Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 in review

Normal folks start their year-end review in January, but for context.. a year and a few days ago my lovely princess pony bucked me off.  I came away mostly unscathed aside from a mild shoulder separation.  It was, needless to say, not a great way to end/start a year.  Comments on how to work through it included the gem that she is lacking in her responsiveness to a 'forwards' cue; we're continuing to work on that even now.

February 2014
In January, I took a lesson!  It was excellent as per usual.  We started to address my canter issues, and reminded me to take more contact with shorter reins (woops, still needs work).  The dam stayed down and we kept on riding along.  Also, we met a train.  Not really recommended.

February consisted mostly of pretty pictures and walking in circles, but eventually the dam came down, so we followed a bobcat.

In March it rained.  It rained a lot.  We were safety/drag riders for ACTHA, in the mud, and I apparently never posted pictures?   Well.  Okay.

ACTHA photos by the Morgan Hill Photography Club:
It really is that steep.  Also, really that muddy on this particular day.
I admit to feeling like an eventer riding a drop.. sit back and let go!
I washed and brushed out her full-mane on the left and everything. 
Naturally, all the photographers were shooting from the right side. 
Happy happy.
This is local trail to me.  Yes, her head is blocked by the tree, but whole areas really can look like this.

My car battery died in April.  Prius batteries are expensive and it made me sad.  It kept raining, I took a non-horsey vacation, and Confetti turned 18.

...and then immediately on returning from vacation, Funder trailered us over to Mount Diablo for a NATRC ride in May.  I had more thoughts about NATRC afterward.  I mean, I know we did more than that in May, but that's about all I remember.
I guess there were hills, but I don't really remember anything feeling steep.

A new horse moved in next door at the beginning of JuneFetti went lame, twice.  And then a minor colic.  And then lame a third time, and really June just sucked.

We completed Fireworks in July and it was wonderful even if we did come in to the finish with one boot instead of four.  Booting issues need work.  But she was sound and happy; I started to feel like maybe we could really do this endurance thing.
:-)  :-)

In August I took another lesson and jumped things!  I also broke my saddle

I did get the saddle back in September and that left me pondering the differences between the Eurolight and Thorowgood.  (September was a pretty terrible month for me personally, so I obsessed over saddles because it gave me something to focus on.)  Not really pictured anywhere: my tack room got a serious makeover and I am so much happier with it.

Quicksilver in October was really pretty lovely aside from the half hour in the middle where Confetti and I hated each other.  We took a week or two off beforehand due to the heat.  I also failed to test boots before the ride due to the heat wave.  Serious mistake.  Both boots had cable issues during the ride and we did most of it barefoot.

but it was gorgeous.
November was muddy and wet.  Trees came down.  We found ways around trees.  It rained some more.

December continued to be muddy and wet.  We should get a bit of sun.. and then rumor has it January will be back to muddy and wet again.  But!  On Christmas we made it out for a brief trail ride, a second trail ride after Christmas, and a small jumping session in the arena.  If all goes well, there should be a New Years Eve ride too.

Next: a post of ride stats/mileage/etc from 2014!

Monday, December 22, 2014

TOABH: Shining Star

Shining Star
Let's talk about the biggest achievements your horse has accomplished.  I'm not talking about you as a rider - I want to know what your ponykins has done to make you proud.  Is there a glorious satin collection, did he/she figure out some dressage movement that took months to learn, or is it just a great day when your butt stays in the saddle?  

As much as I sing her praises and tiny accomplishments to anyone that will listen, this is hard for me to answer.  Fetti was a solidly broke horse who is not childsafe because she can be reactive and occasionally unpredictable.  Fetti is also somewhat a schoolmaster for me, as she knows the cues better than I.  She's jumped, she's done exceptionally well in PC dressage, she's been ridden bareback and bitless.  I know that I am often her limiting factor.

We've worked hard on trails because that doesn't scare me the way arena work does.  I can work up to endurance goals knowing that I have a built-in out if we fail spectacularly (even as I know I never want to use it).  

I'm proud of how far her confidence has (usually) come on trails solo.  At first she wouldn't lead.  Then she'd refuse to go out alone.  Sometimes we'd make it to the park, often we'd get stuck even before then.  Once we were in the park, she'd walk, maybe trot a few reluctant steps.

I'm not really sure how we went from the problem being 'any forwards motion on trail alone' to 'sandbagging on the way out with a moderate trot rather than full steam ahead.'  But that's where we are now.  Frustrating as it is, we can do 20+ miles alone now, and I'm grateful we've come this far.

Oh! But proudest, I think?  Is that she is now a Good Trail Citizen who can set the example for less well-behaved or inexperienced horses.  Other horse bolts: meh, whatever.  Other horse lags: she turns her nose back to check on them.  She has genuinely become a solid trail babysitter, and I can honestly say I am proud of her for that.

Good Trail Ponies stand still long enough for a "tree is no longer blocking trail" photo to be taken.


Miscellaneous update:  the farrier came out and trimmed the ponies on Friday.  Fetti was way long.  Not neglect-long or anything, but long and overdue.  I blame some of this on doing the October LD completely barefoot for most of the miles, and most of it on me being too demotivated to do anything with her feet in the last month.  Also, we haven't actually done a Real Ride since the day after Thanksgiving.  (Not even a Kinda Real Ride.  Nothing worth tracking whatsoever.)  So.. long hooves + farrier visit = pony is footsore.  It was definitively LH on Saturday, but Sunday was a more generalized 'uncomfortable on anything even remotely rocky'.

The forecast is for sunshine the next week and a half, so fingers crossed she improves quickly and we can get back out on the trails soon.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Today's lesson: Rivers.

Specifically, what happens to rivers after a big storm?

When there's a dam downstream and the dam goes up, the river gets higher.  Normal, sane people are aware the river is not crossable, and even us crazy trail folk won't try it when the dam is up.  River to my feet?  Fine.  River that would probably be to pony-ears?  Nope.

However, when the dam goes down, it is often safe to cross again fairly soon thereafter.  Woo, exciting!  No longer stuck going in muddy circles!

So, as the dam was down (we confirmed Saturday evening) and there had been nearly 48 hours without rain, we figured what the heck: let's try it before the next rain comes (expected late Sunday night).

We did not slip and slide down the steep section en route to the river.  It was amazing how well the water had soaked in.

It did take some convincing to get the ponies in the river.  Yes, ponies, it's okay.

However, what shows up in rivers after a storm?  Silt.  Silt means that the 'solid' bottom of the river is no longer solid, and ponies sink.  Little bit of silt?  Fine, if the rest of it is solid.  But when we get slightly more than halfway across.. my poor, tolerant pony sunk when I asked for a pause to consider how bad it was.  Bad move: stopping leads to sinking.

I'm not sure how wet I was, but I wasn't soaked and she wasn't falling over, so I asked for another step.  She dutifully rocked back, hauled herself up, and LEAPED forwards a step, only to sink just as hard.  Several more rear-leaps later and I turned her around and back towards home we went, careful to NOT stop no matter what.

