Thursday 29 November 2018

Yee Haw

I finally had enough energy after work to head out to the barn on Monday evening to visit the ponies. I've been trying really hard to get to bed earlier than normal so that I can get 8ish hours of sleep. This is the first time in years that I probably could ride a few times a week based on my work schedule - I have a few days a week that my evenings are free. The problem is having enough energy to do so!

Our weather has been pretty crap this winter fall. There has been a bunch of warm/cold cycles where it rains and then the temperature drops well below freezing. Thus the ground is frozen and it's pretty icy. Especially out at the barn. So the horses aren't moving around too much outside.

Which means that horses who aren't getting ridden have way too much energy stored up.
Phantom's head loses its shape in the winter due to the amount of winter hair she grows.
I'm hoping to get on someone this week. Likely Phantom. So she needed a chance to get her sillies out before I throw a leg over.

That was Monday's plan. When I arrived at the barn the arena was empty. Perfect! She could run loose.

Except that when I took her into the arena someone was in there. Boo. So lunging it was!
Chin hairs happen to all women as they get older. Trust me. 
I knew she was going to be silly on the lunge. It took a whole lap and a half at a trot before she tucked her tail between her butt cheeks and scooted off.

Phantom has zero desire to gallop circles around me. She is much more of a scoot, maybe throw the front legs around a bit or do her sad attempt at a buck (a weird hind leg towards her ear move), then bounce to a stop and stare at me with her head straight up. Then I have to stop laughing and try to get her back out on the circle, at which point she gets to the same point on the circle and does it again.
Her clip is already growing back. You can kind of see it on her shoulder here.
The good thing is that she stays right out at the end of the lunge on as big a circle as I can give her. Nowhere near me.

So we did a few minutes on the lunge, which got less enthusiastic pretty quickly. The other person left the arena before I was done, so I got a chance to let Phantom get in a couple of good loose gallops before walking her off.
It's so fluffy!
I'm hoping this will tide her over until Wednesday when I'm hoping to get on. I don't care if I just get on and just walk for 20 minutes - I'd just like to get on!

Friday 23 November 2018

My Black Friday Hit to the Wallet

You know how, the other day on my Black Friday sales list, I said that I had a small horse list of things I was looking to pick up on Black Friday?

I didn't say it was a cheap list.

I mean, I didn't buy a saddle or anything. I have to sell one before I'm allowed to buy one.

For the most part, I bought boring things.

Two buckets of spirulina from Herbs for Horses for Phantom. At 20% off they came to $120.88 shipped - the regular price is about $75 per bucket.

Cisco needs a new girth in a smaller size than his current girth. I've been planning for a while to get him a Total Saddle Fit Stretchtec girth. TSF has a one day sale at 20% off, which works out to be the lowest price even though it's coming from the US. It will cost me about $210, and hopefully I won't get dinged by Customs.

Since I trialed a non-slip underpad on Cisco (which worked amazingly well) I've been looking for the Shires Gel-Eze Under Bandage that gets rave reviews as an underpad. I was hoping that one of the two stores in Canada that I've been able to find it at were going to have a sale, but Ebay came out with a 15% off code so I ordered it from a place in the UK instead. It might end up on the slow boat to get here, but I can wait. I actually ordered two so that I can use one on Phantom - maybe it will fix my sliding to the right on a left lead canter issue. Two wraps came to about $65 - I was looking at spending upwards of $47 each otherwise.
And lastly, I bought myself a new sports bra. I could happily live in sports bras - I prefer to wear them to work when at all possible, provided that they aren't too tight and are comfortable for upwards of 9 hours. Not always the case - I have some that provide great support while riding, but I want that thing off as soon as I get home.

I love my Panache sports bra, but as an everyday bra, not for riding. It doesn't give me enough support for riding (unless I clip the straps into a racer-back styling, but then my collar bone hurts, and omg it's so awkward to set up). It's great to wear to work though.

