Friday, 20 September 2019

Dressage Volunteer of the Month

Earlier this month I was named Equestrian Canada's Dressage Volunteer of the Month. Here is the press release:
https://www.equestrian.ca/news/sfFajwZe3dNpdq9gX/siobhan-o-connor-named-dressage

A fellow member of the CC/ADA (Chinook Country area group of the Alberta Dressage Association) was the one who nominated me and I had no idea until people who had seen the mass email from Equestrian Canada started congratulating me on Facebook (to be fair, someone from EC had emailed me to give me a heads up the day before but it was the weekend and I was busy trail riding my horse so I didn't see the email until the next day). I think it's a little funny that they say the photo was provided by me because it wasn't (but I don't mind).

I am super honoured and humbled by this award. I have worked hard at building a dressage community in my area but there are so many other deserving people who should be recognized as well. I especially want to recognize that all the people in the CC/ADA have been amazing and have provided so much support, often without me even needing to ask. The CC/ADA is based in Lethbridge which is a couple hours away from me, their area technically includes the whole southern part of the province but in practical terms their sphere of influence was much smaller. In early 2017 I approached them about the show I was trying to organize, wanting to see if we could cooperate to cross-promote our shows. At that time all I was really hoping for was some help in spreading the word about my show, but they came back and offered so very much more. Not only did they promote my show, they made it an official CC/ADA show which meant I could use their insurance and tap into casino funding from the club to help pay for the judge. They also invited me onto the board in the newly made position of representative for my city. That support has continued and they have also helped me in other ways over the last three years. I enjoy spending time with all the ladies at our AGM or when I go to shows in Lethbridge or Claresholm. I could not ask to be part of a better team so thank you!



Thank you also to the blogging community. Starting this blog has been a great way to organize my thoughts and it really encouraged me to get more involved and volunteer. Sometimes I would start writing a post complaining about how I couldn't do something and that would turn into me figuring out how I could.

The view from C - volunteering as a scribe is always worth it! 


I don't know if many people are nominated each month for this award. It is a nice program to provide recognition though (it came with a certificate, an EC pin, and a $25 gift certificate to the EC website) so if you know any good volunteers in your area please consider nominating them. Even if I didn't have much competition for this award I am honestly prouder of this than I would be for a riding award and I will treasure it.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

A Re-Introduction

Hello, I am your friendly neighbourhood writer of AutonomousDressage, I know it's been a long time since we last met so you may not remember me :-P

My name is Siobhan and I am an amateur rider in my early thirties, struggling slowly through the dressage levels with my 17 year old grade pinto mare Kachina. Slowly is a key trend around here as I got Kachina in 2014 and we are still not done with Training Level (we showed both Training Level and First Level this season). However in that time I have learned so much about the sport of dressage. Way back in 2012 I was schooling 2nd Level on my first horse Ellie, but looking back there were a lot of holes in my understanding. When I got Kachina after Ellie passed away, I learned that I had really been a one-horse rider and I had to acquire a whole new set of tools for working with Kachina, especially because, while Kachina is sensitive and tries hard, she was pretty green when I got her and almost all of her riding experience was on trails. I called my blog AutonomousDressage because I didn't have access to a regular trainer and had to figure out a lot of things on my own. There is still no regular dressage trainer in my area so creativity is still sometimes required but over the years I have been able to connect with some great clinicians, other dressage riders and not-for-profit organizations that have been of tremendous help. There is now a fledgling dressage community in my area and I hope to see it continue to grow.

