Wednesday 31 August 2011

2 Super lessons

A little late in updating and I'm afraid I have no pictures, so please don't feel obliged to read on if you prefer photographic rewards for perceverance!
I had a flat lesson on Friday morning before catching the train to Brussels and flying back to Ireland for the weekend.
It went really well, it was a lovely sunny morning, yet not too hot and we worked in the outdoor while someone else lunged their horse above us in the top half of the ring - at a later stage his partner came on her black cob and rode around for a bit also and then they left, all the while Kika remained focused on the job at hand and didn't kick up a fuss at being left "alone" (she was never going to be alone as I was there, L was there and L's 2 dogs were there - but sometimes there is just no reasoning with the mare!)
Anyways we worked on a circle around L, making it larger and smaller as i was instructed. Changing rein, keeping Kika in an outline while doing so and we worked on all three paces including many transitions up and down!
The biggest things i have to work on are keeping the contact, heels down, shoulders back and stop twisting when i'm on the right rein - apparently I am completely crooked in the saddle in that direction more so than the other! I have actually been told to pick a point in the center of my circle and turn towards it with my whole body to get my shoulders square with hers. I really should get a video of myself to watch to see my awful equitation - needless to say I will not be posting it on the world wide web! *blush*
Plenty other things to work on, but those are the main ones!
We then took a stroll down towards the woods with L and the dogs to cool K off and to stretch the puppies legs before L went home for her lunch, ;-)

Then Monday we had a Pole Work lesson, within which i did my first jump since last October!
I was happily working away on my trotting poles, doing as i was told when L set up a pretty cool (tyo my mind) et of poles. I'll trya nd explain it, she had three, then four poles "normally" flat on the ground which K and i negociated. Then after a few turns over them, she raised the middle two slightly but on opposite ends - meaning it ended up looking like a spaced out low cross pole. Which got a lovely bouncy trot out of Kika as she raised her feet a little more for two poles.
She then sneakily (to her mind) moved the poles together and created an actual cross pole with a trotting pole infront of it. She then proceeded to raise the cross pole for each "round". Kika found this excercise quite difficult and it felt very strange for me to ride it, as initially she kept trying (and succeeded in/) to jump the trotting pole and the cross pole as an imaginative spread set to challenge her. Once the ground pole was moved a little further back and she had to step between it and the cross pole she felt like she was just flopping over the cross pole - even when it was raised. So i kept either getting left behind or was infront of the movement, either way it was not comfortable for either of us. When I asked L what i was doing wrong, she couldn't help but giggle she said it wasn't actually me but Kika! She wasn't using her backend at all, the point of teh excercise was to get her to push off the ground from behind, yet Kika was practically landing with her front feet before she made any attempt to push with her backside, which is why i was being jostled around in the saddle - weird double movement.
So L had me ride it again holding K together a bot more over the pole then using my leg between the pole and the fence, it still wasn't quite right. So i asked L did she want to hop up and see if she could get it right as i had a feeling it was me more so than Kika. After a few tries, and a larger cross (Kika seems to think smaller fences below her *roll-eyes*), L finished up happy saying that i have to learn to hold her together more and then really using my leg and/or stick to get her to pick herself up and push over the fence.

Good for us, some more homework and the dreaded first jump feeling that could have arisen was completely disregarded. L was actually smirking away to herself saying that she'd conned me into jumping and that I wasn't scared. To which i truthfully told her, while the horse is behaving i fear is when i don't know where i stand with her that i get nervous.

All in all I felt we had two great lessons, I feel for the mare that she is lumbered with me as a jockey, but while i have someone to help teach me and correct my woeful bad habits i feel we are making progress and getting things into shape quite nicely! Will see what I can do about pictures and/or maybe a video at some stage, but not sure about that one as I am awful!

