August 19, 2019

Rated Second Debut

Our first two rated Second Level shows are in the books!  Don't let the blue ribbons fool you, they're basically participation ribbons because I was the only pro ("pro") showing 2-1 this weekend.

Thank you Karen for all the pictures in this post!

The important thing is that I came away with one Bronze Medal score, and came tantalizingly close to getting two.  And I think even more importantly, I no longer have that "are we or aren't we a Second Level pair" haze hanging over my head. 

Saturday we scored a 59.73%, 0.27% short of a Bronze score.  This was one of those judges that gave straight 6's as a baseline score unless you impressed her for better or for worse.  Besides all the 6's and a couple of 5.5's, we got one 7 for this halt:

and most annoyingly, a FIVE for submission. 

Okay, maybe there was some bit evasion going on

Saturday's test was just average in every way, nothing bad happened but I didn't really have a lot of horse either, and I was okay with the score.  It would have been nice to find another point and get the 60%, but at least we didn't embarrass ourselves.

I went into Sunday knowing I was riding for the other judge, who on Saturday had scored everyone so low across the board, people who weren't there were texting people who were there to ask WTF was going on after seeing the online results.  Mid-50's won classes, accomplished riders had scores in the 40's, and most worrying, some of the judge's comments were downright mean.

I had a split-second thought of scratching - if I'd scored a 59% for the easy judge, what was the hard judge going to do to me?  But I decided if all I got for this entry fee was the chance to ride 2-1 two days in a row and try to put in a better ride, I'd do it, scores be damned.

His favorite part, standing still
It wasn't perfect, but it was a lot better.  I was able to focus a lot more on myself and be a more active pilot.  He did break twice in the canter, both times my fault.  I was trying to half halt him and was just too aggressive, but hey, at least I was actually riding!

Progress. Also those braids are 30 hours old in this picture!

Given the bobbles and the tough judge, the idea that that test could be a 60, even though it was better than my previous attempt, didn't cross my mind.  I was just hoping for mid 50's.  So I was genuinely gobsmacked when I saw the results:

62.432!   If they'd combined the divisions, we would have been third out of five.  I took this picture because even after staring at the paper for a few minutes, I still didn't believe it.

So that's the story of how I got my first Second Level Bronze score.  In a jump saddle, because I mean why not?

August 12, 2019

Rated Second, Here We Come

With my fingers crossed that Connor's scratches will heal quickly, I went ahead and entered the rated show this coming weekend. 

Work your magic, diaper aisle
It'll be our first time showing rated Second, and I entered for 2-1 both days.  Now that we've scored mid-60's at a schooling show, I feel confident throwing the, y'know, $400 toward a rated show.  And I'm tired of being a baby about getting out there and Doing the Thing.  What am I protecting by being a weasel about showing?  It's not like I'm trying to sell him or teach students. 

The absolute best boy

Our 2-1 effort at the schooling show in July was a confidence builder.  I hadn't ridden in a week before then and the photos Connor's breeder took (so thankful for those and so happy she came!) proved my reins were waaaaay too long, so I definitely left points on the table.  Even still, we scored a 64%.

What is actually going on here, I'm not sure
One thing I did for the first time this show (besides wearing a colored shirt for the first time, yay, go me!) is wear a watch.  Specifically a plain old running watch.  It doesn't seem to be against the rules (but someone correct me if it is) and it really helped me manage my time effectively in the warmup.

So, all things considered and with a heaping dose of crossed fingers that the scratches have subsided by then, it feels like it's time to tackle rated.  My plan for the rest of the year is to have a good, easy, confidence-building outing at the rated show, then try to do both 2-1 and...2-2?  2-3?  at the September IDS show.  We haven't done two tests in a show in a very long time, and I at least want to TRY it and see what happens.

August 5, 2019


The day before I left town for 8 days for a work trip + wedding, I noticed that Connor had abrasions symmetrically placed on either side of his front left pastern.  I dabbed some ointment on it and chalked it up to him putting his foot through something.


What I came home to
I came home to a raging case of scratches.  He's had pastern dermatitis before, but always on the hinds, always in winter, and it never progressed to the point of open wounds.

This time, it was primarily on the left fore, with just a touch of it on the left hind.

Thankfully I only traveled one overnight this week, so I've been able to return to helicopter mom status.  I did once a day Betadine scrubs for a few days, with antibiotic ointment on the open wounds and Desitin around it after drying thoroughly.  Then I stopped the scrubs and tried a barnmate's silver spray she recommended (verdict: got worse after using it.  Not sure if related or not though). 

The pastern has been a bit swollen this whole time, but when I came out Saturday, the swelling had started creeping up the leg.  Thankfully, after wrapping it, it was cool and tight on Sunday.  Hopefully we're past the worst of it, but one way or another, I will be calling the vet to be on the safe side.

The good news is, he hasn't been lame at all, but even still this can't feel good.

Also, now I get to figure out how to blend this sweet looking "tan line" into the rest of his leg.  I'm not sure I realized how hairy these Cobs stay all summer before now!

Scratches!  Blah.  Hit me with your best home remedies in the comments.

August 2, 2019

It's About to Get Better!

