Bring It, Springs!

With our next horse trial on the horizon, I’m feeling confident, in a way. I say “in a way” because I feel really confident, but before our previous successes I have been dead nervous, so I feel nervous because I’m not feeling nervous, if that makes any sense whatsoever. I have given up on trying to understand my own psychology.

Arwen, however, has given me not a scrap of reason to doubt her. There will be no stressage at this event (hooray!) so we don’t have to worry about the sandbox. We’ve been putting in brisk workouts around the neighbour’s fields; following her clip Arwen magically appears twenty times fitter and has been burning up the “track”. She comes out to work every day with bucketfuls of enthusiasm and energy; her workouts seem to steady her more than tire her out and after 45 minutes mostly spent hand-galloping, she’ll have covered at least 6km and still have plenty left in the tank.

Showjumping has also been going very well. At the beginning of April we blundered off to a training show (which never even made it into the blog), and blasted around the 60cm, 70cm and 80cm classes. 60cm was a speed trial, so I totally wrote it off knowing that I go around a showjumping course at the approximate speed of a continental drift, and we ended up coming third on top of a class of enormous thoroughbreds. We went double clear in the 70cm and had the last pole down in the 80cm, which I wasn’t upset about because I got her a terrible distance to it and she was exhausted anyways. This was pre-clip and it was a brutally hot day. So we know that she can jump an 80cm course without fuss.

At home we’ve been jumping a little course that I set up to challenge us. It starts with a vertical of around 1.00m, followed by a turn to a skinny about 65cm high (she takes the skinny in her stride, to my amazement), then a little bank up to an 85cm vertical, then a bank down and a turn to a 95cm parallel oxer. She had a few stops at the two bigger fences, but mostly this is rider error. 1.00m is reaching the end of the little mare’s scope and I can’t expect her to jump that sort of thing when I’m not doing my job. She saves my butt enough over the little jumps.

Much love for this fat beast
Much love for this fat beast

Cautiously confident over here; rest assured that walking the cross-country will probably dissolve me back into a suitable state of pressurised anxiety.

Magic has also been super. He managed to injure himself on Friday, another of his mysterious impossible idiotic injuries; some kind of an impact right above the hock on his inner left thigh, leaving a swelling and a graze. Dweeb. By Monday it was fine, though, so we went back to work. We jumped the same course as Arwen, except without the skinny and with everything down to about 60cm. He was his usual: honest as the day, excellent as long as I let go of his face. I think I should start singing “Let it Go” while I ride him. Unfortunately…

I’m also deeply puzzled as to Magic and the French link snaffle. Not because Magic fights the snaffle; that’s pretty normal. But for all the world Magic behaves as if the dear little copper-jointed French link is twenty times harder than his big nasty Kimberwick. He hides behind it, he overreacts to downward transitions in it, and he fights it every step in the canter, alternating violent head-throwing with coming up behind the bit. He’s even worse with the single joint and his teeth are up to date. Then with the Kimberwick he puts his little nose down and goes confidently into the contact. Lunatic. I know he hates the bit to touch his palate, so maybe he hates it to touch his tongue too and the Kimberwick’s port suits him. Either way, he detests dressage anyway, so for now the Kimberwick it is.

Take away this nasty evil snaffle, Mom
Take away this nasty evil snaffle, Mom

Further news is fairly limited, especially as it is too late for my brain to retrieve any of it. Vastrap jumped the same course as Magic like a superstar; one day when I have the courage I’ll have to do a power jump with him because I’ve seen him overjump 1.10m by miles – he’s got quite a pop in him. Baby Thun was much less stupid during his flatwork session yesterday than last time and even slid for me, on my poor footing no less. Exavior is being adorkable and growing like a weed. Skye continues to bully and babysit him, despite now standing almost a full hand shorter than him. The Mutterer’s chestnut mare has gone to her overjoyed new home. The little roan pony bucked me off rather painfully onto my left buttock, which now bears an impressive bruise; the impressive bruises are always somewhere that you can’t show off.

Except for the time that I faceplanted off Vastrap
Except for the time that I faceplanted off Vastrap

To bed with this exhausted equestrienne. Praise God for full days and good horses.

Glory to the King.

A Poor Workman Blames his Tools?

