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Cob Jockey by Jen - 1d ago
Just a reminder that the Dressage Rider's Journal contest ends at 12am Eastern time Monday!  So you have a day and a half left to enter.

Also for those of you who have already entered, double check that you have both left a comment and entered via the Rafflecopter widget.  There are 14 entries and 11 comments so at least three of you are technically not entered!

Hank being festive

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Longtime readers will remember that winter boots are one item that I was just straight up cheap with a few years ago, and I lived to regret it.  After I got two years out of a pair of less fancy TuffRiders and then a pair of TuffRider Tundras lasted me essentially three weeks, I finally shelled out the cash for a pair of Ariat Bromont H2Os, in brown, which is a UK-only color for Ariat.

Now that they've survived two complete winters and are starting their third, how have they held up?

In a word, BEAUTIFULLY

First of all, understand that I take great care of most of my boots but I haven't taken care of these AT ALL.  I don't know why.  Maybe it's because I lose all motivation and willpower when it's cold outside.  Winter is a season of survival for me and I guess my boots too.  These have seen some abuse and not a lot of love.


The picture above is what they looked like after one cleaning and conditioning.  Probably their first cleaning and conditioning in a year.  The picture below is more like what they usually look like:


They are still waterproof.  There's no signs of cracking.  Scratches come out easily. The only signs of wear are on the suede on the inside of the boots, which is to be expected:



My only complaint, and something you should consider if you're buying these, is that at 2+ years in they really haven't dropped at all.  And since I bought them a size bigger in the foot and calf than I normally do (to accommodate my 9,763 layers of winter clothing), that means I'm still wearing heel lifts with them and still leave them unzipped at the top most of the time.


So yes, they were over 3x the cost of the TuffRiders, but the cost-per-wear is going to end up being much cheaper because these things are clearly going to last.  So this is not the cheaper option, but it's definitely the more frugal option.

In terms of warmth, they're not going to blow your mind when it's -10 outside, but they get the job done.  More than anything, I need winter boots to give me more room inside for layers + socks than any of my other boots, so I'm not looking for them to be super warm.  That said, they're definitely going to keep you warmer than a non-insulated boot (and note - there IS a non-insulated Bromont tall boot available).


Bottom Line: Expensive, but worth it.  Still practically look new after 2 abusive winters, but be careful on sizing the height, they don't seem to drop as much as regular field boots do.

What: Ariat Bromont H2O
Price: $349.95 at SmartPak (I paid $198 + $105 international shipping on eBay)
Sizes: 5.5-11, full and regular calf options
Colors: Black only in US, brown available in UK (Flip between Ireland and US locations to see color options on Ariat website here)
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A couple months ago, I read this (paraphrased) line in a CoTH thread: "The way you sit all day, even the way you sleep affects your body and muscle development, which can affect the way you sit in the saddle."

That has since led me down one of the most fascinating biomechanics rabbit holes I've ever been down, and since then, I've come to realize...oh shit.  That internet stranger is totally right.

For as long as I can remember, I've slept on my left side, with my right leg drawn all the way up, my left leg straight, my right side crunched up/engaged/short, my left side long/disengaged, and my hips twisted and facing the bed, with my left hip lower than my right hip.

I'm #6
Some additional research into what this sleeping position is doing to my body turned up this (grammatically poor but logically sound) paragraph:


"Sleeping with one knee raised over the other torques the pelvis for the duration of sleeping. Again no good can come from a pelvis that is misaligned for hours at a time...The classic manifestation of the psoas when tight is for the affected leg and foot shortened into the hip socket and turn out with the pelvis and shoulder of the same side to draw closer to each other. The whole affected side shortens."


That...sounds familiar.  Look at my non-riding position habits.  I:

- Typically stand with most of my weight on my left leg and my hips dropped down to the left
- Typically sit with my weight on my left seat bone (regardless of leg crossing or not) and my right side crunched up tight
- Drive with all my weight on the left seatbone and my right side crunched up
- Generally move with my right foot toe out with a lot of stress on my medial knee compared to the left

Blowing off steam with the boys in a random Ohio park after an awful funeral this fall.  I can guarantee swinging this way was a lot easier for me than the other way.

And in the saddle:

- I can easily pick my right seatbone up, but I almost can't lift the left one up at all.
- I can easily move my right seatbone forward, but I almost can't move the left one at all.
- My right foot tends to point out and the left points forward.
- The saddle fitter had to adjust my flocking because the left side was flattened from me sitting over there all the time.
- I hear "lengthen your right side" and "sit over the right side" from both my trainers.  A lot.  I have also heard it from clinicians.
Weight on the left, saddle on the left, left foot forward, left side long, right toe out, right side short, no weight on right seatbone, oh hey, that all sounds really familiar...
PC: Leah


This is definitely a chicken-and-egg thing, so, I could have started sleeping like this because it's easier for my more dominant muscles, or sleeping could be the cause of those muscles being more dominant.  It's probably a combination of both.

