Sunset rides

Since most of my work days start at 6 am, I usually have to wait until the evening to ride. But as the sun is hitting it’s weakest around 6:30-ish pm, it’s getting to be the perfect time to ride.

One of my all time fav shots

Amber looked better yesterday. Even still, I gave her some more bute in her grain and then headed out for a nice evening ride. We rocked the western gear this time, but I figured that since the saddle has a bigger tree it helps to disperse pressure, and she understands that western is “slower” and I just wanted her to be nice and relaxed.

And she was. She stopped to look at a few things, but I tried to keep her on the road this time since it was the only very flat area without rocks. It was only fifteen minutes but I think it really helped her relax, and it was something different again. She basically walked like this the whole way, I hosed her legs and put her up. I’ll give her some more bute today, but just go a bit easy. Thankfully though, it looks like it’s just sore muscles – her legs remain strong and heat free!

A little sore

Yesterday felt a little cooler than normal. So I tacked up the pony and got out to ride close to sunset.

She felt a little lazy in the beginning, just meandering at her walk and trot. Then when I asked her to pick up her trot, she did and we had some pretty nice trot work. I had rearranged the poles earlier, thinking of doing circles and trying to start the habit of counting strides and rating our pace. It worked most of the time, and had a few that weren’t quite “in stride” but over all it felt okay. She reached for one, and I made sure to praise her for it and she slowed right down to a nice canter.

Snoozing, but looking ready

Then, she tripped. She tripped a front leg and a back, and I let her walk to see if she felt okay. She did for a bit, so we cantered a bit more. Then she was suddenly really stiff and hoppy. It was getting dusk, which she was petrified of at the other place due to the birds fluttering around madly in the trees, so I thought perhaps that was it. We rode for a bit longer, but after I got off I had my mom walk her for me so I could watch, and even though she’d felt fine for the beginning of the ride, I could definitely tell that she wasn’t quite right. She was just a little stiff in her shoulders and she wasn’t as swinging as she usually is in her back and hind end.

So I did a quick palpation test and sure enough she was sore – more over her left hip than right this time. But really, I swear mare. I like that for the most part she seems pretty indestructible, but damn I wish she’d overreact about things that bother her. She’s so stoic about that stuff that many times I don’t know where to start when she feels “weird”. Because it is just “weird”. Only 2 times has she ever been truly off where there is no doubt you can see it and know where the problem is.

It’s okay, ma. My cuteness makes up for it

However, I’m sure the majority of her soreness was from her save on Sunday. That and two days of pole work in a row were probably too much for her right now. Poor sweetie. This is all new for her, so she’s bound to have some sore muscles. I’ll probably go back to keeping the jump/pole work once a week, or at least a few rides apart with some nice long walks in between until we start getting fitter. Here’s our little mishap since I haven’t gotten it fixed yet on the other post:

So I gave her two grams of bute – which I am ecstatic that she ate because usually she gives me this look like “how dare you attempt to sneak that icky-ness into my food mother”. But she slurped it up and even licked the pan clean. Pretty sure she got all of it! I also stuck some liniment on her legs and while she doesn’t mind it on the front legs, she was not a fan of the hind legs.

But hopefully she’s feeling better today! I’ll check everything over and probably just go for a nice long walk off property – probably stick closer to the road so her footing is more even. If nothing else, more bute today and icing.


Plain jane

I joke a lot about Amber being a sorrel. Before her, I loved the shiny, rich deep brown of Whisper. I adored the gorgeous reddish-brown of a mahogany bay. I sighed at the uniqueness of every dun and roan colored horse. I ogled those bright, copper-penny, Secretariat-colored horses. I loved the look of a gorgeous dapple grey, even though they wouldn’t stay that way. After reading all those Black Stallion books, I have a special place in my heart for a black horse. Palomino Barbie horses feed my love of long, cream manes. I adore contrasts, and buckskins fulfill that perfectly.

Especially sooty buckskins like this Gypsy Vanner. Sooty buckskins are love.

