Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My "Other" Life

It's been clear to me during this past week that I've been on break from school that I'm one of those people that, when functioning at normal capacity, always has one thing too many to do.  Court reporting school and working part-time for my parents and horses and non-horsey interests and things that normal humans require to function, such as regular food and sleep. 

Right now, I'm going into week two of a three-week break.  Based on the fact I've not yet managed to register for fall classes, you can see how thrilled I am to be starting yet another semester.  I'm over this school thing already, and ready to be done and be a working court reporter.  And once I'm working, that will merge two activities -- school and work -- into one.  See, timesaver. 

(Of course, this is me naively ignoring all of the aspects of Real Life that will come with having a Proper Job and Entering the Real World.)

I've actually been able to ride Mimi more in this past week than I have since the summer began.  That in itself is a sad commentary on my state of riding affairs of late.

That said, I'm going out riding tomorrow with a couple friends.  Yes, back on trail again!  Naturally, it would be at this time that she chooses to rub the outside of her tail, right where the crupper sits.  Tail was perfect all summer...and the week I need to start using the crupper again, she opportunistically rubs.  Ponies.

Off to hunt down all the extra fleecy, fluffy covers that might work on the crupper and give further protection, in addition to the layers of desitin liberally gobbed on the area.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Centered Riding

I've spent a quiet afternoon browsing through Sally Swift's Centered Riding.  I would love to be able to take CR lessons.  I had the opportunity four years ago to semi-audit and sit in on one of Becky Hart's clinics, and some of the things I picked up from that experience are still with me today.  She's a CR-certified instructor and uses those principles to apply specifically to endurance riders.

I'd love to further expand on the few bits I gleaned from that clinic.

Unfortunately, the nearest CR instructor in AZ is in Cave Creek.  That's an hour and a half from the barn, minimum.  Not. Going. To. Happen.  Not even once a month, for as much good as a once a month lesson would do.

The only way this could possibly happen is if I find a place to keep the horses that's close to home.  Because then, the drive would more likely be 40-45 minutes.  My ideal would probably be a lesson every two weeks.

But for now, best I can do is read the CR book, absorb what I can, and work through the principles on my own.  Maybe I can get my father to pitch in with some photography and videoing so that I can then go back and review.  it's not an ideal world, but I will do my best to work with what I've got.

More Arena Schooling

Today, we took a step back and worked on slow, quiet arena work.  With a bit.  "Horrors!" says Mimi.  I found one of my Myler bits that does fit her properly -- a Western Dee Ring snaffle with Triple Mullen Barrel mouthpiece.  Of all the bits I own, she's the least fussy in this one, so that's what we'll use.

Today, I spent the entire session with her at a walk and slow trot, and we put the emphasis on her carrying herself naturally collected and not leaning on the bit.  Today went much better than Friday.  I do know what I'm doing, at least to some degree.  All of the books and magazine articles have sunk it somewhat.  And it's amazing what happens when you slow down and just work through one thing at a time.

Well, mostly one thing.  I'm a firm believer in the principle of "what the rider is doing has a direct correlation on what the horse does."  So you can work all you want on one particular aspect of the horse, but if what they're doing is as a result of something you're doing, you might not get very far.

For example: Like I mentioned, today's task was to get Mimi to stop leaning on the bit and work on her self-carriage.  That's going going to happen unless I make sure that my hands are light, and I'm not leaning forward and clamping down on her.  I tend to be a very forward rider, so I consciously focused on using my core, keeping my shoulder back, and not clamping with my legs or grabbing at the reins, especialyl when she tried to speed up.

Equus had a great article this month on the use of snaffle bits, and it reiterated a few things I always manage to forget.  Use gentle pressure to hold the reins until the horse gives.  You're not going to get a horse that's soft in the face by pulling them into position -- which was how I was always taught to "collect" a horse.  So now, I'm going back and attempting to re-teach Mimi the principle that it's up to her to hold the bit and carry it, or she's going to be less comfortable.

She is getting it.  Baby steps, but she's getting there.  Today, there were times were I got half a loop around the arena where she was carrying herself well, wasn't leaning on the bit, and had some semblance of self-collection going.  We'll take it.  :)

I'm still going to stick with bit in the arena/s-hack on trail.  In the arena, she can soften and be light in the face because she's focused on me and what needs doing.  Out on trail, she just wants to "get on with it" so much that she tunes out the light bit cues, and I have to get much stronger with it than I prefer.  Much more responsive to a hackamore out on trail.  My hope is I can get her in the habit of going along in a more self-collected manner in arena work, and once she figures out how much easier that is, it'll be easier to get that from her consistently out on trail.

