Monday, March 31, 2014

Paddy's first attempt at jousting!

Yesterday, hubby and I went to a friend’s arena to start training up for a local jousting tournament that’s in about a month. For those of you who haven’t been following this blog for long, hubby does International Jousting League (IJL) affiliated tournaments as a hobby. Unlike some of the shows you see on TV, the goal is NOT to unhorse your opponent, but rather to break a balsa-tipped lance against your opponent’s shield. It’s all about the points and showmanship, so it tends to be a fairly comraderly sport. The best riders in the world are really amazing – they’re wearing 40-60 pounds of steel armor, handling a 10-12 foot lance at a full gallop, hitting a target that’s less than 18 inches square. I’ve done it myself (in the distant past), and let me tell you, it’s HARD.

Anyway. Hubby has been riding Taran for jousting since Oberon passed away last summer, but we want to get Paddy going as well. It takes a special horse to joust – they have to be calm enough to canter down the lane and not be worried about another horse coming almost straight at them, but they also have to be spunky enough to enjoy the smash of the lances. Paddy seems to have the necessary attitude for jousting, but it takes a lot of training to make a solid jousting horse.

What the jousting lane looks like from Paddy-back.

Yesterday we just played around with the basics. We started off walking and trotting up and down the lane with no opponent, being sure to stop and stand at the beginning and end. This is especially important when you’re handing off lances later, so putting in a good stop is really key. We tried a couple of canters, but the footing was quite deep and Paddy wasn’t very balanced. We then did several walk and trot passes against an opponent wearing some armor (not all), and he was super good for that. Clanking armor is a huge component of what horses need to deal with when jousting, so that was a good start.

About to strike the quintain for the first time at a trot.

We ended up doing a few walk and trot passes past the quintain. He didn’t mind the noise of the hit, nor did he seem to care about the spinning quintain, which is great! Unfortunately I’m no longer strong enough to handle the lance for long periods of time, so that’s something I’ll have to work on if I want to continue with his training myself.  Still, it was a super-successful first training session, so now we have to work in joust training with all our other work. There’s never enough time in the saddle, lol!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Haffie Birf-day to Meeeeeee!

Paddington here. Yesterday was my Birfday! I am TEN people years old, which is like eleventeen Haffie years. Because Haffie math is different, everyone knows that.

I got to wear a cool Birfday hat with little candle thingies. Apparently candles are a people tradition - I would have preferred carrot-candles. Just sayin'. 

Mom took me on a Birfday ride. I ate a lot of grass even though I wasn't supposed to. Otherwise I was Very Good.

I got a brand-new halter for my birfday. Mom wants to get a nameplate on it, but I don't need a nameplate because everyone already knows who I am. People see me at a show and they squeal and say "OOOH PADDINGTON!" So I am famous! Maybe instead I need sunglasses and a fedora so I can go out in public without being recognized?

Trying to 'splain to Mom that a nameplate is not needed. I look very fancy in this halter, don't you think?

Mom gave me a piece of carrot cake that she got as a people-birfday cake. I ate it, but I preferred the REAL carrot cake made with REAL carrots. I ate them all, see?


I may have dropped a few (note falling orange blobs)

But I cleaned them up later!

Even if it's not your Brifday today, you should have some carrot cake! Or at least some carrots!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Update on Cash - SO MUCH BETTER!

Follow-up to last week's icky pictures:

RF. See? Just hair and a little skin missing. 

Inside of LF. Just a scrape.

Somehow, despite losing a hand-sized patch of hair and banging himself up so well, the swelling has been minimal to non-existent. I think letting him out 24/7 and keeping him moving has helped a lot in that regard. The vet also put him on Tucoprim (antibiotics) to minimize the risk of cellulitis, and so far we seem to be doing OK in that regard. We kept everything wrapped over the weekend, but the big patch above the knee is really hard to keep covered - if I wrap tight enough to keep it on, it's too tight and his knee swells. Starting today, we're down to cleaning it 2x daily and slathering it with Silvadene. Hopefully that'll do the trick - he's already growing hair back over the area, so YAY!

