Tuesday 29 November 2016

To Clip

I've never body clipped a horse before. I tend towards wanting my horses to be able to live as naturally as possible. That said, I've never had a horse who is as hairy or sweaty as Kachina. Her sweat is impacting how much work we can do in the winter, and so I've been considering jumping on the clipping bandwagon. Half the horses at the dressage clinic this weekend were clipped and it made me think about it more.

Fuzzy yak

I had this whole long post written up yesterday "To Clip or Not to Clip?", and was planning to ask you guys for your thoughts. However, as I was laying out all the facts, I realized that I could answer that question myself. Reviewing old posts of other bloggers who have made the transition to clipping helped me to make the decision too (thanks all, especially Cob Jockey and Bel Joeor).

So I've decided To Clip. What now?

Type of Clip

I'm leaning towards a bib clip or low trace clip. This is new to both Kachina and I so I'd rather start conservatively. We can always take more off later if we need to, but even a small clip should help a bit.

Bye-bye chest hair

Function is my top priority by far, but there is also the small issue that Kachina is a loud overo pinto and I am planning to show in March so I don't want her to look completely ridiculous. There are shockingly few pictures of clipped pintos online, and I'm not sure how clip lines are going to look with her pattern.

What to Clip With

I don't own clippers. My first response to solve this problem was to go look at clippers on sale for Cyber Monday. After reading tons of reviews and looking at the different brands, I decided that was a silly plan. This is my first time clipping. I don't know how well it's going to work for us, and I only have one horse who will be clipped once or twice a year; it doesn't make sense for me to spend a few hundred dollars right away on brand new clippers. So what am I going to do instead?

Plan A 

Hire someone to clip for me. This is the best plan because I don't have to get clippers myself, and it also gets me an experienced person who knows what they are doing. I asked around and got the name of one lady in the area who clips horses. I've made initial contact and I'm hopeful that this plan will work.

Plan B

Borrow clippers. A friend has said that I can borrow her clippers if I want. (I thought her clippers died on her recently which is why I wasn't looking at this option originally, but I guess she got them going again).

Plan C

I also found someone local who is selling a second-hand pair of clippers - Oster Clipmasters. I know from reviews that these aren't considered the best option, but the price is right and so it might be worth going this route if Plan A and B fall through.

How to Clip

Even if I have a clippers, there's a few barriers to actually using it:

  1. To my knowledge, Kachina has never been clipped before. Some desensitization is probably going to be required. Keep in mind that I don't currently have access to clippers so I can't start getting her used to them.
  2. There's no hot water at the barn and it's already cold enough that I can't bathe. I know that clipping dirty hair is not ideal, but I'm not sure how to get around this other than going back in time and thinking about this a month ago. Just use a ton of show sheen? 
  3. Location. Ideally there would be a well lit tie stall or something with well located electrical outlets. In reality, the inside of the barn is super dark with motion sensing lights that shut off periodically. I'm not sure where is best to attempt the clip job but I'm sure long extension cords are going to be part of it. 

Sweaty horses get angry eyebrows

I'm hoping that the experienced clipper in Plan A can help me figure some of this out. Apparently she has worked with a lot of first-time horses so that makes me feel better. If you have any suggestions please let me know though.

When did you first clip? What made you try it? Are you glad you did or am I making a terrible mistake (speak now or forever hold your peace ;-P )?

Monday 28 November 2016

Sandra Clinic in a Nutshell

I'm still mentally digesting the weekend, so a full recap of my rides will come later, but here's a quick overview of how the clinic went.

In a word, it was good.

This was the first time most of the participants had met Sandra, but everyone seemed to find the clinic good, and Sandra's instruction helpful. It was also a nice low-key learning environment. Sandra is very approachable and everyone in the clinic was just working on basics so it wasn't intimidating for anyone. Most people who rode have already told me that they are interested in the next clinic with her.

One happy customer

From an organizing point of view, the clinic ran well. Everyone showed up when and where they were supposed to. The schedule ran mostly on time. The facilities I had rented were as I had hoped with the footing in good shape, and nothing or nobody in our way of using it. Payment worked out as planned.

