June 18, 2021

Packing is Hard, Part 2

It's a good thing I'm practicing this away show thing.

Things I forgot:

  • Sports bras. All of them. Every single one.
  • Schooling breeches

Don't mind me, just schooling in skinny jeans and a jump saddle with my boobs flying everywhere at a rated Dressage show. 😁

(Side note: the matchy matchy DQ game is MUCH stronger in Michigan than in Indiana, my goodness. It's a good thing I'm a badass self-confident individual that doesn't care what other people think of me because my 7 year old $15 Tango brand saddle pad was very out of place among PS of Sweden ALL THE THINGS. People had head to toe matching outfits with their horse, and there I was feeling accomplished because my green t-shirt didn't clash with my blue saddle pad, lol)


This place fancy.

Things I didn't forget:

  • The pony

    Survived his 5 hour journey in the trailer just fine. And hello, I got 14mpg on the way there, good job truck!

  •  My whip...clearly...😂 Just over here giving my truck a second antenna, don't mind me.


Have a good weekend, everyone!

June 17, 2021

Away Shows

Today we leave for Waterloo. And the packing, OMG, the packing.

Part of the reason I felt like it was necessary to do Waterloo was that I need to practice traveling for long and far away shows before Pony Cup. We haven't traveled away from home for a show since the last time I did Pony Cup in 2017, and we haven't shown five hours away from home or done a four day show trip since Fox River Valley in 2016.

 

Fox River Valley. Eventing this horse was such a f****** adventure, lol.

As a result, I've lulled myself into this false sense of security about things like packing and laundry. When you live 20 minutes from the show grounds, you can come home and wash your whites in between rides and it's not the end of the world if you forget your grain at the barn. When you're five hours away from home...yeah.

Like, who knew you needed to own more than one show shirt?

And more than one pair of white breeches.

And a cooler. (We've been married a decade and somehow have never owned a proper cooler?)

 

Filled with the proper horse show supplies, naturally

This is also the furthest I've ever hauled by myself, so the truck is got an oil change and a bumper-to-bumper inspection complete with photos of consumable parts from my favorite shop, and two new automotive fire extinguishers.

We're as ready as I'll ever be! Now, if only I felt this prepared about riding 2-2...

June 16, 2021

So I Bought a Dressage Saddle...

Hahaha- no joke! Two saddles in one week, eh? Stacie didn't know how right she was in the comments yesterday.

 

Just 48 hours ago, even I had no idea I'd be buying a Dressage saddle this week. And the dramatic way it went down ended up being a fitting conclusion to my TWENTY-FIVE MONTH  LONG Dressage saddle search.

This does make me giggle, I'll be honest

See, I've been saddle searching for longer than I've been riding with CGP, so she didn't know about my...saga. On Saturday after my lesson, I told her the whole story and about my working theory that Connor prefers the short tree points and flexible front panels of the CWD. "Can I look at it?" she asked. She never had taken it off his back and handled it before.

 

After inspecting it she said "Oh my gosh, I've never seen a saddle with these features before. This is brilliant, I think your theory is exactly right, and I think Kate [the Society of Master Saddlers' fitter I worked with two years ago and absolutely adored] can do this and all of your other requests. Patrick Saddlery can build anything custom." She ended up taking a 5 minute video demonstrating everything and sent it to her.

On Sunday, I got a text. "Hey, Kate can do everything on your list, and she just happens to be driving through here tomorrow. Can you get back here by 8am Tuesday?" Kate lives many states away and is normally only in our area in spring and fall, so it was a dang miracle that she just happened to be passing through two days after I talked to CGP.

This place again??

So I took Tuesday morning off, we drove over Monday night after work, I crashed with my friend Nicole for the second time in 3 days, and at 8am sharp on Tuesday, we met with Kate.

The first saddle I rode in was Patrick's brand new monoflap with Velcro blocks, which was one of my wish list items. No, scratch that: that was a must-have. I have commitment issues with fixed blocks on *mumblemumble* thousand dollar saddles. Velcro AND monoflap or bust.

It has like a pocket on the front of the saddle for the block, but the rest of the flap is a mono

But this saddle had long tree points, and while Connor did everything I asked in it, I recognized that feeling I know well by now, where he'll begrudgingly do what I ask, but it's not as effortless to ask for or for him to perform as a given movement is when I ask for it bareback or in the CWD.