Note that the pad is wet about halfway up.. and pretty much her entire front end is wet.

What a good pony.  We won't try that again, at least not today.  Maybe after the next storm blows past...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

TOABH#1: History of the Horse

from The Owls Approve:
History of the Horse
Before you met, where was your horse?  Who bred him/her?  What do you know about his sire and his dam?  What do you know where he came from?  Tell me about the time before he had a trainer.

Confetti is a 1996 Haflinger mare out of a mellow chocolate Haflinger mare (Cayleen AFH) and by a feisty and athletic Haflinger stallion (Aspect).  She was bred in northern Washington by some lovely Haflinger folks up there.  I was lucky enough to connect with both the sire's then-owner and dam's then-owner through a Haflinger facebook page where 'Fetti was recognized - so I have a fair bit more history than most folks who enter their horse's story at 16.  Fetti's breeders called her "Squiggle", likely for the "L" star on her forehead. It sounds like she was a bit of a handful then, too.

baby Fetti, photo from her breeder

She is a registered Haflinger and her pedigree is here.

I know and love Cayleen, but out of respect for her current owner's privacy, they rarely get more than a passing mention on the blog.  Rest assured I spent lots of time adventuring with the two of them.  She's a solid, child-safe mare who has taken multiple children through Pony Club and I cannot speak highly enough of her.  English, Western, jumping, leadline, vaulting, and I know she was harnessed when she was younger.  Lovely true all-around Haffie.  'Fetti was her first foal; it's unclear where her second foal, Apocalypse, ended up.  Cayleen was one of several chocolate Haflingers that came from the East Coast to California.

Aspect is one I don't know so much about.  I'm not clear on where he's ended up now, either!  I do know the feisty/good jumper tendencies are common among other Aspect foals.

Fetti had basic groundwork training at her breeder, but was sold before she reached riding age.  She had two foals by age 6 (2002), both colts sired by Friesian stallions.  By then she was in California.

being a good mama?  first foal. Photo from the foal's sire's owner came titled "oy that child".

summer 2002.  that MANE!
being a good mama, second foal.
I tried following up on the second foal, but the search got stuck knowing the gelding was last sold to the Midwest somewhere, the breeder thinks.

It seems that only afterwards was she trained under saddle.  She had some solid w/t/c training, jumped a bit, and somehow ended up with a nasty buck.  My memory says she was originally Western trained, and I know she'll still do a streeeetchy on-the-forehand walk or trot like your standard Western horse, nose practically to the ground.  (I do know some horses can do it properly without being on the forehand. Thus far, she is not one of them.)  Her early under-saddle years are a little bit more of a mystery.  I have been told that at her previous-previous owner's place, the other horse they were selling had similar bolt/buck issues, so the theory is that some of her stuff probably started there.  It's hard to know.

From here, I don't have many gaps.  Her previous owner (and her dam's current owner) purchased her as a pony for her daughter when Fetti was 9.  That didn't go so well due to the aforementioned buck/bolt issues.  They worked through some of that, she jumped some more, she nearly managed to be sold to a jumper home but wasn't quite the right height, she did Pony Club with a few advanced kids, and she hung out in a nice large paddock with other ponies at home.  She wasn't a good fit for her owner and family, but it's hard to sell a middleaged large pony as primarily suitable for small adults with riding experience, and they weren't willing to sell her off to another unsuitable home.

I started leasing in August 2010.  Two years later she officially became mine. Another two years and I finally got all the paperwork: I am officially the registered owner of one very spoiled Haflinger.

Unrelated note: we're expecting some major rainfall in the next few days.  Combine that with the winter blues/low motivation.. I'm hoping to get in on most of these Blog Hops to keep the writing coming and not drop off the face of the earth for too long.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

November recap, December goals, miscellaneous updates

November: where not much really got done.

General winter goals are still:
1. quit nagging, and reinforce that aids Mean Something.
2. prompter transitions (should follow from #1)
3. continue addressing my canter issues, as weather and footing permits
4. off-side mounting
5. strengthen my lower leg for more stability.  (posting with no stirrups? two-point?)

Worked on #1 and #2 periodically.  Canter work has been spotty.  Off-side mounting was generally a success.  Lower leg.. still needs work, but that's okay, we're still (very much) in winter.

November specific goals:
- If riding in saddle, mount from right side.  90% of the time, accomplished!
- Try shortening stirrups in Eurolight and work in two-point, working up to a half-mile; aim to do this once weekly as weather permits.  I worked in two-point for at least a few minutes most rides where pony-brain permitted.  Stirrups did not need to be shortened.
- Continue not nagging and being mindful of what I'm asking.  I remembered this and mostly stuck to it.  Continued progress required, but it's something.

October stats, since I did not note them in my post:
approx 72 miles, including one 25-mile LD
9 rides tracked - quiet 10 days pre-LD, quiet week after, some moseying/shorter rides that were not "real work" and didn't get logged.  Miles & number of rides limited by heat wave + LD.

November stats:
approx 49 miles
9 rides tracked, plus some moseying/shorter rides.  Limited by early darkness, rain, mud, and fallen trees.
Near the beginning of the month, I began round-penning Confetti before most of our rides.  She's not getting out as much as she'd like, and this is my compromise.  She's not working up a major sweat, or working until she's submissive, she's just working until her brain is back in her head and the excess energy is gone.  The energy needs to be let out somewhere when we cannot safely get a fast and/or long work on the trails.

Unplanned noteable accomplishments:
- lunging on a line in the arena at walk/trot and with a few canter steps.  No bolting!  Just a polite little tiny canter.  I was very, very impressed.
- one day of solid arena work, w/t/c, not included in the mileage count
- reflocked dressage saddle, since I believe that was the cause of the new white marks on Fetti's back

Spurs update:
Tried spurs again on a solo ride.  They were totally unhelpful and made absolutely no difference.  Verdict:  complete failure, no need to use them for a while as they are not helpful.

December goals, then:
- if riding in saddle, mount from right. This needs to stay as a goal until it feels comfortable!
- wet-weather work: forwards walk! lateral work! halting from seat!
- avoid getting bucked off*

*a year ago I separated my shoulder after a particularly nasty buck had me hit the ground hard.  Highly not recommended.  Thus, primary goal for any actual trail rides this month involve staying on the horse, or at least not getting seriously hurt.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Weather wimp

In October, it was too hot to ride.  90? 100? No thank you.

In November, it was cold and wet and muddy.

Cold.  Also, dark.  Criteria for cooler: pony is visibly steaming after saddle is removed.

Muddy.  (Hint: not Confetti.)

A relatively dry stretch of trail, complete with puddles and mud.

We managed a few bright and warm days over Thanksgiving - for which I am very grateful!  I took the opportunity to let her get a good run in:

Pony goes ZOOM!

Social pony says she is done running, thank you.
And then, to wash and re-braid her mane, as it was looking rather sad lately:
Look at how WHITE it is immediately post-washing!