But what about those plain horses? The ones that have minimal or no white, or aren’t flashy? The ones that you pass by in the stalls because they just seem “meh”. I’ve realized that over a course of time, Amber has changed my views on these types of horses.

Before Amber, I swore I didn’t want a sorrel. They’re a dime a dozen amongst the QH world. SO MANY SORRELS. And I have to admit I was a little sad when I first saw her because Amber’s siblings were all roans – a blue roan and 3-4 bay roans. And she’s the Plain Jane sorrel. Or course, none of that mattered after I’d worked with her.

Miss Plain Jane; but her face is just so sweet

If any of you follow reining, you’ll have heard of Gunner, or registered name Colonels Smoking Gun. He is noted for passing on a lot of white to his foals. They always gather a lot of attention, and consequently, I think a lot of money. While many have been successful, somehow, my favorites have always been the Plain Jane ones.

There was a bay that only had a little stripe on her face, no other white, and she was one of my absolute favorites. Tried so hard, always wanted to please. But she was kind of scraggly, a little awkward, and no one really wanted to take a chance on her. Another gelding was sorrel, a stripe and two white feet. Even as a just-broke 2 yr old he was the most dependable horse I’ve ever ridden. More dependable than Amber, even. He had an honest heart of gold. Two other colts that were just chestnut, minimal white, had super honest hearts and willingness to please. A couple other mares were plain, perhaps gangly, but I dunno I’d just watch them and think “I like THAT one”.

Like this girl. Not very flashy, but sweet and tried hard. She was also derpy lol

Another colt who had talent out the wazoo and was ridiculously smart, but he was kind of quirky so you had to get a bit inventive to ride him. But man he was a real blast to ride. He was plain too though. None of these horses would ever jump out and grab most prospective buyers, but then you’d see them under saddle, and suddenly there was a whole different horse and potential you could see.

I think this is what Amber has taught me. Those other horses taught me what type of horse I like and to always give every horse a chance and what I want to look for, but I think Amber has been the one to really change that thought around. She is absolutely a Plain Jane, was scrawny and tiny when she was little. But not even I knew that she’d look like this at 7 years. Her parents are big, super solid QHs, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she will be.

So much change ❤

I’ve had someone say that because her chest is so wide she wouldn’t be able to spin as well as some others (she can when I ask for it). I’ve had others look at me weird because she’s a performance horse doing pleasure. But she can out-jog them. Not out-lope because let’s be honest she canters, but people kind of write her off until they watch her move. It used to bother me, I’ll be honest. Because while I cared about how honest she was, how sweet she was and how hard she worked, they paid attention to the fact that she just wasn’t as talented as these bred-for horses.

But I dunno, to me these Plain Jane horses are better. Personally, I’ve liked their attitudes the best, but more importantly, I think if you can take that Plain Jane horse that isn’t as “talented” as those others, and get them just as far or farther, that speaks more to me about the bond between horse and rider as well as their determination to always making things better that is the best. The quality was there, it just took someone who believed in that horse and put in the work to get it there.

To me, those expressive eyes are the most important

There’ve been a few people who have walked up to me out of the blue and told me they love watching me ride Amber. Most of this was at a show since I usually ride alone, but it really shocked me. And at the end of the day, I realized that’s what I love. I love that people can see our bond when we ride. I love when people tell me how happy she looks, because really, that’s why I do this. I ride because I love it and I love horses. And I want to find the ones that you have to take a little extra time.

Amber is plain. A very orange sorrel if you want to be specific. But I think those Plain Janes (or Joes) are really just the best because you have to look past their outside plainness and see what’s there. Most of the time I don’t think they’re the flashiest horses, so they can’t “hide” anything, but they’re the ones that I think in a way will give you everything they have and more because you took the time to polish that little gem.

This is not to say, of course, that flashy horses can’t be just as giving and sweet and diamond-in-the-rough as a plain horse. I just think that the plain horses get overlooked most of the time in favor of those more flashy horses.

Haha sorry, guys. Too mushy? I swear I don’t usually get this mushy. But I want to know your thoughts. What do you think about it? Do you like those Plain Jane or Joe horses? Or do you like more flashy horses? What about them is it that you like the most? Or does color never matter to you?