Thursday 25 August 2011

New Saddle Christening

Attempted to go for our first outing in the woods in yonks this evening, but we were thwarted by the weather!
My friend L and I were all geared up on our red-headed ladies and one of her two bearded collies and set out towards the wood trails. We have about 5-10 mins of a hack on tarmac till we reach the forrestry which takes us right past Kika's field, so that was one of the many things we were going to have to overcome on our treck, ;)
For my now habitual worrying Kika was good as gold, well for her shall we say lol, obviously she has behaved better in the past. We still had some head-shaking and head-tossing when attempting to disagree with what i was asking of her - which was not complicated, mostly "please move forwarded" or "keep up alongised L's horse not behind her!"
All in all i was very happy with her, we manouvered passed the absolutely terrifying water trough in a neighbouring field to K's which she takes offence to passing every night! Silly horse! Then passed the field with her own companions in it, with them calling her - bless them! Got to the woods by which stage the rain was sheeting down and we were well and truly soaked. The dog was messing, the horses were un-happy in the rain and we were drowned! The sky was very ominous looking, so not wanting to be caught out in a thunderstorm we trundled along a few steps till we could turn and loop attempting to not make it obvious that we were heading for home early, rofl!
Saddle got a right christening, so i oiled it when we got back to the barn after drying it out a little with a towel i happen to have in my locker! We all looked like drowned rats!

Typically after we were down and un-tacked the rain cleared off, but we took this as a sign to head for home while we could get there without getting soaked again! All my gear went straight into the washing machine, heck even my undies were wet haha!

I've exitedly started reading my George Morris Hunter Seat Equitation, which came highly recommended and which i am thoroughly looking forwarded to after having watched his masterclass at the RDS. Only gotten so far as to read the introductions and nosy through the pictures so far. Although i did stumble across the section of how to deal with rearing, which i shall be referring back to! :D
When i ordered this book i also got one for stretching our equine friends and a complete guide to horses or something (can't remember the title now) by the great William Micklem - so am looking forward to nosying through them also, I will review all three when i read them, ;)

Thankfully no other news, my "flatwork" lesson has been moved up to tomorrow due to my going to Dublin tomorrow night for the Ireland vs England rugby game on Saturday. L has kindly accepted to lunge Kika in the pessoa on saturday so Miss K will not miss out on any of our new schedule for this week (although this evening was a little light on work - we still were in the saddle for a good 15-20mins and had no bad misbehaving so all in all i was happy!) and Sunday is her day off. Will be back to pole work on Monday evening so shall report back then. :)

Thanks again to all who read, comments are always much appreciated, ;)

Oh and to answer your question from the RDS post, Lysette, yes I think I did see Ms Hough jump Quick Study. Riding is deffo instilled in your trainer's blood then, huh? :)

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Pole Work

I was actually really happy with Kika yesterday. For some reason i got myself all worked up about riding her - we were in the outdoor doing pole work and there were lots of bodies around, many horses coming and going from the arena and it was hot, clammy and warm with dark clouds rolling in and a wind picking up so I was sure it was all going to combine with some sort of fireworks from herself - undoubtably spurred on by my nervousness. But my friend L was on the ground to give us pointers and so I'd told her i was feeling iffy about riding, so she kept me calm and thankfully the mare didn't brim over either. She possibly had no intention of doing so but i just had it in my head that last night was D-Day or something!
Kika wasn't exactly relaxed either though, more than likely as i was so tense, but another friend, M who has a soft spot for K was riding at the same time and reckons i should get her ovaries & kidneys checked, as she said K looked like she wasn't completely relaxed behind the saddle...That her mare had a similar problem that her eggs weren't working their way out of her system and as such were blocking her ovaries and giving her cysts which caused her mare to rear. She said vets and homeopathic stuffs cleared her up and that she's been fine since, so might well have to look into that. Although i still maintain that friday she was just being bould - although she is in season ... so I will deffo look into it!
Am waiting to hear back from vet about samples taken from warts and lab results so will bring it up then,
So for once a nice brief update, the only time she got uber-excited was when we did canter poles. She got herself all hett up and pulled like a train into them, tossing her head about as she wasn't happy with the speed i was asking her for. Once again new saddle proved to be most comfortable, that little extra cushioning really does absorb all shocks to stop them reverberating up your spine if horse takes a misstep or you get left behind at any stage...happened us on a couple of occasions last night with the pole work.

Unfortunately I did not manage to find a photographer to snap some pics of us, but the state I worked myself up into prior to getting up I can honestly say having photographic evidence of last night was the last thing on my mind at the time!
So sorry that you've had to read todays waffle without the reward of a photo!

Monday 22 August 2011

Make-Over Before and After Pictures

Title says it all really, Kika got bathed yesterday (Sunday 21/8/11) and had a bit of a haircut...I didn't want to take too much off her mane with her still living out and the flies being a nightmare!
So without further ado and/or blabbing;

Pre-Makeover/Before Sulky McSulkypants who made herself nice and muddy (but can't be seen in pics)

Post-Makeover - the sunshine was also out from behind the clouds which deffo helped, ;)

And then last one of Miss K with her pedicure done! *sniggers*

And finally i remembered to take two snaps of the new saddle!

