Saturday 30 August 2014

Back to the grindstone

After nearly 2 weeks unscheduled break (well sort of, I knew I was going to Ireland for a long weekend) from the saddle, I finally got my act together today and logged some quality time with my girls.

Oh Hai! We missed you blogosphere...did you miss us?!
I headed to the yard about 11.45 and found the two of them alone. The third horse was out for a stroll with her owner, who said she'd be about 15 mins and then had to feed her. So i hauled my two in and decided to lunge Kika; something I've been meaning to do for months and either didn't get out of work on time or just opted to ride instead. However with the time schedule of other horse being ready to go back out i wouldn't have K ridden in time & didn't want to faff with putting Nancy out to bring her back in shortly afterwards.

Are you talking about me?!
K was a super star to lunge in just her bridle, no pessoa or gadgets as again I was sort of limited on time & toying with the idea of hauling her back in after i rode Nancy to give her a proper under saddle spin. However she listened to me well and didn't have one leap, buck, fart or take off moment the whole time we worked on transitions w/t/w on larger and smaller circles going in both directions. Then the same again for t/c/t with some walk either side of changing the rein. All this while the other mare from their field kept calling her every time K passed the lunge arena window while O was having a bath. K listened to me the whole time & when she thought about whickering back to O's first call & I said "No", K listened and kept on her circle without another thought to replying to her buddy.

Yep - me so good
In fact she was so good that a mad notion overtook my normally rational & safety conscious brain. Wherein i simply had to hop up on her bareback for a walk around to cool her out - bad me had no helmet or boots on. But you know how you just know the mood they are in?! Plus I knew that if i took her out of the arena to go get my helmet she would think she was finished and no longer be in a good mood about going back in. So i hedged my bets & am so glad that I did. We only walked as she has pretty bony withers,  but she dropped her head and even walked without fuss into the scary corners that always get the OMG-hairy-eyeball when lunging.
It was awesome!!! ☺

Nancy stood in the cross ties like the great girl she is as K, myself and the turnout buddy left to cross back over the road to return to the field. K had had some more pampering with the new Ecolicious Leave Me Bee fly spray and some mane and tail brushing. Tomorrow I must pull her mane despite the protests i know this will be met with. She is looking pretty scraggly in today's photos.

Then it was Nancy's turn, tacked her up after her own pampering/grooming session complete with fly spraying too. Stuff smells divine ♡♡♡
We wandered around the main arena in walk while i faffed with instagram for my #rootd - yeah I am that sad. But seeing as it was N & my first time back in the saddle in almost two weeks I didn't want to harass her right from the start about her walk. So we meandered for a bit...ahem probably a bit longer than we should have LOL. But thems the joys of having no other plans for the day - I could take my time & enjoy my ponios.

We did buckle down to work & concentrated on our walk trying to remember the tips from my lesson but not nit-picking so that N wouldn't curl in on herself to avoid what i was asking of her (this would come later). I had deliberately not re-read my lesson recap prior to riding so that I could ease us back into work after our mini-break without pressure & tips floating about in my brain making me tense and potentially crabby. Our trot work was good as almost always, thankfully that hadn't gone away. We tried some t/w transitions with plenty circles and serpentines thrown in to work on our bend. Then we moved up to some canter work as another rider joined us in the arena. We got two lovely bad-side canter strike offs interspersed with some more trot work & change of rein to avoid rushing & her pre-empting a canter request. We then changed the rein to rinse & repeat with walk & trot work again mixed in to change things up a bit.