Media blast

So be prepared for lots of media. It wasn’t a busy weekend but I got lots of photos. I was also able to mess around with the GIF function on my phone camera and got some good snippets. Friday I didn’t ride, but Saturday I packed up the pony with her new half pad and her breastcollar to get prepared to have some fun over the poles.

Lookin good

She’s starting to look really good, too. She’s gotten more trim (although the picture from her right side she looks fat so… even just through the week.

That tail tho… ❤

The last week of dressage has really helped her. When we starting cantering on Saturday, I could tell the work had really helped the quality of her canter. She felt like she had more suspension in her canter and she was even more adjustable than she had been before. She still seems excited to get out and ready to work.

But thankfully it was very cloudy Saturday, so we didn’t have to worry about the sun beating down on us. We’d had an impromptu bit of rain in the night, so it left the ring nicely wet and the air cool. Amber wasn’t even fazed with the cooler weather, and she was absolutely on it when I asked her canter. Then I went into two point, and it took her a little bit, but when she realized we would be doing pole work, I could feel her ears prick up and she got a bit of a jump in her step.

We doing fun things again, right?!

We had some super pole work, and it helped that the both of us have gotten stronger. I could also feel a nice spring in her canter, and we got the distances most of the time. I’m not too worried about whether or not we get the striding right because I want her to figure out, and so far she’s been spectacular about being smart with her feet. But of course it helps to start familiarizing myself with distances (which, while I count strides, I need a lot of help with).

But she was really super. I didn’t worry about lead changes on Saturday and only switched directions a little bit. By the end though I could tell she was getting tired because she was really starting to plateau and flatten out as we were going around the arena in between jumps. So I just worked on letting her slow down and collecting her for a few strides and ending on that note.

No mounting block? No problem! Fences work!

Sunday I decided to stick with a second day of pole work. She was definitely thinking forward when we started to canter, even though I didn’t wear spurs. I’d bought some new spurs with a round knob to use instead of the Prince of Wales spurs I had. The round knob is less abrasive than the Prince and Wales, and though she works fine without spurs, they’re just there as a reminder that she needs to respond to my leg. Unfortunately they didn’t arrive Sunday, so I couldn’t use them, but she was actually quite good without the spurs.

I need no spurs, ma!

I had just a little work to get her thinking a little slower, a little more suspension in her canter, but ultimately didn’t push it too hard. I could tell she was a little tired – her canter was a little less fluid and adjustable and she felt a little flatter, which is why I think we missed a few of the distances. But I absolutely loved watching the video playback that my mom took for me. Despite her being tired, she had those little ears up, eager to see where we were going and what pole we’d hit next.

Look at those ears!

I think we’re definitely improving. Despite her feeling a little more tired Sunday, I could absolutely notice the difference in her canter from even two weeks ago when my mom took pictures last time. We’ve definitely gotten strong together, and for the most part it really showed.

Uphill lift!

She had a few nailed lead changes but I left them alone for the most part. I was focusing more on where we were going and how our approaches were, which we didn’t do so well on Sunday. I was really biffing distances – just couldn’t quite seem to put it together and even count the darn strides. I think that mixed with her slightly flat canter was why we ended up having a go-over like this one:

Well, at least she wants to be correct and I didn’t fall off….?

Which, I really like that she wants to take responsibility for her feet, and she’s starting to make decisions about where her feet should go. I also kind of like that she got pissed off she missed it. She’s funny about that sometimes. And I actually don’t mind it. I like that she gets upset when she thinks she didn’t do something right. She’s just a quirky one. At least I didn’t fall off, she didn’t fall on her face, and we were okay. We just need a bit more oomph if we’re going to go for a long spot lol. But we also had some great ones like this:

Nicely over the pole and nailing the lead change

Despite that long shot attempt and fail, I feel like the poles aren’t much more than blips on her radar now. Before she was a bit unsure about them, and Sunday she was giving me some good lift over a few as well as just a solid feeling over most of them. She pays attention to her feet, places them well, and is now focusing more on what I am asking her to do with her canter. Which is great, but I think perhaps I may raise the poles a bit. Not high or anything she can’t do yet, but I think she’s having fun with this, and it feels a little easy now.