They say it’s only a poor workman that blames his tools. It should follow, then, that it’s a poor horseman that blames his saddle or his horse or his boots or his bit.

Of course, most of the time this is very true. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard, “But I can’t do it. The horse doesn’t want to.” This is often followed by whoever is teaching the lesson (often me, I’m afraid; this is my favourite trick) getting on the horse and getting the horse to do whatever it is he’s supposed to do with no apparent effort. The point is not that the instructor is so much better than you (if they weren’t a better rider, you wouldn’t be taking lessons from them). The point is that it’s not the horse who’s not responding; it’s you who’s not asking him the way he needs to be asked.

Excuses are just that – excuses. “I can’t ride properly because the saddle is too big.” “The horse is too wild.” “I’m wearing new boots.” “I’m too short.” “It’s windy.” “It’s Tuesday.” One will never improve when you are waiting for the right horse, the right arena, the right trainer, to lose weight, to gain weight, to get fit, to rest up, for your new boots to arrive, or King Arthur to return before you try your best.

The best riders can get on virtually any horse with virtually any equipment in virtually any circumstances and still look pretty pro; the best students can shut up, buckle down and get on with it as best as they can, even when conditions are not ideal, within reason. Of course, unsafe conditions should be fixed and avoided.

But coming at this idea from the other side, it’s true that one cannot ride perfectly when conditions are imperfect. Speaking as a petite rider who always seems to end up swimming about in 18″ saddles, I know how much it helps when your stuff fits and the footing is good and you’re not jumping straight into the setting sun (the Mutterer still moans at me about not telling him about that). One should be able to make the best out of very little; but there’s no denying that getting the most well-fitting and well-made equipment you can gives you the best possible shot at riding your best.

Arwen’s new saddle is what got me thinking about this. We all know how much I loved my old Solo, but looking at photos of me riding in the new saddle and just feeling the difference solidifies the idea that in my mind the new saddle was money well spent and a decision I won’t be regretting anytime soon. We did some crazy things in that old saddle (everything from jumping our first 1.10m to our first ribbon to our first cross-country lesson), but the new one makes craziness easier.

I have, somehow, taken a very big knock on my jumping confidence lately. Arwen and I used to practice around 90cm regularly without turning a hair; we used to hop around 1.10m fences, hard as that may seem to believe. Without anything really happening, our jumps just seemed to get smaller and smaller. Perhaps it was with me polishing our technique for shows, where we’re only doing about 70cm anyway. Perhaps it had to do with Magic and I having some hassles about jumping. Whatever it is, I started freezing up at the base of the jumps, which led to stopping; after that, I developed my fear/hatred/phobia of stopping, and froze up even worse.

This all happened so slowly that I didn’t realise it until a couple of weeks ago and have been chipping away at it ever since. First, I started by working super hard on my light/forward seat/two point position/whatever you want to call it when you get off the horse’s back. Mostly, I spend longer periods in light seat when I do hillwork, galloping or intervals with Arwen. (Interval training in light seat only = death to leg muscles). The new saddle, due to the perfect positioning of the knee blocks and its stability on Arwen’s back, makes this about two gazillion times easier.

Second, I put my big girl pants on and raised the jumps whether I liked it or not. Not too much – not enough to daunt the horses (i. e. Arwen); just 10cm or so. Where I’d normally warm up over 70cm I made myself warm up over 80cm; I put up a 1.00m oxer which looked hideously big, started jumping it at the end of sessions when I was feeling brave, and then made myself jump it (making a conscious effort to give Arwie a bit of a kick into it to make sure she’d jump) earlier on. Now, it’s suddenly not anywhere near as scary anymore. Part of this is undoubtedly the fact that I feel absolutely dead safe in my new saddle over jumps. I know this is because it helps me stay solid in my position, instead of sliding back and sideways like I did in the Solo. I also know that I should be able to jump anything in any saddle; but I’m not there yet, and the new one makes it a whole lot easier to learn. In fact I’m back up to 90cm or so in the very big saddle that I ride Reed in, so we’re making progress.

Suddenly, jumping is a thrill and a wonderful joy again. I can’t wait for cross-country on Wednesday!

