Friday, January 29, 2016

Knight in Shining Armor

Ok, so his armor could use a bit of polishing. And it's a bit dented. But I'll keep him anyway!

And his horse is pretty awesome too.

Hubby is off doing jousting things this weekend for a friend's 50th birthday. I hope he has a great time! Paddy, Taran and I will be home practicing our dressagzes moves, and eating chocolate cake. What are your horsey plans for the weekend?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Neat vs. Messy

So tidy - not even a crumb out of place.

Needs a bib and a vacuum.

Do you have a neat pet and one that's, er, less than tidy?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

How not to do a canter depart

Transitions are, by far, the thing Taran struggles most with. I'm not sure if it's his conformation (downhill), his training (good but inconsistent), or lack of strength, but any upward transition of his starts with his head and ends with his hind legs. In other words, he tosses his head in the air, lifts his front feet off the ground into the new gait, and then eventually his hind legs catch up. 

The good news is that even in just a month, he's getting soooo much better. Walk-trot transitions are now usually come from behind and are fairly steady, and the right lead trot-canter transition is pretty good too. However, he still struggles a lot with the left lead trot-canter transition, and here's why:

Last trot stride...

Still sort of trotting.

To ensure a bad transition, stick your leg way forward and throw away the reins. Works every time (for what, I'm not sure).

See how the transition has started with his head coming up? It's like he uses his head and neck to lift his front feet off the ground.

Now that his head is out of the way, his front feet can start cantering. Hind feet are still trotting.

Starting to bring the fronts through for a canter stride. 

I have no idea.

Like a baby canter stride in front but the footfall pattern behind does not match the canter.


Ok, wait, it's starting to look canter-ish. Maybe?

Oh the hind end might be doing something canter-like.

There's the outside hind landing first!

Yay! Hind legs match front!

But because I can't only do one crappy canter depart per lesson, I had to try again...

Last full trot stride before the canter

Front end has started doing something but back end is still trotting (and I'm pulling on my inside rein like a PRO. Don't try this at home, folks.)

Maybe we're cantering? Maybe not? I can't tell and I don't think Taran can either.

Oh wait, the LF looks like it might be cantering.

Yep, the front end has just taken an abbreviated canter stride... but I think the back end is STILL trotting.

Front end cantering, back end trotting.

Wait! I think the back end might be catching up! 

Maybe we'll do a canter pirouette?

It's starting to look like... could it be???

Finally got legs untangled enough to canter!

To address this issue, we're working on REALLY engaging the left hind before transitions. Leg yields are helping lots, not just with engaging the hind leg but actually getting him straight into both reins and have him carrying his weight evenly. He likes to lean a bit on his left shoulder, which sometimes means he pops into the RIGHT lead when I'm asking for left, and keeping him even prevents that. When I am coordinated enough to have all the pieces together, he really steps up into the canter from behind, and it feels pretty awesome. When he's not, I feel like I'm riding two horses for those moments when he's getting it straightened out. 

What do you struggle the most with in your transitions?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

DIY - recovering an old saddle pad

I love saddle pads, but I rarely buy them. We have so many of them that, despite being 10 years old, are in pretty good shape. No tears, no holes, just some loose piping. However, they're sad and faded, and I'm more than a little bit tired of them. So I decided to pull some fabric out of my (terrifyingly large) collection and see what I could do about giving the pads a new look and some new life.

(If you're looking to make a saddle pad completely from scratch, try this blog post for instructions. It also has slightly more detailed instructions on assembly than this post, so you might use it for reference.)

Sad, faded pad with loose piping, but otherwise sound and serviceable.

First, take a seam ripper and pull off all the piping and trim. If you've ever wondered what's in the middle of most saddle pads, it's a piece of 1/4 inch open cell foam (the yellowish stuff peeking out from the edge) - same stuff that's in your couch cushions. This is why most pads don't breathe very well.

Next, cut two pieces of fabric to roughly the right size. Be sure to leave about 2 extra inches on each piece over the spine area.  Pin your cover fabric to the pad using LOTS of pins - the goal is to hold the fabric to the pad while we quilt it. Embiggen pic to see all the pins I used.

Use a straight edge and some chalk to mark the diagonal quilting lines going one way...

... then sew them down. Mark the lines going the other way, and sew those down too.

Once you've quilted the fabric on, run a line of stitches around the outside edge of the pad to make sure the fabric doesn't bubble or gap.

Snip away the excess fabric. It's starting to look like a saddle pad! 