Mostly white, aside from the brass-stained section.  Oh well.

Today, however, we're starting off a week of badly needed rain. No real riding in the forecast - it will need at least a few days once the rain stops for anything to be good for a workout, and probably 24-48 hours for a moseying ride.

This is the round pen today - day one of the rain. 
After an hour moseying around the barn.  It's almost sunny!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Previous posts have had references to how Confetti can be dull to leg aids, stubborn, and generally lazy.  While I appreciate that she is no longer hyper-sensitive to anything that might possibly be a leg aid, it's become clear that we are too far on the other end of the spectrum.

The first (and primary) way that this is being addressed is by being very mindful of my leg aids.  Leg needs to be off if I do not really mean to ask.  If leg is on, it needs a response.  If a response is not forthcoming, there is a not-quite-immediate escalation with the dressage whip.

One day last week, I decided to try adding small English spurs.  Two-point and heel-dropping work has been suitably consistent that I was (mostly) confident there would be no unintentional spur contact.  Similar rules applied as above: calf pressure or very light spur, escalate next to corrective spur (not hard, but a 'you really did feel that!' spur), then finally to dressage whip as needed.

'Fetti was perfectly content to tune out the spur part of the time.  This was particularly evident when asking for a larger walk... but she's never good at that, so no great surprise there.  There were definitely times when a light cue was still insufficient.  It's not a magic fix, and I did not expect it to be: I trained the responsiveness out, I need to retrain some of it back in.

The most exciting part of the whole thing was how forwards she was, though.  The spurs may not have addressed 'dull to leg aids', but they fixed 'lazy', and I don't say that lightly.  We achieved a Big Trot heading away from home at least twice.  She offered several canters in places she doesn't usually.  I was able to ask for and get some extra effort up various hills - I know she's capable, but she frequently cannot be bothered to keep going.  And despite what MapMyHike says, we definitely hit a new speed flying up one of the fire roads, when a brisk canter shifted a few gears further up.

Verdict: useful occasionally for Serious Conditioning Rides, but not to be used on average rides or rides where I do not desire to lose all of her laziness.

Friday, October 31, 2014

October recap, November goals, general doldrums

Let's face it: this time of year sucks.  The time change hits this weekend.  The days are getting shorter.  Our ride season appears to be over for the year.  It's raining on and off, just enough to get the trails muddy and round pens a terrible mess for a few days a week.

Different pony, same darkness view :(
I've been riding, but with less enthusiasm and drive.  We're not really working towards anything.  Not having concrete goals is hard.. and not having riding partners is hard, too, so I need to work on self-motivating more.

Last winter, we tapered too much and I got myself hurt as a result.  It's easy for me to quit riding much once the time change hits (next week :( ) and the rains come.  More importantly, I feel like I'm then lacking in goals and what's the point?  So, in the spirit of addressing that, some long-term goals for the winter:

1. quit nagging, and reinforce that aids Mean Something.
2. prompter transitions (should follow from #1)
3. continue addressing my canter issues, as weather and footing permits
4. off-side mounting
5. strengthen my lower leg for more stability.  (posting with no stirrups? two-point?)

Thank you for all the comments and suggestions on my last post!  It feels sometimes like I'm the only one with the crazy frustrating horse who just. won't. go, and it's incredibly reassuring to hear that I'm not alone in dealing with that.  I don't think I have a specific goal for "forwards or else", but we'll continue to school that and hopefully get back to that being less of an issue.

October goals were:

- Continue to add canter as comfort allows, making sure it's a polite canter and not a running-away canter.   Accomplished!  That said, it appears that my lower leg is not strong enough and not stable.  Tall boots + dressage saddle masks the issue and "fixes" my canter.. so I'm clearly the limiting factor here and need to address that.
- Rasp hooves weekly to make sure boots fit for our early October ride.  Technically accomplished, even if the end result wasn't as intended, that wasn't a result of my hoof trimming!
- Acquire clippers.  Clip 'Fetti's neck shortly prior to October ride.  Accomplished!  No regrets there.
- School 'standing still while mounting' more.  One step is vaguely tolerable at this point.  More than that, absolutely not.  We have indeed been working on this.  It still needs work.

Totally unrelated: in which I established
that I can use the halter with the add-on bridle
& combination bit, though not very elegantly

November goals need to be a little bit more specific or else I'm never going to get anything done!  So:
- If riding in saddle, mount from right side.
- Try shortening stirrups in Eurolight and work in two-point, working up to a half-mile; aim to do this once weekly as weather permits.
- Continue not nagging and being mindful of what I'm asking. 

I noted two new white splotches on Confetti's back.  Baffling, but she tends to show them mainly when shedding each year.  It finally clicked, however, when I felt the dressage saddle.. there are lumps in the flocking right there.  Clearly, I need to get the saddle re-flocked.  That's on the agenda for November, and has to happen for several reasons.  It's my wet-weather saddle (fleece on the Specialized + rain = sad Fig).  Pony is still working in dressage lessons semi-regularly.  And.. I want to continue riding in it to work on my lower leg strength and cantering.  On one hand, argh!  But on the other hand, I'm so grateful that a cause showed itself quickly.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Hand Gallop Blog Hop: What's in a name?

We're in that post-ride slump of 'not much to write about' due to all my rides being bareback in a halter doing absolutely nothing.. so instead, a blog hop!

What's the origin of your horse's show name and barn name?

Confetti is registered as Confetti DYH.  
- Haflinger fillies must be named with the same first letter as their dam, and colts must keep the same first letter as their sire.  As a result, breeders seem to use suffixes to denote their horses.

DYH is registered to Confetti's breeders up in Washington.  I've actually Facebook-chatted to both the breeder and the sire's then-owner, and I post our major accomplishments on Facebook and the Haflinger page so they can get glimpses of how awesome their pony is doing now. :)  

It's a relatively small Haflinger community out West.  I may not have blogged about it at the time, but after Fireworks last year I posted to the Haflinger group for the first time.  One lady remembered looking at her 8 years prior when she was looking for a Haflinger for herself.  Another asked her breeding and commented that her neighbor was Fetti's breeder, and that she'd asked the breeder about her recently!  Sire's owner chimed in, tagged the breeder, and poof: I have a Haflinger family and a baby photo and everything.  

As a foal, they called her Squiggle, I think for the L-star on her forehead.

Now she goes by Fetti, as her previous owner called her.  Confetti is too long to yell!  She's also affectionately 'pony' to me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pony evasion: backing

While backing surfaced as a major evasion at Quicksilver, it's not a new issue.  I am well aware that this is Confetti's default evasion.  It's not an uncertainty on her part, or a confusion on what she's being asked.  It's simply that she doesn't want to go that way.

I absolutely do want advice and suggestions on how to deal with this the next time it crops up, so please, comment away!  In a perfect world I'd have my trainer come out to work us through it, but it's not an evasion that can be replicated on cue.

