Canter & Candor

Canter and Candor; an honest account of an amateur equestrian and her life with an OTTB


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Sneaky C: Artful Evasions

Oh, C. Why must you be so sneaky?

Yesterday was another helpful lesson with N– my first time jumping in a month and 8th time total with C (yep, you read that right, discounting the occasional single crossrail I’ve only jumped C 8 times since I bought him). Needless to say, it took a couple crossrails to get me feeling like I had any knowledge whatsoever of jumping.

jump fail for blog

r my heels ok?/??

We did a lot of trot in – canter out crossrails and a couple verticals, and a 2′ oxer (whee!). Most importantly, we nailed down how C’s been evading trotwork with ninja kicks. He strikes out sideways with his hind legs, effectively swinging his butt across to the side, and I didn’t quite realize what an impact it was having. Thank the lord for attentive trainers; N noticed right away that what C was doing was displacing me, pitching me forward with his booty bumps and erasing any collection or contact I had prior, reverting us back to long and flat and horrible. So N gave me a couple ideas to keep me in position when he’s gearing up to kick out– get stronger and taller through my core, keep my elbows flexing but at my sides, and maintain the aids so he can’t effectively blast through them.

And it worked! Obviously, Rome wasn’t built in a day and C won’t stop booty bumping me out of the contact in one lesson, but it’s good to know what I can do to get more genuine work out of him for our flatwork days, and push through the evasions.

Once we had that figured out, it was only some of my more pressing flaws. I have a bad tendency to keep my ankles, elbows, and wrists pretty stiff. My elbows and wrists should be flexing and ‘giving’ with C’s movement, while I should be sinking into my heels and letting my ankles flex, too. N repeated this mantra (very patiently) over most of the fences and by the end of it I felt like my heels were ten times better than the start. I’ve always had problems with my elbows in riding, so it was good to get another set of eyes on it again and start re-encouraging me to flex them, but not to give completely to C getting heavy in my hands (remember ZAS? Yeah, that). The last topic we broached was my release, or lack thereof, but all that took was a reminder to grab a bit of mane and it pretty much stuck (mostly because the difference was astounding immediately, so I think the importance of it kinda pressed on me).

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Precious little horse

C’s job for this lesson was trotting in at an even tempo (assisted, of course, with my posting), staying in front of my leg, and putting in an ounce or two of effort over the jumps. He did pretty well overall! N put down a pole in front of the trotted jumps to give a guideline for finding the distance and staying organized instead of rushing. C was definitely excited to be jumping again and I did quite a few circles to remedy this, and ensure he wasn’t rewarded for taking off towards them.  For the most part, we wanted to trot the jumps, but N told me the most important part was the rhythm. Either we had to approach at a bouncy, forward trot (tic, toc, tic, toc) or approach at a bouncy forward canter (one and two and one) but never rushing and never disorganized.

For the most part, I wanted to approach at the trot as it’s easier to regulate rhythm and remind C not to rush. After the lesson was nearly finished, though, N directed us to canter a vertical fence with fill and it went like a dream. C was more relaxed than at the start, responsive to my half-halts, and didn’t throw me out of the saddle; my ankles were flexed and my heels down, and my hands were forward and in his mane for the release. It felt monumentally better than the first couple sort-of awkward fences, and I couldn’t be happier with the lesson. I felt as though I learned so much in that one span– obviously it’s not permanently fixing everything N brought up, but it’s a good start.

Also, I’m a bad person and the sports psychology post isn’t finished. Also I have no new photos. Love me!

— M


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Settling In & Show Name Brainstorms

Hi guys! So, I admit to lying again. The sports psychology post is (still) not finished. It’s not even that long, I just need more time to edit and clarify some of my thoughts and it’s taking me ages. Anyway, you can expect it in a day or two, I’m guessing, but I’m not setting anything in stone in case I compulsively edit everything again– it’s a fun life being a perfectionist!

