Back to Riding

Knock on wood, but both Ava and Joy are sound again. 

Finally!

The new farrier has both of their hooves nearly sorted out again. Joy’s still a bit odd on the club foot, but it’s growing in really well. And her back feet look a million times better than they did in June.  

Ava still has another 2, maybe 3, months of hoof growth before all signs of laminitis are gone, but we’re close to resolved and she’s comfortable romping around again. 

I started riding Ava again about 3-4 weeks ago. Only walking and only short rides. I’m still leery about the stifle injury flaring up, along with wanting to avoid stressing the laminitic fronts. I’d been doing short walk rides in the back field. There’s a nice big loop along the outside of the field. Full of straight lines with two small hills on either side. I can do half or a full loop depending on how the horse feels. It’s a good track to work on strengthening stifles. 

I tried lunging Jessie last week. She first pulled the “I have never lunged in my entire life and have no idea what you’re asking for!!” approach. I know she’s been lunged before. 

I finally got her going around, but she would only trot (regardless of whether I wanted her to walk or not) and then pretended she didn’t know what “Whoa”, “Ho”, or “God Dammmit, Stop!” meant. 

I finally got her stopped and she looked at me like I had personally betrayed her deeply and wounded her to the core emotionally. 

I only lunged her for like a minute, total!

I made a big fuss about what a good girl she was and put her back in the pasture. Next thing I know, she’s huddled in the furthest corner of the pasture, facing away from the barn, apparently sulking about the abusive treatment. (not really, but it kind of seemed that way).

On the plus side, she still moves like a horse half her age. 

To be kind to her senior joints, I’ve been taking her for walks around the back field instead of lunging. She seems to really enjoy the walks. 

During one of Jessie’s walks, I decided to walk her home beside the pasture (next to Ava and Joy).  I’d been babying both Ava and Joy up until that point… but after the extreme show of agility by both of then – the wild cantering, and the beautiful extended trotting, I realized that neither were in any pain.  Joy’s ability to perform a canter prioutte on the spot and Ava’s extended trot really solidified it for me. 

Next day, I took Ava to the back field and spent some time trotting and cantering. She still has just the very slightest hitch to her gait, but in other other respects she felt great. Willingly (too willingly!) moved forward. 

With Joy, she’s reverted somewhat to being less secure away from the pasture. Our first jaunt out, I had to hop off and lead her. I would feel shame about that, but Joy’s just insecure. She needed her confidence built up again. Next time out was thousands better until we got to the extremely terrifying black bog of water! All she has to do is walk around it, but she freaks. So I hopped off and we spent some time hopping around next to it (we aren’t going through the bog. Thats just gross). Third time, and Joy was the quiet, sweet trail horse I had earlier this spring. Even willingly walked past the bog pit (she gave it the hairy eyeball though).

Joy’s arena work is good, although severely unfit. We’re just working on stretching longitudinally and laterally at this point (she gets so tight!). I was just happy she wasn’t a hot mess of anxiety and nerves considering I hadn’t ridden her in 3 months. 

I started asking for just a short bit of canter by the 5th ride. Joy wasn’t happy with it.

That was the extent of her rebellion though. One outburst, and she settled right back to work. To be fair, she only bucked when I tapped her with the whip. 

Other pictures of our daily lives:

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Adventures in Vaulting

Ever since I watched a vaulting demo this past spring I have really wanted to try vaulting. Not only does it look like a ton of fun, but I also read it can help improve your seat and balance on a horse (which I’m always looking to improve).

Learn what vaulting is by clicking this sentence.

So last Saturday I decided to take the plunge. I was nervous. Really nervous! I went by myself. I felt out of place. I felt too old. I felt too fat. I was worried I’d make a fool of myself, and that I’d have preteen girls laughing manically at me if I fell off a horse attached to a lunge line. I fretted about it the entire hour drive to the place.

I had called ahead to ask what to wear. I wore the comfy yoga type pants, loosely fitted t-shirt, and tennis shoes that the lady recommended I wear. I felt oddly dressed for a riding lesson…. it felt so wrong with tennis shoes on!

When I got to the place, there were 3 young girls talking to the instructor. I fervently hoped they weren’t all staying for the Open vaulting session. I was in luck. Two of them left. The remaining girl, a powerfully built young lady, was going to be my guide for learning the movements on the barrel.

