Posted by: bizzylizzy262 | April 12, 2015

Big Update

Hello!! I have been wanting to type a blog post for AGES, but to be honest every time I sat down to type I was overwhelmed by how much there was to type. And so here I am, ripping off the bandaid and tackling the task…but I am tired and not sure how long I will be able to type! So, as I say to my kindies and first graders, “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset!”

My last post was in October (yikes), when I had just started lessons with Debbie. I was cautiously optimistic at that point. Any trainer can make some quick changes in your riding and show results…but only the good ones can keep the changes coming, and boy, Debbie has. I absolutely cannot say enough good things about her…as an instructor, as a person, and as a friend. She and I see completely eye-to-eye on horses and riding. When we started lessons, we started at square one. It was a lot of talking and explaining how my body is supposed to influence Cloud, and why. She fixed me from my head, to my fingertips (literally), to my toes, and everything in between. The changes were so significant that she made me feel like a beginner….but only for a little while. There was a string of lessons where I would correct one issue and then seem to fall apart in another issue. Like, I would fix my core, but my legs would go wobbly. Or I would fix my hold on the reins and my posture would slump. But it didn’t take long before the changes in my body started to influence Cloud in amazing, amazing ways. It’s like I finally was giving him all of the directions he needed and I unlocked the fancy dressage horse in him! But we haven’t stopped there! Debbie has continued to raise the bar and challenge us, doing tons of lateral work and riding fancy patterns. This week she introduced a new challenge for us…canter lead changes. This is something that I’ve always been interested in learning. A few years back I asked a trainer to teach me changes, but we didn’t have the success I wanted. I could get changes sometimes, but for the most part it was clear that Cloud wasn’t getting the right message. He was trying to do what I asked him, but I wasn’t asking the right question. So I am very excited to be tackling this challenge with Debbie…because I know she can break it down and teach it to me right so that I can ask Cloud the right question! We are starting (as you should) with completely mastering simple changes. This week we worked on trotting down quarter lines, asking for a few walk steps, then trotting again, all while maintaining a straight line off the wall. After that got simple, we started cantering down the quarter line, breaking all the way to the walk, then doing a walk-canter transition. Talk about FUN! Cloud and I both were having a blast 🙂

So that’s the update on the trainer…more on that if I can manage to get some more blog time in on a regular basis. The other biggest news is…I got a new saddle!!!!!!!! I think Debbie deserves credit on this, as well, Because for one, she was there when the saddle fitter came out to give me direction, and two, riding with her has definitely restarted my passion for riding. I know it’s weird, because I’ve never lost the passion for horses or for Cloud, but sometimes the riding can get boring when it’s not challenging and I’m not learning something new. So last summer I was going through a lull, where I just wanted to BE with Cloud instead of riding. I spent a lot of time grazing him, grooming him, and riding awfully lazily, not really asking much of him. Since starting riding with Debbie, I am riding every day/evening that I possibly can. At least 4 days a week, sometimes 5.

Then, on top of my renewed excitement for riding, the corrections she made in my body position got me to thinking. If these small changes in my position can make such a difference in the way Cloud goes, could a new saddle do the same for Cloud?? Here’s my saddle history in a nutshell: I bought Cloud when I was a senior in high school. Buying a horse really actually wasn’t in the cards for me at the time, but I met Cloud and fell in love and couldn’t imagine saying goodbye to him. So I begged my parents and they could see that this time (as opposed to the 10,000 times before that I had begged for a horse), that I NEEDED this horse. He wasn’t just any horse. Thankfully, my parents saw that and helped me buy a horse, at probably the worst time to buy a horse in one’s life (you know, college). Of course, buying a horse means you need stuff. My Aunt in Florida was kind enough to supply me with my first saddle. And boy, did I love that saddle! The saddle was hers when she was younger. It was in pretty darn good shape considering its age. It was a jump saddle, and I used it for probably 3-4 years before it needed some repairs and my parents decided to buy me a saddle for my 21st/Golden birthday. I was still jumping at the time, so I bought an all purpose. It was a not-fancy brand saddle, but it was brand spanking new and I was in college so super fancy wasn’t an option. It was a good saddle, too! But then I made the switch to dressage…wish I had made that decision sooner! And so I found a cheap used dressage saddle that magically fit my high-withered extreme-narrow thoroughbred “like a glove” (my vet’s words). It’s a Dover brand saddle, so again nothing super fancy, but actually a really pretty saddle, and it suited our needs at the time…but I knew deep down that it wasn’t the best/perfect fit for me or Cloud. But when you buy a horse as a senior in high school, and have 6 years of college/grad school to pay for, while working minimum wage part time jobs and trying desperately not to lean on the parents TOO much, we had to make do.

