Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I think my friends are trying to tell me something

Several friends of mine recently conspired to give me this t-shirt:

What exactly are they trying to say, do you think?

I mean, I only have TWO horses, Cash and Saga.

I'm pretty sure a lot of my readers ALSO have two horses. Right? So really, two is not that many.
The other two, Red and Oberon, belong to my husband. Really, I'll show you the bills of sale.

 Cute, but not mine.

Also cute, but not mine. The horse, I mean. The husband is MOST DEFINITELY mine.
Therefore, *I* personally do not technically own four horses.
It only looks like I do.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

These pics will NOT be submitted to the George Morris jumping clinic

I got the proofs from the show this weekend. They are... erm... rather embarrassing, actually.

Here's what I like:
  • My horse is tidy, shiny, and relaxed. He also has great form with his front end, knees up and square.
  • It's clear that we are taking off from good spots and are not charging at the fences.
  • My leg hasn't slipped back.
  • I'm looking up.
Otherwise,  my position is pretty atrocious. Please don't laugh too hard, mmmmkay?

 Ye gods, I look like a chicken trying to take off with those elbows. And WTF am I doing with my hands?

 With the way I'm arching my back at such an extreme, I've clearly completely relaxed all of my core muscles. Yikes. I really need to engage them and KEEP THEM ENGAGED all the way up and over the fence.

 Way to ask for a lead change over the top of the fence, eh? Just leeeeeaaaaan in the direction you want to go! NOT. Uhm... at least my elbows are in a little more in this picture?

 I actually like this one. He's relaxed and balanced, and I don't look too awful. I do wonder if my stirrup is a bit long though.

So. I liked our round, it was steady and balanced. That in itself is a huge step in the right direction. As for my form, I definitely have a lot to work on. At least these pictures are helpful in showing where the problem areas are, even if they're not they prettiest thing ever.

Although, I admit, I'm thinking about getting a print of the first one. It's the only pic I have of Saga and I jumping at a show.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Screw that show stuff, let's bust out with some XC

After the hunter show on Saturday morning, I repacked the trailer so that we could head out Sunday for some XC schooling. I had contacted the hunstmistress with Independent Foxhounds to see if we could join them for roading (since Oberon has never seen hounds before), and instead she invited us to come school on her private XC course. She has about three dozen jump complexes from BN through Training, including banks, water, ditches, trakheners, nice bendy lines, coops... you name it. It's a super nice course on rolling hills with a path mown through it - just perfect.

We pulled in around 9 am Sunday and tacked up, then headed out with the huntsmistress, hunstmaster, and their three working students. We somehow lucked out with the weather - it was in the mid 80's, cloudy, with a nice breeze. For Texas at this time of year, that's FANTASTIC! I was a little nervous to be out on course, so Saga was a little jiggy, but settled down after the first few jumps. Hubby followed me on Oberon for every fence - since Oberon had never seen a solid fence before, we wanted him to have extra incentive to jump it.

Both horses were complete and total rockstars! Saga never batted an eye at anything, and the huntsmistress commented on how nicely he jumped and how tidy he was with his front end. I remembered to look up and count "one... TWO... one... TWO" in front of the fences so I wouldn't screw up the rhythm. I made sure that Saga was going the rhythm I wanted and not bolting at the fences, and for the most part it really worked out. Hooray!

Naturally there aren't any pics of me, since I was the one with the camera, but I did get some video of hubby with Oberon.

First up, the log pile. This was actually Oberon's best jumping effort, despite an early attempt to go around (not caught on video).

Next up, a mini-trakhener. Hubby had to learn to balance him since it was coming down a slight hill and he tends to get long and cruise-y if you let him.

And then of course, the Ditch of Doom. Oberon followed Saga over it with no problem the first time. When hubby tried it on his own the first time, Oberon hit the brakes, but he turned him around immediately and tried again:

Finally, we did the water complex. Oberon once again followed Saga in the first time and then cheerfully trotted through. This was the second or third time they went through - jump in, jump out. Not bad for a horse who has never been XC!