At least he's getting a lot of carrots out if it, since every time I clean it, hubby stuff carrots in his face to keep him distracted. Somehow the old man has managed to pull through, despite trying to commit suicide. Again.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Not what you want to see at 6 a.m. :(

This morning, Red, Paddy, and Taran were in the barn when I turned the lights on, impatiently waiting for breakfast. Cash was conspicuous by his absence. I got the Three Stooges haltered and fed, then hubby (yay he's home!) went to get Mr. Schpot, who was for some reason hanging out on the other side of the track.

As soon as they walked in the barn, my heart stopped. Blood looks 10 times worse when it's on a white horse, just saying:

Major OW.

I have no idea how he did this. It looks like he got stuck somehow, but there were no signs of a struggle and no hair on any fences. 

He was a bit trembly, so we tossed a blanket on him while he ate. As soon as he was finished, we pulled him into the aisle and went to work. I pulled out my last surgical scrub sponge (gotta get more of those, they are awesome) and gently scrubbed all the bloody spots. They're all scrapes, no deep cuts, but as you can see there are a lot of them. Hubby stuffed Cash's face full of baby carrots while I worked, which mostly distracted Mr. Schpot while I worked. I rinsed as best i could, then slathered everything with Silvadene, put non-stick gauze pads everywhere, and wrapped with vetwrap. I put standing wraps on his legs since they were already starting to fill a bit (pardon the crappy wrapping job, apparently I have one front wrap and one hind one?), and hubby gave him 2 grams of Bute to help with the swelling and discomfort.

Not a classy job, but it'll do.

Cash panics if he's in a stall, so we put him out in his usual spot in the pasture. He went to grazing immediately, and seemed OK if somewhat sore/stiff. I'm hoping that moving around a little will help keep the swelling down. I've got a call in to my vet (pictures included!) to see what else I can do to help him. Probably just lots of cold-hosing, wrapping, and bute for a while, but we'll do whatever she thinks is best.

Poor Cash.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Why I spent $120 on a pair of ThinLine reins

I have a confession to make: I have a hard time dealing with lots of types of reins. I know, I know, you’re thinking “seriously, how hard can this be? There are lots of options for different reins out there, just pick one and go with it! ” Let me ‘splain.
  • Braided reins – I have a love/hate relationship with these. They’re gorgeous, but how the hell do you keep them clean? Seriously – one ride on a hot day in Texas and it’s going to take you an hour to dig the scurf out of all those tiny cracks and crevices. I haven’t got the patience. But I won’t deny that they look awesome, and I am teensy bit jealous of those of you who have those beautiful fancy stitched braided reins. Ok, a whole lot jealous. Still, I don’t own any.
  • Reins with stops – I love these, especially plain leather with leather stops. LOVE THEM. There’s just one tiiiiny problem – don't laugh, but I can only hold the damn things with my thumbs on the stops. I know, I know, you’re supposed to be able to hold them with the stops anywhere, but my brain never got this message. No matter how much I explain the theory to my hands (or my trainer yells at me to shorten my reins… again), 30 seconds later I find my thumbs on the next stop. It never fails. I’m mentally challenged somehow. This makes me sad, because I have like 3 sets of them.
  • Rubber reins – I like these for XC, but good ones are hard to find and pricey. Lots of them are really stiff or super wide, which makes them hard to hold, or they are the webbed ones with stops (and we already know that stops are my kryptonite). Also, for dressage, I don’t want super grippy pebbled reins. In the summer, friction on the horse’s neck from the reins just makes more lather on the neck. Not attractive.
  • Plain reins – These are my FAVORITES. I rode Cash in plain reins for years. Easy to clean, I can hold them anywhere and my brain doesn’t melt down. The problem? Mr. Haffington can pull like a freight train… which means he can pull the reins right through my hands. Yes, I ride with grippy gloves, but I don’t have enough strength in my hands to hold the reins when he’s running through my aids. Maybe in a year or two when he’s lighter? For now they have been relegated to Red’s bridle and the spare leather bits box. 
By now you’re probably wishing I’d quit whining about reins and just get on with it, so here’s my new investment: Thinline Reins. I accidently touched them when I was at the Dover store - no really, I was looking at the rubber reins, I touched the Thinlines and was like OOOOH. I picked them up and they folded in half over my hands, like a pair of well-oiled leather reins. They were super flexible and while they felt a bit thick, they are narrower than most reins so I didn’t feel like they would be too much in my hand. I winced when I saw the price tag – I’ve never spent $120 on a BRIDLE, much less a pair of reins, but what the hell (and SOMEONE who will remain nameless was shopping with me and may have been an enabler). Dover has a great return policy, so I figured I’d ride in them once and see what I thought.
I know, they don't look too exciting, do they?