It was especially obvious in the reinback and ToH. The Jen of a year ago, less skilled and less certain in my convictions of what "right" feels like, might have settled for it. After all, he was Doing The Thing, right? But I stayed firm on my working theory: I knew he was capable of Doing The Thing more easily, more freely, and better. I pushed Kate to let me try something with more shoulder freedom.

She came back with a saddle that had short points and long gussets, and it took less than a minute. I walked, trotted and did a single reinback, and Kate said  "Wow, I see it! I just got goosebumps, that reinback! I know exactly what you're talking about now, you're exactly right about the short points and shoulder freedom." 

She didn't have many saddles with her because this wasn't an actual saddle fitting trip, but she knew one of my teammates had a saddle with short points and short gussets, and she ran out to ask if she could borrow it.

Teammate just happens to be 5'2 and maybe 120lbs so it wasn't an awful fit for me

For the first time in this whole saddle search, the angels actually sang, for both of us, when I rode in my teammate's saddle. Every single movement I asked for was effortless. His breastplate stayed up with almost no effort. Kate was practically cheering. "This is why I make such a point to really listen to the rider, you know your horse better than anyone," she said. "I live for these moments."

SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY

Afterward, I told her Mary's parting words to me which were "Don't let that fitter sell you a saddle with long tree points," and Kate said "She was right. I normally cringe when I see French saddles because they're often fitted poorly, but Mary knows what she's doing, the fit of your jump saddle is brilliant. If she ever wants to get back into saddle fitting, I would give her a job and train her. She's good." 

Side note, I was low-key anxious Kate was going to tell me the CWD didn't fit and I would have, I dunno, thrown myself off a building if she had. So the fact that she approved of its fit so thoroughly felt AMAZING. I can continue joking I would sell this horse before I sold this saddle.

Hearing all that from one of the best fitters in the country (objectively - she's certified in the UK through a many year process on saddle fitting that we don't have an equivalent for in the US) felt so, so, SO good - that Mary's brilliance was recognized by an accomplished pro, that Mary and I were both right, and that I wasn't crazy for sticking with #dressageinajumpsaddle this long and standing up for my horse.

"Short gusset" refers to the pillowy looking thing on the front of the saddle not going down as far as it could.

So in the end, what did Connor need?

  • Short tree points, to give the big meaty part of his shoulder as much room as possible to push back as each foreleg swings back toward the tail
  • Short front gusset, for less bulk behind the shoulder
  • No point billet. His billets need to come off of the waist of the saddle straight down to an anatomic girth because of where his girth groove is and how much he hates his shoulder being restricted. We only did up the point billets in the demo saddles enough to keep them from getting in the way of my feet, the only tight billet was the rear one.
  • Short-ish seat. I joke he's a dachshund, but he's still a pony with a relatively short back.
  • Serge panels, to allow for maximum give again for his shoulders, among other benefits

An example of a serge panel, which is entirely wool on the underneath of the panels. They are warmer in the winter, don't get damaged by sweat like leather panels, conform better to the horse's back and most interestingly, they can be directly adjusted through the panel using tools, which I thought was cool.

 

And in the end, what did I need?

  • Velcro blocks on a monoflap - non-negotiable. See previous statement re: commitment issues and also my barrel-shaped horse and my short little legs.
  • A stupid short flap. I don't know what the actual length will end up being, but she's taking a ton off the bottom and front of the flap as shown on my teammate's saddle above. I think my exact words were "What's the shortest we can go without causing problems anywhere?"
  • A well-balanced saddle and a good fitter that understands biomechanics and Dressage riders and will come to this farm twice a year to adjust it

That's it. That's all I needed.

 

My saddle is going to have a lot less of that useless extra bit of flap sticking out down there, since I have shorter femurs than this teammate, and I also have a pony instead of the imported 16hh+ WB this saddle was made for.

I spent the rest of Tuesday designing it (since it's custom, there's one flat fee and no upcharges on anything you can dream of - this is harder than it sounds!), plunked down a deposit, and now we wait approximately 8-10 weeks, COVID-willing.

I have more thoughts on this, but this post is long enough! I am SO EXCITEDS!!!

June 15, 2021

So I Bought a Western Saddle...