Kachina and myself at the CC/ADA Summer Dressage Show in June 2019

I've previously gone by SarahO on this blog but Siobhan is my actual name. Siobhan (pronounced Shi-vawn) is not exactly phonetic so for years I've used a pseudonym of Sarah for little things like Starbucks orders, booking taxis, restaurant reservations, etc. I chose to use Sarah on this blog as well, partially for simplicity, and partially for anonymity. I grew up in the time where kids were told to never use our real names or locations on the internet and that has kind of stuck with me. I of course share photos and real stories about my riding life so I'm not fully anonymous, but I initially liked that people would have to do more of their own homework/already be part of the local horse scene to figure out my identity. I started reading blogs to get training tips and insights into dressage when I was sorely lacking in education opportunities. I started this blog to be able to participate in the blogging community. I still have somewhat mixed feelings about how much one should share with the internet (and will continue to be careful about some aspects of my life), but I've also seen the power of what communication and making connections can create. Through reaching out to horse people, in real life and on Facebook, I have made many new friends, found out about clinics to ride in and organized a few of my own, became part of the Alberta Dressage Association, and I also successfully started the first dressage show in my town which has now run for 3 years and counting. As my dressage profile has grown in real life and as I have started to feel closer to some fellow bloggers, the partial divide between my two identities has started to feel more awkward and less comforting. I've been thinking these thoughts for a while now but a recent press release about me and some soon-to-be-published recognized scores of mine are the reason for making this change at this time (blog posts about both are coming!). I want this blog to be an extension of who I am in real life, not just a separate semi-anonymous depository for horse stories. So with that in mind: Hello, I'm Siobhan, writer of AutonomousDressage, nice to meet/re-meet you!


Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Blog Hop: 10 Questions for September

I can't believe it's been more than 5 months since I last posted. It's not that I haven't been doing blogworthy things, in fact I have been riding lots, have gone to multiple events and have more media than ever.

I fell off the blogging train because of being super busy with work in the spring (like being at work from 6am-1:30am kind of busy), something had to give so I gave my notice and went straight into a new job but adjusting to a new role in a new company has been a different kind of busy. Things have somewhat settled now but being away from blogging is a vicious cycle, the longer it has been since my last post the harder it is to know where to start again.

I have so so many things I want to share but I'm going to start simple, with a nice and easy blog hop courtesy of L.Williams.


1. Favorite quirk your horse (or a horse you’ve spent time with) has?

I know it's not really a good thing and I have been working on having other people handle Kachina but part of me kind of loves how Kachina will walk up to me but is almost uncatcheable for other people. 

2. Three adjectives that perfectly describe your horse?

Hardworking, sensitive, submissive

3. Plan your next ride. What will you do/work on?

I want to do some work on canter transitions and cantering in general where I focus on keeping my seat in the saddle and my upper body back and centered. This has been a focus for the last while and it is helping a ton so I want to keep at it. I also want to go back and reinstall the fundamentals for lengthenings, this is likely to make Kachina over-reactive initially and things will probably get worse before they get better so I wanted to wait until after my last show.  

My go-to canter position: tipped forward, seat out of saddle, lower leg forward
I am working really hard to not do these things


4. Have you ever trained an OTTB? If yes, what was the biggest challenge?

No, though I have ridden a few while horse shopping. They were all quite different from each other. 


5. Have you ever groomed or worked for a professional rider?

No, I think it would be an amazing experience and part of me would love to do it, but a bigger part of me likes the stability of my current non-equestrian career and realizes that what I am doing now is more capable of financially supporting my amateur horse-habit. 


6. Favorite horse and rider combination?

My favorite riders are generally ones who can recreate the same kind of harmony with multiple types of horses.


7. Have you ever ridden a horse at the beach?

I did a beach ride on a horse in Mexico once but I always feel a little awkward riding in those type of tourist trail rides. I would love to ride my own horse on the beach but the 1300km separating us from the ocean makes that unlikely. 

Does a riverbank count as a beach lol?


8. If you could experience the equestrian community (i.e. ride and compete) in another country, what country would you choose and why?

I would ride in Ireland. My family is Irish and I like connecting with that part of my heritage. Plus riding out in the country there is so physically different from here (no snow, no gopher holes, entirely different kind of grass, higher density of horses, etc). I would be scared to encounter traffic on their narrow twisty roads though. 

Who wouldn't want to ride in this idyllic place

9. In your opinion, what is an item of tack that is given unnecessary hype?

Horse boots or wraps for dressage. I understand that some horses benefit from them due to interference etc. but I do not understand why they are so ubiquitous. 

10. What was the first horse you rode called? Are they still alive?

The first horse I rode (sat on would be a more apt description) was one of my cousin's broodmares. I don't know her name. She would not be alive anymore considering that was 24 years ago and she was not a young horse. 