What I do like about arena schooling in the bit is that she is very light, and it forces me to concentrate of keeping soft hands and not pulling her around.  Soft, steady hands...tighten from the fingers to pick up the slack, then loosen when she relaxes.  Big change from "take up on the reins and hold her head in place...wrestle her nose to her chest if you have to."

But...it was all I knew at the time. 

I'm just thankful that horses are creatures of immense forgiveness, and that I have a chance to do it right this time.  Horses are the truest example of second chances, and it not being too late to try to make something right. 

A few other random notes from the weekend:

- Lining the Grffin's short boots with moleskin on the seam area made a huge difference -- no rubbing or ruffled hairs at all.  Easy fix, and moleskin tends to stay on for a few weeks at a time.

- Knee socks or half chaps.  Don't do both.  I figured this one out last fall after Man Against Horse...too many layers of fabric and too-short of stirrups caused a major pressure point on my shin.  Dropping the stirrups helped.  So did switching to ankle-high socks under half chaps.  But for this time of year, and for arena schooling, tall knee socks work very well in lieu of half chaps.  Cotton breathes.  Suede doesn't.

- A cheap fix to inject new life into a pair of six- or seven-year-old Terrains: Insoles!  My beloved Terrains were making a slow migration to the trash can, but I wasn't quite ready to resign myself to throwing away one of my favorite pairs of shoes.  A trip to Walgreens, and $9 later, I have my shoes back again.  :)  Tried them while riding this morning, and they felt great!  They're still the most comfortable shoes I own for riding, even if they're not the absolute best for hiking.  Tread's a little worn. 

- Still fiddling with my saddle bag setup and finding the balance between "carrying everything I need" and the "streamlined, not-a-pack-pony" look.  At the moment, I'm favoring using the Snugpax cantle bag all the time.  Of the two rear bags, it bounces the least.  I love the clean lines of not having anything up front, especially for arena schooling, but I know from past experience that never works come ride-time.  If I have to reach around to the cantle bag for anything -- water, snacks, electrolytes, chapstick -- it won't happen.  But the pommel pack is also very easy to take off/put back on, so I suspect that's what I'll end up doing for longer training rides/competitions.  (Plus side, using both packs meants I don't have to carry my Camelbak.)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Saturday Morning Cartoons

Eleanor at Live Laugh Ride drew a hilarious cartoon based on txtrigger's comment on my splint boot post about a snake latching on to the boot.

Thank you, Eleanor!

Friday, August 6, 2010

"Good" Riding

What makes a "good" rider?

Is it the ability to stay on the horse, no matter what?  Is it the ability to sit quietly with perfect form and look pretty?  Is it the ability to get your horse to do what you want? 

Everyone probably has their own idea of what makes a "good" rider.

I had one of those defining moments today, in which I realized I don't know if I would fit into my own definition of a "good" rider.

I'd like to put forth the idea that I've never truly learned to ride well on a consistent basis. 

I'm a competent rider, most certainly.  Pony antics have taught me to always be prepared for the unexpected.  Beamer has taught me how to (mostly) ride out a buck.  Others have taught me how to stay on through spooks, spins, and general naughtiness.

I have the ability to be a "pretty" equitation rider.  Seven years in the show ring raught me how to pose in the saddle.  Certainly not functional, and I ditched this style of riding pretty fast once I figured out how fast it would land me in the dirt out of the safe confines of the arena.

I'm a functional rider.  I've figured out what works and what doesn't to get me through a 50-mile ride.  Is it proper?  Probably not.  Could it be better?  Most definitely.  My riding style right now can best be describes as, "I know how to get my horse to do what I want, even if it's not technically correct."

But my consistent formal riding instruction took place, most recently, about 10 years ago.  A lot has changed in the world of instruction and riding since that time.  There is more of an emphasis on functional partnership of both horse and rider, instead of posed mannequins on merry-go-round ponies.  (Keep in mind I've been out of the show ring for eight years now...my perspective is skewed.)

I trained Mimi by myself, with the input of my trainer/instructor.  She came to me as a green three year old with 30 days on her.  I had never ridden a green horse.  We grew up together, and figured each other out along the way.  But today was one of those days that made me realize how much I didn't know at the time, and how many subsequent holes we both have in terms of "proper" training.  She was being a true pony today -- it was warm and humid, and she really didn't want to work in the arena -- and showing me how much of a snot she can be if she tries.