Generally, when pointed at a new obstacle that she feels is inappropriate and Does Not Belong, she'll pause, eyeball it, and go backwards if any leg is applied.  Whip cues for forwards are either ignored or result in a (small) buck.  It doesn't matter if I have contact on the reins or totally drop them.  Lateral cues are frequently ignored, though I can sometimes convince her to go straight sideways or back sideways.  I can back her past The Obstacle, generally, but try to avoid doing that as a full solution if possible.  This weekend, I would back her up the (steep) hill a bunch of steps, ask her to turn and face forwards, and immediately she'd begin backing downhill/off the hill again.  I've tried turns on the haunches (doable, as they point her away from whatever she doesn't want to go towards) and turns on the forehand (not very doable, but occasionally we can get that).  When this was an issue heading towards the river, I just waited her out.  When she was quiet and calm, we'd take one step forwards, and then we'd chill for a bit, repeat.  (This is also why I don't start tracking my rides when we leave the barn: it would sometimes take a very, very long time to get to the river.)

If I get off, or if we're following someone else, horse or human, she'll go, not a problem.  It feels less like me winning and more like her getting her way when I'm off.

The same behavior surfaces when she really doesn't want to lead: she backs up to put the other horse in front.  We've mostly worked through that, mostly by copious leg/whip use when she so much as thinks about it now.  Once or twice she did nearly a sliding stop to avoid being in front.  That doesn't work for me.

Previous evasions blogged in July 2014 (bag of stuff, eventually followed hikers), earlier in July (putting her sister in front due to coyotes, waited her out?), even earlier in July (putting her sister in front by campground, got off and led), and on my previous primary blog in August 2012 (twice), end of July 2012, March 2012.. our first trail ride ever was May 2011 and I knew backing was her preferred evasion when I started riding her in August 2010.  There were plenty of incidents that simply didn't get written up.

So: thoughts? Ideas on what I can try the next time this pops up?  Any and all suggestions welcome.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Quicksilver 2014

No one looked at the Haflinger all weekend.  You can see why :)
One of my barn friends has been working towards her first LD for a bunch of months now.  I recommended Quicksilver over Fireworks because of my recollection of QS as a bunch of rolling hills, where Fireworks is steeper stuff and has been difficult for Fetti and I to make time.  Friday, we loaded up both mares in Funder's trailer, and off we went to ridecamp!

We settled in, stuck boots on (hers that she'd been riding in the past few weeks to get her mare accustomed to, mine that I'd just replaced a cable and hadn't ridden in since Fireworks), and vetted in cleanly.  Confetti got a B for impulsion, but pulsed in at 32.  That's my girl!  Unenthusiastic about trotting in straight lines as ever.  I opted to skip any kind of pre-ride; instead, we hand-walked over to the first gate.  Just for the heck of it, on the way back I asked Fetti for a brief lunging trot-circle.  Flounce flounce trot!  That decided it:  I would use the stronger bit in the morning.  Both were packed, my preference remains the snaffle, but I did learn from last year and have no desire to be riding a bolting horse again.

Oh, and somewhere in there we had the neighbor-rancher mention that there was a calf that was in the neighboring field.  We were parked right at the very back of ridecamp.  The calf came over and introduced itself.  My friend's mare thought the calf was awesome.  Fetti wasn't quite convinced.

Suspicious look at calf.  What are YOU and why are you here?!
The next morning dawned early and dark, but thankfully not especially cold.  I woke up around 4 and never quite made it back to sleep, but forced myself to generally stay in the sleeping bag so as not to bother the horses.  The less I fuss with her the morning of a ride, the less chance she has of picking up on my nerves!  We mounted up for a 7am start, walked a few laps around ridecamp, and I generally tried to channel the inner Western Pleasure pony again.  Relax, relax.. when it seemed suitably quiet, we casually walked out onto the trail and past the first gate.  It felt like I was riding a carefully contained firecracker.  She was excellent, though, and she kept walking til we hit the first hill and I told her it was okay to move out now, just to take the edge off.

We'd been trotting for about two minutes, if that, when I had my first boot mishap.  The velcro really should have been replaced already - oops.  I hopped off, swore, creatively fixed it, and stuck it back on hoping that would hold.  My friend's boots came loose thirty seconds after we were back trotting.  She tightened them up a bit, stuck them back on, eventually found a rock to mount back up.  Within the next two miles, I was off at least twice more for the same damn boot, and I was done: I had no idea why it was failing, it was early, and I was really, really tired of getting on and off the horse.  Sure, she'll be crooked, but we finished Fireworks with just the one boot: it won't kill her or lame her or anything.

Naturally, Fetti took a funny step about 2.5 miles into the ride and informed me her remaining boot was coming off too.  One of the cables had totally come loose.  I suspected this had probably been going on with the first boot, and this second boot was at least not going to be fixable on-trail, so I tied it onto the saddle and hopped back on again.  We were losing time in the best part of the foggy morning.  It wasn't an intentional barefoot decision - was I going to lame my horse riding her at speed through unfamiliar terrain?  Would I have to abandon my friend at the vet check and have her finish her first LD alone?  This was not how things were supposed to work out, and I knew we needed to keep a moderate-brisk pace to the check to have a hope of making time, especially if I was going to have to walk her through anything rough.  Argh!

Not the cow we chased, but note the pony ears.
 'Can I chase this one too?'
And then there were cows.  Cows!  There was a whole herd of cows hanging out right across the trail.  We couldn't exactly sit around and wait for them to meander off, so I paused a second, then asked Confetti to trot directly at the cows.  'Shoo!'  Five calves took off down the trail away from us, and we trotted right by the rest of the herd with no problems.  Fetti seemed very pleased with herself.  I would totally take this horse cow-sorting.  It absolutely made my morning and neither of us got pictures of it, but take my word for it: it was awesome.

We did take a bunch of walk breaks for the mares to recover, which made for some pretty excellent photos.  The fog was absolutely gorgeous and delightful.

Fog bank behind us.  It was amazing.
Originally, my vague timeframes had us at the vet check around 9:30, two and a half hours after start.  We were told it was approximately halfway, 12 miles or so.  By 9:30, I thought we were probably getting close, but we were clearly not there yet.  The mares wanted to walk, so we walked.. some trotting, but mostly walking for most of the mile into the check if not more.  We arrived shortly after 10 and had been made aware by other riders that they had a hose there for us.  Yay!  But what the heck, sure, go ahead and check her pulse just to see what she's at, I'm sure she won't be down.. and she was, easy, 56 and dropping.  I hadn't even scooped water onto her at the check yet.

Miraculously, Fetti vetted sound in the semi-gravelled parking lot.  I parked her by the hay, nibbled on some of my own food, and generally quit worrying.  It was easily the least time-pressured hold I've ever had.  It probably helps we were nearly the only ones there!

Unfortunately, my friend's horse would not pulse down, even after pulling tack and repeated hosing.  All my stress went there instead.  Had I pushed too hard and too fast?  Sure, she wasn't my horse, but I was the one setting the pace for a new rider, and there was definitely some guilt that perhaps I'd done wrong by her somehow.  Confetti and I left the check alone.  There was nothing I could do, the horse wasn't in distress, and it wasn't going to be helpful for me to Rider Option pull.