My ride times were really educational. On Saturday, Kachina was having a perfectly average day for her, not extra good, but not bad. It allowed us to show Sandra an accurate representation for where we are at right now. Sandra did see several areas of improvement in us since February. We worked on the same kind of things as before, but I was taught some extra tools within the exercises to get us that bit further. The big takeaway was to play with my fingers more. (I'll cover more details in the recap post)

Kachina after our Saturday ride - she worked up a good sweat

On Saturday evening, Sandra told me that she would like to hop on Kachina herself for the first part of my lesson on Sunday to get a feel for how she's going. As I've mentioned before, I am in zero risk of becoming too reliant on trainer rides and so I was happy to hand the reins over and watch from the ground. As soon as I caught Kachina on Sunday I could tell that she was going to have a tense day. It turned out to be one of Kachina's quintessential bad days and it worked out really well to see what happened with Sandra in the irons. First, I was interested to see that Kachina pulled almost exactly the same stuff with Sandra as she does with me. That's important because I had questioned whether some of her behavior was a result of my position or tension, but it appears that that's not the cause (or at least not the prime one). Then, I saw how Sandra dealt with Kachina's tension, giraffing and running. We are changing how we deal with Kachina's bad days, back in February we were more in teaching mode and trying to gently redirect Kachina's behavior, now she has fewer bad days and understands the program so we need to up the intensity and tell Kachina that she's not allowed to throw away her frame every time she feels like it. Sandra introduced this new plan while she was riding and Kachina was not happy about it. She threw in some evasions that she hasn't used in months, but eventually settled to her fate. By that time Kachina had already worked pretty hard so I only rode for a few minutes at the end to get a feel.

For the most part, the clinic went well. There were only two negative things: 1. Despite people telling me they were interested, zero auditors showed up. 2. Nobody was around during my rides to take media. I am actually pretty bummed about this. I was really looking forward to seeing some video. It also sucks because I had some friends in the clinic and I videoed for a few of them but none of them could/would return the favour. I did take some video myself while Sandra was riding Kachina though, so I will go through that and include some clips or screenshots in my recap.

I have already booked dates in both February and April for Sandra to come back down. I am super excited for this to become a regular thing =-)

Friday 25 November 2016

Clinic Coordination

I live in a dressage desert (great term coined by Karen @ Bakersfield Dressage). There's a decent amount of dressage in Alberta, but unfortunately not in my neck of the woods (prairies). That's the whole reason why I named my blog "Autonomous Dressage", because there is no local dressage trainer that I can work with. This isn't even about being picky; there literally isn't a single one.

Looks pretty deserty to me..

Dressage clinics aren't readily available either. There is one dressage clinician that comes regularly, and I have ridden with him, but I'm not the biggest fan of his approach (always more rein, skip over basics and get people to work on things they shouldn't be ready for etc) and he only teaches mid-week during the day which is pretty useless to those of us with office jobs. For a long time, that was the only option. Then there's Elaine, she started coming recently and that's awesome, but she lives in Manitoba and only comes a couple times a year (I'll probably ride with her again when she comes back in April). That's enough to complement a program, but not enough to be a program by itself.

September clinic with Elaine

Hauling somewhere else for clinics is a third option, and I've done that. It's not ideal though. First of all, hauling in the winter can be dicey, especially for long distances. Second, it's costly: it costs me about $200 in fuel alone to haul to the closest place with clinics, and then I still have to pay for hotel, eating out, boarding, and the clinic itself. The time and money that it takes means that I can't do this as often as I'd like to get lessons. 

My trusty, solid, but oh so heavy trailer

Sometimes when I don't want to haul in winter
I do crazy things like taking a clinic on a simulator

I decided to create a new alternative, and organize a clinic myself. I really liked riding with Sandra, she has reasonable rates, also does western dressage (which is a draw in this area), and is at least Alberta-based, so I asked her if she was willing to come down to do a clinic. She said that if I got a minimum of 10 rides then she would. Ten may not sound like a big number to many of you, but I knew that getting that many people to commit wasn't going to be an easy task. I only knew of three other people in my area who focused on dressage, and one of those had just bought a new horse and didn't have the money for a clinic. 

The last time I rode with Sandra

It seriously took me 5 months to organize this clinic. Once I had talked to Sandra, I started gauging interest. We have no local dressage association or anything so there was no centralized way for me to get the word out or figure out who might be interested. I'm generally a pretty socially awkward person, but I forced myself to start talking to people, getting contact info, and building a small local dressage network. I spoke to everyone who showed in the dressage classes at the local show, I asked people at a hunter/jumper show about whether they had any interest in dressage, I talked to everyone who was in the Elaine clinic, I created a local dressage Facebook page and got multiple people to contribute to it so it could become a central space for all things dressage (and we're up to 21 members who have joined!). I used a combination of social media and also much lower tech ways to get the word out (shared my Facebook event all over and hung up paper posters at a few barns and the local tack shop.)