The plus side of all of her shenanigans?  The Skito pad I bought from Mel got a very thorough test, and I'm thrilled with how it performed.  Didn't budge from under the saddle, and seemed to be even more stable than my Skito Dryback.  And she's obviously comfortable -- she wouldn't have been offering up flying lead changes if it bothered her.  :)

But today was a good example of  how our show-ring specific training is now come back to bite us.  Mimi is smart.  Very smart.  And she picks up on patterns really fast.  The end result of this?  She anticipates.  Big time.  From all of our years of showing flat classes, she assumes that the routine must go "walk-trot-canter-reverse-walk-trot-canter-stop."  And thanks to reining patterns, cutting across the arena at the midway point means do a flying lead change in the center. 

She also has a "headset," but doesn't truly know what it means to be naturally collected and move with impulsion.  Emphasis was on artificial means of creating a "perfect" show horse and rider -- a horse that moved along the rail with its head down, reins loose, and the rider posed perfectly on top.  Ultimately, we never reached that point -- Mimi never saw the use for traveling along the rail in perfect pleasure pony style, and I was always fighting with her to "get her head down."  I fared better in my equitation classes because emphasis was on me, not her.  She's much happier moving out down the trail.  That said, she still has room for improvement on moving most efficiently from the rear and not hollowing out.

Today, show-ring training and functional riding directly clashed, and that was when I came to the conclusion that I'm not really a "good" rider.  When the pony shenanigans came out, my (self-taught) attempts at pseudo-dressage and centered riding went right out the window, and I reverted to my rather haphazard old-school upbringing.  It ain't pretty or really proper.  It probably wouldn't work on a lot of horses.  But it's how Mimi and I are both trained. 

Which brings me to my point ("Finally!" the crowd cheers): I need to learn to ride by the time I get another horse.  I would eventually like to find a centered riding instructor, or a dressage instructor who understands cross-training, not just showing (I don't want to show, I just want to learn the principles for teaching a hrose to move functionally and optimally).  I can tell you all of my problems as a rider: I tend to lean forward (the downside of riding hunseat from age seven), I'm crooked and wriggly, and mostly, I can't get everything to function together properly at the same time.  I'll get my legs right, but I know my upper body is a wreck.  Or the arms and shoulder will be great, and the legs are wriggling all over the place.  So I know what's wrong, I just don't know how to fix it.

If I'm not going to be doing a ton of competing at the moment, maybe now is the time to look into some lessons again.  Because while I know how to ride, I don't feel that I necessarily know how to ride well.  And I think it's time to learn.

HRTV Tevis Cup Promo

HRTV has a 30-second promo clip of their "Inside Information" Tevis coverage up on their YouTube channel.

Or, check it out below!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Quest for the Perfect Boot

Splint boot, that is.

It's too early in the morning to get into the hoof boot debate.  (Besides, we already know my answer to that one.)  Edit: I started this post at 7:00 this morning.  It's been a rough morning for my computer.

Hello, my name is Ashley, and I have a slight obsession with splint boots.

I've been questing after the "perfect" (if there's such a thing) splint boot since I started in endurance.  Mimi doesn't interfere in her normal, everyday movement, so I don't need something that is heavy-duty enough to withstand artillery fire-style abuse.

So why even use boots, then?

Well, I'm paranoid about having some kind of leg protection.  It's a holdover from my show days and an instructor who was superstitious about running horses in the gymkhana games without some kind of protection.  The time you don't use them is the time something will happen.  I know, I know...I did NATRC for five years and didn't have any problems.  But I was also going at a slower pace and fewer miles.

It's just my personal opinion, but I'm going for the extra insurance provided by a well-fitting boot.  It only takes one misplaced hoof or an ill-timed rock kicking up to potentially end your ride for the day.  If I have a chance at preventing that, I'm going to take it.

Granted, if I had a horse that rubbed easily, and boots were more of a hassle than they were a benefit, I might rethink my stance.

Another one of those contested issues with boots is whether they help or harm when it comes to  collecting desert debris.  There are a lot of sharp, prickly, pokey things out in the desert, and I have to say, I prefer those pieces of cactus getting stuck in the outer layer of the boot fabric versus in my horse's leg.  Would they have picked up the cactus piece if they brushed against it without boots on?  Maybe, maybe not.  But it takes a pretty hard hit to get a cactus spine through even a quarter inch of neoprene.  So even if it clings to the surface of the boot, chances are that it hasn't broken through the entire boot to poke into the horse.