Not fifteen minutes later, going up a nice steep hill after the vet check, Fetti made it very clear that I was wrong.  We should not be going this way.  The 50s are going the opposite direction.  Our friend is in the opposite direction.  Human, I will back you off the side of the hill but I will not go forwards.  I'll have another post on that later, but in short: this is her preferred evasion and I've never really figured out a way to manage it.  Suggestions are very welcome.  I beat her with the whip; she backed up.  I beat her more; she bucked.  I backed her up the hill - she resisted, I felt guilty because it was an awful hill with lots of rocks; I'd offer to let her go forwards up the hill and she'd go straight to backing down/sideways again.  Emotions went from frustration to anger to despair, and I finally got off and hiked up the damn hill, because at least then she'd go forwards, and she was not going to win that battle.  I got back on once on that hill, and she went straight backwards again, and I swore some more and got off and hiked again.  (I looked at MapMyHike, and it looks like we went up 273 feet in 0.4 miles.  I have no idea how bad that actually is, but it was full sun with lots of rocks and a very obstinate horse.)

Eventually she let me get back on and kick/swat her into a forwards trot, and we went zooming along the trail until a 50 passed us going the opposite direction.  I walked to pass, and that was the end of it.  Backwards towards the side of a steeper cliff.  More swearing.  More hiking.  Less hill!  By now I was pissed and grumpy enough to jog some of the sections.  Alternatively, if we were walking I reinforced that she had to keep up with me.  There was too much cliff and not enough left-side mounting spots for me to dare getting back on and having her back straight off again.. it just wasn't the place for that fight.  Maybe we wouldn't make time - probably we wouldn't make time! - but damnit, we were not turning around.

Finally the very last LD caught up to us, and suddenly life was better!  I knew which direction we were supposed to be going!  We weren't all alone in the wilderness!  So back up on the horse I went, and off we trotted with renewed enthusiasm and slightly reduced pony death threats.

Once Fetti deigned to go forwards, we actually made pretty good time heading home.  I think she would have moved out more on the first half, but felt obligated to make sure her friend was keeping up and still in sight.  No complaints there: it's how we ride with her at home, and it gave me a horse that was polite, relaxed, and content on a loose rein.  With the new last-LD rider's horse, she didn't feel so obligated to make sure he was keeping up.  We rode with her for a bit (the only time all day I saw anyone else for more than thirty seconds!), then eventually left her behind as Fetti kept on trotting down the trail and her horse stayed slower.  I had to remind myself not to feel bad, that we'd both perked up our horses with the riding together, and that there was no reason I had to ride with her into camp, not that she'd even suggested it!  Ride your own ride.  Sometimes that intersects with others' rides, sometimes they wander off and that's okay.

I'm not sure exactly what time we came into the finish, but Fetti pulsed down in under five minutes and that was pretty delightful.  I still had horse left.  I liked my horse again.  We still had a full 30 minutes before we would have been overtime.  Even better: the final LD rider that I left alone on trail finished in time too!  I thanked her profusely again when I saw her at the vetting.

Even without the boots, Fetti vetted out with (almost) all A's.  The vet did suggest shoes if we were looking to continue in the sport, but was understanding when I told her we'd had a Very Bad Boot Day and started out booted.  Fetti doesn't like to trot on sharp gravel - I know that, and I'm okay with that.  The trot lane was the worst footing we had all day.  She did get another B on gut sounds, which worried me not at all.  She was eating and drinking well all day.

Lessons learned:
1. If riding with a friend, I definitely do not need the stronger bit, and I suspect I won't generally need it if riding solo either.
1b. If/when we try a 50, I need a way to easily swap bits at the first hold.
2. Ride with boots at least once within two weeks prior to the actual ride.
2b. Current lesson: replace cable clamp and I think my issues will resolve.
3. Electrolyting alone does not avoid migraines for me.  Suggestions?  (1x Thursday, 3x Friday, 3x Saturday, approx 3-4 hours in between doses)  I need a better handle on that before I can confidently try a warm 50.
4. Fetti reverts to backing when being obstinate (scared, disagrees with trail, whatever).  Suggestions to resolve?  It's not something I can trigger on demand, which makes it difficult to have a trainer work with us to fix it.
5. Switching out Camelbak bladders halfway through worked well, but I should start with the slightly-smaller one for the morning.  I can supplement with a Nalgene bottle for longer rides/loops.
6. I need to replace my HRM watch battery -- it had a display only occasionally throughout the day.  Not the sort of thing you want to discover at 6:45am at a ride.
6b. I can now ride reasonably well without the HRM, but it would still make me feel better to have it coming into checks.  (I did get it on briefly a mile or so out from the vet check. 74 while walking gave me confidence she was doing fine.)
7. Confetti can do a 25 on decent footing totally barefoot with no ill effects.  No panic necessary.

More photos behind the cut.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Q-3 days

It's been hot in California lately.  By hot, I mean it was over 100 this past weekend, several days in a row, and we're weather-wimps and it was therefore too hot to do a real ride.

So the pony is clipped (touch-ups perhaps to come later this week), and I trimmed two and a half hooves this weekend and two tonight.  I got through her front feet, started on her hinds, got a first pass done and was ready to die in 80-degree weather at 7pm.  Instead of finishing hoof #3, I quit and went home.  No regrets!  Yesterday both hinds felt easy enough to do, and she self-trims the hinds somewhat, also helping to make my life easier.

Clipped pony.  I've done better, but they're new clippers and it was hot out.
I still need to fit the Renegades.  The cables got replaced this weekend, though!  In true procrastinator fashion, I anticipate fitting the boots to her hooves sometime Thursday.

Bits are still baffling me.  The combination bit feels like too much bit for our local training rides.  It's a lot of brakes and not much collection ability.  On the flip side, last year she pulled for the whole ride and I have no desire to repeat that.  But we have a friend this year, so maybe it'll be okay?
Round pen work always starts with a good roll.

Ideally, I would have done two good rides this past weekend, then light rides Tuesday and Thursday.  Instead, we had a brisk short ride a week ago Saturday (5 miles), a long day a week ago Sunday (9 miles, then 7 miles), a moseying technical non-speed ride Tuesday, and 6 moderately paced miles on Sunday.  Today?  10 minutes in the round pen, 10 minutes walking around the barn bareback in a rope halter.  It's a really lovely taper, it's just not at all what I'd intended to do prior to this ride.

Still to do: pack car, wash pony (mane and tail only), fit boots, sort out timing details.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

September recap, October goals

Where did September go?!