We finished up our day by doing an entire course. Unfortunately by then, Saga was pretty done. When he's tired, he ends up being a train wreck, sprawling along on his forehand. He can't balance himself and I can't balance him, so he just runs faster and longer. I pulled him up after the second fence, when it became pretty clear that I had no brakes and minimal steering. He had been a really good boy all day, so I can't fault him for the bit at the end. Oberon was still going strong, and hubby followed the hunstmistress over about 7 fences. I think there was a fence or two where Oberon decided that going around would be easier than jumping, but hubby turned him around, set him back up, and got him over.

On the drive home, hubby and I enthusiastically recounted the highlights. We were both really pleased with our horses - for never being out on course before, Oberon was a total star. The hunstmistress really liked him and said he seemed like a good match for hubby, although she did laugh at one point and called him a "minimalist" when he cleared a jump by about 1/2 an inch. At least he gets the job done! Saga was he usual bold self and carted me over everything. When I rode him steadily he gave me great jumps. I do need to get more used to riding at speed though - I'm spending too much time in the arena going at hunter speeds. Luckily, we've been invited back every Sunday, and starting August 5th they'll be riding out with the hounds on course.

Gee, it's just TOO BAD that the Sunday foxhunting stuff coincides with those hunter shows, don't you think? I wonder which one I should do... ;)

Monday, July 23, 2012

For eventers in the hunter ring, we didn't suck!

For some reason or another, I got the brilliant idea in my head that I would make a foray to the dark side and go to a hunter show this weekend. I signed up for three classes on Saturday, made sure my brown bridle and white fitted saddle pad were set to go (fortunately coats were waived, 'cause I don't own a navy coat), and figured I'd have fun. Reality was a little different.

Since the hubby didn't want to ride Oberon in the show, I offered him to a friend who didn't have a horse to ride. She happens to train with a different trainer. In the days up to the show, there was an incredible amount of drama between my friend and her trainer, which was extremely frustrating and annoying, because as the horse owner I got pulled into it. It culminated when the other trainer decided at the last minute that my friend couldn't ride because Oberon's mane was not trimmed and pulled (nor will it be). The trainer claimed it was a rule, but I checked all the rulebooks - no such thing (and my trainer confirmed).  It was a really sucky situation in so many ways, and sort of ruined the mood of the show for me, plus has put a strain on my friendship. The only good thing that came out of it is that hubby decided to ride Oberon in the warm-up ring, just for the experience.

The other icky thing I discovered is that classes with 30 people in them take hours to run. My first class went at about 9:30 a.m. My second two classes - which I opted not to stick around for - went at 8 p.m. I guess I'm just really used to dressage and eventing shows, where you have very specific times you ride at, and you get your times ahead of schedule, so you can plan your day. Plus, show organizers try to make times such that you're not doing crazy tack changes between phases, nor are you sitting on your horse for hours and hours. It's just a different world than what I'm used to, and I'm not sure how much I really fit in.

But, onto the exciting part. Saga was a complete and total lunatic the first 15 minutes of warmup. He bucked, he struck out, he spooked and tried to bolt when horses came up next to him or jumped next to him. WTF?!?!? He was so unlike his usual calm self, it was sort of unreal. He's done this once before, at an event I went to several years ago, when there were a lot of horses in the warmup area with him. I managed to stay on board and not yell "BAD PONY" too many times, but it sure was embarrassing to have my horse act like such a maniac. I guess he needs to get out more in company?

He settled down eventually and we had some good warmup fences. Then we walked out to the outdoor, where we waited outside the gate for about ten minutes. I made double-damn sure I knew my course (weird, because I didn't actually get to walk it before jumping it - something we ALWAYS do in eventing!), and watched one rider ahead of me go. Then we were up!