Monday, 1 April 2019

2019 Q1 Goal Check Up

I decided not to do quarterly goals this year but instead I will do quarterly updates on my annual/ultimate goals. Here's how Q1 went:


Ultimate Goal #1
Be fair to my horse, both on a day-to-day basis and ensuring her future health and happiness

2019 Goal #1A
Make Kachina a more solid citizen so her future is protected in case my circumstances change.

What we've done this quarter
  • We've made improvements in both dressage and jumping under saddle. The jumping definitely helps Kachina become more marketable for either being sold or used in a lesson program. To be clear, I am not planning to get rid of Kachina, this is just to guard against future uncertainty. 
  • Changing up Kachina's bridle has made her easier to bridle which is an important life skill.
  • I did a ground work session with a new horsemanship trainer at my barn. I'm not sure all her suggested exercises will work for us but I got a few solid tips. 
  • I signed Kachina up to have someone catch her 2-3 times a week for the month of April, just to bring her in, feed her and let her out again. Hopefully this will give Kachina positive associations towards being handled by new people. 

2019 Goal #1B
Be fair to Kachina on a day-to-day basis and look after her well-being

What we've done this quarter
  • The cold weather necessitated trimming Kachina in the barn on a day where she would be alone inside. I knew this would be stressful for her so my farrier and I talked and we made the decision to drug her (oral dormosedan) to make it a calmer experience. The meds took longer to kick in than we were expecting but it ultimately worked well. I now have two tubes on hand that can be used in the future if needed. 
  • I listened to Kachina about her growing dislike for the Micklem bridle and set up a new bridle for her which is working very well for both bridling and riding. 
  • I attended hoof and mouth presentations at my vet's education day so I am a more educated owner.
  • I bought some Excel EQ to add to Kachina's diet in the hopes that it might benefit her, jury is still out on health benefits but she does like the taste. 
  • I started ignoring some of Kachina's less harmful behaviour in the barn to make our grooming and tack-up routine less drawn out. It's not that I'm giving up on groundwork, instead I am simply recognizing that spending too much time trying to redirect tense behaviours just adds to the tension and I need to pick my battles. 
  • I've increased my generosity with treats. 

All of the above choices seem to be putting me on a better path. Kachina still has deeply ingrained tension inside the barn but she has shown some improvements like she will now finish 80% of her food in her stall before she paws her food pan away (before it was generally less than 50%).


Ultimate Goal #2
Enjoy horses and riding

2019 Goal #2
Find my horsey joy as much as possible

What we've done this quarter
  • Relaxing some of my ground work focus has made trips to the barn less stressful for me as well
  • I have made the decision to ride more often than doing ground work and riding is really fun right now
  • In a few of my jumping lessons I have requested pole work as I freaking love pole work

I still have not figured out any fun specific winter activities. It was a freakishly cold February and while there is an open field at the barn, I am scared to ride in the snow because of hidden gopher and badger holes. Luckily the end of winter is finally within sight.


Ultimate Goal #3
Make a positive impact to the horse and dressage community

2019 Goal #3
Make a positive impact to the horse and dressage community in 2019

What we've done this quarter
  • Participated in meetings for the CC/ADA and ADA
  • Started some show organizing prep

I've been slacking on this goal this quarter and have done the bare minimum. Time to step it up for the rest of the year. 


Ultimate Goal #4
Work through the Dressage Levels to reach Prix St. George, achieving scores of 63% or higher under high level judges

2019 Goal #4
Achieve a score of 63% or higher at First Level and start schooling Second Level

What we've done this quarter
  • Increased number of dressage-focused rides (compared to Q4 last year)
  • Had monthly clinics with Elaine.
  • Focused on homework between clinics.
  • Videoed some of my rides and determined my weaknesses myself (upper body position and posting mechanic) and took initiative to ask for help on those things.
  • Improved my feel for how round is "round enough".
  • Improved my posting mechanic.
  • Improved my upper body position in the sitting trot.
  • Improved my hand and arm position.
  • Re-introduced shoulder-in
  • Increased number of canter transitions which is making them smoother
  • Improved my containment of the canter (influence on size and path) through canter pole work
  • Made half halt more effective through use of upper leg
  • Improved straightness of centerline halt through use of upper leg
  • Did one flying lead change over a pole (this is not something we are ready to school regularly and I don't want to mess with it but I'm thrilled Kachina showed the ability) 
  • Worked on taking up and lengthening reins more regularly (so that hopefully we can do it in a show without completely falling apart) 
  • Started some low-key counter canter practice by waiting a little longer to come down to trot if Kachina picked up the wrong lead after a jump
  • Started riding tests and test movements again (just in March)

