March 20, 2019

Cavaletti Sunday: Jimmy Wofford Style

I have not been super great about doing Cavaletti Sundays, but I did it this week!  I pulled out Jimmy Wofford's "Gymnastics: Systematic Training for Jumping Horses" and did Exercise 1, which is a trot pole exercise.

Yes it involves 16 poles and PRECISE measuring (says Jimmy) and it took forevvvvvvvvvver to set up...which is why we do cavaletti on Sundays ha

The poles are set up in the arena the way they are laid out on the page.  "A" is set to working trot length, "B" is variable, "C" is extended trot and "D" is collected trot.  Jimmy has you go back and forth over A, then over the working trot distance in B, then spiral in and out over B, then do C, then do D, and finally you string them together.

On Sundays we wear white (just kidding, I just wanted to play with liners)


Jimmy advocates getting the horse to the poles and then letting them figure out the exercises without micromanaging, but he's developing an eventer and I'm developing a Dressage horse, so for the most part I focused consciously on asking for what was in front of us - the way I saw it, the poles would help reinforce my not-so-expert aids for each gait.

Connor really enjoyed himself and quickly figured out what was going on.  He had the easiest time with the collected poles, followed by the extended poles and the "B" poles.  The working poles he had the hardest time with, but, I mean, the point of the exercise isn't to do it all perfectly, and he did get better as we went along.






This exercise rode so well, I'd love to say I'll work through the rest of the Wofford book, but it's unfortunately very reliant on mid-ride jump height changes and I'm usually riding alone, so we'll see.

March 19, 2019

More Shadow Upgrades

Obviously adding the ramp was priority #1, but I had a couple of other relatively minor things I wanted added while the trailer was in the shop.

First, I wanted another tie ring.  The tie ring the trailer came with was on the drivers side of the trailer, so the opposite side of the tack room door, which made tacking up annoying.  I also like having options - with one tie ring on one side only, if that side of the trailer is inaccessible or dangerous, I was outta luck without a tie ring on the other side.




Liiiiiike here.  Not ideal to tie him on this side of the trailer here.


Because the tie rings have to be secured into studs and because this trailer is SO small, I don't get a ton of options as far as placement.  Now both of my tie rings are in this location on opposite sides of the trailer.

Gah can't wait until it's warm enough to get those black streaks off

The other thing I asked for was a butt strap across the back.  Remember because of the location of the big back door's hold open hardware, there's a risky few seconds where I have to leave the tied horse on the trailer with the trailer wide open and no visible humans while I walk around the door, unlatch it, and close it.  You can see the hold open hardware in the photo above, under the new tie ring.



I consulted with a local independent shop on whether I should go with a butt bar or a strap and their response was interesting.  They said because my trailer doesn't have a rear tack and therefore the bar/strap would have to go across the entire width of the trailer, it would be much safer to go with a strap because a full-length bar is an injury risk in an accident.   They didn't elaborate, but I can envision a situation in which the bar becomes dislodged, one end gets jammed into the ground and the other end goes into the horse.

So I asked Shadow for a butt strap.  I specifically requested that the strap height be no higher than 3'9" (pony butt height, I measured), which my dealer verified by sending me a photo with a tape measure and by putting a 14.1hh pony they had on the property into the trailer to make sure the strap wasn't so high Connor could get under.  Good customer service!






Although in the end, again because of stud placement, I couldn't get exactly what I wanted on the height.  One end is slightly higher than the other, and it's maybe 2 inches higher total than I would have preferred - but you can't just screw a strap into the skin of the trailer, so it is what it is. 

Connor is good about standing still when I shut the door, and my next horse is likely to be a couple of inches taller than Connor anyway judging by the slight upward trend in his breeder's babies in the 13 years since Connor was born, so I'm not really concerned about it.

And that's it!

My husband still asks me when the other half of my trailer is being delivered haha




With that, I have officially fixed all the things I said I didn't love about this trailer.  No regrets on waiting 18 months to make these changes - like a house, I think you have to live with a thing for a while before you are really sure about what you want to change. 

Now I can't wait to take it out!

March 18, 2019

Adding a Ramp to a Step-Up Shadow Trailer

The only thing I've never really liked about my Shadow 1 Horse Slant is the step up.  I don't have anything against step ups, especially not when you're able to turn the horse around and let them go out head first like I can with this one, but the platform was very, very high on Connor. 

This is the absolute worst "scale" photo for this, but the platform comes nearly to his knees.  It hits me right at the bottom of my knee.

This meant that he had to jump into the trailer - something that made him more and more anxious as time went on.  Loading started taking a while as he would take several minutes nervously dancing around and working up the courage to make the leap into the trailer. 

I joked that "My horse is shaped like a dachshund so this trailer is more of a jump up than a step up!" but truthfully I was worried about it, because I know it was physically challenging and anxiety-inducing for the little guy.