I walked Saga in the arena, towards one of the jumps so he could see what we were up to. We picked up a rather nervous, up-and-down trot, and I tried to ask for a canter. He thought about picking up the wrong lead twice, but we did eventually get it. As we cantered around to the first fence, I kept thinking "heels down, sit UP, 1...2, 1...2". And you know what? We had a nice rhythm all the way to the base of the fence. I asked for the right lead off the first fence, but not with much determination, and we haven't really practiced leads, so he didn't get it. We did a somewhat sloppy change through the trot in the corner, then cantered on to the first outside line. Steady rhythm, body up. We got five quiet strides AND the correct lead after the line. I was a little late turning to the second line across the diagonal, but corrected with my outside leg and remembered to keep my heels down and body up while I was at it. Coming out of the corner I remember counting "One, TWO, One, TWO" just to remind myself of the rhythm. We got a steady five on the second line as well, and he got the correct lead off the back side (with no help from me, I might add). The sixth fence was a single in the middle of the long side, and I was careful to count the rhythm all the way to the base. As a result, we got a nice steady line, came off the back, and turned for the last line. It was a left-hand turn, and remember how I discovered in my dressage lesson last week that he was popping his right shoulder? Yeah, so we came around the turn, he threw his shoulder out, looked HARD at the fence (which, in his defense, was basically a wall of hot pink flowers), and I was late with my outside leg. We got in OK but off-balance and I was forward, so the strides up to the second fence were flat and rushed. I think we still got five, but my old "eventer mode" of JUST GET OVER THE FENCE!!! kicked in and so it was pretty unbalanced compared to the rest of the course. We finished with our courtesy circle, I gave him a big pat and told him he was a good boy, and we left the arena.  

Yeah, my horse is a handsome boy. :)

We ended up 7th out of about 15, and might have done better if it wasn't for the missed lead change.  I was really, really proud of us in that we put in a steady, rhythmic round, and I didn't throw him at any fences (welllll... ok, maybe the last line was a bit of a hot mess). Compared to the last time we were in an arena jumping a stadium course, it was beautiful, controlled, and very pleasant to ride. In other words... we didn't suck! Of course I don't have a video of the actual round, but it's possible that the photographer got a picture or two... if there are any decent ones, I'll post them when they're available.

Hubby also had a great ride on Oberon in the warm-up arena. Oberon acted like he'd been to a million shows before... didn't bat an eyelash at the 20 other people in the arena, jumped tiny Xs and verticals with HORSE EATING FLOWERS under them (which, BTW, he says don't really eat horses), and was pretty much the steadiest horse in the arena. Bless him, he's a great match for hubby!

And of course a "family" picture of "the big bay boys," hubby, and I.

There's another show in two weeks, and then a final one two weeks after that. I dunno if I'll go to them or not, frankly. I had fun (well, AFTER I was done with the class it was fun) but I'm not sure I'd want to spend the entire weekend that way. The trainers yelled at and insulted their students (except mine, who was very encouraging to me and hubby), people in the office were rude and didn't give me the time of day, and it just generally felt very cliquish and exclusive. It's just not the world I'm used to, and I don't really know if it's a world I want to be a big part of. On the other hand, Saga sure could use the experience (especially with the shenanigans in the warm-up arena!), and it's much less of a commitment than an event.

But just for comparison purposes, we decided to go cross-country schooling Sunday morning...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I’m going over to the dark side, but first - a dressage lesson

I have finally gone off the deep end. After years (and years and years) of eventing and dressage shows (and years of no shows at all), I have actually signed up to go to a hunter/jumper schooling show this weekend. I think this will be the first h/j show I’ve been to since… erm… 1988. I swore off from them back then because they were a) ill-run and took forever, and b) frequented by a bunch of snobby riders with even snobbier trainers. I don't actually know if anything has changed since then, but I guess we'll find out this weekend. I’m doing a 2’ hunter class, a 2’3 hunter class, and a flat class. My one goal is to stay on and attempt to give my poor horse a decent ride, instead of just flinging him at fences and praying that he'll take me over. We'll see how it goes!

