Sunday, July 13, 2014

Slow & Steady Progress

Well, it seems (knock on wood) that Bastian is back to living up to his Luck Dragon legacy. Things are definitely on the upswing for us. In the past month we've managed to get the majority of his strength back and with all of his parts and pieces feeling 100% he has been giving it 150% in his workouts and all of our hard work is starting to pay off.

We had fun playing hunter horse at the Up & Over show at the Buckeye Horse Park in June, where Bastian strutted his Thoroughbred stuff and earned the Champion Ribbon for the Thoroughbred Not to Jump Division. Since then we've honed in on our weaknesses within the tests and on our basic weaknesses and just schooled, schooled, schooled.

Our biggest 'basic' weakness is straightness. Tawny has me focusing on keeping his shoulders and hips aligned and keeping the correct bend in the rib cage every step of the way and it has truly started to pay off. I am actually feel when he's out of alignment now-not something I could really do before, but all this work has started to make me much more aware of it. So everything we do has to be done straight. Bastian has started to pick up on it to and he has slowly started to correct himself, it's more difficult so if I'm not on the ball then it's usually his left hips that come 'in.'

Our weaknesses in the test are the mediums, extensions and the walk pirouettes. We are making solid progress on our mediums however and we'll just pretend that we're making progress on our I think that particular movement is just difficult for him physically, his stride is naturally a bit more huntery-daisy-cuttery than dressagey, so taking bigger strides and reaching through his shoulders has been a challenge for him. On Friday when I rode, every medium we did felt amazing! I have no idea what they looked like, but he was rocked back on his hocks, he kept his poll steady, he was lifting his shoulder and he was straight. Again, I've gotta give Tawny most of the credit on this one as she has been super focused on that area since I put him back into training with her. Here is a lovely picture of him working to 'extend' those lovely front legs!

Our walk pirouettes on the other hand, well, they aren't small circles anymore! I'm hoping that instead of the 5's I scored before that I can at least bump those up to a 6s. Bit by bit we're getting better and he's been trying his little dragony heart out, making every ride fantastic. In August we're headed to the WPDA Summer Sizzler where we'll be riding our Grade IV Team and Individual tests. I'm excited to see the progress we've made since last year when we scored a 59%.....

Also on the Schedule is a trip to New Alexandra, PA where Bastian and I have signed up to ride in a Symposium with Debbie Rodriguez. I'm totally stoked about going! So although we really aren't competing this year, we are making a ton of educational progress so that we do finally make it to some shows in 2015 we are gonna be ready to rock it.

Finally, an interesting story about Bastian's Neue Schule Bit. I switched him to the Tranz Training Lozenge a few months ago and had noticed a difference in the feel of his mouth. He was softer and there was less movement through his poll, and well he's always been slobbery so not really a big change there. For the hunter show, wanting to 'fit in' aesthetically, I switched to one of my old bits for Bastian, a straightforward French link D-Ring. He was not a happy camper when we schooled in it for 30 minutes, he just wouldn't soften and kept bracing against it. So, long story short, I decided to forego 'fitting in' and switched back to our Neue Schule bit for the rest of the show. In the past I had always switched out bits without there being a noticeable difference in his acceptance of what bit I used. Bastian has become quite communicative in this past year and I tell you what, the more I learn the language the more we continue to improve. If you've been on the fence about trying out a new bit for you horse, I highly recommend the Neue Schule line, they are fantastic. There aren't many North American retailers, but Hastilow Competition Saddlery carries the full line, click here to check them out!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

3 Weeks and Counting...

This Friday will mark the end of a three week period where Bastian has been back to full work. He is such a happy lil' dragon right now. He has even left his precious grass behind and walked down to meet me even though I had no treats to offer him (trust me, he got treats as soon as we made it to the barn, I wouldn't dare to not provide his glorious self with treats). I can add that to my list of things that I love about Bastian. He's pretty straightforward, as long as you listen to him ;)

Thanks to Emily B. for taking care of and riding Bastian while I was away visiting my brother and his family in North Carolina. They really get along great and as we all know, its hard to leave our ponies in just anyone's hands when we can't be there. Emily did a great job with him!

He's gotten his fitness back fairly quickly and now we're just working on rebuilding that lovely hind end that we were working on over the winter. His back has continued to feel good. Unfortunately for me, one of the screws in my dressage saddle was stripped and we were unable to switch out the gullet. So back to the Hastilow shop my saddle went where this totally happened:

Don't worry, they're professionals.....and yes my heart definitely stopped beating for a moment. No one wants to see the Dressage saddle that they know and love in the same photo with a hacksaw....however, all is well and a new screw/part/thingie (technical term) is on its way over from England. Bastian is enjoying his jump saddle, but I am missing my Dressage saddle...

