WPCSA National Live Stream

Raise your hand if you like watching cute pony videos!  Raise your hand again if you like cheering for Connor relatives!

2016 babies pretending to be a merry-go-round around the oak tree

The WPCSA American National is being held in Tulsa, OK from today through October 1, and I'm so excited to report that Connor's breeder got to bring ponies for the first time this year!  Usually she's ring stewarding.  I would have been with her, but after I qualified for IDS championships, I chose to do that instead.  I'm sad to miss out on that adventure, but I've never qualified for anything on a horse before, and I'm really excited about that.

Castleberrys Crackerjack with (I think) his owner/driver, who is also Dino's bodyworker!

Even better iequine.com is live streaming the whole thing!  Four days of all sections of Welsh ponies doing their thing in hand, under saddle (English and Western), over fences, in harness, and even in costume with cute little kids.  
Flying Diamond the Balief, a badass Section B stallion who competes in Extreme Cowboy Racing

So if you find yourself bored at work and desperate for a pony fix, head over to the link below and make sure you cheer for anything with 'Castleberry' in the name!


Some Successful Bit Experimentation

After feeling down about my show on Saturday and an ok ride on Sunday, I was ready for my lesson Thursday to be some "yeah okay you do know how to ride" redemption.  But...it wasn't.

Pre lesson selfies

I don't know what got into Connor, but he was in one of those moods where he wants to powerwalk everywhere while putting his figurative hands over his ears and yelling "LA LA LA LA LA".  Any attempts to get him straight were met with "NO!", and any attempts to get him to slow down were just flat ignored.

We persisted, and once he let go and went straight like we were asking, he went really well, although he was still pretty tense and spicy. 

Water dancing.  PC: my mom

I have been wondering for a while if it's time for some bit experimentation, and as usual, my trainer read my mind.  With the exception of a brief time with a Baucher, I've had him in a loose ring French link snaffle the whole time, and while that's definitely the bit I want him to be in long term, I'm beginning to feel like it's not what he needs right now.  

My bit arsenal is pretty weak, but my trainer suggested that for my next ride, I try the single jointed Korsteel Kimberwicke I got at a garage sale and never used.  When the next ride rolled around, she adjusted it for me, told me what to expect and how to ride him, and was adamant that this is just a temporary tool we're using to help us fix a problem.  It's not USDF legal, so it's not something I want to ride in much anyway.

PC: My mom

It was the right decision.  Connor was relaxed, but attentive, and I was able to whisper "get off your right shoulder" and get him straight within a few minutes instead of shouting it over and over for 30 minutes before he complied.  That in turn led to a lot better ride, since once he's straight we can work on so much more.

The Kimberwicke is not a long term solution, and my riding is still more the issue than a bit will ever be, but it did open my eyes to the fact that he is flat out ignoring the French link loose ring right now.  
Time for a paradigm shift, my little friend!
PC: My mom

So I put in an order for a lease-a-bit (10 day trial) from Hastilow of the Neue Schule Baucher, as a USDF-legal intermediate choice between the Kimberwicke and the FLLR.  Connor doesn't really like the Baucher I own, by Toklat, I think because the mouthpiece is super skinny compared to all my other bits.  I ordered the thicker mouthpiece of the NS - can't wait to experiment with it and see what he thinks.


Show Recap: Harmony in the Park I

While a ton of photos of 1-1 will wrap up this post below, I only have a few pictures of 1-2 from Harmony because the weather during my test wasn't exactly conducive to photo taking:

This was taken after I had already done my first test.  Most of that fell during my warmup.  Let me tell you, warming up with water dripping down the brim of your helmet in soaking wet clothes is not fun.

It was my first time showing in truly inclement weather, and I was desperate to keep my CWD from getting more wet than it had to.  Yes, I know leather can get wet and be fine, but seriously, I sold half my worldly possessions and rode bareback for 3 months in order to afford this magical piece of French leather.  I can't afford to replace it, so I am going to be stupid particular about taking care of it.

Old photo of the saddle cover in action

So I warmed up in the waterproof rideable CWD saddle cover, and the heavens opened up.  I was soaked through, and the cover was soaked as well, though not slippery at all.  I didn't think there was any way the saddle was dry under what felt like standing water under my butt, but when I pulled the cover off right as I went into the ring, it was dry as could be under there.  So, two thumbs up, CWD!

Such a well-designed object

1-2 was, as it has been most of the year, the second highest 1-2 of the day and maddeningly mediocre from my perspective.  We scored a 66.8%, with a terse judge writing mostly one-word comments that she wanted "more" from everything.

PC: My mom.

The thing is, I agree with her, and I specifically wanted to work on getting him on my aids at this show before championships in two weeks and score the 70% I know we're capable of at home, with my trainer.