Knixwear has come out with a new high impact sports bra, called the Catalyst. I read a few reviews by running magazines, and it looks promising. It's wireless, and I like how it sits a bit lower on your torso - my current bras have a tendency to roll up along the bottom. It wasn't cheap - on sale for $88 instead of $95. But I found an old referral code from somewhere in my emails so that got me another $15 off (although I had to buy something else to get the free shipping, so I bought one of their Evolution bras that will hopefully be comfortable as an everyday bra).

I'll let you do the math on my Black Friday shopping. I don't want to.

What did you spend your money on?

Thursday 22 November 2018

What's Up? Not Much.

It's that time of year when I don't get out to the barn too much. I'm working six days a week with shifts all over the place. If I have an evening off I'm likely to fall asleep on the couch for a couple of hours. I try to make it out to the barn at least once a week to make sure there aren't any lumps or bumps that I have to worry about and change blankets if needed. I've learned not to get too excited about not riding - the horses are always there and waiting for my return to the saddle.

When I do make it out to the barn I usually try to let them loose in the arena to get some sillies out. We've been going through a bunch of warm/cold cycles and the ground is quite icy at the moment. I don't think they're moving around too much in their paddocks.

Today I brought Phantom in, slapped some bell boots on her, and took her over to the arena. She had a roll (on one side of her body) and played with a barrel in the arena.
She was quite proud of herself for knocking the barrel over and kicking it - she was sure it was going to result in a cookie. Too bad I didn't have any.
Eventually, I shushed her a bit with the whip to get moving. And move she did.

Full gallop. Stop in the corner. Walk a few steps. Full gallop again.

Yeah, someone had way too much energy. There was a reason I wasn't riding her.

She could only walk and gallop today. No trot. Just zoom.
Who'd of thunk a barrel would be this entertaining?
I had to end her session earlier than I would have liked. I'm always worried that she'll tie up when she gets this excited  - it's happened before. So she barely had a chance to get the edge off before I walked her out.

Cisco hasn't figured out the whole play when loose in the arena thing. Well, the version where you use the whole arena instead of just going back and forth along the short side by the gate. So I hooked him up a lunge line and we headed on down to the scary end.

He's still looky at that end, but we don't have the same problem that we did a year ago when he would just stop and try to spin away. He barely even drops his shoulder to the inside anymore. But he's always on alert for potential hazards at that end of the arena.
Intently looking for something that's going to murder him.
Today he was feeling sassy, so he was full periscope up and looking for a reason to spook. Which he found - a couple of times as he passed the fence line the pigeons flew up from right next to him. He used that as an excuse to spook a bit and kind of snake his neck, but considering his sass level his reaction was pretty minor. And again - last year he wouldn't have gone past that area after the birds came out of nowhere. Today, no issue. So that's at least some progress that we've made in the last year.

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Canadian Black Friday Shopping - 2018

It's time to spend some money again!

I'm going to try to be good this year - at least with the horse stuff. There are a few regular people things on my list that I'm hoping to find deals on, but my horse list is pretty small.

But that doesn't mean that you can't shop! And I am only too happy to help you.

So here is a list of the online Black Friday deals that I could find from Canadian tack shops.

Greenhawk - Friday November 23, in-store only. 30% off Shedrow, Supra and Summit blankets, and Aerion and Tempo seasonal apparel.

Sprucewood Tack Shop - Black Friday weekend sale Nov 23-26

Solo Equine - Bridle blowout Friday November 23 only

Wilton Tack

Bahr Saddlery - Save the tax Friday November 23 only

Bridle Path Tack Shop -Black Friday week started November 19. Save the tax on almost everything in the store.

On The Bit - 10% off entire order using code CYBERMONDAY

Pleasant Ridge Saddlery November 23 - 26

Willow Equestrian - 20% off storewide online and in-store. 50% off Asmar Spring/Summer 2018 collection. 50% Tredstep Denim breeches.

