Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Stirrup Iron Advice

The show season has wrapped up, the awards banquet tickets have been purchased, and I'm going through my usual end of year evaluation. What went right? What went wrong? What do I want to change or do different? I also go through all my tack and show clothes to see what I want to keep, get rid of, and add to. While I've been working on upgrading my western tack, finally getting the show saddle I've been looking for forever (and I'm hoping to get a show headstall for Christmas!), my focus has turned to my english tack and attire.

I'll start by saying I never ride english at home. Never. I can't remember the last time I used my english saddle off the show grounds... it's probably been years. While the main reason is because I've been focusing more on western with Lilly, there's nothing saying I couldn't ride english here and there, just to practice the essentials we need to place well in the english classes, so what's the real reason I don't ride english at home?

I guess it's because I find it very uncomfortable.

I have a wonderful saddle that is really comfortable, and more importantly it fits Lilly, but I'm always having trouble with my knees and ankles. When I'm at the show, and it's finally time to hop off and switch over to western, I'm SO thankful! I get off as often as I can to stretch my legs, but by the end of the day, my ankles are screaming. I don't know if I'm compensating for my knees and my ankles suffer, but I feel like my legs are all sorts of wonky and they just don't "hang" right.

This is a picture from several years ago, but it still feels the same way today. My ankles roll to the outside and they don't really sit flat on the bottom of my irons. I'm constantly having to take my feet out and stretch them just to get some relief.

My ankle is jacked...
So is this happening because my horse is fat, and that's how my legs have to be to get around that giant belly of hers? Is it because my stirrups are too long or too short? Is it because my leathers suck? Is it just how my saddle is made and that's the position it puts my legs in? Is it because I'm riding in paddock boots and half chaps, so my ankle isn't getting the support it needs?

Stirrup length look ok?
In order to size stirrup length, I use the old arm trick. You know, the one where you put your fingertips on the top of your leathers and as long as your irons go into your armpit you're good? I did drop them a hole at the last show to see if that would help, but I didn't really notice a difference. I also didn't do it until after my ankles were screaming, so it's possible it helped but it was just too late.

I've been having this problem for a while now, so several years ago I looked into getting a new pair of irons. I ended up buying the MDC Sport Classic Irons because I thought my knees ankles were being tweaked due to having to hold the irons in the correct spot.

The MDC Sport irons.
Irons sit nice and straight.
With these irons, you can turn them 90 degrees, 45 degrees, or have them in the normal irons position. I turned mine so they're 90 degrees, but I can't really say if it helped or not. I think maybe they helped with my knees, but they definitely haven't helped with my ankles.

So this makes me wonder if I need to take them one step further and get something else. The MDC irons were about $185, and it took all I had to stomach spending that kind of money on irons, and I'm not fond of the though of spending even MORE money on another similar pair, but I'm really tired of having the ankle pain all the time. I've been browsing what other kind of stirrups are out there, and I came across several that have piqued my interest.

Stubben Double Offset Stirrup Irons ($70)
I can't really picture if these could help or not. I think their purpose is to help keep the rider's leg on the horse, while allowing them to keep their heels down, but since they're angled, maybe they would roll my heel in?

Herm Sprenger System 4-F Stirrups With or Without Offset Eye ($230 or $245)
With these stirrups, I know they rotate in four positions, but it's not side to side, it's only up and down. I don't know if having a stirrup that rotates down with my heel would help my ankle or not.

Herm Sprenger 4-F Bow Balance Stirrup Irons ($230)
These irons just look like some kind of alien contraption, but they seem to have received the best reviews of the bunch. I wish I could try a pair of each so I could see how they feel before I spend several hundred dollars on them.

When I initially did some research, I got the impression that people think these things are "gimmicky" and good old fashioned irons are where it's at. I just want something that's going to help my ankle pain, assuming there's something that can help with that. I'm also open to any other possibilities (like my position, or my fat horse, or whatever).

So I'm reaching out to see if any of you have had luck with any of these irons, or found a way to relieve your ankle pain in some other way. I would appreciate any thoughts or ideas.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

October JCHSS Show

This show series is a lot of fun, and each show has a theme to it. This show ended up falling on Halloween day, so they did a lot of Halloween related activities at the "Fall Fling and Halloween Spooktacular". I don't usually participate in them, but lot of people do and it's always a lot of fun to watch. They had a costume contest (which was amazing), trailer decorating contest, pumpkin carving contest, apple bobbing... lots of fun. The young kids really get into it, but so do the adults.