But first! I finally got in a dressage lesson! I ended up trailering out to it, since they have a covered arena and it's still too squishy to ride in our "arena". When I pulled into the barn, I realized I'd been there about 15 years ago for a dressage schooling show. I remember it quite well - there were pigs at one end of the arena that caused most of the horses to perform a very interesting change of diagonal across M-X-K, often with an uncalled-for halt in the vicinity of X, some backing, and perhaps a spin-and-bolt. Cash, who had pretty much seen everything, paid them no attention, nor did he even blink at the rooster who decided to hang out around X and crow while we did our 20 meter circles at E and B. I believe I still have that test, and the judge's comments included something like, "well-ridden despite distractions." 

Anywho, the lesson. I am running poor Saga off his feet at the walk. As a result, he's not using his hind end for pretty much anything, because he's falling on his forehand. He can't help himself, it's my doing, and I need to slow him down with my seat and make sure he's pushing off from behind instead of pulling himself along on the front. 

The rushing problem was worse at the trot. I slowed him waaaay down with my posting and my core, and he became more relaxed and rounder. He's falling in on his right shoulder to the right, and I'm hanging onto my left rein too hard for him to get any proper bend. I actually had to push my left hand forward (eep! letting go of that supporting outside rein!!!) and suddenly he went sooo much better. I'm holding too hard on that rein for him and need to let it go. He's also traveling with his haunches to the outside to the right. To the left, he fell out with his shoulder (shocker there) and I had a hard time with accidentally overbending him left. I also figured out that my right leg is way more active than my left, and that my right heel has an annoying tendency to creep up. Honestly, I can feel that my right calf muscles are tighter than my left, and I think it's because of driving a car. Does anyone else have this issue?

Canter was... a joke. I could not get him to canter to save my life. I tried about six or seven times each direction, and finally had to drop my stirrups to ask him to canter. Again, not his fault at all - as soon as I ask, I'm rounding my shoulders, throwing my upper body at him, and lifting my heels. OF COURSE he falls on his forehand and runs at the trot. For whatever reason, without stirrups, I could make it work - I think because I MUST sit up or come off. We had two decent canter departures, one in each direction, and then I was pretty much done.

During the canter, the falling in/out on his right shoulder became even more pronounced, and I think we've figured out why. My lower right leg is, as I said, far more active than my left, but my right thigh is not on him at all. In contrast, my lower left leg sits there like a vegetable, but my left thigh is on him. Since the lower leg controls the hind end and the thigh controls the shoulders, I am pushing his shoulders over to the right with my left thigh and throwing his butt to the left with my lower right leg. There's no support on the other side to counter this, since my right thigh is not on and neither is my lower left leg. Given that, it's no wonder he travels with his shoulders right and his butt left - I am asking him to do so! Again, I wonder if my driving habits aren't contributing to this - I noticed today that I tend to drive with my right leg bent outward at about a 30 degree angle, while I sit with my left leg straight. Has anyone else noticed this about themselves?

Finally, I learned that I'm sitting with my pelvis tipped too far forward. I need to tighten my core muscles to "lift" my pubic bone up. I felt like I was sitting on my tailbone when I did it, but apparently I was about right. I actually found it very difficult to keep my core engaged and not round my shoulders - I think some longe lessons are going to be in order in the next few months. Somewhere in the years of inconsistent lessons I have lost my position in a biiig way.

So, it was sort of disappointing to find so many things so very broken, but it was also incredibly informative and I have a much better understanding of the biomechanics behind what's going on. Very much looking forward to next week... after going over to the dark side this weekend, of course. I wonder if they have cookies?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Diagnosis: Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Cash was diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma today. He has lesions on his right eye, left nostril, and on his sheath.