Eaglewood Equestrian November 23 - 26

Herbs for Horses - 20% off with code BFCM2018 until November 26.

Knixwear - sitewide sale up to 50% off (I'm going to try their new sports bra)

The Tack Shoppe of Collingwood - spin a virtual wheel for a discount code for Black Friday/Cyber Monday

Nag Bags - starts Friday November 23

Extreme Tack - Save 10% off one item using code ETBF10, 15% off two items or more ETBF15, Friday November 23 - Monday November 26

Equestrian Factory Outfitters - 25 - 50% off the entire site using code BFCM18 Friday November 23 - Monday November 26

If you have a favourite online tack shop that's having some deals and isn't on the list let me know! I'll keep updating as I find them.

Monday 19 November 2018

Deemed "Certifiable"

This weekend I participated in the final phase of achieving my Instructor of Beginners - Jump certification through Equestrian Canada. It was stressful, and I definitely screwed up some things, but I guess the good outweighed the bad, as I managed a passing score.

There is a process to becoming an NCCP Certified Coach in Canada (NCCP means National Coaching Certification Program). You can apply to become an Instructor of Beginners (with or without Jump), which means that you have been found to be qualified to teach riders to an intermediate level. The next level is a Competition Coach, which means that you are qualified to teach riders to a local show level. Then it's Competition Coach Specialist, where you are qualified to teach riders at the national show level, which leads to High Performance 1, who could coach at the National Championship/entry International level. (If you want more information click here.)

First, you must have achieved a specific Rider Level. Equestrian Canada has a program that has progressive Rider Levels from 1-10 (9 & 10 are quite new). You get tested and get a certificate to hang on your wall stating your achievement.
I had to practice bandaging this week - it's probably been a decade since I've wrapped a horse all round. 
The good thing is, once you have achieved this certificate, it doesn't expire. Thus, the certificate I received way back in 1999 is still valid, so I didn't have to redo any of the Rider Levels. Thankfully, because I haven't jumped a 3' course in almost 20 years. The other nice thing about doing my testing so long ago is that the program was changed a few years back - when I did it there were only 3 levels. Thus my old level 3 is considered equivalent to the current level 8. To qualify for the Instructor of Beginners I only need the current level 6. So no issues there. (Except that they didn't have the information on file that I had my Level 3 - but I surprisingly managed to find my certificate as proof!)

You have to have a criminal check done. Always a little worried that something unknown pops up, but nope - I am arrest record free.

You have to have a valid First Aid certificate. No problems there, my workplace requires me to have it so they pay for it.

You have to be a member of the Provincial and National Equestrian Federations. I always do the provincial membership as my insurance depends on it. So I had to pay for a Silver Sport Licence from Equestrian Canada, and I'll have to pay it again in a couple months for the new year.
Polos did not go well - I couldn't get the damn "v" centered, and my velcro kept ending on the inside. Grrr.
Then the fun stuff.

You have to submit a mounted lesson plan, an unmounted lesson plan, and an Emergency Action Plan. And if you are doing the Jump portion, an additional mounted plan with jumping.

There is a specific formula for the lesson plans that you have to follow. And it's not just a description of the exercises you are going to use. No no. You have to record what the goal for the ride is, what the key elements are going to be, what equipment you will be using, a diagram showing the layout of the arena (including placement of horses and coach for the demo), how you will demo the exercise,what safety considerations might be, your introduction (including asking about any medical or physical issues and doing a tack check), the warm up, the explanation of the activity, three successive activities, the cool down, and a conclusion. And you have about 20 minutes on the day to teach your lesson plan.

So I had to write up three of these from a list of topics.

The Emergency Action Plan (EAP) applies to the facility you work out of. You have to have a diagram of the facility with muster points, fire extinguishers, horse and human first aid kits listed. Directions to and from the nearest human and horse hospitals. Directions to be able to give to emergency responders. A whole bunch of phone numbers for emergency personnel. And what to do in case of a fire or flood.