I hate that this was the last show of the season and I hate that winter is coming. I could definitely tell it was fall when I got out of bed, drove over to the barn, and saw the temperature readout on my truck said 43. Ummm, brrrr! Luckily, it was going to be a sunny day and it did warm up a bit in the afternoon. I still froze most of the day, though, because all my clothes are designed for 93, not 43. I'll have to remember that for next year.

The turnout was pretty good... there was supposed to be one more show in November, but it was cancelled, so this ended up being a double point show. Good turnout is good because competition is good, but it's also bad because that means the classes take forever. The jumping classes are the worst, and I ended up not riding in my first class until after 2:30 in the afternoon. Because of that, I ended up doing western in the dark, and boy was it cold.

My gorgeous girl.
All in all, a fun show, though. I've learned over the years which judges like me (and Lilly) and which ones don't, and today, for the riding classes, I showed under a judge that never places me well. I kept that in mind throughout the day as we showed, and ended up having pretty good luck with the grass ring judge. (They run two rings at once... one for halter, showmanship, trail, and mini horse classes, and the other ring is for jumping and regular riding classes.)

Our first class was stock type at halter, and it was a big class. The judge asked us all how old our horses were, so I was thinking maybe we'd place because she'd take that into account... but no. No place for us.

Lilly passed the time with a nice sunshine nap.

Showmanship Pattern
Lilly did an outstanding job on this pattern. I did have to make our pivot a little bit wonky just to avoid the giant ant hill in our way, but she nailed it. Her set up was picture perfect and her back was super straight. I wasn't surprised to hear our name called for first place. We showed against five other adults, so we get one PAC point!

Perfect inspection!
After we were done with the in hand classes, I knew it was going to be a while before we got to ride. Trail would be set up after minis did their thing, so I could do that in a bit, but Lilly and I went back to the trailer for a nice, long break. She ate lots of hay, and I wandered around looking at the pumpkins and the different decorations on all the trailers. I also tried to stay in the sun and out of the wind!

Once the trail pattern was set up, the jumping was still nowhere close to being done, so I got dressed, tacked up Lilly, and headed out to take care of trail. The pattern was a bit tricky because we had to trot around a very tight corner and go right into the ground poles. I watched several people go before me, all with much larger horses, and they had a very difficult time. I was hoping that because Lilly was much shorter, we would be able to do it without nearly as much of an issue.

Trail Pattern
She did an excellent job. We didn't have as much of an issue with the gate this time, and even though she clunked the ground poles, we made that corner without any issues. I felt really good about our pattern when we were done. The judge must have liked our pattern as much as I did because she placed us first (out of three), so we get another PAC point in trail!

Backing through the L like a boss!
After a very long wait, we finally moved into the main ring for our riding classes. We didn't really place well in any of the english classes, but I felt Lilly did great. She still anticipates when she hears the speaker click on, and doesn't seem to be as settled in english these days, but I was happy with how she did. We got several 6th places in the walk/trot classes and the pleasure class.

Not feeling the english love.
Considering how much time I had to sit around and do nothing, there is no excuse to forget any of the patterns I did today, but that's just what happened in the english equitation class.

English Equitation Pattern
Somehow I ended up on the side of the line that went first, so I ended up being the second to go. I heard the other riders going over the pattern and they said "left turn", but then they muttered something I couldn't hear, which I thought was them correcting themselves and saying, "no, right turn." The girl who went before me did a left turn, but her pattern was a little bit crazy and my gut was saying "NO... RIGHT TURN!" So I executed what I thought was a fabulous pattern with a right turn at the end. Beautiful!

Well, the pattern clearly says LEFT pivot, and I clearly did a RIGHT pivot. I was surprised to hear I my name called for 7th, because I was the only one, out of 13 riders, to do it wrong. I suck.

So after moping around and beating myself up for a while, I changed into western and went over the western horsemanship pattern a THOUSAND times to make sure I didn't forget the pattern. It was a pretty easy one, with no right or left pivots, so I figured I was good to go.

The horsemanship class went fairly well. I thought Lilly was excellent, and jogged nice and slow. I tried to make sure we had a nice round circle and a nice straight back, but we didn't place. At all. I was pretty disappointed.

Western Horsemanship Pattern
But, such is life, so we moved on to the other classes. It was getting dark, the sun had gone down, and it was late. I was ready to be done, so we just did our best for the last two classes and then happily headed back to the trailer to get ready to head home.
We ended up winning grand champion in the adult division, and I got a really pretty Halloween themed ribbon. It was pitch dark by the time I left, so I couldn't get any pictures of Lilly with her ribbon. You'll have to settle for seeing it on my wall at home.

Happy Halloween!