I still definitely need to do a lot more test riding and practice actual test movements but our basics are improving and it is showing in the consistency of our rides these days.


Ultimate Goal #5
Become a dressage judge

2019 Goal #5
Make some progress towards my recorded judge application

What we've done this quarter
  • Nothing

I have no progress to report here but that's okay at this point


Ultimate Goal #6
Achieve some competitive success in riding (what that looks like may vary from year to year)

2019 Goal #6A
Earn an ADA Horse and Rider recognition award (63%+ at 3 rated shows)

2019 Goal #6B
Start earning scores towards Bronze Medal (65%+ at Silver or Gold show)

What we've done this quarter
  • See progress for Goal #4 as well
  • EC Horse Recording for Kachina has been completed (requirement for Silver or Gold shows)
  • EC Gold Sport License purchased
  • Payed and signed up for lifetime EC Dressage Award Registration (needed to do before any scores can count towards medal)
  • Planned 2019 show season including Gold shows and more than 3 rated shows
  • Submitted vacation requests at work for Fridays prior to planned show weekends 
  • Discussed level to show at with Elaine

This goal setup really helped me to stay focused on what was important this quarter and I feel like we made some good progress!

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Vet Learning Day

My vet's office held a client appreciation learning day last month and I went for a few hours to watch the teeth and hoof presentations.

The oral health presentation didn't tell me much that I didn't know but it did confirm for me that I will always get my vet to float my horse's teeth rather than the questionable "equine dentists" that travel around (I got taken in by one of these a few years ago despite trying to do my due diligence, they do talk a good game, but I know better now). My vet did the presentation herself and she is clearly up to date with recent research about impact of different types of tools on the health of the tooth and that's something I appreciate.

Presentation was set up in the cattle handling side of the clinic

The foot presentation was very interesting to me. I never did catch the presenter's name but he is a farrier from Florida. As well as working on many competitive horses, he is also the farrier that a few veterinary hospitals refer to for corrective shoeing so he has seen a lot.

I'm in Alberta, so of course cowboy hats were aplenty

He went over a lot during his presentation but these are the points I wrote down that really struck me as new or interesting:

  • No bone in back 1/3 of hoof
  • Hoof wall is malleable, it distorts
  • Heel and toe should be same angle
  • Only finite number of fibers in wall around foot, so any distortion takes fibers away from the heel
  • String line from cannon bone should hit foot at ground level
  • Shoeing is a process, not an event (i.e. takes more than one cycle)
  • Finger width back from tip of frog should be the center of the hoof
  • Shape of foot should be the same at the coronary band and the bottom of the hoof, otherwise there is distortion
  • Hind feet and front feet are generally different shapes (look at photo of front shoe vs back shoe)
Top is hind shoe, bottom is front shoe
  • Navicular is a created problem (horses aren't born with it)
  • Hoof, pastern and shoulder should all be same angle
  • Frog doesn't distort so it is a good reference for straightness and symmetry of foot
  • Natural balance shoe (shoe with corners) causes collateral ligament damage
  • Rocker in shoe is helpful for horse with a "broken back hoof-pastern angle" - gives immediate relief but eventually want to improve shape of hoof
  • Heart bar shoe good for horse with distorted feet and under-run heels
  • Interference can be caused by bad shoeing
  • Front of hoof should be at least 3.25" long from coronary band to ground (because the bone structures etc. need at least that much room)
  • Can't straighten a crooked leg in an adult horse, only when they are very young (talking about windswept horses)
  • A rasp will last about 1 week for a full time farrier
  • It is most cost and time effective to use pre-made shoes rather than making them from scratch
  • Be wary of farriers trained using a 6 week program as it means they can't see cause and effect of shoeing the same horse over multiple cycles. 

