Friday, June 30, 2017

Initial thoughts: New Tack

So after selling some of my old tack, I finally got myself a biothane set from Two Horse tack  (so many of the blogs I follow really liked theirs... it sold me)  I got purple, because it's me. I ordered a warmblood size in everything and sent measurements in for good measure.

Also a note, I was not asked to give this review. I paid for everything, nothing was received in expectation of a review.

I got the Quick Change Halter Bridle because I liked the versatility of it. I can ride with the included halter or use a rope halter (of which I'm learning how to make) or just use the halter as a weather proof turnout halter. I like the material. It's substantial and feels durable. It's not slippery and has some grip to it. The buckles are all quite nice and you can adjust it easily. My one complaint is that despite ordering a warmblood size there I am at the very last hole on the halter. It fits her nose just fine, but it barely goes around her jowl. I could go up another hole but it would be tighter than I prefer a halter fit to be.

Additionally, when I adjust the browband snap and halter the snap on browband fits right with the buckle of the halter.  Maybe I should have gone with custom to get a bit more wiggle room there, I dunno. I am pleased over all and it's just a minor thing that I incorrectly assumed would work with the sizing. If it continues to bother me I'll probably take advantage of their alterations and have them put a new, longer piece on it.

There is plenty of adjustability in the length and in that sense, this bridle fits beautifully. The bridle by itself is right in the middle when adjusted to her head. I have room to adjust it up if I use a hackamore, or down if I use a different bit than the baucher. I did provide those measurements and boy did they deliver. So based on that, I highly recommend just picking the custom option and working with them to get the perfect fit.

Halter is on the second hole in this picture and a tad tighter than I prefer.

I also ordered an english breast collar because this tack set will be primarily used for endurance and trail riding and having places to clip things and keep a saddle in place is handy. In this case, warmblood size was HUGE!!!!!!  LOL  Guess Gwyn has a big noggin. I also ordered a girth loop because my girth does not have a d ring to put a clip.  In order to make this fit with the girth loop I'm going to need to punch a bunch of holes, but even so, the center piece was incredibly long. I added scissor snaps to the ends that attach to the saddle but they were not included so I'll be contacting them for that. Not a big deal, but I did check my order and it was listed as an option I picked. Either way, I need to fiddle with the fit a bit more before I'm satisfied completely. 

The white stitching looks awesome.

How the bridle unsnaps from the halter.

No scissor clips :( 

And to top it all off, I got matching reins! I upgraded to the scissor snaps, 10 ft length and black rubber grip. I like the weight and length of them, especially for trail riding. I might order a second girth loop to act as a rein keeper for when she's drinking or eating on the trail so I don't lose my reins. 

Kaylee points out that with how the tree is positioned behind me, it looks like I have a crown! She is incredibly observant.  Also, check out that mare-face. LOL 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Cross Country Schooling at Hunter's Run Farm

I've mentioned before that we live in the heart of horse and hunt country, or at the very least, on the outskirts of the heart. With that being said, when I saw that I hadn't missed the schooling days yet this year I knew I was going to go. Last year I was still coming back after pregnancy and worked toward this goal by getting a protective body vest, now a requirement (It wasn't the last time I did anything competitive or schooling, if that tells you how long it's been.... >10 years) I had a feeling Gwyn would do well, the pieces just hadn't fallen into place yet to make it a possibility. But today, they fit together perfectly.

Hunter's Run Farm is a 10 minute trailer drive (5 minute car ride, lol) from home. I'm not kidding. It is SO close. I contacted the woman who runs the facility and she got me in touch with an instructor who could coach me, as you can't school without a coach. So I also got my first lesson since leaving Washington. It was basic stuff, giving Gwyn a good first experience with a course and connecting jumps together that are a distance apart. We school on the tiny jumps, just the starter stuff with one or two beginner novice thrown in if I felt she was game. Gwyn did amazingly. She was brave and bold, just like I knew she would be.

And more importantly, she started to figure out that listening to me meant more fun jumps.

At the start she was full of energy and jigging. She knew something was up, but not exactly what. The farm was quiet when I arrived, I was the only one there at the time except for a boarder who was turning out a few horses and helped me find where to pay and drop off my liability release.

My coach for the day, Holly, showed up right on time and she walked with me up into the course, to the Upper Water.
The upper water. It WAS this blue, thank the pond maintenance companies around here. There were tadpoles GALORE and it was nice and shallow and clear with a firm sand bottom. Gwyn spooked immediately at the color (more of a snort and a jump in place) and hesitated walking in immediately but with some leg splashed on in and once she was in she was fine. We walked all through the water and then out the tiny bank (the small step on the right).