Here's a recap of our placings for the day:
Stock Type at Halter = No Place out of 15
Adult Showmanship = 1st out of 5 (1 PAC Point)
Adult Trail = 1st out of 3 (1 PAC Point)
English Walk/Trot Stock Type = 6th out of 10
English GAYP Adult = 6th out of 10
English Pleasure = 6th out of 8
English Equitation = 7th out of 13
Western Horsemanship = No Place out of 11
Western Walk/Jog Stock Type = 7th out of 13
Western GAYP Adult = 4th out of 6

All in all, a great show and a great show season. The awards banquet is in January and I'm excited to see what we win for year end awards!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Saddle Is A Keeper!

As I mentioned in my last post, my saddle arrived a week ago Tuesday. It shipped MUCH faster than I thought it would, which is both good and bad. Good because I didn't have to wait very long, but bad because I only have a two week trial, and it rained the whole week! The true test was going to be this past Saturday at the show, because she would be wearing it for so long, but I did find a semi-dry day to take it over to the barn because I was dying to try it out. The arena was super wet, so I couldn't do much hard riding with her, but we took it for a short test ride anyway.

Looking showy!

I love how it fits her, and I love how it fits me. It's a 15.5" seat and the one I have now is a 16". It fits me way better and because it's nice and used, it's really broken in, which means it's extra comfy!  Lilly seemed to like it too, and she didn't show any signs of being uncomfortable when I was riding.

I took measurements of my old saddle to compare to the new one, and they're very similar. The problem area I had was in the shoulders, because Lilly is so wide there. She's also not very stoic, so if she's even slightly uncomfortable she lets me know. I was having a really difficult time finding something with full quarter horse bars, so it wouldn't pinch her. This one has a nice, wide tree, so I was hopeful it would be a keeper after Saturday's show. More on the show later, but I've decided to keep the saddle. She didn't show any of the usual signs she gives me when she's uncomfortable, and the saddle was on for several hours.

She's just so cute.

I'm so relieved to have found a saddle that is both presentable and fits my horse. I was starting to wonder if I was going to have to buy something not showy, and dress it up on my own. The wide tree on this older show saddle, seems to be the answer to my saddle prayers!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Some Updates

Lilly has been doing pretty well since our last show. She's been trimmed once since then and her feet are doing MUCH better. They grew out quite a bit since the last trim, and they haven't chipped at all. She still has a bit of separation, but it's not anything that's active, and it seems to be growing out. I'm very happy with her feet!

When my trimmer suggested I get Lilly a muzzle, she also suggested I get a bottle of Durasole and try that as well. A lot of her clients use it and they've had really good luck with it, so I started putting it on her hooves back on the 13th. I haven't really noticed a difference yet, but my trimmer said I might not see anything for a little while. Her hooves are really soaking it up right now, and once they start absorbing it less, I should see a difference. I've been applying it about every other day, so I'll be curious to see how she does at the show on the 31st.

I haven't done anything with the muzzle yet. I was going out of town shortly after it arrived, and my barn owner was also going to be out of town right before I left, and I didn't want her wearing it when people weren't around. Plus, I think we missed the window already, and the grass threat has passed for now. July and August seem to be our danger months, but I'll keep an eye on her come spring as well. I'm also scheduling vaccines, so I'm going to speak with my vet about how often she thinks Lilly should wear it. She'll probably say 24/7, 365, but maybe we can have a realistic conversation about it.

My out of town trip was back home to Michigan. A friend of mine was getting married so I flew home for a long weekend. Rylee didn't get to go this time since I flew, but I had a house sitter, so she didn't have to go to the dreaded Camp Bow Wow. (She's not a very dog friendly dog... she doesn't mind other dogs, but she's more of a people dog. She doesn't play with the other dogs there, but instead just follows around the "Camp Counselors". I feel bad leaving her there.)

I visited my sweet AJ while I was home, of course! The weather was beautiful, so I decided to grab a couple lead ropes and go for a ride. We just walked around the pasture, but it was fun being back on him. Some other family members were visiting as well, so my nephew's girlfriend hopped on with me for a few minutes*. She hasn't ridden in a long time, but used to ride as a kid. AJ was such a good boy.

AJ, doing his thing.
And in other news, I bought a new western saddle. I have no idea if it's going to fit Lilly or not, but it comes with a two week trial period and I'll have it in time to ride in it at the show. That will be a great test as to how it's going to fit her. I found an older model Crates show saddle, with a wide tree. The gullet isn't as wide as my current saddle, but I swear the one I have now is a freak of nature because I haven't been able to find anything close to it. I really, really hope this one works. The price was great and I won't be embarrassed to show in this one.

Still in great shape!