I also heard it from JenJ's T last year, when he was like "Ahhhhhhhhhhh I can't move the direction you're telling me to why are you sitting on the left side so hard?!"

Either way, it doesn't matter.  It's pretty clear to me that spending 8 hours a night with my right side crunched so closely together my ribcage almost touches my hip bone is definitely either contributing to or at least not helping the things I'm trying to overcome in the saddle.  It's also become clear to me that my left side obliques are waaaaaaaaay weaker than the same muscles on the right.

So...how do you sleep?  Is your sleeping position eerily similar to the way you sit on the horse too?
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Although I've stopped accepting free things to review on the blog, it felt different when a fellow blogger asked if she could give me a copy of her trainer's new Dressage training journal, and also give me a copy to giveaway on the blog.  So I said yes!  Thanks, Emilie!


(She actually didn't ask me to review it, but of course, I'm going to anyway.)

First, a perhaps surprising thought: I actually think this journal is even better for those of us going up the levels for the first time or those who have never taken Dressage seriously than it is for serious Dressage riders.  And that's not to say this isn't for serious Dressage riders, because it totally is, everyone could benefit from this journal.


But this is a journal that will ask you to sit down and apply some structure to your riding life.  It will gently ask you to think about what you're doing, why you're doing it, and how your every day activities are helping you reach your goals.  These are things that people showing Grand Prix likely have a better concept of than those of us stumbling through Second for the first time, because it does take that level of drive, structure and goal-setting to get that far.

It's HUGE!  More of a book than a journal.  10" iPad for scale

It spends just a few pages in the beginning asking you to think about high-level things - for example, you and your horse's strengths and weaknesses (side note: coming up with my weaknesses and Connor's strengths was way easier than the inverse.  Riding self-esteem may need work).


It also asks you to set goals.  And not just 2019 goals, but a series of goals.  My advice to you is not to skip the self-assessment, goals, and action plan sections, as much as I wanted to, because everything else in the journal should logically lead back toward what you write in these sections.  As someone who has almost superstitiously not set goals to this point, this is something I don't want to do, but should do.

The first 5 sections only amount to 14 pages out of a 187 page book, but they're very important to making the rest of the book effective.

Once you're done with the self-introspection part, the rest of the journal is set up in such a way to help you achieve those goals.  There's a box for each day where you can write what you did in your ride and lesson notes, there are arena diagrams (tons!) on which to write exercises or notes, and there are places to record test scores.



So far, there are just two things I wish it had: a place to write down all scores received on a particular movement through the season, and more than six slots for "Show Schedule". 

I'd like to be able to use the Show Schedule pages for both planning and organization.  I'd like to write down every show I could possibly attend in 2019, so that I can at a glance see them all together, and then cross off the ones I won't be attending as I go.  There's a strong possibility I'll attend more than 6 shows in 2019 too, so it really doesn't even have enough space just to catalog the ones I'm attending.



Bottom line: Everyone who sets foot in the sandbox could benefit from the level of structure and planning this journal gently eases you into, but especially those new to moving up the levels in eventing or Dressage stand to benefit the most from this journal.  A great concept!

What: The Dressage Rider's Journal - 2019 Planner & Calendar, Dressage Rider Organizer
Price: $29.95 on Amazon

I was given a copy of this book for free by a fellow blogger but all opinions in this review are my own.

Now for the giveaway!  Leave a comment on this post telling me about one horse-related goal you have for 2019 and then enter the Rafflecopter giveaway in the box below (RSS reader folks may need to click through to see it).  Your goal doesn't have to be competition or Dressage-oriented!

Giveaway runs from 12:00am EDT on Monday 12/10 through 12am EDT on Monday 12/17.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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I had no idea what to expect from my first lesson in *coughcough* a month.  (How dare my job interfere with my hobby, I mean, really!)

I started out by talking about something I've been feeling lately that I don't fully understand, which is that during Connor's warmup, he swings the right fore diagonally and lands it outside of his body.  In both directions.  But once he's warmed up, that foot no longer swings out and instead lands under his body.  And the faster I can achieve that, the shorter his warmup is.  And while he's landing it to the outside, it feels like his head, neck and shoulders are slanted with the left ear being highest and the right shoulder being lowest, as I look at it from the saddle.

All photos from the warmup at the IDS September 2018 show
PC: Karen Taylor

(I got to thinking about this after reading Megan's post "Cold Backed & Disconnected" last week, although I can't say for sure the two issues are the same.  But that was the inspiration.)