What do you think, blogosphere? Do you believe that a good rider rides just as well in any tack? Or is it an important consideration for optimum performance?

Pretending to be pro in the Kent & Masters. Except for the hair, of course. (We're both guilty).
Pretending to be pro in the Kent & Masters. Except for the hair, of course. (We’re both guilty).

EAHBH: Confessions of a Pleb

So I was going to write this technical photo-heavy post about Magic’s free jumping, but then today just kinda happened. I got thrown head over heels on a hack during a bit of overexcitement in a canter, and my horse (not one of the Horde, a client horse) took off like a shot, leaving me behind like:

I know, I know, all the cat memes. But they’re so cute!

Luckily the farrier was on his way down the road and saw the riderless horse go past, so most sensibly drove the way she’d come and found a grumpy horse trainer making her way home on foot. The horse also had the good sense to run straight home to her paddock and not get hit by any cars, so it ended well, but left me tired and in too daft a mood for serious posting.

What I really felt like was writing a blog hop, and Hillary is now my hero for taking over the blog hop duties from L. So without further ado, my response to the first Equestrian at Hart Blog Hop.

I want to know about what you ride in and why? Show us your Equestrian Fashion choices and tell us why you wear them!

I am a horrible pleb when it comes to riding clothes. During my novice years, when a saddle was considered fancy frippery, I barely stooped to a bridle and riding helmet, and occasionally still do so (provided the horse is fat enough).

Later on, I started to figure out why professionals wear riding stuff (except obviously the Horse Mutterer): it’s there for a reason. I added riding boots to my gear since they didn’t slide around on the stirrups as much as gumboots did, and when I finally consented to use a saddle for multiple horses every day, I added half chaps as well. Shorts are all fine and well for Western saddles, but even jeans don’t give you enough protection from the stirrup leathers’ pinching and rubbing your legs against the saddle flap in English.


This winter was the first time I started to wear gloves for riding, not because the reins were hurting my hands much (I generally ride with leather reins), but to protect my knuckles from the dry air. They get truly horrible after a day at the stables and somehow the gloves trap moisture in my skin.

So now, my daily riding get-up, from the bottom up.

Feet. Boots depend on where I am, since I wear out a pair of boots in six months or so. At home, I wear non-riding Bronx boots, which are cheaper than riding boots but still have a heel. At work and shows, I ride in Trident paddock boots, which are a lot nicer, look prettier and match my gaiters (always a win).

Lower legs. While I would love to have proper long boots, I can’t justify spending that amount of money on something that wears out so quickly. Chaps are just hopeless (they’re lucky if they last 8 weeks), so I wear gaiters, of which I don’t know the brand (my bad). They need the zips replaced now and then, but they look good, feel great and don’t wear out. Mine are too short, though. Everything that was long enough in the shop was hopelessly too fat, so I went with thin enough, but too short. It’s a little annoying but does the job just fine.

Short but skinny enough
Short but skinny enough

Legs. This is where my inner peasant shows itself. I wear jodhpurs/breeches only for special occasions and spend the rest of my life in el cheapo jeans that are slightly too big. (Everything is, when you’re me). I do have a good reason for wearing jeans, though: they have pockets. I would die without pockets. Also, they’re cheap, easy to find, and last really well, and if they don’t fit you just put another hole in your belt. I am on the hunt for jodhs for work, though, because jeans really do look terribly scruffy. Just as soon as I find jodhs with pockets. Another disadvantage of jeans: When you’re 5′ 4″ and trying to get onto a 16.2hh stallion without a mounting block, ominous creaking sounds are emitted from the stitching around the groin area. It is at this point that I swallow my pride and ask for a leg-up.

Waist. I love my belt. It’s handmade and leather, and wide enough that it fills up your belt loops completely. In fact, I just love leather, period.

Show smartness
What passes for smartness at training shows

Torso. At home, I’m rocking the baggy T-shirt look. At work and shows, I am in love with my work uniform. The Ruach owner has impeccable taste and the cut of this collared shirt is amazing. One of the (few) disadvantages of being built like a toothpick and active enough to have an athletic figure is that nothing fits, ever, so that athletic figure is restricted to looking like a clothes hanger with everything just kind of draped around you.

