Monday, 19 September 2011

Last Diamond Horse Show of the Year!

Showing season has sadly ended for me now as yesterday's Diamond Horse Show was the last one of the year and I can't get to any other shows due to lack of transport- it's dressage and clear round jumping shows at the stable down the lane from me now for the rest of winter. It's too bad as I really like showing too, just dressage and clear round jumping can get a bit boring but at least I can do them all side saddle!

Hattie was a STAR yesterday during our 14 mile round trip hack to and from the show, especially coming back as we had heavy traffic. She didn't bat an eye despite cars beside her, big rumbling trucks, having to go over motorway bridges...

All that and spending all day at the show with her still looking like a million bucks...

She truly is a super horse!

We did Best Turned Out where we got 1st place, got 2nd in Best condition (an inhand class), 3rd in Riding Club Horse and Pony and 1st in Prettiest Mare (a ridden class). I had packed the fleece girth cover but couldn't use it for Best Turned Out and didn't end up using it for the rest of the classes either, as Hattie's girth gall was unaffected by the girth since I had cut that lumpy bit out of it. The hair is growing back on it as so it was the lumpy bit of leather that rubbed her!

Here is us waiting to be inspected by the judge in Best Condition...

The judge was the same from the last show and we had positive comments. He said that Hattie was going more forward and working much better now that I was being more strict with her. He watched us during our warm up for the Riding Club as we were going to have to jump and he said that our jump was more fluid and we presented a graceful image.

When we were in the class and did our individual show which had to include the jump, I messed up a bit and did not collect Hattie enough at the canter (we were on the left rein). She got a little on the forehand and took our jump slightly too long. It wasn't TOO bad and a LOT better than before but was just annoyed at myself that we messed it up. I didn't get left behind either which was good as that class gathered quite an audience, everyone wanted to see the only side saddler rider at the show jump. No pressure!!

I'm starting to really enjoy jumping side saddle as I can feel what Hattie is going to do. I can feel her start to gather up so I don't get left behind, it's wonderful! So much better than jumping astride!!

Gary took an action shot of the jump. Unfortunately, Gary took it a tiny bit too early as our camera has an annoying delay. You can see that I wasn't going to get left behind though! I don't know what height the fence was set at, but it was bigger than what we did at home. Looks about 2' to me as it was more "imposing" than my jump set at 1'9" at home.

The judge came up to us afterwards at the end of the show to say goodbye and said that he was talking with the show organizers of having a Championship show in next year's show schedule so hopefully they will do it as it will give Hattie and me something to aim for!

Well, until then, it's dressage season for me now! I dropped off my entry form for next Sunday's dressage show and it seems that I will be doing the Intro B test AND the Prelim 4 test, eek!
I've given Hattie the day off today to rest and then tomorrow is practice time as I only have 5 days to practice two tests!!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

A Three-Fold Problem?

We schooled in the field today. I like to school on grass as most shows are held on grass and it helps to tighten up our riding too. I think sometimes, that people become too reliant with riding in arenas and I hope that I still get to school sometimes in the field at my new barn.

Hattie's mind was elsewhere today and we schooled for 45 minutes. I think I've found the maximum time that I can ride aside on my right hip for as I felt a little stiff and sore afterwards but not too bad. It's funny, yesterday, we only schooled for about 20 minutes and it was very productive. Today, it took me the full 45 minutes as Hattie was too busy paying attention to people walking on the lane or scary fence posts....

We did eventually, manage to get some good transitions and even practised our working trot to halt movement which we will have to do in our Prelim 4 test. Hattie is good at the halt and stops square! We did the jump too and Hattie did it really well on the left rein but either rushed it on the right rein or did it half-assed and knocked it down. I decided that more flatwork was in order to get her concentrating so we did some walk/trot/canter transitions with 20 metre circles mixed in and rode AROUND the jump so Hattie learns to wait and not expect to blast around if there is a jump in her sight! After a while of that, we attempted the jump again on the right rein and she did it perfectly. A good thing too as my hip had enough.