Anyway, this post will be about the last two days with C. New trainer (N) has been working with me on longeing techniques, and I’ve already learned so much about positioning, tone, and laying down the rules that C is expected to follow. Namely, don’t buck/kick/trot until he’s a good distance from me, and step up when I ask, but N said that the down transitions are simply offers for him. If he feels like he still needs to expend energy, we shouldn’t reinforce the down transitions because we’d rather he do it on the longe than under saddle.

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Am I done yet?

After a (very long) longeing session, C finally settled down enough for me to get on. N offered to get on first and ride through the first few antics but I wanted to re-establish everything with C that we had before my three-week break. It was mostly good, but C was understandably wired and felt like a loaded gun the entire time. We only had a few baby spooky moments, which was fine because it’s a new place and he wasn’t ridden much while I was away. By the end we had him working on my rhythm, listening for the most part, and evaluating things instead of spooking at them right off the bat. By the end, C was soaked in sweat– I have honestly never seen him that sweaty, ever, and he did most of it before I even got into the saddle!

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Cooling off after hard work

Yesterday, he was amazing, but I’m thinking it was only because he was so tired from the day prior. He honestly kept longeing himself, even when we offered down transitions. We had amazing canter work– I felt very in tune with him, though his trot work was arrhythmic and a little all over the place. I did make him do some quality work before we stopped, and I think he’ll be back to his usual self soon.

He’s settling in better than I could’ve hoped, maintained his appetite, and loves watching all the cars and trailers and people go by his stall. The new stall is solid-walled so it has better protection from the wind, so no double-up on the blankets is nice and convenient! I’ve done working student jobs for two days, and it’s exhausting, but definitely worth it to pay off lessons. All over, not much to report except that C is finally settling down.

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I’m pretty happy with his body condition right now! His withers really popped while I was gone– he’s 16.1 hh!

On a different note, I wanted to get some opinions on show names for the baby horse! I’m not the hugest fan of his JC name. It’s not bad, but it’s not my favorite; I’m just very ambivalent towards it. I’ve always loved the one-word names, snappy and catchy, like Shutterfly, Flexible, Hickstead, Valegro, etc. Medium length, a nice sound to them… you catch my drift. So when it came to brainstorming C’s future show name I knew kind of what I wanted, but I also wanted it to make sense, and connect in some way with his barn name (Cori). Ultimately, I’ve been thinking about this since I bought him, and I thought about Encore but it’s a name shared by many, many USEA horses. And then I came up with one I’m feeling pretty good about, but I want your opinions!

What I’m leaning towards is “Chromatic“. I’m not sure what I like so much about it– I think the ‘C’s make it sound really sharp, and he is a chrome-y boy, but I’d love some opinions!

Hopefully I’ll finish up that post in a day or so… stay tuned!

— M


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Happy 4th Birthday, Baby Horse!

Technically yesterday, but it’s been madness since I left for (a very emotional) trip to England. I officially got back Monday and I’ve been in the process of writing a very long, but, I hope, very interesting post inspired by a podcast. But more on that later– probably Sunday, if all goes as planned!

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handsome birthday boy in his new digs

But anyway, yesterday was C’s birthday and his second day in the new barn. He was very tired and nonchalant on day one, was excellent for the trailer ride, drank a gallon of water, and fell asleep. Yesterday he was very alert, high as a kite, with lots of sideways skitters and little leaps as I was handwalking him. Right now I’ve just been walking him around in hand, because this place is absolutely massive in comparison to our old facility. There are always horses being ridden, longed, trailered, led around the barns… and cars, tractors, and trucks driving almost constantly in and out.

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roundpen soup

Which, all things considered, is an awesome experience! Lots of commotion means he’ll be better adjusted when we head out to shows. It just means his adjustment period might take a bit longer, and because of how fresh he was yesterday, I asked N (new trainer) if we could longe him together, work on his longe manners a little and in general just have someone experienced around in case C decided to be special. As it turns out, he kind of was, so I’m glad she was there. He had a lot of energy to expend, which I expected given the new environment and essentially a 2-week vacation.

