As Christmas fast approaches, I thought I'd take a moment to review what I'd like to call Ben's Favorite things... aka his tack and equipment used on a daily basis.
I am not one to spend a lot of money on overly expensive gear. In fact, I generally hunt around for quality, but inexpensive things - especially for a young horse who is constantly growing and changing, and more apt to destroy new stuff.
That said, I had to start from ground zero with Ben. I didn't have any tack his size. So finding good deals was very important...but still cost a small fortune to outfit this horse over the course of a year.
This has been THE single most important piece of equipment that I had to resolve. Once Ben came out of training, I knew I had to get him a saddle. I opted to get exactly what he was being ridden in - a Wintec Isabell. Hell it was sticky, it fit him alright, and I liked the deep seat. It worked for a few months. But as I increased my time in the saddle, I just kept hitting a proverbial wall of pain. My hips were killing me. The twist was blocking me from allowing my leg to hang right. I was tightening mucles that needs to be more supple - and pissing off Ben in the process.
So, after several fittings and trials, I narrowed my choice down to an Albion Platinum Ultima w/ Genesis and a Kent and Masters S-Series. Both leather, but both worlds apart in price - more than $2,000 different. In the end, I just didn't love the Albion enough to justify the cost, and I was scared at all the fitting costs beyond the actual saddle. It was much easier to justify the $1800 I spent on the Kent and Masters.
And I LOVE it. Seriously, its a fantastic saddle for us. Adjustable tree, adjustable thigh blocks, adjustable billets.... narrow twist - my body completely relaxes when I ride in it. Ben, too, seems quite happy himself.
When I set out to get a bridle for the big man, I wanted to find something with a contoured mono or comfort crown. I found Schnieders to have exactly that - at a whopping $80. The only thing I didn't like much about this one was the crank noseband, just out of sheer simplicity. I've recently swapped the noseband out for a basic one I got off a Horze Daily Bridle purchased at half price for $35 as a back up.
I did actually spend a bit of cash on Ben's bit. When he was in training, he was ridden in a KK loose ring. I had tried to put him in something similar when he got back, but he was all fuss. So I splurged and got him his $130 bit.
#4 Saddle Pad
I started off with basic saddle cloths from Dover - and I really liked them. They are inexpensive and wash up quite nicely. But as the months pressed on, I was noticing white hairs cropping up all over Ben's back. Because he's such a bouncy/funky mover, I think the saddle was moving around a lot and taking the pad along with it. That was causing friction rubs. So I figured I'd try a sheepskin Numnah and I never looked back. Barn World has great prices - $75 for an Engel numnah is pretty good! I'll admit I bought an all-white one too, but I can't seem to take it out of the packaging to use, LOL. Next year I plan to get another black or navy pad to rotate into the mix.
#5 Stirrups & Irons
I detest bulky stirrups - so therefore all I use is Wintec Webbers. One day I'll upgrade to Bates, but for now, it isn't necessary.
Stirrups are also important to me because I tend to have achy hips, knees and ankles. Traditional irons are plain torture, as are jointed irons. I've tried changing out the pads, as well as adding the Super Comfort deals, to no avail. Last year I discovered wide-track composites, and fell back in love. Even more so, Horze.com has a product called "Reflex" Stirrups, which are wide track composites, but the foot bed has a bit of give to it. Fantastic. Once they come back in stock I'll be buying another set for my other saddle.
We've tried our fair share of girths this year- all in hopes of stabilizing our saddle. Anatomics (Prestige and Tekna), fuzzies, straights in neoprene, sheepskin, leather, you name it....we finally settled and enjoy the Ovation Airform Girth at a whopping $30. Mind you the anatomics alone sent us well over the $300 mark - but I was able to sell off the Prestige!)
These are important to Ben. He has a tendency to flail his legs about (less now than earlier this year), so as to prevent injury via knockage, we must boot him up to ride. During a summer sale, I opted to try SmartPak's sports boots for fronts and hinds. These have been fantastic. They wear well and are so easy to keep clean - I just pop them in the washer and then let them air dry. They do not crack, peel or anything - which were shortcomings of my Dover brand boots. My only wish would be for these to come in smalls so my friends with tinier horses could also enjoy them!