I'm a true believer that good flatwork makes jumping easy. Too many people ignore the flatwork and charge around a course and then they wonder why their horses are uncontrollable when jumping! At many shows I've been too, you see people riding in dutch gags on the bottom ring or other severe bits in small height jumping classes because they don't have the dressage basics to ride their horses efficiently and rely on a severe bit to get them around. I'm not saying that these bits do not have a place but when you see people getting left behind consistently and unbalanced horses galloping around charging into the jumps despite the harsh bits, then something is wrong.

I ride Hattie in either a French link full cheek snaffle or a loose ring Sprenger KK bit. She can get strong but even out galloping, I have no trouble bringing her back to a canter and trot easily with my voice, small half halts and giving slightly with the reins. As long as I'm balanced, I can keep her balanced and off the forehand. It's when she falls on the forehand, that she becomes strong and why I think she came to me with a grackle noseband bridle and a dutch gag bit!! I've never used that bridle or bit as she doesn't need it with correct riding!

Off my soap box now and back to side saddle...

After riding, I took off her girth and looked at her girth rub. It's starting to heal and our schooling today did not irritate it as we had a dead sheep girth cover on. I also made sure not to do up the overgirth too tight either and tucked that into the girth sleeve too.

I had a feel of my three fold girth and noticed at the edge of the girth right where it would sit behind her shoulder where the rub is, that it felt a bit thick lumpy. I unfolded it and noticed that the leather had not been cut evenly and had bunched up inside the girth. I regirthed the saddle and sure enough the "thick and lumpy" spot matched up where her rub is!
Could it be that this lumpy spot caused the her rub? I wasn't taking any chances to I got out my scissors and cut a crescent shape out of the inner fold of the girth at this area.

The whole girth is made from soft, thin leather and I have never had trouble with any of my girths from Robert Jenkins rubbing Hattie (that's why I fork out and buy them!) but upon inspection of the piece of leather I cut out, it's quite a bit thicker and lumpier than the rest of the leather (the tail end of the piece is thin like the rest of the girth is). You can see the thickness of it in the photo.

The girth feels better now and it curls right back away from Hattie's rub now without any lumpy, thick bits to block it.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

A Better Day....

Today was a better hip and riding day. We practised some transitions, our individual show for the Riding Club Horse & Pony class on Sunday and jumped! Our whole schooling session lasted about 30 minutes which my hip didn't seem to mind and I finally got a light bulb moment while riding and felt my weight drop along my right thigh. I could feel Hattie's gait much easier and the lower part of me moved with Hattie while the top half of my stayed put. Parts of my field are bumpy and I felt so secure and was able to follow Hattie and sail with her over all the bumps.

After this light bulb moment, I felt brave and decided NOT to put the jump down to 1' but keep it at the 1'9" hole Josie had set it on the other day while schooling Jacob.

The jump set on the 1'9" holes...

Our first attempt (on the left canter lead), Hattie ran out on it as I was having a brain fart moment, didn't line her up properly for it and then panicked. The second time, I turned her away at the last moment as I was still panicking. The third time, I decided to trot it to prove to myself it wasn't scary. Hattie trotted over it like it was nothing. Then I asked for her left lead canter and jumped it, no problem!! We did it on the right lead too without incident. I love my Whippy side saddle!

After when we were untacking, I removed Hattie three fold girth and saw something I haven't seen in ages, a girth rub....

Hattie only gets these when she is at her porky weight, 470 kgs and I know she has put on weight recently as I haven't been riding much due to my hip. Because her conformation causes her saddles to slide forward, the excess blubber that she gets behind her shoulder, bunches up and gets rubbed by the overgirth. Although my Whippy doesn't slide forward as much or as badly as some previous saddles I have had, it still goes forward a little bit and that was enough to cause a rub with her excess blubber. As soon as I saw it, I thought "I bet she is 470 again" so I whipped out the weight tape and lo and behold, 470 kgs.