These are all scored before the actual testing day. If they are not up to par they could be sent back to you and you get a chance to make changes and resubmit.

Since the certification wasn't happening until November 17th, I figured I would likely have until November 2nd or 3rd to get these done. I was busy until October 14th, and actually looked at the email after that weekend. To discover that these were all due by the end of the week. The day after I had the original biopsy done on my neck.

I had a couple of late nights that week. Thankfully the deadline was extended to the next Monday. Of course I procrastinated and ended up staying up until 1:30 on Monday morning to get them done. (About 7.5 hours of work that night on them, mostly spent on formatting the diagrams.)

I didn't hear anything back on them so I assume they were deemed acceptable.

Once you have submitted your lesson plans and EAP and have sent in your $400 you are given a profile on the NCCP website. Then you have to complete a Making Ethical Decisions online module (you have two chances to pass) and a Making Headway in Sports module (about returning to sport after a concussion). These took about 4-5 hours to complete.

It is also strongly recommended that you either work with an approved mentor, or take one of a couple NCCP classes. I took the NCCP Equestrian Theory class at the end of September, and it definitely helped with the lesson plans, EAP, and the Ethics module. The person who was running the class was also one of the testers for this weekend, and she had mentioned some things to do for the certification at the September class that I tried to remember.

All of this has to be done before your day of testing.

There were three people being tested this weekend - two of us for the Instructor of Beginners, and one Competition Coach. None of us really knew what to expect.
The facility that we were at was amazing. The wall behind the carousel horse contains the Euro-walker, and that's a treadmill you see. There was also a solarium and a huge lounge. And some very fancy horses.
We all went in knowing that we had to lunge a rider on a horse with side reins. For the Instructors, we needed to show stable bandages, polo bandages and a boot of any style on a horse (one leg each). There was a written test - turns out it wasn't multiple choice. And of course, we had to teach our lesson plans.

We all made plenty of mistakes. They give you a chance to recognize if you made a mistake, and acknowledge what you should have done differently. And then there are the questions about why you did something and what you wanted to achieve - those put you on the spot!

There were three ladies who were judging our abilities. All rather daunting. Two were local, so I had met them before, but do not know them, and the other is well known from another part of the province. They all know their stuff and you cannot BS them. And you get very little indication through the day as to how you are doing.

The woman who was doing the Competition Coach didn't have to do the stable management stuff, so she was done early. She left right away and we don't know how she did.

The other lady who was doing the Instructor certification sort of passed - she has been asked to redo just the lunging portion. We both screwed up the same way with lunging, but maybe I was able to vocalize what I did wrong better, as I was not required to redo it.

There was a couple of things that I should have done differently, which were partly related to nerves, and partly trying to keep to my time limit. But I guess they liked enough that they saw that they had no problem recommending me for certification.

Provided that I keep up with the required professional development over the next 5 years, I won't have to go through the retesting again. You can bet I will do the PD instead!

Being certified isn't required for teaching lessons. The main reason I decided to get my certification? If I'm certified, the cost of my insurance drops. Significantly. So that very much makes it worthwhile.

If anyone in Canada is considering going through the testing process in the near future, let me know and I will let you learn from my mistakes!

Wednesday 7 November 2018

Good(ish) News

I had good(ish) news today.


I had an appointment with the surgeon I was referred to. The good news is that I don't have to have surgery at this time. It's only good(ish) because I might still have to have surgery in the spring.

Basically, I have a follicular lesion of undetermined significance. When they look for cancer, they look at 5 markers. If your sample shows the 5 - then you have cancer. If you have 0, you don't. If you have 2 or 3 markers, it's iffy. That's where I sit.


In April or May, I will get my thyroid biopsied again. I'm going to be referred to a doctor who does the pathology as he is doing the biopsy. If he isn't happy with the sample, he'll take another one at that time. And he apparently is likely to tell me the results on the day.


