Wednesday, April 3, 2013

I think it's a success

I set out to do a couple of fast hours today, but it ended up being two and a half hours of less mileage than I planned on.  Still, the main goal was to sit on Dixie in the new saddle for several hours and see how well we fared, so I'll call it a success.

Today, everything was utterly terrifying.  I'd barely made it a mile from the barn when Dixie saw a jacket on a trail signpost (and heard the trail cleaning crew just out of sight around the corner) and went on high alert.  She backed up about twenty feet, snorting and trying to spin and run, and I was like, "Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue."

So we worked on bravely walking past the other trail traffic.  And there was a lot of it - I must've seen thirty people.  Tons of dogs, a few bikers, one treacherous baby stroller.  When we got to the far side of the park, we finally found a few pockets of solitude and got a little trotting in, but mostly we walked.  Mostly straight ahead, but sometimes we walked sideways or backwards.  :rolleyes:

The saddle seems to suit her.  Dixie had nice even sweat marks and no tenderness, and she only thrashed her head around when we hit a section of trail with flies.  (She spent the whole 35 miles at ROM flinging her head, which was the big blinking CLUE sign for me that she really wasn't happy.)

I think it suits me, too.  It's a wider twist than I'm used to, but my ligaments will stretch out and get used to it - plus it's good incentive to do yoga!  The seat is kind to my ladybits, but rubs my butt just a little - either I'll get used to that or I'll slather on the Butt Butt'r more regularly.  I can't keep my feet in the right spot in the stirrups, so I'm going to order caged stirrups.  Partly it's the twist making it hard for me to keep my heels down, but it's also the floppy English leathers that let the stirrups bounce more than I'm used to.  I think I'll buy some fleece and velcro and make covers for the leathers, too - if I like it, I'll get sheepskin covers at some point, but DIY fake fleece will do for now.


I thought I'd give yall the history of the bucking too, while I'm posting.

The arena at this barn is kind of scary.  One long side has trees and a cliff that drops down to the road below, where cars and bikers whizz by.  The other long side has the cliff going up, and about 20' above the arena is a small trail, where hikers sneak by on their way to whatever nefarious purposes hikers are up to.  A lot of the horses at the barn are reactive in the arena.  (In its favor, though, the footing is lovely sand, dragged every day by the amazing barn guys.)

Back in January and February, when it was raining all the time, I would ride once a week or so in the arena.  Dixie would spook every so often but she wasn't terrible.  Sometimes she'd crow hop but I'd yell and yank her head around and she'd knock it off.

One day in early March, we went out to the arena.  There was a kid on a lesson horse with the instructor and we shared the arena very nicely.  Then this cowboy came out with his wild-ass palomino.  The horse was wound way too tight, and when he put his foot in the stirrup it went sideways across half the arena with him hopping alongside, as one does.  Dixie lost her mind at that and hopped a few times.  I got her to stand and jumped off.  I didn't want to make the situation worse - that dude was not defusing things, and the poor kid was just trying to walk-trot, so we left.

Then yesterday I fiddled around with the saddle, rode her up and down the driveway hopping off and on and fussing with it, then went in the arena and she for-reals BUCKED.  I am a chicken, I admit, but I didn't feel confident riding it out in a new saddle with floppy stirrups blah blah blah, so we left again.  I'm sure it just cemented this notion that if she bucks in the arena she doesn't have to stay in the arena.  Sigh.

So my plan is to stay out of the arena for a while.  After I'm more comfortable in the saddle, and we do a longer ride, I'll peek in the arena when we get back.  If it's empty, I'll go Confront the Problem.  But I'm not willing to set off a chain reaction of horses spooking at other horses spooking and bucking, and I'm certainly not ballsy enough to have that fight with a fresh, fit Dixie.  It's always something...


And one last thing - this repost by ~C is well worth a read, especially for my maybe-durance friends! Endurance riding is not for all horses.  There's no shame in giving up on endurance if your horse hates it or can't do it.  All the unlikely success stories are just meant to inspire you to try it.  Give it 100% for a year or two, and if you can't get your horse through a 50, no big deal.  Get a different horse or a different sport!

It's something I've been thinking about a lot lately.  I want to move up with Dixie: not ride faster, but ride multidays or longer distances.  One day I want to do The Big July/August California Mountain Ride, and I don't know if she's the horse that'll take me to Auburn.  If Dixie says no to 100s, I'll be disappointed, sure.  But I won't know until we try to go further!


  1. Don't you think all horses (at least fit, healthy horses) get to feeling good in the spring? My two retired horses have been downright obnoxious to handle and even saintly Henry spooked at something on our last ride. Sunny jigged a little. I know its not bucking, but for my two steady Eddy's, that's misbehaving. I'm betting that as the year and the miles go by, Dixie will drop the silly stuff.

  2. I'm glad to hear the saddle is working out. Seems like head thrashing is a pretty good indicator of their comfort level, so perhaps Dixie likes this saddle much bettter!