Shiny silver!
It's going to ship today and I can't wait to get it. I've been speaking with some of my horsey friends and they think I might also need to swap out my felt pad for something a little more "squishy". Lilly might just need a little extra cushion up in the shoulder area, so that's an option too. I NEED THIS SADDLE TO FIT.

Hope you're all enjoying this lovely fall weather!

*Disclaimer: I know, I know... no helmets, no bridle, riding double. No humans or animals were hurt in the making of this photo.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

September JCHSS Show

I'm getting a little burned out, and I had to really force myself to go to this show. I'm stressed about some non-horsey thing, stressed about some horsey things (hello, muzzle), tired of the hot weather and bugs, worried about my horse's hooves even in her hoof boots... so I had to drag myself out of bed on Saturday.

I'm also tired of some of the stuff I keep seeing at the shows, and it's SO frustrating. I don't want to get into the drama here, but it's typical horse show stuff. I usually try to ignore it, but it affected me slightly on Saturday and greatly impacted a friend of mine. Consistency would be nice, and that's all I want to say about it.

There would normally be two more shows left, but November's show was cancelled, so that just leaves the show on October 31st. Normally I would be sad to see the season end, but I think I'm looking forward to it. There's a lot I hope will happen between the end of this season and the start of the next one.

Because I was feeling blah and wasn't sure how Lilly would be feeling, I only entered her in classes that would give us points for the two divisions we're going for; stock and adult. Not being so busy gave me some time to wander around and be a little more social than normal, so that was nice for a change.

Halter was up first, and we placed 5th out of 5 in the stock type class, which is expected. I just do it for the points, and I think that gets me one point in the stock division.

Showmanship adult was up next and there were only three of us showing. I thought Lilly had a great pattern, but we got second place, which gets me no PAC points, but a good number of points in the adult division because that class counts for double points. Here's the pattern:

For English, we did a walk/trot stock type class and a GAYP adult class. The turnout wasn't great, so the classes were pretty small. I forget exactly how many horses were in the stock type class (at least eight) and we placed 7th. It was a class I felt we did really well in, and I expected to hear my number second or third. I was obviously disappointed. We won the adult class, but there were only three of us in there.

After the English classes, I went over to do my trail pattern. It was posted online that we had to "lasso" a barrel, which I found strange, but wanted to see someone else do it before I made an attempt. While I was watching others go, I heard the judge say that the lasso was only for the working western class and it was a mistake. I was happy to hear that! Below is the pattern, just pretend the lasso part isn't in there.

Lilly did really well. She didn't want to sidepass over to the gate post so I could latch the gate, but we got there eventually. Otherwise, I felt the class went really well. We ended up with first place... out of two.

For western, I had the same plan as I did for English. I only did the stock type and adult classes. We placed fourth out of 4 in stock, and third out of 4 in adult (I think there were four). Lilly was AWESOME in her western classes, and probably gave me her best ride ever in the stock type class. It was incredible.

Here's a recap of our placings for the day:
Halter Stock Type = 5th out of 5
Showmanship Adult = 2nd out of 3
English Walk/Trot Stock Type = 7th out of 9
English GAYP Adult = 1st out of 3 (1 PAC Point)
Trail Adult = 1st out of 5 (1 PAC Point)
Western Walk/Jog Stock Type = 4th out of 4
Western GAYP Adult = 3rd out of 4

All our winnings in the adult classes earned us enough points for reserve champion. They had pretty neck ribbons this time, and I think Lilly looks gorgeous in hers.

Pretty girl!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I Guess It's Time


I guess it's finally time to break down and buy a damn muzzle for Lilly. I've been avoiding this as much as possible despite the fact that people keep telling me over and over and over that it's probably a good idea. I just really wanted to manage her 'metabolic issues' in different ways. It's not working, and I've finally come to terms with it.

I mentioned in my last post that it was possible Lilly had some kind of metabolic event around the time of the last horse show. When my trimmer came out shortly after that, she noticed separation on all four hooves, and Lilly also had a little bit of bruising on her front hooves. I have never really had issues with her hind hooves, so to see separation back there was a bit alarming for me. We were on the lookout for other signs of laminitis, but those never came (thank goodness). She's been a little bit more tender, and my barn owner noted that Lilly had a difficult time doing a tight circle to the left on one occasion, but for the most part she's been ok.

Her hooves have been chipping like crazy, which is why I think she's been a little more tender. Once the separation shows up, and with the type of hooves my girl has, it's only a matter of time before it all starts chipping away. I've been keeping up with it by keeping her mustang roll going as much as possible, but I was fighting a losing battle. Without the hoof wall for support, she's walking much more on her soles, and we've lost some of the concavity we had back before August. I think she's also put on some weight since the last time my trimmer was there.