If they come back undetermined again, then I'm probably looking at surgery, just to be safe.

So I have a reprieve of  6 or 7 months at this point. And then I get to hop back on the roller coaster and go for another ride.

Have I mentioned I hate roller coasters?


I'm still at I might have cancer. But I get to forget about it for 6 months. I mean, it would be nice to have a definite yes or no, but I'll take this for the meantime.

The surgeon also seemed to be a bit confused about the pathology report. He said there were some weird things in there. So I'm not upset with my doc who misinformed me in the beginning - it appears it wasn't very straightforward.


I guess now I can start saddle shopping!


Thanks for the well wishes! I'm going to put them in storage and pull them out again in 6 months. 

Friday 2 November 2018

Wow Saddle - Part 2

Last week I received a demo Wow jumping saddle to try on Cisco.

I was immediately impressed with it.
The parts don't quite match colour-wise, but that wasn't the important bit about trying it.

It seems very well made. The panels, which have Flair air bags in them, were super soft and squishy. The only other time I've ridden in a saddle with air bags was many years ago when I tried a Bates saddle. It felt like I was posting off a trampoline and I hated it. This Wow saddle felt totally different - it felt like a normal saddle.
Normally there would be a leather covering all the hardware that joins the pieces together, so it wouldn't look so bionic.

How wide is the 5U headplate that Cisco needs?

I could probably get two hands side-by-side in there if you don't count my thumbs. Mind you, I have child-sized hands.
I liked that it was super wide in the front and through the gullet, made of sturdy but pliable leather, and had nice soft panels.

How did it ride?

Cisco has never been ridden in a treed saddle, so I did the smart thing and lunged him for a few minutes first. He's worn a treed saddle before (a couple of years ago), just hasn't had anyone sit on him in one. On the lunge, it was no big deal.
Set up with a point billet.
I haven't ridden in a treed saddle in about a year and a half. My butt immediately noticed that this wasn't my normal saddle. After about 10 minutes my butt forgave me and I stopped feeling my seat bones.

Cisco definitely noticed that this wasn't his normal saddle when we picked up the trot. Insta-giraffe. But he got over it pretty quickly.
Nice and wide. Definitely doesn't sit on his spine.
I had to play with my stirrups a bit to get the right spot. The stirrup bar has two positions for your leathers to hang from - one forward, and one more towards the middle of the saddle. Generally, the forward one is for jumping, and the rear one for dressage. I tried them both, and yep, I agree with that.

The flap was set up so that it is tilted up at the back, which brings the front part back and makes it straighter. The shape of the flap is right for me and my super-short legs (it could still be shorter though), but the knee block isn't quite right. My knee wants to sit a bit on it instead of just behind it. So this flap, which the the Fixed Jumping flap, isn't quite right. I could probably make do with it, but it probably isn't the one I will end up with.
The panels hugged his shoulders beautifully. Also note the 2 D-rings - one for a saddle pad, one for a breastplate. Eventers can get a ring for an air vest added at the front of the pommel.
Considering how wide the saddle is, it didn't feel that way at all in the twist. Maybe because I also only rode with jumping length stirrups in it. For the most part, my position felt rock solid, especially sitting at a canter. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to do much 2-point. I tried a bit, and it wasn't as easy as I hoped it would be. It could be because the stirrup bars aren't in the right place for me, or because it's hard to do 2-point on a giraffe, or because I've probably done a total of 4 minutes of 2-point in the last 4 years and have zero 2-point muscles. That is a bit of a concern since I want a jumping saddle.