At the end of the presentation he did some Q&A and I asked him about his thoughts regarding barefoot vs. shod. His answer was one that I had never considered before. He said that barefoot was fine, but when you have hoof problems that you are correcting with a trim, a barefoot horse will wear down their hoof to "get their problems back" but when you trim and stick a shoe on, the problem stays fixed for 5-6 weeks. You have a much better chance of creating lasting change to the foot when you use shoes. While obviously a bit simplified that was one of the most intelligent and concise answers I have ever heard about the shoes/barefoot debate. I plan to keep Kachina barefoot for the time being as it is working for us but it will give me a better way to assess in the future if we need to add shoes. He also said that he thinks it is fine to shoe only up front or only on the hinds depending on the horse's needs. 


After the talk portion he then did a quick demo trim on one of the vet's own horses.


The crowd watching

Midway through, right feet trimmed, left not touched yet

Overall it was a really good learning day and I'm glad I went! Does your vet or farrier ever put on presentations like this?

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

February Clinic with Elaine

I had another two lessons with Elaine on the last weekend of February.

Since the last clinic in January I have really been working on using my upper legs in my half halt and down transitions, and also using my inside rein more to supple Kachina. Both of those things have been going well.

This time around we added a few new things to work on.

First, we worked on improving Kachina's roundness and uphill balance by keeping the reins very steady and letting Kachina find the softness in the contact herself. When it worked I could feel Kachina slow down and become more deliberate with her steps. Elaine assured me that Kachina was lifting her withers at these moments and loved what it did to her walk and trot. I felt the deliberateness more than the lift so I will have to keep training my feel.

Next, I requested that Elaine help me with my upper body position. I have been pleased with the improvement in my hand and leg positions over the last couple years but my upper body still tilts forward despite years of work. Every time I think it's where it's supposed to be, video or photos prove me wrong.

First, we worked on it while posting because that's where I can feel myself that I get thrown out of whack. Elaine had me think about pushing the top of my head up into a shelf above me. That's such a simple visual but it's exactly what I needed! Somehow being told to "straighten up", "shoulders back" or "think tall" would tend to make me arch my back too much, but thinking of "pushing" into something above me had me think "up" + "strong" and that seemed to be the trick to having me keep my upper body straighter while still keeping my core engaged properly. This also tied into me holding the reins more still and letting Kachina find the release herself. As an overcorrection from my previous pulling, I now try to release too much to Kachina and I do so by compromising my own arm and upper body position. I can keep my position much better if I focus on keeping my elbows by my sides. It did feel at times like I was too stiff in the contact but Elaine said it only feels stiff in relation to what I was doing before, I still naturally have some elasticity in my arms and that's all I need so that's the feel I need to look for right now.

The other part of posting that we focused on was resisting the movement a bit by slowing my posting. Elaine had me think of tightening a screw to stiffen my hip joint and that was another good visual for me. Doing that had an immediate effect on Kachina and her trot slowed. We even did some work of posting into walk, where I kept slowing my posting down until we were walking.

Next we worked on sitting trot. I know where my upper body should be in the walk so I assumed that my upper body was correct if I recreated that feeling at the sitting trot. Wrong! Elaine had me lean back, lean back, and lean back some more before she let me know that I was straight. It honestly felt like I was leaning back in a beach lounger. Correct at the trot feels MUCH farther back than correct at the walk. I don't know why this is but that doesn't really matter. What matters is that I know the feeling I am looking for now. Having my upper body in the correct place made my legs swing forward a bit and I lost some of the pressure in my stirrups but that's okay for now. Once my upper body position feels more natural I can go back to fixing my leg. Part of the reason I can't get both correct right now is likely due to my tight hip flexors so I need to work on those. I haven't done a lot of sitting trot lately but my seat still knows how to absorb and go with the motion so it didn't feel too bad.

During the lesson, there was quite a bit of time where I was 100% focused on my position and didn't have any brain power to use on what Kachina was doing. That meant we lost the bend a few times etc. but for the most part Kachina went around very nicely even while I wasn't actively riding. I guess this is what is meant by "baseline gaits" and it seems like ours are improving.