My trimmer was out again last night and I told her what I'd been seeing, what my barn owner noticed, and what I've been doing about it. The good news was that my trimmer didn't see any sign that whatever we had going on in August was still ongoing. It all looked old, the separation wasn't still chalky, and the bruising was nearly nonexistent. We could see a very clear line on her hooves, which indicated when the event happened, and the new growth above it looks really solid. So now we're in a place where we're managing whatever happened. The problem is, when is it going to happen again?

The weather has been crazy here... we went from HOT days and warm nights, to cooler days and even cooler nights, back to warm weather, and now we've been getting temps in the low 50's for nighttime lows. I'm sure the grass is going nuts.

Being in a boarding situation, there's only so much I can do in regards to Lilly's turnout. When Lilly had her episode, I asked my barn owner when she planned on switching the horses from night turnout to day turnout, and she said she keeps them out at night as long as possible because it's the schedule that gets them the most turnout. I was hoping we'd be switching sooner rather than later because I want Lilly to have LESS turnout. Last night when I arrived at the barn around ten after five, she was already turned out. On the weekends when I go over to check on her, sometimes they'll still be outside at 10am. I'm not sure when she brings them in on weekdays, but I know it's not super early. So even if they come in at 8am, we're looking at 15 hours of turnout. That's a LOT. And when I went out to the pasture to grab Lilly for the trimmer, I noticed quite a bit of grass in her pasture.

This is not good. So the only real way to regulate her grass intake if she's going to be on pasture that much is to buy her a stupid muzzle.

My trimmer recommended the Best Friend muzzle, which I have researched plenty of times and have decided is probably the best muzzle for Lilly, but I don't know whether I should get her the one with a breakaway halter attached, or the one I attach to her nylon halter.

Muzzle with halter?
Muzzle without halter?
I don't like the idea of her wearing something on her head for turnout, but the pastures are all free of trees, so I only have to worry about other horses and maybe the t-posts. The posts do have caps on them, but horses are horses. I'm thinking of going with the one already on a halter because it looks like it would be more 'minimal' and she could wear her fly mask without having lots of bulk on her face.

Any thoughts? Pros or cons to either? Or is there a muzzle you like better?

I hope she doesn't hate the muzzle as much as I hate the muzzle...

Sunday, August 23, 2015

August JCHSS Show

As I mentioned in my last post, for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to drive 4 hours on Friday (after spending the day packing up camp), drive 12 hours on Saturday, and then as soon as I got home, run to the barn to bathe my horse, and get ready for a show on Sunday. I figured as long as I could make myself do it, I could count on Lilly to do her part and be a good girl (she always does her part).

That's not exactly how the day went, and I learned a lesson... let's not do that again.

The bathing went well, and I had packed everything before I left for Michigan, so I didn't end up spending too much time at the barn. I still went to sleep rather late, though, and 6am came really quickly. I distinctly remember checking Google maps earlier to see how far away the fairgrounds were from my new barn, since I haven't made this drive before, and it said 35 minutes. I swear it said 35 minutes. So I gave myself 45 minutes of driving time when planning out the morning. As it turns out, it took me more like an hour to get up there because Google maps took me a really crazy way down back roads and through the city. We won't be doing that again! Needless to say, I was running behind when we finally got there, and I still had to find a place to park the trailer. The place was packed with people who showed all weekend, so I ended up squeezing between another trailer and a truck, which wasn't supposed to be parked in the trailer area. By the time I ran up to the show office, it was 8:45, and the show started at 9.

I had signed up ahead of time for my usual classes, but decided to scratch halter because it was the third class of the day and I was nowhere near ready. As it turns out, I could have easily made it (they never start on time), but I heard there were 16 horses in the class, so I didn't hurry to add us back.

Snack time.
There was quite a wait between halter and showmanship, so I did all that rushing for nothing, but it gave me some time to relax, get Lilly ready, and do a few prep items that I've been lazy about lately. I became seriously frustrated when I couldn't get the hoof polish open (good thing I didn't have a knife!!), and said "screw it", let's just go. From where I was parked, I couldn't hear the announcer and the showing was all done in the indoor, so I couldn't see either. I decided it was better just to hang out at the arena so we didn't miss showmanship.