But now I am a grown up (even if I don’t feel like one) with a grown up job (and a few extras!) and once I got the idea in my mind that a new saddle could make a difference…I made it happen! I know it is crazy to buy a new saddle for a 23 year old horse, but it is what it is. I set out to find a saddle that was a good fit for Cloud, but also with the potential to fit future horses.

I knew right away that this time, I wanted an expert (or two) to help me find a good saddle for Cloud. Up to this point I have fit my own saddles, and although I know the basics, I think I’ve just gotten fairly lucky. So I got in touch with Kate Ballard at Barrington Saddlery for a fitting. It was such a fun day! I was nervous that a Master Saddler (she’s one of 5 in the United States!) would scoff at the idea of fitting a fancy new saddle to a 23 year old horse, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. It did not take Kate long to fall victim to Cloud’s charm!

The first thing she did was take his tracings. And then we talked options. Of course, she told me that Cloud has a pretty unique/distinct shape to his back. Not only is he high withered and extremely narrow, but he is also in his, err, geriatric years, which has distinct effects on a horse’s back shape as well. So the long and short of it is that Cloud would need a completely custom made saddle to actually fit his back. The downside to that, besides expense, is that the saddle would only fit Cloud…it’d be very difficult to use on future horses and pretty impossible to sell, too. So I decided, and Kate and Deb agreed, on option 2…find a saddle that is a close fit, and use a Mattes pad to fill in the gaps.

**SIDE NOTE** During this initial stage of the fitting, Kate commented to Deb and I that “You can tell this horse is ridden correctly by looking at his muscles”. PRIDE!!! And kudos to Deb, of course!

After the decision was made to look at saddles versus get a custom saddle started, in came the saddles! We started with 3 options. The first saddle, I believe it was an Albion, was strapped on, and into the arena the team went! I couldn’t stop looking at the saddle on Cloud’s back. My Dover saddle was pretty, but a fancy new saddle looked so pretty on him!! I got on and walked off and instantly felt like I was riding a different horse! It felt so foreign! The saddle felt good to me, but after walking around for a bit Kate summoned me to the center of the ring and checked how the saddle sat on him with me in it, and it was pressing on his spine. So that instantly took that saddle out of the running, and we swapped it out for a Patrick Keane.

**SIDE NOTE** When I first got on Cloud, I asked him to walk off from the mounting block. I asked him to go on the bit right away, instead of our usual warm up, because we were on a mission. As soon as he was on the bit and using his back, Kate called out from the center of the ring. She said “Oh my gosh you have me so emotional! I’m all choked up! He’s wonderful!” 🙂 It was really cute. I think a lot of people see Cloud on the ground and see an old guy. Yes, he is beautiful and his color is certainly breathtaking, but everyone can see his age. Cloud really transforms under saddle. Kate’s not the first person to be blown away by the transformation, but it always warms my heart a lot.

Again, it felt different when I got on, but really good! I walked him around a bit, and Debbie commented that she liked the way my leg was positioned in the saddle. I went to the middle and got the green light from Kate…the saddle had clearance from his spine. And so we picked up a trot! I won’t lie, it felt uncomfortable, but I could tell it was good uncomfortable. Cloud’s shoulder was freer, his movement was bigger, and I was trying to adjust! Debbie put me through my paces, we did lateral work, canter work, halts, and lots of transitions. One of the cool things about this saddle was it was a mono flap, so less leather between my legs and the horse, so I could tell that he could really feel my signals.

Basically, the saddle chose us. We stopped at that saddle and didn’t look at any others. I hopped down and we led Cloud back to the groom stall and untacked. I fixed him his dinner so Kate and I could do business. I ordered my saddle and Mattes pad, and asked about stirrups, leathers, and a girth. Kate was so sweet and threw in the irons and leathers for free! And the leathers are really nice too! She loaded up her van, and I was able to pick my saddle package the next day! Kate was awesome, she set the tree to the narrowest setting and even had the inserts put into the Mattes pad to fit Cloud’s back. It was so exciting to pick up my new saddle! But, you wouldn’t believe it, I picked up my saddle and didn’t even put it on Cloud’s back for 2 days!!!!!! It was a weird timing thing, and I was super busy with work. It was hard, I felt like a little kid who got a brand new toy on Christmas, but didn’t have the batteries for it!

