It worked!

The lift pad came yesterday, and today I rode in it for the first time. It worked absolutely perfectly. I actually felt balanced again, instead of weird and off-balance and about to fall. She gave me a bit of rack, which was nice, and a bit of trot, which I posted without that horrible lurching feeling. I kept my hands really soft and just used them to reinforce what I was asking with my legs, and she didn’t fight me about the bit at all.

All the barn doors are open all the time now that the weather is nice. Dixie wants to go hang out in the corner where she can see the biggest door. I don’t want to close them – it’s too pleasant, and it’s good for us to scale up the distractions. At one point I asked for some more speed, so she decided to canter in a circle and head for the corner. It was easy to just sit it, wait til she tried to slow up by the corner, and swing her around and keep her moving. This is much more like it.

I got a tiny baby attempt at a shoulder-in to each side, and I was so pleased we quit right there. It seems like everything more advanced than where we are right now – for any discipline – has to introduce the difference between front legs and back legs. Somehow she is supposed to learn that my legs are asking her to move her back legs, and my hands are asking her to move her head/shoulders/front legs. No book has yet explained HOW she’s supposed to figure that out, or how I’m supposed to show her, but I think shoulder-in is a good starting point. My legs tell her back legs to go straight, my hands tell her front quarters to bend (well, move to a different parallel track), and the wall is there to help her succeed.

The other way I could think to teach “move your back legs” versus “move your front legs” is with a whip, first on the ground and then in the saddle. I’ve tried several times to get her to move her hindquarters with a whip (or a stick, or my hand) and it hasn’t worked. Either she gets upset and explodes away from the evil whip, or she thinks I want her to NOT get upset and she resolutely ignores the whip tapping on her. And, er, I’m not brave enough to try a whip under saddle again for a while.

I did reach back and touch her hips with my hand a couple times today. She got very nervous and sped up but seemed to realize I wasn’t trying to make her bolt or kill her. One day we’ll go back to the Evil Dressage Whip and hopefully it won’t seem so evil.

Oh, and I trimmed a bit off her feet too. Used the smooth side of the rasp, cause it doesn’t “chatter” so badly. I’m sure the vibrations of a rasp feel strange. Anyway, I’m just going to trim a tiny bit off her feet every day for a week, then take pics and see how it’s coming.

Go read this >:(

I link to this site on my sidebar, but this is clear enough that all of yall who don’t have gaited horses should go read this post about soring. Go to the Sound Horse site and read those interviews. This is why I don’t want to be like Dressage in Jeans, and I don’t want to reform the show Walkers from inside. They can all go burn in hell. I won’t play the game even to try to change it.

Argh!

She’s GROWING. Again. (Surely she’s growing, and not just stuck in an awkward weird conformation?)

Downhill Dixie, annotated

Click on the picture for the bigger version, if you can’t see the lines. She’s not standing square, but even if she was standing square she still wouldn’t be balanced. And that’s as square as it gets with Miss Impatience.

I’ve actually suspected it for about a week, and I ordered a front lift pad, which should be here soon. When I saw her standing silhouetted like that today, I realized that she IS downhill. Of course, that made me much more conscious of how the saddle is flinging me forward, which was both worse and easier to ride. I knew what was happening, so I wasn’t just puzzled about my lack of balance.

I got the fenders yanked around to where the buckles are down by the stirrups, too. Vetwrapped them in place, and it looks like it should work out.

We had an interesting ride. Dixie really wanted to stand in the corner of the arena where she could look out the open doors at the front of the property. I really wanted her to please go where I said. I think I won this round!

She kept trying to bolt for the viewing corner whenever we’d circle to where she could see it. I just calmly kept her head pointed where I wanted it to go and pushed her forward, in my direction. She was happy with my hands, not fighting the bit at all, just trying to blow through me and go stare at the front pasture horses. I kept my hands very nice and kept insisting we do what I wanted. After she *finally* started listening, it was a really nice ride. Aside from sliding inexorably toward her withers.

She racked, too! Just up and offered a pretty little rack. Yay.

And I put baby sunscreen on her pretty little pink nose. Lordy mercy she hated that, but she didn’t come unglued about it. And it really is for her own good – last summer, in Como, her poor face got so sunburned. The BO will keep sunscreen on her nose, which is really cool. I like boarding at a civilized barn!

Hiatus

I haven’t ridden in several days, because I’m waiting for the rub marks on Dixie’s ribs to go away and I’ve been puzzling over them.

Champ used to get rubs all the time, right where the blevins buckles were. He had really round ribs, though, and I figured it was just a combination of my crappy riding + his round ribs. I wrapped the buckles with vetwrap and the problem mostly went away.

Now Dixie is getting them. She’s not shaped anything like Champ, and my seat has improved (trust me! it has!) so what’s going on? I’m super logical and there’s a bunch of different elements at play here, so bear with me.

  • I’m riding her a lot more than ever before. I rode her probably 12 days out of the last 15, and before Champ died I was riding her every other day. Not strenuous work – we don’t usually break a sweat – but definitely lot more.
  • I’m riding dressage-y, with lots of leg cues.
  • I’m riding dressage-y, trying to keep my toes pointed forward instead of off to the sides like most western riders.
  • The saddle has Cordura fenders and nylon leathers, and maybe they “grab” the hair differently than leather fenders and leather stirrup leathers.
  • I’ve tied the fenders so they hang about an inch further back, so I’m not constantly fighting the chair seat.
  • I just can’t ride. Always a possibility, but I don’t think my legs move THAT much at a walk. Not so much that it should sore her!

I’ve spent two days just thinking about the differences in western versus dressage saddles. I thought about taking off the existing fenders/stirrups and putting English leathers and irons on – I could do it reversably, without ruining my saddle. But I don’t think that’s the answer.

A dressage saddle has long flaps between the rider’s leg and the horse’s side. The flaps are smooth leather (or synthetic), and they keep the leathers/leg from rubbing the sides. If I just put leathers on, I wouldn’t have that flap in place and I think I’d just rub different wear patterns and eventually sores on her.

I am still tempted to blame the synthetic materials, but the thing that bugs me about that hypothesis is that it’s not just the fenders themselves rubbing. It’s the BUCKLE. On any western saddle, the buckle’s in roughly the same place.

What’s changed lately? Most importantly is frequency of riding. She may have never gotten rub marks before because I was riding her 1-3 times a week. My riding has changed too; I’ve been trying to improve my seat.

Look at these two pictures. This first one is a still from a lesson on 2-14-09 – you can actually see the silver buckle peeping out just below my knee.
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Now look at this one, from almost a month ago – right about the time I started riding her every other day.
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My toes are pointed out in the first one. The buckle is also not in contact with her – well, maybe a little, on the inside edge.

On the second picture, my toe is pointed a tiny bit more forward. You can barely see the buckle, because my whole leg is (correctly!) pointed forward, which moves the fender forward and inward, and brings the buckle against her skin.

So am I right? If I’m right, what should I do for an immediate fix? I’m thinking of pulling the fender around so the buckle is lower, down near my ankle. Or I could ride with my toes out. Or I could be totally wrong about all this guessing!

Crucially important photo update

Here she is, from earlier this week. Note the funky yellow-brown tinge to her mane.
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Today I washed her mane and tail with Palmolive. (Then conditioner, of course, cause it’s pretty harsh – but we needed harsh measures.)
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Her tail came out much better too!
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I didn’t wash her face yet. She is not remotely grateful for small mercies.
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She’s such a pretty princess!