I also had to figure out a date that wouldn't conflict with other types of clinics (because I'm trying to appeal to a cross-disciplinary group), book an indoor arena (and do so without offending any other facilities), create a workable schedule, arrange accommodations, etc. Getting enough commitment was definitely the part that took the most time and effort though. 

It's been a lot of work, but it's paying off. A few people were super excited about the idea of more dressage clinics and immediately signed up. A few more really wish they could take part but this weekend didn't work for whatever reason so they have their names down for next time. A few others took some prodding, and I'm even bending over backward to accommodate them by hauling for them, being flexible about payment, etc. The bottom line though is that the clinic is a go for this weekend with a total of 14 rides (and I have payment in hand so I'm not letting last-minute cancellers rain on my parade, sorry not sorry). I figure that the first one is the toughest to get started. I'm really hoping that the clinic goes well - if it does then Sandra has agreed to come back for more clinics every 2-3 months. If that happens it will double the amount of instruction I currently get and that makes me insanely excited! Please cross all your crossables that this clinic goes smoothly! 

This is Sandra on her GP horse, I used this photo to foreshadow back in October

I've also learned an important lesson through this endeavour: Please appreciate your clinic organizers, sign up early, pay in advance, and understand that it costs a lot to put a clinic on. I'm charging $110 for a 45min private lesson, which isn't exactly peanuts, but that really is the lowest I could make it, and as it is I'm absorbing some extra costs myself (I want this to happen so badly that I'm okay with that, but there's definitely no profit being made here by organizing). 

Thursday 24 November 2016


I am in desperate need of some lessons. Luckily I have a clinic this weekend (which I am also organizing).

I last rode with this trainer in February 2016, so nine months ago. She said she was excited to see where we were at now, and that set off a whole chain of thoughts about how I'm a little ashamed that we aren't all that much farther along now than we were in February.

These thoughts have been compounded by the fact that my last couple rides haven't been great. They haven't been terrible, but not good either. Kachina has been a bit tense - which is understandable because of her being cooped up in a pen, the early darkness, being relegated to the indoor arena again, having cats leaping about in the shadows, and having friend horses leave the arena just as we were getting going (both of my last two rides). Despite the tension, Kachina has stayed with me for the most part, and I really can't fault her too much.

Can't get mad at this face

It's me that I'm frustrated with. I think that the way I've progressed most since February is in my mind as a rider. I am better at recognizing what is wrong and what I need to do to correct it. However, I am still bad at actually doing what I need to do. Last night for instance, when I was doing trot circles with Kachina, she would get counterbent on one side of the circle and start tensing and speeding up. In my mind I knew that what I needed to do was to use inside rein to reintroduce the inside bend and use my inside leg to push her over into that bend. I know that if I can stay relaxed and correct Kachina's body position, she will relax and slow down. I know that. I. Just. Couldn't. Do. It. Instead, I was hanging onto my outside rein like my life depended on it and keeping my legs off her side. If I bring her down to walk I can give with my outside rein, use my inside rein and leg and everything is good, but the faster she goes the more my body goes into automatic mode, and my automatic responses are far different from what they should be.

When I think about it, I know that we have made some progress since February. We've come a long way with improving consistency. Rhythm and relaxation aren't there 100% but they are there a lot more than they used to be. My position is better. Our connection and straightness are improving too. We have more good days and fewer bad days. However, for the most part, our best day today isn't much better than our best day in February, and our worst day isn't much better either. That's still progress, but it's progress that can be harder to see and harder to measure. On our bad days it seems like we haven't improved at all, and that's tough to deal with. 

I'm both excited for and dreading the clinic this weekend. I know most of the people in the clinic and know that several will be watching my ride. I feel like there's an extra bit of pressure because I organized the clinic so some people will be expecting me to be better than I am. I get in a mindset where I am embarrassed to ride in front of people if I suck, however I also know that getting lessons is the ultimately the best way for me to suck less in the future. Also, I'm torn between whether I want Kachina to have good days or bad days at the clinic - if she has a good day then we can show where we're at and learn things to get to the next step (and embarrass myself less in front of an audience), however getting some pointers on how to deal with a bad day would be useful too. Both issues are a bit of a Catch 22.

