"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sunday Snaps: In the Indoor

Today was supposed to be the warmest day of the week, if not the entire month. I knew Sally would be riding both of her mares in the arena, and was expecting every other boarder to show up at the barn to take advantage of the warmth ("warmth" meaning 50 degrees for those of you in places that are really warm right now..) Charles was off work and had offered to come out and take photos! So I decided to be smart and scheduled a ride in the indoor arena next door.

Lily napping on the round bale remnants when I got to the barn today.
See this filthy, mud-crusted sheet? This is what it looked like 2 weeks ago.
I took this photo today. That's this same sheet, after washing. All I did was run it through the washing machine twice with 2 capfuls of Rambo Blanket Wash and cold water. Nothing else. It looks as good as new!
Lily was sleeping on the remnants of the round bale when I went to get her. When she stood up, she looked fantastic: all 4 legs tight. She walked out of the field behind Charles and me looking her usual relaxed but perky self with a nice swinging walk. I was stiff and sore for both of us!

Gotta start working on my own eating and drinking while in the saddle during these longer rides. It wasn't like I didn't have food and water in the saddle bags with me either. I did. It was an epic fail on my part and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been nearly as sore today if I'd hydrated myself appropriately yesterday.

I got Lily ready to go to the indoor. I chose to ride in the Alta Escuela again because it is just so much more comfortable than the Wintec. Don't get me wrong, this particular model of Wintec is comfortable too when compared to other saddles out there. But if I'd ridden in the Wintec yesterday, I guarantee you I would not have been able to ride at all today! The Alta Escuela is so much kinder to my body.

The only changes in tack were the removal of my saddlebags for this shorter ride. I'm also playing with a new bit: a Myler combination bit. It has a ported level 2/3 mouthpiece (Lily prefers ported bits. She hates jointed bits) and 3 rings which allows you to play with leverage.

You can buy it here.
As with most of my more expensive gear I scored it for a fraction of the regular price on eBay. It was brand-new in the package!
Why this bit? It can be used as an all-the-time bit, but it was originally meant for transitioning horses from something like a bosal or sidepull to a bit. It distributes pressure over the nose and chin, and can be set so that there is some poll action too. The entire thing is incredibly adjustable for whatever you want to do: more bit action, more nose pressure, more leverage action or more pressure on the bars (depending on which ring you clip the reins to). I adjusted the nose and chin straps so that there would be more pressure on her nose and less on the bit itself. The more I think about it, the more I would really like to one day be able to transition her to a bitless setup; this bit should technically allow me to transition her backwards into bitless. We'll see how it goes.  I rode her on the trail yesterday with the reins on the second rings and she did great, even stretching down into the contact several times, though I was asking for nothing more than for her to go forward on the trail. I liked that it is milder than the ported kimberwicke we've been using for the last 7 months or so. She fought me less during our brief arguments over speed (she wanted to canter, I wanted to trot), but it initially took more strength to get her to slow down when she got excited. Of course, we just need to work on weaning her off of bit pressure.

I mounted up and we rode over to the indoor, Charles walking along next to us. He's a trooper. It was especially awesome to have him come along because it meant having someone to open all the gates without having to dismount!

We had the indoor completely to ourselves. The owner of the property stopped by to say hello, then continued on his way to clean stalls and feed the horses that they keep in the adjoining barn.

Lily started out very distracted and "up". I think she might have been going into heat with the warmer weather, too. While cantering to the right during our warmup, she actually pulled her old, old stunt of swapping leads and trying to change directions to the left! I halted her immediately, circled her and had her pick up the canter again to the right. She didn't try it again.

Trot warmup
Canter warmup
A break to stretch
She was inverted in this one, but I just love the composition of the photo!
This one was Charles's favorite photo.

Chugging along. She's blinking so it looks like she was trotting with her eyes closed!

Moving into the contact.
This photo is my absolute favorite. It's actually a still from one of the videos.

Hanging out with Charles for a minute; we had taken a water break.

Walking up the bridle path from the indoor. 

We got too far ahead and turned around to meet up with Charles again.

On the way home.

I was astounded by how much horse I had after yesterday's ride. She was riding like she'd just come out of 4 days off of work. I got a massive workout myself keeping her put together during this session; she had so much energy. I need more work! We trotted so much yesterday that today it was a relief to focus on cantering. I'd say about 65% of our workout ended up being at the canter...and she felt like she could canter forever. If she broke the canter, it was because I asked for it or because I unknowingly shifted my weight and she thought I wanted a downward transition. She'd want to go right back into it. This is completely unheard of for this mare. The geotextile footing in the indoor is wonderful and perfectly maintained: there are no hard or deep spots, two things which do happen in the arena at the barn. We were able to work on bend at the canter, spirals, and on simple lead changes, which we hadn't worked on in almost a year. The canter was mostly caught on video, which I will post later during the week.

Lily pranced most of the way home. I was beat, but she still had plenty of energy to burn.

I gasped when I saw the Runmeter reading for today:

That distance!!

12.78 MILES (almost THIRTEEN!!) IN 1.5 HOURS!!! What??!! After thinking about it, I do believe it. We can hit 4.5-5 mph easy doing 50% walk, 50% trot. We did a whole lot of canter work during this session and the rest was trot, so it is totally possible that this really is the amount of ground we covered. I would have questioned it if I hadn't known for a fact that there was good reception in this arena: I was listening to Pandora the entire time without a glitch; this app will not work if there are any phone signal issues.

She broke a sweat during the session, but while eating her beat pulp later her eyes sparkled and she still had a sassy edge. She was not tired.

More bad weather is moving in tonight; it's supposed to be up and down climate-wise all week. Lily will have the next 4 days off to rest. I'm still astounded by her fitness level. It's pretty awesome knowing that I'm the one that has made her this way, that has brought her this far.