After he got over the initial WTF? when I picked up the trot, Cisco was pretty good in the saddle. I mean, for a giraffe. I rode in the saddle 4 times - on two of those rides I had some canter where he felt like he relaxed and took longer, slower strides. The ride in between those rides was terrible, however, and the canter felt horrible. Since he was doing the idiot dance in the barn before riding, I'm pretty sure there were extenuating circumstances, and it wasn't saddle related.
Also super even contact along the bottom of the panels. 
On the first ride, the saddle slid laterally. Badly. I changed the saddle pad for ride #2 to my Ecogold treeless pad, which has a non-slip bottom layer. That was much better. So for ride #3, I used a drawer liner rubbery mesh between the saddle pad and the horse. That was amazeballs. That saddle didn't move at all. Not even when I wanted it to because it was slightly to the right after I got on. I didn't even tighten my girth before cantering and didn't end up hanging off the side. I'm so sticking with it. Though I will upgrade to the well recommended Gel-Eze leg wrap that apparently many people use.

I know, it's not ideal. But I'm pretty sure anything I put on Mr. Round is going to slide.
The flap was half way down my calf. It could definitely lose two inches.
My only other concern is if the saddle slipped forward a bit through the ride. Cisco has a big, set-back shoulder, and a wee, very forward girth groove. He currently has a Prolite girth for the forward girth groove. There were a couple of pictures where I was wondering if the point billet is angled forward later in the ride. There is still another girthing option with this saddle which would bring the front strap even more forward, but it requires an H-girth (so more $$).

Overall, I really liked the saddle, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to go this way when I'm ready to spend some money. The panels were the right shape for Cisco, so then it will come down to getting the right parts for me. I know I want a shallower seat, and probably a different flap. I'm hoping to find a used seat and panels, and then will order short flaps. But I've been watching a Facebook page from the UK where people sell parts and the parts I need aren't too common. I'm going to give myself a few months to find them before I panic and order all new.

At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Thursday 1 November 2018

Wow Saddle - Part 1

Real quick - after getting the call from my doctor yesterday afternoon, which came after my post yesterday, I kind of feel a bit guilty and that I jumped the gun with the post. But I'm keeping it up - it was what was true at the moment, and I don't want to have to write it again. I'm hoping that I get to write another post in a few days and laugh and try to make everyone believe that I'm really not trying to get attention for a fake disease.

Now to happier things - saddle shopping!

Ha ha! That's still a lie - saddle shopping isn't a happy thing.

I'm hard to fit (short legs). My horse is hard to fit (super wide). Saddles are just so damn expensive (I'm broke).

But I want a jump saddle to fit Cisco. I miss jumping. I'll probably only ever jump small things, but I like jumping small things.

After careful consideration, I decided to try a Wow saddle. Unfortunately, the closest dealer is about a 3 days drive from me. Which means everything has to be shipped, which means more $$$. Blargh.

The first step in the fitting process for a Wow saddle is to use their saddle gauge. The idea with it is that it will allow you to figure out the shape and size of panels and headplate that you will need, and what tree shape for the seat. Far cheaper than shipping full saddles or parts back and forth while trying to figure it out.

It took some work though to get some consistent results.

The headplate was easy - Cisco measured a 5U. That's equivalent to a XXX Wide.

Then things got a little trickier.

I'll let you watch the video if you are truly interested in how the gauge works. Far easier than for me to try to explain all the parts.

Long story short, every day that I tried the gauge on Cisco, I got different results. I could get everything balanced with a semi-curved tree one day, then the next day the flat tree looked better. Part of the problem was that I kept showing up at dinner time and someone was a bit hangry at potentially missing his food and wouldn't stand still.
This one has the extra deep gullet in the back. (These are all like 6 - 7 weeks old and I can't remember which tree they are all on)

With a point billet set-up.

With a standard girth set-up. Definitely gonna need the point billet.

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that with the semi-curved tree, he would need deeper gussets in the back, and with the flat tree, the panels would maybe need a bit more air in the Flair bags, but the standard panel gusset would be okay.

The decision was made to try a saddle with DXWG panels (D panels, with an extra wide gullet), with a 5U headplate, with fixed block jump flaps tilted back, and a deep seat (because that was the only seat she had on a flat tree).

Stay tuned for part 2 where I try the saddle!