Once he settled down, he was very well behaved and stretched a bit, though still had a few ‘moments’ with horses walking by (one with a mounted rider?! WHAT?? He’s never seen that before!). Tomorrow I’m going to hop on him for the first time in 3 weeks! I can’t believe it’s been so long and I’m just itching to be back in the saddle and working with my lil’ monster again.

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is that… another HORSE?!

Yesterday was his real birthday/foaling day, so he’s officially four! Time really does fly when you’re doing flatwork. Anyway, thus far I really love the new place– feeding is 3 times a day (huzzah!) and they grow fodder that you can replace a flake with every day. I worked a day, so I can say the horses here are taken such good care of. If there’s no turnout, they’re handwalked or turned out in the arenas with supervision by the working students. Blanket changes, graining, and lots of ‘extras’ are included, plus I’ve been given the opportunity to work off some of the board or lessons as a working student so I’m thrilled! The arenas are just as beautiful as they are in pictures, and there’s plenty of space to longe and ride. Plus, everyone’s been incredibly nice so far– I have to say I wasn’t expecting it because it’s such a huge facility that, if people wanted, they’d have an excuse to keep to themselves. But even when I was working, everyone was helpful and chatty and just lovely overall, so I’m very optimistic.

Tomorrow is our first lesson with N and I’m excited to have her see how she goes– but also a little nervous, because I don’t think he’s been worked properly in some time. Anyway, I’ll make a post about it tomorrow.

Oh, and… guess who I ran into at the new place?

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cute as ever

Yep, Danny! If you haven’t read my “Two-Legger” page yet, this is my old lease horse from five years ago. I think it’s crazy that I found him again after all that time! His new owner is incredibly sweet and said I can hop on him any time– apparently, he’s still afraid of flower-boxes and won’t jump anything with fill, and after spending a few minutes with him, I can tell his personality hasn’t changed a bit. He’s 14 now! Holy crap!

I feel old. I do, after all, now have a 4-year-old child.

— M


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The Core of My Problems

Hey guys. I’ve safely arrived across the pond and am currently traipsing around the Yorkshire dales in pouring rain. I assume C is doing well– no updates yet but I plan to harass the lovely folk riding him for them soon. With no access to pony, I’m spending some time reviewing videos and pictures from this past year.

So this is me (mid-Dec).

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Let’s talk about it.

I’m one of those people who, on the rare occasion I have video, I watch it a zillion times and freeze it at every point over the jump to see where my position is at. It’s not the best way to approach my faults, but I freely admit to being a nitpicker and this is how I cope with it in my riding. Once I’ve found a frame I don’t like, I analyse it and then go compare it to any other videos I can find– which I also freeze, screenshot, and compare.

When I first stumbled across this little gem, I think I threw up a little in my mouth. Once I did a little more research, I understood a little more why I felt so horrible about it, and also why it’s not all bad.

Good points:

  1. I gave him his head. It’s not a pretty release, but at least my hands aren’t tucked into my armpits! I’m not bopping him in the mouth, but there’s enough contact to re-organize after the jump.
  2. My heels are down. I struggle hard with this over bigger fences, so it’s good to see it’s still in place over smaller ones. This also means I probably haven’t slammed all my weight into his back.
  3. I am balanced in the stirrups. You know what they say– if you erase the horse from a photo, the rider should be in a position where they’re be balanced standing on the ground (and yes, I am crying laughing at this picture).
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#NAILEDIT

Bad points:

  1. I still bopped him in the back, right where the cantle of the saddle hit me. I think this is mainly because he jumped bigger than I expected, but is still problematic.
  2. My core has completely collapsed. This is my biggest issue with the snapshot, and I think my biggest overall. It’s why one of my primary resolutions is to improve my core strength. I need to be able to hold myself more efficiently.

Here are some shots of me and people in the same post-jump position. Intro, BN, Training, and Intermediate consecutively.