My trainer's response was something along the lines of "Yes I know exactly what you're talking about and I'm so glad you're feeling that!"


I had thought to attack this from a "I must be letting him escape out the right side" angle, which was working somewhat.  I've noticed my right thigh is often not on or in the thigh block, which is part of the reason NK is always using the "pull up your knees" cue.  In order to put my right thigh on from where it normally is, I have to rotate my thigh in and snuggle into the thigh block which puts my calf on him better.  The left thigh is always snuggled into the block.

Ahhhh our warmups are always so beautiful #noshame

My trainer had me attack it also from an inside hind activity angle.  I have lesson amnesia and didn't record it so I'm not going to explain it here, but it worked SO well.  Between that and my newfound almost habit of not pulling on him, the contact felt amazing.  


We used half pass and SI at the walk, and then "thinking" half pass and SI at the trot in order to really engage him.  After some canter work when he was really engaged, we asked for a big trot - and he actually forged under saddle for the first time ever!  Not that I WANT my horse to forge, but for my dachshund-shaped horse to be hitting his front feet with his hind feet, we're talking never-before-seen amounts of reach with the hind legs.


He's been good lately, but for him to feel THAT good, in a lesson, after a long spell with no lessons, I am so thrilled.  

That warmup turned into this ride, so, y'know.

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Yesterday's post may have made it sound like I'm stepping back from training, but quite the opposite.  When work allows, I'm still putting in all the same amounts of effort I usually do, just without the mental baggage.

A hastily taken photo before the pony walked away from me

I've been focusing a lot on my hands.  I start most of my rides in a First Level frame, and gradually supple him with lateral work and corraling his squirrely right shoulder.  I go through the First Level movements - can I leg yield without pulling?  Can I halt without pulling?  Can I make him do everything in shoulder fore?

Allllllll the heart eyes for the way this saddle still fits
Once he's feeling good there, some days I'll ask for collection, and some days I'll keep the longer frame.  The forward hands are really making progress but they're not a habit yet, and when I start asking for "stuff" I lose it. 

Last night, he felt amazing.  I could feel an open throatlatch and a supple, forward horse as I worked through the First Level stuff.  I want to carry that feeling into the Second Level work, when we're ready to re-add it.

"Actually working hard is hard"

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For a few weeks now, I've been tossing this thought around in my mind that "Connor is not the horse I will get 'there' with."

Now, before you start thinking that I'm abandoning my goals for me and this horse, that's not it at all.  That statement isn't even really about Connor.  This is about reframing the way I think about riding to be more sustainable and healthy for both of us.


All my life, I've never known how to operate without pressuring myself.  In my workouts, in my sports, in school, in my job.  There's no one chasing me with a stick, but I push myself anyway, even if I don't really know why.

No one chasing me but my own inner voice.

About a month ago, I was listening to an NPR story about a TED talk by Simone Giertz, who has become famous for inventing useless machines.  She talked about how it started with her being curious about mechanical engineering, something she had no training in.  But along the way, she realized that playing at it was helping her get over her fear of failure, because even if she succeeded and the machine worked, it was also still a failure, because a robot that brushes your teeth for you is not going to set the world on fire.  She was doing it because it was fun.

Simone Giertz

I started thinking about how Simone's story relates to my own life - I, too, once dropped to a lower math class because I was going to get a B instead of an A+ in high school.  And here I am pushing myself to be good in a sport that I've only been doing for a couple years, on a horse that is learning right along with me. 

Somewhere along the way, I stopped feeling like I could explore and experiment and goof off with Connor.  Even though I don't compare myself to others, I thought there was a timeline I had to be on, and not aligning with it was failing.  And as much as I truly enjoy Dressage, it's not as much fun when your type-A brain feels like you're not "getting there" or "taking this horse as far as he'd be able to go with someone else".

Me, my sister and our cousin Katie on Festus sometime around 1996

My rides lately have been playful instead of work, while still being productive.  Full of "I wonder what would happen if..." and not "I must make progress on shoulder in this week".  "I wonder how softly I can ask for..." and not "I'm going to be disappointed if we don't get to school _____ today"

Because the moment I stopped thinking of us as needing to get somewhere, I started having fun again.  And making progress again.  And clearly, I'm not the only one with these thoughts in my head.

Serious productivity happening right here /s

Maybe Connor is the horse I get my bronze on.  Maybe he isn't.  Maybe we race through Second Level in a single season or maybe we spend five years here.  One way or another, acknowledging that I don't have all the answers, that we're both learning together, and that maybe failing isn't the worst thing in the world if we're both having fun has been so good for my brain. 
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If you're like me, you have the spatial reasoning skills of a five year old, and reading through a written Dressage test makes your head swim.  If you're also like me, you've been using the EquiTests smartphone app for the last eight years to memorize your tests visually.