I was taller than my guide – an unusual occurrence.

The instructor asked the young girl (from here on out designated as M) to run me through a short warm-up and then show me the barrel exercises. M took off around the arena at a brisk pace. She mercifully slowed when she realized I lagged behind. We did one lap, and as I wheezed my way back to the front of the arena, M stopped and waited.

M hopped up onto a barrel with ease. I dragged a chair over to my barrel and clumsily heaved myself up. She ran through 5 moves for me to practice on the barrel. I watched intently and then set about replicating them as best I could.

After a very short period of time, my young barrel guide got bored and began doing handstands and intricate airborne dismounts from her barrel.

I did not try to replicate these.

Before I knew it, the instructor walked in leading a big, stoic looking gelding adorned with handle bars (I will figure out what these are called).

The instructor had M jump on the horse first. And by jump, I mean from the ground. Did I mention M is shorter than me? I’m short. I’m 4’11”. This teeny little kid bounced onto the back of a 16 hand horse from the ground. How freaking cool is that?!?!

M said she’s been vaulting for 3 years now. While I was there, M and the instructor were working on M doing around the world standing up at trot and canter. Then M practiced hand stands as the horse trotted and cantered. It was amazing to watch. I could’ve watched all day.

Then it was my turn.

They let me use the mounting block (Thank GOD!). The gelding was kind of a lumbering dude. The massively thick pad they use on his back made him feel extremely wide.The handle bars were very sturdy, and almost felt like a roll cage in front of me. It felt really safe.

At first the instructor just had me do the 5 exercises I practiced on the barrel at the walk. Basically, sit normal and hold your hands at shoulder height. Then stand on your knees (put your hands wherever). Then turn to face backwards (that was really disconcerting to me. Getting turned around was easy, but seeing the world move away from you was weird). Then you lay your chest against the horses rump. And final move was to sit sideways on the horse and jump down to land facing in the direction of travel.

Those were pretty simple at the walk. I think a lot of us have done some semblance of all of those at one time or another.

Except, then the instructor had the horse TROT!!!

The standing on your knee’s was pretty easy. Smooth horse. Nice flat, consistent trot. I still had a hard time letting go of the handle bars though. That instinct for self-preservation was strong. I felt balanced. I felt like I would be fine letting go… but I had to really concentrate and make my hand let go. lol!

The instructor even let me try some of the moves at the canter. I did let go of the handle bars while standing on my knee’s but I misjudged the stride and started loosing my balance at one point. Kind of scared me! I thought I was going to fall off. I didn’t, but really made me aware of how high up I was. After that the instructor let me try “The Flag” pose. It was SO AWESOME!!

Flag pose is where you have one knee on the horse’s back and the other leg straight out behind you. One arm on handle bar and the other straight out in front of you.

I successfully completed that pose (not elegantly, but I got ‘er done), and then the instructor brought the horse back to a walk and I dismounted. I was shocked how wobbly my legs and arms were after that. My shoulders especially were tired. It took a lot more upper body strength then I had assumed it would (for the low level of difficulty for the poses I did). It’s not like I was doing hand stands, or holding myself up with my arms. It was mostly sit and kneel stuff.
Anyway, I totally enjoyed it and can’t wait to go again. It’s something I would highly recommend to at least try once. Most of the vaulting facilities I’ve researched offer beginner friendly classes, you don’t need to buy any special clothes, the classes are reasonable priced (even for poor folk), and adults are welcomed. I never once felt self-concious once the lesson started and even the 8 year old made me feel welcomed. So give it a try sometime!

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Family Reunions vs International 3 Day Eventing?

Later…….

Dad and I snuck off to the 3 day eventing. hehe

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Keeping it redneck

Don’t judge!

😉

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Hercules

My work is promoting a fitness program for all employee’s. We track steps and workouts to earn points toward health care. 

I’m cleaning stalls, feeding, sweeping, stacking hay, etc and still barely breaking 5k steps a day (compared to the 14k steps my co-workers are getting). 