All of these things were covered in the first lesson. The second lesson didn't add a whole lot but helped me both clarify some of these concepts in my mind and also helped me to cement the new position feelings into my body so I could recreate it on my own. We didn't even canter that weekend (which I was a bit disappointed about) but it was still very valuable.

At the end of my second lesson I took a few minutes to ask a question I have been wanting to ask for a while. I started by saying that it was a great weekend and I really appreciated working on these basics. I know that basics are so important but ultimately I do also want to show and compete. I asked Elaine what level she saw me showing in 2019. I was careful to not lead the question by including my hopes, I wanted an honest answer even if it wasn't what I wanted to hear. Secretly I feared that Elaine would tell me that we were finally ready to show Training Level, after all our lessons include a lot of 20m circles. I was pleasantly surprised when she said that we had come a long way since she first saw us; she could see us at First Level now and that Second Level wouldn't be too far away. I think that may of been a slightly optimistic response but I will take it and work to make it a reality!

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Short and Sweet

I am a rider who generally has fairly long rides. They average about 53 minutes long. Throughout the years I have found that Kachina does well with long warmups, multiple repetitions, frequent long walk breaks and a long cool out, all of which adds up to a long ride. I don't ride every day and my rides do have a lot of breaks which limits the physical and mental demands. Kachina has a great work ethic so the long rides don't bore her or burn her out, and they give her time to release the tension she naturally has.

Last night I got to the barn later than normal so I only had time for a quick ride before the arena lights would automatically shut off and plunge us into darkness (it's happened to me before, it's a very effective way of making sure boarders don't overstay their welcome lol). It was a good ride, we worked on getting Kachina rounded and lifted and I worked on both my posting mechanic and my upper body position in sitting trot. We did all of that in 25 minutes.

The best ears
(It's blurry because her walk is pretty forward and active
and over her back even during cool out, can't complain about that!)

I looked at my watch after our first bit of really nice trot and realized that we were only 8 minutes into the ride! Progress seems glacial sometimes but the fact that Kachina and I could achieve similar quality work to our last lesson in only 8 minutes speaks volumes to how far we have come. I still like long slow warm-ups but we no longer need them. Mentally and physically Kachina knows her job and comes out ready to do it. My own aids are more effective and I need less time to communicate to Kachina what I am asking from her.

I tend to just do ground work or let Kachina loose in the arena on days where feel like I don't have enough time to ride, but I think I need to re-evaluate that, turns out we can have a great ride even when we are short on time.

Thursday, 28 February 2019

My Wish List

My company's profit sharing plan is finally going to have a payout this year. 2018 was the first year in 5 years where we made enough money to trigger a bonus. It won't be life-changing money but I am excited for a little extra cash in the near future and of course I am already plotting horse related things to do with it. I absolutely cannot buy or do all the things so I will have to make some tough decisions, but for fun, here are some of the things I am dreaming of:

New Bridle

The Micklem is no longer working for us and my only other bridle is a hand me down that really doesn't fit Kachina well so this is high on the list. Of course bridles have a huge price range so do I get something cheaper but serviceable so I still have money for other fun things or do I get a bridle to rule all bridles? Bridle shopping will likely have a whole separate post

Gold Shows

This doesn't satisfy my grabby hands or give me instant gratification the way a purchase would, but I have avoided gold rated dressage shows in the past for financial reasons and I could put this money towards a larger show fund for 2019. Part of me thinks this would be a great use of the money as it would give me a great goal to work towards in my riding. However, on the other hand, a show is only one weekend (which may go badly), but a saddle pad is forever ;-)

Saddle Pads/Matchy Matchy Stuff

I have a saddle pad addiction and this would be a purely indulgent purchase. Btw, I discovered the group Saddle Pads Anonymous on FB and it is amazing! Some contenders:

Back on Track navy saddle pad
- A nice navy pad (which would match my existing fly hood) plus potential cold back relief in one!