To be honest, I'm shocked that we've made it this far without any cancer. I mean, he's PINK and he's TWENTY-FOUR. He's got one blue eye, and the skin around his brown eye is entirely pink all the way around. He's had a tiny (like, the size of a pin head) bump on his lower eyelid on the right side for... oh, say five years. I've had several vets tell me that if it ever changed I should have it looked at immediately. Two weeks ago, it turned a raw-looking pink, instead of its usual skin color. In the last few weeks he's had a crusty thing develop on the top lid of that same eye, along with a small scabby spot on his nostril. I'd also noticed a scab on his sheath a while ago, and MC noticed that it hadn't healed... so, another clue it was time to have him looked at.

A little research (warning, icky pics) shows that squamous cell is very common in pink and gray horses, especially on the eyes and genitalia. Fortunately, if it's caught and treated early, it can be kept in check. In addition, the treatments for the early stages are minimally invasive. In Cash's case, they used cryo techniques to freeze off the lesions. There's even a topical chemotherapy cream that we can use on his sheath if it becomes necessary, but hopefully we caught it early enough that the cryo got it all.

I did have my vet tell me that I'm the Most Anal Owner Ever (well, and MC. She's even more anal than I am, and WAY more observant!). I'd sent her an email with a list of all the areas of concern, along with all the juicy details (ok, I didn't take pics of each spot, but I did think about it). Apparently after checking all the spots I had mentioned, she, two other vets, AND two vet techs went over Cash with a fine-toothed comb to see if they could find any other suspicious areas. Fortunately, they didn't find anything else.

So, the prognosis is good. He gets a fly mask (with a nose) all day every day when it's sunny (he's gotten one for years and years, so we just need to keep doing it). He has shady spots to stand in during the day, since keeping him in a stall would drive him batty. We'll keep an eye on things and any time something turns up, we have it looked at. Hopefully todays treatment will keep everything in check and this will not be too much of an ongoing problem.

On the other hand... remember that Bromance that Cash and Saga have going on? Right, well they both went to the vet today, Cash for the lesions and Saga to get new shoes. They couldn't have stalls right next to each other, but instead were about 50 feet apart and facing each other, with the Dutch doors on the stalls down. The MOMENT I put Saga in one and Cash in the other, they started screaming for each other. Loudly and repeatedly.

I think this bromance has moved past the "friendly relationship" phase and well into the "co-dependent" phase. How embarrassing.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Bromance: Cash and Saga

For as long as I've owned him, Cash has always, ALWAYS been the lowest horse in the herd, in any group situation he's been in. As a result, he's been pretty much of a loaner. He's occasionally adopted a mare, but the limit of the "relationship" is that the mare allows Cash to graze about 20 feet away from her - no closer, thank you very much. He then pretends to "protect" his mare by pinning his ears and running at any horse that comes close. This would all be very intimidating if he didn't constantly keep the mare between himself and the other horse, effectively hiding behind her.

Yeah. The other horses aren't convinced of his bossiness either. Poor, poor guy.

When we brought Cash home, he had to integrate himself into the herd of Red and Saga. Red took an instant dislike to him, but Saga's more of a peacemaker and was happy to hang out with whomever. I'd see them munching on hay together, and grazing near each other. Saga would even share his food dish with Cash, although he would occasionally pin his ears over a particularly tasty bite.

First meet-and-greet. Off to a promising start!

Best buds in matchink Rambo blankets last winter.

They have sort of an odd relationship. Saga's boss over the food, but most of the time he lets Cash eat with him. Cash decides where they go and when, and Saga always follows him (in fact, Saga is pretty lost if nobody is there to tell him where to go and what to do). They don't groom each other or play with each other, but they seem to be most at peace when they are in close proximity to each other. In fact, Cash gets pretty antsy if Saga leaves for a ride, and can often be found waiting for him at the gate when we return. 

Joined at the hip shoulder.

Sharing a haynet tonight.