And the fancy Biomex seat aka cushioning for my derriere and support for my back, ;)

Pole-work this evening, behaviour pending we might venture a cross pole!
Doubt there'll be pictures, but there will hopefully be an update - preferrably with a positive report, ;)

Sunday 21 August 2011

More ups and downs - but mostly ups

Where to begin with this weeks update...I guess the beginning is as good a place to start as anywhere.
So the start of Kika and my working week was Tuesday, due to her bee/wasp sting on Sunday she had that day and Monday off due to the swelling reaction positioning on her head the bridle would've rubbed it. She was very good, we worked on the pointers L had given us on saturday, K was so good that my friends S and A who were watching siad she was like a different horse to the one they had last seen me riding way back when before her injury, she was calmer, concentrated, listening to me and maintained her outline much better than she used to. She was so well behaved that A, whose horse (also A as it happens lol - never noticed that before) is currently out of action and awaiting an MRI scan on his front leg due to unexplained lameness, the poor pets I really feel for them! Anyway A (the person) was asking what my saddle was like to ride in with the Biomex stuff and how K was going in it etc etc, I told her why doens't she hop up and find out for herself. She didn't have her gear with her that day but said that she'd love to try her out the following day if possible.

So on Wednesday I worked on the same as i'd done the previous day, incorporating L's tips and pointers into my schooling session with K. I didn't put her in the walker as I knew that A was going to have a spin off her when i'd her warmed up. As it was very clammy and warm in the arena we were in i only did about 15-20mins with Kika and let A hop up. All was going well till A asked for a bit of canter to which Kika had decided she had had enough, that she was hot and tired. At this stage she had a good 40mins schooling done, including more demanding work from A as she's more classically trained than I am and is in fact more of a dressage rider. Kika was good in that she didn't rear, but she did give her signals and warning signs that she was considering it! Not fussed A said that as she had done enough already she just walked her around and trotted a little more to which K didn't disagree with.
When she hopped down she was impressed a) with the saddle - she said she'd never felt so comfortable in a GP saddle before and b) with the horse. Bar the slight disagreement at the end she was very happy with how K had gone for her, she said she was very supple up front and really enjoyed her spin.

Thursday was pessoa lungeing day for Miss K, I lunged her in the outdoor and after 8pm at night as it had still been 30C when i got in from work at 6pm that evening. She was a star and listened to me perfectly, trotting and cantering on request and completely ignored the massive convoy of flashing lights and police cards and huge cylindrical building blocks or something that passed while we were working. They couldn't but get her attention as it was dusk and the orange lights were flashing, but besides keeping an eye on them she didn't break from what i was asking of her and moved up and down her transtions on request. She has become so good at lungeing that it's hard to believe she used to just stop when she'd had enough *blushing*.

Friday when i got to the field, this is the face that greeted me, I have no idea how she managed tomove the fly fringe around her ears, but she has been known to be Houdini-esque in her ability to escape from fields so this must just be another trick in her repertoire... *shrug*
Anyways as it was another nice warmish evening (we've had nothing but rain and greyness since June) I had decided to work in the outdoor again as the indoors get very warm! Started our work no problem, walking and trotting around, as we started working on a smaller circle on our trot-walk transitions I somehow lost her. In a downward transition from trot to walk she gave me all of two seconds warning (her bouncing) and then up she went! Reared with me for the first time in months! She had threatened when we started back to work bareback and again on tuesday with A but she hadn't actually reared in so long that i had foolishly been hoping she'd finally moved on. When she came back down i immediately moved her forwards and we keptmoving from then on. She settled back down lovely and didn't attempt to misbehave for the rest of our schooling session. In fact another friend R arrived with his mare as we were about to finish up and when we did finish he commented on how well she had been going - which she had! After her boldness she worked beautifully! I have no idea what came over her in that moment, she wasn't afraid or shying as that is not the reaction to that, to me it felt purely like boldness - as in she was not happy with the trot-walk transitions and this was her way of telling me. Well gee thanks Kika, I'd ratehr you'd develope another form of communication if i'm honnest!
She definitely wasn't scared of something, cos she had a shy at a later stage of the schooling session and there she just lept sideways which is her shying reaction, but again straigthened her out and without breaking stride we circled and passed the spot again without incident (we were cantering at this stage). So she really was just being obstreperous at the start - silly mare. Perhaps she was re-testing the boundaries as this was week four of being back in full work - she may well be thinking she deserves another holiday soon. But no such luck sunshine as you've been checked by the osteo, vet and masseuse and all have given you a 100% clean bill of health, you have a new saddle which cannot be pinching so you are just too fond of your holidays and looking to see if you can get out of work. Well you didn't so I'm glad you realised that you've to suck it up and get on with it!