#8 Blankets, Sheets, and fleeces oh my!
Ben has a lot of hand me downs in this department. We've been lucky enough to have friends with large horses who no longer need their blankets. And while pushing 16.1, Ben is pretty short bodied and fits comfortably into true 78" 's, of which I have plenty of blankets. Our light weight sheet favorite is the Amigo Lite 600D. Fantastic when the temps are mild but protection from the wet (and subsequent mud) is still needed. Our slightly heavier sheet is a Schnieders Classic StormShield 1200 D. Once he got clipped and the temps dropped even more, we moved to a Pessoa Tundra, and have waiting in the wings a Schnieders StormSheild Body Armor, and a Horsewear high neck.
For riding though, ben also has a fleece quarter sheet we got for a whopping $13 from Horze. It is a lovely color, and though once too big, is now slightly too small since I hemmed it, LOL.
Living in the PNW where halters get rained on mercilessly, I wanted to find a classy, yet durable halter for ben. Rope halters get soaked, Nylon gets soaked, and to be honest, I'm not a fan of those. I'm not dumb or rich enough to let leather halters hang out all day outside either.A friend of mine introduced me to beta type halters, and by far, my favorite is one that Big D's sells. In black, you cannot tell this halter is NOT leather. For $30, it is a great buy.
So that is really it for Ben. Maybe we inspired a Christmas gift for
your special equine, or maybe we just posted a bunch of links for
nothing. Next post is all about the rider...
Ahhh, the joys of having a trainer. On the one hand, my horse and I have made amazing progress over the last 10 months. Progress that would likely be years in the making, or even just a pipe dream if we didn't have her.
On the down side, in order to make said progress, sometimes, said wonderful trainer pushes the envelope a little, knowing full well what horse, and rider, are capable of doing.
Last night's lesson was one of those times.
Everything started out great. Both of us marveling at Ben's new found smooth-ness. Little trot here and there - extend, collect, medium, leg yields, canters, 10 m trot circles- routine.
And then she decided to try to kill me via 15 m canter circles.
Okay, maybe she didn't want me to die....but I am pretty sure I will die. Apparently I have a great fear of riding a small canter circle. Ben is big...and the distance from me to the ground is significant. And let's be honest, he isn't exactly all that....graceful. All I can picture is his feet coming out from under him and down we go.
But push she did. I whined, I squealed, I cringed. And in the end, I rode the damn 15 m canter circles, and I am here to tell you about it.
Turns out my horse can do this. Trainer says, at the end "You know, I wouldnt ask you to do these things if I knew he wasn't ready. In fact, when I ride him go smaller."
Shut it, just shut it. LOL
Nah, I do appreciate the prodding. Without her, I'd just want to toddle around all day. Instead, I'm actually getting somewhere. And I must say, I'm pretty damn proud of ME for gettin 'er done.
Ben went to the fairgrounds again last night. Lucky for us, there was no rain, and it wasn't too cold.
He was a good boy. Excited at first to see all the horses sharing 1 pretty scary indoor arena- complete with pretty loud xmas music - lots of bells and ring-a-ding-dinging. But we walked around a couple of laps, and he calmed himself. he was mostly consumed with watching the other horses, and being a bit scared when they zoomed by. Some of these people cut it really close to you. Lots of new sights/sounds for horses- GREAT desensitizing, but not for the faint of heart! LOL
When I climbed (literally) on, he was a good boy. He had to have a good look around at the horses, the stands, the boards. No shenanigans.
I did feel like something was a bit...uhm, off. Walking, he was fine. But for some reason, he was having a really hard time picking up the trot, and keeping it. Totally new behavior. Almost felt like he was lame in the front, but I couldnt quite place where it was. Then I looked at my friend who was also riding and she said "its the footing." Sure enough, the sand footing was weird- it was slick, kinda wet and clumpy, and balling up in their hooves. This was NOT the normal footing in this arena - i remembered it to be brown dirt...and this was clearly weird sand type stuff.