It's been...a rough few months.  I've seen way more of this view:

I actually took this picture to illustrate the fact that my favorite airline has pulled some oooooooooooooooold planes out of storage due to the 737-MAX grounding.  Airworthy but ugly!
than I've seen of this view:

The good news is just yesterday my boss let me know he's hiring a new guy and effectively halving my workload.  I've been doing the work of 2.5 guys since February 1, and it has sucked.  I'm glad to see it end.

Pets that also miss me

What's all this travel meant for Connor?  On the one hand I have a horse that can pull off a 64% at 2-1 after I haven't ridden in a week.  The definition of amateur friendly.

With boots that didn't zip and a Dressage saddle pad because I forgot I don't have a Dressage saddle right now and a too-big shirt and black reins with a brown bridle and and and

On the other hand, I came home to a horse with a flaming case of scratches(?) Monday, and it just twisted that knife in my side that's been there for a while, needling me that I've been an absentee horse owner for most of this summer, and I hate it. 

I like how the hair I left on his heel bulbs looks like a giant moustache
The good news is since I took this picture on Monday the spots have already closed by maybe half, and he was never lame.  Now to figure out how to blend his medically necessary but really ugly clip job into the rest of his hairy hairy legs...

July 16, 2019

Product Review: Comparison of Bombers Happy Tongue Loose Ring Curved/Straight Bits and Similar Shire's Bit

Let me preface this post by saying that I'm not a bitting expert.  I'm going to be able to show you some comparison photos and tell you in my own non-expert words how my horse went differently in each of these bits and that's it.  I could be totally wrong in some of the stuff I'm about to say.  But I have had a request for a comparison post, so let's do it!

Top: Happy Tongue Loose Ring Curved.  Middle: Shires knockoff.  Bottom: Happy Tongue Loose Ring Straight.

Shires Knockoff
Leah let me borrow this bit while I waited (and waited, and waited) for my clinic bit to arrive.  It has some similar features to the real thing, such as sweet iron, loose rings and a center port, but that's where the similarities end.  The mouthpiece is the same round diameter from end to end without the subtle carve-outs the Bombers bits have.

Connor did like this bit well enough, definitely better than his old bit (Neue Schule French link Baucher), but he also got his tongue over it once.  Additionally, given his low palate and thick tongue, I have to wonder if the non-flattened somewhat pointy port was poking him in the top of his mouth. 

The Shires mouthpiece is slightly oxidized here, which all of these bits will do if they're sitting around and not in use.  Bombers says to "lightly scour" the bit and rinse clean if that happens.

The port is almost as high as the Bomber bits, but because of the consistent round diameter of the Shire's, there's less room for his tongue under the port (as opposed to the Bombers, which you can see the top and sides of the port are flattened compared to the rest of the bit). 

I have a feeling if you have a horse with a smaller tongue and higher palate, this bit would work just fine.

Happy Tongue Loose Ring Curved
This is the "default" version of the Happy Tongue Loose Ring, and is the "less strong" version of the straight bit Connor preferred.  It's curved forward, so that if you lay this bit on a table, most of the bit doesn't make contact with the table.

It's the one in the center
When we tried this bit at the clinic, Connor reacted to it almost the same as his NS Baucher.  He wasn't quite as comfy and pliable as he was in the straight version, and the clinician saw it immediately.  My barnmate let me borrow it; she'd ridden her Arabian gelding in it at a show once and he had a "meltdown" - not sure if it was the bit's fault or not, but I got the impression she thought it was and she wouldn't be trying it again.

The brochure describes this bit as being "softer on the bars" and "slow to exert tongue pressure" just like my straight bit.  The difference is the curve, which put the front of the bit further down his tongue (toward the tip).

Top: Happy Tongue Loose Ring Standard (has forward curve).  Bottom: Happy Tongue Loose Ring Straight (does not have forward curve)

This bit was an improvement over the Shires, which was an improvement over the Baucher. We had some great rides in it, but he also did get his tongue over once - and I wonder if it's because of his short mouth + the forward curve.  More on that in the next section.

Happy Tongue Loose Ring Straight
This is the first Bombers bit I rode in at the clinic and the one I ended up buying.  He feels amazing in this bit, and hasn't even thought about getting his tongue over.  Whether that's because he physically can't with this bit or because he doesn't feel motivated to, I'm not sure.

The best way I can describe riding Connor in this bit is the contact just feels "comfy".  He does mouth this bit a lot, but not in a "tongue whipping out of his mouth" way like he does when he's uncomfortable.  He also is more willing to elevate his front end in it, especially at the canter, although I can feel him trying to scheme ways to get around this charming and helpful aspect of this bit.

The brochure I posted yesterday describes the straight as being "slightly stronger" than the curved version and "suits a horse with a short mouth," which Connor definitely has.  Which got me thinking...

Short mouth = the distance from the opening of his lips to the back of his lips

In the moment when he gets his tongue over the bit, it's absolutely because of my bad riding, but I wonder if the combination of the French links I've always ridden him in plus his short mouth made the evasion easy for him to start in the beginning, anatomically speaking.

Raising the bit a hole after he gets it over always puts an end to the problem for the day - what if that had everything to do with where the center of the bit sat in his mouth?  And what if that's also why he gets his tongue over in the curved but not the straight version of this bit, because it sits further up the tongue?

If that's the case, French links may never be an appropriate choice for his mouth anatomy, which is mind blowing to someone who always considered the French link loose ring to be the gold standard.  I'm not writing them off for him entirely, but it's giving me something to think about for sure.