Our lack of dressage saddle has not stopped us from working on dressage-y things. We're working on straight, forward transitions and lateral work. I'm starting to feel like performing lateral work well in a jump saddle should be a Girl Scout patch or something. We're not doing too bad, check out our totally decent shoulder in:

Bastian has really been enjoying his jump saddle because we started actually jumping yesterday. We haven't jumped in months...MONTHS. Granted its just a X-rail, but we owned that X-rail yesterday and today we had an actual jumping lesson and it was fabulous. I was not disappointed by my saddle-I felt very balanced and correct as we tackled the 18" of doom. I look forward to jumping bigger fences as the summer progresses (and by bigger I'm talking 2' to 2'3" -yeah, I'm that crazy ;) ). Bastian is absolutely adorable when he jumps, his ears perk up and you can just feel him get happier. All of our dressage work has definitely paid off, he was super adjustable up to the fence and listened brilliantly to my half halts. We were both quite pleased with ourselves after our lesson today.

This weekend we're headed to the Up & Over show at the Buckeye Horse Park, we're competing in the Flat class divisions and Hunter Hack. There's a Thoroughbred Only Division on Sunday, which I am totally looking forward to. Hopefully at the next show we can actually do the 2' division. I'm pretty much sure at this point that we won't be going to any recognized dressage shows this year, so we're just going to play Hunter Pony a few times and keep our muzzles to the grindstone in preparation for Wellington next year, where we will hopefully be competing in our Second CPED***.

Wish us luck at the show this weekend, we're flying solo! (He's gonna be a fancy hunter.....)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

100,000 Piece Puzzle- -Dressage Horse!

Aye me. "The art of simplicity is a puzzle of complexity." -(Doug Horton)

I know I haven’t been keeping up with my blog, but there isn’t much to report. In fact there is pretty much nothing to report and there will be nothing to report. The past two months have been the equivalent of a long episode of House.

After getting his hocks done, Bastian’s back went wonky. I believe it was due to him getting his back out of whack chiropractic-ly. So I started with getting his saddle fitted, it had been over a year since I had the saddle and flocking checked. There was definitely some improvement and my saddle was due for a re-flocking. I also got him a jumping saddle, a lovely Hastilow Concept Reflex Jumping saddle……a work of art.

Look at that beauty! Its got a Bio-kinetic simatree, an adjustable gullet and moveable thigh blocks. Its amazingly comfortable and I look forward to jumping many tiny fences with You'll have to pardon my black dressage leathers on was the only extra pair I have at the time.

A week or so after getting the saddle adjusted I had the chiropractor out and put a gazillion ribs back into place and made some other adjustments. Bastian was very happy while was working, he kept giving little sighs and licking and chewing. After that he felt better, but he still wasn’t 100%.

Step Three was the Vet. Dr. Hill from Cleveland Equine did a fantastic job evaluating him. I had xrays done to make sure there wasn’t anything more sinister going on in his back and they came back lovely, his vertebrae were perfect. (I know, I’m biased!) If I can figure out how to get the images off of the CD I have, I’ll post pictures of those beautiful bones. I had his back injected and he had four days off.

When I rode him next he felt great, forward, willing to use his back and lift and super responsive to my half halts. Hooray, problem solved right? One would think so and had I not been dumb we might be both be happier now. Well at least I would be, he’s actually been pretty happy. I would have not had the two weeks of worry and depression trying to figure out what else I could possibly do for him and if maybe he just wasn’t cut out for doing dressage. Believe me, if it was a possibility I explored it.

So I’m sure you are all wondering how I could possibly be dumb, right? (that’s sarcasm by the way….) I was checking for back soreness in the wrong way. I learned this because we had a follow-up appointment with the vet yesterday and when she checked for back soreness, there was of course, none. So she asked me how I was checking, I showed her and she very kindly explained that I was doing it wrong. In my defense, I was doing what I have seen everyone else do to check for back soreness. So the lesson here is just because everyone else does it, it doesn’t make it right! Lesson learned.

Bastian has been much happier since getting his back injected. He’s letting me catch him in the pasture again, he is generally just happier when I’m brushing him and wow is he starting to look great on the lunge. That’s all we’ve been doing for the past few weeks aside from the two times that I rode him. I’m anxious to get back to riding though and to break in my jumping saddle over some actual jumps…

In other news, our show season for this summer is pretty much null and void. All the money I had managed to put away to pay show fees this summer was spent on the vet and chiropractor. So I’m hoping to maybe go to the WPDA Summer Sizzler in August, but I’m not holding my breath. I figure time-wise it’s enough to get him to where he physically needs to be in order to compete at 2nd Level. Although this makes me really sad because I love to compete, I’ve made my peace with it.