Yes, I know what you're thinking. CobJockey, aren't you shopping for a Dressage saddle? Yes, yes I am. I have been for two years this month. Don't you not ride Western at all? No, no I do not. And that makes it all the more INSANELY ANNOYING that a nearly perfect Western saddle just fell into my lap with zero effort last weekend.

Ok you but a Dressage saddle plz
 

I've been thinking I wanted a Western saddle for a while now, both to trail ride in and to pony Disco off of starting in a few months. But I wasn't going to put any effort into that search, it would practically have to show up at my door for me to pull the trigger.

And it did. I saw a posting on Facebook for a barely used Western endurance trail saddle that looked just stupid wide compared to most of the fence-rail-narrow Western saddles I see around here.

I mean, might have been made for a draft horse idk

I thought, what the heck, it's 20 minutes from me, it's the right size for me, it looks like it might be wide enough for him, and I loved that it didn't have a horn but still had a place where I could wrap a pony rope. Connor will launch over a ditch for fun like one out of every ten times we cross one on the trail, and I am no fan of getting punched in the gut with a horn.

The seller agreed to meet me at the state park so I could try it with Connor, who, bless him, had to be like "not this again!" after I threw him on the trailer for the third time in three days on Sunday morning.


It was, well, not quite perfect, but as perfect as I deserve for putting zero effort into this saddle search.


Mary had expected it to be too wide from the photos, but it was bang on perfect up front. Even the angle of the panels was perfect.

Had to ask the sellers to bring a pad and girth, and also re-teach me how to girth it up. It's been like 15 years since I did up a western girth (er, cinch. I am Western stupid)

The only slight question mark is the length. It's a hair longer than I'd strictly prefer on him. But after consulting with a trail riding buddy, Kate, Mary and several other bloggers (it takes a community to soothe my anxious soul) I think we can work with it, especially given how little I plan to ride in it.


We rode around the day riding area, through a creek, and w/t/c up and down a steep, muddy hill and it was great. Then I put Connor straight back on the trailer and brought him home, for what had to be one of the weirdest mornings he's ever had, lol. Good pony. I was tempted to stay and do some trails, but after his lesson with GP trainer the day before and two hours on the trailer right after, he deserved a day off. Another time.

Seller's husband in the background (who also rides) was like "That is a well-built little horse you've got there!"

Now to buy a breastplate and a girth and a saddle pad and a whatever the strap on the other side of the saddle the girth attaches to is called and a saddlebag and...

June 14, 2021

Lesson Wrap-Up: Good Ol' MW Biomechanics

On Friday evening I hauled Connor to Cincinnati for an overnight stay at GP trainer's and a lesson. We had intended to do two back to back lessons, but I didn't feel like I could take that much time off work.

With - lol - a legit Haflinger stabled next to him

 

Pretty quickly after we got started, she asked me to halt him in front of her. "He's going so well right now, we get to work on you," she said. "That's a good thing!" This is why I love her - she manages to make me feel like we've made progress milliseconds before she drops the next thing on me.

I mean, he really is genuinely going well lately.

She pointed out that I've over-corrected from the rider I was when I first met her and Mary Wanless just over two years ago. Instead of having an arched back and a perching position, I was now riding with a rounded lower back (something I couldn't even do before Pilates!) and my chest "caved in". 

Chest caved in

"I can count on one hand the number of times I've had to tell this to someone because this is such a rare postural fault in Dressage riders, but you need to stick your boobs out!" She put her fingers on my torso just underneath my bra line and asked me to push her fingers forward.

Mary Wanless people love teaching by touching, and I learn best by having my body parts literally picked up and put in the right place. Maybe it was fate that I fell in with this style of teaching, lol

As soon as I started riding like that, it was like OH WOW she was very right. If I rode like I had been riding, I felt like I was against Connor, but if I rode with my sternum pushed forward, I felt with him.

"Pushing her fingers forward" later in the ride

 

With that in place, we played with a bunch of stuff, including HI/SI at the trot and canter serpentines. Sometimes we asked for the simple in the middle a la 2-2, and sometimes we counter cantered on through, a la 2-3.

This is NOT every simple change for us, but we at least get one this good a few times a ride.

Interestingly, she had me take my outside leg reeeeeally far back and up in the counter canter - but not actively on - in order to keep him straighter and more honest through that movement, and it helped a ton. Felt weird as hell, but hey.

We feel really, really ready for the show next weekend. Bring it on!