Pretty chill

We’ll also start messing around with a little more dressage and perhaps some cavaletti work that Ingrid Klimke outlines in one of her books I’ve bought. I plan to rearrange the poles so that we’re not making the same tracks but doing a different “course”. We’ll go back to doing some dressage during the week, hopefully finishing one of the Master Dressage videos and trying out the basics.

Another nailed lead change! Definitely better right-to-left but we’ve got plenty of time to work on it.

But she was a superstar Sunday too. Although honestly, I have to admit that any day she tries she’s a superstar to me, because she could easily give me a huge resounding no, but she doesn’t. She wants to have fun with me and I always have fun with her.

And thank goodness for a horse that ground-ties great!

I also bought a new girth for her. It should be coming next week sometime but the fleece Smartpak girth just feels a little slippery at times. She’s also already on 5 and 5 and it’s a 30″ and perhaps getting a liiiiiiiiittle stretched, but we’ll see how this leather one does. It’s a 28 which will give me a bit more room as well as prepare when she continues to lose her food baby.

When your horse is so wide that your Note5 can fit in the saddle’s width

All in all, it was a great weekend. She was awesome, we’re getting stronger, and will be doing a few of the same things for a while yet, but we’ve got time. What about you guys? How was your weekend?

A little too sticky

Amber and I had a pretty good ride yesterday morning. It was only half an hour but I’m pretty sure the first fifteen minutes was the both of us just waking up. We were not all there brain wise. Alas, it was just too early for the both of us.

6 am desert morning

There was cloud cover, so it was actually cooler than it had been, and it wasn’t so humid that it was unbearable. But for sure we were very discombobulated yesterday. Most of it was my fault, as it usually is, and we were both just still in that “waking up” phase. But I wore my horZe full seat breeches, and I think it was a little too sticky.

I felt like I couldn’t get control of my lower leg AT ALL. I also felt like I was trying extra hard to post, like it was hard to get my butt out of the saddle. Which is probably the full seat compared to how easy it felt with my relatively slick knee patch Ovations. The full seat has helped me tremendously with my stability in my 2 point so I can start getting more confident and stronger in my position, and hopefully, I’ll get stronger is my dressage position to eventually be able to wear them for dressage. I did get them for that after all.

It’s too early mahm….nap time….

So our left side trot work felt so weird yesterday. I know most of that is because I’ve been trying to shift more weight on my left hip. I think usually horses have let their shoulders fall to the left, so I inadvertently started leaning to the right to fix it and now I don’t know how to put weight back in my left stirrup. But I know that it’s the right fix because when I do fix it, Amber goes straight and into a great frame and is very soft in her body – walk, trot and canter. So I really need to work on breaking the habit.

Also when my weight shifts back to my right hip, I noticed my right elbow starts to pump like a chicken wing. You know, because THAT helps soooooo much.

Oh wait what’s that?

Her canter though was pretty spot on. She knows how to take off from her outside hind, but she has a huge tendency to just barrel down with her front end into the canter. She’s gotten so much better about that, and once she kind of hits the end of my hands, she gets herself back and softens very nicely. We’ll need to fix that initial step into the canter, but all in good time. She’s doing very well and I’m very pleased with her. I wish we could’ve done some pole work, but I just felt like we didn’t have enough time yesterday morning and I just wasn’t awake enough. Good thing I didn’t because….well. That would’ve been bad.

But I got my new Ogilvy half pad yesterday! I was thinking it might be a slightly darker navy, but I absolutely love it, and I think I got a pretty good deal on it. It’s precisely my colors, and I think it’s going to look great with all my stuff. I’ll be sure to take pictures of it this weekend so you guys can see the full look!