Of course i then spent the evening mentally going over and over what could have caused her to rear again, winding myself up no end. I wasn't overly worried however as I knew I was having another lesson with L on Saturday and that she'd be able to help me out and tell me what she thinks is going on if Kika decided to show her her underbelly during the class. Low and behold however that Kika behaved almost impeccably in our lesson, she did have one or two moments where she thought about throwing a wobbly but we moved her on and she didn't get a chance. She worked really well, upwards and downwards transitions without fuss or issue, if at any stage she did heat herself up L gave me pointers as to what to do - namely loosen the reins slightly and dirve her on so that she had nothing to fight against and was being moved forward. I usually do do this, but as she had given me so little warning the day before she really did catch me on the hop, silly mare!
I was very happy with our lesson yesterday and thankful that I hadn't worked myself into a state before riding her as i knew i had people on the ground how genuinely wanted to help us out. My mother came to watch as did my friend A (mentioned previously) and even S from tuesday happened to be about so all were there for moral support.
I have no answers as to why she reared on friday, plenty theories but as we have no verbal means of communications these shall remain theories until she tries again, if she tries again - which she probably will. I'm beginning to wonder if perhaps this is a nasty quirk i'm going to have to get used to and just work around...Jury is out on that one! To find out more would need someone to watch us all the time and see what appears to be going on with her prior to the fact. Loads of questions and no answers, but we'll keep working at it and see where it leaves us. L has agreed to help me out with lessons/tips/pointers twice a week. On mondays we're going to do pole work and maybe work our way back to cross poles and actually jumping and then on another day in the week we'll work on flatwork.
Today is a day off for Kika, I am going to give her a "makeover" in that she is in dire need of a wash - shampoo and all and she is also in desperate need of a haircut!

I've one more snapshot from yesterday, a bit of a conformation shot i took before popping her back in the field. Not sure if there is much change from previous pictures but i guess every little helps!

Monday 15 August 2011

Bits and Bobs - a bit of a catch up post

I'm enjoying a lovely long weekend, having Friday and today (Monday) off work. In fact the weekend was kick started a little early as I was able to leave work early on Thursday to be at the barn in time to meet, who I'd hoped would be the last saddle fitter for, to try out some saddles. We settled on three to try, 2 Stubben's and another GP one who's brand I cannot remember right now (but I think began with P) - but this isn't really important as it didn't suit myself or K as well as the Stubbens, a VSD Roxane and a VSD Genisis.
It was a tough call as both saddles gave me a good ride, and I was comfortable in both. Of course one was predictably more expensive than the other (not by much admittedly) and typically this was the one to fit Kika best of the two. This was the Genisis, I’m slightly ashamed to admit that superficiality and aesthetics did colour my judgment, well that and the fact it had the new Biomex technology to support your back in the seat. The colour of this saddle was a more “normal” shade of brown and was very near the brown of my bridle which I have had for 4 years. I figured the little bit extra I was spending on the saddle was justified in the fact that it would negate the need to buy a new bridle and martingale and would also give my sometimes dodgy back some helpful support. Well that and the fact that it was the best fitting saddle for the mare, the fitter also was quick to reassure that any and all necessary adjustments due to musculation and/or wastage could be made as saddle comprised of malleable gullet and wool flocking. (Examples of the colours I was dealing with - the one I decided against was in this colour LINK and the one I went for is closer to this colour LINK more chocolate brown IMO - I think the second picture is closest to the saddle I have bought, will attach pictures when I remember to take some!)
I went to collect the saddle with all the trimmings from the tack shop on the Friday, as I had to buy new stirrup leathers and irons also (neither of which the fitter had brought with him on Thursday). He very kindly (in an astute businessman-way) gave me the necessary cleansing products and the rubber rein stoppers and Lekkerli treats I was also buying for free, probably didn’t amount to more than €30 – but I went home happy. I then spent Friday evening oiling my new saddle which I managed to mark already due to my nails having been erring on the long side – they were cut first thing Saturday morning!