Through all of this I have to give a huge shout out to the saddle fitters at Hastilow Competition Saddlery. They have been in constant communication with me throughout this whole process. I would send messages about Bastian’s progress or lack thereof and passed along the vet reports and chiropractor reports and we would discuss possibilities and ideas to try and get him back to 100%. That is customer service at its best. I couldn’t be happier with my pair of Hastilow saddles and how much better Bastian moves because of the ability to completely customize the fit. It’s given me great peace of mind to know that I can rely on their skills and professionalism. My horse is not an easy fit and they have worked relentlessly to make sure that he is happy and moving the best he can. If you haven’t contacted them about either a new saddle or getting your current saddle reflocked and checked for fit do it now! Your horse will thank you!!! Not to mention they have huge inventory of used saddles as well and deal with several different brands-not just Hastilow. Their goal is always to provide a proper fit to the horse to make them comfortable and happy in their work.

And I’m going to also suggest that you check out their inventory of Nueu Schule bits-I haven’t had the chance to try out my new bits for my double, but he loves his Tranz Training bit and has become softer and more responsive in the mouth. Seriously they put the Herm Sprengers to shame (in my oh so humble opinion).

These past three months have absolutely driven home the notion that riding is a comprises of many pieces and only when you have them fit together and working smoothly will it work. I count myself lucky that each of the professionals that I have aiding me in figuring out the puzzle that is Bastian are all fabulous. Each one has offered suggestions and when I passed that information on to the others, they took that information and used it to figure out the best way to help Bastian out. This type of holistic approach can be tricky, especially in the horse world. A lot of equine professionals have egos and are quick to blame other professionals. I feel lucky that I have some of the best professionals out there to consult with and that they are putting Bastian's happiness and my peace of mind first. Thank you!!!!

Until next time, enjoy the weather and make sure you get a good roll in when you need it!

P.S. Congrats to Emily and Pursuing A Dream on their very successful first horse show together-a sure sign of great things to come from these two!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Here's what we're not going to do...

Well, we're not going to win an Eq classes. Nor we will even get valid scores in Dressage until we get his wonkiness sorted out.

Bastian and I have been doing some more spring cleaning. He really felt so great last week after his hocks were done that I thought we had really nailed it. Unfortunately that did not last even one day. He was still uncomfortable and just not wanting to move out as much as he normally does. He was still reactive through his back, although he had not been at all reactive on Sunday. So we started by lunging and then I took his saddle back off, felt his back, less reactive-to no reaction so I re-saddled and hopped on for about 20 minutes, however he just felt stuck, especially on his right side. I feel a bit like I am on the verge of finding and hiring an animal psychic to communicate with him and tell me what his issues are. *sigh*

The next day he wasn't any better. I tried to lunge him on Wednesday and he was just wonky. He wasn't lame, but he wasn't right. Thursday and Friday he had off, and then finally on Saturday we took a really close look at his saddle. Emily, one of the saddle fitters from Hastilow came out and after some examination and discussion, added some flocking to the front of the saddle so that it was sitting more correctly on his back and we adjusted the gullet to a narrower version, his back has really changed shape over the past year!! Emily did new tracings of his back and took new measurements, I thought it was interesting that he changed an entire size over the course of a year with all of the more correct work we are now doing. So anyway, he had very little reaction in his back before I rode and there was no change after. Granted I only rode for ten minutes or less and I was trying to be overly conscious about not really sitting on his back, but he definitely seemed happier. She also brought me an awesome jump saddle to try and Bastian seemed to like that even more than his dressage saddle. He really would be so happy as an eventer! LOL.

Bastian also gets beaucoup points because we rode outside in the beautiful sunshine and the gale force winds. It was incredibly windy and although I was looking at everything and just waiting for a spook, Bastian could have cared less, he was mildly tense, but it was because I was tense, not because he was uncomfortable. So there you have it kids, pay attention to the flocking in your saddle and how your horse changes shape, it makes a huge difference. We're still pursuing a few other options in relation to his back discomfort so I need to give it a bit to make sure that we've solved the problem. Unfortunately, I had to take the Lake Erie show off the schedule, no way I'm going to a show with him being less than 100%. So our first show is looking like the WPDA/Grand Haven show in June and possibly the Grand Haven Schooling show in May.