So the other day I’m tossing hay in the pasture and realize a tree fell on the fence in the back. I walk out (Joy following me like “Ooh, what’cha doing?!? Are we playing?!”). It’s a good sized tree. I was contemplating grabbing the electric chainsaw, but I’m lazy and didnt want to walk all the way back to the house (this may be why my step count sucks). So I grab the end of the tree sticking into the pasture and lift, and shove, and twist it until I can slide it off the fence onto the other side of the pasture.

At this point I’m feeling preeeetty darn good about myself. I, Hercules, single handedly moved an entire tree by myself! Raaarrrwww! 

Alright, I confess… the tree was dead. Like really, really dead.

But….

They didn’t have an equivalent work-out option on the fitness tracker for “Moved Giant Tree”. Do I put that under Yoga, or Cycling? 

TREE!

(Hubby cut it up and moved it off the path. I have the best Hubby ever!)

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Nothing New

I forgot to post this. This is from July 25th. I’ll update on a new post. 

I had the Vet back the 19th (July). Nothing new to report. Vet put Joy at a 5.5 on Henneke body scale. Ava at a 6, and Jessie at a 6.5.

The new farrier came July 11th. I like the angles of Joy’s feet much better. He was incredibly patient and kind to the horses. All of the feet looked dramatically better after he was finished. Ava’s back to bossing the rest of the crew around, bucking and trotting around the pasture. 

Joy hasn’t been sound at all since the last time she was trimmed (May 26th). She seemed more comfortable immediately after trim. Not dramatically different, but less ouchie. She’s slowly been getting better and better since this last trim. 

When new farrier trimmed Joy’s hind feet on the 11th, this is what we saw:

Front feet didn’t look like this. 

Lyme tests on Ava and Joy came back negative. Both horses on Magnesium and 1/2 a cup  (measuring cup) of grain with grass hay twice a day since December. 

I have a some tweaks I need to make to their diet to add in the nutrients and fats they need. I’m not sure I understand what and how much yet. I was kind of wishing an Equine Nutritionist would suddenly appear, but I’d never have the money to afford them. 

I’ve been depressed. I hate when my horses aren’t comfortable. 

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The old “Dressage on a Budget”, 0verdone, ad nauseam

Dollar store barn neccesities (From Eventing Connection): http://eventingconnect.today/2016/07/13/12-barn-necessities-you-can-buy-at-the-dollar-store/

Here are my tips on how to do dressage on a budget.

Step one: Get a big budget.

 

If you have already failed at step one, don’t give up yet! We have an alternative method for you poor saps.

Easiest way to keep costs down

Don’t buy whatever you’re thinking of buying!

Plan out your equipment needs at the beginning of the year. Give yourself time to find the best deals on the items you need.

Don’t Impulse Buy!

image

 

Riding Attire:

Don’t bother splurging on expensive show attire. You’ll wear the entire ensemble at most 3 times a year, for a total of 6 hours a year of wear… if you’re lucky. Go the absolute cheapest you can, but thoroughly check the reviews on the product.

Read the rules!

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My “Go To” sites for riding clothing are State Line Tack and SmartPak. I’ve also heard good things about the Riding Warehouse, but I haven’t ordered anything from them yet.

StateLineTack Coupons

Show Breeches: $65

If you’re worried about long term quality and durability of the cheaper breeches, ask yourself how often you can afford to compete at a show. If it’s more than 3 times a year, than this article is probably not for you.

If you only go to one day shows, then you only ever need one pair. You can even pull off the rare two day show if you’re very careful. However, if you plan on going to a lot of 2 days shows, then this article is not for you. Move along…

Show Jacket:  $40 – $100

Find your nearest 4H tack sale (usually occurs between January and late March). Check your Craigslist Farm and Garden category for listings of 4H sales or tack sales. Facebook tack swap groups are also good resources if you know your size (see bottom of post for links). You can find show coats for as low as $40.

It’s okay if the coat is dark blue and not a black. It doesn’t have to be dressage specific.

Through Fourth level, a conservative regular coat is all that is needed. I can’t find a single USEF rule that requires a coat with tails at Fourth or above, if wearing a helmet.

If you plan your shows for mid to late summer, chances are coats will be waived anyway. Why pay top dollar for a show jacket when you’ll be sporting the coatless look anyway?

