  It's still 3 patterns to learn, but it was always the 4th (horsemanship) pattern that wouldn't stick.  This also means I can leave the western saddle, bridle, pads, chaps, spurs, etc. at home and have less to prep and pack and CARRY, but I can still wear my western outfit. :)

3. Speaking of Show Clothing... I did a quick try-on of things today, making sure my layup didn't shrink my pants.  The Western pants are fine (woot!) but they're not too big like they felt last summer (darn) but at least they are not too tight. My Western jacket needs some alterations and I'm replacing the zipper with a separating one because there's no way I'm going to squeeze my shoulders through that hot mess again.  Poor construction choice, I must say! I'm questioning my earlier plan to add more appliques... sometimes less is more.  For English everything looks good aside from the breeches.  I tore a small hole in them last year and they never did fit well so that'll be the one "big" expense for this year.  I've added the black spurs so now I can leave the "show" spurs on the "show" spur straps and I can leave my chrome/pink crystal spurs on my velcro straps.  One less thing to deal with the day before/of the show... and hopefully I don't forget to put them on like I did last year.  You can't wear them in Showmanship, so they have to go on between SMS and HUS.  

4. Tack and other Supplies:  We're pretty good here, I think.  I just need to repair the hay bag he destroyed last summer and change out my chrome irons for my new black ones. Ooooh!  My mad-psycho-organization skillz have created a pretty good system which allows for minimal loss or misplacement of things.  Everything needs a REALLY good cleaning, though.  I was so embarrassed at the condition of my girth the other day I cleaned it, but the saddle and bridle need it, too, and my work pad has more winter hair on it than my horse currently does.  But it seems futile to wash it just yet.  I'll just continue to be the talk of the barn I guess. :)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

This is Why I Love Schneiders

There's a store called Schneider's Saddlery.  It's up in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, but they have a great online store and they send out pretty catalogs of which I am a fan.

They cater mostly to the breed show people, both stock horse and Arabs and have a LOT of their own brands.  I've shopped with them online, in person, over the phone, and at their GIANT "booth" at Congress.  I hate to calculate how much I've spent there, but I find their prices to be competitive.  ALL of our winter blankets are from there.  Because they cater to the kind of show people who spend a week or a month at a show, they have a TON of handy portable show gadgets including portable blanket bars, tack hooks, show number pads, black spurs, black irons.... both of my show halters are from get the picture.  And I usually get stuff in two business days since they're only a few hours away.

So why do I love them so much?  They're SO helpful and they stand behind what they sell.  I called last fall because Captain Destructo had managed to break ALL of the snaps that close his neck cover AND the plastic ones I had replaced them with.  The item wasn't under warranty; I merely was asking if they carried the item since they carry some other "repair" items.   They sent me 6 of the hooks at no charge.

Most recently, I called them to complain about the clipper/accessory roll-up bag I bought from them.  Not an expensive item and I bought it over a year and a half ago.  When I got it the carry strap came off the first day.  No biggie, I just did a kludge repair and it was still functional, so not a big deal.  But then I noticed the seams all started splitting and with the gentlest touch were shredding.  I intended to repair it but it seemed like such a hassle so I called just to see what they'd say.  ALL of the reviews of this item are great, and KAT had one that I KNOW went through WAY more abuse than mine has and didn't show it. Even though I'd had it for that long, they sent me another one free of charge.  No hassle, no worries, just excellent customer care.  She could totally have said that it was beyond the warranty or said that I'd have to call the manufacturer, or started asking prying questions like: "well, did you stuff it too full?"  or "were you rough with it?"  None of that.

And that's why I keep shopping there.

Monday, March 12, 2012

WTFri... er WTMonday

I couldn't wait until Friday to post this.  It's just too funny...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

New Rain Coat

Junior became the lucky wearer of a new rain sheet today.  I'm kind of surprised I haven't gotten him one yet considering how much it rains here in the Ohio river valley, but one new blanket a year is plenty and he doesn't get turned out in the rain all that often.  I'm more interested in using it to block the wind, keep the mud off of him on the warmer days.  The one I chose didn't come in all black so I chose the black/green combo.  I admit I was tempted to go with hot pink, but he gets beat up enough as it is.  In fact, he had two big ol' bite marks from his antics yesterday.  He needs exercise and I will be giving it to him a lot more regularly from now on.  Hopefully that'll keep him from pestering poor Bruin so much.