September goals:
- Continue to add canter as comfort allows, making sure it's a polite canter and not a running-away canter.  Mission accomplished!*
- Rasp hooves weekly to make sure boots fit for our early October ride.  Kinda weekly?  They are getting rasped, though.
- Acquire clippers.  Clip 'Fetti's neck shortly prior to October ride.  Clippers acquired and charged.  I'll wash her neck this weekend and clip that same day, no sense ruining new clippers on a dirty horse.
- School 'standing still while mounting' more.  Still working on that.  It's been better, but not fixed.
Total mileage: 102.1.  We're still comfortably averaging about 25 miles/week and that feels good for now.  This month was a lot of shorter rides (6 rides under 3 miles) with two days of 15+ miles.

I've been pretty awful about progress-blogging lately, despite the fact that things keep happening.  Good news: the non-horse stress is starting to die down some to a manageable level.  That should leave me more able to put (more of) my head here.

*I mentioned earlier in the month about my cantering woes.  I knew I wasn't feeling quite right in the Eurolight.  Pinpointing exactly what was wrong proved difficult.  It wasn't a matter of the saddle tipping forwards/backwards substantially, and trialing with a thinner pad was going to create more headache than I was willing to deal with.  Shortening my stirrups a hole left my knees miserable within half a mile.  Taking the caged stirrups off helped some, but didn't fix it.  Finally, one day I had an epiphany: when I dropped my stirrups to walk around the barn, my feet were behind the stirrups.  Hmm..  so I shifted the stirrups back an inch or two, and poof!  Magic fix.  Magic fix also left me incredibly muscle sore everywhere from suddenly riding correctly.

I do plan to re-try the caged stirrups after Quicksilver to see if they're workable with the new stirrup position, but I'm holding off on that for the moment.

We're getting a real, balanced canter these days.  I no longer feel like she's running through me and balanced on her forehand.  I probably never mentioned it on the blog, but we tried to school the canter on and off during our first year.  It never felt fluid to me, I blamed myself, and I pretty much quit cantering after that.  It's only in the past six months that I've gotten what I call a 'hunter' canter - balanced, fluid, light, not running - and that's been both bareback and under saddle.  Sometime this past month, I mentioned that to one of my riding partners; she commented that her daughter (Fetti's previous rider) always felt strongly on the forehand and wondered if it was a pain issue.  In hindsight, I doubt it was pain.  I think Miss Fetti wasn't worked consistently and correctly enough to build the muscles for a solid canter.  Taking the better part of two years off from cantering and focusing on balanced, correct carriage at the trot?  Probably the best thing I ever did for her canter.

She still objects to cantering when I'm sitting wrong or putting her on her forehand.  That's okay and clearly my problem rather than hers!

Other, un-noted accomplishments:
- Confetti has started to pee at the tie-rail after the ride, and a few times even on the trail.  Cookies were had!  She absolutely expects her cookie reward, but right now, I am totally okay with that.
- Met two unicycles on the trail.  Totally unbothered.
- Stood very politely while a LOT of motorcycles roared by on the road not 30 feet away, even as we were unable to see any of said motorcycles and she wasn't particularly thrilled.
- Multiple bareback trail rides, one of which included a semi-racing Big Canter up a steep hill - and I found it fun and exhilarating rather than terrifying.

October goals:
- Quicksilver LD
- start working in the arena again periodically
- continue schooling 'stand while mounted'
- start schooling cleaner transitions on cue, not just on-anticipation

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

LD packing list

One of the common first-time rider questions: what do you pack?

This is our third ride this year and our third season of LDs, and this is what I have ever-so-vaguely in mind (and some reasons why).

For the horse:
- tack.  Whatever normally goes on the horse for a ride.  In my case: halter-bridle (or halter + add-on bridle, not sure yet), bit, reins, breastplate, saddle, pad, girth, crupper.  Saddle will have at least one saddlebag attached.
- Two lead ropes: one to tie to trailer, one for walking horse around.
- Grooming tools.
- Hoof boots, if used/required.  I'm only booting her fronts for this ride.
- Heart monitor if desired.  I'll put it on, but use it mainly coming into the hold(s) and finish.

For camping with the horse:
- full bale bag of hay (part alfalfa, part grass/alfalfa mix, would be part forage but there's no good stuff easily accessible to me right now).  Two hay nets, pre-stuffed.  One will go in the trailer with the horse.  I don't regularly feed straight alfalfa, but in the few days leading up to a ride and the few days after, she can have whatever she'd like.
- large bucket for water (and maybe some bungee cords so it stays upright more than ten minutes, if you too have a horse that can be a problem child)
- smaller bucket or two for hauling water and/or sponging out of at the end of the ride
- container of water from home - this helps avoid hauling lots of water from halfway across camp, plus gives finicky horses familiar water to drink
- grain for mash, with and without elytes, and a small pan to feed the mash from
- pitchfork and garbage bags (if it's required that you haul away all excess hay & manure)

Extra for-horse stuff:
- bag of carrots, to go in the saddlebag and be fed frequently.  Great for rides without a lot of edible plants along the trail.
- sponge and/or scoop.  I'll be taking just a scoop this time around, since I know this ride does not allow sponging from troughs.  I may throw the sponge on just-in-case but can't see using it much.
- plastic bag or two for rider card - keeps it dry!
- consider taking a spare boot if you suspect it may be needed or you're worried about your horse going barefoot til you can get to a spare
- blanket, if you're in the rest of the country and/or have a horse that isn't in full winter coat by mid-October.  I'll take one and don't expect to use it.

For the rider:
- comfortable, proven riding clothes.  Layer appropriately.  For my central CA LDs, I've been pretty happy in a t-shirt all day - maybe I'm cold the first twenty minutes, but then we get moving and I'm fine. 
- riding gloves, helmet, and half-chaps
- water!  I'll take my Nathan hydration pack and plan to refill it at the hold (or swap it out for a pre-filled bag if I'm really efficient).  Rider hydration is important.  Use what works for you.
- Electrolytes for me, in the hydration pack so they're easily accessible
- on-trail snacks for me to nibble at as I get hungry.  Several different heat-tolerant items is ideal.  I like Luna bar type stuff, and expect to pack several, with at least one in the saddlebag so I can pull it out whenever I get hungry.
- Spare human water: know if your ridecamp has potable water or not.
- extra food of various sorts to eat before/after as your heart desires.  (Immediately post-ride is not the time to discover nothing you brought looks appetizing, including whatever lunch is provided.)
- extra layers for the night before & a change of clothes for after the ride

For human camping:
- headlamp or flashlight of some sort.  Great for braiding in the dark, navigating to the nearest portapotty, or finding your trailer after the ride meeting.
- camping chair - for the ride meeting and meals
- portable charger for your phone!
- sleeping bag, pillow, sleeping pad if so desired
- tent or car or something in which to sleep (I set up my own space in a minivan with the back seats down and the middle seats removed)

Anything terribly obvious that I'm missing?  What's different for your lists?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Quicksilver, T-3 weeks

My third ride this year has me totally chilling out and not prepping pretty much at all.

I'm still riding.  We did that one 18-ish miles a few weeks ago?  And that's the last bit of distance work that's been done.  Speed work has been happening, but mostly because I keep running out of daylight.  It's September, and now we have to try to be home before 7:45.  It sucks.  (I don't mind riding in the dark, but I do mind running into other people of questionable conduct and mental state in the dark, and that's an ever-present possibility here.)