Saturday was a great day; I returned the saddle which I had been trying but decided against in the end to the other tack shop (photo of me riding in it below), helped my mother quickly with the food shopping (necessary evil to living) then made it to the barn where I cleaned out my tack locker which was minging due to mice making their way in and pillaging some of the vitamin treats I keep for herself. I cleaned the whole thing out, sweeping brush and all, taped up the wholes that the little blighters were coming in through and backed everything away nice and neatly. I then proceeded to soap the lovely new saddle as Kika turned in the walker. My good friend L (who I have mentioned a good few times) had offered to watch me ride in the saddle and give me some pointers to get our partnership off on the right foot and working properly now that we have our new saddle. Our thirty minute “lesson” went really well, Kika was a star.
Things I have to work on:
1)      To stop niggling at her with my heels – if she doesn’t respond to my first request she gets a reminded from the stick.
2)      Keep my heels down
3)      Slow our trot to make her work more so than rush
4)      Work more on circles then straight lines
5)      Keep her in an outline as best I can at all times (we are doing much better at this now that 6 months ago)
6)      Be stricter with myself when changing reins and keep her straight
7)      Plenty transitions

She was full of compliments for my girl, not having seen her ridden for quite a while – think the last time she’d seen her ridden was when we went for a hack together and Kika got excited at the end and reared with me. Thankfully she hasn’t done that since then and that was back in April/May I think! She was most complimentary about how calm and well behaved she was, to which I happily pointed out that she has been this content creature since coming back into work after the injury and going out to grass. Winter will be our big test, but plenty good work to fit in the mean time.

Saturday afternoon and evening was spent with L spectating at a local international dressage competition, where we watched the Keur. I was glad to see an Irish rider in the form of Judy Reynolds, which reminds me I must google her to see where she’s based; and my favourite horse to watch was called Santos, think it was actually DDL Santos. A beautiful grey who’s rider rode really well and to interesting music choice – eye-catching, they were definitely the combination that stood out for me.

Sunday was due to be a lungeing day for Kika, but when I brought her in from the field and started our grooming I noticed her face/jawline was swollen. L who was also around had a look and suggested I cold hose it if she’d let me or sponge the swelling to see if it’d go down. Thankfully it did, and when I checked her today it was still visible but much less so than yesterday. We had been pencilled in for a return over the coloured poles (trotting poles and we may have worked up to a small cross poll had all gone well) under L’s supervision today, but with her swelling yesterday we decided to leave her alone for today. We figured she may have just been unlucky and received a sting, which to my mind was plausible as she had jumped for no reason while being led in from the field crossing a patch of grass that she walks on every day to get to and from her field...

So that is my news for now, I’ll leave ye with the most recent photos I have of us. Apologies to those who have seen them before and the fact that the quality isn’t great.
The first is a pic of Kika and I in the second hand saddle we were trying out (but ultimately decided against), although my friend C graciously agreed to take pics of us last Wednesday only one came out that I care to share as the lighting was awkward, the camera is pretty old and the zoom is broken, that and the fact that the mare did not want to settle in that arena so most pictures she was doing a better giraffe impression then that of a horse that does know how to carry herself. Closest shot to a proper outline I have from that mounted session, note I was working in sitting trot at the time and am not on the wrong diagonal – although typically I am more often than not found in the wrong:

LINK if picture too small.

The next two shots are self-indulgent shots showing off Kika’s new fly fringe thereby continuing my purplification ponio process...slowly slowly i am expanding the collection, ;)

All going well I should be lungeing tomorrow evening and the riding the following two evenings, admittedly this will depend on swelling on her face. She is currently out without her headcollar to minimise any risk of rubbing etc. My new schedule for her is to ride two days in a row, lunge day then ride two days followed by a day off - then rinse and repeat. L who I jokingly call my coach reckons the mare will only benefit from being ridden two days in a row to hammer home the lessons we intend to work on.
Speaking of working on lessons, ordered 3 books off Amazon today (Lysette you'll be impressed), they include the George Morris Equitation one. I took so much from his masterclass that i am curious to read what you call your Bible. Majority of it will probably be lost on me, but I hope to learn!

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Super Spin

Will hopefully keep this brief, but those of you who are used to reading my novel-length posts will know that this is rarely the case!