Without being in the least immodest, my uniform is ever-so-slightly flattering. Plus, it’s super durable, never too hot, and has an awesome coat of arms/logo on it. Win.

Not baggy! That's new...
Not baggy! That’s new…

Hands. Gloves are worse than chaps. I used to just grab the cheapest pair of gloves I could find at the feed shop, but they lasted 6 weeks, tops. Now I have a pair of Horsetech leather gloves, which are fantastic. The leather is a little hot, but it’s worth it for the tight fit around the wrist and extra padding and protection around the thumb, forefinger, pinky and ring finger. (Middle fingers apparently have no use in horse riding. Well, it is sometimes quite tempting to flip them, but I try not to and you don’t need padding for that anyway).

Head. I fall too often to have an expensive helmet. I just buy cheap ones so that I can afford to replace them more often. This is about the fifth fall on my current one (I’ve been meaning to get a new one for the past four falls) so the hat hunt starts in earnest this weekend.

Until then, I’m just going to really, really hope that I stay on.

Adventures in Saddle Fitting

Sunday afternoon found me dragging Arwen into the horsebox for a trip to the stableyard to see the fitter. We had a small triumph when, with the aid of a lunging rein looped around her bottom like you do with a stubborn foal, I managed to load her by myself. It was another small triumph when I also convinced her to stand still in the box, untied, while I closed the breeching bar and then attempted to lift the ramp. This last was an epic fail; I got it about halfway up before turning purple, and it was a miracle that one of the big strong dairy workers turned up when he did.

She travelled moderately well, not awesomely but not at all badly, and I was very relieved when I had a relatively sane horse to unload in front of one of my clients. It would be just like horses for her to act like a lunatic. The fitter had not yet arrived so I just stripped her travelling things off and held her while she grazed and watched the client – an exceptional equine artist, whom we shall call the Second George Stubbs, SGS for short – lunging one of his stallions. My dad went off home, leaving Arwen and me all alone off-site for the first time. Arwen didn’t appear to notice.

In the lunging ring

The fitter arrived to find a somewhat hyper horse and desperately excited me. I held Arwen, who fidgeted, while the fitter took down her details – age, breed, amount of work, discipline, and so on. Arwen took the opportunity to dig up some arena surface and got yelled at. Really, she is such a well-mannered horse, but of course she would perform like a nervous yearling when there were knowledgeable people around.

The fitter then took out a kind of bendy thing for measuring horses’ backs. She placed it on Arwen’s back and bent it until it fit the contours of her body, then put it on a piece of paper – it held its shape – and used it as a stencil to draw the shape of her back. Three of these measurements were taken, one just behind the scapula, one just above the last rib, and one on top of the horse’s back to take in the shape of the wither.

“Hmm,” she said, as Arwen stomped impatiently. “She’s going to be a complicated fit.”

I kind of expected that, but still heard the sad little tinkle of my bank account emptying at that point.

After that we put my old Solo on Arwen’s back and the fitter found several problems with it; mainly, that the pommel was too low over her withers, and that the panels didn’t come into contact with her back properly. I told her about the saddle’s excessive lifting when we jump, and she said that this was because of the poor balance and lowness of the pommel. She suggested some things she could do to make it fit better but confirmed that the Solo was never going to be quite a perfect fit due to the design of the tree and panelling, which couldn’t be adjusted.

Then the exciting part began. I led Arwie up to the fitter’s van and we started trying on different saddles. I’ll admit that most of them looked more or less the same to me, but the fitter would go “Hmm, not quite” and whisk them away again. All was going well when suddenly one of the resident pot-bellied pigs wandered around the corner. I’m dead used to the pigs, so barely noticed, but poor Arwen had never seen such a creature in her life before. She panicked completely and danced around, snorting loudly and trying to run away while I clung determinedly to her head and prayed that she wouldn’t kick the fitter. This was probably not the time for a desensitisation lesson, so the SGS helpfully removed the pig.

Monster gone, Arwen calmed down after a few minutes and we could get back to work. The fitter had narrowed it down to two choices; a Thorowgood T4 and a beautiful leather Kent and Masters pony jump saddle. I threw a bridle onto my somewhat freaked out horse, prayed that she wasn’t going to throw me in front of everyone, and got on with the Kent and Masters.

