Tuesday 26 January 2016

Heart Horse

I hear/read about people talking about their heart horses and while I love both my girls dearly I am not sure they are "heart" horses to me. I don't feel bonded to them in such a way that they would pine for me if we were separated. Although I do miss them and find myself grouchy if i don't get to ride them often enough (usually through my own fault/laziness) - however I do not think that feeling is specific to these horses. I think I would (and have in the past missed) any contact with horses. What can I say...crazy horse girl through & through here!

All images borrowed from instagram
- credit to those who shared them there first

Kika is honestly prob more horse than I can actually handle - well maybe I can handle her better now but it is often a fine line and there was deff a time a few years back where it got super rocky. But she like myself loves to jump, I am pretty sure we would both have a lot more fun together if i could organise myself enough to set up and then put away fences every couple of weeks. Note to self - *TRY* to do that at least once a month...okay maybe every couple of months!

Nancy is probably closer to a heart horse as i did covet her from her early days and feel blessed to have been in a position to include her more permanently in my life. She greets me whenever she sees me and is a genuine pleasure to be around 99% of the time. Nancy is like a puppy dog whereas Kika is more like a cat - happy to see you when you can do something for her...less enthused on other occasions. However K is more vocal when I arrive since Nancy joined us, so long as the transfer of good behaviour continues to be from Nancy to Kika and not vice versa - it bodes well for me ;-)

In saying all this, I started writing this post yesterday afternoon then rode Kika last night. She was an absolute gem - in as much as she ever has been! Sure we had some discussions about spooky spots in the arena & yes there was some fussing in some of the canter work - but nothing was an out and out battle/meltdown. We recovered and negotiated each occurrence with cool relaxed heads which plastered such a huge grin on my face that it is still there this evening and has me so super stoked to ride Nancy tonight and Kika again tomorrow. Hopefully neither of those experiences end negatively for all involved!

Corny - but such joy.
While I may question our relationships in terms of heart horses, there is no doubting or denying the utter joy and satisfaction they bring me after a day in the office. Even just being able to go see them on my lunch beak to turn them out brings me such happiness everyday. As the saying goes for life partners, the same can be applied for horses. I am not sure if we are right for each other - but they sure do feel right for me right now.

January may have me feeling a little low & stressed with bills/insurance renewals/car fixing/Christmas.  I couldn't be without either of my safe havens; heart horses or no. I loffs them and couldn't imagine my life without them now that I have them.

Monday 25 January 2016

Mute Monday - Drama Llama edition

Do you think they could make it easy &
 look in the same direction?!

Nancy does have eyes,
despite first photo

Yay for green grass & blue skies now that
most of the snow is gone.
Long may it last!

PL caught this hilarious snap of
Nancy yawning after work

Sunday 24 January 2016

Reckless Rebellion

This afternoon I did something kind of rebelliously reckless and out of character. I asked PL if she wanted to take Nancy for a stroll in the woods. She was tacked up and I'd already turned Kika out so I was going to walk alongside N and decided to collect Kika en route and just lead her rather than haul her back in and faff tacking her up.

Our woods are quite hilly, lots of up and down which i had inconveniently forgotten when I suggested leading the lazier of my two horses (really i was dragging her up the hills) ... an extra workout I hadn't signed up for. As we came to the last hill I was tired of hauling her so as we passed a fallen tree trunk I rebelliously hopped up bareback (well she was in her rug) without a helmet *gasp*
Very reckless of me considering she hadn't been ridden since the saddle fitter was out the week before last and she was in a headcollar and leadrope. But she immediately put my mind at ease when after hopping up she started excitedly trotting and i was questioning this irresponsible action of mine when I made the slow-down sound (heard at the end of the video in the last post) and she responded straight away and settled into a lovely calm striding walk to catch up to Nancy & PL who obvs were negotiating the hill up out of the woods better.

Apologies for lack of media accompaniment for this post.
 I only snapped a couple of pics of N & PL
 edited for anonymity.
How adorbs is Nancy's little face?!

I stayed on her back until we got back to the field and K marched like the big brave girl she has become when hacking with Nancy - aka alongside N or ever so slightly in front until she sees something scary and tries to swing a u-turn to exit stage left. However even though N scared herself passing too close to a barrier K didn't flinch and remained calm with the same soothing slow-down voice command.