I was overjoyed with my girly yesterday, she had been in the field since Wednesday as I was in Ireland. The Mammy had been to check on her and see that she was alive, in fact i got a very entertaining message on saturday saying that The Mammy had visited the field and that they'd been given hay. Kika still came over to say hello (probably helped that The Mammny had carrots to increase her appeal ;-) ), however Kika did not come alone, she had a lovely hay hat on her head. Watching her for a bit afterwards my mother understood why, the silly horse did not seem content with just eating the hay infront of her like her field she insisted on sticking her head right into the bale and pulling it back up tossing hay about the place and making herself a hat. I have a strange horse, showed my friend the text message and she fell about the place laughing...choking something out about like horse-like owner, but i don't know what she could be referring to! *whistles* I am completly normal ;-)

Anyway sorry, gone completely off-track again (perhaps this i why my posts get so long! I can't stick to my story! *blushing* )

So basically besides being lunged last Wednesday evening, Kika had done nothing since i last rode her last Tuesday where we'd worked on walk-trot-halt. (As an aside I've a lot of work to do on her walk - she's lazy - and halt wherein she is inclined to stretch her neck out as we halt, pfft! not what I am aiming for horse, ;-) )
However kitted in my new polka dot blue and brown socks, chocolate jodhs and nice new blue polo shirt looking all phwoar (if i may say so - Hah! Kidding) I rocked up to the yard all set to go for a spin and see if we could implement some of the flatwork tips i'd witnessed at the George Morris Masterclass on Saturday.
As is now the norm, i popped herself into the walker for 25minutes as mentioned above I have a lot of work to do with her to improve her walk under saddle so i am currently taking the easy option to get her warm up started in the walker! This spin was also D-Day for the saddle, it was make or break time, it was the spin that was to decide whether I was going to keep this one or get a new one from the saddle fitter who is kindly trying to sell the jumping saddle i bought back in October.

My good friend L was schooling her own horse (O), then 'coaching' another friend, N with her mare A over the same fences and then L was going to school C, a lovely mare she rides for another one of the liveries at our barn (R). I asked if i could squeeze in some flatwork between her coaching and second schooling session - saying that i'd be finished before she was ready to jump as she had to prepare her second ride.
Got up to the arena with the plan of working GM's trot 6-8 strides, walk 2-3 strides into our schooling session. Depending on how K was behaving i was going to leave the decision to canter to see how we got on with the "easier" paces first (read: more controlled), keeping in mind K had done nothing since Wednesday.

Well as usual i needn't have worried!
She was an absolute star, working correctly, calmy and most improtantly controlled!! She did everything i asked of her, including working on some bending as we worked the long sides of the arena in walk and trot. We also cantered and got lovely smooth and controlled circles, no attempting to tank off or speeding up in her canter, and the best of all no bouncing of the front legs mini-rear style canters neither! *dance*

We worked on my GM knicked trot-walk/walk-trot exercise, we even got a bit of counter canter, but that was not due to my asking as we haven't progressed that far yet (read: I haven't progressed that far yet - have yet to learn how to ask for a flying change! *Serious-beetroot-blushing* ). But she did strike off on the wrong lead so we got a bit of sneaky un-requested counter canter.

I was so happy with her, deffinitely back on the I-Love-My-Horse bandwagon!

The masseuse-homeopathy lady is coming to see her this evening to make sure all is in good nick, depending on what needs tweaking she may not be able to be ridden for the next few days - so i am even more happy now that yesterdays session was so good! Silver lineing to all this, the arena we were working in had the cross-poles set up for L's schooling and for the first time in almost a year i was tempted to have a pop!!!
Perhaps the weekend watching show jumping at the RDS had an effect, well that combined with K being so good of watch this space, we may be leaving the ground again in the not too distant future! :)

PS: On the saddle front, I don't think I am going to keep this one as the seat is very hard and I've a bony bum! But not just that, it is quite heavy compared to my previous saddles, the abovementioned friend N exitedly had a look at it shortly after i got it and said it was a very old make which to my mind would explain the weight of it. She was also watching us for a bit yesterday and said that it moves about on her back a lot under me when we are working. So methinks going for a newer model (other tack shop guy also sells Stubben's) and one that can be altered to suit her and me as close to 100% as any saddle can be on a horse is the right option for us! So going to ring teh Saddle Fitter who has lent me this saddle today to tell him that I won't be keeping it and that I'll bring it back to him at the weekend (can't get to him before then) and will also ring other tack shop and see when he can come to fit her for a new one.
Exciting times, but now that things are going well I'd rather have this saddle business sorted and get back to doing what I brought her here for...riding!

