June 17, 2019

Sunday's Ride

On Sunday I came out to ride Connor knowing he'd be a bit of a pistol after being inside for a couple of days due to the rain.  Fortunately, being a pistol for him is still very manageable.  That's part of the reason I own him!

He had a lot of energy, and kept trying to spook at this white stray cat that was hanging out in the grass outside the indoor.  We'd go past the open door and he'd throw his head up, skitter sideways and prick his ears straight forward in a "using this as an excuse to be crazy" sort of way, not a "I'm actually afraid" kind of way.

THAT earned him a wet saddle pad, and we ended up having a fantastic ride.  Tons of transitions, lots of canter, and one VERY solid C-W tx.  I'm currently working him in a knockoff version of the Bombers bit that Leah is graciously letting me borrow, and it's a definite improvement over the old Neue Schule.

Showing his preference for my trainer's riding and French leather in a demo ride on the CWD Dressage saddle

A couple of position things I'm working on:

- My trainer gave me a very effective first toolkit lesson in which she demonstrated and then walked me through, body part by body part, how to put him together.  One of the things we identified is that I am still giving through my shoulders and letting him pull me.  If I thought about the energy of the mouth "moving" at the walk going all the way through to my shoulder blades, I got way better connection.

- I'm starting to recognize that part of the reason he drifts to the right all the time is that my right thigh is never inwardly rotated and on the saddle.  This is way more obvious in the jump saddle than in my old Dressage saddle.  When I get my thigh on him and have good connection, I get good bend.

In particular, that C-W tx happened when I set him up for the W-C tx by putting my right thigh on him, getting the left hind underneath him and almost thinking counterbend before setting off into the transition, and then thinking about doing the same in the downward.  More to explore there in the future I think.

June 12, 2019

CWD Dressage Saddle Buying Experience: Q&A Inside My Head

I want to document my saddle buying experience thoroughly, because there is literally nothing out there on buying a CWD Dressage saddle.  Hopefully you guys find these posts interesting, but these are as much for posterity and future Google Searchers than anything else!

I've been doing a lot of Q&A in my own head, trying to keep myself honest and pragmatic about the whole thing.  It still feels weird to me that I'm considering doing this.  Here's a look inside my head right now:

Q: Why are you so hung up on CWD?
A: Many reasons.  My jump saddle fits so perfectly people exclaim when they see it on his back.  He's always gone so freely and so well in that saddle.  I've tried something like 12 other Dressage saddles from 8 other brands and the tree shape (back to front) was fundamentally wrong for him in all of them except Adam Ellis and CWD, and that's not something you can fix.

Q: Are you working with a rep?
A: That's another big reason I'm going CWD: we have a local CWD rep (which is a MIRACLE if you know this part of the country), and I am serious about wanting to use a local resource this time.  And most importantly, my best friend Mary is a former ace CWD fitter who knows these saddles inside and out, got quite good at fitting Dressage saddles in particular while she was there, and has a great eye.

Q: Why not try to find something used?
A: Used CWD Dressage saddles are a tiny, tiny market.  CWD just doesn't advertise its Dressage saddles the way it does jump, which is honestly a shame.  From there, the flat seated model is a tiny percentage of that small market (maybe one SE24 for every 10 SE08's I see, and yes, I've searched the European sites too), and the "built for a child sized adult and a wide pony SE24" market just straight up does not exist.  I could search for a used saddle for years and come up empty.

Q: Why the flat seated model?
A: I've come to realize I like having space in the saddle and because the flat seated model is built on the same tree as my jump saddle, which fits my pelvis like no other.  When I sat in both models at Kentucky, the SE24 felt like coming home and the SE08 did not.

Q: Why now?
A: He's old enough that his back has stopped changing but also young enough that he's (hopefully) years away from retirement.  Also, I've ridden in enough saddles this point I've developed actual preferences, so I'm able to clearly express likes/dislikes/wants/needs to the rep.  I couldn't have done that a couple of years ago.

June 10, 2019

Product Review: Salad Dressing Containers for SmartPak Replacement

Anyone else not feeling the love from SmartPak lately?  I long ago switched to Riding Warehouse for as many of my purchases as possible, but Connor has been on a gut maintenance SmartPak for a while, which I didn't feel great about.  The extra cost, the amount of plastic I was sending to the landfill, their guilt-trip driven supplement advertising.

So when I went to re-start Connor's gut supplement, I balked at going for SmartPaks again.  (It also helped that I got a killer deal on a bucket of U7)  But I strive to be a low-maintenance boarder, so I definitely won't ask my trainer to scoop out of buckets, so I needed to find a single-serving supplement container.

My criteria for a supplement container were that they needed to be:

  • Durable (this ruled out Ziploc baggies and thin plastic containers)
  • Easily opened year round with or without bulky gloves (this ruled out anything with a pry-off lid)
  • Big enough to hold two supplements
I landed on making my own Smartpaks using these:

They're salad dressing containers and VERY sturdy.  I have no reason to think these won't last me for years.

They come with a white plastic inner lid meant to keep liquids from leaking.  I tossed them, I have no need for that with powder supplements, but if you do feed liquid supps, you might want to know about it.

In terms of size, they're not enormous.  Here's a picture with my fairly small running watch for scale:

And here's a picture with them loaded with one scoop of U7 and a loading dose of Cosequin.  It's hard to tell in the photo, but this makes them about 2/3rds full.  You're not going to fit five different supplements in these things, but if your horse is on just one or two, they're a great option.