Ooh Shiney
N was an angel, but began to tire at this point and rather annoyingly the other rider seemed to be almost under our feet every time we turned or changed rein etc as we were both trying to use the far wall mirrors to work on ourselves. We did some more walk & trot work but N was being obnoxious (as obnoxious as she gets) and curling in on herself the evade what i was asking of her - she was also pretty tired at this stage so i persevered w/t transitions with serpentines/changes of rein until she stretched back out for me and called it quits.
Despite the bit of a nosedive at the end of our spin, I was super happy with what we'd achieved beforehand.
How many young horses can be hauled in out of the field after so little work his summer & NONE over the last fortnight  and not kick up a fuss about anything. Deff not Miss K at that age, she would have needed quite a few sessions on the lunge to re-engage her brain to under saddle work ;-)

Kika kept a close eye on my dismantling
After another post-ride pampering session I took N back out to the field and set about taking down the temporary fencing that can be seen on the left of the first photo to give the poor starving horses access to the fresh grass on the other side. Rolling and un-rolling uncooperative white tape that insisted on tying itself in knots - i am woefully useless at re-rolling tape neatly, so it took a lot longer than it should have LOL.

Apologies for the sideways start to the video, I had to call K over to me to help her make her way around to the fresh grass side. Tomorrow I get to finish trying to clear the droppings off the grazed side so that the grass can regrow on the now "old" side. Hopefully I can put K & N back on that side next month and avoid giving them hay until they go out on our winter turn out ☺

K is still a little too round for my liking but we'll shift that soon

Thursday 28 August 2014

Book Review - Dressage Chronicles I & II

While traveling last weekend I bought the following two books for a bit of light reading while on buses, planes & trains. Have i ever mentioned how much I ♡ my kindle ;-)
I heard about these books a few years back, honestly I heard about the first one on HHO (Horse & Hound forum) but by the time i got around to ordering it (amazon link provided with photo credit below) a second book had been written with a third one in the works i think...

Google Images LINK - Amazon LINK
I was looking for some light easy reading while traveling. I can never get enough of horse stories so i hoped these books would tick the boxes of fun, easy reads with perhaps some fluff & love stories tied in. No fluff - Jilly Cooper this ain't...In saying that I have never read JC so what do I know really.
I flew through the first book as Lizzie (the main character) adjusts to her new post-college life as a Working Student for a renowned Dressage Rider during the winter season in Florida.

Google Images LINK - Amazon LINK
The second book picks up right where the first left off as the crew move North for the Summer months. Sadly some of my favourites from the first book don't make the trip to NJ,  but we knew this before the end of the first book. Still the fact that they are barely mentioned outside the first few chapters of book 2 is rather annoying. New characters are introduced, some i loved - some i was less fond off.
All the horses are great & the descriptions of all are brilliant right down to characteristics and mannerisms that all equestrians will recognise and identify with.
I am no dressage buff but i loved the terminology explanations and the peak into the upper dressage shows these books afforded me as I'm never going to experience it in person. I also liked how it was written for equestrians so the 'simple' stuff like; trot, canter, gallop weren't explained but the execution behind a half halt was amongst other dressage movements which are explained in understandable terms for simpletons like myself.

I don't know if it was just me but the main character seemed to have an easier ride than she makes out, all things considered she has it pretty easy with fab tuition, great horses to ride and plenty favourable character interactions to balance out the less savoury ones.

I am looking forward to the next book,  but don't think I'll be re-reading these over and over again.
In the mean time I have just started Ambition (see below for links) and so far am really not loving the main character. Talk about having a chip on her shoulder...hopefully she mellows out!

Google Images LINK - Amazon LINK

Has any one else read these or have you any other equine "novels" to recommend? 
I haven't really read many since being a kid/teenager so I'm eager to get my hands on as many as i can. Kindle friendly preferred :-)

PS: hopefully i haven't given anything away or ruined the appeal of these books.
Oh & I wasn't asked to write a review or anything + no copyright infringement meant etc etc

PPS: I forgot to give a shout out to the equine clothing outfits described in these books. These are some super stylishly dressed riders - #rootd descriptions were awesome and made me want to be rolling in dosh to be dressed as nicely in designer matchy-matchy threads LOL

Sunday 17 August 2014

Partially Poor Polework

I've no one to blame for the poor polework session with Kika but myself. I don't know what was wrong with me, i think i just ran out of energy & as such motivation. She wasn't bad per se, but in typical Kika fashion she wasn't exactly helping me either - again not her fault. I am sure I was being unclear in my instructions, my right arm was aching which means I must have been tensing the muscles (what little there is on me) - again unproductive towards a better spin.