I am beyond ridiculously happy with how it played out, I don't know why I go so long between spins on her cos the longer I wait between rides the more I build up silly scenarios in my mind and then have to do something last-minute and silly to catch myself off guard and hop up. *sigh* The ridonculous mind games I play with myself *blush*

PSA - I do not condone the reckless rider behaviour  I undertook today, hopping onto a horse in the woods with snow melting from trees and slush underfoot. I know accidents can happen to anyone at any stage and do not think myself hot shiz - i am glad K had her level head on today and that nothing spooked us. This is not something I do often and despite my glee at having hopped on again after our mini break, it is mixed emotions as i imagine all the scenarios that could have gone wrong.

Friday 22 January 2016

Freezing Friday

Ice rain actually fell and froze on my jacket as i walked home from the yard this evening. Boy was I glad that I decided to forego riding Nancy this evening in favour of trying to beat the ice cold and get home in one piece.

The girlies got to blow off some steam running loose in the arena tonight instead. They have been taking it real easy this week after their osteo adjustments on Monday, but with the ground in turnout being rock hard & my inability to turn them out yesterday meant there was energy building and no way for the little darlings to release it.
They have been holding it together really admirably as i lead the two of them over icy pathways to and from their turnout. They actually ran around this evening without any encouragement from me, at the end of the video I'm actually trying to slow them down as i didn't want them to snot themselves after I only just had them adjusted on Monday! (Post to come with osteo fixing)

Hopefully the video works...if not let me know in the comments and I'll upload it to youtube.

Friday 8 January 2016

Saddle Fitting - Nancy

First off I want to say a massive thank you to the brave souls that not only suffered through yesterday's word vomit but have come back for more today. Fear not, this should be much shorter!
*ahem* hopefully those are not famous last words *cough*

V's first reaction on standing beside Nancy, was "woah - she's a big girl" - she's not 18hands+ or anything, but she is a well built machine. Think tank more so than sports car, but a well put together tank...i am not saying anything negative about my precious ponykins.
You just don't really get a feel for her size until standing into her as she is deceptive when viewed from a distance.

The same three measurements were taken across her back and she was taped around the middle for weight (perhaps?).
Other information was also requested like
- year of birth,
- height (here i had to guesstimate as to my shame i still have never sticked her),
- workload,
- living arrangements (field 24/7 from May to October and stabled overnight/paddock for the afternoons from November to April),
- has she had (m)any injuries
- does her weight fluctuate during the year or is she pretty stable (thankfully the latter for both)

All of this info was also taken for Kika but i forgot to mention it yesterday *blush*
My details were also taken, my height, again a guesstimate on my weight (not sure the last time i weighed myself *gulp* - so long as my clothes fit i don't tend to care) - this information was recorded on their own specific info sheets. She had a blank application form type document which she filled in for each and then used a carbon copy sheet to transfer their initial 3 back measurements so she had that information stored in two places. It was fascinating to see how she had it all organised and will have it to hand for return visits for comparison sake. I know this despite it being my first time using her services for my girls as i learned off her through a good friend who has used her for a number of years for her horse and on each visit she retakes the 3 back measurements and draws them in different coloured ink (which she dates) to see where/how the horse has changed shape between visits.
Getting Nancy's measurements took a little longer than it had taken to get Kika's as Nancy is notorious for standing with a hind leg cocked. This is the only downside to her being such a zen-creature, I had to keep tugging her tail between each measurement taken to keep her weight spread on all four feet while V skipped from one side of the horse to the other to check that the measuring device (not sure what else to call it, it was a maleable "stick" that moulded to the shape of the horse's back kind of like a playdoh but was more likely a thin soft metal rod wrapped in rubber if that makes sense*sigh* there are so many more questions coming to mind now that i wish i had asked her then) was properly taking the contours of her back.
Nancy and I went for a stroll so V could watch her walk for any irregularities in stride/movement etc - again thankfully she didn't see anything to cause concern or alarm and was as impressed as i have been that any time i have had to osteo check Nancy out she has never had to have any work done to realign her.

