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This past weekend was the ISSO Gathering (and awards banquet!) out at Frying Pan Park in Virginia.  I’d delayed registering for it in hopes that Cally would be sound in time, but we were getting close and it wasn’t looking hopeful, so I just signed up to audit Saturday’s sessions, and attend the banquet.  For those interested in sidesaddle in the area, it is an annual event, and they do have a “have a go” session on Sunday, which is something to keep in mind for next spring if you’d like to try it.

The morning session was nice, as it started with Yoga for Equestrians, which wasn’t that different than regular yoga classes I’ve done, other than that the instructor rides, too.  Lots of reminders to breathe (which I need to think about more when riding!) and move deliberately through my core.  And open up my chest, which brings back my shoulders and makes me breathe.  There was also a session on apron pattern fitting, which was somewhat useful to me in the fiddly detail bits about fitting and adjusting darts, but was aimed a bit more at those who hadn’t done it before.  I did have a nice chat with Jeannie, who ran the session, afterwards, regarding apron making for children, because there is a wee tiny coat and vest points in my sewing room waiting for me to make an apron for Holly’s daughter.  We decided that less fitting is really better there, since children both grow super quickly and lack the sort of curves (hips!) you’re working with in fitting a lady’s apron.  There was also a great session on cleaning doeskin, which I’m going to have to try with my saddle’s seat, as apparently matches are like the magic secret–who knew!?!  There was a collective gasp in the room when we all saw how well it worked.

After lunch, we headed over to the rings to watch lessons.  I was excited to pick up some pointers, not so excited that the clinic ended up being on the coldest day we’ve had all winter.  I was wearing underarmor, a wool sweater, a down jacket, and a Barbour (with liner!) overtop all that, and was just sort of OK.  Plus a fur hat, because it is the warmest thing ever.  The first two riders were out on the XC course at FPP, and oh, how I wish Cally could have come!  I don’t know that I’d have tried the bigger drop fence, but it would have been exactly what we needed, as they weren’t doing large fences, but were working on just what I needed to hear, which was keeping hips square in the air and releasing to the right to help make that happen.  I wish I had some video to share, but it was too cold to take off gloves to video, plus it wasn’t me riding, or my horse, so it’s not really my place to share anyway.  Other lessons picked up some great pointers, too, including thinking about pressing the right leg into the shoulder to keep the hips where they need to be.  Also, massive value in dropping the stirrup a bit to help open up the left hip and not get bound into bunching oneself up into the leaping head and relying on it instead of balance.

That’s probably plenty wonky about the aside thing for most of you, since there can’t be that many aside folks out there reading this.  (Though if you are a sidesaddler out there reading this, please say hello!)  I got to meet Sue, from whom I bought my fabulous Jo the Mayhew last year, and she was happy to hear that the saddle and Cally and I have all been getting along fabulously and it’s got a good home where it’s being used, which is what her prior owner wanted for it.  She was doing some fittings, so again, super bummer that I couldn’t have Cally there with me to get it perfectly tweaked for her.

Then in the evening, we had the awards banquet.  It was a small affair, as it is sadly not a huge group of us who go aside, countrywide.  Very friendly and encouraging group, though, and I definitely feel like I’ve made a few new friends, and had a lovely time.  The only bummer of the night was not winning the one raffle item I really wanted, which was a hoof pick that was also a corkscrew, because that seems like the most perfect thing ever to have around.  But we made out really well on the actual awards front!  Champion in Dressage, Reserve Champ in Hunters, and 6th Overall!

I’ve never actually won any fancy sparkly awards before, just ribbons and a plaque, so this was just so exciting to me! That might be an even better part of the sidesaddle than the amazing pictures you end up with, because who doesn’t also enjoy awesome awards? They’re so nice that WBBF even let me put one out on the bookshelf in the living room, rather than in the horse room with all the other equine goodies!

In other absolutely awesome (but slightly icky) news, Cally actually WAS sound by Saturday, as on Monday when I took her leg wrap off, there was pus oozing down the back of her leg.  Sure enough, she’d blown an abscess out the back of her leg.  Vet was out Wednesday for shots/coggins/etc and took a look, said to keep it clean and keep it open and unwrapped, and let it drain and see what we have.  We have a very icky looking leg, but she was moving around well on it, and by the weekend it had stopped draining and was healing back up.

Gross, but amazing progress.  Plus, I have to assume all of you reading are horsepeople, and I know horsepeople all love a good freaky injury. Leg is looking good, so I hopped back on her, and while she was a spooky nutter due to lack of work and high winds, when she settled down and actually trotted like a horse, she felt great. We’d hoped to try a little half-hour flat minilesson today, but it just never warmed up enough. I did go out and hack her around lightly, and wow, was she feeling good!

Naturally, since she’s sound again we’re getting the only major snowstorm of the winter tonight, so she’ll probably have off most of this week.  Fingers crossed, we’ll do our first light lesson on Monday and she’ll get a school by Holly at some point next week as well.  I think we’re finally back on track, much to my relief.  I was really worried there for a while, since it was such an odd issue that seemed to have plateaued.  But with one oozy week, we’re back and feeling good, if a little weak from time off.  That we can fix, with good correct work, and I wanted to start back in with some dressage anyway, so we’ll have the right target to get her going well.

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