Trying the Thorowgood
Trying the Thorowgood

Arwen did what she always does. She was dancing like a maniac when I got on, but as soon as my butt hit the saddle, a switch flicked in her head. She settled instantly, put her nose down and got on her mind on the job, as if relieved to have something else to think about. We walked around the little arena for a few laps and although it is quite a scary arena with trees and benches around it, she just had a look and then dismissed it as nothing to worry about.

She rushed a little and poked her nose out when I asked for the trot, but I stayed calm and posted to the rhythm I wanted, so she soon relaxed and matched her stride to my posting. Worrying over, I could focus on the saddle. The first thing I noticed was how wonderfully small it was. Even my beloved Solo is a 17″, and this was a 16.5″. I spend most of my life swimming around in 18″ seats not designed for midgets. As the fitter so aptly put it, “There’s not enough of you for seventeen inches.”

Us in the Solo: I think I see her point...
Us in the Solo: I think I see her point…

The other thing I noticed was the lovely squishy seat. It was like sitting on a pillow. But most importantly, the saddle didn’t touch her withers and when I asked for a brisk trot-halt transition, it didn’t slip. Arwen, who as usual applied the brakes sharply and braced herself for her load to slip, seemed pleasantly surprised.

I asked for a canter and expected a bit of a buck, especially given her frame of mind after the pig incident, but she was perfect. Instant transition, relaxed canter. She was in working mode and a complete pleasure to ride. A flawless lead change and a few more laps of canter later, I hopped off and we tried the Thorowgood.

I could see that the Thorowgood didn’t sit as flush with her back as the Kent and Masters did, but I loved the way it felt for me to sit on, although it was a hair too small at 16″. Still, I liked them both. Arwen remained awesome and I asked the fitter to set us up a little jump to try out.

I wouldn’t have been awfully surprised if she had given me a stop or two. It was just a cross, about 40cm in the middle, but she doesn’t like crosses; also very brightly painted, which she dislikes, and the arena is small enough that our best turn to the approach is half a 7.5m circle. Luckily she is little and adjustable, so it turned out not to be a problem, and she took me straight to the jump and hopped over without so much as a glance. The saddle felt awesome. I could stay forward with more confidence and my body didn’t slide back. She also felt like she was jumping rounder, lifting her shoulders up instead of jumping flat.

The next day at home: round jumping. Forgive me for my hair please
The next day at home: round jumping. Forgive me for my hair please
In March in the Solo: flat jumping
In March in the Solo: flat jumping

We switched back to the Kent and Masters to jump with it; again, she was perfect. I liked both saddles, especially the Thorowgood’s squishy seat, but could see the Kent and Masters fit her better. We rode over to the fitter, who said that she preferred the fit of the Kent and Masters both on her and on me. Then she told me its price and I nearly fell off.

But, to make a long story short, after consulting with my parents and asking a thousand questions, I went for the Kent and Masters. The Thorowgood would have worked, but the more expensive saddle had a lot of things going for it. It had a greater range of adjustable gullets, it fit the two of us better, and above all, it was leather. I dislike and distrust synthetic as a rule, and while the Thorowgood was very high quality, it just wasn’t leather. Leather improves with use and age. I felt I could count on the Kent and Masters to last beyond Arwen’s working lifetime and into the next horse’s.


While we were deliberating, Arwen got bored of standing in the lunging ring and jumped clear over the 1.40m fence. I’ve seen a few wild horses try to jump out of the ring and none of them have managed it, but the next thing I knew, my little grey horse was trotting off to meet the broodmares. I rescued two large warmblood mares from her before she could kick them and opted to hold her until my dad came to fetch us. “Well,” said the fitter, “at least we’ve established that it can jump.” Indeed we did; she had all of half a stride’s run-up.

She was a bit stressy when we loaded, but got on quite easily, and pawed the floor of the box until we got moving. I was disappointed to find that she sweated the whole way home again and was drenched when we unloaded. Poor girl. I hate it when she travels badly.

This morning, I couldn’t resist taking her for a quick spin in The Wondrous New Saddle just to feel it again. It was so much fun, and she jumped like a pro, though I kept it down to 80cm in case she was tired from yesterday. She is jumping so much rounder and I feel so much more secure.

