Tag Archives: dressage. saddle

Finally! (and some drama)

I did it! Part of the reason for my long silence, though not all of it, was that I kept trying to take Strider in a dressage show. The first one I had to scratch due to a death in the family, the second one I entered and the whole show was canceled because of the EHV-1 outbreak. I was starting to sense a trend. I decided to risk it and try entering a third show though. It was last weekend and there was no apocalypse, a lot of drama though.

First, Strider’s saddle fit became a really big issue. It had been a small issue and had seemed correctable with shims and pads- and then more pads, and more pads. We were at four pads and my calling him, “princess and the pea horse” was a little too apropos for comfort. He was starting to get back sore as well. I was not ok with that and it did nothing good for our suppleness or transitions to say the least. He is already conformationally challenged so I didn’t want any other issues. I also go into the horse version of panicked parent mode when I know my horse is uncomfortable.

As soon as I could I started saddle shopping. Thankfully one of the mobile tack stores has a large used selection and was going to be close by; I was able to try six saddles in one weekend! Even better one of them actually seemed to be a great fit for Strider. The only downside was that it was a bit of a gamble because my trainer couldn’t check it for me. Based on my own knowledge and how my horse felt in it I decided to go with it (trainer is still out of the country- I will let you know if that was a good gamble when she gets back!). Worst case it has improved his royal highness’ back, doesn’t require four pads, and is, in my opinion, and based on some quick digging on the internet, a better value than what I had before. Now I can just hope my old saddle sells quickly so I can replenish my somewhat drained savings.

The new saddle came just in time. In fact, I got it exactly a week before the show. Less than ideal timing, but at least I got it before the show, since my old saddle was definitely not helping us out. I was worried I would be riding my dressage tests in my jumping saddle. But thankfully that didn’t end up happening.

 More surprises were in order though as the Thursday before the show I had to leave work early and go see my doctor because I was having intense stomach pain. There were no clear answers, as usual, but we treated the pain and set an appointment for a ct scan. Not eating in preparation for the ct scan calmed things down a little and though I didn’t get the results of the scan before the show I was able to make it through thanks to the wonders of modern medicine.

 I will spare you the rest of the drama involving warm up arena melt downs (Strider: “ZOMGWTFBBQ there are more than three horses in the arena), boot disasters (one fit and not the other- no kidding), and missing tractor parts.

 I will be honest: my first ride was terrible and it was all my fault. Poor Strider tolerated my show nerves fabulously though and between his generally being good and a somewhat nice judge we managed to eke out a 64% on t-3. It got better as the test went on, but I am pretty sure a drunken sailor on a unicycle could have done a better center line and halt, salute.

 Somewhat miraculously (it’s me we’re talking about here- historically I haven’t shown very well. Even when I have scored well I am usually an absolute basketcase), I gathered my wits, drank some sports drink and actually breathed a little before my next test. I admit I was worried since it was First level, but I figured I may as well relax and enjoy rather than freak out if the results would be the same. My old trainer used to hate it when I would say, “I have to stop caring,” because she didn’t understand what I meant. I am realizing that in order to show well I have to be able to let go of the outcome. I ride far better when I don’t care. It’s not bad in my case, because then I actually ride. Not caring for me doesn’t mean I stop trying; it enables me to try. We went in and though I rode conservatively, we ended up with a 67%. I really couldn’t have been more pleased.

 The next day we had a different judge and the scores, on average, were lower. We managed a 68% on T-3 (and it felt amazing!!) and a 61% on First 1. Both rides felt incredibly steady though and I was absolutely thrilled.

Vanya has not been sitting around all this time either. He has been doing western. I jokingly say that he “has a 4-Her.” I think in theory the 4-Her has him but if you ask him I am sure it is the other way around. He has done well at remembering what little western he knew and improving on it and has even become vaguely decent as a showmanship horse. He still needs work but western is good for him in his old age. I am sure he will be excited when fair is over and we can start focusing more on getting him and his 4-Her ready for barrels and poles though. He also is going to get his own little kid after fair and I cannot wait for him to get some lead line action.