So, let's talk about showmanship. Above is the pattern, which I loved when I saw, because it was so different from the other patterns we've done. We practiced our tight turn around the cone, worked on her pivot a bit (she didn't feel like leaving her foot planted at first) and waited patiently. I was extra excited when I heard there were 10 horses in the class... I don't think I've seen more than six in a long time, and there's usually only 3 of us. I hung back a bit because I didn't want to be one of the first to go in. I saw the first team head to the cone, and went back to working with Lilly. I didn't watch her pattern because I wasn't planning on going next, but when I realized no one else was going to the cone (as always) and the just was waiting, I jogged over, set Lilly up at the cone, and waited for my nod. She did great around the cones and I was so proud to set her up for the judge. Lilly wasn't cooperating and it took me a while to set her up, but when I finally got her set, I remembered I was supposed to back before setting her up. CRAP. CRAP. CRAP. I was so disappointed in myself, but I continued to show and completed the pattern as if I hadn't jacked it up. I beat myself up in the lineup, thinking about the lost PAC points because I forgot to back, and how mad I was that I hadn't watched the pattern before me to help remind me, and mad about how I am always one of the first ones to go.

Imagine my surprise when I was called for second place. No one else forgot to back and I was wondering how I ended up in second. Granted, our pattern was great minus that part, but I should have been sent to the end of the line. If I was one of the other exhibitors, I would have been livid knowing I placed below someone who did the pattern incorrectly. Nonetheless, I walked out with a red ribbon and 2 PAC points.

Things didn't get much better from there.

During the showmanship class, I was inspecting the footing and watching Lilly move to see if we could show without boots here. I decided that she would probably be ok, so for our first riding class, English walk/trot stock type, I skipped the boots. Lilly was awful. And by awful, I mean awful for Lilly. She was clearly unhappy about something, but I didn't know what. Was it the footing, was it the indoor arena, was it the noisy kids banging around in the seats when we passed? She was doing everything I asked of her, but she made sure I knew she wasn't happy about it. There was tail wringing, chomping on the bit, and just an unwilling attitude. I wasn't sure what was upsetting her, but I wanted to put on boots to eliminate that as an option.

Even after putting on her boots, she wasn't much better. I did see a slight improvement, but she was still not happy to be in the arena. We didn't place in the stock type class or the adult class.

We managed a 5th in the English pleasure class and a 6th in the equitation class. Since the equitation pattern didn't have any pivots, we didn't do as well, but 6th out of 16 horses isn't bad, I suppose.

English Equitation
During the break between English and western, I made sure Lilly had lots of hay, lots of water, and I checked her over really well. Nothing seemed physically wrong, but I still thought about scratching the rest of my classes and going home. I ended up talking myself out of that, and decided to stay for the 3 western classes.

While we were standing around waiting for the western horsemanship class, Lilly was very fidgety. She kept twitching her withers and I ended up adjusting her saddle two different times thinking I had put something on wrong. That's usually what she does when she's uncomfortable with the saddle, but no matter what I did, she continued to twitch. When we did our pattern, she was SO CRABBY. I got all the maneuvers out of her, but her tail was wringing the whole time and I wondered how much we would be counted down for that. Her pattern was great, but everyone knew she wasn't happy to be doing it. We ended up winning the class, but I was ready to be done with everything so we could just go home.
Western Horsemanship
We did ok in our last two classes and we rolled out of there as soon as possible.

Here's a breakdown of our placings:
Showmanship = 2nd out of 9 (2 PAC Points)
English Walk/Trot Stock Type = No Place
English GAYP Adult = No Place
English Pleasure = 5th out of 11
English Equitation = 6th out of 16
Western Horsemanship = 1st out of 11 (3 PAC Points)
Western Walk/Jog Stock Type = 7th out of 11
Western GAYP Adult = 5th out of 8

I won a comb this time!
All kinds of scenarios were running through my head... was she in heat? (Usually not an issue for us) Was she just tired of the heat? Could she tell I was super tired and lacked the happy attitude I usually have at the shows? Did she just not like the indoor arena with giant fans blowing? (We've shown in there before but it's been a really long time)

I couldn't come up with an answer, but decided I wasn't going to try and do that again. It was just too much, and I thought Lilly probably just had a bad day.

Somehow, we ended up winning Grand Champion in the Adult Division. Lilly looks beautiful with her ribbon!

We love this ribbon!
An update to this, though... My trimmer came out on Tuesday and mentioned that Lilly had a little bit of separation on all four hooves. She asked if she'd been sore or tender at all, and I told her about the show. We concluded that perhaps even if the separation hadn't started then (I didn't see any when I picked her hooves), that it's possible the changes were happening in her body and were making her a little uncomfortable. I don't know if that's the case, but it seems likely since Lilly isn't ever pissy just because. She's always very easy going, relaxed, and happy at shows. It feels way too early for the grass to be going through changes, so it never even crossed my mind, but I wish I had scratched her when I first thought about it. :(

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Michigan Adventure!