Compare the position of my midsection/abs to those of the competing riders’. My body has caved in– my torso and shoulders are straining forward for the release, and my hips have been flung back with the motion of the jump. As we can see, the set-back hips are pretty typical of a defensive eventing position. Which, overall, is good for me because I started out with a tendency to lean, which is a tendency I’m still working against. And I’m giving a decent enough release. So upper half and lower half? Decent! Workable! Better than okay on a green, athletic, huge-jumping C!

But that core? Oh, nuh-uh.

Guys, I see pilates in my future. And a lot of no stirrups work.

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C laying roses on my legs’ grave

— M


9 Comments

Holy Athleticism, Batman!

I really wish I had video for you guys! Unfortunately I don’t, so my words and more pictures of C’s schnoz will have to suffice.

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and you know my supply is unlimited

Sunday I hopped on C and he was even more of a terror than the previous rides. So rather than sitting through it as I had a couple rides prior, I texted the barn’s resident sticky-seat kid, who rode C when he first came to the barn. At first I was worried the naughtiness was all in my head, but when he started the same things with her, I could see it from the ground. Cue simultaneous horror/relief! Anyway, she schooled him for a good twenty minutes. The basis of it was showing him how hard his life could be if he kept being naughty, and thereby demonstrating just how easy it could be if he cooperated. By the end he was behaving himself a bit better, and she popped him over a jump or two. Ever since he nearby faceplanted over a crossrail in the clinic (he was too busy squabbling with me to notice there was a jump under his feet), C has been very careful about jumps, even crossrails.

Still, he overjumped the crossrails by a good two feet with her! And I hadn’t really seen him jump from the ground before, so I was a little in awe. My pony has hops, guys. Even when he’s being a total ass.

Anyway, they finished on a little 2′ vertical and I called it quits. He was good over them, so I figured better to end it there than have me get on and ruin all the work. Besides, he was getting tired (consequences!) so I tossed him in his stall with a half gram of bute. When I came in the morning yesterday, he was being a ground-manners monstrosity so I sort of assumed he’d be the same under saddle.

But wait. No. He was awesome. I think Miss Sticky-Seat put the fear of Hell (a.k.a. actual hard work) into him and he decided to don his halo once more. We had a few baby moments of “Nyeeeeeuuurgh I don’t want to hold myself up!” but otherwise he was a doll for warmup, despite the rain hammering on the roof of the indoor. T was optimistic, having heard a full recounting of the schooling the day prior, that he mulled it over and decided naughty wasn’t worth the effort. Hallelujah.

 

We had a little crossrails lesson that involved a lot of transitions. Do a triple line with one stride between (the 1’s were on the longer side, imo, but oh well) and trot before the wall. Trot in, canter through, trot out immediately after the last jump. We did a little 2′ vertical near the end though he was getting tired and flat by that point and knocked it down. Honestly, it was fine– he was listening much better, and after a brief argument about sitting on his butt before the jumps instead of hanging out on that forehand, he was pretty easy to work with.

Ahh, my cooperative baby horse returns! … although he does look a little different now.

Tomorrow I leave for England, so I’ll run something by you all– since I won’t be riding C (or any horse, probably), I’m hoping to get a few riding theory/analysis sort of posts out, a bit like the Sitting Versus a Softer Seat post I did a week-ish ago. I’m getting pretty interested in a couple aspects of dressage and specifically how to relate them back to jumping. I also watched a really incredible, informative Beezie Madden demo that I’d be interested in looking a little deeper at. Let me know your thoughts, and if there’re none I’ll spam you with pictures of C– I already miss my little monster.

a picture of innocence

— M


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2016 Resolutions and Goals

At the bottom is my 2015 in review— since this blog is only 3 months old, there isn’t much to it, but it’s there if you’re interested! This post will mainly be about my goals for C, myself, and my riding.  I decided to take a page from Megan at A Enter Spooking’s book and do quarterly goals. Because C is so young, I expect we’ll run into snafus, or even exceed expectations, so I’ll review this again in early April and adjust as necessary!