 My RA has been pretty bad which is really why I haven’t been posting much. I am determined to push through it to the extent that I can, but often I have the energy to work, ride, etc. and then posting falls by the wayside. I will do my best to update more frequently whenever I can. I am trying acupuncture to help with some of the side issues that have been nagging at me so we’ll see if that helps. Even my knitting has been slower than usual. Oh well….always have to keep pushing on!! RAWR!!!!




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My focus this week has been on getting ready for the dressage show at my barn this weekend. It should be pretty fun and a little different than the average show as not only is it a costume show but also all the boys are doing it too! My husband Matt, my brother Cyrus, and Tom (my sister Aubrey’s BF) will all be riding in Intro test B. It should be pretty fun to watch.

 Thankfully Strider seems to be feeling fine now- I think his problem last week was a sore muscle as he recovered in a few days with no ill effects. Luckily I was able to get his feet trimmed on Saturday since that usually makes him a little sore for a day or two as well (not my farrier’s fault I promise- he has done wonders for Strider’s feet and his being a little sore after trims has been improving over time.) and he was initially scheduled for Thursday evening which would have made him sore right on the day of the show probably. I rode him last night and he was amazing! He was still a little tender in his feet (I could tell if we hit a thin spot in the footing) but he was really wonderful considering that he hadn’t been ridden in four days and he normally has no more than two consecutive days off (he doesn’t do well with lot’s of days off in a row).

 I also experimented with a different saddle last night. I have been riding in a borrowed Prestige Top Dressage and it fits Strider beautifully and is amazingly comfortable. However, I have been struggling a lot with my leg position lately and that is somewhat atypical of me. I am not saying my position is flawless; not by a long shot, but putting my leg forward is not a common issue. Looking down or tipping forward are very normal for me, putting my lower leg too far forward is not. I noticed that I had less of a problem keeping my leg in the correct position when I rode my friend’s horse in her Frank Baines saddle with a much flatter knee block, so I obtained a Wintec Isabel to try on Strider. I tried it with some trepidation as I hate CAIR due to it completely not working when I tried a Bates jumping saddle. It was so frustrating. But, I figured it was worth a shot. Miraculously, not only did the saddle seem to fit Strider really well, but I was also quite comfortable and was able to keep my leg in the correct alignment very easily. It was wonderful. It was easier to sit back and feel my center and keep my shoulders back. I really noticed the difference when I tried a leg yield in the trot- I felt the alignment and Strider’s movement more and even on the first try he really didn’t fuss at all. Amazing what happens when I ride correctly. He still had some moments. We are still really struggling with our stretchy chewies, but we did finally get a really good one at the end of our workout last night. Overall, it was a relief Strider was feeling better and trying the different saddle, though it complicates my decision on buying a new saddle, gave me good information.

 Jennifer did well riding Vanya last night as well. After her recent breakthrough on Dundee she has realized the importance of gripping the reins but being loose in her elbows and it has helped to quiet her hands and improve her ability to get contact and communicate with more subtlety. She is doing very well at getting him to engage his body more and bend in the walk and trot. The canter is still a work in progress, but she did realize how to get him more forward so she can start asking for the bend and get him a bit more balanced as well. He is a very steady horse in many ways, but also can be very challenging as not all of his past training has been correct (raises hand- that would be my fault. I plead innocence based on mental incompetence as I was only a child). Jennifer is really doing well with him considering that he really isn’t actually trained for dressage at all. I also noticed a huge improvement in her level of patience with herself. If she didn’t get something right first try, she simply quietly kept at it. She didn’t get annoyed or uptight and she was even relaxed in her body, so it wasn’t just an external lack of frustration; she is actually internalizing what she is learning about riding each moment and not holding on to past mistakes. It is so wonderful to see her happier and les frustrated when she rides. I am hoping she gets some better scores at this show that can represent all this work and progress she has made.

 I am not telling what my super cool costume will be for the show; I will post pictures afterwards. I will leave you in suspense until then. I have a lesson with Jo tonight and am super excited for that. My husband and Jennifer are still on the lookout for good ideas though (that are easy and affordable) so please feel free to comment if you have any ideas (or comments, thoughts, snide remarks etc.). Until next time…RAWR!

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