So in the past three (almost four now!) weeks, I have ridden about four times, they haven't been long rides and they haven't accomplished anything more than confirming how Bastian felt on any given day. This is after Bastian and I parted ways, which has left me a little bit hesitant while riding-like I said, I'm looking at everything wondering if he's going to use it as an excuse to express himself rather than just have confidence in myself and in him. So I'm not 100% mentally back yet. Emily did a bit of video for me when I rode and while Bastian looks pretty good (especially considering that I'm not pushing him or asking for anything), he's moving and you can see that he feels comfortable and is willing to lift and use his back, I look fairly horrid. Part of it is three weeks of not riding regularly, we're just sloppy and out of sync, I've been doing exercises at home, but, they do not make up for time in the saddle as any equestrian knows. Part of it is my mental timidness, I'm hunching my shoulders and working my way slowly into the fetal position even though I know better than that. But it was not pleasant. My leg is swinging all over the place and getting in front of me, my hands don't stop moving, my shoulder's are rounded and hunched, my posting looks forced, I'm looking down (he does have cute ears-in my defense). I swear it didn't feel quite as bad as it looks, but I guess that's always the case. I need to have people video me or take pictures more often so I can see what I'm doing wrong and get it fixed. Provided that Bastian is up to it, I plan on making some serious progress in the next few weeks.

Bastian is also super happy to be naked. This weather has been great! (I'm ignoring the snow that is forecasted for tomorrow!)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Spring Cleaning

Spring has finally arrived. For Bastian and I, March came in like a lamb and has gone out like a lion. We've been making some tremendous progress towards mastering 2nd Level. He's getting so much stronger, balancing back more and lifting those magnificent shoulders of his. Our turn on the haunches is getting cleaner and his barely-trot-lengthenings are actually becoming lengenthings and dare it say it, (dare! dare!) mediums. He has been loving his Neue Schule Tranze Lozenge Bit (which we got from my amazing sponsor Hastilow Competition Saddlery!!!) If you haven't checked out the info and research that has been done by the Neue Schule Bit Company, I highly recommend it. I just ordered the new bits for my double- they make a Weymouth just for Thoroughbreds!! Woot!

However, March was not without its difficulties. They were all linked together and has reminded me of how Bastian communicates. As long as I listen he'll remember to be the loveable dragon I've know for the past 10 years, although he maybe needs to simmer down a bit since his method of communication can be a bit, well, painful.

On a particularly windy and dismal day, Bastian and I had a rough time. Every know and again he gets a bit looky and his looky-ness is generally related to him not feeling 100%. I make it a regular habit to check is back for soreness and like all good horsewomen, check his legs and just generally make sure he's well. So I didn't find anything amiss before I got on. However, for whatever reason he decided to be a complete asshat that night. Everything was going great then he spooked at the wheelbarrows (which have been in the same corner for the past six months that we have been riding in the indoor). He did his classic duck and spin move, which I've gotten fairly good at riding, except for this time. He went left, I went right, my foot got hung up in the stirrup for about fifteen feet as he bolted until my leather slid off the stirrup bar (always ride with those down kiddos!) So I can now officially cross "having been dragged by a horse" off of my list. So I get back on, things are going pretty well-I'm not gonna lie, I was giving the wheelbarrows at the other end of the arena a wide berth- and I felt him starting to get tense again, we cantered by X on a circle and he pulled the move again and I completely gave up on him. I'm as much to blame for the second time as he was. So long story short (too late!) we had a glitch in the matrix moment, he went left and went right again. As in right into the dirt. I haven't been dumped more than once in one ride/day since I rode a lovely school horse at Wilson named Snoe-she had a penchant for dumping riders who got ahead over jumps and that was pretty much my cardinal jumping sin. I got on a third time, cantered (or loped, I was keeping him sooooooooo slow) one more circle to say that we did it and then I got off. Aside from a few sweet bruises and having to replace my helmet, no harm done.

Tawny was scheduled to ride him the next day and from the text I got afterwards, he was a complete BUTT. :( The next two days, he won't let me catch him in the pasture. He walks away from me and makes me chase him down through the muck and the mud. That right there is Bastian-speak for "something hurts and I don't feel good." I found a little bit of discomfort right over his hips, but only before we rode, after we rode he was completely fine through his back. So we did the lunging to warm up thing so that until he got his muscles loosened up I wouldn't be on his back making anything worse. Tawny rode him again and he was just being a butt again, so the decision was made to just lunge him until I could get some maintenance done.

