Sunday, July 13, 2008

lovely ride on the Big Bay (and a nice day at the horse complex)

Yesterday morning Keil Bay was ready to go back to work, and I decided to put my saddle fit paranoia on the back burner and saddle him up. I had planned to ride with the bareback pad, but the neighbors had all sorts of yard equipment going and I wasn't sure I wanted to be bareback in the arena given the possibility of a spook.

My saddle fit paranoia arose after the chiropractor's visit two times ago, when Keil had some mid-back issues. Given that his saddle was custom made for him and has been regularly checked, it's unlikely there are fit issues. But Keil's saddle fitter is in Australia for the entire month of July, so I haven't been able to get him over here to do a check. We use a different saddle fitter for Cody and the pony, and she'd likely be happy to take a look at Keil - but his fitter is a second-generation saddler who can take one look at the saddle and say things like "are you by chance losing your left stirrup when cantering to the left?" and be right on target. His father fitted Keil's saddle, they sell this particular brand of saddle and are state-wide reps/fitters, and I'm a bit superstitious. So I'm waiting until he returns to get the check done.

I had planned to use the Little Joe until August. But as I said, with all the commotion next door, I decided caution might be in order, so I saddled up, and figured it was a test ride. If Keil seemed in any way sore after, I'd have a bit more info to add to the mix.

My goals for the ride were twofold - I wanted to work on giving the inside rein, and I wanted to work on keeping my legs well beneath me. For Keil, I wanted to see big, reaching strides at the walk and the trot and good forward movement off my soft aids.

I talked this through with the Big Bay while tacking up, and we went in the arena with ears pricked forward and much energy. A good sign.

Keil Bay seemed eager for the ride. He's been off work for a month, and while we've done ground work, and danced together, and explored the labyrinth path, I have not ridden. It was encouraging to see him walk happily to the arena, and to feel him step off with a big stride from the mounting block.

I noted almost immediately that with the focus on keeping my legs in correct position, he was amazingly responsive to the aids. His walk was big and swinging right from the first stride, and stayed that way the entire time. We did lots of walking and changing reins, with me making sure to give the inside rein to him and to keep my legs in place. He was alert, responsive, and clearly felt good.

Toward the end of the ride my daughter did a video so I could check some things. I haven't seen photos of myself riding, much less a video, in awhile, so this was incredibly useful.

I was pleased to see that my legs were steady and quiet. My sitting trot was pretty good. Overall, I was in a good position and not leaning forward. The thing that stuck out were my hands. I've been working on getting them steady and soft. I tend to give away contact in an effort to be soft, and then what happens is my hands move too much. But I can finally begin to work on this now because I've got other issues close to being resolved.

We did some leg yields, reinbacks, and turns on the forehand and haunches. I was thrilled at how crisp and clean many of these were. I'm not sure why it was such a revelatory ride, because the issue with leg placement is not new to me. I suppose it's possible something has shifted elsewhere in my body so I can put my legs back and keep them there. Or the massage may be helping very specifically in this way. I'm not too worried about figuring out why - but am happy one more piece has notched into place.

One of my favorite parts of riding Keil Bay is how mellow and sweet and proud he is as we leave the arena. I always thank him for the ride, because no matter how well or not well it goes, he treats me with respect and accepts my faults with a good spirit. I always loosen the girth when I dismount, and we head to the barn aisle where he stands by the tack room door and allows me to untack him. The hosing off this time of year is really a pleasure after a good ride.

And today, it's Cody's turn!


We had a nice day afterwards at the Equine Extravaganza. There were many clinics and seminars, and tons of vendors, including a number of vendors I've explored online but haven't had a chance to follow through with via telephone. I met and talked with reps about:

split rail fencing and the gate we want for our front drive

Barefoot treeless saddles

Pete Ramey's work (and I finally bought his book about natural hoof care, as recommended by our trimmer, who trained with Pete Ramey)

EquiSpirit easy load horse trailers, which were roomy and very well made

We ran into our pony's breeder and got updates on her family and horses.

We saw a number of Gypsy Vanner painted ponies for sale - my daughter had looked at this breed awhile back and it was amazing to see them in person.