It worked out though, because when I finally was able to put it on him and ride, it was my Spring break! Isn’t it beautiful???

Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 9.42.22 PM

It has taken some getting use to. Cloud moves so much different in it that I’ve had to find my balance with his new found shoulder-freedom! Plus, I’ve just had to adjust to a different seat! It has been so great though, I am so happy with my purchase. No buyers remorse here!

Alright, so I guess that’s pretty much up to speed. We’ve been riding tons, having so much fun with Debbie, and loving on our new saddle together! So now I’ll just update on today, and we will go from there! Today…I was completely off of work…no school or restaurant, but I am house/dog sitting, so I didn’t have complete freedom of my day. The plan was a barn trip in the morning, and be home by lunch to be with the pups! And so I left for the barn in hopes of a ride and maybe a quick bath (Cloud got his first bath last weekend, and I’d really like to get on a regular schedule of weekly baths).

I got out to the barn and got all of my stuff ready, then went out to retrieve my pony. Two things stood out to me right away. First, Cloud’s pasture buddies were busy by the fence munching on their morning hay, but Cloud was in the middle of the pasture grazing on grass. Pretty unlike him, but he was eating so I wasn’t worried about it…just noticed that it was odd. The second thing I noticed was that Cloud didn’t come when I called him. I have a whistle that I always use to signal to Cloud that I am here, and then he will come over to the gate. He looked over at me, but didn’t budge. So I walked out to him, again thinking it was odd, but nothing looked wrong.

I brought him in, but stopped to let him graze while I picked out his tail. I’m really trying to get in the habit of finger-picking his tail instead of brushing, but boy does it take a long time. Then I brought him into the barn and gave him a good grooming. Cloud has been shedding for weeks! Every day it’s a huge pile of hair! Tacked him all up and headed to the arena. He had walked just fine when I brought him in, but I noticed a slight limp as we were walking to the arena. Instantly I thought abscess, but the only way to find out was to go in and hop on him. I started walking him on a loose rein, and it took about 3 laps…each lap his limp got worse until he could barely put weight on his foot. BINGO. Foot trouble. If it was his joints bothering him, it would get better with movement. Not getting better? Likely an abscess. I hopped down and felt the foot and felt a ton of heat near the coronary band.

So abscess first aid time. Had to borrow a few things from a friend :), but also had a lot of what I needed. First step was a warm Epsom salt soak, then let it dry, applied Icthamol to the coronary band and packed the sole with an Animalintex pad, wrapped and duct taped. Wish I could give him some Bute to ease the pain, but Bute is anti-inflammatory and you want the heat to work its way out, not suppress it. Cloud is back out in his pasture. He doesn’t do well in a stall during the day by himself, and I know he’s smart and will take it easy on his foot outside (I think that’s what he was doing when I got there…staying out of the mud and trying to limit his movement), so why ask for a stall for the night?

Hopefully the abscess will work its way out quickly since I caught it quickly. The plan is soak again in the morning, then wrap, then wrap again at night. Will do 1 a day soaks till the abscess blows, and keep it wrapped until then PLUS when it closes up. I really really hope that I can get it cleared up in time for my lesson on Tuesday! Cloudy usually is a pretty quick heal on abscesses. He’s a tough guy, he just needs it to blow and then usually he’s sound for riding.

Well, there is your update! I know you probably don’t believe me, but I hope I will update more now. I’ve wanted to update for so long, but it just felt like there was so much to write (clearly). I hope that now that the initial post is up that it will be easier to sit down and write when I get the urge to. Plus, school is winding down, maybe not as fast as I want it to, but fast none the less. I’ll have a busy few weeks, but most of my IEP meeting will be done soon. And then there is summer…and believe it or not, I am not planning on doing summer school this year! You can thank Debbie for that, too! I am so happy with what I am doing with Cloud right now that I am very excited for a summer to spend with him! I have been working my butt off for years, and will still be working at the restaurant…I feel like Cloud and I deserve this summer 🙂 So in the summer I should have plenty of blog time!

Okay, good night y’all! PS. Sorry if there are typos/things that don’t make sense/run-on sentences. Too tired to proofread!



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