I need to stop thinking and just post this, especially since I have another ride coming up this weekend.
Given that it’s been two years since I’ve been to a ride, I kind of felt a bit like starting from scratch. During that time period, I’ve managed to change out/swap/acquire different gear, most of it untested in an actual ride environment.
I had some weirdness this time around with getting her halter-bridle to fit well in conjunction with the s-hackamore. (Which I don’t understand because it’s the same setup as previously and it didn’t get used on anyone else.) I think I’m running into the same situation that I do with Mimi – their heads are fairly short, length-wise, so I run out of real estate to have a halter noseband plus an s-hackamore…and still have the curb on the hackamore make appropriate contact. She also has big ears (sorry, mare), so I’m wondering if the headstall-style halter-bridle may not be the best option, as it’s really tight to get it over her ears…but if it’s easier to put on, the noseband sits too low, and if I’d be better-served going with the bit-hanger style. (Which I historically haven’t liked for trying to bridle with a bit and keep the bit in the mouth while fumbling with bit hanger snaps…an s-hack shouldn’t have that problem.) Further justification for tack hoarder behavior.
S-Hackamore: Given that I don’t work with her on a regular basis yet, I use what she usually goes in, and that’s an s-hackamore. I made one change and swapped out the curb chain for a solid beta curb strap, since the last time, she was acting super-fussy and would drop off contact (hate that) and go behind the vertical when the curb chain would engage. She did much better with the solid strap, although I had to use some authority on her a couple of times when she started getting competitive. Still, I’d rather have that, and have her learn “some contact is good,” since that is how I ride.
In the future, I would like to go back to some basic bitted work with her…she could do better on yielding, and really work her on engaging her hindquarters, working on some contact, and getting her to shift from the shoulders to the hindquarters. (Noticeable when she “drags” herself around on a tight, standstill turn versus doing a nice, from-the-haunches pivot.) She may also be a good candidate for working in a Myler Combination bit, as that offers so many opportunities for contact and release. Plus more groundwork.
Saddle: Unfortunately, I think it’s “three strikes and it’s out.” (Someone send a Money and/or Saddle Fairy my way, please?) Three rides, three different saddle pads, and sore all three times. I initially thought it may be too narrow (and it still might be, thus tipping back on the loins, also causing me to fight against it), but now I also think her back isn’t actually as table-like as I thought it was, and the saddle probably doesn’t have enough rock to it. So saddle shopping will eventually be on the table. And the Duett is Mimi’s saddle, so it’s not going anywhere. (Ahem, Money Fairy???)
EasyCare Ultimate Stirrups: I am a revolving door of stirrup purchases. This was my latest one. I had high hopes for them, but after doing a ride, I am forced to conclude they are no better than my normal plastic EasyCare ones, and have some aspects of them that I didn’t care for after putting them through a ride, such as a somewhat sharp edge to the aluminum (looking at the dirt/sweat patterns afterwards, I can’t help but wonder if they would end up rubbing the horse’s sides), as well as the top slot is supposed to fit 1” leathers – they are a tight squeeze to get in there, and I worry the sharp edge will start cutting into the stirrup leather.
Gaston Mercier Comfort Stirrup Leathers: Don’t love them, don’t hate them. Want to put more miles on them, as well as play around with how the stirrup leathers loop onto the fender and see if I can make it more streamlined, because as it is, I can feel it as a potential pressure point. Really want to like them, because the leather is lovely and the fact they loop around the stirrup bar with no buckle means that part is super-comfortable.
Skito Dryback pad: Even had new inserts, so I can’t blame that for back soreness. Love my Dryback pad, although I had a hard time getting it centered this time. Which is what happens when you’re using to easily seeing over your pony’s back and now you have an extra five inches to try to see over.
Stillwater mohair contour girth: 24”…and fatty errr… “fluffy” mare could almost use a 26”, since I had to start at the very bottom holes on my billet straps, and gradually up to the second holes.
Boots: I was a material/color test guinea pig for the weekend, and the test boots were done in the Classic model. Liberty is actually a better fit for the Viper model, especially with her toe angle, which is just slightly lower, even with shorter toes. They all stayed on, but we scooped up quite a bit of sand in the washes, and ultimately discovered what we think was the source of her lameness pull: it looked like a small rock had gotten between the captivator and her heel bulbs and created a cut on her coronet band line. When I was poking and prodding her leg, I noticed what looked like a small cut/crease in the area and poked at it, and she flinched a bit…but I figured “surely something so small can’t actually be the cause, right?” Apparently it could. So tough, and so delicate, these creatures. (Which then goes to my own internal debate of “Is it better to have a stoic horse or a wimp? As exasperating as it is sometimes, I’m more inclined to go with ‘wimp’ since they let you know right away if something is bothering them.)
The only thing different was my Irideon Synergy tights…and I love them. Must get more. I was initially worried that the multiple seams would cause some rubbing, but so far, so good. Granted, I would like to take them through a full 25, and a 50, before proclaiming they’re the most awesome end-all, be-all of riding tights…but I’m really liking them so far, and I did some active riding. As well as dealt with part of my sheepskin cover creeping up and bunching up under my leg/seat, and that didn’t cause any rubbing or issues.
However I managed to forget everything I have learned about taking care of myself in my quest to “hurry up and keep moving”. Ate: Nothing along the way. (Fail.) Drank: A few sips of water. (Even more fail.) If I can’t be bothered to fuss with water bottles, I may need to go back to wearing a hydration pack for a while to re-train myself to actually drink. (Running pack is so much better than the old Camelbak…I should try that out riding one of these days.)
“Race brain” doesn’t just happen when you’re “trying to win.” We were not going fast (3 hours to do the 16 mile loop), but I still let myself get sucked into that mentality of “move along , must get down the trail, must not get caught on time” to the detriment of settling in and enjoying the ride.
I had a very enlightening conversation with Bruce Weary at the AERC Convention about learning to relax when you’re in the saddle and how that saddle time is the rider’s time to settle in, let the horse take care of you, make sure you’re hydrating, and not getting to mentally wound up. (Easier said than done.) And then the vet checks are the time for you to take care of your horse…and then once you’re in the saddle and on trail again, rider relaxation time. That’s not something I had every considered — normally I’m the “crash for 30 minutes or however long I have at the vet check” type — probably because Mimi has required a very “on” ride, and I’ve ridden a lot of new/younger horses…so I’ve never learned to relax. (FWIW, a similar thing has been pointed out to me by friends — that I have to learn to relax, go with the flow, and stop being so uptight/controlling/nitpicky when I ride, or I’ll burn myself out on 100 milers.)
Food for thought, and definitely something for me to work on.