Or, use rule 120.5

Riders in classes and tests at all levels in Level 1 Competitions, and riders in Opportunity classes in Level 2 and Level 3 Competitions, may compete wearing breeches and shirts of any color as permitted in DR120.8. Jackets or vests of any type are allowed but not required and neckwear may be worn only if the rider chooses to compete in a riding jacket. Boots and protective headgear are required as specified in DR120.1-6.

If you’re unclear on what level of competition your show is, it is required to be listed in the prize list. Finding it listed on the show bill is sometimes tricky, so you may have to email the show manager.

Dressage Show Designations

Choker or Stock Tie:  Choker – $Free

Chokers are perfectly acceptable below Fourth level. Plus, choker’s usually come free with a new shirt, so why buy a stock tie? You need a pin though, so find a safety pin and bedazzle that sucker.

Helmet: $65 to $150

Ok, really, you do need to splurge here. Mind your melon.

However, that doesn’t mean you need two different helmets for schooling and showing. No one cares how pretty your helmet is, as long as the helmet is black. Buy one good one that fits your head.

Riding Boots: $80 – $250

You can find decent quality tall boots for under $300 at most tack stores and tack websites. Mountain horse has a line that is less than $250, and has good reviews. If you want to spend less, second hand boots are the way to go. They go for anywhere between $40 and $200 depending on the brand and condition. Average price seems to be right around $80 for good quality, nice looking, used boots. It will take you some time and effort to hunt down an inexpensive pair in your size, that fit decently. Start early!

Tack:

Saddle: $250 to $800

Buying used is the best option. However, the endless parade of ad’s that won’t list tree sizes, or that measured seat size wrong, can send even the most patient person to the brink. Weigh out the cost of increased alcohol consumption while browsing through used ad’s, versus the cost of new saddle, in order to determine the cheaper option for you.

You’ll need this for used saddle shopping:

Bridle: $40 to $200

Buy cheap, but check the reviews. A $40 bridle works fine as long as it fits correctly. Just make sure you take care of it, and check it for integrity every few weeks. (Side note: my $40 bridle has lasted for 6 years of hard use, and cleans up well for shows too.)

Bit: $10 to $150
You will be forced to pay out the nose for that one special bit your horse actually likes. It won’t matter if the day before you saw 800 of those same bits for sale for a dollar. The day you need that specific bit, every last one of them will be priced at $120.

Saddle Pads: $5 to $50

4H sales, craigslist, tack swaps, Facebook sale pages.. pretty much anywhere people are selling their used tack. Never pay more than $10 a pad. $5 is better. Make sure the underside is in good condition, haggle the price a bit, and then speed off with your new-to-you saddle pad.

For shows, the Lettia Coolmax Dressage Pad is selling for $25 currently, and has 51 five star reviews.

Additional Expenses:

Horse: $0 to $50,000

Buy cheap, but invest heavily in horse insurance, the pet care card, and the lotto.

You’re better off investing money in lessons and Lessonseducational opportunities, rather than shelling out for an upper level prospect. Your horse will only perform up to your level of competency anyway. Get good first. Learn how to take mediocre up through the levels, and afterward you can try it again with a purpose bred mount… that’s assuming you somehow become rich in the next decade and can afford to purchase, maintain, and compete that purpose bred horse.

 

Lessons/Education: $65 to $400

If like me, you find real life instruction a necessary component to dressage, then ensure that you choose the very best instructor you can afford.  Taking lessons with a good quality, upper level dressage instructor will save you time and money in the long run. It means less lessons overall and less time rehashing the same issues over and over. This will decrease your xanax costs, which offsets the increased lessons costs.

I can’t say this enough – Don’t cheap out on quality of instructor. Some inexpensive instructors are good, but generally you get what you pay for. Again, not always, but you need to know quite a lot about dressage in order to determine if an instructor is knowledgeable enough to teach it to the level you want to achieve. If you don’t know, then don’t look for a bargain deal in this area.

To increase the effectiveness of your lessons while keeping the quantity of lessons low, the main trick is to video tape your entire lesson, with sound. Make sure you get the instructor’s voice.

If you don’t have a person to hold the camera, set it on a rail. Even if you only capture half of your ride, as long as you have sound it will trigger your memory on how the ride felt at the moment and how you rode it.