The first week of August, I made my usual trip up to Michigan to visit my family and go camping up north at beautiful Elk Lake. So this post doesn't end up being a novel, I'll just post mostly pictures and let them do the talking.

First stop... my mom and dad's house to visit AJ, Justus, and enjoy being back home.

Still sucking on that tongue.
Handsome, handsome!
Justus and AJ

After a couple days at home, we all packed up and headed up to Elk Lake. We were met with an awful storm that produced 80 mile per hour winds, hail, broken trees, demolished tents, and no power. Despite the fact that we had to use an outhouse, had no shower, and no electricity, we had a really good time.

Elk Lake is amazingly gorgeous.

Rylee had a really good time too. She was SO good! I had to keep her on a leash the whole time because of park rules, so I was worried about lots of pent up energy, but she was on guard the whole time (she takes her job very seriously) and by the end of the night she was exhausted.

Guarding the camp!
She went boating!
She went canoeing!
And then decided she was done canoeing, and rolled out into the water!
She did really well in the tent!
Such a fun trip... can't wait for next year!

After playing hard all week, driving a good bit Friday, and then driving 12 hours on Saturday to get home... I thought it would be a good idea to take Lilly to a show on Sunday. We've been doing so well with points this year that I didn't want to miss two shows, so I decided to make it work. More on that in my next post, though...

Thursday, July 30, 2015

We Made the List!

I've been waiting forever for my PAC points from the last show to post on APHA's website. I like to keep track and make sure what I have in my records is what they have in their records, but this time I was waiting for another reason as well.

They always post a Leader's List, where they post online the names of anyone with more than 10 PAC points. Since Lilly and I have 13 points in Walk/Trot, I knew we'd be on the list. We've never been there before, since we've never had more than 10 points in one season. I'm very proud of her, and excited to see our names out there.

We win! YAY!
Our next show is on the 9th, and it's up at the state fairgrounds. The show actually goes the whole weekend and counts as two separate shows, so it would have been fun to camp out in my trailer for a weekend show. I haven't done that in forever, but I'll be in Michigan until the 8th visiting my family (and AJ!), and didn't want to cut my time there short. So the plan is to drive 12 hours back to North Carolina on Saturday, run over to the barn to do show prep, and be up and ready for an all day show on Sunday.

Slightly crazy, and maybe a little ambitious, but we're doing so well in the points that I don't want to miss two shows. Missing one is bad enough... so it'll be busy, but fun!

Lilly has been doing pretty well and is waiting for summer to be over, I think. She had a few injuries this month too, but has recovered for the most part. She had a giant mystery scrape on the front of her rear cannon bone and some sole bruising, which I think is from stomping away the flies. Hopefully she'll be ready to go when I get back!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

June JCHSS Show

Lilly and I ventured out for another show at the end of June. Because of terribly awful weather on Saturday, the show was held on Sunday. The turnout is never as good when the show is pushed, but there were still quite a few horses there showing. The weather for Sunday was perfect, and we had another really good show.

I decided to set a goal for myself on Sunday, to give us something to focus on and work for. Lilly and I always place fairly well, but I wanted to place really well, and I wanted to do well enough to win grand champion for either the stock type division or the adult division. I've had reserves in both divisions this year, but I really wanted to win grand. The usual recipient of the grand champion ribbon has a really nice horse, and they nearly always place at the top of the class.

If I was going to have any chance at winning grand, I knew I'd have to sign up for the adult trail class. It's a walk/trot class, and I could ride either english or western, but I'm pretty sure Lilly and I have never done trail before. Usually I look at the pattern and say "eh"... and then I skip it because it's just not really my thing. The pattern looked ok, though, and had quite a few maneuvers that I knew Lilly would handle with ease. My plan was to ride it english, so I could use both hands.

My first class of the day was the stock type halter class. Lilly and I placed 6th out of 6, and my competition won the class. We weren't off to a good start for the stock type division.

I think she looks amazing. :)
Adult showmanship was next, and I was very surprised by the pattern... we had to do a 560 degree pivot. (I'll give you a second to do the math in your head. Ready?) I knew Lilly wouldn't have an issue with it, and I was hoping she'd be the only one. I convinced my friend to go in first, so Lilly and I went in second for a change. She was amazing. We had a great turn around the cone, an awesome pivot, and a very straight back. Something I've noticed with her this year is how quickly she sets up for inspection. In previous years, she'd set up fast, but I'd have to mess with her feet just a tad to get her where I wanted her. At every show so far this year, she squares up as soon as I turn toward her. I love it! It looks very impressive.

Showmanship, complete with 560 degree pivot!
I watched my competition complete her pattern and waited patiently for the placings. Lilly and I won the class, and my competition got second. Put a check in the box for the adult division! It also earned us a PAC point since there was a whopping three of us in the class.