Apologies for awkward angle, i was back there
trying to stop her resting a hind leg

The first behind the withers measurement was again compared to the front of Nancy's saddle and my wallet breathed a sigh of relief when it was given the A-OK. The saddle was then sat on Nancy's back without padding to check fit/balance, i was very pleasantly surprised when she said that the fit was pretty good. We tacked up with the saddle pads i usually ride in (Ogilvy + standard saddle pad) and off we went to the arena.
She watched Nancy walk a bit in the saddle without a rider on board and then I hopped up for some walk, trot in a straight line and on some circles. V commented that Nancy looked like a pleasurable and smooth to ride (backward nod to Kika's awkwardness earlier methinks), she had also praised her kind eye when taking the measurements and saddling up as N sometimes like to turn to watch/help you while you work.
V said that she could see what i meant by my body twisting slightly to the right, but that unlike with Kika the saddle wasn't shifting on Nancy. She actually mentioned a very interesting riding aid for my twisty self, a sweater/jacket/zip-up top that was all black but had fluo lines that you could wear when riding in arenas with mirrors to see whether you are riding straight or not. She had one on had to show me, it was fascinating. I have asked her to remind me of the name when she sends me the info + bill from yesterday and will deff share the info when i have more.

We were done after less than 10minutes in the saddle, Nancy's easiest spin ever by a country mile!
V could see nothing glaringly wrong with the saddle or Nancy's way of going in it. She said that the worst thing about it was it might be a smidge tight in front, I asked did she think she could fix it by moving flocking; but she was talking a centimeter at most and said that with the Ogilvy absorbing and cushioning between the saddle and Nancy there wasn't much she could/would do.
I also had her quickly look at Kika's GP on Nancy as PL is more comfortable riding in it, she said the dressage saddle is better on N, that both saddles have very minor detractors (different ones) but that for one or two spins a week if PL wanted to use the GP she couldn't see it doing any lasting harm either to the horse's back or the saddle. I wouldn't want to run the risk of hurting N's back OR widening Princess Kika's saddle - we all know how sensitive Miss K can be about her back. I won't ride N in the GP myself as it puts me in a terrible armchair position, but so long as Nancy is happy to go in it and PL is more comfortable I see it as an ok compromise until i get the saddle fitter out again in a few months time to check and/or possible buy a new saddle then.

So despite my calling the saddle fitter due to fears of Nancy's saddle being ill fitting, it turns out Kika's needed the most work - what a surprise, Princess Superstar couldn't be outdone as the bigger drain on my finances ;-p (I kid)
In fact V said that of the two horses/saddle combinations - she would lean more towards replacing Kika's saddle before replacing Nancy's.
Colour me surprised!

I am beyond delighted at the full service the girls received and the fact that V kindly worked with me to help keep the current saddles working for us while i save up to buy new ones later. If anyone is ever looking for a saddle fitter in this catchment area i will not hesitate to highly recommend her excellent service.

Thursday 7 January 2016

Saddle Fitting - Kika

Breaking this into multiple posts as the saddle fitter (V) is going to email me the notes and info she took down so this is going to be my blow-by-blow as best I can remember it for Kika.

First let's backtrack a bit, I've been worried about Nancy's saddle fit and wondered if her squigglyness under tack on the right rein might be connected to poor saddle fit. I had an appointment for before Christmas but then put my back out and wasn't able to ride so i had to reschedule. This was my first time having this saddle fitter out, she's the third one I've worked with since moving to Lux with the horses. The first one was a well documented disaster that left me with an ill fitting saddle and a horse that reared. Thankfully the second one helped sort that out with a better fitting saddle and came back for check ups and sent the saddle back to St├╝bben headquarters twice (i think) for maintenance. He always worked without taking actual measurements, just by eye and feel - which worked fine as Miss K would 100% have let me know if something was pinching. However my good friend let me tag along when her saddle fitter (V) came with her made to measure Loxley. So I got to watch her work and was very impressed with her knowledge, the fact she not only took measurements on every visit but kept meticulous records and had many suggestions and budget accommodating ideas to fix any issues that arise. She also reflocked and fixed the custom saddle on the spot as the horse had changed shape since the order went in - colour me impressed. So i took her card with an eye to calling her out for my two when budget would allow. Tbh, it still doesn't really allow but considering N has been squiggly & I am finally (hopefully) putting K back into regular work. I figured I'd bite the bullet and have her out to check the fit of the saddles i have and hope we can stretch the lifetime of them until  budget does allow for shiney new stuffs.
Eep sorry word vomit has struck and we haven't even gotten to the fitting this morning *gulp*

Strap in with tea/biscuits/wine/cheese - this could get even more long-winded. Sorry, but my poor memory necessitates journaling as best I can.