I'm really glad that they are so content in each other's company. Everybody deserves to have a BFF, don't you think? 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Horrible hooves (a Saga hoof update)

I haven't posted pics of Saga's feet for a while, and frankly, I'm really hesitant to do so now. They look quite horrible.

To fill in on the latest bit of the ongoing soap opera that has become Saga's hoof care... he was last shod four weeks ago by the vet farrier. Prior to that, it was eight weeks between shoeings. At five weeks exactly he threw the RF, then at six weeks exactly tossed the LF. I could not, for love nor money, get an appointment with the farrier, despite trying for over four weeks. I booted Saga as I could, but still, his feet chipped badly. I'm afraid the farrier didn't have much to work with when he shod Saga this last time, so you will see the chips in the bottom of the hoof wall. Saga has an appointment next Tuesday for new shoes - it will be exactly five weeks, and that's the schedule we're going to try to keep him on from here on out. Maybe, just maybe, that will magically help somehow. Maybe.

So, here's the awfulness:

LF. You can see the truly awful event lines. And look at the difference in angle of the hoof wall, from the coronet band all the way down. The first 1/2 inch or so is soooo different from the last inch. I have been trying to grow that angle out all the way down for two years now, both barefoot and shod, and have not been able to make any success. It's frustrating to know just how much pressure that must be putting on his toe. GAH.

LF again. Hairline is pushed up, huge flare at the bottom 1/2 of the foot, event lines allll the way down. I have tried so, SO many things with his diet to prevent those event lines from happening, and yet they still do. At this point I have no idea what's causing them, and I just can't win. He's very, VERY sensitive to something in his environment, I just don't know what.

RF. The thing that looks like a crack on his toe is new. Well, not exactly... he used to have it a year or more ago when the quarters were too long. It's back. It's superficial, but still... it's a clue that things aren't right. More event lines, more flare... and the medio-lateral balance is soooo off.

RF. At least his heel isn't terribly underrun and the changes in hoof wall angles aren't as horrible as the other foot? This is the one he's always had a better landing on.

Here's what he looks like standing.

I guess he stands fairly straight, despite everything.

I'm so depressed looking at these pics. I guess the ONLY thing that's good is that he's sound and happy to work, and I KNOW he would be lame without shoes, because his soles are so thin.  Also, one thing I have learned looking and bare feet over the last few years... beautiful-looking feet may not function terribly well, while awkward-looking feet may function fantastically. His feet are definitely functional, even if they make me cringe. I guess that's something. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Mysterious things growing in my garden

Our garden has been a little haphazard this year, but I'm proud because we actually HAVE one. This spring we had lots of greens, and this summer we've gotten tons of tomatoes (all volunteer plants that survived the compost process, no less). However, we had one odd plant that I could NOT figure out what it was.

Ginormous curcurbit plant that took over half the garden. It kept blooming and blooming but didn't produce any fruit at all.

Eventually it produced two small round green fruits. Hooray! Maybe they were cantaloup? They got bigger and stripey. Watermelon for sure! I couldn't wait for harvest time, and even Googled how to tell when watermelon are ripe.

And then the big one turned orange.

 Yep. I grew a pumpkin. IN JULY.

My experience is limited to pumpkins in the fall. You know, carving at Halloween? Pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving? Pumpkins are NOT supposed to show up in July. Clearly, my haphazard gardening skills are worse than I thought. I mean, we never even planted any pumpkins!

However, I worked hard to grow this pumpkin, so I figured I could can pumpkin puree and save it for the appropriate time. The seeds are edible too, if you roast them. So I spent some more time on Google, this time looking up pumpkins instead of watermelon. It turns out that canning puree is NOT  recommended for pumpkins, because they are very low in acid. You can do it if you have a pressure canner, but I don't have one, so I opted to go with the freezing option. 

 First, I sliced my pumpkin in half so I could remove the seeds. I sort of pulled the seeds out with my hands, leaving the stringy innards in the pumpkin.

