Baucher

Somebody hit me if I try to put anything other than this Baucher in this horse's mouth:

Photo by Paul Wood Photography

I know he goes really well in it.  But every so often I feel the need to experiment either on purpose, or accidentally when I forget the Baucher in my dishwasher.

I even showed in his KK Ultra French link loose ring at the food poisoning show (accident - poor planning) and I regretted it. In the Baucher I feel like I can whisper.  In the loose ring, I feel like I'm shouting in the wind - and that effect was magnified at the show.

In a fit of wild experimentation, after new BO described my bit collection hanging in my locker as "extensive" (I have five?), I even tried my old pony's copper single jointed D ring on him.  THAT was so bad I actually jumped off partway into my warmup to put something, anything else on him.

"Extensive" bit collection?

While I wish he could go in the loose ring, I can't deny that there's something about the Baucher.  He relaxes into it and focuses better with it.  Maybe he's a fixed sides kind of guy.  Maybe it's the tiny bit of leverage.  Either way, it's time to accept that!

And on that note, if anyone is interested in a verrrry lightly used Neue Schule Verbindend in 5.25" size, drop me a line.

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Trailering over Hills

When it comes to trucks and towing, I am an overpreparer.  If I could haul my 2H trailer with a 1 ton pickup, I would.  That's not a practical solution though.

Favorite rig picture, but unfortunately with the trailer still gross pre-pressurewashing.

Yelling (in my head) at people with underequipped tow vehicles is also a favorite sport of mine.  Do not even get me started on the episode of "Tiny Homes" I saw recently where a couple of PhD students hauled an 18ft long, 12 foot high tiny home from New York to Colorado with an aluminum body F-150.  The girl was like "It was super scary, we fishtailed a lot, but we made it."

Ughhhhh.

Anyway.

I know that I have more than enough truck for my trailer + pony + gear, but I was still pretty nervous about my first time hauling up and down (for Indiana) long, steep hills last week.

Still so in love with this truck.  I got an incredible deal on this one at 2/3 of KBB value (why so cheap, I have no idea.  Maybe because there's a big poorly hidden scar on the drivers side where it was keyed once?), but it's unfortunately set me up for a lifetime of luxury truck ownership.

Before I left, I recalibrated my brake box, did a thorough walk-around, even read my owner's manual to see if there was anything I was missing.

(Did you know, according to GMC, you can get carbon monoxide poisoning from hauling with the windows down?  They recommend leaving at least the back windows up while hauling.  Who knew?)

And...

It was totally fine.  Easy, even.  I didn't feel under-trucked or over-trailered a single time.  Uphills, downhills, winding country roads: I never even knew the trailer was back there.  The more I tow this trailer, especially now that I've done so much to it, the more I love it.

Unrelated: Cummins HQ on our walk home from dinner Saturday night.

That said, I've been told by a lot of people that you learn what you like and what you don't like with your first trailer after you start using it.  As I've towed a lot lately, I've kept thinking about how much space I don't use in this trailer.  How I would not haul two horses in it unless I got a bigger truck.  I've also started to plan (way) ahead for the eventual day when I'll need to replace this truck, and how to extend its useful lifespan while I save up for the next one.  I've thought about how much nicer it would be to have 1,500 less pounds behind me now that I'm towing a lot.  Admittedly, I thought about how easy it will be to sell it now that all the work it needed has been done, rather than waiting until it needs something else.

So after some very idle searching, I found a woman selling the exact trailer I want, almost brand new for 3/4 of the new price, and listed mine for sale.  Whatever happens, whether it does or doesn't end up selling, I'll be happy one way or another,

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Lesson Wrap-Up: A Lesson with NK Again (Finally!)

(I'm going to break so many good blogger rules with this post, apologies in advance.  This is straight word vomit!)

One of the many reasons I moved Connor to my town is that it effectively cut my trip to see my Dressage trainer, NK, from 6 hours of roundtrip driving to 2 hours and 45 minutes of round trip driving.  I finally made it out there yesterday, and boy did she ever remind me why I like her so much.

(For a refresher, we've been working with her off and on almost since I got Connor.  She's shown Dressage through I-2, and has a teaching style I just totally click with.)

Homeslice chillin' in these weirdly outdoor crossties for this part of the country.


Going to the right at the walk, she had me look in the (SUPER HELPFUL) vertical mirrors at the end of the arena, so we could see ourselves coming down the long side.  "Look in the mirror.  Look at his left foreleg.  It's landing completely outside of his body."  If that mirror hadn't been there, and she hadn't been there, I would have told you he was straight, but my gosh was I wrong.

Going to the left, she demonstrated what was going on by standing next to the long wall facing the short side, falling against it, pushing off, falling against it, pushing off.  "You keep asking him to come through on the left side, but you never ask him to stay there with a right half halt, so you two just keep repeating the same cycle over and over without fixing it."

A weird pose.