Once he's in, he loves this trailer.
Pretty quickly I knew I would be buying a ramp.  I don't like causing my horse undue anxiety, and I also know that as he gets older, jumping into a trailer is going to get physically difficult.  And if he's ever injured, there's no way in hell I could get him on that high platform.  Plus it's not like I'm planning on getting a 17hh barn elephant for my next horse - shorties are here to stay in my life.

So last month I finally bit the bullet on the ramp and a couple of other things.

Squee!
I have nothing but good things to say about working with Shadow Trailer on all this.  Shadow's parts department coordinated with my local dealer to have the ramp shipped up from Florida inside of another trailer already headed to Indiana, saving me hundreds in freight. I had planned on having a local independent shop install it, but the dealer said they would do it for $100 - uh, sold!

Like most things on this trailer, the welds are not pretty but they're functional.  A 4 Star this is not.

This is my first time having a ramp I can lift with one hand, and I am in love. 



It's aluminum, plus there are springs applying tension so it wants to be upright, making it even easier to lift.  I realize this is probably standard new trailer stuff but indulge me okay?  Haha.





So what did Connor think of this?  Well, at first there was some required neck arching and blowing because OMG THIS LOOKS DIFFERENT.  And then I asked him to get on, and he had to stand at the bottom of the ramp fretting and taking his nervous poop and working himself up for the jump he no longer had to take. He associates the trailer with an anxious jump now, and it will take time to get over that - he wasn't able to understand that "this new black thing = getting into the trailer is easy now" until after he did it.




Within about 30 seconds he followed me in, and then we got off and on three more times without even hesitating.  You could feel the anxiety leaving him as he understood he didn't have to jump anymore.


As soon as I saw him relax about trailer loading again, every penny I spent on this ramp was worth it.  He used to hop on the trailer like a puppy excited for a road trip, and I'm ready to have that version of Connor back again.  Happy early birthday, little buddy!

March 12, 2019

Chestnuts

Connor grows epic amounts of winter coat, as I've discussed.  And I do body clip him, but I leave his legs, because I don't show in the winter and therefore I don't care about aesthetics, and it just seems kinder to leave some hair there.

But that means every spring, there is one day where suddenly his legs go POOF and all the hair falls off at once, and I think "Oh my god, when did those chestnuts get THAT LONG?!"

The thing is - the winter coat hides them, REALLY well.  His undercoat even wraps around the base of it, making it deceptively difficult to see how big they really are until he sheds.  Here:


That's not so bad...


OMG   

Since the first year this happened, I try to stay on top of peeling them back a little at a time over the winter, but they grow too fast and are too hard to keep up with (which is the reason the one above has a horn on it).  So this continues to happen, every spring.

This one looks really small...

...until you realize it's the chestnut equivalent of an iceberg
Does anyone else have that one day every spring where the chestnuts come up like daffodils and make you feel like a terrible groom?  Please tell me I'm not alone!

March 11, 2019

My Horse, My Couch

As you can probably tell by my lack of posting lately, I haven't had time to even see my horse recently, let alone ride.

For the first week of March, I was at my company's sales kickoff with 7,999 of my colleagues in Vegas.  Kickoff is the one time a year I get to meet co-workers in real life, and it was critically important to my career to introduce myself to as many people as possible, even if it was at midnight by the blackjack table.

(Who am I kidding, ESPECIALLY if it was at midnight by the blackjack table.  #techindustrylife)

Also #techindustrylife: they hired Imagine Dragons to play a private show, and I got pushed up to the front row by nice taller gentlemen who wanted to make sure I could see. 
That led to getting almost no sleep all week, which led to my run-down immune system greeting a stomach bug with open arms starting Thursday night, which led to a hellish flight home on Friday, which led to epic jet lag on Saturday, which combined with daylight savings time making it a 4 hour time change instead of the usual 3 on Sunday made me feel just awful all weekend.


(But I'm not complaining about DST because YAY DAYLIGHT!)

Even though I still wasn't feeling great, I managed to drag myself out to the barn on Sunday, which was the first time I'd seen my horse in a week.  Have I mentioned lately how grateful I am for boarding care so good, I don't even have to check in while I'm traveling and everything is just fine?

So sleepy.  So cuddly.

Lifting the curry to groom him felt like an enormous, slow-motion task, so a productive ride wasn't happening.  But I figured just being on a horse would make me feel more like myself, so I tossed the bareback pad on, played the Cardinals spring training game radio broadcast, and we toodled.

As we toodled, I thought about how long it's taken to get this horse to this point: that even when I feel like crap with slow-mo reaction speed, and it's windy and the doors are banging against the indoor and he's not wearing a saddle, I can trust him to powerwalk on the buckle, neck rein, stop dead when I say 'whoa', and do it all cheerfully with his ears up the whole time.

Ears up!

It has taken a LONG. TIME. to get to this point.  But it means more to me than anything he could ever do in the show ring, because off and on for the rest of my career, I will have weeks like this one, where I haven't ridden consistently in weeks, showing seems like a distant memory, and I barely have the energy to unpack my suitcase.  Having a horse that cheerfully serves as a four legged couch when I need it and doesn't do anything stupid really, really matters to me. 

Thanks buddy, you're the best <3