Then Holly had me trot her around and right back into the water the same way (so doing a big circle, indicated below by the teal). We hit the water and broke to a walk, up and out the bank. Trot again, reapproach and this time she maintained her nice working trot straight to the step and out again. LOTS of pats!

After she did so well with the circles, we linked in a starter log. Holly had me let Gwyn sniff it and laughed when Gwyn plonked her nose on the jump. She said the horses usually don't have an issue if they're willing to touch it THAT thoroughly.  Good girl, Gwyn. :D My goal in combining the two questions was steady rhythm and momentum. Gwyn jumped the log and trotted straight to the water and easily up the step! So we moved onward!  (Going down the step was later, and Gwyn didn't even hesitate having the bank down into water)

Google maps view of the whole property outlined in the purple. It was quite massive and very nice! No indoor, but the variety of jumps and varied terrain makes it rare for Michigan. 

There was a small bank in the trees on this one and two other starter fences that I did. We schooled here last, but then started here putting them all together into a mini course. Again, Gwyn was a rockstar.

 We moved up into the mini meadow. There were a couple of jumps and one bench starter jump. There was a lincoln log jump on our way that Gwyn took without hesitation. I had to loop around the meadow to approach the bench the right way. Then, it was on to the BIG meadow. It looks all flat but the terrain was very rolling hills. That bank complex had a total of at least 30-40 ft drop from bottom of the picture to the top.

Zoomed all the way in on google maps I couldn't fit the entire meadow into one screen shot. So where the double arrows are was the ditch. We walked up, and apparently Gwyn was looking at remnant jumps in the woods because she was startled by the ditch, but then calmly walked over it. It was highly amusing. There was a small beginner novice jump next to the ditch so Holly had me link the jump in the upper part of the picture and choose the bg nov or the starter, I chose the beginner novice. Then we cantered a bit and down to a trot to approach the other starter jump in the field (in the next picture).  There was also a red roll top beginner novice that she said would be fine to school if we wanted. I chose to jump that when we did our course.

So then this was the course that I did all together. In the large meadow Gwyn definitely put on the gas and cantered in between each element, slowing to a trot for the approach. By the time we got to our last jump, the simple lincoln log, she just did a big trot over it and didn't bother to jump.  She was tired and a piddly starter jump wasn't worth the effort anymore, apparently.

We called it there and walked back to the trailer parking. I liked Holly, she was friendly and totally down for working with a 'has been a while' kind of rider. I can trailer into Hunter's Run for $15 to do lessons with her at $40 for an hour. It's so close that I think it's worth it, especially since they have the facilities and so far she seems knowledgeable.

I'm planning on doing the Hunter Pace in two weeks, then maybe schooling again, or just scheduling a lesson. In August there's an Eventing Derby that I'm DEFINITELY going to do! Probably just Starter, to keep it low key. And in the mean time, I'll work on our conditioning (I'm doing another squat challenge this month) so that we're not petering out. Then in September it's Metropark Express endurance ride and I want to do the LD, and October is horse event central. I have something nearly every weekend between the Hunter Pace, Hunt Trials and Oak Leaf Run Endurance Ride. Maybe a dressage show if I can get over the fact that I can't show out of my trailer and have to pay a stabling fee.  Grrr.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Memorial Day Trail Ride 6.5 miles

I have been itching to ride. After Brighton my attention when at home turned to getting our garden beds in order. Any outside time was spent working on that (and BOY was it a huge project, but it's finished!) But with those finished and knowing I wouldn't have work, I felt it was reasonable to take a day and get off property to ride. If we could get chores done the first part of the weekend, riding would be reasonable.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Blog Hop!

Blog Hop! 10 questions for May

I've been pretty busy on farm stuff, but while I wait for a video to upload, here's a quick rundown of answers!