On the bright side, I should finally be able to get some media of me riding for the blog! I just hope it shows some good moments (but I promise to show some of the bad as well).

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers! (It's not Thanksgiving for me so I'm allowed to write a miserly post haha)

Monday 21 November 2016

November 10 Questions

Quick update: Sorry for the blog silence, I've been busy with work, riding, visiting friends, having SO's family visit, and organizing a dressage clinic (more to come on that later). Thanks for all your suggestions on my last post about girths and half pads. I might not have much time to write for the next week either but hopefully I'll be back after that. 

Visiting friends meant driving across Alberta, for part of it I took the scenic route down
the Icefields Parkway - a beautiful highway in the Rocky Mountains through Jasper and
Banff National Parks - all these photos were taken along that route

In the meantime, here's some November questions courtesy of Viva Carlos:

The Athabasca Glacier, coming off the Columbia Icefield

How old is the youngest/greenest horse you’ve ridden?
I test rode a couple four year olds when horse-shopping. Six is the youngest horse I've ridden consistently though. 

How old is the oldest horse you’ve ridden?
About 20. Ellie was 20 when I lost her. I think a number of lesson horses from my childhood were about that age too.

Some bighorn sheep licking the salt off the road (I assume)
Also don't worry, I was fully stopped when I took the photos

Were you scared of horses when you first started riding? 
Not excessively. However I've always been aware of my own mortality and how horses are big and powerful and so you need to be cautious. 

Would you say you’re a more nervous rider or a confident rider?
More nervous. It's the number one thing that holds me back from being a better rider. For the most part my fear isn't irrational, I just always have the potential for injury in the back of my head. I was the same way as a rugby player. The fact that my parents both work in the medical field and have worked with patients who had head and spinal injuries from sports in general and riding in specific is a big contributor to that. It's understandable, but they always made a huge deal out of any falls instead of just telling me it was fine and that I should get back on the horse. I also work in a really safety conscious industry so I'm way too used to analyzing hazards and thinking of worst case scenarios. I have gotten much better about controlling my fear and not transferring it to my horse, but I still feel the fear.   

I made a couple stops to hike through the woods


Biggest pet peeve about non-horse people around horses?
This isn't a big deal for me. I like introducing non-horsey friends to my horses. I get self conscious riding in front of non-horsey people though. They don't always understand about how riding is harder when you aren't on a made beginner-friendly lesson horse, so I feel like I have to explain why I'm only at ___ stage even though I've been riding for years. 

Found a hidden lookout point..

... for some quiet reflection and a foot selfie

A time you’ve been scared for your life? (horse related) 
I don't think I've ever been convinced that I was going to die, but see above for being constantly aware of my mortality when riding horses, especially when I notice a large rock or something on the ground that could cause damage to me if I landed on it. Also, getting bucked off and seeing hooves flying in your direction as you hit the ground is a sight that I've seen a couple times and would rather not again. 

Have you ever fallen off at show? What happened?
Yep. I used to attempt hunter/jumper classes with my old mare Ellie, back when we were both pretty green. Different coloured poles and fake flowers were an issue and there was one show where we had a lot of refusals. Pretty sure I fell off at least twice. That was about 15 years ago though. 

What’s a breed of horse you’ve never ridden but would like to ride? 
I haven't ridden all that many breeds. I also don't care all that much about breeds. Someday I'd like to ride a big draft horse like a Shire or Clydesdale just to experience it though. 

More snow at higher elevations. All these photos were from the same day,
but I drove through rain, snow, cloud, and sun.

Describe the worst behaved horse you’ve ridden? 
My last horse Ellie. I had her for 14 years and loved her dearly, but she was not an easy horse. She was an extremely hot anglo-arab who would refuse to trailer load and would spook, bolt and buck with regularity. She taught me a lot as a rider, I succeeded in doing a lot with her, and I learned how to read her and respond to her shenanigans, but I could still never completely know what I'd be in for in a given ride.  

