January 8, 2020

Why is Connor NQR: Part 1

We've had some surprising twists in the "why is Connor NQR" and "is it the saddle" saga over the past few weeks, so buckle up!

In our mid-December lesson with CGP, he was extremely resistant to bending, wasn't forward, would not "follow his nose" around a circle, would not lift his back and was exceptionally tense in the mouth.  CGP was stunned at how much had changed in a month.  She palpated him (far more aggressively than my own palpation technique) and declared him "probably" back sore (although admitted other things can cause the appearance of back soreness), and gave me some stretching exercises to do with him, and also advised me to get a hold of my vet.

NQR but real cute!  PC: Austen

I wasn't 100% convinced he was back sore, but the idea was enough to make me email Eq Saddle Science and say I wanted to send the flapless back for now, as I was renting it weekly at the time (with all rental fees going toward the eventual purchase price of my custom saddle).  They convinced me to let them send me a Port Lewis Impression pad to prove whether the saddle was digging in anywhere.

PLI pads are clear plastic half-pads filled with fancy Play-Doh.  You ride in them for 20-30 minutes, and if your saddle is causing pressure points, you'll see them clearly because the Play-Doh will be thinner/let more light through in that area.

The Velcro isn't lined up properly here, plz ignore

Now, I 100% took this pad on the basis of "is this saddle making my horse sore?", but I have to admit I was curious to see whether there really were four circular indentations in his back because I'm just so skeptical of the Reactor Panels.  But I couldn't have been more surprised when I lifted the saddle off his back after a solid 40 minute ride and saw...nothing:

It was so smooth, so even, I was absolutely shocked.  There were just very faint indentations where the panels were.  The pressure was completely even all the way up and down the panel.

I hadn't intended to actually buy this pad, but in the end I did.  I want this data, for all of my saddles and all of my current and future horses.  No, it's not going to tell you EVERYTHING about the way a saddle fits, but it's a great starting point for information we normally have to guess at.  As the owner of a stoic horse, I'll take all the saddle fit data I can get, even if it means buying a half pad I'll probably use twice a year.

Resetting the pad by rolling it out

(PS - If anyone local would like to borrow it, I'm happy to let people borrow it for a small usage charge, since these do have a limited number of uses in their lifespan.)

No real areas of pressure to note, except where I sit real hard on my left seatbone (facepalm)

The good news is, it's not the saddle, but the bad news is, it's not the saddle.  Next...

January 7, 2020

Photo Dump: Weekend with Jan and CGP

In mid-December, Jan and I went to spend the weekend at CGP's together.  It was my last time working with CGP until she returns from Florida in early April.  With Connor being NQR, we did a Saturday lesson to evaluate things, which was terrible, and then on Sunday we had an unmounted lesson.  But by far the most fun part of that weekend was just hanging out with Jan, Matt and Eli:

This is my "Jan's horse is so big I can't even get his whole head in a selfie because my arms are so short" face

Eli is huge, guys.  And also so very nice - both temperamentally and conformationally.  Hopefully Jan doesn't mind me mentioning that CGP was absolutely IN LOVE with Eli and thanked her for making her job as a trainer easier by buying the right horse.  And - sappy blogger community comment incoming - knowing everything Jan went through on the road to getting him like we all do, I felt such an immense amount of happiness and pride for her in that moment.  That's not a compliment CGP hands out lightly!

Jan mini-phasered Connor...

...and he loved it

Raced a snowstorm home and made it safely, took this photo to commemorate the occasion.  I never posted about my harrowing literal near-death experience hauling back from Cincinnati three years ago, but uh, let's just say I have PTSD about hauling over this particular route if there's so much as a single flake falling from the sky.

Of course we weren't leaving without getting photos of the big horse next to the little horse!  Although I don't feel like the photos do Eli's massiveness justice AT ALL.  Connor is 14.1 and change, and Eli is allegedly 17hh, although it feels more like 22hh when I'm standing next to him 😂

This photo and all the following photos are courtesy of Jan's husband, Matt.

Connor sporting his wool cooler I got off eBay for $20.

"Hello friend"

Then Connor noticed Matt crouching on the ground, and took it upon himself to go investigate:

"I love people!  You're a person!  Let's be friends!"

Cutest schnoz picture ever!
Looking forward to doing this again sometime!

January 6, 2020

Blogger Secret Santa 2019

I've lost count the number of times I've participated in Blogger Secret Santa, and the number of blogs I follow these days, so it's always especially fun when I get a new-to-me blog for Secret Santa!

This year Lindsey at Alta Mira Horsemanship had me, and she knocked it out of the park!  I ended up with a gorgeous new flick brush, to replace my current one which is less...flicky...than it used to be:

And Connor got a bucket of Stud Muffins, which he LOVES.  I've been only feeding them in situations where I want a high value treat, like clipping.  Not that he's ever bad to clip, but I think he's especially excited for it now that clipping = eating these cookies.