  1. What are your summer goals?
    1. At this point my goal is to get out and trail ride once a month. Ride once a week. We'll see how that goes with kids in the mix. We're still trying to find a balance with two kids, and farm chores, and now I have to work some weekends.  It's constantly shifting and prioritizing things.
  2. Do you have any tips or tricks for fly control?
    1. I like to use Fly Predators from Smartpak.  I don't have a lot of farm animals in my near vicinity so any flies we get are due to our own property. This makes environmental control a bit easier, versus having flies coming in from other properties that aren't using Fly Predators.
      I'm always down for a good spray, but only Gwyn tolerates being sprayed, Saffron is scared to death of it and it's not a priority for me to address with her re: desensitizing.
      I also feed through garlic flakes and that seems to help a little. Oh, and I hang fly trap bags from the trees they like to hang out under.
  3. How often do you bathe your horse?
    1. I'll spray Gwyn down if she's super sweaty after a ride, but I haven't used a shampoo type product on her in years, if ever. We haven't needed to be squeaky clean yet plus her coat color is REALLY good at hiding dirt. ;) 
  4. Do you have any upcoming travel plans? Equine related or otherwise?
    1. I JUST got back from a road trip to North Carolina to watch my brother graduate from Duke Medical school. We drove through some really nice national park area and I was figuring out that taking Gwyn down this way really wouldn't be that bad of a drive. So now I want to ride at Hocking Hills in Ohio. I'll be going to Florida in July, not for horses. Nearest horse trip is an LD at Metropark Express in September, atm. And that's a day trip.
  5. What is your favorite way to beat the heat?
    1. Feet in a kiddie pool or creek or lake. 
  6. Do you do anything to prevent your horse from sunbleaching?
    1. Hahaha, nope
  7. How hot is too hot for you to ride?
    1. Heat index over 100F would do it for me.
  8. How important is sun protection for you riding or just in general?
    1. Pretty important in general. I like to use physical UV blockers like zinc or titanium dioxide sunscreens and I'm looking into sun shirts for me. I already put them on the kids. I do have some of the cooling shirts by Kerrits but nothing long sleeves.
  9. Have you ever gone swimming with your horse?
    1. I went swimming with Clyde, when I was a teen. He lived right by a lake and we took him in one summer. It was LOADS of fun. I'd love to do it with Gwyn. Maybe in one of the Great Lakes?
  10. And because shopping is always on my mind, what’s on your summer wish list?
    1. A purple biothane bridle and matching breastcollar! I'm trying to sell off some extra tack in order to buy the one on my wishlist.  That and a purple cantle bag that can hold water bottles. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Brighton CTR

The first ride of the season in Michigan is the Brighton CTR (Competitive Trail Ride).  This is the ride that I dipped my toes in for Michigan endurance and took a weekend to go camp as a volunteer with total strangers one month after arriving in Michigan in 2015.

The Michigan distance riding group is pretty small. You see the same people at all the rides. It's nice, in a way, because you really get to know them. They're a wonderful group of people and I'm so glad I found them.

Last year I was due any day with Hazel and didn't make it out to Brighton, though I really wanted to. This year I swore I would be going with Gwyn. I wanted to camp, but Eric disagreed (because it's April and might snow, plus kids) so we compromised and I day tripped.  Brighton is not far, about an hour and 15 minutes away and on pretty direct highway!

Given that I really haven't ridden much this winter, I opted to do the 15 mile intro ride, especially since hoof protection is recommended, there are a bunch of hills and we'd be doing it barefoot.  Lots of factors. I also opted for the tutored ride that they offered for new to the sport people. I figured it would be a guaranteed group to chat with on the ride and I might learn some things, especially about CTR which is a bit different from AERC rides. Plus the intro had a later start time, which would make day tripping easier.
Sometimes I feel I cheat at hooking up the trailer...

Saffron started braying AS SOON as I was backing the truck up to the trailer. She knew. She knew.

The next morning Gwyn came trotting down to me. I put on her halter, grabbed a lunge line and gloves and prepared to argue about her getting into the trailer. I had the lunge line because she sometimes tries to  rear and twist and run away, and the gloves so I could hang on and I wanted to school her if she tried that. Instead, I stood to the side she normally ducks out on, pointed to the trailer and in she hopped.

I kind of stood there in shock for half a second, wondering if that really just happened, then I hopped up and attached the butt bar and gave her a scritch for a job well done.  She munched on some hay while I closed the rest of the trailer up and grabbed the last of the things I needed. Then I gave her a carrot because DAMN.  That's the first time that's ever happened!

I think I channeled Dom for a moment...

We got to the ride with plenty of time to chill. The intro ride groups were going out starting at 10 am and my ride group of 4 was going out at 10:50. So Gwyn got a good grooming and I rebraided her mane since I was expecting the day to warm up and her mane is thick.

She vetted in wonderfully. Mary was the vet and she is fantastic. The vetting is really thorough for CTR.  That's where a lot of the points can be lost.