Still warm enough that the lakes were clear - not everyday that it's
possible to take a photo of snow covered slopes surrounding blue water

The most frustrating ride you’ve ever had? 
After Ellie started bolting and bucking me off more frequently (back when I was 13 and she was 7), my confidence really took a hit. I remember one ride where I got bucked off, and I knew that I needed to get back on but I was terrified. My parents were the only ones out at the barn and they thought I should just call it a day. I knew that I had to do it though or it would be 10 times worse the next day. I was bawling while I tried to convince my parents to hold my horse and that she wasn't terrible, convince myself to get on, and convince Ellie to walk a few small circles so we could end on a good note. In hindsight maybe I didn't need to push myself quite that hard, but I did get back on, and I've never not gotten back on. 

Friday 11 November 2016

Half Pad & Girth Help

I'm still happy with my purchase of my new (to me) Stubben Aramis saddle. However, I'm having some trouble fine tuning the equipment to go with my saddle:

1. The Half Pad

I've been using an Ogilvy half pad on Kachina for the last 14 months. My old Jaguar saddle seemed like a good fit but I liked the idea of having an extra layer to even out pressure and to soften the impact of my not awesome seat on Kachina's back. She seemed to go well in the Ogilvy so I used it all the time.

Also because of this graph, from Invictus, that I first found via The $900 Facebook Pony

When I had the trial of the Stubben, I rode in it without the Ogilvy so I could make sure without the extra padding that it wasn't causing Kachina any discomfort (it didn't seem to). Once I bought the saddle I figured keeping the Ogilvy would be just an extra safeguard. However, I have found that the saddle doesn't seem to fit quite as well with the Ogilvy. When I ride with the Ogilvy the saddle seems more prone to slipping slightly from side to side. Also, no matter how much I lift the Ogilvy and saddle pad up into the gullet when I tack up, they seem to slide down through the course of the ride and I worry they are pushing down too much on her withers and spine (the saddle itself still has lots of clearance, it's just the pads that drop). Lately I've been alternating riding with or without it because I can't made up my mind.

What should I do?
A) Ditch the half pad completely, my saddle fits and the flocking is in good shape (it is) so I shouldn't need it.
B) Switch my Ogilvy for a thinner style of half pad (suggestions?)
C) Get my saddle fitted/reflocked so that I fit a half pad under it
D) Other (please explain)

2. The Girth

With my Jaguar saddle I used a no-name but very nice contoured padded leather girth, size 30". It worked well, but I wished that it had some elastic. I sometimes struggled with how much to tighten it, but I think that was mostly due to the squishyness of the Ogilvy half pad.

Old girth

When I bought the Stubben, I realized that I needed an offset girth. First, I bought a 30" leather offset girth off of a friend. The 30" size is too long for my new saddle so I knew going in that it was only going to be a temporary solution. Also, the leather is quite stiff, and there's no elastic.

Stubben Aramis with straight girth,
you can see by the angle of the billets why I needed an offset

Next, I bought a 28" Total Saddle Fit Stretchtec Girth with the leather padded option. It was contoured, shorter, had lots of elastic, and glowing reviews throughout the blogosphere. I figured I was going to be set.

StretchTec arrival day

Unfortunately, the Stretchtec Girth isn't working for us. First, due to the stretch of the elastic and the leather sticking out from the buckles, the 28" is still too big. Also, while the girth looks and feels like it is adequately spreading the pressure, I don't think Kachina likes it. She's never been super enthusiastic about saddling or girthing. That's part of why I wanted a girth with elastic as I thought she might like it better, but she's gotten more girthy since getting the Stretchtec girth. Of course the new girth came around the same time as the new saddle. Part of me panics that the new ($$$) saddle doesn't fit and that's the reason for her resistance, but she's fine when I ride, her back shows no soreness or sensitivity, and her sweat marks stay looking good. That makes me think the girth is the culprit. Also, while I get the reason for the design, I'm not crazy about how the padding piece in the center of the girth isn't fully connected and can float around. I worry that it's pinching her somehow. She hasn't had any girth galls or anything but she gives me dirty looks when I even pick up the girth and turns her head around each time I tighten the girth even when I go up gradually.

The StretchTec in action, this isn't even fully tightened,
the girth is too long and is interfering with the saddle pad

The girth issue and the half pad issue are connected. First, the thickness of the half pad may affect what size girth I should buy. My current girth is borderline too long with the Ogilvy, but definitely too long without it. Second, the squishyness of the half pad makes it harder for me to make sure I'm tightening the girth the right amount. Third, maybe the problems above with the half pad are what is causing her discomfort and making her girthy.