Smooth ride

Tuesday I was finally able to get Amber out and go for a short ride. It was absolutely amazing the difference I felt in just her walk right away. She was so much smoother, and she also just felt so much more content. The problems with her falling in to the left – which just fyi she’s always been prone to do ever since I started her – and her recent tendency to bow out to the right, which I had attributed to a small, oddly shaped arena, appeared to be more because she felt uncomfortable. She was almost dead straight as we warmed up at the walk, and she just felt like she had such smooth swing in her back.

Maaahhm it’s tooo hoooot

The really smooth swing didn’t last through the whole ride, but it was amazing how much better she felt. Her trot work is really coming along so nicely – she maintains her pace as well as most of her lift when I drop the reins, and she’s starting to give me a little extra when I pick up the reins. It’s a really cool feeling. She still needs encouragement a little more than I’d like to keep a forward pace, but she’s doing well.

I’m not very well-versed in dressage, but I’m really liking the feeling she’s giving me when she’s accepting the contact better. She feels long and fluid, but also collected and elastic. If that makes sense. I’m not very good at all trying ti describe and put into words how things feel when I ride. But I’m really pleased with her trot.

I love this picture LOL

Her canter to the left is doing really well. She had a wheeee! moment when I knew she was feeling better, then settle right back into the work. It was nice to see how much better she felt. She was a lot less focused to the right, and I really had to tell myself that it was time to stop babying that side and get her thinking along the same lines as the left. So I we had a short canter-trot-canter-trot-canter-trot session. She would start off really nicely in the canter, then just let it fall to the wayside, so I worked on keeping her cantering during the good moments, bringing her down to a trot and rounding herself, then cantering again softly. That really seemed to help, and we ended on a really good note. A very sweaty note.


I hopped on for another short ride yesterday, and I was super pleased with her. She really only has to be told something isn’t right one ride. The next ride she absolutely is determined to do it right to the best of her ability, and that’s just what she did. She wasn’t as fluid in her walk this ride, and a bit of her leaning was back, but she was bugging me to get out. She even knocked my phone out of my hands at one point to get my attention. Oh Amber.

Oh god stop embarrassing me ma

I’ve been debating whether or not I should grab a dressage whip since she’s been a bit inconsistent in her trot pace. It would also maybe help with lateral movement to the left, but that’s the direction of her bad hip anyway, sooooo…… But she’s also pretty terrified of whips and their noises. Poor thing thinks she’s done something absolutely horrible if one is snapped just in her general vicinity. But I’ve been riding with my spurs beneath my spur rest, and yesterday I put them on the spur rest, and it was just what the doctor ordered.

She was a little startled when I first asked her to trot and she really felt the spur, but she soon settled. She wasn’t as in the contact in the trot as she has been, but I attribute that to her greenness and non-knowledge yet. We have moments where I can really feel her push forward, and I’m not prepared so it throws me back a bit and she slows down like “oh too much sorry ma” and then I laugh, shake my head and keep going. Sweet girl is trying to understand me and I am not doing a good job of it for her.

But her canter was much better today. She’s still stiff in her ribcage to the left – which due to her issues is totally understandable – and she’s still weak on that right side, but she was trying her best for me. I worked on the right lead to get that over with early since we worked on it more than I’d initially wanted on Tuesday. I could really feel her want to dive her shoulders down on the long side, so I made the command decision to do large circles. That really helped her to soften and relax so that when I let her go straight she stayed that way.

Her left circle was super. She really tried to be softer in her ribcage, and I think she’s right on for developing the softness in the left side of her body while not allowing her right side to drift outside the circle and vice versa on the right lead. All in all she was really great. She’s happy to be getting out again, more importantly she’s bugging me to go out, and I think she’s happy she’s learning new things. She’s not just getting bored anymore.

I finally signed up for Master Dressage! I’ve seen their facebook posts and snippets from the lessons for a while now and I really agree with their theories in training but mostly how the rider sitting can affect the way the horse can travel. I’m super excited to start delving into that.