There are a couple of rides around Arizona that I have been very glad for leg protection.  Man Against Horse in Prescott is one such ride.  Every year, without fail, I have came back from that ridfe with a new rip in either the splint boots or the hind ankle boots.  Sometimes both.  There is a lot of manzanita at that ride, and a lot of it is trimmed right at the edge of the trail.  One errant step, and that manzanita is poking at their leg.  And that stuff is like ramming into rebar lined with steel leaves.  A couple of years ago, a stick of manzanita ripped the entire way through the neoprene of the hind ankle boots, down to the very inside fabric covering.  I cringe at what that might have potentially done to her leg if it gouged her in the right area.  The rock-pile scramble up the backside of Mingus Mountain in the 50 at that ride also warrants the use of boots all around.

The extra protection is also nice for those trail-exploration rides that inevitably result in at least some bushwacking and rock scrambling.

Also, this is farfetched...but we have rattlesnakes.  If one happens to strike at us, maybe they'll glance off the boot instead of biting the horse's leg?  I know...unlikely.  The skin is so tight around their legs that a snake would probably have a hard time biting it.  But humor me?

Another issue is the collection of sand and debris.  I really haven't experienced this problem.  I don't really have any particular resoning or explaination for why that is, but at the moment, I'm not going to question it.

My requirements: Easy to put on/take off; doesn't trap too much heat; doesn't accumulate too much dirt and sand; well-placed seams that don't rub; won't slide down the leg; doesn't need to be overtight to prevent slipping; does not wrap around to the back of the fetlock (short cannons means that too bulky of a boot will crowd up agaist her Renegades and bump the captivator strap); isn't too long (see previous explaination about shortcannons); and I prefer a single later velcro that does not double back on itself.  Double-lock would be an acceptable secondary option.  Oh, and preferably a material that won't drag half of the prickly desert back with us.

Let's examine my history of boots, shall we?

Toklat Splint

These were my first pair of splint boots -- ever.  I got them from my trainer the Christmas after I got Mimi.  They're almost 14 years old now, and showing thier age.  They still wash up nicely, but they're definitely tattered.  Overall, they're my favorite boots yet.

What I Like:
- Easy maintenance.  Dunk, wipe, and they're clean.
- Lots of pretty colors available.
- Have not had rubbing or slipping problems.
- Easy to remove at checks.
- Durable.
- Don't attract a ton of stickers and brush

What I Don't Like:
- The Velcro that doubles back on itself.  It's too easy to overtighten them if you're not paying attention.  For that reason alone, I'd be paranoid about letting someone else who is not familiar with the exact tightness I prefer put them on.
- More time-consuming to put back on because of having to feed the Velcro back through the loop.
- The new style.  Notice behind the old boots, the rolled up pair with tags still attached.  Those are the new pair I got to replace these.  I don't like them as well.  They have to be tightened more than I like to keep them from slipping.  I used them at Wickenburg in February, and I had to adjust them several times just during the first loop beforeI finally finally left them behind at camp during the lunch hold.  I don't know if they need more break-in time, but I wasn't as impressed with this pair.  (As a note, the old ones now reside in my crew box as a back-up pair.)

Griffin's Short Splint/Brush Boots

I haven't used these on a regular basis until recently.  I would use them for competitions, and enough training rides to know they wouldn't rub, but Mimi does little to no interfering on her hind legs.  Just recently, I've noticed some scuffed hair on the inside front of her fetlocks, and have started using them more regularly as a precaution.  I don't know if her fused hocks have changed her movement enough to where she's brushing against herself at times, or if she's just scuffing her hair when she's getting up from either rolling of laying down.

What I Like:
- Good protection.  These boots have taken the brunt of the abuse from rides, and have several chunks/gouges/rips in them.
- Flat leather covering.  Not a fan of heavily padded boots, or ones that have really rigid wear patches on the inside "strike zone."
- Easy clean.
- Colors!
- Single wrap-around Velcro.
- Really easy to take off.  Putting on just takes a moment to make sure placement is correct to minimize rubbing,
- Don't attract a ton of stickers and brush.