Warm up walking around the day tripper parking/ride office camp.  The actual campers were up on the camp sites in the loop nearby. It's a really nice park for equestrian camping.

Gwyn was really relaxed, even with horses leaving in groups. 

In CTR you go out in groups of 3-5 riders every 10 minutes.  Instead of having a maximum allowable time and no minimum, you have a time window to aim for where your speed would average to 5-7 mph. We had 2h40m to ride 15 miles. Our window was 2:25 to 2:35. If we came in before 2:25 pm or after 2:35 pm there would be points deducted. Everyone starts at 400 points and you want to lose as few points as possible!

This was my first time riding the trails in this park and it was just absolutely fantastic. While they were certainly no Mount Spokane steady mountain hills, they were rolling and STEEP.  Gwyn was a powerhouse. She got frustrated being behind the horses we were with because they didnt' get up the hills fast enough for her and we'd end up in another horse's butt, which obviously was not a good thing. I did my best to manage and we only got a raised butt once and she backed off after that. 

Our tutor was Mindy, who was on a half-arabian. The lady in front of me was on a welsh pony that was too big to be a pony. The person behind me had a quarter horse mare who was WAY out of shape and could barely handle the hills. 

New helmet! I haven't written about my previous ride, but I did make an unplanned dismount and a cracked helmet was involved. So this purchase had to happen FAST. 

This is probably the best creek crossing I've ever been through. It's been shored up to withstand horses and the ground through the water is wonderfully solid and non mushy. We crossed it twice, and it made for a good drink stop for the horses. No hesitation from Gwyn, she charged right in and after drinking her fill she thought splashing was most fun.

There was a spotter to make sure we did the lollipop loop here. She took our numbers.

Up behind the tutor rider. We also led for a bit, which Gwyn fully enjoyed. She had no trouble keeping pace with the fit Arabian. That's my girl :D

So, also on CTR, once you hit the 2 mile mark to camp you MUST maintain forward motion on your horse. You also may not dismount at any time on the ride and walk beside your horse. Once into camp you are given a rider card and a time 10 minutes from when you get there. That is when you get pulse and respiration checked. You are not allowed to sponge in that 10 minutes. All cooling must be done with hay/water/grain/air.  If we were going back out on another loop, 30 minutes after that P/R would be our out time. Since this was effectively our final vet check, after getting that P/R we went to the vet for our final inspection and trot out.

Gwyn got a PERFECT vet score. No soreness or interference marks, lots of pep and energy left in the trot out. The only point off we got from our 400 points was because her P/R was not the minimum they set. But when you compare her recover P/R to what she had at vet in, she was down to baseline, her baseline just isn't what would get you 0 point deductions.

I'll take that win.

Sweaty at the end. We came in perfectly in our

We got 5th place in the heavyweight rider category! Yay! 

There was just a slight discussion about loading, but she self loaded AGAIN. Then it was home we were bound. 

Where she had a touching moment with Kaylee before rolling.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A ride the other day, like in March

1 mile of ride! Woot

Testing out my tail lights.  I'm gonna want to make a strap that will go from saddle to the neoprene wrap for security. I've got plenty of paracord to braid something useful.

Selfie shadow

I lunged and then hopped on for a toodle around the arena to see where Gwyn's head was. My plan for today was ambitious and I did not need a horse that wasn't paying attention underneath me. As you can see, she was absolutely wild. Totally unmanageable.

So I hopped off, and lugged my mounting block (a step ladder) out of the pasture and got back on her. Gwyn was curious to say the least. Saffron was displeased we were leaving her behind.

I wanted to see how she'd do by the road, since some of the riding I want to do is across the street and potentially a bit of it will be along the road after riding the polly ann trail. Gwyn did not like the cars. It's a pretty fast road with minimal shoulder, so I'm not surprised. I have an alternative plan for the polly ann trail plan, but I think crossing the road should be achievable.

Happy me! The weather was glorious.

We rode in the drainage ditch along the front of our property and back down the driveway and around the house.

Through the backyard, leaving hoofprints in the wet ground.

And then up the driveway to the neighbor's house and into the fields behind them!  These are lots that are owned by people for houses but they can't get electricity or water back here so they can't build yet. I have permission from one owner so far and I'm still trying to get a hold of the other owners. Barring that, I'm just going to stick to the field edges. 

It'll be a nice perimeter to ride and get long slow distance done on.