The left continued to be a problem until she had me REALLY get after him about it.  We did "not a textbook" movement that was like extreme shoulder in.  She actually told me to think one stride of turn on the forehand as we went down the wall at a really sharp angle, in order to engage the left hind and at the same time I had to keep the right shoulder from coming out.  To accomplish this, I really had to kick him a couple of times with my left leg, something it must be obvious I don't do often.  She said, "He overreacts to your leg and whip so you try not to use them much, and he is very sensitive, but sometimes you just need to get his attention."

The amazing thing about that is, after a couple of minutes of doing this exercise and resorting to a left leg pony kick twice, he couldn't get his left hind underneath him fast enough when he so much as felt my left leg move.  NK actually laughed out loud - "Smart cookie!  He learns quick!"

Did someone say cookie?

She described him as "constantly being in a state of compressing or crunching the right side with a loose left side no matter the direction."  YES.

For me, I was interested to note that she did not get after me about the things she got after me about in my last lesson with her a year ago (chest up, pelvis position in the saddle) so I have definitely made progress on some things, but this time she got onto me about:
- Relaxing my thighs so I could allow myself to really sit on him (where have I heard that before...)
- Sitting on the left side.  Apparently I do not, and this is the reason his energy is constantly escaping out the left in both directions.  This was especially clear during some turn on the forehands.
- Giving rein aids through the elbow (the elastic joint) rather than the fingers, wrist or shoulders
- Keeping my shoulders down my back
- Moving my hip toward my elbow in downward transitions (holy mackerel did this make a difference)
- At the end, tracking right, she had me move my left rein close to his neck to get him straight.

I'm out of photos, have a bird.

HE. FELT. SO. GOOD!  I think there were moments where even she was surprised how good he was especially in the trot.  I asked her what she thought our biggest barrier to 2nd Level is and she said straightness.

It was like she took all of the things my regular trainer and I have identified but not fixed, and fixed them.  It was the best he's gone in a while after a string of consistently great rides.  If anyone can move us up the levels, it's her, and now that I only need to take a half day off work for this instead of a whole day, we're going to try to see her at least monthly.

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Fatty Fat Fat

We've been at the new barn just over a month now, and somebody is...


...fat.

This is his first time on pasture in almost five years, so I've been watching for it, and it's not unexpected.  As a first step, I cut his feed back as far as I can, even though I know the feed isn't what's making him fat.  He's now getting a handful of Essential K ration balancer morning and night.  The barn owners just laugh, they've never seen a horse get this little feed before.


But I know he's happy being able to graze again, I'm worried for their white vinyl fencing if they drylot him (...#ponyyoga tends to be hard on fencing when the grass is greener on the other side) and I want to let the BO's keep their normal turnout routine, so there's only one compromise:

It's the pony version of this emoji: :-|

He's worn a grazing muzzle before, briefly in September of 2012, when one person told me he was fat and I believed them despite not really believing it myself.  Trust your gut, people!

Not fat.
Fat.  But also muscles!

(But mostly fat.)
He's crafty, but he's not persistent, so while he'll try to get the muzzle off for a while, if it puts up a fight he'll (probably) leave it alone.
Also the reviews said this design could be improved by the addition of one more strap on the front, because the horse can basically pull it down and get it off otherwise, so I proactively added duct tape.  Again, he's not persistent, the grazing muzzle just needs to stand its ground for a few minutes.

My biggest concern with the grazing muzzle is the auto-waterers that are situated so that 2-3 pastures can share a single one.  The BOs swear they've had a horse with a grazing muzzle not have a problem with them, and I made sure this one fits.  Still, I'm going to leave a bucket out there for a while just in case.

(pre-duct tape, I tried a zip tie and didn't like it.)

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A Big Strong Trot

During one of my rides last week, I was a little bit frustrated with both of us.  Just a smidge.  Mostly with myself, for still being crooked after all these years.  This horse doesn't WANT to pop his shoulder to the outside.  I make him do it.  Accidentally.


We had already had a long hot ride, but I was tired of picking at him and not accomplishing anything, and he probably felt the same, so I let him cruise at the trot of his choice.  He picked a big, strong, forward, consistent, metronome trot that he told me he could do all day.  The type of trot NK had us get at the beginning of our lesson with her last summer.

He still felt pretty balanced, but I guarantee my JLC-following trainer might have raised her eyebrows if she was there.  We did 20m circles and changes of rein across the diagonal in an extremely consistent strong trot, with long-ish reins and his throatlatch open, for probably 15-20 minutes.


I sat that big strong trot.  And in order to sit it, I had to engage my core.  And I noticed my reins were wide and long enough that my shoulders were open and down, so I rolled with that.  Because I wasn't doing any complicated exercises, I was able to focus on keeping my right side tall, my hands forward, and my thighs off him.

And...it was the best he was all ride.  Once I got him forward and pushing, I could supple him and put that forward to work.  And I was sitting more straight and balanced than usual after focusing on just that for 20 minutes.
#besthair

At my next flat ride, my lesson with my trainer, I warmed up like that: a few quick transitions, then put him straight to work developing that same trot before I asked for anything else.  We got it, and we ended up having an awesome lesson.  It goes against what we've been doing for a while - slowing it down so he's not rushing over his chest - this may have been the wrong answer six months ago, but it feels like the right answer now.  And my trainer agrees.

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