Wednesday 26 May 2021

She's Legal!

 Guess who is now old enough to buy her own booze and vote?

Phantom turned 18 on Friday, which is the age of majority in the province in which she lives. She's officially an adult. 

Is a birthday party a party if there aren't balloons? No! So guess who got balloons for her birthday?

It was just windy enough that the helium inflated balloons had a hard time staying upright so we had to more to a less picturesque location than originally planned.

Obviously, Phantom wasn't too concerned about the balloons. Once she booped one of them they were no big deal.

She was far more worried about the lack of acceptable cookies.

I had picked up a pack of strawberry turnover cookies. They were deemed non-edible. I had to dig a bag of regular horse treats out of my car to make up for her disappointment.

The old grey mare is getting older. Hopefully, I get a few more birthdays to get the cookie selection right

Wednesday 19 May 2021

Just Do It!

 It's long been my goal to start seriously jumping again.

Twenty-plus years ago when I had my gelding Farly we did the 3'3" hunters and jumpers. He was a super honest and brave horse (except in gymnastic lines - it took a couple of years before he would reliably go through without running out in a one-stride, which often left me wearing a standard). He was also very rideable and adjustable, so he was very easy to place to the jump if I saw a distance, and at 3' and under he didn't worry if I screwed up.

Probably 1998 or 1999.

He had to be retired from jumping at the age of 13 due to a suspensory injury that turned out to be affected by ringbone that was found around the same time. Here's a tip - don't buy a horse you want to jump that has tiny quarter horse feet.

I had him for another six years before he went to the big field in the sky due to laminitis. I took about three years off from riding before I was given the chance to ride Phantom for a friend of mine. 

Phantom actually quite liked jumping. She is quite brave and bold. Unfortunately, she is not so rideable between the jumps. She dislikes any backwards contact or hanging on her mouth. It will cause her to become erratic in her pace, blow her leads behind, and make it difficult to get to the distance you saw. Then, to top it all off, if the distance was icky she would jump like a deer - and not in a good way. Of course the goal is to not have to pull backwards or hang on her mouth, but when you need to balance your canter quickly before turning into a line sometimes things happen, and it just never went well.

I gave it a go for a few years. It got a bit better when I found a bit she was happier with, but after I fell off  twice at a clinic due to her deer-style of jumping I kind of lost the desire to jump her. (One day I'll look for that video.)

I think this was the last time I seriously jumped her, which was in 2014. I don't think we had jumped for a bit at this time.

Then she decided that my jump saddle didn't fit her and must never be used again. She was happy in the dressage saddle, so we stuck with that.

She also would land 90% of the time from a jump on her right lead and I've always wondered if there was a physical reason. After dealing with Farly's ringbone I didn't want to risk ending Phantom's riding career early due to an injury that I could have prevented if I looked at the signs.

Farly went lame in 2000, so over the last twenty years I've maybe had 2 or 3 years of consistent jumping, and done just a few handfuls of small jumps otherwise. I'm a whole lot out of practice, and a whole lot worried about doing anything bigger than minuscule. 

But I really want to do it again.

I'm not in a position to take regular lessons, which means that there isn't the drive to do it regularly. I won't jump if I'm by myself, and though my mom is quite happy to watch me and call 911 if needed since Covid hit I haven't really taken her out to the barn with me. I ride at a barn with a bunch of eventers, so even though jumps are set up for half of the week, they are often tricky exercises that are not suitable for a green horse who isn't super brave (not to mention his rider). If I move jumps around I have to move them back, and that takes time that I often don't have.

Thus, I haven't jumped Cisco very much.

Cisco actually likes to jump. He's gotten better and braver the last few times that I've popped him over some little things (we're talking like twice in the last six months). He is far more rideable between the jumps than Phantom ever was. His stride isn't very long (I doubt it's anywhere near a 12 foot stride) and his canter can get really bouncy so my two-point position is horrible - thankfully I have no issues sitting in the saddle between the jumps. I find him really fun to ride.

On Monday everything lined up to do some jumps. There were a few little ones, someone responsible was riding with me, and I wanted to do something else instead of flatwork with him. 

We trotted over the couple of crosspoles with no hesitation at all from him. There was one more jump to try - a vertical.

I totally admit that I have a mental block about verticals (don't get me started on oxers). It's totally just because I haven't jumped one in years, but I was worried about it. I realize that there's no logical reason to be worried, it's just a different jump, but I think I've always found comfort in crosspoles - even those ones where the cups are set at the top of the standards and the horse has to do a really tight jump to stay in the middle - I always liked doing those.

I yanked up my big girl panties and trotted Cisco towards the single rail vertical, which was probably no bigger than 18". It was his first vertical, and he totally didn't care. I had a slight panic coming into it, my supervisor told me to breathe, I took a deep breath in, and just waited for the jump. Cisco popped over it and loped away with no concerns.