Tomorrow I return to the gym!


  1. Really awesome photos. Nice looking horse. I'm really impressed you managed 13 miles in an Indoor arena.

    1. There is a woman in our area who is a hard-core endurance rider; she's competed at Tevis and is ride manager of the Old Dominion Triple Crown. She does mileage training in the arena during the winter time. I couldn't fathom this concept, doing any kind of significant mileage within an arena, until yesterday! I was really impressed too!

  2. 13 miles inside?! That's impressive! And she and you look great! :)

  3. That bit is on my list of things to try actually!

    1. I'd been reading great things about them for a long, long time. It was among our best sellers when I worked at the tack shop!

  4. Whoa she knows how to muddy a sheet doesn't she? :)

    1. Oh man, it's on her list of special talents! haha...

  5. I'm really intrigued by the combination bits. They're on my list of things I want to experiment with. The bit/noseband doesn't get in the way of the halter's noseband? Would it work with a regular halter-bridle? How easy is it to get on/off - plausibly workable with a halter-bridle?

    How do you know what bits a horse likes? It sounds like you have strong feelings about what works and doesn't work for Lily, but I'd love to know how you figured that out!

    1. In this case, I adjusted the halter so it was high enough on her nose so it wouldn't interfere with the bit's noseband. When the bit is set to have more nose action, the noseband will stay in place - you don't have to tighten it very much to get it stay this way; you should be able to slip a finger between the horse's nose and the noseband and between their jaw and the chin strap. This is Myler's handout on how to adjust this specific bit and how it works. It's great because it has photos!:

      It should still work just fine with a regular halter bridle if you have the halter noseband set at the same height on Fetti's face as you would a caveson. Myler recommends loosening the chin strap for placing the bridle/taking it off, but so far, I've just left it at the current setting and she's been fine taking the bit with the chin strap already at the desired setting.

      Ah, Lily and bits...I've never been a big bitless person or I probably would have explored that option a long time ago. Lily has a small mouth - she's a small horse at about 15.1 hh and is very refined and fine-boned. She has a low palate to accompany these features, which made snaffle bits a problem. I've always been a snaffle person, preferring double-jointed snaffles (Dr. Bristols, French links) for my horses.

      Lily did NOT like snaffles. I currently have an arsenal of snaffle bits of every kind you can possibly imagine from my attempts at finding one that she was happy in. She would brace against the bit and invert at any kind of contact while wearing any type of jointed bit. Even when on the lunge with side reins. I had to ride her with a loop in the reins to keep her happy if she was wearing a jointed snaffle. The only two kinds of snaffles she'll tolerate are mullen mouth snaffles or Myler's Comfort Snaffle. If we ever go back into the dressage show arena, she'll be wearing the Comfort Snaffle.

      However, the problem with straight mullen mouth bits is that she will sometimes get her tongue over them. She gets an oral exam every 6 months, with floating once a year; her teeth are in good shape; I have been riding her without a formal noseband for almost 2 years now, so it wasn't a matter of the noseband being tight; I ride with a light contact; no physical issues, etc. We looked at all of this to try to rule out a physical problem and came up with nothing. She was out at her poll during the time I was playing with snaffles; I had her adjusted but she continued with the same overall reaction to jointed bits.

      At a trainer's suggestion, I tried a Spanish curb with a low port on it and to my absolute surprise she was so quiet and relaxed in it. I had thought that Miss Sensitive would hate the leverage action, the curb chain and the port, but she seemed to really like it.

      We experimented with shanked ported bits for a while to figure out what she liked best that was most like the Spanish curb while still being the mildest bit possible. I now own a collection of pelhams because of her. Lol She is still more relaxed, reaching for the contact consistently and staying there, in the ported bits than in the mullen mouth bits even. She prefers a looser chain, otherwise if we get into an argument about speed, she will toss her head violently. The only bits with which she will never toss her head are bits with low ports and very small shanks. The kimberwicke has been wonderful for this. It will probably be her "beginning of the race" bit, but I really liked her reaction to the combination bit so far. Hopefully it works for us. I like the port on this particular model because it is so small, giving her the tongue relief that she seems to prefer while still being low enough to not bump her palate if she decides to argue. I hope this helped answer your questions! :) I'll keep everyone posted on how it goes with this experiment.

    2. The reaction you explained there is the exact reason I tried the Raised Rocking S snaffle. It is ported to allow for the low palette, and jointed so it opens up in the mouth instead of pinching. Ashke loves it, although I may not be able to show in it, which means we don't show. I'm not going to change my bit because the shows don't allow it. I'm more interested in keeping the conversation going with him.

      I have no idea how he will do if we do a 25 this year though. So far, when I am riding out with N and Cali he's listened and let me rate him and that was before we started all of the work in the indoor this winter.

    3. Of course, all of that went out the window when we cantered, but I'm hoping that won't be the case this summer.

    4. I had never heard of the Raised Rocking S snaffle until you mentioned Ashke's in one of your posts; it reminds me a lot of Myler's Comfort Snaffle line. You can get any type rings (loose ring, eggbutt, dee ring, full cheek) with several different types of mouth pieces, ranging from the Level 1/MB 02 mouthpiece, which is dressage legal (http://www.toklat.com/dyn_prod.php?p=89-28026 This is the one I've shown Lily in. It's better than a flat straight mullen mouthpiece, but she still prefers ports) to their ported mouth pieces (http://www.toklat.com/dyn_prod.php?p=89-29145 - very low port; http://www.toklat.com/dyn_prod.php?p=89-22055 - higher port) I'd have an arsenal of just Mylers; I love their bit designs and how kind they are meant to be for the horse. Just wish they weren't so darn expensive!