Oh!  We hit a really excellent Giant Trot on Tuesday's ride.  I felt like I was riding a big horse.  Never felt it before, quite possibly will never feel it again, and if that was a true extended trot rather than adding impulsion, that's probably fine.

Things I have done:
- confirmed transportation for 'Fetti (thanks Funder!) and myself (thanks, mother!)
- confirmed with my friend that she'll be riding the 25 with us, so we are definitely a go for the LD
- looked at hoof boots
-- discovered that at least one cable is fraying on my front boots
-- remembered that I have not yet fixed the back boot (but I won't boot the backs for Quicksilver, so that's still okay)
- acquired clippers - QS was the 100-degree ride last year.  Pony's getting at least a minimal clip again this year.
- acquired my own hoof stand: boots will require hooves to be rasped weekly for a decent fit in three weeks

Things yet to do:
- actually start rasping her hooves after acquiring hoof stand
- put pommel bag back on saddle, rigged such that my knees can be happy completed this weekend, after a two-hour pommel-bag-rigging session with my ever-tolerant boyfriend
- chop bleach bottle into a scoop (no sponging from tanks at QS) -- but I do have a bleach bottle set aside for this purpose! (or maybe I'll reconsider and actually order a scoop from Henry Griffin, since I've been pondering that for over a year now)
- order cables for boots
-- and then install them once they show up, at least the day before the ride.
- clip Confetti (goal timeframe: weekend prior)
- wash & braid mane* (goal timeframe: Thursday prior)

* I actually washed her mane AND her tail this weekend.  Her tail looks vastly improved, but you can't see it because she kept swishing it whenever I took a photo.  Ponies.

Also, we've done some Trail Horse stuff, such as standing around while I broke a zillion branches off the tree:

and then politely posing for a branch height-comparison after I held the tree down** for her to walk over it:

and then being an obnoxious brat about letting me get back on her so we could go home across the river.  Can't be good all the time.

**Tree was just low enough that I thought maybe we could go over with the excess branches cleared.  Every single other angle makes it look tiny, but it was placed at the lowest point of the sand.  We actually did make it over the tree this weekend, but it was sufficiently traumatizing for our riding partner to watch the tree springing up underneath Fetti's belly that we went around it the next few times, then cleared it on Sunday.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Saddle comparisons

I'm going through this in my head - maybe it will be useful to someone else!

I have a hard time getting my thighs/knees on the horse in the Eurolight; instead, they're flared out.  This is less obvious with saddlebags.  This is also likely the reason my canter is worse in the Eurolight.  Three Eurolight rides later: I realized that my knees are currently on the lower D-rings.. which is where I've had my saddlebags rigged to, which would make putting my knees on the horse impossible.  I don't have a solution yet, but the bags are still off right now.

The Eurolight has a deeper seat, and generally makes me feel more secure.  That said, it also has a steep cantle that I frequently feel myself running into.  If I lean back in the Thorowgood, I'm leaning back.  If I lean back in the Eurolight, I'm fighting the saddle.  I suspect it's probably equivalent to a 17" English and a bit small for me.

I am tending to lean forwards in the Eurolight.  After switching to non-caged stirrups that feel longer: issue (mostly) resolved.

I'm not yet feeling secure in my caged stirrups - I feel like I'm fighting those too.  I may put my old stirrups back on to see if that resolves anything.  I LOVE the idea of the caged stirrups.. but I feel like I cannot get my foot far enough in (or at least my left foot, right foot does okay).  I adjusted the placement of the left stirrup leather and Saturday's ride should tell me if that fixes things.  The fact that I can get one foot happily in makes me think it ought to be fixable.
After Saturday's ride: nope.  Not quite fixed.  Better, but not quite fixed.
Sunday's ride: switched back to non-caged stirrups, and I feel way better about life.  Our canter was halfway decent.  I can post comfortably.  I'm not having to think about my position every three steps to figure out why my foot feels insecure.  My canter seat is.. well, it's better with the non-caged stirrups than the caged, but I think it's still best in the Thorowgood right now.

I don't have a good answer for why the caged stirrups are not working for me.  I suspect it's a combination of stirrup height (effectively changing my total stirrup + leather length) and trying to get an extra half-inch of foot through the stirrup.  I have big feet (womens 9.5) and perhaps this is one of those things where it's actually going to matter.  Or maybe it's also partly that I need to drop the stirrups a half-hole to account for the firmer stirrups, rather than trying to ride with hunter-type knees.
ATG would probably make me bigger cages if I asked.  At this point, my spare cash is gone and I have a ride in four weeks, so for now, that will wait.

After two weeks of bareback/dressage saddle work, the Specialized with Woolback feels awfully wide.  I'll try at least a short hack with an English pad to see if that fixes my issues with contact.  It may cause bigger problems with pony-saddle-fit, but that will at least answer some questions.
After Sunday: Hahaha, no!  No I will not.  I am not capable of easily getting the saddle fitted with an English pad rather than the thicker Woolback.  There is a dramatic difference in fit (bridging! major pressure on shoulders! something wrong towards the back!) and frankly, if I have to spend more than 30 minutes fussing with saddle fitting to get it to work this close to a 25, I may as well ride in the Thorowgood.  But.  The Specialized as-is fits the horse even if I'm not quite sure about me, so we will make do.
Incidentally, today I read Gail's post about her Specialized demo, and yep: nailed it. It's a wider twist.  It never bothered me before, but I went from a crazy-wide western-endurance saddle to the Eurolight, so it was probably an improvement then.  This was the most English riding I've done in two years. 

Something about the buckle or twist of the right stirrup is still making my leg unhappy.  I still don't know why.  I may experiment with moving that buckle up six inches.
Buckle moved!  I didn't notice it, so maybe that will fix things, or maybe I was too busy being thrilled with the stirrups to notice.

So, after reading all that again, the obvious question: why not just ride in the Thorowgood?
1. It fits.  But it doesn't fit as well as the Eurolight.  I notice it riding her shoulders more on the downhills, and laterally I don't feel like it's quite as stable.  Do note, though, that I nearly ground-mounted with the Thorowgood sometime in the past few weeks, and it stayed just fine.. so that lateral fit may be all in my head.
2. I want a bigger pommel to run into when she does dumb things like screech to abrupt halts.  I can sit everything in the Thorowgood if I have to, but that's all my seat and not the saddle.  Sometimes I want help from the saddle.  All her bucking and hissy fits last winter?  I would have been eating dirt very early on in a dressage saddle.
3. The Eurolight is more forgiving when I'm tired and not riding as well.  Again, I probably could ride in the Thorowgood, but it's going to take a toll on me and thus on her.
4. The Thorowgood makes my knees unhappy after a while.  Probably fixed by switching to endurance stirrups, but see above about financial status: broke.
5. Eurolight is way more comfortable several hours in.  Possibly somewhat fixed with a full-saddle sheepskin cover, but again: broke.
6. I don't have to canter right now.  Would I like the option?  Sure.  Do I need it for my next ride?  No, I do not, and we're well capable of trotting all of it instead if that's what it comes to.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Yay, Specialized!