I try to keep her weight at about 432- 450 so am going to have to get that extra 20 kilos off of her. It wasn't so bad when I had my Manorgrove as that didn't have an overgirth and she has been fine with my Whippy since I got it in the winter but she was under 470 kilos at the time. The next time my saddler comes, I'm going to ask him if it would be possible for him to remove the overgirth from my Whippy and maybe make some type of tab attachment for the off-side flap to hold it down.

I have big fluffy "dead sheep" girth covers that I keep for when she gets her blubber girth rubs along with her soothing baby rash creme but I may have to start lunging her as well as riding so she gets that excess weight off. Wish I could lose 20 kilos too!

I tell you what though, I would NOT like to jump in this side saddle or even attempt jumping with this lady's position!

I tried to bid on this last night on Ebay but was unsuccessful which was a shame as it was a neat side saddle photograph from the early 1870's. I doubt whether the actress was a rider judging from her poor position in the saddle but I thought her early leaping headless saddle was interesting as you rarely see side saddles in early photos.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


This past week has been a nightmare!

First on Tuesday, we had heavy winds and something either hit Hattie in the eye or flew into her eye as when I came down to do the evening feed and poo picking, her bottom eyelid was swollen and there was a clear discharge (like tears) running from the corner of her eye. I had a look but couldn't see anything stuck in her eye so the next day I started on a course of antibiotic eye drops. I figured if they didn't work within a day, then the I would call the vet out but thankfully they kicked in pretty much straight sway. I've left her fly mask on all week as we've had terrible winds and gave her the eye drops twice a day and all is looking fine.

Again on the Tuesday evening, as if a horse with a swollen eye wasn't enough, the man that owns the field and stables that I rent, came down and announced that "he wasn't happy" and that "it wasn't working"....

You know when someone tells you something that makes you so angry and that they have no reason to say it that you are just stunned? Well, that was me. For once in my life, I was speechless.

For the last three years that I have rented my field and stables, I have always paid on time at the beginning of the month straight into his bank account, always kept the fields immaculate and poo free while practising field rotation to prevent over-grazing (and my horses are worm free as the poo never stays on the ground for more than a few hours). Every time something needed repairing, I would fix it or Josie's dad or grandad would fix it, I didn't bother him for anything but apparently, being a good tenant isn't enough.

So I gave my notice in and have been barn shopping all week for Josie and I. Josie will be taking Jacob to the livery stable behind us as they only take ponies, no horses and I will be taking Hattie to a barn down the road from where I live (about 10 minutes cycling). Hattie's new stall is bigger than what she has now and they have an outdoor arena which doesn't freeze in the winter. it's also £10 cheaper than what I pay now and they have electricity and running water, both of which I am lacking at my current premises. A real boon in the winter with my arthritis! We move in October 1!

Talking about arthritis, my stupid back and hip haven't been right all week either. Moving all my hay, straw and rubber stable mats to the new barn hasn't helped matters much either.

On Saturday after we moved the hay, I need a good ride to sort myself out mentally so we cantered and had a bit of a gallop across our field (I had taken down all the electric fencing so we had a nice big clear space). We also jumped a little jump on the left canter lead and that was good except Hattie got lazy and knocked it down. I made the mistake of going out for a long hack afterwards and that finished off my hip. I REALLY need an off-side side saddle NOW!

We are going to the last Diamond Horse Show on Sunday and haven't been able to ride much because of my stupid hip. I decided to rest it Monday and today and then do short 20 minute schooling sessions each day for the rest of the week to prepare for the show. It's the same judge and I need to get Hattie going more forward.