\We did it the other direction, which he had so little concern about that he barely jumped it, so we had to do it again.

Since things were going so well, I figured I might as well start working through my other mental block - cantering into jumps.

I know this is because I'm a control freak, and I don't like it when I don't see my distance into the jump and don't know what's going to happen. With Farly my eye got pretty good, but I'm so out of practice I don't trust myself. I know that I need to practice over poles on the ground. I also know that I am pretty accurate off the right lead, but for some reason I have a much harder time on the left lead.

I totally chose a short approach turn on the right lead - something I hardly ever miss.

I swear this canter felt much faster than a crawl.  And I think you can see a bit of his bounciness.

And we nailed it.

I was going to end it there, but my supervisor said she thought I was going to canter the vertical, so I should do it again. 

I succumbed to peer pressure. 

There was a slight moment of panic coming into the vertical where I didn't see my distance about five strides out, but, instead of panic riding and chasing Cisco into it (and probably past the distance) I just waited, and realized that it was going to be a wee bit short, but it would be okay. I was quite proud of myself for that!

Now, I get that getting over these tiny little jumps is no huge feat. When you haven't done it in ages it's just such a mental thing. Add-in being a perfectionist control-freak, and it's even harder to get over that hurdle (pun intended).

Next week I'm on vacation and I have no plans with the ponies that will prevent them from being ridden for the week. I'm going to drag my mom out with me and attempt to start Cisco on a small gymnastic line. My goal is to jump twice next week, and then at least every other week after that. The jumps don't have to be big, I just have to start doing them. 

My other tip to all those reading - don't stop. It's so hard to get started again.

Monday 17 May 2021

Another Month To Go

Early on Friday morning, I received a long awaited email - "Your new boots have arrived at the studio!".

Yay! Cue excitement!

That email was followed shortly by another email - "Just to confirm - you did order them to be fully sheepskin lined, right?".

Ummm, nope.

They are supposed to only have the sheepskin lined foot, not the whole leg.

"Oops." (I'm paraphrasing. That's not what they actually said.)

Boo. Cue disappointment.

They've got to remake the boots. So it's going to take another 4 weeks. 

Not the end of the world, the month will pass quickly. I didn't need them for a specific date and I have something to ride with in the meantime.

If you happen to know someone with super short legs (41cm/16") that are wide (39cm/15.3") with a larger than average foot size for their height (7.5/38) and who lives in a cold climate, let them know to keep an eye out for the Celeris sample sale for a great deal on a pair of winter boots.

I'll be watching them when they get added - I have a price in mind that I'd be willing to pay for them - probably about 70% off.

In the meantime, the new pair better be worth the wait and fit perfectly!

Friday 14 May 2021

(Another) New Toy

 I'm weak. I totally admit it.

My friend T got a Pivo about a month ago. I was really impressed with how well the videos turned out, especially outside. I looked at them online, coincidentally there was a sale, (there's always a sale lol), signed up for the 5% email code, and then looked at my credit card statement and decided I should be smart and I don't need another camera system - I already have a Pixio - which had yet to return from it's required repairs in France.

A few days later, they sent another email, this time with a 10% off code.


A Pivo Silver arrived a week and a half later.

It was kind enough to arrive on my day off so I had some extra time to play with it at the barn. I'm quite interested in all of the other modes that the app offers, although I don't know how many will work with a horse.

Overall, I was super impressed with the Pivo.

The plan is to use my old phone, a Samsung Galaxy S8, which still works fine, just a little slower (it also has a crack across the front camera, so I'll just have to use the back camera, no biggie). This way I can just leave everything at the barn in my tack box and not worry about draining my new phone's battery more often. 

The S8 is not on the official Pivo recommended list of phones, but it is on the community-recommended list from real users. 

It worked beautifully!

Phantom was kind enough to strike a pose for the camera at the end of the ride.

I rode outside in the field that I normally ride in, which is maybe 50m across. The Pivo was about 10m from one side, and it was able to keep track of me about 40m away. For the most part the only times that it lost me was when I rode too close to it.

The picture quality is only as good as your phone. I was super impressed by the quality from my outside, evening rides; I don't know that it would be that good inside. I had assumed that the Pivo Pod would fit on my tripod, but I forgot that the screw on the tripod is larger as you are supposed to put some type of head on the tripod. I keep a quick release plate on the tripod, and have ordered a plate for the Pivo, but for the first day I dragged a barrel out and plunked the Pivo on it. Thus, my pictures aren't totally level, but no complaints.

I know, I know, I already have a Pixio, why did I need another recording device?

I try to ride outside as much as I can in the summer, generally in this field. If I want to use the Pixio I would need a total of 4 tripods to set up the camera and 3 beacons around the field, and there is often times when someone drives through the field, or wind will gust, and I don't want to risk my expensive system falling over. Not to mention the huge PITA factor of setting up and taking down 4 tripods.