What should I do?
A) Switch the leather padding for the neoprene option on the StretchTec (wouldn't solve the size issue, but cheap option and might make the mare happier)
B) Buy a sheepskin cover for my girth
C) Buy a new Stretchtec girth of a smaller size, with either the padded leather or neoprene option, (maybe the size is the biggest issue)
D) Buy a new Total Saddle Fit girth that is the traditional model instead of the StretchTec, and is a smaller size (fixes size and type, but maybe Kachina just doesn't like the Total Saddle Fit girth shape)
E) Buy some other kind of girth, please give suggestions
F) Other (please explain)

Note 1: I know Total Saddle Fit has a good return policy, but I've had my current StretchTec girth for more than 30 days

Note 2: Ulcers are unlikely, Kachina lives outside and is on a free feed hay bale with a slow-feed net so gets forage throughout the day. Though she did make the transition from being on pasture to being back in a pen a month ago.

Note 3: There were a few rides with the new saddle where I accidentally positioned it too far forward. When this happened Kachina immediately reacted when I mounted up and wouldn't move forward and was kicking at the girth. Each time I got off quickly, adjusted the tack, and was able to have a good ride afterwards. I've since learned and for the last several weeks I've been much better at checking that the saddle is fully behind the shoulder. Could the girthiness just be from this remembered issue though?

Thursday 10 November 2016

A Winter Game Plan

Winter is Coming.... It hasn't truly hit yet, but I know it will. I'm still trying to prepare myself.

I tend towards pretty long rides with Kachina. The average is a bit over an hour. There are a lot of walk breaks in those rides and they don't have a lot of sustained effort, but they are still long. Kachina is a horse that likes repetition, and she sometimes takes quite a while to relax, so long rides work for getting the best work from her.

However, the downside of long rides is that when I do ride, I spend most of the evening out at the barn, and if I don't have all night I sometimes won't go out to ride at all. This problem is compounded in the winter, because a longer ride equals more sweat and more time spent cooling her out and drying her off before I can turn her back out (the disadvantage of a horse who lives out 24/7).

Tuesday night after riding - sure the sunset is pretty, but it doesn't have to be so early!
This photo was taken at 5 freaking 30 and the sun was far enough below the horizon
that it was hard to see the ground on the way back to Kachina's pen.

This week has been spectacularly warm for November. My heart cries a little for how much our climate is changing, but I can't help but enjoy the nice week. I've been leaving work as soon as I can and going straight to the barn to catch the remaining light and ride outside. Daylight savings time is stupid (so stupid!), so that means that I have less than half an hour to ride before it gets too dark. The timing issue with the sun is really only an impact for this week. By next week it will already be too dark when I leave work and I'll be relegated to the indoor arena until April (during the week at least). However, my short rides this week have taught me that I can get good work out of Kachina in a 20-30 minute ride.

This is a pretty cool discovery. The fact that we need less time to achieve relaxed paces, steady tempo, and soft bend shows that what I'm doing is working. Also, it gives me a game plan for winter. I'm going to attempt to do a lot more of these short rides through the winter. That way we still get to work on things, but I don't have to spend as long in the cold barn, Kachina gets less sweaty, and I'm home early enough to do other things that night if I need to (yesterday I got my ride in after work and still had time to go home and change before meeting some friends to go to the movie Dr. Strange).

How dark it was when I dismounted last night
(I really stretched my ride as long as I could)

It's a small change, but it requires a fundamental change in the way I plan my rides. I need to focus on fewer things per ride and call it a day after some good work instead of just having a walk break and moving on to something more. It's going to take some getting used to but I'm excited to try this new approach.

Do you adjust the format of your rides between seasons?

Tuesday 8 November 2016

If Horses Were Part of Your Current Job

The last couple weeks have been extra busy for me with work. I've been spending my evenings at my job instead of at the barn. That doesn't make for very interesting blog posts. However, I then started thinking.... How would riding be different if it was an activity that I did as part of my job?

I don't mean what would things be like if I worked in the horse industry instead of my actual occupation. I mean what if there was some (highly unrealistic) hypothetical situation where I went into the office and my calendar included all my normal work activites, but riding Kachina was one of my projects that my boss wanted completed by the end of the day.

First off, in a field where work safety is extremely important and there is a zero injury goal, I'm pretty sure that riding would be deemed too dangerous and would be against our risk averse corporate policies in general.