PPS: Gargh, as usually i have waffle don for a lot longer than i had intended...I swear this was supposed to be a short post! *blushing*
Will see if i can rope someone into tagging along to play phographer/videographer next time I'm going to ride as a reward to those diligent readers with some pictures

Monday 8 August 2011

RDS Round-Up

Royal Dublin Horse Show (RDS)
The highlight for most equine-minded people in Ireland is the RDS in August every year. It is a fantastic amalgamation of many equine disciplines in one place with competitions running from Wednesday to Sunday mostly in Showing and Show Jumping classes - including many international classes the highlights for most being the Aga Kahn (Nations Cup on the Friday), the Puissance (on the Saturday) and the Grand Prix (on the Sunday). Although there is always the fantastically entertaining team chase (always on the sunday for which teams have to qualify), dressage classes, racehorse to riding horse classes and the great pony club games culminations - now those are displays of horsemanship and always 100% entertaining!!
This year's special guests were the Ukranian Cosacks (spelling?!) who entertained the masses with multiple showcases and displays throughought each day. I saw them on the saturday in the main arena as it spilled down with rain and was completely awestruck at the speed and skill with which they work!
I mustn't forget the tack stands! There are loads of them and usually plenty bargains to be found, although myself and a few others that i spoke to did think the bargains in themselves were fairly scarce on the ground this year, but i suppose the economic troubles facing the world at the moment have a knock on effect and after all everyone does have to make a living!

So now that we have some background info for any readers who are not familiar with the RDS, I flew back to Ireland on Thursday evening to take in this wonderful event. Typically i attend the show with a friend from uni on the Friday and again on Saturday, however this year she couldn't make the Friday due to a family wedding, but not wating to miss the Aga Kahn i decided to go on my tod for the first day and get my shopping done then aswell - to save her having to traipse around the tack stands with me. As although she is "horsey" she no longer owns one and so the excitement and thrill i get out of nosying through all the stands is not always shared by those who have no beastie to make such purchases for! I also managed to squeeze in a very enjoyable meet and greet with a bunch of lovely people - you know who you are and it was great to be able to put names to faces!
The Aga Kahn as always was thrilling to watch and the Irish team did really well to finish second to Britain after a fantastic jump off. I have always had a huge horse-crush on Nick Skelton's horses and whatever my feelings used to be for the gorgeous grey Russel and the brilliant bay Arco - Carlo blows them out of the water in my book. He always just looks like such a happy horse when he is jumping a round, you can tell he 100% loves what he is doing and is amazing at it! While i have serious love for carlo, afraid Nick'll have to settle for my admiration of his horses as Billy Towmey and Shane Breen are still my two favourite riders to watch. Love Billiy's top two horses Je T'aime Flmaenco and the fiery chestnut mare Tinka's Serenade. And as for Shane I go weak at the knees for his young stallion Baloon - swoon! I was overjoyed when i got to see that partnership go in the Dublin Stakes on Saturday, unfortunately for them they didn't go clear, but seeing Balloon in the flesh totally made my weekend!