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Goals for C, late Winter/early Spring 2016

  1. Grow up and into those legs. This will improve coordination and his ability to do the things we’ve been struggling with such as leads, better transitions, etc. After that judge’s comments (“Lovely prospect, just a little gangly/uncoordinated right now”) I’m excited for this to happen.
  2. Build more booty muscle. It’ll make it easier for him to pick up and hold the canter, as well as make jumping a bit easier/smoother.
  3. Nail down longe commands. This is on me, too. Right now his longe manners leave something to be desired.
  4. Small collections/adjustability. Something that’ll really come in handy when we jump, since right now he gets excited and flat, and sorta rushes/drags me after the jump.
  5. Tolerate braiding. Seriously dude. Stop head bobbing.

Goals for M, late Winter/early Spring 2016

  1. More effort/thought into exercises. Keeping flatwork fresh and interesting is a bit of a trial, and sometimes I should just go in and set up a few pole exercises for us to go through.
  2. Listen to more podcasts/riding theory, purchase a couple books. These resources are so invaluable and I need to take better advantage of them!
  3. Pilates! I have a membership in my hometown for a wonderful fitness center that offers classes. I want to strengthen my core on and off C
  4. Audit a clinic or two. I’m kind of curious if the clinic I participated in was an anomaly or if that teaching style is the ‘norm’ for many clinicians– basically, if I need to grow thicker skin or if that teaching style didn’t suit me. Plus, education!
  5. Get more social. Right now most of my friends are barn friends. Nothing wrong with that, but I could do with more of them!
  6. Practice braiding. I can do tails ez pz, but my button braids are mediocre on a good day.
  7. Find a way to combine something I love with something that pays the bills. Lord help me.

Goals for riding, late Winter/early Spring 2016

  1. Develop a more independent seat. Bareback work, no stirrups dressage, build up that core!
  2. Get on a lot of different horses, if possible. I’d like to develop my riding skills and make myself more adjustable, to fit the ride rather than trying to make the ride fit me.
  3. More dressage! And I’m talking valuable dressage that will help C get rounder, improve his topline, and make him a more supple, responsive horse. I’d also like to work on baby leg yields to work on leg aids with him, and find a specific way to ask for canter that doesn’t confuse him.
  4. School Intro when the season begins. To work on how he sees XC, and better channel his energy out there. Right now his misbehavior means a lot of circling, saving the reward (the jump) for when he’s actively listening.

Goals for the year, 2016:

  1. Compete at one H/J Show at 2′. Because I hate crossrails and so does C (Okay, not really. It’s just me. I really hate crossrails despite how great they are for learning and schooling. Don’t judge me).
  2. Compete at one USEF Dressage show at BN. Because after writing Falling In & Falling Short after our last dressage show, I’m determined to redeem us!
  3. Compete in one event at Intro. For the experience! Plus we’ll nail the W/T dressage test.
  4. All pink, everything. Self explanatory, and I’m well on my way 😉

 

2015 In Review

October, 2015: I bought C on October 6th, the day before my birthday! After a period of “I-can’t-believe-this-is-real”, we had a wonderful little jumping lesson and started preparing for our first ‘show’, a little local derby. I wrote my first ‘theory’ post about expectations in baby horsedom, which I think I’ll be turning into a series this year! We had an excellent dressage test and a wonderful jumping round and came in 3rd at our first show!

November, 2015: We had our first brush with saddle fitting issues (and unfortunately, not the last) and I realized my horse is supremely passive-aggressive. I did my first bloghop (haikus for Zen and the Art of Baby Horse Management) wrote about dressage struggles and fear of the upcoming local dressage show at BN. Just in time for December, I compiled a post of my horse’s grossest facial expressions for your enjoyment.

December, 2015: I kicked off the month with another theory post on communication with our equine partners, cried a lot after a tough clinic, and fretted about how well my future and C’s align. I opened the best Secret Santa gifts from the Graduated Equestrian (successfully further pink-ifying C’s life). I also wrote a post that started a super interesting discussion about stadium jumping in a deep or forward seat. On New Year’s C popped out with some mystery hives and we may have found a saddle that fits– plus some analytical stuff about his little misbehaviors!!