And wow, I’ve been riding in them ever since. I LOVE these reins, LOVE THEM. They are super comfortable in my hand – the Thinline material has a little give to it, and they’re more of a round shape (but not so much that it’s awkward) than flat leather, so I find them easier to grab. They don’t stretch, and they don’t slip AT ALL. In fact I find that I can hold them in much less of a death grip, even if Paddy’s being strong, which means I’m carrying less tension in my arms and shoulders. They clean up quickly and easily, which is just my style.

Boo black mark on his neck.

I have two complaints about them – first, the black ones come with running martingale stops, which I had to cut off (well, I pulled out the stitching to remove them). Not sure why black dressage reins would have stops? Oh well. The other issue is that they leave a faint black mark on Paddy’s neck, but I think that will go away with a few more cleanings and a bit more wear. I’ve seen a few complaints in online reviews that the Thinline material doesn’t last, but hopefully that’s not the case because DAMN, these things are awesome!

So in the event that you are rein-challenged like me and you have some extra money just burning a hole in your pocket, give these things a try! Oh, and… anybody want three sets of plain leather reins with stops?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Paddy's Day!

From, well, Paddy. Who is pretty sure that it's supposed to be "St. Paddington's" day, and not "St. Patrick's" day.

Everyone wore green today!

Green & green & green!

So squeezy! I luff him soooo much!

And of course, a prehensile nose pic. Because it's not authentic Paddy without the nose.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Losing your nerve

You know that sick feeling in your stomach, the adrenaline rush where you feel a little spacey, and your fingers and toes start to tingle? That was me the weekend of the Pine Hill show - I was strangely plagued by a really bad case of show nerves. I had a jumping lesson on Saturday before the show Sunday,  and I was totally second-guessing myself and Paddy. I  was SO NERVOUS in the lesson - I rode like crap, he stopped 3 or 4 times, and halfway through our ride I was to the point of withdrawing from the show. This was a new experience for me, and I didn’t quite know what to do.

In the distant past when I was competing Cash, I only showed when I knew we could go out and OWN the division. That sounds cocky, but I was always so confident in Cash, and what we could do, that I was never worried about stops on XC or rails in stadium (in fact our whole jumping career, he only stopped once). By the time we were showing seriously, we’d been a team for four years, and we had such an amazingly solid partnership that I knew exactly how pretty much every fence was going to go down. Don’t get me wrong, Cash was a tough ride – very sensitive, very fast, and you couldn’t touch his face – but we understood each other and we made it work. Sure, I’d get nervous in the start box, but the adrenaline rush is part of the fun, right?

This used to be no big thang. That's a maxed-out Training level fence - 3'3, with a 6 foot spread.

But my show nerves for Pine Hill were totally different – they were based on doubt. Could I ride Paddy well enough to get him over the jumps, or was I going to freeze up, get loose in the tack, and throw him at jumps? Was I fit enough to ride strongly for the entire course? Was he going to stop and stare at every single jump? My list of worst-case scenarios kept getting longer in my head and I got more and more worried.