I haven't gotten my written evaluation from the Showmanship video class yet, but I was placed 2nd out of 3 entries.  In addition to the regular Adult Showmanship class, the judge is adding a "Jackpot" open showmanship class to the final show of the winter and it's a doozy:

Yes, that's a L-turn at the back and an EXTENDED JOG... in a SHOWMANSHIP pattern.  Woof.  I started working on the L-turn backing today and he got it pretty quickly.  We'll start on the rest this weekend.  I'm hoping I'll be able to enter one of the riding classes, too if I can sit a jog by then!  

I think YOU should enter too!!!!  Check out on Facebook!   And tell Judge Jennifer Moshier I sent you!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Gettin' Back To It

Hi!  Remember us?  Yeah, we've been quiet for a while.  Sorry about that.  Here are my excuses:
1) My work schedule this semester has proven to be a nuisance in the way of allowing barn time during the week.
2) My back issue, which I'll update you on later, wasn't making the little barn time I had very uninteresting.
3) I've been sick for a week.  Started with stomach flu, then turned into a head cold/allergy/sinusy thing.

But now I think on our way to getting back to "normal." And I'm SO ready to start getting both of us back into some form of condition. I'm in a teensy break between theatre productions, the 3 hours/week I have been spending in prospective student interviews will lessen, and we go on spring break in one week.  This should help extend barn time.

My back is getting better. FINALLY.  January was pretty damn miserable and February didn't start well, but finally it has improved.  I can clean hooves without pain!  Woot!  I've only ridden twice and only walking and trotting in 2-point since sitting the jog isn't comfortable yet, but I've RIDDEN and I can't tell you how good that felt!

And whatever sickness I had seems to be on the mend.  I had to cancel a whole week of classes and missed some important rehearsals, but shit happens.  I'm on the up and up now, better every day. Still weak because I'm still getting my tummy back to eating something more substantial than saltines and gatorade, but I'm improving.

Who you callin' a homeless goat?!?!
I should move on to current events: my poor pony looks like he's unloved. :(  Right before I got to the barn (first time in a week) he went through the fence and proceeded to wonder around until he found some grass.  They caught him fine and he was in his stall when I got there.  I took him out to groom him and my heavens was I embarrassed.  He is FILTHY from ear to hoof and the HAIR is just coming off of him in clouds.  And he's been blanketed!!!! There are horses being led past us with show coats and my poor boy looks like a homeless goat.  I brushed and brushed until I was too weak to continue (not kidding) but I could have done it all day.  And the static was not helping matters.  Do they make Static Guard for horses? Thank heaven for my Shed Flower.  Not great for bony parts, but that sucker breaks through that crusty mud and pulls hair out in sheets.  Then I go to the thick-tooth rubber curry and then to the jelly scrubber and then to the stiff brush.... and he was still covered in dirt and hair.  He's not very pretty during shedding season when I can only groom him once a week.  :(
And that's after I swept it into a ball!

 I took him to the arena and lunged him, more for manners practice and to make sure he didn't injure himself with this morning escapade. I was pretty proud of him because another horse being lunged next to us was being an idiot and bucking and dashing around, but my boy trotted along calmly... at least he's learned to be quiet!  Then I did a little showmanship but I got fatigued REALLY fast so he got to back to his stall in time to do his carrot stretches before his afternoon grain was delivered.

He seemed happy to see me and nearly enjoyed the grooming, but his manners have sure declined.  He does not keep those lessons nearly as well as he keeps others. Back to Bitey McBiterton I guess.  Sigh.  And he's even got his turnout buddy, Bruin back!  Last weekend I caught them playing face tag as I was leaving the barn, so he just needs to be reminded that's appropriate behavior for Bruin, but not for Boss!  And by Boss I mean ME.

Bruin and Junebug: Besties.