Then the Sunday afterwards, it's our dressage show where we will be doing the Prelim 4 test. I have not been able to practise this much either because of my hip but at least I have the test memorized. I was going to do two tests at the show, Intro B and Prelim 4 but think I may skip the Intro test as I can't face doing a lot of trotting at the moment, at least the prelim test has a good long canter in it to rest my hip. Plus the intro test is ssssoooooooo boring.

I've still not sent in my entry for the dressage show as don't even know how my hip will be. I am still in two minds whether to skip this month's dressage show and rest my hip. I wish my saddler would hurry and finish my off-side saddle. Even better, I wish the bloody things were plentiful as nearside side saddles so I could just buy myself a spare for times like this!!

Too bad I can't go back into this Victorian photograph and have the saddlers make me one...

I picked up this framed photo in a thrift store in the winter. I don't usually look at the photos they sell but the white linen of underside of the side saddle on the work table, caught the corner of my eye! I thought "I recognize that shape!".

There is no information about this photo but judging from the costume of the lady at the back (it's clearer in person), it looks to be from about 1899- 1900.

Not bad for £3.50!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Darn hip...

It's been back to the old grind here as summer holidays ended and my son went back to school. He's moved up to "high school" which in North America, would be the equivalent of "junior high" and although it sucks for him to have to go back to school, it's great for me as their school day starts REALLY early! This gives me an extra hour of horse time in the mornings before work and I have been taking advantage of the extra schooling time.

I also turned 36 at the end of August but I may as well be 63 as all this extra riding time has been taking a toll on my right hip. The damp weather doesn't help but each year my arthritis gets worse and worse. I can't wait for my off-side side saddle to come back but it's going to be a while yet as Roger has lots to do on it. If I can't find another off-side in the meantime, then I'm just going to have to suck it up and ignore the pain.

Just schooling for a max of 20 minutes seems to not cause me too much grief and keeps Hattie mentally with it. That is what we did this morning and my hip was ok all day. It was a good schooling session though as Hattie was nice and forward (except for two spooking sessions from the monsters in the blackberry bushes beside the arena!). Our canter transitions are becoming more consistent and I will be doing my first prelim test this month too! LOL, just have to send off the entry form but the plan is to do the Intro B test as a warm up and put us in the "zone" and then do the Prelim 4 test.

We have our last Diamond Equestrian showing show this month too so have been working on getting Hattie working properly and not doing everything half *ssed so that the judge will see (he is judging the classes again) that we did take his commments on board!

All this dressaging has helped us with our little jumps too. Hattie is getting better at staying off of the forehand when approaching a jump which then lets her get her spots in a nice came fashion. I did half contemplate taking Hattie into the clear round jumping show yesterday and just have the jumps put at 1' but when I saw the course and saw the one stride combination jump and the skinny upright fence off of a tight turn, I thought "forget it!". My hip was also not very happy yesterday which was also another deciding point!

I want our jumping to be calm and if I put Hattie in that situation with those crazy jumps, it would blow her mind and I would probably come off and break something else. I spoke to one of the show stewards about my predicament and she said that if I call the day before and let them know, that when they are setting up the course, that they can leave the poles on the ground for me to jump at the show as long as I am the first one there. So that is good! I can still "jump" a course riding Hattie side saddle in a show situation but not have to worry about clearing jumps but concentrate on calmness and our approach.

I have no intention of becoming an international show jumping side saddle superstar so am quite happy to do poles on the ground and Hattie is happy too as she still gets to do her favorite thing as a reward for "boring" dressage.

This is the jump we did today after dressaging to prove that we really do jump despite my chickeness!

I had to wrap my fixed head after the last show though, as the hole in the doeskin at the front of the heap tore from the zipper on my boot. I'm going to wear my old zipperless boots to the next show to save any additional wear until I can get my saddler to patch up the hole.

I must say that with all this schooling and jumping, that my Whippy is proving to be a very secure saddle! I love it! I think Hattie is a Whippy horse. Now, if only I could find an off-side one....