I saw this on a youtube video, and I thought it would make a fun blog topic! 1. I’ve been riding since I was 6 year old (nearly 22 years ago!) 2. I didn’t ride… More
Riding at my barn is typically a very standard affair. I can pretty much rely on the fact that there will be no more than 2 other people riding at any one time, and in winter, there are never any lessons going on. Things tend to be quiet and calm and all that. (Seriously old media this post, sorry everyone)
Then, I showed up to ride on Saturday. Due to the weather, May didn’t get the ride I was planning on Friday, so she had a few days off. Either way, I was expecting to find my horse wide eyed and looking frantically around the outside of her stall… cool. Some deer came flying out of the woods, and I figured that was the end of it.
(Side note – how did I ever think the chair seat my old saddle put me in was at all acceptable?)
My plan was to just get the first day of our fitness plan started. I hopped on, and the ground was frozen enough to allow us to go on a walk through the adjacent field. It has a small hill in it, and it seemed like a good place to start our ride. And it was. And then we started heading back toward the main ring. Then, she saw it.
Recently, a horse owner with some disabilities moved into our barn. She uses a wheelchair and enjoys her VERY CUTE Morgan gelding by driving him. The cart has been hanging out in the indoor, which May hasn’t objected to, but seeing the cart chasing a horse around the outdoor arena was too much. We pranced, neck arched, and nostrils snorting. She threatened to spin and take off on me, and of course, I was using the mildest bit I had in my arsenal. Great.
There are two ways riders react to these situations, and I have been on both sides of both options.
- Freak out. This is always fun. I once rode at a barn where there were several older riders. One had a horse who had a nasty habit of bucking and breaking parts of her body. So when something spooked her horse, her reaction was to get off, start slamming things, and screaming at whoever DARED to spook her precious Pookie. I understand where this behavior comes from. She was scared. She had been hurt. She did NOT want to be hurt again. However, for the several years I knew her, her horse’s behavior only ever got worse because he never actually had to deal with anything.
- Just Ride On. I own a horse that I know I can handle. I specifically own her because I know that I can comfortable and capably handle her even at her worst. So I sat deep, kept reminder her that walking was what she wanted to do, and I continued our ride in the dressage arena. I didn’t push the issue by forcing May to work in the same space as the cart. (Partially because the lack of prep was unfair and partially because I have never actually seen this person drive and I wasn’t going to try and play dodge ball with something my horse is afraid of) Instead, I modified our trot sets. They were no longer about anything other than relaxing over her back and coming forward into the bit, and you know what, it took her all of 2 full 3 minute trot sets to relax into real work.
For our finishing walk work, I walked back to the main outdoor arena where the horse and carriage were now cantering around, and we walked outside the arena. May pranced a bit, especially when it came rolling up from behind her, but she was significantly more obedient than the start of the ride.
You can bet the next time I see that cart, I am going to ask if I can ride in the arena with them. (also, how cute would May look PULLING a cart?) How do you handle unexpected changes to your rides?
And for the record, May thinks all’s well that ends well, as long as it ends with cookies.
Back from our honeymoon! It was AHMAHHHHZZZIIIINNNNG, and I promise I’ll post some pics for you all this weekend.
However, I now have a pretty daunting challenge – Getting May back into shape. I rode her on Sunday, after getting back in the country around 1AM, and she was fantastic. We did a lot of walking, then ran through both BN tests for funsies, then more talking. She, fitness wise, seemed fine with it. Tuesday, I showed up to ride, and she was a bit stiff and sore. I am not sure if it’s from starting back into work or from all the mud KY.
Either way, I decided it would be good to set a pretty strict fitness plan for the next month. I know that she does need her hocks done, but I would prefer her to at least have a solid basis of fitness before we inject the hocks again. Last time I did them when she was still fairly unfit, and it was difficult to tell if they helped or not.
With all the hill work and strengthening we did last year (and almost complete lack of jumping and competing), she never showed any signs of needing her hocks done again. Now that I am looking at a competition calendar again, I think it is only fair to call in a vet before the season really gets rolling and get some serious eyes on the whole picture. First though- FITNESS!