Once you’re back home, replay the video and really pay attention to what the instructor is asking for. Visualize how the ride went. Remember how it felt. Pick out the parts you feel confident you can reproduce and use those as confidence builders. Take the parts you’re not confident with and just play with recreating the feel in short sessions.

A good instructor will give you enough exercises to work on over a month to keep you moving forward.

No money for lessons?

Youtube, free articles on the web, other blogs, audit small clinics in the area.

eTrak: USDF actually has a ton of good videos and articles for free with eTrak. You don’t have to be a current active member to use this. The catch is you have to sign up for it, and that requires a USDF member number (I believe). Once you register though, you can lapse your membership for a few years and still have access to all of the information. They do have quite a few articles and video’s that non-members can access. Those are sometimes difficult to find.

An inexpensive way to access USDF eTrak and other benefits is to join your local GMO, or purchase the Education Membership directly from USDF ($35 for adults). Frankly, joining your local GMO is more fun.

Educational Youtube Channels and Videos

Articles

 

Educational Facebook Groups

Follow or like Facebook groups or pages to see new articles or video’s about dressage.

 

Educational Podcasts

Subscribe to:

 

Other Educational Opportunities

Auditing clinics is good, but sometimes even auditing can be a struggle to afford. If this is the case, you can volunteer to help at the clinic to gain free admittance.

The L program is a definite must for the serious dressage rider. These sessions require a lot of volunteer effort. Volunteer to work the class or demo sessions. During downtime (which you’ll find plenty of) you can watch and learn for free. Extremely worthwhile to do. Your local GMO usually puts these on, and you can find upcoming L sessions on the USDF website.

 

Blogs

Follow and read other dressage riders blogs. Their recaps on clinics and lessons can help you learn new things (new techniques, or better understand a concept).

Some blogs you can start checking out, if you haven’t already.

A Horse For Elinor Bakersfield Dressage
Dressage for Mere Mortals Horse Sage
EquiNovice Katmah
Dressage Training Online Blog Dressage Today Blogs
Dressage Pony Journey of a Dressage Student
Clara Etzel Dressage Horse and Hound Blogs
USDF Dressage Blog Jane Savoie Dressage Blog
Dressage Hafl Chronicle of the Horse Blogs (Lauren Sprieser Blog)

Grants/Scholarships:

Don’t forget that The Dressage Foundation gives out scholarships to AA’s. Check out the Gifted Memorial Fund for more information.

In addition, some local GMO’s also have scholarships or grants to help AA’s or young riders afford educational opportunities. Don’t forget to check out your local GMO’s website, or contact one of their officers for information.

 

Showing:

Schooling shows and Opportunity Classes are great ways to save money while still receiving judge’s feedback.

Opportunity Classes are exempt from USEF and USDF membership requirements and riders do not have to pay nonmember or HID fees (meaning, you don’t pay those fee’s to ride in Opportunity classes, which is a lot of money saved!). However, because there are no membership/horse Id requirements, then the scores do not count toward any USEF/USDF awards. Even without the kudo’s earned, you still receive qualified and objective feedback on the progress of your training.

 

Tricks:

Facebook sale groups have an alert feature that allows you to set up notifications for when items you’re interested in are posted. This allows you to spend less effort stalking used tack sites for the best deals. Set up alerts in multiple groups and even on days you can’t check facebook, you’ll still be notified that the item was posted. (as if you aren’t on facebook everyday. Hahahaha)

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General Cost Savings:

  • Weigh out your hay and grain every meal.
  • Use a nibble net to reduce hay wastage.
  • Have your hay and grain analyzed for nutritional content, then fill in with supplements. Remove the unnecessary supplements.
  • Dollar store for scrub brushes, towels, hangers, extra buckets to soak things in, containers to store things in, etc.
  • At shows, pack in all your own food and beverages
  • If you need trainer help at shows, offer to trade slave labor for coaching a warmup session.
  • You can’t afford a groom, or to hire someone else to braid, so you better plan on doing that yourself.
  • If you do get a stall at a show, bring your own shavings.

Facebook Groups for Tack and Clothing:

Disclaimer:

I’ve found that while there are small areas you can control your spending on, the majority of expenses are always going to be above what the medium income can afford. Just focus on having fun with your horse.

 

Any one else have ideas/suggestions on ways to cut costs? I’d love to hear them!

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