So Bastian got his teeth done, and the dentist said they definitely needed it so that could have been causing him some discomfort and caused him to pull his shenanigans. I had also already started making plans to get his hocks done before all this craziness started, so Cleveland Equine came out and injected those puppies this past Monday. Bastian has been on stall rest since then (he finally gets to go back outside tomorrow!). Today was his first day back to riding, just 15 minutes walk and trot only. So perhaps against better judgment (and yes, there is a huge flow chart that goes into whether or not I get on my horse's back each time I ride) I took his new hocks for a test drive tonight. And I was rewarded by an amazing ride on the Dragon that I know and love. There wasn't anything particularly fantastic about his quality of movement-I didn't push him at all, we were going for calm- but he was unbelievably well behaved.

I was expected some fire breathing and just a general feeling of him being higher than a kite having been trapped in a 10X10 for four days. He was super lazy....I had to push him to get a nice swingy hunter trot and as soon as I started to half halt to transition he was walking. He didn't look at anything (I was looking at stuff, waiting for him to find an excuse to spook). So there you have it, Bastian-speak for "all is right in my body now." I know to listen to my boy, but I guess I needed to refine my listening skills. The only times he is every bad is when he is uncomfortable. Granted, he needs to maybe give me a bit more of a chance to translate the Bastian to human, its not like he comes with subtitles. ;)

So here we are. The last bit of spring cleaning we need to do is to get new shoes for the B-man. I'm hoping I can make it into the Lake Erie College Prix de Villes show at the end of April so we can get started on earning our Second Level scores. I want another week to make sure we've addressed all of his issues and then I'll send my entry in. Unfortunately, since its a team competition, teams get the first priority. If we don't make it in, our first show will be the Grand Haven Schooling show in May. Did I mention that I'm anxious to go to a show? He just feels so much more amazing than last year, I can't wait to get some judges perspective on him.

The final piece of good news is that towards the beginning of the month (on a really good day) Tawny was riding Bastian and she got a successful flying change each direction with him. He's got a super solid counter canter and very few people have been able to get a flying change on him, including a BNT-who was awesome enough to not push the issue and say he just wasn't ready for it. Which he wasn't, he wasn't strong enough or straight enough in the canter. So this gives me hope for getting to 3rd level this year and earning my last two scores towards our Bronze medal. I never thought I would get there on Bastian and I am humbled and excited that we're doing this together piece by piece.

Fingers crossed we get into the Lake Erie show!!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Schedule

February was a short month, but I hadn't realized that I hadn't blogged since the end of January and now its March....

Its been a weird month weather-wise and unfortunately my work schedule has also been a bit non-cooperative, something that I hope changes this month. Something that will have to change this month. I've had Bastian in training with Tawny and he is getting much stronger and of course, much smarter. He's really such an amiable guy. His steadiness through the poll has increased exponentially and he's pushing off more strongly from the hind legs, not to mention that we've made some great progress (thanks again to Tawny) in our turn on the haunches. I'm anxious to get to a show and see how we score with all of our new skills ;) I had aspirations of going to the Chagrin Schooling Show today, but when I woke up to snow and sloppy roads, I was glad that I hadn't signed up and didn't have to go! The new plan is to start in April....

Which leads into my show schedule for the year....drumroll....


13th: Chagrin Valley Farms-Schooling


10th: Grand Haven Schooling Show

31st: BHP Hunter Show


7-8: WPDA/Grand Haven Recognized-2 Shows

21-22: LEC Dressage Derby Recognized- 2 Shows


6th: Grand Haven Schooling

19-20: NODA Recognized Show - 2 Days


9-10: WPDA Summer Sizzler Recognized

24: Grand Haven Schooling


7th BHP Hunter Pace

I have yet to find a Schooling event that fits into the schedule so I may have to forgo that this year and just stick with the odd hunter show (weather permitting!). With the crazy weather and my work schedule, I think my horse is a bit fitter than I am at the moment, he's getting more consistent work than I am!

Aside from hashing out my show schedule for the year I spent the day working on my art project: Ribbon Jars. I really like the idea and have wanted to try it for a while and so today I bought two "jars" and took care of Goldie's and Melvin's ribbons with fabulous results. Here they are:

This is Goldie's, the three other panels are completely open, I'm really happy with how it turned out!

And Melvin's:

I've got Bastian's ribbons sorted and ready to go, I just need to get jars for them, I'll be sure to post pictures when I get them done!

Finally, a Hastilow Competition Saddler will be in the area in March-contact them to set up an appointment whether you are looking to get a new saddle or just have your current saddle checked and reflocked, they are super knowledgeable and friendly to boot!

A brief update all in all, spring is almost here which means its almost show season! Bastian and I are really looking forward to this year and can't wait to show with Emily and her new horse, Padrick. While Emily was horse shopping, she was riding Bastian in lessons and they made a pretty good team.