As mentioned, I sent my saddle back to Specialized's Texas headquarters two and a half weeks ago.  I requested three fixes:
1. replace crupper ring, as it had broken
2. replace billets - I had stripped off the nylon backing probably 6 months ago so that the billets would fit on standard girths, and knew this would need replaced eventually.  Since it was already going out there, might as well get it done.
3. add screw to saddle.  Mine originally came with a waterbottle holder, which I promptly removed - but the screws that fit with the holder were way too long without.  Incredibly minor thing, but might as well ask for that too.

I was told to ship it off and that they would contact me when it was done to charge me.  I'm not a huge fan of not having a total to start with, but fine; I figured I was looking at $150 or so.

The saddle showed up at my house yesterday.  Woohoo!  However, I was confused: I had heard nothing from them, and they don't have any of my payment information.  A quick email was sent off to try to clarify.  If they don't want payment, y'know, that's fine - but I feel morally obligated to ask and offer.

Cue an email from Specialized this morning:  all repairs were under warranty.  Crupper ring should never have broken, and the billets were part of a too-thick batch.

Wow.  This is a saddle I purchased used, that's at least a few years old now, and that I personally have given them no money for.  Their customer service is notoriously a bit lacking.  I am astonished and delighted that they'll stand behind their saddles and craftsmanship that much.

New billets, by the way?  They're lovely and everything I could have asked for (aside from the length difference!).

Thursday, September 11, 2014

August recap, September goals, various updates

August goals were:
- 15+ mile rides once or twice during the month - Fail.  But: two back-to-back 10mile days, which for our purposes is pretty close to one 15+ mile ride.  Oh wait - actually, success!  We rode with Quicksilver for 4-5 miles, then 5ish miles there and home as well, so that's close to 15.  That just didn't get completely logged.
- Get rid of hives - Check.  Thankfully, she's shedding, and as her new coat comes in we're losing the visible spots.
- Continue speed work approx. once weekly - Check!  Five rides at 5mph or over.
- Continue heat work (as much for me as for her) - Check?  I think we did, anyway, but the past two months are all blurring together.  If I elyte, I do better.  I'm learning.
- Rebuild trail confidence; eliminate backing up as an evasion again.  - This appears to be resolved, but I'm not convinced it won't flare back up again before resolving for a while.
Total mileage: approx 90.  A bit lower than usual, but well within normal.
Bonus for a lesson in August, with a tiny bit of jumping!

September goals:
- Continue to add canter as comfort allows, making sure it's a polite canter and not a running-away canter.
- Rasp hooves weekly to make sure boots fit for our early October ride.
- Acquire clippers.  Clip 'Fetti's neck shortly prior to October ride.
- School 'standing still while mounting' more.  One step is vaguely tolerable at this point.  More than that, absolutely not.

On saddles:
My Eurolight spent two weeks away getting fixed.
I was riding in the Thorowgood with some bareback work for good measure.  Sweat patterns are still good.  I am so, so lucky to have a second saddle that works for the silly horse and I.  I'm not as secure, and having regular English stirrups and irons definitely impacts my leg comfort, but we did a moderately brisk 18-mile ride last week with no real problems. 

On hydration:
Human: I bought a new Nathan Intensity pack and I love it.  It's 2L rather than my previous 3L pack, but it barely bounces at all, even when cantering. I did not love the bite valve that came with, so I 'borrowed' the Camelbak's bite valve and tube from my boyfriend's Camelbak (oops, bad girlfriend!) for the time being, aka until I make it to REI for a new one for me.  Then again, maybe I should give him the new one...
It also has a nifty little pocket in front I can store elyte tabs in, increasing the likelihood I'll remember to take them regularly.

Horse: On a whim, I bought a Himalayan salt block to hang in her stall maybe two months ago?  Confetti has now gone through the entire thing.  She's drinking substantially more - this was the mare that used to go through maaaaybe a third of the 'standard' water bucket, and now goes through half of a double-sized one in a day.  No complaints here; I'm happy she's drinking.

Hex key acquired and worked nicely!  We're now in the MW gullet, I believe, and I'm feeling more balanced that way.  I don't have a wool pad to go underneath and frankly would be concerned about messing with the fit by adding mine, so standard English pads it is.  That does mean that using the heart monitor is not a good option: the electrodes have trouble sticking to the English pads.
Despite it being a dressage saddle, I had another gal at the barn help me out and stick the knee blocks in a more AP-type position, supporting my calves rather than my thighs.  I can't necessarily recommend it to anyone, but it is working much better for me now.
Tiny horse problems: my 22" Woolback girth reaches nearly to the bottom of the saddle on both sides.  Yikes!

If you embiggen, knee block placement is almost visible, sort of.

Eurolight repairs and discoveries:
I had new billets put on my saddle along with replacing the crupper ring.  Either the old billets stretched, or the new ones are shorter.  They're easily four inches shorter.  This puts my 22" Woolback girth on holes 2 & 3.  I sense a new girth in our future.
Also, I snugged up the breastcollar some when I put the saddle on.  I'm not sure how it looked good before, but it seems to look fine now.
My trainer had mentioned that the Eurolight doesn't allow you to really get your knees against the horse.  I hadn't understood that then.  I do now.  I suspect I could resolve that somewhat by using a thinner pad, and may experiment with putting the dressage pads back on to see if the sweat patterns are still good (or not).

Saddle looks awfully plain without a pink saddlebag, but I just wanted to RIDE.  Also, the stirrup was on backwards.  That did get fixed.

Our canter work feels vastly improved.  There are still times I'm up in a bastard two-point position.  However, there are now a near-equal amount of times when I'm just calmly sitting and staying with her motion.  I'm not entirely sure what's changed.  The real test will be trying it in the Eurolight to see if I can keep that feeling.
Verdict:  no, not really.  My lower leg stability is not there in the Eurolight (probably related to my knees flaring out, see previous point!), and it is in the dressage saddle with knee blocks.  I can hold the canter for a few strides and have it feel correct, but not the lengths we were getting in the Thorowgood.  At this point, I think I will probably continue to work on those handful of strides, but make a point to pull out the Thorowgood weekly-or-so for canter sets.

Two-point and running martingales, or, I am very used to these Haflingers:
I've pondered for a while how folks would actually end up with horses hitting them in the head.  I mean, I have to be falling forwards to hit her neck!  It finally clicked: it seems like normal horses have a higher headset, Arabs/Saddlebred types in particular.  Fetti and the other Haffies default to a flatter headset.  Alternatively, I'm just not seeing the high-headed Haffie photos and low-headed other horse photos?
In any case, two-point is awfully hard in non-jumping length stirrups and with the mane three inches lower than I want to grab.

We're four weeks out from our next ride.  Yikes!  Expect some ride-prep (or lack thereof) posts soon.