I managed to get the bones of my shopping done on the friday, I went with the intention of being completely selfish this year and clothing myself was the aim of this year's shopping. I wasn't after much really, just some polo shirts for schooling work and if i could find nice jodhs in interesting colour combinationss i would've picked them up. My shopping included 2 5euro polo shirts from Horseware (at a fiver each i didn't bother to try them on but i'm pretty sure that even though i got the XS ones, they'll still be pretty baggy as they were not fitted shirts) - a grey one with teal writing and a teal one with grey writing - very adventurous of me, i know! ;)
I also got two lovely fitted polo shirts from a new Irish brand launched at the show called Quagga, they have lovely bright colours. I got a t-shirt in red and one in sky blue. They had a lovely grey and purple striped rugby jersey that i was sorely tempted to buy, but i settled for the two polos which i managed to get two for the price of one! Admittedly i think it may have been a mistake by the poor girl who served me's part in returning me my change, so sorry and i hope she didn't get in trouble!
The remainder of my shopping was knick-knacks in the form of fly bonnets for friends at the barn here is bright colours, ;-) as thank you's for having been so good to me and Kika. And a purple fly thing to attach to Kika's headcollar to keep the flies out of her eyes - although looking out the window at the moment she won't be needing it any time soon! Not the big bug-eye mesh netting thing, but the dangly string thing (for lack of better descriptive words from me!), after purchasing it i noticed it was marked cob size and when i went back to the stand to see if i could change it they only had 2 left (also both cob sizes) which in itself was shocking as there had been a load of them there when i bought it! So i decided to chance it and see if it'll fit her, she hasn't the world's largest head (I've had to put extra holes in her noseband so it sits right for her lol) so hopefully it'll fit and the purplification of the ponio can continue slowly and surely! The last things i picked up were multiple pairs of knee high funky socks, teehee. Got one "normal" argyle pair in grey (base colour) with purple and greeny-turquoise diamonds then three pairs of "funky" ones - a yellow and orange puzzle pieces pair, a black with bright blue dots pair and a red and white striped pair (to be worn when i debut my new red Quagga shirt, if the weather clears up! :p) - those ones remind me of Where's Wally, hahaha!
I did spend a good bit of time looking at the riding vests and drooling over gorgeous saddles - i am still on my saddle kick not having purchased one yet teehee so all are always catching my eye. The Antares ones were just beautiful...some day...who knows i might win the lotto!
I also completely fell in love with the Italian gaiters and zip up jodh boot (have the name saved in my phoen but not on me) - at 110 euros for the boots i declined to purchase them just yet as i don't know what colour saddle i'm going to end up buying and don't want to clash...vain i know, but sure i'm not likely to buy any of these things again till i absolutely have to...So might aswell be as complimentary as i can get them now ;-)

The final highlight of my weekend (besides the show-jumping classes which goes without saying that those are highlights on their own) was being able to witness a George Morris Masterclass (yes L you read it right, thought of you and your obsession the whole time!). Unfortunately the heavens decided to open and drown us , so i missed the last fifteen minutes of the hour long display. But what i did see was thoroughly worth it! There were three riders of different levels on horses of different levels; Eddie Moloney who has been having a great year on the Irish Grand Prix circuit, Kelly Allen previous European Champion gold medalist in ponies and now succesfully competing in young rider classes and a guy who i hadn't previously heard of called Michael White who is based in the UK and having good success over there.
The first thing George did was correct their positions, particularly the two younger riders he told them to put more of their foot in the stirrups, shorten their reins to keep contact and not let the horses get too overbent (loved this bit as even watching the GP yesterday on the telly so many horses were way too overbent IMO), he said that unfortunately so far as he could tell the above traits had weirdly (to his mind) become popular amongst riders these days.
He got them to trot using only one half of the arena and had them keep their horses along the rail right up against the crowds/stands telling them to keep the horses put to get them used to the crowds and listening to them. When they moved up to trot he got them to go for 6 to 8 strides then go back to walk for 2 to 3 strides then resume trotting and repeat, while changing rein as he rightly pointed out everything we do on one rein has to be repeated on the other so that the horse remains balanced in its work. The first canter work he had them do was to strike off in counter canter and work on circles in counter canter - he said that excercise would check the level of schooling in even the top horses as it is challenging to an imbalanced horse. In the circles he had them work on lengthening the stride between circles and the shortening up for and during the circles mimiccking what horses are asked to do when jumping a course of fences - lengthening and shortening their stride.
He got them to do their initial jumping from trot, he told us that trotting a horse into a fence builds their backs, necks and maintains the control and makes sure they are listening to the rider. He then moved up to a vertical and an oxer, getting them to jump them on a figure of eight type pattern from canter - they would jump the vertical ride past the oxer, turn back on them selves and come back over the oxer going passed the vertical on the return then turning around on themselves again and back over the vertical to repeat the exercise. He then raised the poles and had them jump the two fences on a six stride related distance encouraging the riders to let the horses go into the bottom of the fences and not interfere with them so much on the appraoch. There was more after this as they moved to another fence jumping it on a circle i think, but at this stage i had to leave as the rain was just awful...
I took so much from the masterclass it really was thoroughly informative, so much of what he said would be considered basic but as in anything if you don't get the basics right the rest won't function as well. It was great to watch/listen and learn from one of the greats of the equine world, but not only that but to hear him say many of the things you agree with try to work on yourself. Made me think that perhaps i'm not as far off base as i think...

PS sorry i got no photos, camera i brought's zoom decided to stop working - woopsy, should really have tried that out before i went huh?!