This is Connor saying "Why are we doing this...why am I so wet..."
PC: My mom

Since he wasn't tired at all after 1-2, I decided on a nice long warmup for 1-1 so I would have all the time in the world to try all the things I knew to get him straight and "switched on" so I could then give this judge "more."
We practice like we show: since there was standing water in the show ring, I made him do that in the warmup too.  Bonus: all the DQ's avoided the standing water like the plague, so we had the area to ourselves.
PC: Connor's breeder, Lisa Brezina

Lisa's favorite photo of the day, just as the storm was moving out.
PC: Lisa Brezina

Spoiler alert: It did not work.  PC for the rest of the photos in this post to Lisa Brezina, except where noted.

This test started out with the worst halt we've ever done.  He swung his hindquarters sideways.  It was bad.

The thing I notice in all of these pictures (and noticed under saddle too, but could not fix) is that his withers are never straight.  He's leaning in the entire thing, which of course means he's both not straight and not on my aids.  And my position is enabling him.  This is not new.  But it's so annoying that I felt it every step of that test and could not fix it.

He still loves the stretchy trot:


We practice in lakes because we show in lakes.  Former eventers FTW.

Good pony.

Bit check is always interesting with this horse, given his phobia of people walking straight up to him, but luckily he didn't take offense to this older gentleman.

I was pretty down after that test.  I knew I didn't get done what I wanted to get done, I knew it wasn't as good as it could be, I knew it was the fault of my poor position, and seeing the pictures that confirmed it made me sad.  I was grateful for them, this is where we are, but at the same time, I felt like a terrible rider for not being able to get my position sorted out enough or warm my horse up well enough to get him on my aids.  The score wasn't bad, 65% and 3rd of 3, but I was beating myself up over it.

FBR was supposed to be painting fence at the barn that day, but due to the rain, she got to come watch!
But not the pony.  He was a good boy.  What a trooper!

Being majestic between classes.
PC: My mom


Harmony in the Park I: Friday Night Photo Dump

I didn't really need to do the last rated show of the year at the Hoosier Horse Park, but since my mom was able to come that weekend, I decided to do one day and have a nice confidence building outing before IDS Championships on October 1.

On Friday night, right as we got there and got unloaded, a big storm rolled up:

so we did what any reasonable person would do: ran for the nearest alcohol!

Once the rain stopped and the alcohol cleared our systems, I headed back out to get a ride in.

All photo credit goes to my mom!

Dressage in a jump saddle.

Didn't notice til writing this post that I missed a belt loop, dang it.

Gave my horse an actual bath with actual soap at an actual show, Connor's Aunt Mary eat your heart out!


Lesson Wrap-Up: My Mom Takes a Lesson!

This post makes me SO HAPPY to write!

I have written before that my mom grew up riding in Chicago, and is the reason I love horses at all.

Another photo I can't use often enough: my mom meeting American Pharoah last winter
Somewhere along the way, her horse became her psychiatrist and she lost the nerve to ride.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I knew she'd be so happy if I could get her back on a horse, and specifically in a controlled environment on a nice quiet horse.

So when she came over for our "all horse weekend," I asked my trainer if she would give my mom a "low speed lunge lesson" as an early birthday present for my mom.  She agreed, and I asked if we should use a really worn out Connor, or our saint of a draft cross, Louie.  She said, "I think Louie is our man here... ;)"  (Connor: not suitable for children or mothers)

And that's how this happened:

Look at that smile!  I don't know who smiled more the whole time, me or her.
My trainer was surprised when I said this, but I actually hadn't seen her ride since since I was maybe 10.  And despite not having ridden in decades, she didn't lose a thing.

She sits better than I do, AND has better shoulders than I do!
They started out off the lunge, by practicing nice quiet halts.  I liked that - my mom was a tiny bit nervous about riding, and they started by learning how to apply the brakes.  Louie's favorite speed is 'stop', so he was only too happy to oblige.

My trainer explaining that her heel was jammed forward and down, and why that was confusing Louie in the halt, and where her leg should be.  Despite this being a "low-speed" one-off lesson, my trainer was just as technical with her as she is with me.

After that, they moved onto the lunge, where they did sitting trot and posting trot - my mom was thrilled that she still remembered how to post.  Not that awkward kind of forced posting either, you could tell she really knew what she was doing.

It was really cool to hear my trainer say the same things to my mom that she says to me: your leg is stiff, keep your torso back, shorten your reins.  And my mom absorbed the lesson atmosphere and information like a sponge, asking questions and making adjustments when my trainer said something different from what my mom was taught as a kid.

Too soon, it was over, but she kept smiling for hours afterward.  I hope it gave her confidence that she totally still has it, (As my trainer said, "You can tell it's all still there, you just had to knock the rust off,") and I hope she can find ways to ride every so often.

Love you, Mom!  Happy early birthday!


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