What I Don't Like:
- I've had off-and-on rubbing problems with these.  Originally, they would rub on the top edge.  That's gone away, but the inside seam where it fathers at the fetlock has been known to start rubbing on her fetlocks.  Desitin has held it off from being a serious problem at rides, but that's just one more step to fuss with that I'd like to avoid if possible.  It could be that it's time for new ones...I think these are close to six years old, so the seams might just be getting rough and worn.

(Edit: Going to try lining the seam area with a small piece of moleskin to cover the stitching.)

Equipedic OxyFlow Splint Boots

What I Liked:
- Single wrap-around Velcro.  Really easy on/off.
- Low-profile strike zone.
- Tough Cordura covering really repels brush and stickers.  Also difficult for cactus to pierce compared to softer neoprenes with thin fabric coverings.
- Really did seem to be more breathable and stay cooler.

What I Didn't Like:
- Very tall.  Either interfered with her knees, or had a lot of material hanging below the fetlock.
- Detail seaming was very rough and sloppy.
- Stiff fabric that didn't conform to her leg very nicely.  Potential for rubbing from stiff-seamed edges.  They didn't ever rub, but I also never got to the point of using them for rides.
- Wish they came in one size smaller.  That might take care of the extra height, and make them conform to her leg better.

(Note: I ended up selling these a couple years ago.  That alone should tell me what I need to know, if I didn't even feel justified in keeping them around as "just incase" extras.)

Pro Equine Simple Splint Boots

Used these for the vast majority of my distance training.  They're probably about six or seven years old.

What I Liked:
- Double-lock Velcro.  Not as convenient as single wrap, but better than the wrap back on itself kind.
- Low profile strike zone.
- Pretty easy on/off.  The double-lock Velcro made it harder to just whip them off on-the-go.

What I Didn't Like:
- Outer Velcro layer wore out fast, and would never lay totally flat.  Would tend to get caught on loose brush and completely undo the top Velcro layer.
- Debris tended to stick inside of them and you had to really scrub to get them clean.

Woof Wear Club Brushing Boots

What I Liked:
- Single wrap-around Velcro.
- Very easy on/off.

What I Didn't Like:
- Stiff PVC strike zone.  Strike plate was not contoured enough, and very flat.  Gave the boots an odd shape.
- Weird overlap on the edges, which caused the start of a weird rub.
- Gaped weird at the top -- same problem as the Griffin's Short Boots.  Neither boot had as much front leg contouring and relied too much on Velcro and overlapping material to achieve a good fit.

Professional's Choice Competitor Splint Boots

What I Like:
- Single wrap-sround Velcro.
- Super-easy on/off.  Probably the easiest of the boots I own.
- Overlap is even, and I've not had rubbing problems from it.
- Wash-n-go.
- Stay in place very well, due to waffle-neoprene against the horse.
- Impossible to overtighten.
- Neoprene has a lot of give.
- Can trim excess edges without fabric unraveling.
- Lightweight.
- Nicely contoured around the leg -- probably the most flexible boot I've ever used.

What I Don't Like:
- Potentially hold a lot of heat due to neoprene.
- Outer covering is essentially fuzzy Velcro.  The same thing that makes them easy to put on without having to perfectly line up Velcro strips also means it attracts every little stray leaf and prickly piece of brush.
- Waffle neoprene needs to be scrubbed when washing, otherwise dirt gets trapped in the waffle pattern and doesn't eadily come out with just a quick dunk in water.  That said, they actually seem to accumulate the least amount of dirt on the inside.  I think the lack of fabric keeps dirt from clinging as much.
- Strike zone has more padding than most of my boots.  This can be both a good and bad thing.  Not a problem for a horse that doesn't interfere, but a horse that is on the verge of interfering might catch it.  On the other hand, if they do interfere, there's some good protection there.  Yet, it does have more give than the shell-like strike plates on some of the boots.

Professional's Choice Easy-Fit Splint Boots

They started out life as mine, but Dad inherited them for his Foxtrotter mare, Kelly, who interfered a lot.  Same boot as above, only with more coverage around the fetlock.  See my easlier remarks about too much fetlock coverage for little-legs Pony.  And with these...even more neoprene to trap heat.  Plus, they're pretty large, bulky boots.  Worked well for a 15.1hh mare with tree trunk legs, but I think they'd be overkill on Mimi.  Kelly definitely put them to the test, though...they're really scuffed at the bottom, right where they curve around the fetlock.  Despite all of that, the worst she did was rub the sude covering to a smoother finish.  Didn't even rip the strike zone.