Good Luck to both Emily and Norah at IEA Regionals next weekend!!!!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

AETA Adventures!

Another "Snow Day" another blog post....

While I haven't been getting as much riding in due to the cold temperatures as I would like, Bastian and I are making slow and steady progress. We even did some jumping and once we got our head in the game and I sent him forward in front of my leg instead of closing my eyes and curling into a ball of ineffective nothing-ness it was amazing. He was definitely happy to pop over that crossrail. (yes, I was nervous about jumping a crossrail...I've got a lot of jumping baggage!).

On the dressage front, he's getting steadier through the poll, more in tune to my half-halts and I'm getting better at not going to my reins first. I'm not gonna lie, I've been a little unmotivated to go out when the weather is less than 10 degrees so I'm not getting in as much practice as I want, but the when its that cold both of us just never really get warmed up enough. So I've been trying to keep busy with other things. This past weekend I headed to Philadelphia for the AETA (American Equestrian Trade Association) Expo to hang out with Team Hastilow. AETA was awesome, I got to meet some amazing people and talk to them about the amazing products that they have developed for the Equestrian World.

Here are Bastian's top AETA picks. I'm not kidding, you NEED to check these products out!

#1 The Spine Free Saddle Pad developed and sold by Hastilow Competition Saddlery.

The design of this pad is really ingenious, it is created so that there is no pressure placed on the horse's spine when it is used. Hastilow did their research and put that data into practice to create this pad. Here is a link to their blog where they explain all about pressure on the horse's back: Hastilow Blog . Further, they wash and wear FANTASTIC. Because of the way that they are stitched, the pad doesn't shrink and pucker the way that many saddle pads do when they are washed. I'm never a happy camper when my saddle pads start to curl...they usually get tossed when that happens. Lastly, (and this is I think a huge selling point), the pad is only $55. Definitely affordable.

#2 The GoVelope developed and sold by Giddyup Gear

This innovative cell phone holder is definitely what the horse world needs. Cell phones have become just as important to equestrians, whether we're checking scores at a show or texting the member of our group who drew the short straw and had to go get everything that we forgot in the trailer and letting them know that they need to grab a few more things, we need our cell phones to be handy and convenient. Personally I've been searching for a cell phone holder that works with whatever I'm wearing and keeps my phone safe from dust, dirt, and moisture. Those lovely leather cases designed for business people could not hold up to the sitting trot or to Bastian's antics when he decided to throw in a buck or two. My phone would end up in the dirt. Those fun coloured neoprene ones are no longer large enough to fit my smartphone, so those aren't an option. The GoVelope is amazing, the industrial strength Velcro that attaches it to your belt loops is phenomenal, I don't think even a velociraptor could tear this thing off. The zipper works with just one hand, meaning I can keep a hand on my reins or lead rope or bucket of water, etc. and still manage to answer my phone. Its water resistant. So I can be out in the weather with it, or fall off in a puddle of mud and my phone is still safe and dry. It comes in fun colours, I got the grey (Pewter on the website!) but definitely plan on picking up a navy in the future. Not only does my huge Samsung Stratosphere with its protective cover fit in my GoVelope, but it was a convenient place to keep my cash as well.....the uses just keep piling on! They retail for about $55. You might be thinking, 'ah, hey, yeah, that's a bit pricey...' and all I can say is stop and think about it. This is meant to last forever, not a $15 case you have to buy year after year. The materials are awesome, not only is the fabric AND zipper water resistant, but there is this grippy stuff on the back that helps to keep it from sliding around. Futhermore, think of what you spent on your fancy Otterbox to keep your precious iPhone in. That was pricey and you probably didn't even think twice. So don't think twice here either. Get one. (just so you know, that's Bastian talking there. He has this weird idea that they would be better served for holding treats and sugar cubes...he's such a food junkie). Did you buy one yet? ;)

#3 KBF99 Horse Health Revolution Brushes

I am very picky about my brushes. Its hard for me to buy new ones because I have to LOVE it in order to buy it and right now I love my brushes, but they are starting to show their age. I'm also not usually a fan of synthetic brushes (ie: I do not care for the Oster brushes) but after learning about these and hearing some first hand testinmonials, I'm 100% sold. The bristles actually kill germs, therefore helping to eliminate incidences of rainrot and other germ and fungus related problems. Science has never been my strong point so I'm just going to direct you to their webpage and read about it yourself: KBF99 Webpage. I've got a set on order for Bastian and can't wait until they arrive. Hastilow Competition Saddlery will be selling them soon, so when you contact them about saddle fitting or to buy your spine free pads, be sure to order a few KBF99 Brushes for your grooming kit.