She was holding a lot of tension in her jaw and wasn't really paying attention to me although again not bad just not relaxing as she had done yesterday. I hold my hand up and take full responsibility for this meh spin, if i had brought my A game we'd have gotten better work although as i said what I got wasn't bad it just wasn't as good as it has been recently.

No new pictures of the girls today,
so some spillover from yesterday
I had ridden Nancy first and really concentrated on our walk & trot work, trying to implement the instructions I could remember from our lesson on Thursday.  The spin went much better then yesterday, there was no curling in on herself or evasion tactics or rather none that stand out in my mind as I type this.

My amazing yard just keeps getting better - yep they have invested in a fancy new equine treadmill! We've had a lot of injured horses these last few years that have needed long periods of hand walking - enter the treadmill. So while it's awesome, I hope at the same time that my girls don't need it!
I really can't complain, they are such good girls, if i can get my head right & brush up my skills we'll get there with baby steps. ☺
I hope to lunge Kika tomorrow, ride Nancy and reverse those schooling patterns on Tuesday before riding both on Wednesday before they get 5 days off for my long weekend At a family gathering in Ireland next weekend.

Saturday 16 August 2014

Saturday Spins

Had two lovely spins on my girls this afternoon, but I'm going to back-pedal to yesterday first to briefly recount my Kika spin. The Mammy supervised me as Friday was a bank holiday so we were both off work. The Mammy had me drop my stirrups by a whole as she said my heels are at an awkward angle and that I was gripping the saddle with the wrong part of my legs - or at least it seemed that way to her from the ground. She also had me concentrate on turning my heels out and toes forward in an attempt to break me of my nasty heel nudging habit...jury's out as to whether this will work or is even right. We'll check with her sister (the trained riding instructor) when we see her next weekend in Ireland!

The welcoming committee
Kika started out in her typical stroppy/choppy fashion but settled in lovely. I think she is in season, which explains why she came running on Thursday - as that level of attachment to me is uncharacteristic for her. When I stopped Kika at the start and at the end of the spin, she screamed for whoever would answer her - but behaved like a good girl & kept her hormones in check while we worked.

Queen of the #AwkwardStance
Today's spins started with Nancy, where I tried to remember the tips I'd been given by the New Trainer but there were so many tips I'm sure I'd forgotten quite a few. We had some wiggly moments where she'd get defensive and curl in on herself to try to evade what i was asking of her. But we did get some nice work done including some lovely canter work without incorrectly striking off. We continued to struggle with our walk, but that will be a long work in progress.

There was a massive rain storm where it was really loudly hammering off the roof, I was very glad I was on Nancy who got a little antsy but nowhere near worried as Kika would have been. I'm actually pretty sure that Kika would have lost her mind with the noise, but Nancy handled it all in stride. She is a real gem of a horse.

Both girls pre-work today. Kika is so round!!!
Kika was up next, she settled well and offered me good trot work. Probably not engaged properly as i am woeful at noticing these things and she doesn't offer that up easily; but she did give me lovely stretchy trot as opposed to her usual choppy offerings. I also tried to incorporate the walking tips from my lesson with Kika's work as she also has a poor walk - yep, I am the common denominator between my two horses & their poor walks. Lengthening the reins and squeezing her forward with my legs - again it will be a work in progress. We may or may not get there some day.

How cute is Nancy?!