Whew! It took actually longer to build this than I thought it would. The rides of walk-heavy, which I think is totally appropriate, and I try to build time before building intensity. Given that February continues to be an unpredictable kind of month, the schedule is flexible. (i.e. today was supposed to be raining and frigid, but temps might be warm enough for a ride tonight instead of Friday)
Of course, I also forgot my stop watch today, so we will see. There isn’t a whole lot of tracking this first round anyway, so I will probably just stick to it as best as I can with my phone.
Since I have never created a plan like this… ever…, I know it will probably take some adjustments along the way. Have you ever laid out a fitness plan for you and your horse? Or are you more of a “let’s see how it feels today” type of rider?
Sunday the sun rose and it was… a livable 27 degrees… as a high. Oh well. It was good enough to get to the barn. I had plan for a w/t and maybe even c hack. I was going to focus on quiet aids and a relaxed horse. I even put on my Dressage saddle and tall boots. I was ready. May greeted me with bright eyes and looked as ready for me to get some work done.
Then I walked into the indoor. It was a bit colder in there. No worries. As I always try to do in winter, I hand walked May around the indoor a bit. I always feel like it is a nice opportunity for her back to warm up before I hop on up there. Then I felt it, under my feet. Frozen footing. Then super soft and deep footing, then frozen footing, and back and forth. Well, there goes my plan.
So what to do? With 3 inches of snow on the ground over at least an inch of ice, going for a trail ride around the property (my other go to) was also out of the question. I started off just walking around the indoor on a loose rein, but after 20 or so minutes of that, I needed to do something else for my sanity.
So we started working on some lateral work. I pushed May’s shoulder away for a few steps, then straight a few steps, then the other direction for a few steps. At first, she totally resisted, as this isn’t something we have worked on since November. Then she started to get loose, and I could tell the pony yoga was working. So I transitioned into moving the haunches away. The same pattern persisted: resistance to enjoyment.
Next, I reiterated the idea of moving away from my leg laterally in both directions in a super controlled way. We turned down the centerline and went 4 steps to the left, then straight, then 4 steps right, all the way down the centerline. It keeps her paying attention and holding herself, so she doesn’t just throw her shoulder over and fall out through my outside aides. Once I felt that we had warmed up properly, I asked for some more difficult stuff.
First, we worked on haunches in. All I looked for was 2 steps of proper haunches in before I moved the shoulder back into line with the haunches and gave huge pats. We ended with no sweat, but definitely a warmed and more stretched out horse. How are you dealing with this RIDICULOUS COLD?
I think horse people are really picky about their “stuff”. We are typically conscious of how much this sport costs, and when we’re choosing between a new pair of breeches or a couple of lessons, we get pretty critical of our gear. We are also abusive. Change from riding pants to jeans in the middle of summer to haul some hay? NOPE. Those pants better hold up.
I am more abusive than most (I think). My saddle pads get washed every once in a while on the highest setting my washer can give me. My tack rarely gets a deep clean. My schooling clothes, including pants, go in the washer and dryer. My gloves also go in the washing machine… So what has lasted me? (and what hasn’t)
Piper Knit Breeches by SmartPak – Mid Rise Knee Patch & Full Seat
Have no doubt about these, the silicone patches are STICKY. Sometimes, I find the full seat just a bit too much (especially when I am trying to get out of my car). However, the material on them is like yoga pants (in the best way). I do prefer wearing a belt with them (as I do with all the piper pants), but I don’t feel like I get “saggy butt” in these. If you were disappointed with the original pipers, I would give these a try.
As for the piper line, I have the originals. I find the material too stiff and the cut of the waist a bit odd. I still wear them, but rarely. I, for a while, was IN LOVE with the classics with the side zip. I mean, they looked like the tailored sportsmans and they stayed up on me! Then… every pair I owned started to disintegrate. Stitching that was there when I put them on, magically dissolved by the end of my ride. I had ridden in each pair for about an hour, once a week for a year, and they fell apart.
I can honestly say that I will never buy them again. Smartpak offered me a 50% coupon on my next pair of piper breeches, and they allowed me to apply the coupon to the knit breeches (which had just come out). Otherwise, I am not sure I would have ever tried another pair of pipers. Of course, if I could afford to ride in the Romfh Sarafina’s everyday, I totally would, but at $150+ per pant.. I will ride in my pipers for now.