Technically they hold four tablespoons or 1/4 cup.

I set it up to where my trainer twists the lid off, dumps it, and then puts the empty in a bag hanging outside the tack room.  It's no extra work for her than Smartpaks were, and it's not been bad for me either.  Even if I have to make up all 12 of them it only takes a couple of minutes, and I'll cheerfully pay with my time in order to save some money and not deal with Smartpaks anymore.

Bottom line: If you're tired of paying for and using Smartpaks and only feed a couple of supplements, these containers are a great, durable long-term choice for supplement feeding.

What: Salad Dressing Condiment Containers (6-Pack); 2-Ounce To-Go Plastic Mini Food Storage Jars for Lunch Boxes; Carry Up to 4 Tablespoons
Quantity/Price: $9.99 for 6
Where to buy: Amazon

June 8, 2019

Saddle for Sale

Anyone know of any small adults or children that are in the market for a great Dressage saddle?  16" short flap Adam Ellis, marked MW but it's a W after being professionally widened in 2018. $1200 but very negotiable especially to a deserving junior.

Stamped MW but widened to W professionally in 2018.

Flocking professionally adjusted in 2018

The only blemish, these two faint scratches on the cantle that were there when I bought it

June 7, 2019

25 Questions from Viva Carlos

1. What is the first thing you do when you get to the barn?

Yell "Hi Con!" as I'm walking in the door.  He always nickers real loud at me in response, and then I give him a peppermint.  (Am I bribing this nickering behavior, yes, most definitely, but it's still movies-level cute.)

2. Is their a breed that you would never own?
Probably something gaited?  I love borrowing gaited horses for trail riding but sport-wise they're just not my jam.

3. Describe your last ride?
The trial ride for the CWD saddle, which I did after hauling Connor to Cincy and back and having a  lesson there so needless to say (and understandably) Connor was not into playing my reindeer games for that ride.

4. Have any irrational riding fears?
Just coming off in general.  It's been so long since I came off anything, I almost don't even remember how that works.

5. Describe your favorite lesson horse?
Taylor, in college.  She introduced me to how amazing it feels to be properly sized to the horse underneath you, and gave me a confidence I never knew I could have.  RIP little horse.

6. Would you ever lease out your horse?
Oh most definitely if the right person came along.

7. Mares: Yay or neigh?
Pass.  I get along so well with boys in every aspect of my life, it'd be a real hard sell to convince me to own a mare.

8. How many time per week do you get to see your horse?
Am I traveling in this hypothetical scenario?  If I'm home, every single day with very few exceptions.  Since he only lives 9 minutes away I feel so guilty if I don't at least pick his feet out.  If I'm traveling, never.

9. Favorite thing to do on an “easy day” with your pony?
Hack out in the big field, although I would do almost anything to have access to some legit trails.

10. Conformational flaw that bothers you the most?
Bad feet, small feet, shelly feet, upright feet, coon feet, thin feet...you get the idea. 

11. Thing about your riding that you’re most self conscious about?
My tendency to be backwards. 

12. Will you be participating in no stirrup November?

13. What is your grooming routine?

Before a ride:

  1. Curry with grooming gloves
  2. Stiff brush
  3. Flicker brush
  4. Tigers Tongue
After a ride:
  1. Curry with green rubber curry
  2. Stiff brush
  3. Soft brush 

14. Describe a day in the life of your horse?
Currently it's: come in from night turnout, breakfast, stand under a fan napping all day, get ridden, eat dinner, night turnout. 

15. Favorite season for riding?
The last two weeks of September are statistically the most beautiful in Indiana (there's actual data to back this up).  The sunlight is beautiful, the sky is a deep cloudless blue, the grass and trees are still green, the temperatures are reasonable and Connor has amazing dapples.  That's the best time of the year for horse things.

16. If you could only have 1 ring: indoor or outdoor?
Indoor with lots of ventilation!

17. What impresses you most about the opposite discipline (english vs. western)?
That they're so chill with cows.  I know they're bred and then conditioned for it, but man, my horse would not be okay with that.

18. You have unlimited funds to buy one entire tack set for your horse, what is he/she wearing?
Whatever makes him most comfortable, seriously.

19. How many blankets do you have? When do you blanket?
Stable sheet - Shows only
Turnout sheet - 45F-55F
Light liner - Added to sheet between the upper 30's and 45F
Medium blanket - Don't use this much
Medium liner - Used between 25F-upper 30's
Heavy blanket - He pretty much lives in this if it's below 25F
Ultra heavy with neck 400g - He's uncomfortably warm in this above like 15F, but below that this is a super useful blanket

20. What is your horse’s favorite treat? Favorite place to be scratched?
Peppermints, and his face!  His loooooves having his face curried.  He also loves having the inside of his ears scratched.

21. Something about your barn that drives you crazy?
Nothing?  I really have no complaints now that he's so close to me!  I wish we had more storage space and I wish we had access to trails, but both of this can be dealt with.

22. Roached manes, pulled manes, or long flowing manes?
Pulled for sure. 

23. Can you handle a buck or a rear better?
I don't think I've ever ridden a rear, and it's been years since I rode a real good buck, but I'm SUPER good at riding a spook in place!

24. I would never buy a horse who ___________________?
Cribs. I pride myself on being low maintenance for my BM/trainer, I would be so embarrassed if he stood there and destroyed the facility all day.

25. Favorite facial marking?
Castleberrys Echo's Sneetch blaze 😂