Our english classes went pretty well, or at least it felt like they did. We didn't place in the walk/trot stock type class (again, not doing so well in the stock type division), but I felt like we had a really good ride. We did a little better in the adult GAYP class with a fourth (and my competition doesn't ride english, so we got a little bump there), but again, I felt we had a really good ride. She's a little slow, but she's consistent. I entered us in the english pleasure class as well, which is something we tend to place well in, even if we don't do well in the walk/trot classes. It doesn't count for either of the divisions I was going for, but it's one of the only canter classes at the show and I like to try and get some different PAC points. We placed third in that one, but there were only eight horses, so it wasn't enough to get us a PAC point.

I had some time before my next class, so I headed over to the trail arena to see if they could squeeze me in. There was no one else there, so we were able to walk right in. She didn't give me any trouble on the obstacles, even though I anticipated we may have an issue with the L shaped back. Sometimes she gets rushy and wants to do her own thing, rather than listening to my cues, but she did an excellent job. I think now that she's 15 years old, she's decided that being lazy is the way to go. She really doesn't get upset these days. I wasn't sure if we did the obstacles correctly, but I knew we hit them all, and in the correct order. It felt like a win in my book!

Trail class!
Since we did so well in the equitation class at the last show, I decided to enter it again. This one doesn't count for division points either, but it was the same pattern, so I figured I might as well. I felt like we had a really great pattern last time, but I wanted to improve on it, so I really worked hard on keeping my circles nice and round, and matching. Without video it's hard to know for sure, but I was very proud of Lilly after our pattern. After a little bit of rail work, they announced the placings, and Lilly and I won the class! So proud of my girl! I heard a couple "two shows in a row!" comments from the crowd, so that made me feel good. It earned us two walk/trot PAC points.

English Equitation!
We didn't get our usual break between english and western like we usually do. The english equitation is the last english class, and they had no entries in the first group of classes after the break, so Lilly and I had about 20 minutes to switch from english to western and get out there for the western horsemanship class... we barely made it, but we made it! We just didn't have any time to practice anything western.

I usually don't do western horsemanship either, because it doesn't count for division points, (and if I'm being totally honest, because I can't use two hands) but I figured I'd keep with the theme of the day and try some new stuff. Lilly does so well in the english equitation, I thought perhaps we'd rock the western one too! We had a little trouble walking in a straight line, which I found completely ridiculous, but she wanted to turn and head out toward the rail. I had to get after her a smidge with the reins to get her back in line, but that was our only issue. We had a really great pattern. When we went out to do rail work, the judge asked for an extended jog, which Lilly did really well. She's very easy to sit at the trot/jog/extended jog, so she helped me look good there. When they announced the placings, Lilly and I were first again! Two more PAC points in walk/trot!

Western Horsemanship!
We had our usual western walk/jog stock type and GAYP adult classes, and she did very well. We got third in the stock type (the competition won the class) and we got second in the adult class (behind our competition). I don't think we've placed that well in western before, and a couple people said they thought Lilly and I won the adult class. They told me I need to sit back, put a little more slack in my reins, relax, and just ride! I do keep her a little tight because of all the times she's decided to reverse on her own, or trot on her own, but she didn't do any of that this time around. She's becoming quite the little western pony! We got a walk/trot PAC point for each of those classes.

Looking very western-y!
We're really racking up PAC points in walk/trot this year!

After the trail class closed, we went up to the office to see what our placing was. Turns out, we won! My competition was the only other person in the class, but I quickly tallied up the placings for both the adult and the stock type division, and I was pretty sure I had placed well enough in the adult classes to win grand, but I had to wait for the results.

We didn't do well enough in the stock type classes for a grand or a reserve, but we did win grand in the adult division! I was so excited, and so proud of Lilly! Another great show in the books!

I even won a new sweat scraper.
Here's a recap of our placings for the day:
Stock Type at Halter = 6/6
Adult Showmanship = 1st out of 3 PAC Showmanship Points = 1
English Walk/Trot Stock Type = No Place out of 13
English GAYP Adult = 4th out of 6
English Pleasure Open = 3rd out of 8
English Equitation Open = 1st out of 8 PAC Walk/Trot Points = 2
Adult Walk/Trot Trail = 1st out of 2
Western Walk/Jog Horsemanship Open = 1st out of 8 PAC Walk/Trot Points = 2
Western Walk/Trot Stock Type = 3rd out of 10 PAC Walk/Trot Points = 1
Western GAYP Adult = 2nd out of 6 PAC Walk/Trot Points = 1

Another great day!