Equestrian Stockholm Ice Blue
- a brand I discovered on FB page, this saddle pad plus this jacket plus this ear net plus these polos. (update, since first starting this post they are already sold out of this shade but I have some feelers out for used ones)


PS of Sweden Emerald
- This pad plus matching accessories, I have always been partial to a nice deep green

Saddle Pad Monogram Emerald Dressage



Ogilvy Baby Blue
https://www.ogilvyequestrian.com/en/store/product/dressage-profile-pad
Image result for ogilvy baby blue dressage


BR Event Dressage Pad

You may notice a trend of pale blue here, that is because I think it will go amazing with Kachina's eyes.


These are some of the top possibilities but I actually have a bunch of browser tabs open at the moment showing so many different pretty pads and I am still far from making up my mind.

Matching riding shirts - I don't normally ride with boots or polos on Kachina so matching shirt to saddle pad is key!

Technology

Trailer Camera

Horse Fitness Tracker - Equisense, Equestic or equivalent. I like the design of the Equestic, but I'm not great at always wearing my human fitness tracker so I have to ask myself if I would really use the horse one enough to benefit from it.

https://www.equestic.com/


Pixio or Soloshot Camera


Breeches

I currently have 5 pairs of breeches that fit: 1 pair are my show whites, 1 black riding tights, 1 green winter breeches, 1 fun fox head full seats, and 1 brown knee patch breeches. This is workable but since some of them are specialized I would really benefit from one more pair of multi-purpose (everyday plus clinic) breeches in a conservative colour. Bonus if breeches match saddle pads etc. I also could use a second pair of show breeches especially since I mostly compete in two-day shows. I don't want to buy too many breeches though because I do hope to lose weight eventually. 

My brown breeches are Horze Grand Prix and those are by far my favourite pair so this is likely the style I would go with.



Blankets


Horseware Blanket Liners - I appreciate some other blogger reviews and I think adding a liner would make my blanket collection more flexible and versatile especially now that I'm clipping.

Education

I already devote a fairly large budget to becoming a better rider, but some extras I could buy would be

Mane Event clinic with Jaimey Irwin

Mary Wanless Books or DVDs

Other educational books or videos


What would you get if you were me?

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Cold Weather Pause

I live in Alberta, this is not a place where you can be a fair weather rider if you have goals and want to progress. Winter pretty much lasts 6 months of the year so we make use of warm clothes, good winter boots, indoor arenas, horse blankets and coolers, and go and ride anyways.

These temps are not fun though

Look at the ceiling that the vapour from nearby industrial facilities is hitting,
you can actually see the temperature inversion in the air

There are limits though. In the last two weeks we have had 7 days with temperatures below -30C (-22F). At those temperatures I haven't felt like it is fair to ride Kachina. She has a bib clip and we have an indoor arena to work in but she does not tolerate staying in her stall to dry off and so I don't want her to get hot or sweaty when she has to go back outside in that degree of cold. I have been out a few times to make sure her blankets are warm enough, give her a chance to stretch her legs by turning her out in the indoor arena, etc. but the hard work will wait until it warms up a little bit (there is a big difference even between -20 and -30C).

I spent one day doing some much needed TLC on Kachina's tail

We've all been lounging around and doing a lot of eating,
me on the couch, Kachina at the round bale
She is happy to see me even when her eyelashes are frozen ice

The last time I was out to check on Kachina I brought our dog Aegir to the barn for the first time (it was a quiet part of the day so I wouldn't disturb people). Unfortunately it is going to take a lot of work to make Aegir a barn dog. He seemed to think that he had to protect me from the large horse monsters and was barking and lunging at them when they came to the fence. We walked around a bit and he eventually calmed down when passing horses but he still wasn't relaxed enough to actually meet them and I had to lock him in a stall to go get Kachina. He did help me carry my saddle pads to the barn from the car though!

Pro-tip, buy a dog big enough to keep your saddle pads out of the snow when
you are carrying a bag of feed

This past weekend was the Family Day long weekend and my husband and I went to visit my in-laws to go ice fishing! We didn't catch anything but we did see a few fish under the ice and it was a cool experience (my husband used to go regularly with his dad but this was my first time trying it). It was kind of nice that the weekend was so cold because it meant I wasn't as sad to miss out on a long weekend of riding.