Thursday 14 August 2014

New Trainer First Lesson

It was so cute, before the lesson I had to go to the field to bring Nancy in. I hadn't seen the girls since Saturday between pouring rain & my feeling poorly I hadn't made it to the field.
Kika was so cute, she came cantering down to me from the top of the field - she has never been that excited to see me! Talk about knowing how to get on my good side - Legend! So of course she got a cookie...perhaps why she came running LOL

Photos from last week to supplement the word vomit
Anyways as I brought Nancy in the heavens opened and drowned the pair of us. Thankfully I had given myself an hour to get her ready & be in the saddle to warm up before the lesson. I put a running braid in her mane so that I wouldn't get my hands caught. She still wasn't completely dry when I tacked her up, but i couldn't wait any longer if i was to warm her up. Despite not feeling great this week, today included, but I didn't want to reschedule the lesson as I've waited 3 weeks for it and will be away in Ireland for a long weekend next week, so he'll or high water i was having this lesson today. ☺ 

Nancy warmed up really well, we walked around on a long rein & trotted on a long rein for a good 10 minutes before collecting her up circles, serpentines and figures of eights. When the new trainer, S, came in and hooked me  up with earphones & mic - super high tech! She asked what I was having trouble with, I said right rein circles & canter departs.

She suggested we start on our better rein with trot work. Unusual to me as i would usually start on our bad side, but she must have wanted to see what our good looked like before tackling the bad. She had me carry my hands differently and then brought as back to walk. N also struggles with her walk, S had me lengthen my reins and push her forward to lengthen her stride in walk. She tends to block up, shorten her stride, roll in on herself and shift her butt to the inside as she tries to squirrel out of striding out. N really sucks back in the walk. 

We worked on trotting with circles and serpentines, N can sneak looks to the outside so S had me really work on keeping her attention to the inside by keeping my attention to the inside of the circle as if someone was standing in the center talking to me or lunging us. We did the same with canter transitions before changing rein.

We stayed on a circle on our bad rein, really working on keeping her attention and mine to the inside as we are both very bad on the right rein. Praising her when she softened and transitioning between walk and trot. She was much better than we normally managed. The handy reminders of long leg & hand positioning really helped us stay on track. We worked up to canter transitions  and got them right each time first time. However we broke back to trot when nature called and we missed our correct lead strike off on that asking, but regrouped S had me make sure Nancy & I were both looking inside the circle to increase our canter success.

Takeaways & things to work on:
- keep my focus to the inside
- bend my elbows
- long leg (my heels have a mind of their own)
- watch my shoulders

For Nancy:
- work on the walk, carry a stick to help coax her forward if necessary
- help her maintain inside bend by keeping my attention to the inside of the circles

I'm sure there was much more, but that's what I remember from our first lesson. Fingers crossed we can schedule another lesson the week after next & I can practice our takeaways between now & then. S didn't seem too offended by my riding, here's hoping she can help us improve. She did say that N is on the right track. We've to be careful with her & really work on the walk as she has a good one when she strides out, coaxing her to do so is my job. I hope I'm up to the task.

Wednesday 13 August 2014

Equestrian at Hart Blog Hop - Equestrian Wardrobe

The fabulous Hillary @EquestrianAtHart has taken up the blog hop mantle and she is running with it. Kicking the fun &games off with an awesome first blog hop where we get to show off our equine wardrobes - wherein I have no problem admitting that I love my "horsey" wardrobe way more than any other clothes I own...probably because I either spend my time in these outfits, work clothes or pjs. And we all know horses are the best way to put people in a good mood, closely followed by sleep & then there are the work clothes...which sometimes get supplemented with horsey polos to make me feel like a super rebel - lol!
I shall try to keep this post word light - I know, super change for me!

Equikozy socks, Quagga Wear polo & Horze jodhs

Typically during the warm months I ride in polo shirts, jodhpurs and my fav Equikozy socks. I have already swooned for a whole post about the virtues of the Equikozy socks - LINK, in fact I cannot wait to order more - the prices really are so inviting, they are super comfy & come in fab colour combos!