Toklat Splint Boot with Elastic

Again, Dad's boots, not mine.  He has the kind that are lined with felt, because Beamer hates neoprene.  It makes him sweaty, which then makes him itchy, so he has to stop and attempt to yank the boots off in his annoyance.  Not fun to be trotting along and have him slam to a stop, duck his head, and start teething on his leg wraps.  So he has the felt-lined ones, which are kind of a pain to clean, and tend to build up grime...but they're the only thing he's comfortable in.  And he has just enough of a tendency to interfere when he's not paying attention, or being clumsy, that it's not worth not using them.  The double-lock Velcro is better than the loop-back offering of mine, and they're probably the second-easiest to put on/take off, after the Pro's Choice Competitors.  However, not a fan of the extensive coverage of them -- they're another one that has more fetlock coverage.

After examining what I've written, I've decided that of all the boots I currently own, the Pro's Choice Competitor meets my needs the best at the moment.  It has the best balance of what I like versus what I dislike.  I may have ti pick little bits of desert prickles out of them during the dry weed season, but at least it's not any money out of pocket at the immediate moment.

But the elusive quest continues on for future purchase considerations, which means...

Readers...it's your turn!  Tell me what splint boots you prefer, and your experiences with using them!

And, some specific questions for everyone:

Does anyone use the HAF Splint Boots
I'm curious about them...I like the idea of air flow.  However, I'm not convinced on what looks like a fairly hard shell as a strike plate.  I'd like to see them in person.  Feedback, anyone?

I'm also curious about the Thinline Splint Boots
But the $100 price tag is enough to make me shy away.  They'd have to be perfect for me to pay that much.

Finally, has anyone tried the Griffin's Tall Brush Boots for front boots?
I tried the short ones on her fronts, but wasn't pleased. I couldn't get them to line up well without gaping at the top, or creating an uneven overlap. Mimi wasn't impressed when I rode her in them, and stopped several times to try to yank them off. Looking at the picture of the Tall boots, I see they wrap around the fetlock some, which is enough to make me wonder if it'll be a case of too much "stuff" around her fetlock area and if the leg boot and Renegade captivator will start interfering with each other.

Monday, August 2, 2010

On Ponies

This post was inspired by Mel's comment about having an obsession with cute ponies.


Ponies can be summed by by the statement of one simple fact: "Pony" is a four-letter word.  Their behavior can be passed off with a disgusted shake of the head and a an under-the-breath mutter of "Pony."  Or it can result in a bemused grin and a delighted exclaimation of "Ah, ponies."

I've been around ponies in some capacity for my entire equine life.  The last 13 years, I've been owned by one.  I wouldn't change any of it.

Ponies are an education unto themselves.  They can be alternately sweet, mischievous, bratty, irksome, playful, grumpy, and winsome...all within the space of a day.

Fortunately, my time around ponies has been spent with what I consider a very special breed -- the POA.

The Pony of the Americas is a rather unique pony breed.  They're much more similar to a small horses, both in confirmation and attitude, than a typical pony.  Say the word "pony" and most people think of Shetlands...short, fuzzy, and ornery little things that delight in unmounting their riders.  Not that all of them are that way...but a breed reputation does have to develop from somewhere.

The POA was originally developed in the mid-1950s, and the foundation registered stallion named "Black Hand" was the result of an Arabian-Appaloosa mare crossed with a Shetland pony.  Breed standard calls for the confirmation of a small horse instead of that of a pony.  They are to have the spotted coat and distinguishing features -- white sclera around the eye, striped hooves, skin mottling --of an Appaloosa, an athletic, well-muscled body, and a more elegant head and neck.  Breed standard calls for a height of 46"-56" (11.2-14hh).

Above all, the POA is a children's breed and organization.  The only classes adult can show in are the in-hand Halter classes.  All other classes are for those 18 and under, and divided into four age categories.  Its main purpose is in showing, but one of the hallmarks of the POA is its versatility.  The shows themselves encourage ponies and riders to try a little bit of everything, and then further incentive programs are offered for outside sports such as distance riding.