Today, this is terrifying. It's 2'3.

What's even more strange is that I rode Red in his first event on this exact same course almost a year ago, and I was totally cool about it. But I've ridden Red for 10 years, and I knew he'd jump it all. Besides, I took him eventing on a total whim - we had nothing to prove to anyone and we were only there for fun.

This looks like fun, right?

Luckily, I have some good friends and a good trainer who put things into perspective for me and Paddy. I was NOT going out to win – I was going out to school my very green horse, who I’ve had for FOUR MONTHS, around his first event. My only goal was to make it a positive experience for him, and to set the stage for the future. I needed to ride the best I could and be positive so that HE would be positive and confident. Somehow, thinking about it that way took the pressure off enough for me to get us around the course without me throwing up. My stadium round was less than stellar (I threw him at the fences and crawled up his neck) and of course we had the stop XC.  But we lived, I didn't ride THAT badly, and there were a lot of really good things about each phase of the event. I came away feeling like I'd done a relatively good job, all things considered.

Alas, we weren't as together as we usually are.

But still. Where do I go from here? I have a green horse, and I'm not gonna lie, the Starter Novice jumps look plenty challenging. Paddy's got so many holes in his training - no fault of his, of course, but he got a late start in life and doesn't have the skills that Cash did at a similar point in his career (for comparison, Cash was started as a 2 yo in reining). I can (hopefully) work myself and Paddy through this and we'll be a stronger team, but to what end? I've done the eventing thing before - I know how much is involved and I'm not sure I want to do it again. I just don't want it bad enough right now.

I'm sure I'm not the only one to have lost my nerve. What's your experience, and what was finally the tipping point where you were able to move forward again? If you're still struggling, what are you doing to work on it?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Paddington's review of the Rambo Micklem Bridle

Y'all (I just love how I'm in Texas and can start a sentence with 'y'all' and it's perfectly legit), my bridles are old. They're old and they don't fit Paddy. I've been on a bit of a quest to find at least one new bridle that fits him, because let's face it, Paddingtons deserve nice things. Or so I tell myself.

Lots of fellow bloggers have Rambo Micklems and rave about them, and I admit I wanted to try one out. The ergonomic design is appealing, and if you're OK with a less traditional look, they're kinda neat. Plus I've been impressed with Horseware products, although up to now my experience has been limited to their Rambo blankets.

Let's just say both Paddy and I were disappointed in all kinds of ways.

I got a havana bridle, in Horse size, reins included. Out of the bag, the bridle is really stiff. While the leather is thick and sturdy, which I appreciate as an eventer, the stitching is quite uneven, and is a really strange reddish color that doesn't appeal to me. I'm sure it will soften with age and oiling, but quality-wise it doesn't compare to the Nunn Finer Eventing bridle I've also been eying, which is only slightly more expensive.

I took a bit of time assembling it, following the directions. I stuck it on Paddy a few times sans bit to get the fit right, and it looked OK on him. I felt like there were a lot of straps, and because the leather is fairly wide all over, it doesn't have as refined a look as some more traditional bridles. In addition, Paddy's face is pretty busy with his blaze, and all the strap work just sort of overloaded it. Also, because his face is really wide and short, I never felt like I got it to fit quite right. It seemed long from ears to noseband and too tight in the throatlatch piece. Alas, there's no photographic evidence because I managed to delete the pics I took off my phone, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

I rode in it once. Paddy HATED it. We used the same bit (Myler Baucher) as usual, but he just never got comfortable. I don't know if it pinched him or what, but he did a lot of head-shaking (not normal) and spent a lot of our lesson sucking back behind the bit. Granted, he's not super steady in the bridle to begin with, but our trainer noticed it, and at the end of the ride we both agreed that he really didn't like something about it.