Finally there was a lovely bar of chocolate in there too, which I went to take a photo of and discovered my husband had eaten it 😂  He thoroughly enjoyed it, for what it's worth.

Thanks for everything, Lindsey!

December 31, 2019

Decade in Review: The Highlights

Ten years and one day ago today, I hit "Publish" on this blog for the very first time, so it seems especially appropriate that I should join in on the "Decade in Review" posts. Here are the top three things that happened each year over the last 1,547 posts.

  1. Got introduced to Welsh Cobs when the chair of the equine department begged me to break her Castleberry pony, Shae, in the Training and Handling II class because "you're small and you have a sense of humor"
  2. Met Shae's breeder, kicking off a lifelong friendship
  3. Graduated with my Equine Studies degree, eloped to Italy, got the job that kicked off my career, and moved to my current city
That's Brown Recluse bite aftermath on his neck and shoulder


  1. Started taking lessons with my current trainer
  2. Started doing CrossFit seriously, mainly because my trainer was on bed rest with a pregnancy and I was bored
  3. Connor became mine <3


  1. Went to our first Dressage show
  2. My husband lost his job and wouldn't be fully employed again for another couple years
  3. Rode Connor's sire, *Tuscani Dundee, in the Hoosier Horse Fair Parade of Stallions

  1. Went to our first event
  2. Jumped 2'6 for the first time
  3. I took a deep breath and full clipped for the first time
Used with permission, PC: Suzanne Fischer

  1. Moved up to rated BN
  2. Showed in Chicago for the first time
  3. Started meeting bloggers in person! 
The max height/width BN table he jumped from a standstill, marking the beginning of the end of his eventing career, lol

  1. Visited JenJ for the first time.  And the second time!
  2. Bought my CWD, a truck, my first trailer (thanks to JenJ), and a 125 year old house.  It was an expensive year, lol
  3. Did what would be Connor's final rated BN, finishing with 33.5 after a rail in stadium
Also thanks to JenJ, this badass XC outfit
  1. Our first full season of Dressage
  2. Hung out with JenJ at a jousting event in Indiana that involved drinking Scotch in full medieval costumes under the stars, impaling cabbages on tent spikes under the cover of darkness, sleeping in my truck and sending some strangers home to Texas with a taxidermied buffalo head
  3. Got a Pixio

  1. Moved Connor to a barn 3 miles from my house, and then my trainer followed me four months later
  2. Rode Mr. P!
  3. Went to National Dressage Pony Cup
Also hung out with these degenerates <3
  1. Rode Jen's Taran and learned quite a bit about myself from him
  2. Flew to Colorado with Connor's breeder to watch Erika and Gavin and another Castleberry pony compete in the RMDS championships
  3. Rode with KPG thanks to Karen winning an essay contest!

A fellow Welsh Cob-lover gushing over my Welsh Cob.  Also, an Olympian

  1. Got our first Second Level score toward our Bronze
  2. Rode with Mary Wanless twice, which led to riding with CGP
  3. Went on the Great Saddle Search

December 12, 2019

Saddle Search Update

When we last left off in my saddle fitting saga, I had decided to move forward with the Eq Saddle Science flapless Dressage, knowing that I would #1 take an extended trial of it, and #2 request a second trial saddle, this time the blocktester version.

The blocktester version exists to do exactly what it sounds like: allows people to test blocks of different sizes and shapes in various positions on the knee roll area.  It comes with three sets of blocks, and they're going to be adding a fourth in January 2020.

This saddle is an older model compared to the trial one, and it's a 17.5" instead of a 17.  Which...

...I gotta be honest, I'm digging.  And not (entirely) because I've finally gotten serious about hitting the gym consistently over the past two months and gone up a pant size since the saddle search began.  (Far more importantly, I tied my all-time back squat PR from four years ago this week at 175 lbs/115lbs body weight and my workouts are starting to feel easier!  Bring on the booty!)

And had a huge breakthrough in snatch biomechanics

I scheduled the blocktester to where I'd ride in it for both of my trainers - my home trainer tonight, and then I have back to back weekend lessons scheduled with my GP trainer this weekend before she leaves to winter in Florida.  And Jan is coming too!

The one thing that's going sideways right now is Connor.  My trainer has noticed it too, he's not lame, but he's unusually reluctant under saddle currently, both in terms of forward, relaxation and just general balance.  I don't think this is saddle related because he feels the same for my trainer in her saddle as he feels in my jump and the flapless, and he's not palpating sore at all.

We did this remote saddle fitting outside for cell signal reasons and Connor was like "...why?"

My best guess is that he's had an ulcer flareup, since he's been increasingly girthy over the past couple of months - with all types of saddles - and he's started spooking at nothing again too.  Either way, Carmi, the owner of Eq Saddle Science that has been doing all of my fittings, is encouraging me not to buy until I have some amazing rides again, so I can be 100% sure I'm making the right choice for both of us, which I totally appreciate.