I don’t think I’m going to regret this.

Awesome days ahead. Including a new hairdo.
Awesome days ahead. (Including a new hairdo.)

Motivation Slump

Yeah. I’m even too lazy to spell properly.

I’m not sure what’s up with me lately, but there is a definite lack of get-up-and-go right now. Poor old Thunder and Skye have only been ridden once this week, and Magic twice;  Thunder however got his vengeance by chewing up my exercise bandages (he is so impossible when he wants attention). He is now busy terrorising his ancient, crochety friend, Benjamin the donkey, into playing with him. Skye just makes evil faces at me and Magic is being daft; August winds don’t help him with that. He saw a feed bag blowing in the wind and tried to leap into my arms like a frightened girl. Let’s just say it didn’t end well.

Probably, I’m just still getting over the flu, because my body isn’t cooperating the way it usually does, but I’ll be all better by next week. (If not, I’ll fake it till I feel it 😉 ).

Arwen at least is being kept in proper work, because we have a (very very exciting! squeee!!) saddle fitting on Sunday. We’ll be heading off to the yard where the Ruach horses are stabled, because the fitter has another client there, but that shouldn’t be a problem at all for Arwie. I’m much too excited to have my first real fitting done and to buy a new saddle. My bank account is less excited about that, but while the Solo Classic has given me many, many hours of very faithful service, it is time for a new one. Arwen has changed shape and the Solo is getting perilously close to pressing on her withers. I’ve also worn out the seat pretty bad, and it’s hard to sit deep when your seatbones are being crushed to death. It will be kept as a spare/training saddle because I wore the dye out of the seat as well so I won’t get anything for it anyway.

Saddle pre-ride

It’ll be really nice to have a saddle that stays in the same spot on your horse’s back as opposed to creeping forward constantly – I bet Arwen will also be thrilled to be able to lift her shoulders properly, too.

Saddle post ride
Saddle post ride

She gave me nice work this week; on Tuesday we jumped 1.00m without any issues at all, which gives me hope for making her a 90cm eventer one day, and on Wednesday we had a lesson where we practiced our speed for the jump-off. This involved sprinting over small jumps, which was really hairy and really enjoyable. Arwen was fantastic, no bucks, although she did have a few barrel racing flashbacks and nearly spun out from under me on a corner or two.

Magic also had a lesson and impressed me by being extremely calm over some quite scary jumps (filler-wise, not height-wise). His jumping is really good right now, although we jump mostly from a trot. My next mission is to set up a little course -70cm or so – and jump around it at a canter. Once he’s doing that well, I’ll make a few scary jumps with filler in them and bright colours, maybe a couple more gymnastic lines, and then he should be ready for his first little show in summer.

He needs some variety, though. I think he’s getting bored from his monotonous routine of jumping, lunging, schooling, over and over. He can be such an idiot on outrides but I guess it’s time to bite the bullet and just do it, especially if we’re ever going to be eventers.

Other achievements for this week? Well, I taught one of my heifers to eat carrots. Merida might be a high-quality heifer and bred in the purple, but mostly she acts like a happy pet.

Weird, but adorable
Weird, but adorable

Productive, right? Never fear. I shall return!

Every Little Bit Helps

Or, as it may be, every big bit; it depends on the horse.

There are so many bits out there these days, and even more opinions floating about on the Internet from so many different sources, that bits and bitting can be an utterly bewildering subject. I tend to go with my usual philosophy: the less gear the better, but it depends on the horse, it depends on the rider, and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

While there are a lot of people out there who deem it a ridiculous cruelty to put a piece of metal in a horse’s mouth, I feel that you can do about the same amount of damage with a rope, Dually or Parelli halter, or a bitless bridle. It’s not so much about what’s on the horse’s face as what you’re doing with it. No “legal” piece of equipment, if properly fitted, should hurt the horse when no pressure is being applied, and the amount of pressure applied is entirely in the hands of the horseman. I would rather see a good horseman with a spade bit than a bad horseman with a halter.