The worst thing though was the reins. If you buy the bridle, buy separate reins. These things are stiff stiff stiff, and super wide. I literally rode with them for 3 minutes and changed them out. I have pretty big hands and I just couldn't hold these at all. Really not a fan.

I paid $189 for the bridle from our local Dover store. For the same money, I'd probably look at an Ovation bridle (although I don't love those reins either) or for a bit more, I'm move up to a Nunn Finer.

Sorry, Horseware. Paddy and I just couldn't get on board with this bridle. But we did find one that we both love... (to be continued!)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Goldie-Haffie and the three eight saddles

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful golden Haffie named Paddington. He was out in barn one day when he came across eight dressage saddles that he decided to try on. Previously, he’d had to use hand-me-down saddles that either pinched his shoulders because they were too narrow, or bridged because the panels were too long.

The first saddle he tried on was too narrow. He thought that the panels were too long and that’s why it bridged, but actually the bridging was caused by the narrowness. Three more saddles were too narrow, even though they were all marked “wide”. Paddy was starting to feel self-conscious about being a big Haffie, since nothing fit him.

This one is too narrow.

The fourth saddle was too long and the cantle rode over his loins.

See how it goes past his last rib?

He knew that one would be uncomfortable, so he tried a fifth saddle. This one fit ok over his withers and shoulder, but the billets were in the wrong place. Still, the saddle fitter said that could be fixed, so he decided to try it for a ride. It felt OK, but not great. [Note from me: It rode OK, but as I told the fitter, it was “nothing to write home about”.]

See how far back the billets are compared to his "sweet spot"? This can be fixed by adding an extra billet where the thigh roll is, so we tried it out. No bueno. 

The sixth saddle was too short in the flaps, and the seventh saddle was too expensive [Note from me: It also was too narrow, which was good, because that was a muckin’ expensive saddle]. But the eighth saddle… it wasn’t too narrow, wasn’t too long in the panels, and the flap was the right length.

Oooh, looks promising...

Needs some slight adjustment (we used a shim pad for trial), but otherwise good!

Paddington decided to try it on, and it made him feel like a Grand Prix Haffie! His trot had more loft, his canter was rounder and more collected, and it even made his gorgeous hair look better than ever.  [Note from me: Seriously, this was a miracle saddle. Suddenly Paddy had so much suspension in his normally flat trot, it was like riding a different horse.] Paddington decided right then and there that he simply HAD to have the saddle. However, since the trial saddle required a shim pad, and it didn’t quite fit his mum’s butt, a new custom-for-Paddy version had to be ordered directly from England.

Because all gorgeous Paddington-Fabio-Haffies require custom Adam Ellis saddles, right?

Monday, March 3, 2014

What a difference two months makes

I know, you guys are probably tired of seeing Paddy-pics from the dressage show last weekend. But I obsess over them because, well, it's Paddy.  I started comparing pics of him from the show in December and the one last weekend, almost exactly two months apart, and wow, what a difference. It's not to say that our show in December was bad, necessarily, or the one last weekend was amazing, but I can see the progress.

Before, he looked nice at the trot. Now, he's stepping through more, lighter in his shoulder, and deeper in the bend (when I get my act together).

Dec. 2013

Feb. 2014

I kept him bent to the inside down the long side and his focus on me (mostly).
Dec. 2013

Feb. 2014

His "lalalaNotListeningToYou" moments were much less dramatic.

Dec. 2013: OMG A DOG!

Feb. 2014: Right ear says "Camera dead ahead!" Left ear says "What, mom? You want more bend?"

The canter is more balanced, but we've got a long way to go. I'm still braced, and he's still falling in.
Dec. 2013

Feb. 2014

Overall, though, I'd say we just look more like we're becoming a team.

Dec. 2013 - A pleasant picture.

Feb. 2014 - Looking SHARP and TOGETHER!

Our next show is April 5th. I'm not sure we can keep up this level of progress between now and then, but if so... watch out!