Also, there have been many moments when I've been working on groundwork or on something in the barn and I want to record it. Again, the Pixio could be a pain to set-up - especially in the barn. The Pivo is small enough that it can live in my tack box. As the saying goes, the best camera is the one you have with you. It doesn't matter if you have a great camera if it's sitting at home and you missed the moment.

I haven't had time to go through the full videos, I just grabbed a few screenshots. Do I have time to review and analyse more video? Hell no! Quick screenshots? Yes!

For my fellow Canadians - after the conversion to the US dollar, the Pivo Silver starter pack came to $202 CDN. I was lucky and didn't get dinged by customs for extra charges. It ships from China, and took a week and a half to arrive to me in Alberta after landing in Vancouver.

I've admittedly only used it once, but so far, so good, and I'm happy I've got it!

Monday 10 May 2021

Who Has Seen the Wind

 My little boy is growing up!

Friday turned out to be a fairly blustery day. One of the joys of riding in a Cover-All arena is that when it's windy, the canvas gets pretty flappy. This arena also has an unused, exterior ventilation shaft in the scary end of the arena that gets pretty creaky in the breeze. There are quite a few people who don't like riding their experienced horses in the arena during a wind storm because it's so loud and spooky.

One of the benefits of owning a deaf horse - Phantom doesn't give a shit about a noisy, flappy arena. 

Phantom had her tail washed and released from its winter wrap. I banged it shorter than I normally do and really liked the result. 

Cisco, however, gives a lot of shits about being in a noisy arena. He's gotten much better about it, and I certainly don't shy away from it, but we often have to avoid the scary end of the ring on these days. I'll ride him in there, but I don't feel the need to die. 

Now, I totally admit that I timed my ride on Friday night so that I knew there would be someone else riding at the same time to reduce Cisco's stress about the flappy arena. I'm not stupid.

Cisco was initially a little suspicious of the scariest corner with the vent in it, but unlike in the past, there were no attempts to scoot coming out of the corners. He was helped because we can't ride right into that corner due to a temporary (I hope) round pen that is set up in the corner, but that hasn't stopped him in the past.

He had really good energy through the ride - up, but not in a llama way. And totally listening to me. Bending and moving off my leg without any issues. He wasn't super round and over his back, but if I was planning to jump I would have been really happy with the energy and focus. 

I liked the results of Phantom's tail so much that I did Cisco's tail too. But I might need to go shorter. Also note the mud - I expect the clean tails to last like two days. 

After trotting for a few minutes we took a walk break on a long rein. And Cisco marched me down into the scary end of the arena. No direction from me.

That's huge. A completely different mindset from him on how to react when things are loud and clangy.

He did it a couple more times through the ride so it wasn't a fluke. I was shocked but very pleased - I had anticipated a bit of a gong show of a ride and it didn't go that way at all.

We also nailed our sticky left lead canter transitions. I totally admit that I wasn't riding them very well - I kind of threw it at him and dug my heel into him and then unsurprisingly he'd drop his shoulder and would just trot fast. I've been trying to remember to ask with a quick, light aid, and expect to get a response from it (which is how I ride Phantom). On this ride, he gave me three immediate, mostly straight with no flailing shoulders trot/canter transitions from a swipe the leg back aid. With the first one it took me a couple of strides before I realized he was already cantering, it was that prompt. 

I even tested the transition after I feared I had broken it - I was asking him to do a walk/canter transition on a 15 m circle and then stay on that circle and not fall out - he was struggling with it (his tougher side) and I wasn't always getting a good walk/canter transition. So I thought I might have broken the trot version. Nope - he nailed it. And then nailed the turn that we had struggled with on the circle. He got huge scritches and I hopped off pretty quickly afterwards. 

Considering that I was expecting to have a tense, spooky ride, I was really pleased with my ride. It wasn't perfect, but Cisco did a lot of things right.

My Pixio parts return from their European vacation on Monday or Tuesday of this week so I should be able to get some video this week - I'm really eager to see Cisco go.

And a Pivo should be arriving with my name on it too. Oops. 

Wednesday 5 May 2021

Review - Decathlon Warm Breeches

 I think it was back in December when I found a new-to-me retailer of equestrian items. Decathlon is a multi-national company that sells sporting goods for something like 65 different sports. They only sell items under their own house-brands - the equestrian stuff is branded Fouganza - so their prices are quite reasonable. They seem to have three different levels of equipment - 100 series is suitable for beginners, 500 for intermediate, and 900 for advanced. The quality (and thus the price) goes up with the level.

I ordered a pair of breeches - the 180 Fullgrip Women's Horse Riding Silicone Seat Warm Jodphurs - Navy (yeah, their descriptions suck). The 180 means that they are part of the beginner line. They were priced at $60 CDN, and at the time shipping was free. I was hoping that they would be warm enough to wear them in the depths of winter, although I expected to still have to wear thermals under them.