Hands are not my strong point. I am not as soft-handed a rider as I would like to be, but I trust myself with most bits and can listen to the horse and adjust my contact accordingly most of the time. (When I get scared and pull, that’s a different story). I also think about two million times before changing a bit, because in my perfect world, all my horses would go in snaffles except for advanced dressage or reining horses. But when Arwen started to pull so much on outrides that my fingers eventually gave up on aching and just went numb, it was apparent that a change was in order. If she was doing that to my fingers, then what was she doing to her mouth?

So yesterday I put her in my Pelham for our hill work. At first I was going to use connectors, but I decided to give her a chance with the reins on the top ring to see if that would work, since the action is gentler. Once she got used to the idea, she was quite a pleasure; less head-tossing, more brakes, and, critically, much less pulling. I could feel a massive difference; she was still eager, still took the contact happily, but my shoulders and fingers didn’t hate me afterwards.

Giant bit
Giant bit

The best part was that today I could put her back in her snaffle for jumping; the eggbutt has actually grown on me and she goes beautifully in it, plus it looks quite pretty (can’t say the same for the Pelham). She didn’t pull at all; in fact, she was lighter in my hand than before being ridden in the Pelham, so I’m going to go ahead and use the Pelham for interval training this weekend and see how she goes.

Magic has the opposite problem. He was starting to curl up behind the bit and didn’t want to go forward. Plus, he’s bouncy and I have confidence issues on him, so my hands are at their worst when I ride him. The Mutterer recommended changing him back out of the Pelham to his eggbutt snaffle, so I gave it a shot and he felt loads better. He is still fussy with his head and tends to open his mouth, flip his head when he’s upset and poke his nose out when he canters, but not as afraid of his mouth as he was with the Pelham. He also jumped beautifully today; in fact I think I am boring him as today we went up to 75cm and he was nearly taking rails. (For the record, Magic never, EVER takes rails). Tomorrow we’ll put together a little course to kindle his enthusiasm and I might even pluck up the courage to take him out.

Forgive me for the supremely dull post today. I’ve got some more interesting stuff in the pipeline!

Modelling the eggbutt
Modelling the eggbutt

The Leather Dressing of Awesome

I am truly horrifying about cleaning my tack. I know I should wipe it down after every ride and scrub it and oil it once a week, but I’m afraid rinsing the bits after every use and a good cleaning once a month or so is as far as it goes.

That said, I really love the feeling of leather when it’s been looked after. I wouldn’t call myself a leather snob because I own some real el cheapo leather, but I definitely adore good leather. Especially good reins – I don’t have a single set of those cheap and nasty nylon or rubber reins. They give me the willies. Mine are all leather, either plain or braided, and well oiled.

Recently, I’ve been using Dubbin to condition my leather. I had always used Trident’s leather oil, but I’m really not a fan of anything Trident – it’s really not that cheap and most of the stuff is sucky. The oil was no exception, leaving the tack feeling saturated and smearing oil on my hands whenever I touched my bridles afterwards. And yeah, slippery, oily reins aren’t a great plan.

Dubbin was an improvement on the Trident oil. In fact, quality Dubbin was amazing: never slippery or oily and it was great for waterproofing and conditioning leather. It wasn’t the best for softening new or hard leather, but a great day-to-day thing.

I think my last tub of Dubbin was poor quality, though. It left the leather feeling tacky after a few uses and collected a lot of dust, and after each ride my hands were sticky and oily. Besides, new Dubbin tubs were about $8 each, and that’s when this little beauty caught my eye.

Whoever Moore was, they're is my new tack hero
Whoever Moore was, they’re is my new tack hero

I hadn’t used oil for ever, I was tired of Dubbin, and the price tag on this was R37. To the foreigners, that’s less than four US dollars. I plonked down this exorbitant amount of money and went home in an experimental mood.

Today I tried it out on a brand new show halter that was so stiff it held the shape of the loops I’d been holding it in. And guess what? I LOVE THIS STUFF. It has absolutely no odour, you just put some on a cloth and rub it in, and it absorbs instantly. Yes. Instantly. The difference is immediate. I think it’ll need a few coatings to make the leather perfect, but it was a massive difference. And the best part? No oil residue anywhere. I didn’t even smell like I’d been cleaning tack afterwards.

I’ll be interested to try this stuff on well-oiled tack, since it worked so well for thirsty leather.

What about you, fellow leather obsessees? What’s your favourite leather care product? Why?