Me at 5.  Spatial reasoning skills stopped developing around this time.  Only halfway joking!

Sure, it wasn't without its faults, but it worked great.  Unfortunately the developer EOL'd it a couple of years ago, so I was excited when the USDF stepped in and said they'd release an app in time for the 2019 tests.  That app is now out as of today (*sort of - see the end of this post), so I wanted to do an in-depth review so you could decide if you wanted it or not.

(I am still having Blogger photo problems, so if you're reading this in an RSS reader please click through to my actual site to see clear photos of the app.  Thanks!)


First thing's first: this app does everything the EquiTests app did and more.  You can still move forward and back through test instructions that are also laid out visually on a Dressage court.  Unlike EquiTests, the 2019 TestPro app also shows you the entire test on the left and highlights it as you go (if you want - you can toggle that) so that you know where in the test you are.

On.  This is a much more efficient use of screen real estate than the same screen on the EquiTests app, which had a ton of blank space.

Off.  No it does not center or give you more real estate when the test is toggled off, so that option is really only good for reducing visual clutter.

If the inline instructions aren't enough, you can click the blue "PDF" button next to the test title and pull up the judge's scorecard for that test instantly.



The "gear" icon brings up tons of settings, including color choices, playback speed options, and competition mode, which we'll get to in a bit.


 You can also optionally turn on "previous movements" and "forward highlights" to remind you where you're going to and coming from in a test.


And you can optionally turn on the center lines, the centerline letters, or an overlay of 1m squares.

All of that off

1m gridlines and centerline letters on

Centerline letters and centerlines on

I've shown you screenshots of a lot of trotting so far, so I wanted to point out that just like EquiTests, this app also delineates gait and sub-gait with color and...ant sizes...?

Collected walk is small gold ants in purple, extended walk is long white ants in purple.  Don't tell me those are horses because this totally looks like ant Dressage to me!
For what it's worth, they do seem to also delineate bend direction with the ants, which is cool.

Now for the biggest "new" feature compared to the old EquiTests app: you can turn on Competition Mode to hide the test panel and trace your test with your finger to test yourself.


If you get it right, it highlights it automatically with the ant horses.  If you get it wrong, I had thought it was supposed to tell me I was wrong, but instead it just...sits there and lets you doodle until you hit the "play" button to check your work.

I kinda want to ride this test pattern...
So either I haven't fully figured that feature out, or they have a bit of a problem with what is otherwise a pretty intuitive user experience (or both, because good UX should be easily understood, JENJ WHERE YOU AT!)

Finally, once you get used to this app, it's going to be this UI your whole career, even when you hit FEI (although you do have to re-buy each version).  It was NOT written by the USEF/USDF, but by a company called Lion Dog Apps Limited that has re-used this same app for FEI Dressage, FEI Eventing Dressage, FEI Para Dressage, and Dressage Ireland and British Dressage.


Now for a couple bummers.  First, this app is $16.99.  Which, fine, the old one was $9.99, but the old one was basically maintained by a single person as far as I could tell from release notes.

I have a suspicion this unusually high price is because of either the relatively small number of Dressage riders out there and the even smaller percentage of them that are tech-forward enough to want this app (read: gotta charge more to make it worth the developer's time when your audience is that small), or because of the usual "equestrian stuff costs more" thing.  Or both.  Or maybe the USEF is taking a cut.  I have no idea.


Either way...I bought it, and you probably will too.  It's not like anyone else is waiting in the wings to develop one of these apps, this is not an app anyone is going to get rich on, let's be real with ourselves.  And since it's either this or my poor spatial reasoning skills, I choose to look at it as $4.25 per show season or four Starbucks lattes or one meal at Chipotle (because who goes to Chipotle and doesn't get chips and guac, am I right?)

The other bummer:  they're not going to release an Android version of this until June of 2019.  That's something that used to happen a lot in the early days of smartphones but isn't super common these days, so it's a bummer that they're treating the #1 smartphone by US market share as a second class citizen.

Just sayin'.  #teamandroid #openecosystem

That said, I put this on my work iPad, and I'm honestly glad it's not on my phone.  I don't have an iPhone to test with, but it's a really pleasant user experience to have this much real estate on the iPad to work with in the app, especially for Competition Mode.  If you have a tablet available, I would strongly consider downloading this app to it in addition to your phone. 

Bottom line: Yes, it's expensive for an app.  Yes, it's worth it.

What: 2019 TestPro USDF Dressage Test App
Price: $16.99 for up to six devices that use the same Apple ID
Supported Operating Systems: iOS today, Android support expected mid-2019

I bought this app with my own hard earned cash and this post was not sponsored by or influenced by any third parties.
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