However, if it was permitted, I would definitely need some PPE (personal protective equipment): For sure a helmet and closed toe heeled boots would be required, luckily I wear those for every ride anyways. CSA grade 1 steel toes boots, reflective piping, nomex coveralls, and safety glasses would probably be added to the list. 

Riding a 15.2hh horse allows for a fall of over 4' so our company fall arrest policy would also come into play. I don't see how a harness or lanyard would work though, and I absolutely shudder to think about the steel fittings on a harness rubbing against the beautiful leather of my saddle! Maybe a padded or CO2 vest would suffice?

It might not be steam or high voltage electricity, but the amount of hazardous energy a horse can contain would surely involve a Safe Work Permit. I'd have to visit the control room and fill one out before going to catch Kachina. 

The brushes and tack I'd need might be kept in the warehouse so I'd need to sign out those materials. Returning them dirty could get me in trouble.

For the ride itself, there'd probably be some Operating Procedures to follow. Maybe steps on how to mount, or a minimum required warm-up period before adding intensity. 

A serious fall might be a scenario that is given a flowchart and added to the Emergency Response Plan. If I did fall or get hurt, there'd be incident paperwork to complete. But at least any injury would be covered by the WCB!

Under Working-Alone guidelines, I'd need to check in with my supervisor every hour while working with Kachina, or else have a spotter (honestly, this one is a pretty good idea).

Kachina's regular trims, deworming and vaccinations would be given PMs (preventative maintenance work orders) in our maintenance program. Standing Order Purchase Orders would be set up with my vet and farrier,

If I wanted to make any changes to Kachina's feed, tack setup etc., I would need to justify the reason in a form and go through the Management of Change process to get it formally approved and all documentation updated. 

Luckily, there's one element of riding that wouldn't be an issue at my workplace, and that is where to ride. There's a lovely flat grassy field beside the parking lot that could easily fit a full dressage court, and there's also a trail network only steps away.

One of the manager's once joked that I should bring my horse to work for Stampede Week, sometimes I'm tempted to take him up on that just for fun. For the most part though, it's probably a good thing that riding isn't part of my job!

What would riding look like in your job? Would there be a lot of meetings? Stringent bacterial control practices? A computer code to analyze your ride? I'd love to hear!

Wednesday 2 November 2016


This is my first year participating in 2pointober. I wasn't a blogger last October, but I have been a blog reader for a few years. However, I will admit that I sort of had the opinion that I didn't need to work on two point since I am a dressage rider and never jump. I am glad that I realized the error of my ways, because two point is awesome!

First, two-point helps my leg position. This 2pointober came at a perfect time, fairly soon after getting my new saddle and after my clinic with Elaine where I had leg position boot camp. There I learned that Kachina will move quietly and nicely with my seat out of the saddle as long as my legs are steady. Also, I now know where my legs should be. Being in two point really allows me to focus on my leg position and build the muscles to keep my legs where they need to be.

Second, riding in two-point really allows me to fine tune my rein and leg aids. Kachina is a horse who listens very well to my seat, which is great. However when I'm sitting, I can't always isolate whether she is responding to my seat or my other aids. By asking for various figures and lateral work in two-point, I am using only my legs and hands so I can make sure that those aids and Kachina's responses to them are correct. This is part of how I realized my holes in training in regards to inside bend and inside leg.

Third, it keeps me straight. I've realized that while sitting, my body will twist in bad ways when I apply a leg or rein aid. If I am in two-point, I will fall down if I get crooked, so it forces me to keep everything else the same when I apply an aid. This is what I need to develop a better independent seat.

How did I do with my actual two-point times? Well keep in mind that I haven't really done much two-point in literally years. My baseline at the start of the month was 2:25. I got my time in on the last possible day to enter the contest, so that was my first week time as well. By the end of the month I was up to 6:23. I didn't practice two-point every ride, but I still showed a clear improvement over the month. One note in my defence: those times indicated how long I could comfortably hold two-point. I could have hung in there for longer, but it was a busy month for me in life outside of riding and I valued the ability to use my legs the day after ;-)

I didn't even scratch the Top 5 for most improved or longest time (there was some seriously tough competition! Congratulations to all the winners!), but I am getting my own rewards for adding two-point into my regular riding. Also Emma and Megan created some virtual satin even for just the participants, and who doesn't love ribbons??

On to No-stirrup November!