We started with Kika as I find it easier to ride her first, or else it's a bit like going from a truck to a porsche when I start with Nancy. Not that Nancy is heavy in the hand, but Kika is considerably more fiery & rather slighter.

First measurements were taken in 3 parts of her back. Just behind the withers where the front of the saddle sits, mid-way & where the back of the saddle touches (roughly - i should have asked what the different measuents were for - hopefully next time I think of it). V then watched Kika walk without tack just to see how she moves and check for any irregularities - thankfully she said she could see no glaring issues.
The first behind the wither measurement was compared to the front of the saddle. First test passed, it was a-ok. Then the saddle was sat on her back, I can't remember if that was with or without saddle pad + Ogilvy *blush*
But saddle required some "pummeling" of underside panels which she was able to do at her truck. When she turned the saddle over, she noticed odd stitches near the front of the saddle which seem to have been made to flatten some of the front padding to "allow" for the saddle to be sat too far forward. She said that the master saddlers she trained with recommend that there should be three fingers space under the saddle from the end of the horse's shoulder blade to a part on the saddle (sorry don't know the name - pic below hopefully helps visualisation).

She suggested removing the stitches, but only if I was sure I didn't want to sell the saddle further down the line. As removing the stitches would leave holes which will make the saddle harder to sell :-(
I didn't opt to remove the stitching as i am not 100% in love with this saddle and would love to trade up some day so I don't want to damage a potential resale *sigh*

She also said to be careful of the saddle rack in my tack locker as it is compounding the padding under the saddle. She said a single bar would be better, I can't change the stables locker but i can get sponges or foam or something to make the rack softer for the saddle to sit on and stop compacting the wool.

The saddle was replaced on Kika's back with the Ogilvy and saddle pad and i was given a tutorial about how to choose/recognise a well fitting saddle pad. (She said she just put a video on her website,  which I can share a link to if there is any interest...and if it is in English...i shall have to check)

Into the arena we went, I opted for what I'd hoped would be the quieter arena based off past experience so i hopefully wouldn't be in people's way...sod/Murphys law there was a lesson going on and another rider joined part way through - oh wells, let the record show I tried!

I handwalked K a bit as per our usual (aka to show the chicken that there were no monsters lurking in the corners), the saddle fitter watched her walk without a rider on board before I hopped up and we walked and trotted around a bit on each rein, straight lines and circles. She said the saddle seemed to be tilting to the right on the left rein, but oddly not on the right rein which is typically our bad side. V altered the way the girth was tied by changing from the first & third billet straps on the right side to first and second. She also tightened the elastic side of the girth way more than I've ever tightened it but saddle was still shifting to the right when we were tracking left.

She reassured me that despite our combined weaknesses it was definitely the saddle tilting and  ot something either one of us was doing. Her next suggestion was to try a different half pad that had adjustable shims. She came back with a Prolite 3 in 1, which we tried with a few different combinations of shims. We settled on two shims on the right side & one on the left. She said the saddle was no longer shifting to the side and asked if I could feel a difference. For one I never noticed the saddle swaying to the right to begin with, plus particularly when riding Kika I typically have so many other things on my mind namely keeping her attention on hand and us moving in a semblance of the right direction - perhaps an exaggeration but some days the struggle is real. Tbh, I had gotten so used to riding her wih the Ogilvy that the biggest change i could feel was having much less bulk between herself and myself in the Prolite. I'm going to have to pay closer attention to what my body feels - my own physio has said as much to me. In fact she has suggested multiple times that I need to take up yoga and/or pilates or something as i am pretty darn ignorant about isolating individual muscles and or recognising what might be pulling when. *sigh* #inattentiveproblems
I need more hours in the day to fit these suggestions in as i recognise knowing my body better and having more control will only benefit my riding in the longterm.

Left is how I used to incorrectly place the saddle
Right is where I should have been placing it

I was super impressed with Miss Kika. It is no secret she has her own opinion about almost everything and she always has something to say. The saddle fitter worked with us for a good two hours! O.o
K handled all the chopping and changing really well, she got a little fussy at times with the stopping and starting - more so the starting than the stopping lolz. But I cannot fault her at all, especially as this was only her third time being ridden since early November and she typically doesn't have much patience for interruptions. However she settled back into some nice trot work (with some cajoling mind) after the pad change which was prob 40-45mins into saddle time at that stage.
I honestly could not be more proud of to find a winning lottery ticket!