In January, I’m hoping to keep the blog updated as regularly as possible, and start a number of new discussions that all riders can benefit from. Happy New Year’s to all from M&C at Canter & Candor!

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sometimes we’re cute-ish, especially when blurry

— M


16 Comments

Baby Horse Bravado

First off, happy new year everyone! I’ll get a post up later with some resolutions and updated goals and all that jazz.

As C is building muscle, he’s becoming increasingly confident, bordering on cocky. No, wait, really cocky. On Tuesday we had an excellent dressage lesson. He was lifting through his body, pushing with power from behind, accepting contact, the whole nine yards. I have never felt more in tune with him than in that lesson– T commented on how we really looked like a team, and how he’s made me a much better rider (which is very true). I left the lesson feeling absolutely elated, confident, and incredibly proud of my increasingly intelligent, adjustable, and responsive baby horse.

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And the cooldown walk at sunset wasn’t too shabby either

And then Wednesday morning rolled around. He was pretty naughty, which I chalked up to something new I was trying with a saddle, so I cut the ride short to preserve some of that happiness from the day prior. And yesterday? He was a nightmare.

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C says “pbbbttthh, mom, sucks to be you”

Usually his naughtiness is in the form of little behaviors like booty bumps, little kicks out, nothing unbearable and definitely nothing that could unseat me (I’m pretty sticky). This one I got on and the second I asked for a trot he was not having it. The little behaviors started earlier than usual, since they typically start once we do canter work– and I can kind of understand little expressions of frustration, as when I ask him to develop newer muscles it’s difficult for him. But this was pretty unacceptable, and only got worse when I asked for canter. Since I’d prefer not to be riding a nutcase baby for a jump lesson, we threw him on the longe for a bit. Baby horse turned into a bronco, and T told me when she rode him a few days ago she had to longe him for quite a while before he simmered down and stopped rearing/bucking/kicking.

Once we brought him in, I hopped on again, ran through a one stride ground pole to crossrail line, and he lost all that glorious brain I was so proud of. He grabbed the bit and went. I was taken a little by surprise because while we’ve had to ‘reinstall’ his brakes a few times, he’s not usually at that degree of misbehavior. We tried a few things– lots of transitions, and not allowing him to jump (as the jump is the reward for behaving) until he settled back, but just when things would start to calm down he’d get rushy and unbalanced again.

T said, if he has the energy to be running off with you, he has the energy to longe again. So back on the line he went. She palpated his back a little and noticed he was sore (likely from A. being a douche on the longe line, B. because of the new saddle fit thing I tried Wednesday, and C. from the solid work we did Tuesday) so we sent him off to let him stretch out a little. Stretch he did! He actually had his nose so close to the ground stretching out his back muscles that he kicked himself in the face. It was all well and good until I brought him in to switch directions and noticed…

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WHAT

Hives. HIVES. All over his back where T had palpated him.

We’re not talking a spot here and there, like his whole back was rippling with hives. T and I were stumped. She went through a mental list of things she’d had on her hands and couldn’t think of a thing that would’ve caused a reaction. And trust me– these hives weren’t there when I first sent him out on the longe the second time around, and only appeared when I brought him in.

Naturally the lesson was well-cancelled by this point, but could it get weirder? I went in, washed off the hive-y area, put some liniment on, tossed bute in his grain and spent the evening puzzling over what the heck could’ve happened.

I’m also praying the naughty was brought on by the soreness and not C just being a jackass. What he was doing… well, I don’t mind misbehaviors and I can sit through most of them, but he wasn’t responding to downward transitions through seat, so I had to get very handsy with him. It was incredibly unpleasant for all parties, and I kind of hope he learns from this one experience so neither of us have to repeat it. All over a very blah day.

But! If I blot the last two days from memory, I feel better.

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Saddle?! Maybe?!

Also, I may have found a saddle that fits– see above?! What?? Obviously I need to jump in it before I make a decision (hence the attempted/failed jump lesson) but keep your fingers crossed for me! The flaps aren’t as forward as I tend to prefer, buuuut… if it fits (the horse), I sits.

— M