Next, we need to connect the two halves of our fabric over the horse's spine. Lay one side down flat (the one I'm holding on the left is the side I chose to lay flat - at the bottom of the pic, you can see how it's been tucked under the other piece of fabric)...

... then fold the other side over top to cover up the edge. You can see at the top of this pic, I've folded over the edge and pinned it, but I haven't done the part at the bottom yet. 

Here's what it looks like all pinned in place. Use LOTS of pins!

This is Jen. Jen is an idiot and used a medium weight needle. Don't be like Jen. Use a heavyweight needle so it doesn't break when going through your saddle pad and heavy fabric. 

You can run a second set of stitches down the spine if you want - I did it so it would look symmetrical, but it's not necessary. Here's what the spine of the pad looks like after everything has been stitched down. 

Next up, the edging! I used double fold bias tape in a complimentary color. Bias tape is awesome because it's been cut on the diagonal (bias), which allows you to bend it neatly around curves. 

Exhibit A: tidy curve with no wrinkles or folds. Once again, use lots of pins to make this work well. If it's wrinkling, use more pins. Seriously. And go slow when you're sewing it down.

Here's what the corner looked like after it had been stitched down and all the pins were removed. 

Starting to look like a saddle pad!

You might be wondering what the back of it looks like - not so great. If you do much sewing you'll realize that I cheated when I sewed on the bias tape. I should have sewed it from the back side first, then stitched it down from the front. I did it all in one step because I'm lazy, but you can see that means the back doesn't turn out as nice. Whoops. Check out this post for better instructions on how to sew on bias tape.

Next up, the piping! Use a seam ripper to make a very small hole in the stitching on your edging, then stuff the end of your piping in the hole. Tucking the end of your piping under your edging will prevent it from fraying.

Sew that sucker down, then use a big zig-zag stitch to go over your piping all the way around.

Here's what it should look like when you're done - you can just barely see the white thread I used to zig-zag over the piping to hold it down. You can also see the little lump in the edging that's the end of the piping.

Note that I chose not to put piping under where the girth goes. That's a high wear spot and I didn't want the piping to get rubbed. 

Annnnd, the finished product! 

I love the fabric I used for this and was pretty happy with how the whole thing turned out - as you can see, I pimped out a bonnet to match. One of the things I like the most is that this ensemble will go with a variety of outfits for the rider, if you're into that matchy-matchy thing. As part of our Spring 2016 collection, you should see Courage sporting this look on Aimee's blog... I wonder if she'll pair it with blue polos, or cream? ;)

Monday, January 25, 2016

My eyes are bleeding! (ROOD fail)

There are some folks out there who are always turned out in lovely matching riding sets - polos or boots, saddle pads, browbands, and bonnets for the horses, complimentary clothing for themselves. They always look so tidy and professional, I admit I'm a bit jealous.

Then there's me.

It's not that I TRY to look bad, per se. It's not even that I don't have clothes that would be complimentary with certain saddle pads and browbands (I don't do boots/polos or bonnets, that would just be more things for me to mismatch). It's just that sometimes I make poor life decisions.

Take this lovely ensemble I wore for yesterday's lesson. I love this saddle pad, and I think the fleece is pretty awesome too. However, when combined, they make for a somewhat unsavory set:

Admit it, you WISH you could pull together an outfit this awesome. I'm pretty sure Taran was so embarrassed by my poor choices that he simply couldn't concentrate during yesterday's lesson.

Then there's the scenario when I come in from riding and change into my favorite comfy fleece lounge pants but leave my riding shirt on. This can either be nominally OK (if I'm wearing a solid blue or green shirt) or horribly scarring for anyone who sees me. 

Hubby was too traumatized to let me actually put this set back on for pictures. And this is a man who is partially colorblind!

This show season, I'm looking forward even more truly appalling outfits. You see, if you're wearing a coat and stock tie, it doesn't matter what sort of shirt you have on underneath - nobody can see it. And I got several Kerrits Icefil shirts for Christmas (these are awesome, btw) with some really wild patterns. With a coat, stock, and white breeches, you'll never know about my fabulously loud shirt. BUT... when I'm just walking around between rides, I'll be sporting these shirts along with my favorite pair of coveralls over my white breeches. The result will be something like this:

I am fairly sure this is what dressage princess wannabes are all wearing. 

Are you more the type to have lovely matching ensembles? Or do your outfit choices suggest a certain lack of je ne sais quoi?