Wednesday 6 January 2016

Starting well

I know we are only 6 days into the new year, but so far so good in sticking to the goal of excercising the girls more. Apologies for he utter lack of media to accompany this post, but I'll try really hard to keep it short.

Saturday PL rode Nancy over poles and i lunged Kika in the pessoa, she was brilliant especially considering how she had kind of lost her marbles when I lunged her outdoors one evening last week.

Sunday the three of us went for a stroll in the woods together.

Monday i rode Kika for the first time since early November. I mentioned her great attitude in my last post, she had a few sticky/questions steps where she needed a little vocal encouragement and firm aids to literally keep her on track.

Tuesday was Nancy's turn, she was much better than she's been for me recently. I rode with a schooling whip to help keep her on track while on the right rein. She has been struggling with it for the last few spins. Her canter transitions made me laugh so hard, she was very good if enthusiastic.

Today (Wednesday) PL returned to ride Nancy & I rode Kika at the same time but we swapped saddles. PL has been struggling in the dressage saddle on Nancy so i had suggested she try the GP i usually use on Kika.
Nancy was a great girl for PL anf gave her some great looking walk & trot work.
There was a young new rider in the arena with us and I think all three of us were perhaps a little over-cautious in watching where the others were. Well perhaps me less so than the others cos Kika requires a lot of my attention ;-)
Again she was good considering the distractions and lack of saddle time of late (*cough*all-year*cough*). Her right rein canter was a little sticky at first and it felt like she was trantering/disjointed. All four legs felt like they were doing different things. However when I sorted myself out, straightened up in the tack and helped her bend to the inside we got our correct strike off and after the tiniest bit of flailing she settled lovely.

Ok, so if you've read all this you totes deserve cookies & milk or maybe something stronger like wine cos despite my best efforts I've word vomited again. Sorry!

Monday 4 January 2016

New Year - Same Goals

Going to KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) with goals this year and only pick one - namely ride my pretty ponies more!!!!
Thankfully PL has kicked my butt into gear as i like to try to ride Nancy between her spins to help keep my ear in. Kika is the one I have to get the finger out with and ride more often. I hopped up on her today for the first time since the start of November and she was absolutely awesome. She got a little light on the forehand at the start about a random corner of the arena, however a bit of leg, less rein and some stern words and she got over herself. Our first canter tansition was awkward and on the wrong lead for the first few attempts. When I set her up better we nailed it, even when we changed direction and things got a little iffy i kept my cool, lowered my hands, sat back and put some leg on and she got right down to work. I was grinning like a looney when we finished!

Good girl foam

Nancy has been a little sticky for both PL and I in the arenas when on the right rein in walk. She is fine and straight in trot & canter, however gets rather squirrely in walk. PL has a better feel for things than I do and reckons it's a weakness thing. Unfortunately for Nancy her weak side & my weak side are one and the same. It's not hard to know whose issue it really is (read:mine), as it's Kika's weak side as well - hard to know what came first the chicken or the egg in that case. Whether she had the issue and twisted me, or I was twisted and twisted both her & Nancy...prob the latter!
A friend of PLs is also a riding teacher and came to watch her ride Nancy once, I'd love for her to come back as i love watching lessons and my horses learn new things. She suggested working on shoulder in to help strengthen Nancy's weaker side. PL knows how to do lateral work, as does Nancy - the only one who cannot yet do shoulder ins & leg yields is me!

Christmas day spin
My other goal for this year is to use the money I get from leasing out Nancy to take a lesson once a week rotating between the ponehs - which will also help me meet goal #1 of riding moar ☺

How to know you're an equestrian
 - this is what your hallway looks like!

Final goal is take better care of my leather goods. What is the point in having he lovely smelling Viva Carlos Higher Sandards cleaning soap & balm if i never use it. I brought my saddles and bridles home this evening to clean them up before the saddle fitter comes on Thursday. Fingers crossed the girls current saddles can be amended to better fit them, as after putting my back out last month & the doc visit, physio + Christmas has cut into the little saddle fund i had managed to scrape together. *sigh*