Today starts the strange August Thursdays, and I don’t start until 8 for the whole month. I’ll be doing a short ride this morning, hopefully right as the sun is coming up. I want to have a little fun with the poles, but we’ll play it by ear. She might be wild. Ha. Hopefully this whole month I’ll be able to ride early outside of the heat for once. Who am I kidding? It’s just muggier in the mornings. There is no heat break in summer.

By the way, as you can tell her face is icky and hairless. Most of that is the salve from TTT over the fungus spray that I haven’t cleaned off yet, but she gets so sweaty in that divot on her forehead where she has forehead muscles that it just grows fungus and is gross underneath her fly mask. So I was attempting to get her forelock out of the way. Well…..I uh….succeeded? Now she just looks funny haha!

Review: the rein battle

Review Wednesday is here again! If I keep this up nearly every week I think I’ll run out of things to review haha. But today’s feature is of reins – this is more a brand/leather quality than rubber vs laced vs webbed (I do want to try the webbed reins sometime) but there is a bit of that. The rein battle is Smartpak laced vs Ovation laced vs Thinline reins.

The Smartpak laced reins I had first – they came with a Smartpak Harwich fancy stitched hunter bridle that is now discontinued. The reins were extra long (~62″), which is why I bought them in the first place. They were raised and had fancy stitching as well.

I didn’t like the rein quality as I did the bridle. The leather laces were very stiff, and even though I cleaned and then oiled them a few times, they just wouldn’t soften. I used them a few times, cleaned them again and then applied Passier Lederbalsam, and they softened a little but not much. They probably would have continued to get softer with use, but I really didn’t like the way the felt in my hands.

The Ovation reins that came with the Ovation breed specific QH bridle was another reason I bought the set – the reins have a very long length of 64″. But that was the purpose of being long – the level, long outline of a QH HUS class would need the long reins. And Amber definitely does need the long reins for when we do HUS.

Look black here but they’re a very dark havana

This leather broke in much easier. I oiled them first, used them a few times, cleaned and oiled again, and got them nice and sweaty. The laces are softer on this pair of reins, and overall I think the leather on the Ovation reins is better. These I still have, and will be using for as long as I show hunter classes. I’m very hesitant to get rid of them because I have yet to find a pair of reins that are this long. Technically now that we’ve been doing a little more dressage work, 60″ inch reins work okay, but I’m still closer to the buckle on them than I’d like to be. Also, I love the color, length, and they’re good, sturdy leather, so I’m still keeping these for the time being.

The Thinline reins are the winners of the three for me. I have been in love with these from the first moment I held them. I had a coupon, the reins were also on sale, so I grabbed them. I would have preferred the English leather, but due to the sale those were taken, so I got the Indian leather. I haven’t been disappointed with the quality of the Indian leather – it’s held up really well so far with all of Amber’s sweat and the dirt, but the length of the reins that hit her neck are mostly the synthetic material.

You can get the reins with leather hand stops or without. These get pretty sweaty, but again, they clean up well. Thinline material encases the reins, and I have to say they’re the softest, squishiest, and most comfortable reins I’ve ever held. They’re 3/4″ thick, and while that may put some people off, I really can’t tell that they’re that thick. The reins come with martingale stops, but I’ve cut those off since Amber won’t need them, and if she does I’ll just grab the lovely snap ones from PS of Sweden.

Most of the time I ride without gloves, so rein feel is a little different for me. But the biggest reason I really do like these is how squishy they are. Amber is really quite sensitive, and I love how I can make the smallest adjustments, the smallest squeeze with my fingers and these reins translate my message to her beautifully. Also, as you can see my hands aren’t very big. That was one of the reasons I couldn’t play piano very well – my fingers were too short. But I don’t even notice that these reins are thicker, and my hands have never once hurt while I was using them.

The longest length for these is 60″. I really wish they came longer. These so far are my favorite pair of reins. However, Amber doesn’t really pull. She’s very soft in her face and the most I need to really grip reins is if she’s bracing a bit. Which compared to most horses is not bracing at all. So far steering in bending lines hasn’t been an issue with grip on these reins. They’re not like the grip of rubber reins, but I think they still have good grip to them. The hand stops help with that grip.

So, for me, the order of first to last is: