Monday, June 29, 2020

Ansur Carlton 2010 Treeless Dressage Saddle a Review

I bought my first Ansur Classic treeless saddle a couple of years ago and loved it from the get go.  See my original post with details HERE.  I knew when I bought it though, that it was a size too big, so I have kept an eye out for the correct size at a good price.  Finally a really nice saddle came up on the Friends of Ansur Facebook page, it was at a decent price point used, it was an upgrade from a plain Ansur Classic, so I took the plunge.

The Carlton is a treeless with the FlexCore technology just like the Classic but it has a built in gullet with a twist that can be converted back to a no gullet Classic with the addition of a filler pillow.  I’ve heard it described as closer to a traditional dressage saddle but still with the feel and closeness to the horse’s back of a Classic.  And if you or your horse don’t like the gullet you can always add in the pillow.

So far, I love this saddle.  First of all, it is the right size, so it positions me a bit better and it is much easier to keep my alignment.  Second,  the feeling of a twist seems to make it easier for me to be more precise with my seat and changes my leg position just a smidge on Jet who is borderline too small for me.  Third, my posting mechanic is different and, I think, more effective.  Jet seems to like the saddle as well, with it seeming to have all the comforts of a treeless saddle for him, with a touch more support for me.  Time will tell of course, but so far I am very impressed with Ansur Saddlery yet again.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Racism in the Equestrian World

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, many equestrian bloggers I follow have had profound things to say about systemic racism in general and racism in the equestrian world specifically.  L. Williams of Viva Carlos so you want to be an ally  and Amanda of $900 FB Pony the concept of privilege  and right here among us are particularly good examples of confronting structural  racism in general but also delving into the unconscious white privilege and casual racism of a very white sport.  There have been a multitude of articles about Brianna Noble woman we all need , Black Cowboys black cowboys, and too many articles to link to about African American people who ride in various disciplines despite all the difficulties.  Because, you know, they love horses.

I don’t really feel I can write anything better than L. Williams or Amanda, but as someone who is multiracial but looks more like my white ancestors, including the ones on my African American side, I can assure you that racism and white privilege are alive and doing well, thank you, in the equine industry.  The shit people have said in front of me for the past 40+ years, perceiving me to be white, would make your hair stand on end.  As I have gotten older and more confident, think late teens, I started calling people out on their casual racism, but quite frankly I felt more comfortable to do so because most people don’t perceive me to be multiracial.  I have essentially lived a life of white privilege while also having a grandpa who was a Tuskegee Airman.  A weird dichotomy.  He was my absolute role model growing up, and he and my grandma were the light of my life as a child and teen.  I have a completely different life experience from people who are perceived as African Americans, but being the grandchild of high achieving AA grandparents who were intellectual, liberal, and the hardest working, most decent people you would ever meet, has given me a bit of a glimpse into different worlds.

Anyway, I could write endlessly about my so awesome grandparents, and my life experience of being multiracial, but that is not really the point.  The point is VOTE.  The point is EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT SYSTEMIC RACISM AND WHITE PRIVILEGE.  The point is CALL OUT CASUAL RACISM WHEN YOU SEE IT.  The point is SPEND YOUR $’s AND ONLINE TIME WITH THOSE WHO BELIVE IN INCLUSION AND DIVERSITY.  The world is changing rapidly(though not soon enough!) and every statue that is toppled, every law governing acceptable police conduct, every base that is renamed, every racist that is publicly shamed and fired, and every racist policeman that is prosecuted, brings us closer to a world my grandparents would be so happy to see.  

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

It’s the Small Things

I haven’t been posting much but I’ve been riding a lot.  I guess I’ve been waiting for some big riding breakthrough to blog about, but life in general and my riding seem to be a series of small good moments right now.  No complaints given the current world situation, but not exactly stunning blog material.  After thinking about it though, the following riding “small” moments are making a big impact.  