 This pumpkin yielded about 1 cup of seeds, but many of the seeds were kind of withered and sad-looking. Not sure if that's normal? 

 Next, I scraped the stringy insides out with a spoon (this much I remember from carving pumpkins). The directions said to peel the rind, so I used a carrot peeler to do that. It worked pretty well!

I chopped the pumpkin up and boiled it until soft. I probably should have used a bigger pot!

 While I was waiting for the pumpkin to boil, I pulled all the strings out of the seeds and washed them several times in a bowl of water. This was actually pretty tedious and took several washings.

 The instructions said to dry your seeds in a warm oven, or with a hair dryer. Or, if you live in central Texas and it's 102 degrees outside (that's 40 for everyone else), just stick them outside on your garden table.

 Dry little seeds, dry! (Naturally, it rained for the first time in six weeks about an hour after I put them out. They are now drying in a warm oven. Sheesh.)

 After the pumpkin had been boiled until soft, we mashed it with a potato masher...

... and finally loaded it into jars to freeze. Notice we left plenty of room at the top (headspace) - this will prevent the jars from cracking as the contents expand during the freezing process.

We are DEFINITELY having pumpkin pie at my house this Thanksgiving!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The longer you're gone, the harder it is to start back up again

Ok, ok, I'm back. For reals this time.

We made it home to Texas late Tuesday evening. The trip to France was very nice, the wedding went off without a hitch, and I have tons of pics that I will hopefully get around to sharing soon. I also discovered the best way to get rid of the weight that I'd gained by eating endless baguettes, brie cheese, and croissants (did I mention the chocolate croissants? No? Those too.) is to get really, really sick with a nasty stomach bug at the very end of your trip. Perhaps not ideal for your poor husband who has to put up with you being violently ill.

But enough about that.

So we are home, and the boys are well. Ok, Taran decided to have a nice impaction colic this morning that required a trip to the vet, but he's doing great this evening and should be home tomorrow. Also, our biggest rooster has started attacking people (this morning he went after hubby, repeatedly), so he is destined for the stew pot in the very near future. I'm sure he'll be delicious.

There are about a million other things to post about (we have jumps! we're going XC schooling! the saddle fitter is coming out!), but I'm running out of steam as my body is still fairly certain that it's in another time zone, so I'll just leave you with some of the promised pics from France...

This has to be the most opulent saddle setup I've ever seen. I believe it belonged to Napoleon. Why can't we use saddle pads like this in the dressage arena instead of those booooring white ones? Whyyyy?

 Jousting leg armor from the 16th century. These pieces were special because you can see they don't wrap all the way around the leg, but instead leave the inside leg free to make contact with the horse. The roll you see halfway up the thigh is the top of the boot, which was white leather.

 Fantastic suit of horse and rider armor from the early 1500s, German. According to the sign that went with this display, the riders armor weighted only 33 kilos. Pretty impressive considering! The armor is acid etched and done with gold leaf. Gorgeous!

 French calvary saddle from ~1750-1775. It's so interesting to see the evolution of saddles, from jousting to the more familiar modern-looking English style.

 A parade saddle from the same time period. 

 A calvary officer's saddle from the same time period, with pistol holders on the front of the saddle.

FAIL. This armor belonged to the unfortunate 23-year old Carabinier Antoine Francois Faveau, who was shot with a six-pound cannonball that smashed through his armor at the battle of Waterloo (18 June 1815). Poor fellow likely had no idea what hit him.

 Slightly more recognizable curb bits from the 1700s. The shanks on the one of the left are still quite terrifyingly long, though.

LOVE this bridle. If you look closely, you'll see that the noseband and cheek pieces are integrated - that is, there is not a separate strap holding up the noseband. And look at that browband! To think that we are considered "blingy" these days if we have a few understated beads or crystals sewn on! You could positively blind a judge with this thing, coming down centerline!

I'll take two, with matching saddle pads in the Napoleonic style, natch!