#4 Stay-on Poultices

This product may be the best thing since sliced bread and peanut butter came together. I'm a poulticer, I poultice every night at horse shows and after hard workouts at home. Its a bit of necessary evil. I love the benefits of poulticing, but I hate the messiness. It gets everywhere, and my horse gets it all over himself, it will be around his eye, in his mane, through his get the picture. These, however, give all the benefits of poulticing without the mess. Amazing!! They offer three different 'formulas' to choose from. You want more you say? Okay, here you go. They stay moist longer than traditional poultice, which we all know is the key to an effective poultice. Once the mud dries, there ain't nothing happening. They can be put in hot or cold water depending on what it is you are trying to treat/accomplish. They can be laid across the horses back if your horse has a sore back (and if your horse is sore because of an ill fitting saddle, contact Hastilow!!). They make an awesome foot wrap-no more soaking for abscesses, this boot has got it going on. There are some great videos on their website as well. While I'll still use my traditional poultice on my horse on a regular basis since he is on field board (I poultice him and turn him out, no wraps), at horse shows this is what I'm using. No mess, no scrubbing mud off every morning...I can't wait! They retail for $15 for a four pack.

#5 The Lovely Range of Products from Equi-Spa

I bought several bottles of good stuff and got samples of everything else. These smell heavenly and are going to get a lot of use in my grooming caddy during show season. I'm super excited about the sample of the sheath cleaner I got as well as the sample of the Cooling Tea-Tree Gel. I used a bit of the Tea-Tree on my own knee last night (I slipped and twisted it on Christmas Eve and it is taking its own sweet time in healing) and It made a huge difference. I can't wait to use it on B, I know that he will love it. I also can't wait to use the Grapefruit Coat Refresh. I currently use Miracle Groom and while I like the results I am not a fan of the smell. I also like the idea of using it between classes at a horse show. There is always that accumulation of dust that you just can't get off between classes at a show. The spray on Cool Muscle Wash-awesome! I can really target specific muscles and again, I think Bastian is going to love it. He likes his grooming/spa time and I'm excited to be able to pamper him a bit more. Check out their website to order!

Well, those are Bastian's top five picks. There were a lot of great new products to be seen as well as subtle changes to beloved brand names (Getting to see the Kerrits fashion show was a personal highlight-I love Kerrits!). On top of all that I got to spend time with my amazing sponsor, Hastilow Competition Saddlery, and have the opportunity to learn even more about their great products. I have to say that despite my horse's difficult shape, I love the fact that when we go to horse shows, I am one of the few riders that has a saddle that fits my horse without having to use any special pads. My saddle fits my horse's entire back, not just the withers and I have the master fitters at Hastilow to thank for that. I was amazed at the improvement Bastian started making once we got a saddle that he was comfortable in and that fit him. It truly does make a world of difference, so if you want your equine partner to be comfortable and able to perform at their best, be sure to get in contact with them and set up a saddle fitting appointment.

Here's to warmer weather!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Happy New Year!

Bastian is celebrating a Happy New Year and looking forward to an amazing 2014. With the frigid weather we are experiencing tonight and tomorrow, we ended up with a "snow day" at school. I can't say that I'm actually a fan, I mean it's not like the school isn't heated...but before I dip into the "back in my day kids went to school no matter what the weather is" diatribe (and yes, I think I am officially old enough to start using that line), I do have to say that I am excited by the fact that I get to sleep in tomorrow before I wake up and start reading *hopefully* brilliant essays on Arthur Miller's The Crucible.

2013 in Review

2013 was loaded with some amazing awesomeness and some harsh realities. I managed to coordinate a cross country journey for my horse, myself and two extraordinary friends to compete in my first CPED*** Dressage show with Bastian. The experience was wholly worthwhile, if still disappointing in the fact that we were prepared to compete at the Grade III level and I was reclassified as a Grade IV. The reclassification wasn't the disappointment, it was having spent an obscene amount of money to basically "school" my horse at a show in California since neither of us were prepared to perform 3rd Level movements. I'm proud that I was able to eek out my required 60% score in front of three international judges having never schooled things like trot or canter half passes, extended gaits, and canter to halt transitions. Not to mention completely rewriting my freestyle the day before the competition and going in and riding it without ever having practiced it before. And I would be remiss if I did not mention the amazing people I had the opportunity to meet, I will be following their progress closely and cheering for them all the way, when they are competing at the WEG, I'll turn into a total name dropper and be like "oh I know them...." :) I think this will be a great year for Team USA!