~When I sit on the back of my seat triangle AND draw my chin back, my balance (and Jet’s!) is SO much better.  Walk to canter to walk is easier.  Lateral work is easier.  The list goes on and on.  I’ve been fighting the hunter hunch for ages and this seems to be the most effective tool.  I just need to remember to emphasize it EVERY SINGLE RIDE.

~When I take up the contact I need to be cognizant of the Level of energy immediately AND feel it a little side to side not letting it leak out or deflate.  The further I get in this dressage thing the more I realize the naturally talented riders have such a feel for energy(and tempo and balance!).

~When I start any lateral movement I need to “get ready-come to attention” AND look in the direction of travel before positioning into the movement.  This helps tremendously with having a clear lateral movement that doesn’t wobble off the line of travel and is much more crisp and adjustable for more bend, angle, or engagement of a hind foot.

~Speaking of engaging the hind foot, I have realized that I took advice to grow the horse taller in the shoulder and feel the hind feet as more of a loading the springs of the hind feet with my seat.  I was watching a Dressage Naturally video on this subject and the lightbulb (finally!) went off that maybe Karen actually meant feel the hind feet come more under the body.  It is a different swinging feel with my seat and low and behold I can now get a better working trot.  Better engagement of the inside hind during lateral work.  Better working canters.  Just goes to show how you can understand something one way when the instructor actually means something completely different.  This is why I really like repeatedly watching the DN videos with practice rides in between viewings.  I can be a little slow on the uptake.

~Also, did you know that balance, speed, energy, and relaxation are all vital components to getting good transitions?  Who knew?  And that they are all different things?  And if you are missing any one of the above the effort will be suboptimal?  I especially struggle with the fact that speed and energy are two different things and that sometimes you need a slow speed with higher energy(I’m looking at you walk canter transitions).  I’ve started check-listing these components when doing harder transitions and amazingly the transition are much better.  

So, looking at these, we have been making some big breakthroughs just in a pretty low key way.  We have been having fun with liberty work, doing a lot of poles and working gaits, but also doing more sustained collectibility work and Jet has been quite happy.  As I said, no complaints and really quite a bit of growth.

What about you?  Breakthroughs big or small?

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Alternating between Working Gaits and Collectibility

I love this illustration from Dressage Today explaining the “lift” feeling of suspension within a correct lengthen.  Obviously a purpose bred dressage horse is going to have more suspension to their gaits but correct dressage training improves the gaits of even a very ordinary horse, which is the whole point for those of us not owning a fabulous natural mover.

In this vein, Jet and I have found a plan that is really working for us.  Using poles every ride to either lengthen his back and get him swinging or shorten his stride a little bit and get some suspension, while also alternating riding days between working gait days and collectibility days.  The working gait days, with slightly longer set poles, help the collectibility days be more loose through the back and the collectibility days, with shorter set poles, help the working gait days be more balanced with the hocks more engaged.

By focusing this way, alternating days, and adding in the poles I feel like we are getting some kind of multiplier effect.  The working days start out with a little longer walk poles, one or two collectibility exercises at the walk on a loose rein like lateral positions, a few steps of the energy exercise, trot poles set a little longer, one or two rein backs and then straight to the working gaits. The funny thing is that I’m doing less to warm up and getting the best working gaits, through, balanced, forward, and just so easy.  I think some of this is the posture and engagement carry over from the collectibility days and also the fact that Jet is grateful for this “easy” day and relaxes into the ride.  The collectibility days start with walk poles set a little short and possibly raised, the energy exercise, lateral positions at the walk, a little bit of trot, trot poles set a little short, and then on to things like lateral work at the trot with transitions, canter five steps walk five steps-repeat, and trot almost halt rein back trot-repeat.  Harder work, but in short bursts, with an expectation of energy.  So far, with very little tension, and that wonderful feeling of cadence or “lift”.

Jet seems to be down with this schedule and mentally it keeps me much more organized.  I try to do as few exercises  as possible to warmup but still get to the desired outcome, be it quality working gaits or collectibility with cadence and  relaxation.  I am so pleased with the outcome.

What is your schooling schedule like and how do you organize your training days?  Are poles, in hand work, or trail rides on your schedule?