I really like them.

Fit - I would say that they fit true-to-size. They aren't super skinny and fit my um, athletic thighs without issue. They are a good length on me, so if you are tall you might find them too short.

The silicone seat is just the right amount of sticky. Not so sticky that I can't get out of the car, sticky enough that I know that I'm wearing fullseats. I don't notice a difference between them and my Pikeur fullseats with the simulation leather seats.

As to them being "warm" breeches - well, they are warmer than my regular breeches, but not nearly as warm as my Kerrits winter breeches. I've been wearing them a lot in the current spring weather we are having where it's a little above freezing so I don't want to wear long johns anymore, but in my regular breeches my thighs would still be really cold.  They aren't warm enough on their own for our prairie winters, but for those in warmer climates who think they get winters they might be just right. 

The fabric has a bit of a brushed finish on the inside. It is not super stretchy. The ankle has a stretch insert but I find that if I am wearing long johns it gets a bit snug in this area. 

It has a single zippered pocket on the front right (good size), and a phone pocket on the right thigh that zippers closed. My Samsung S10+ with a case and Pop Cap just fits inside and the pocket can be zipped up.

They are not fancy breeches, but simple. They kept the cost down by having a simple waistband. It's on the inside, no one sees it once they're on, no concerns from me.

The main reason I keep grabbing these breeches first - they are probably the most comfortable pair of breeches that I own. That includes the couple of pairs of riding tights I have. 

I don't know why - if it's the fabric, or the cut, but I love wearing these breeches. 

I have no idea how long they will last, but at $60 I wouldn't be too disappointed if I only got a couple of years out of them. So far, they have been washed every 7-10 days and have had no issues with showing any wear.

I would definitely buy these again. 

Once I get my recent car repairs and vet bills paid off, I'll probably order a couple more things from Decathlon. They have some breeches that look like they would be good for summer, a leather halter I like, and once you start looking at activewear from other sports, it wouldn't be any problem finding enough to get free shipping.

In Canada, you can find them at They have stores in eastern Canada, mostly in Quebec. In the US, shop at

Monday 3 May 2021


 I've been having really good rides lately on Cisco.

Like really, really good rides. Cisco has been a VGB - Very Good Boy.

His VGB status was at risk when he did his llama stare into the scary end of the arena while I got ready to hop on.

Between his magical soundproof ear bonnet and the Equibands, my horse is finally going the way I've been wanting him to go for the last couple of years.

He's finally going straight! 

It turns out there are positive benefits to straightness. They include:

  • being able to easily bend around circles and turns in the correct direction because his shoulders are already underneath him and not needing to be corrected from whatever side they've flung out to.
  • being able to move laterally off my leg in either direction, on a straight line or on a turn, because his shoulders are already underneath him and not needing to be corrected from whatever side they've flung out to.
  • being able to move forward within the gait without the need to fling shoulders out to one side or another.
  • being able to do a frickin' walk/trot transition without flinging his shoulders to the right every.single.time.
Shocking, I know!

Ever since I started using the Equibands he's been going better and better, and I feel like I'm finally getting the responses from him that I expect to get, without drama, without babysitting, and without having to constantly correct and micromanage. He's just been simple and steady.

Tonight, after some leg yields at the trot that just got better and better, I decided to try them at a canter. Again, they got better and better - actually, a really good attempt on our stronger right lead, and a couple of good steps on the weaker left lead. I think I've tried this once before with him and didn't really get anything.

So I thought I'd try the shoulder-in at canter. I haven't done much shoulder-in on him yet (my groin injury last summer would not let me school any lateral work without me very much regretting it) but I've been working on it. 

I ride a pretty good shoulder-in to the right, and can only ride a really shitty shoulder-in to the left. I have to really work on my positioning when going left.

We tried the canter shoulder-in to the right first - and by the third time, he had a pretty good idea and was able to give me 5 or 6 steps before he tangled his legs up.

Unsurprisingly, to the left, nothing really happened. Meh, it was a stretch goal. We'll work on it. 

The VGB got lots of treats after his ride tonight.

We've still just been riding with only the abdominal Equiband. I lunged him this weekend with the butt band on for the first time, which didn't result in any airs above the ground. But I need to get the right tension figured out - the band kept riding up and ended up just under the top of his tail. It was snug but I probably need to go snugger. I need to play with it.

Because he's been such a VGB, most of our rides have been a short school, followed with some toodling around outside. I've been trying to ensure that I take advantage of the nice weather before the mosquitos arrive and drive us back inside. Although I think I saw one this weekend so that time might be coming soon!

Hopefully, my Pixio arrives back soon so that I can get some video. I'm really excited to see a difference!