The evening show was... very loud. When I get out to this type of thing, which to be honest, isn't that often, I always get very stressed about the overstimulation and noise and general conditions and how they affect the animals. I'm easily overstimulated, so I feel it very strongly. For the most part, the horses there seemed fine. But there were moments when I worried and knew in my heart that I would never be willing to take any of my horses to such an event.

That said, there were a number of very impressive horses and riders, and I enjoyed the amazing things they did. If I were in charge, I'd turn down the volume quite a bit and create some kind of pasture turn-out for the horses so they could at least have turns being outside in the fresh air while being stabled there.

I was very very tempted by a beautiful red and white polka-dotted halter and lead rope, which I suspect Keil Bay would never forgive me for. There were also halters with matching lead ropes in the most amazing colors, and the halters were so soft to the touch it seemed they'd be like second skin on a horse's face. I am tempted to go back today to buy several - the price was incredible.

Daughter bought clip-on rope reins to use with her pony and halter, and a battery-powered stuffed pony that bucks and rears. We could not resist!


Grey Horse Matters said...

Your ride sounds like it was just wonderful. Isn't that a great feeling when it all goes right.
The Equine Day sounds nice too, and I'm with you it is always too noisy and in my opinion only, the merchandise is usually way over-priced. I'm with your daughter, I would love a Gypsy horse, maybe someday...

billie said...

My daughter has informed me that technically the Gypsy Vanners are horses, not ponies, as I referred to them, so I stand corrected!

However, in my defense, we were looking at 18-hand Percherons and Belgians, so by the time I saw the Gypsies they seemed tiny.

But so very beautiful!

There was one VERY tiny painted mini who was just the color of our painted pony. I could not believe how tiny he was! So we saw the far extreme ends of the size spectrum yesterday.

I generally agree that items are overpriced at these things - the food certainly was - but this time, there were some very good deals. The halters and lead ropes I wanted were under $30 for both! Thankfully, the vendor is online so I can still get them if I decide to. (the price is a little more but I'd have to pay admission to get the sale price locally, so...)

Plus I could not stand the commotion a second day!

Matthew said...

The bucking pony is such a riot!

Reminds me of the little man and Rafer during their "spunky episodes".

billie said...

As you know, the hilarious thing is that she has added her Breyer horse dressage rider to the bucking black pony and called it Mom On Salina.

Not funny!


Victoria Cummings said...

I always learn so much by watching myself ride on videotape. It's such a good way to really get what I'm doing and not doing. Keil Bay is a great horse. I love reading about how he reacts to you. You're obviously his favorite lady. I agree with you about the noise and the horses at those expos. Some are fine with it, but it's distressing to see the ones that aren't.

billie said...

The video really does reveal the truth. I didn't mention that it also set me squarely back on the yoga/Pilates/gym path! Yikes!

I really think Keil Bay has been lucky to have several women adore the heck out of him, and for those that came before me, I'm grateful. He is both stoic and expressive, and forgives the riding faults but greatly enjoys being pampered. I'm lucky to have found him.

Pony Girl said...

It was great to read about your ride. I am curious to hear what your saddle fitter says. He sounds amazing! Imagine the experience he must have to make such quick and accurate assessments!
Sometimes those equine events are loud. Music has become such a part of everyday culture, it can really set a mood. There was a teen clothing store in our mall that blasted music so loud inside you couldn't even walk by oustide let alone go inside and shop. But that was part of the whole "image they wanted to portray. It can be distracting to many, as to horses I'm sure, too. Anyway, I'm babbling....

billie said...

Pony Girl, in addition to being a second generation saddler, he rides polocrosse, and I'm thinking that adds to his expertise. My daughter's eventing trainer was having an issue with her very young OTTB rushing fences, and she had done everything she could to fix it. She was thinking maybe it couldn't BE fixed.

By chance she scheduled a saddle fit check with this man and he asked - is he rushing the fences? And then he adjusted the saddle and had her mount up and jump. The rushing was gone. He's very much in demand around here for English riders.

In a neighboring town that has a huge equine population, there's a very old man who does saddle fitting and repair - you take your saddle to him when you want it checked, along with the pad you last rode with, not washed. He adjusts the saddle based on the pattern of sweat/dirt on the pad. People who use him swear by him.

I've ridden Keil Bay several more times with the saddle and checked his back to make sure he's not sore - so far, he's not. But I'm looking forward to making sure the fit is still good!