During my years of showing with Mimi, my typical show day would look something start at 6am, and go until at least 6-7pm.  During that time, we would do in-hand Halter and Showmanship classes, then move to the under saddle classes, both Western and English.  Western -- Bareback Equitation, Stockseat Equitation, Western Pleasure (two classes, one for the pony's age group and one for the rider's), Trail, Reining, Western Riding.  English - English Pleasure (again, two classes), English Equitation, Hunter Hack (combined flat/jumping class), Hunter Over Fences, Equitation Over Fences, and Open Jumping.  After that, it was Gymkhana.  6-8 different gymkhana games, depending on the show.  A typical offering would be Pole Bending, Barrels, Texas Rollback, Single Pole, Handy Horse, and Flags.

So, we've established that POAs are versatile and have endurance.  Is it any wonder Mimi came into distance riding with a good base on her?  POAs have also shown their mettle in just about any other equine sport that's offered, including distance riding!

But what's so amazing about the POAs is their attitude.  They are not your average snotty-brat of a pony.  The sweetest and most willing equine I've ever had the priviledge of knowing and riding was a POA...CSA's Snapdragon -- "Snappy" -- was the first POA I rode and showed.  He was an absolute gem, and in all of my years around him, I never knew anyone that fell off of him.  He was the one that taught me how to love horses and riding again, and gave this very scared little girl back her courage and showed me how to have fun on horseback.

And 98% of the POAs I've known have shown at least some degree of that sweetness and willingness.  If it says anything, I would consider another POA as my next endurance horse if I found one with the right confirmation.  That's the trickiest part -- current trends have been producing big, muscular, Quarter Horse-inpsired type of POAs...not suitable for endurance.  But POA registry is open book, meaning POAs can be crossed with other breeds, and as long as they have the marking characteristics and meet the height requirements, they qualify for registration.  Which is how Mimi is actually half Quarter Horse, and still registered POA.  Every so often, a half-Arab POA shows up...that might be a good endurance cross!

Sorry for the complete lack of pictures...all of my show pictures are old school, menaing film camera.  Meaning I still have to scan them into my computer in order to do anything with them.  And seven years of showing is a lot of pictures.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Pony Pedicures

I have to say, I'm completely tickled about doing my own hoof trimming.  It's been a little over a year now since we started doing our own trimming entirely, and I love the sense of accomplishment that comes from having horses that aren't at all sensitive, and have even been able to start doing some training rides entirely barefoot.

With not riding much this summer, their hooves haven't needed as much regular work.  About six weeks ago, we took the plunge into getting our first set of proper hoof nippers to make the times we were trimming much, much easier.  (Try trimming hooves in the summer in the desert...you'll understand.)  That, combined with a brand-new SaveEdge rasp, have made my trimming life so. much. easier

It's been about three weeks since their last trim, and they had some hoof that needed to come off today.  Especially Mimi.  Her high pony heels were getting a bit ridiculous.  It's an ongoing battle, one I can never really let up on, to keep her heels where they should be.

Beamer's feet look awesome right now.  He's been needing to shed some sole out for the last month, but like a good girl, I've left it alone until it was ready to come out on its own.  The past week of rain and humidity did the trick, and when I picked out his hooves today, large amounts of dead sole flaked out without any extra encouragement.  Beautiful, fresh sole underneath...perfect!  Toe callus still intact and not going anywhere...also perfect!  He needed some sidewall taken down, and his toes trimmed back. 

One of these days, I will remember to bring a camera down to the barn again and get some updated pictures of their hooves.  I'm beyond thrilled with how they look, even if we're not riding that much at the moment.  *sigh*  Still battling Beamer's face wound, although his shoulder is looking really good...almost healed...maybe another week and that will be good to go.  Really, really hoping to get out and ride next weekend.

I'm on break from school for the next three weeks, and will be using that time to at least do some hated arena work with Mimi.  Although I just discovered today that her little pea-head is even tinier than I imagined, and that I actually need to get her a new bit if I want to do any proper schooling...all the bits I own are about 1/2" too big.  Only took me 13 years to figure that one out...*eye roll*  Unfortunately, 4-1/2" Myler bits aren't all that easy to come by...I'll be on the eBay prowl for one of those now.

Nine weeks until Man Against Horse in October...at this point, I'm making no hard-and-fast plans of going.  That way, if I do happen to get to go, it'll be a pleasant surprise, instead of crushing disappointment.  Can't have plans go awry if you don't make them.

That said, I really only have seven weeks to get ready, since I'll be on vacation for one weekend, and crewing at Sonoita for another.  If I take some time to do arena riding during the week, plus riding on the weekends, I think Mimi would be ready...just in case I do get to go.  *fingers crossed, but not holding my breath*