We took it easy, Ben was clearly having a hard time, and losing a bit of confidence.
This morning I checked the fairgrounds website and sure enough, they are hosting indoor arena motorcross practices. That would explain the change.
So, not sure I'll go out there again with him. While it is great to get him out, its not worth risking an injury, or him losing confidence, when the whole point is to have him gain positive experiences.
On a positive note- we did get compliments again :) One for Ben's neat clip job, and the other for his sheer beauty...errr handsomeness. That gal said "You have a beautiful warmblood there, how old is he?" So when I told her what he really is, she went over to her friend and told her "look at this guy, isnt he gorgeous? You'll never believe what breed he is!"
I started Ben on Pentosan - he had his first shot last week while I was away. He was ridden twice (Tuesday and Wednesday) and then had a 4 day vacation.
Yesterday marked the end, and we went for a ride. I didn't know what to expect...would he be excitable, having not done much for 4 days - standing around in the cold, wet weather? Would the Pentosan make him excitable? Or would he be grouchy, which is often the case?
I wasn't really looking forward to the ride, I'll admit. My body was a bit sore - fair amount of knee pain from my travels. I figured I'd lengthen my stirrups and just let my legs hang, and if all we did was walk around, so be it.
Turns out, Ben was fine. He was not excitable- not even when the horse sharing the arena with us got all fired up on the longe. He was as level headed as could be. Love that horse!
And it gets better... after our long warm up walk, I picked him up into a a trot...and immediately something felt...different. Normally, our initial trot work is herky-jerky bouncy until he has a few minutes to lube up. But this time was different... I realized I was hardly moving up there - even with my longer stirrups. Wait, what?! Is this the right horse?
It still took him a bit to really warm up, but I was absolutely shocked at how smooth he was. His canter seemed a bit harder to warm up into...but his trot...wow...so either in 2 rides he learned how to move completely differently...or the first shot of Pentosan had something to do with it. My money is on the Pentosan.
He's got 3 more weeks of loading dose, then once a month there on out. I'm quite keen to see what happens from here!
Ahh the weekend. Friday was Ben's day off which meant I could plan on riding 2 days in a row.
Saturday was pretty routine. Ben was slow to warm up, and behind the leg. Shocker, I know. I was pulled, pushed, and bounced in the tack (all while trying to resist these very things while pushing him to move forward and carry himself, LOL). He went sideways INTO my leg, bucked, kicked, slowed to a halt...pretty much did everything but go forward nicely. But eventually, about 15 minutes in, we got to where we needed to be. Nothing really to write about, apart from being a little disappointed because I thought we were beyond all that.
Sunday I was ready for round II of getting beat up by my horse. But Ben was really great from the start. He had a quick warm up, and we did pretty nice trot and REALLY nice canter stuff. We're both getting the hang of the transitions, and things are just coming together. Our ride was short.
But it didn't end there. While I was letting him walk on a loose rein, I decided that I was going to, in about 10 minutes, pick the reins back up to do a quick trot and canter again. What I really wanted to do was school Ben out of his ratty-ness that I KNEW would come out if I asked him to work again after he perceived he was done. It isn't his fault- he is so used to riding for 20-30 minutes and being done. But the times he's had to go back to work after a break, he's shown his, shall we say, displeasure.
I was in the mood to deal with it, so deal with it I did. Our 10 min walk went by and I picked him up, and asked for a trot. Low and behold, I had a ratty gelding who was NOT happy. He started to grind on the bit and scowl at my leg (which wasn't doing much but softly asking him to go), and bounce around in his passage-buck thing he does when he's posturing. I schooled him out of it, and in 2 minutes or so he was back to trotting nice. We did a few canter transitions and got back a nice trot, and then I ended it.
I'm not sure if I did anything effective, but I was proud of myself for not taking the easy road, and instead, begin to fix a bad young horse habit.