    I think your plan to deal with her bucking is a good one. Get used to the saddle first and then whoop that ass! :)

  3. Sounds to me like Dixie did really well, given all the challenges on the trail. And though I know nothing about horse saddles, I know what a huge difference the right bicycle saddle can make to a comfortable ride - sore butts and girl bits are no fun at all.

  4. The line from Airplane! is one of my all time favorite lines . . . EVER! Thanks for making me smile.

    I just got a new saddle today too. I am already convinced it will do for all the things I want to try. I was thinking of looking into the Specialized, but I am really hesitant to buy a saddle without trying it first. I used a saddle fitter and ended up with a Prestige Trekker Land saddle, built on a calvary tree with a suspended seat. It's pretty freaking sweet. Can't wait to ride in it for real tomorrow.

  5. Thanks for sharing that interesting article. I really enjoyed reading it. Sounds like the new saddle is mostly a good fit for the two of you. Just have to work through a few issues and you'll be stellar.
    You might want to try Doc's All Natural Chamois Cream, if you haven't already. It doesn't use petroleum like the Butt Butt'r does. Instead it uses aloe and coconut oil, so is much healthier for your nether regions and female bits.
    Sure hope Dixie learns that the arena is not the place to buck (nor anywhere else for that matter!).


  6. Exactly right... only miles will give you the answers you're looking for...

  7. Yay for the new saddle! Boo on the bucking fits in the arena. Your plan to tackle that issue when she's a) tired and b) there's nobody else in the arena sounds like a good one. Not sure if she longes but that might not be a bad way to go if she's pitching fits and you don't feel like trying to stay on a bronco. Assuming, of course, that she'll pitch a fit *without* you in the saddle! LOL!

  8. That sounds like a not so fun day on the trail.. I hate those days when the whole plan is derailed but it sounds like you made the best of it. I wanted to comment on the arena thing. I recently brought Mags home for a boarding facility where the energy was just too much for poor Maggie to handle. I always knew she was a sensitive mare but it was eye opening to see how she really does react to her envirnonement. Might explain the issue we have with her not eating at rides:) I can totally sympathize with how you are wanting to avoid the whole situation. My situation was a bunch of gaming kids and rodeo kids that thought it was cool to amp their horses up as they raced around barrels and poles (then couldn't understand why their horses wouldn't cooperate with anything else they asked that required a quieter mind. The whole thing pretty much put Maggie over the edge and I brought her home. We are still recoviering I think! She didn't need that and I imagine it wouldn't do Dixie any good either.
    At your comment about endurance not being for every horse. I am also working through that with Mags. I haven't tried a 50 with her and I am not sure we will ever get there. For now, endurance is not in our game plan for 2013 and I am feeling really good about that . I am making some good progress in Maggie's training and she seems much happier. That is what is most important to me. A happy content horse.. You have come a long way with Dixie and have been very inspirational to me as I think Maggie is similar to Dixie and we face some of the same struggles! Keep up the good work, endurance or not..

  9. Flash is happy to tool around doing LDs (with the occasional 50 thrown in) and I'm fine with that. He doesn't want to move up and I don't want a different horse, so we'll just stick with this program until he decides he's done with LDs too.

  10. It makes me giggle that you are happy to ride out on trails but need to work up to dealing with the arena. Normally with the dressage princesses I rise with it is the other way around! Lol.

  11. Waiting patiently (okay, not) for an update?

  12. I have a few things to say (I usually do)
    1. How is it that I am not already following this blog? (fixin that!)

    2. I am pretty gosh darn impressed by your perseverance to go ahead and go when you were feeling so crappy.

    3. If a a gal suspects that she has a horse that would very likely be perfect for a sport like this, how would she get started? I've got me a paint that has more stamina and energy than any horse I have ever known. I am exploring different disciplines to find the one that works best for him. Right now we are exploring some show stuff like trail and Ranch Horse Competitions, but our absolute best rides are when we hit a trail and it is just him and I. He's got a "million mile trot" that I love, not to fast and easy to sit.

    I would love to know more about long distance riding.

    1. Yay, a newbie! I'll give you a longer answer tonight, but for now: Yes, you can do endurance, at least the LDs. Doing 50 mile rides is a bit more of a challenge, but it sounds like Trax (I found your blog!) would enjoy doing LDs, and you'd enjoy training him to get there. He's a cutie!

      This is the basic conditioning guide I like to point people toward: Old Dominion's How To. In 2009, I was exactly where you are today - I had a horse, not an Arab, who wanted to go, and I wanted to ride. We aren't setting any blazing records in the sport, but we've both grown SO much and our partnership is SO much better now. I did my first 20 mile ride in leather tack and a western saddle, and a decent number of people always ride "western." It's a great sport! More later, and welcome to my blog!

    2. Thank you.

      I will check that out for sure.

  13. Love That Sheepskin Idea....It Could Really Be Nice.

    A Good Girl Dixie Take On Whatever Comes! Outside....
    Mine Is Freakish Inside Too...
    I'm About Done Trying To Fight Through It....And Think Through It Too...She's Outdoor Glorious!

    You've Done SOO Much...I'm Hoping You And She Can Move To More.


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