Blue Quagga Polo, teal Horsewear Polo,
Horze jodhs & blue puzzle Equikozy socks
My polos have so far all been purchased from trade stands at the RDS Horse Show in Dublin, Ireland because I like to bargain hunt and barter with the retailers in the hopes of getting some $$$ off my purchases.
My two Quagga & Horsewear Polos were both bought at the RDS in 2010 and my two Puffa Polos were purchased in 2011 - all have worn extremely well. Although thanks to Hillary & Amanda @900fbpony I now covet a much more expensive Kastel Sun Shirt as the weather had been lovely and warm here all summer. It has now taken a turn for the wetter & i haven't seen my girls since Saturday - yep I am a terrible horse-momma, especially as I am scheduled to have my first lesson tomorrow. Fingers crossed i can dry one of them off for that!

Equikozy socks, Puffa polo & Lidl jodhs

I love the Horze jodhpurs, and actually have two extra pairs that are not pictured...I3m not sure why i couldn't put my hands to them when i was snap happy last night. Which leads me to a question i have been dying to ask, but feared looking ignorant when commenting on other peoples own - i don't mind so much ;-)
What is the difference between breeches and jodhpurs?
I think i have a pair of Horze breeches which have side pockets (like normal pants) and button fasteners for those pockets vs the "traditional" jodhs I have which have one zip pocket on the front. In my mind breeches are looser fitting than jodhpurs - but this may be completely in my imagination...
A German chain of supermarkets which is prevalent in Europe, Lidl, sometimes have equestrian themed offers for one week only where i nabbed two pairs of "thermal" jodhpurs (pictured above and below) but which i actually use predominantly during the summer months as i find them to be thinner material than my Horze ones...ironic?
I think so...

Equikozy socks, Lidl jodhs & Puffa polo
My head is protected by a recently purchased Charles Owen leather look Ayr8 and my feet & calves are also encased in leather in the form of Mackey Paddock boots and Tredstep Ireland ProG2 gaiters.

"Glamour" shot self-portrait without my ugly mug :D
 However, I am hoping to splurge on either the Tredstep Donatello field boots or the DaVinci field boots when i get back to Ireland next weekend and can actually go to a stockist to try them on. My gaiters are sized 13/17inches and I am not sure how the "off-the-rack" tall boot sizes compare for people like me who have chicken legs...So i want to try them on before i spend that much money. I am super excited to have my first pair of proper tall boots!
Old photo, but shows a couple of things i forgot to photograph last paddock boots & gaiters,
plus my old broken GPA helmet, my BR gloves and my grey Horsewear polo & my bordeaux Horze breeches.
You can just about make out my gloves in the above photo, sorry I don't have a better shot. They are made by BR. I have two pairs - one leather brown pair that are insulated & I use in winter for outdoor work but only ride in for hacking in the woods as they are pretty thick. My second pair are just about pictured above and are made of black stretchy material with mesh over the knuckles for breathability - they are marketed as "summer" gloves but i use them all year around as they are skin tight and keep my circulation flowing perfectly :)

I think that covers my Equestrian Wardbrobe - I do have a draft post somewhere which I was going to do about my Winter Wardrobe but then the weather improved so i haven't yet compiled the photo-data/spam to accompany that delight just yet...The way it has been raining here this week - that post could be making an unwelcome return!!!

Massive THANK YOU to Hillary for inspiring a great blog hop!
*snaps* girl!

Sunday 10 August 2014

(Higher) Standard Sunday

Plans for saddle time & polework had to be cancelled when I looked out the window this morning and saw grey clouds and rain with thunder & lightning forecast for the day. So instead I decided to play with my new Higher Standards leather care products that arrived during the week.

I will do a full review later when I've used them a couple more times and have a better feel for them however first impressions are good as they tackled the rejuvenating process on my "old" gear that lives in the basement. Namely two old bridles and Kika's old saddle. Before and after photos accompany this post.

My first impressions of the Viva Carlos Special Edition is that it smells divine & works really well when one follows the intrusions on the pot. I love the little sponge that comes with it and the lovely citrus scent.