After California, back home and recooperated from our trip, Bastian made huge progress and we handily earned the scores we needed at 2nd Level for our Bronze Medal along with earning our qualifying scores for Regionals. Unfortunately Regionals did not happen due to a myriad of reasons, but it worked out all for the best. Bastian was contending with some sort of muscle soreness from playing rough in the pasture and I was already overbooked between my full time job, my part time job and full time graduate level college courses. September and October was time off that we both evidently needed despite my protestations. November came and we started to get back into the groove of things, regular rides and Bastian felt excellent and bouncy again. Progress. December was more getting back into the groove, long and low, building up muscle, developing impulsion, steadiness, straightness. Things were back to normal and we could start looking forward again, developing a plan of attack for the big bad 3rd Level that we need to conquer. :)

The unfortunate reality of the situation is that France in 2014 for the WEG is completely out of the question. Being reclassified plays a big part in this, in order to be competitive as a Grade IV, Bastian and I need to be scoring well at 4th Level. I'm at a huge disadvantage in that I lack the financial backing that I need in order to compete at the FEI level (and those that helped me I give my whole-hearted thanks, I could not have done what I did without out it!) however the majority of the financial onus rests on me and it is not something that my pocketbook can take. Bastian is a lovely horse and I positively adore him, but we're going through this together, he learns as I learn, I've noticed that many Para horses tend to be trained through Grand Prix or higher, we're simply not there yet. Eventually, yes, but right now no. Being named as a member of the team means that the selection committee feels you have the ability to bring home a medal, to do better than the riders sent by the other countries. That's not us right now, no matter how much determination I have, how much I want it, and how much I have sacrificed for it. It sucks, but that's the reality.

So what does all this mean? It means that right now we're focusing on mastering 3rd Level, earning our Bronze Medal, aiming for Regionals at the Kentucky Horse Park next fall and keeping our nose to the grindstone. I'm going to enjoy 2014 and be proud of the fact that when we get to 3rd Level and continue on to 4th Level that I got there through hard work and Bastian and I did it together with the guidance of fabulous instruction of my trainers. I'll be the one putting the miles in the saddle and the time into the schooling that brings us there and that is something that I cherish now and will continue to cherish.

What's in Store for 2014...

Well, 2014 did not start out as auspiciously as I had hoped. Through no fault of Bastian or myself, while we were enjoy our first ride of the New Year and happily cantering Bastian exhibited a display of intense gracefulness tripping over his own feet sending us both into the fluffy arena dirt. Luckily, no harm was done aside from my reins ending up in three pieces and the intense amount of arena dirt that ended up in my eyes and mouth. Seriously, chunks of dirt were oozing out of eye until Thursday night...eeewww.
Here is my helmet after the fall, now imagine that much dirt covering my entire left side. I'm hoping this means that it's out of the way for the year and I won't have any more falls. It also made me realize that 2013 was the first year ever where Bastian and I never parted company.

Never fear. The next two days were amazing. I had two lessons with Tawny (my first lessons since early September) and aside from being pleased with how good Bastian felt, Tawny helped me figure out our straightness issues going to the left and had me getting him round, light and fluffy and, drumroll please..... straight! Bastian is a squirrely little wriggle-worm and I've got to really concentrate on where his haunches and shoulders are. Getting him moving straight and square is the key to developing better collection and getting the points we need to compete with the more naturally gifted warmbloods we'll be facing more often at 3rd Level. We have to be precise and correct.

Other goals include mastering our flying changes-a movement that is pretty much the bane of my existence right now, Bastian is a counter-canter extraordinaire and has so far proven fairly resistant to complying with the idea of a flying change. But I'm not worried, we'll get it, and with our flying changes will come the remaining two scores I need in order to earn my Bronze Medal with the USDF. Regionals is in the mix too, showing at the Kentucky Horse Park is amazing and Bastian likes it there. I'm hoping we get to ride in the Rolex Arena again, he was a big fan of the footing there. Aside from that I just want to master 3rd Level and improve my riding.

I was invited to attend AETA in Philadelphia, PA by my sponsor, Hastilow Competition Saddlery and am definitely excited to attend, if you're going be sure to stop by their booth and introduce yourself and to check out their amazing saddles, bridles and other tack. I adore my Concept Dressage Saddle and so does Bastian! They have trained and qualified saddle fitters that will work with you and your horse to meet all of your needs. Be sure to check out their website.

And finally, thank you to the 7864 people that have read and visited my blog. :) I'm working on updating my website as well so be sure to check it out soon. Until next time, Bastian says stay warm!