The ice was a solid 2' thick

It was a busy day on the lake despite the cold

Driving back to shore

Winter is far from over but the forecast for this weekend is a more average -10C so that will be nice, especially because we have another clinic with Elaine coming up this weekend. Hopefully this cold weather pause will end soon and we can get back to show season prep!

I hope everyone else had a good weekend or long weekend!

Friday, 15 February 2019

Bridle Change



If you were observant you may have noticed Kachina rocking a different bridle in the canter pole media.

See it?

Kachina is fairly fussy with her mouth and has a bit of a strange shaped head (short from nose to poll but wide around the nose, I think she would look very block-headed it it weren't for her markings). Both of these things led me to getting a Micklem bridle for her back in 2015 and mostly sticking with that.

In the Micklem at a show in April 2016

I do like the Micklem in general and would buy it again, but there are a couple things that have been bothering me lately. First, Kachina has been fighting me more to put the bridle on, especially when I go to buckle up the nosebands (though I keep them quite loose). This has made me wonder if she is expressing displeasure over that particular bridle. Second, the Micklem has an integrated flash equivalent. I am not opposed to flashes and I actually like that the Micklem design provides this function without dragging the noseband down as much as some conventional flashes; however, I do think that a flash is a tool and like any tool it is important to sometimes get rid of it to see if the training is improving or if you are starting to rely on the tool as a crutch, i.e. is Kachina actually learning to hold the bit in her mouth or is her fussiness just reduced because of the bridle? Unlike a conventional bridle, you cannot remove the flash component from a Micklem so I had no way to test this without changing bridles entirely.

No way to remove lower strap

With those things in mind, I spent some time cleaning bridles the other day and switching Kachina to my old conventional dressage bridle without the noseband. Why did I remove the noseband? Two reasons: 1) I want to work on bridling with Kachina and it is nice to get some of the extra straps out of the way at least temporarily, and 2) This bridle was from my last horse (an anglo-arab with a very different shaped head) so the noseband really doesn't fit Kachina well. The cheekpieces of this bridle are on their last hole so that isn't a great fit either but I wanted to try the bridle I already owned before buying a new one.

Old photo of Kachina in this bridle
Noseband on loosest hole and everything else tightened almost all the way up

This isn't the first time I've tried a different bridle since first switching to the Micklem. Sometimes changes have been disasterous (like to show western dressage in 2017 as written about here), and sometimes it has been less eventful, but I've always ended up going back to the Micklem. It's been a long time since I last did a bridle experiment though and our training has progressed so it seemed like a good time to try again.

This wasn't a good ride, but I do like how she looks with no noseband

I also put a new bit on the new bridle. I know that it isn't great to change bit and bridle all at once but this new bit is the exact same shape as my old one (a super fat single-jointed eggbutt snaffle), just copper instead of stainless steel, so I felt it was a small enough change. I bought this bit a few months ago and have been meaning to switch it in for a while.

An old pic of my old bit

The first time I used the new bridle I lunged her in it a little to get her used to the feel before mounting up. I did a fairly easy ride to start, focusing on being very mindful with my hands and using my legs and seat wherever possible. Kachina got a little high-headed to start the first time she felt contact on the bit but she settled quickly.

The second time we rode in the new bridle was for my weekly jump lesson. For this particular lesson we did trot pole and canter pole work. I asked my instructor for her thoughts on the new set up and she liked it, she thought Kachina seemed a little more relaxed in the contact and while she opened her mouth sometimes she would then chew and softly close.

I have had a handful of rides with this bridle now and in general I am liking it. In the new set up, especially with zero noseband at all, I am very conscious of the fact that my hands have an even more direct impact on Kachina's mouth. It has made me more mindful of my hands and that is a good thing. Bridling has also been less drama which both Kachina and I appreciate. I will continue to ride in this configuration for a while at least.

Of course, in dressage, one must have a noseband to show (it's in the rules, though the reasoning isn't super clear to me). That means I will be bridle shopping in the near future which may warrant a separate post. In the mean time let me know if you have any suggestions for what would both function well and look nice on Kachina's wide white snout.