While I like the way the Conditioning Balm works after cleaning, I am not gone on the smell of that product. However I do like how a little goes a long way and am sure both products will last me ages.

Saturday 9 August 2014

Schooling Saturday

Just sitting down to watch Live coverage of the Puissance from the RDS on the TV, wish I was there but this is the next best thing. Daniel Blumen was fantastically fun last year, hopefully this year will be another brilliant renewal.

Nancy prior to our spin
I rode both girls today, started with Nancy who behaved beautifully again. She really is such a good girl when we remember that she was ridden only on Tuesday this week!

Sunbathing post spin
A yard friend that I don't get to ride with often said she looked really good which certainly warmed the cockles of my heart. We kept it simple with w/t/c transitions, circles, serpentines and some halts although not too many.

Sweaty Kika after work - she was such a great girl
Kika was next and put in a lovely effort, she really buckled down and worked for me - which she hadn't done our last two spins. I did put my stirrups back up a whole after having let them down last Sunday - i felt like it made a difference and maybe it's all in my head and that in itself made the difference as so much of riding is a mental game.

Awkward pose from Kika as she sunbathed
We also changed things slightly in that K didn't spend an hour on the walker first as another horse has been added to their field so i no longer have to bring both girls in when I ride.
We also worked on a spiralling circle on each rein during our warm up which helped to get her mind engaged and her bending. Then the usual w/t/c circles, serpentines and halts too. I did try to focus on our walk and help her work at it some she gets kind of squirrely when walking rather than striding out. Baby steps and we will hopefully get there ☺
K kept me sniggering as we worked on our trot work She made weird puffing sounds last week while we worked, today she was making hilarious growling sounds. I think I'll ride her without the flash attachment tomorrow just in case that is having a detrimental effect on her breathing *worried*

Grazing together
Both girls got a hose after work and some chill out time in the sunshine before they went back outside and i continued the paddock maintenance for almost 2 hours and cleared all the poop from their paddock.

Nasty flies annoying my poor Nancy. We're due a heavy rain fall
so i don't like leaving their fly masks on if they are going to get wet
as i worry about chaffing/rubbing.

Tomorrow I shall tackle the other side which I haven't managed to finish clearing since they swapped sides. The upside to the recent rain is that growth is coming on well on that side of the field so when I do swap them back over they won't go hungry and i won't have to decide whether or not to sort out some hay for them. I hate giving them hay during the summer as they are already round enough!

I left the three of them napping together
Hopefully we'll play around with some polework tomorrow.

Friday 8 August 2014

Friday Flashback VI

This flashback takes us back to 1993 when I partook in my first pony club camp on my mother's old horse Tassie ♡♡♡

Weirdly I think i got most improved rider for the week, but seeing as I probably hadn't ridden since the previous summer I could really only improve from two lessons a day 😉

Apologies for the photo quality, they are camera phone captures of old school photos.

Am hoping to get in plenty quality time & saddle time over the weekend! Fingers crossed i can find dry windows between the scattered showers & thunderstorms to haul the girls in, ride them & get some more poopa scoopin maintenance of the paddock.

Thursday 7 August 2014

Glamour Girls

Oh I do love me a bit of irony in the evening.

Matchy-matchy tail swish
I quite possibly had one of the most unglamorous evenings a gal can have when it comes the the haute couture lifestyle that accompanies horses.

Nasty flies - poor ponies
I spent a good hour picking pony poop, placing it in a wheelbarrow and whisking it to the corner of the field and out of the precious ponies' way.

The things we do for our horses!

I could've ridden & lunged like I'd planned to do yesterday but ended up aborting due to rainfall all afternoon.

Nancy wanted her close up
Living out 24/7 + rain = no saddle time for moi.

As this evening was dry I decided I'd best take advantage and attempt some paddock maintenance, which I am hoping I can continue over the weekend *fingers crossed*

I'm so glamorous
Now that I have written enough gibberish without actually saying anything, so I'll shut up.