Matte One-K Helmet
After I fell off in my Samshield…
I was reluctant to spend that kind of money on a helmet again. I am a strong safety advocate. I always ride in a helmet. So while I didn’t want to spend $500+ on a helmet, I was willing to do it if that was all that fit me well. Luckily, the husband (then fiance) lived near a Dover store at the time, so I tried on a bunch of helmets. IRH, Ovation, GPA, One-K, Samshield, Charles Owen, etc etc etc. The One-K fit my head like the samshield but was deeper and, somehow, even more comfortable or less than half the price. SOLD!
Since then, it has taken abuse through wind, rain, and dust. And, to me at least, it still looks as good as the day I bought it (with the use of a damp towel). Its comfortable in the winter and nice and cool in the summer. The only problem? I really want on in Navy too. 😉
Heritage Premier Show Gloves
Now, I know most people are HUGE Roeckl glove fans. They swear by them. I was convinced of trying them over a new pair of the Heritage gloves a couple of years ago. Never again.
The heritage gloves are soft, comfortable, and breathable. They fit well and the flexibility across the knuckles is a really nice feature. They also last. While the Roeckls fell apart on me after a new months, my current heritage gloves are pushing a year. A year of sweat, heat, rain, washing, etc. etc. They also come in both brown and navy, which I think are fun
What are your staples, and have you tried any hyped products that have left you disappointed?
Sunday managed to reach temperatures out of the 20s and even into the 30s, so I finally got to ride. May hadn’t been ridden since Christmas Eve, so I did what every adult amateur does. I hopped on and went for a trail ride. Or rather, I got on and then avoided all 4 riding rings at the barn.
Thanks to the onslaught of rain we got before temperatures dropped into the teens and twenties, all of the outdoor arenas were frozen solid. They were full of ice chunks and solid hoof prints. Also due to the long stretch of frigid weather, the indoor was incredibly dusty. So the long hack seemed like our only real option.
Luckily, we were joined by another rider who hadn’t ridden her mare since before the holidays. The mare is a warmblood cross who the woman has owned since she was a barely broke 3 year old. Ever heard of horses that are “born broke” well, our trail partner is one of them. We got to tell fun stories about our spunky mares falling asleep before cross country and then taking the lead when we made mistakes.
After our trail ride, I did end up taking May into the indoor to try and get a little work done. All in all, we ended up doing 40 minutes of walking and maybe 10 minutes of trot and canter total. Just enough to stretch the legs and get the blood flowing. May got a cookie and sucked down some water after our ride, so it must have been just enough for her. I am hoping to enjoy the next week of warmer weather before things fall frigid again.
In non-horsey news, we updated our basement, ripping out the old, dirty carpet and replacing it with some laminate flooring. The basement is the main entryway into the house from the garage and driveway, so it needs to be horse-stuff proof! Happy it’s done, can’t wait to add some storage solutions!
Now, May and I have had a pretty interesting go of it when it comes to farriers. The first farrier (FF) that I used when I got her was not up to May’s standards. In fact, I got a very upsetting call from the BM at the time, letting me know she tried to kill him…. Cool… She was then relegated to having to be held for the farrier… but she was still really poorly behaved. We pulled her shoes and switched her to the barefoot trimmer.
Here’s the issue. May had learned that she could pull her foot away from the farrier, so she did. While barefoot trimmer (BT) was fixing the issues, we learned that FF had been not really doing his job the way he said he would. I won’t go into details here, but it turns out that May was TOTALLY justified in hating this guy.
Once we started training seriously, May’s feet just weren’t happy being barefoot, so we called in Farrier Number 3 (FN3) to throw front shoes back on. All was well for a cycle or two, and then a cycle was turning into 10 – 12 weeks. He was the kind of guy that just couldn’t seem to get his schedule on track and would push appointments back farther and farther. Since May didn’t have any major defects, she was often the one being pushed vs. horses that needed pads, wedges, etc. etc. etc. Just as I was at my breaking point, it was time to move to KY, and May shipped to KY with 10 week old feet because I couldn’t get FN3 out. (and telling a new farrier to come work on my horse once before never seeing me again is not a great way to get a new guy out for one horse)
So then we came to KY and May needed her feet done BAD. I got recommendations and called farriers of other people at my barn… and no one would call me back. I am not sure if everyone was fully booked, if they didn’t want to work on a draft cross, or if I just sounded crazy on the phone. Then, I got a recommendation for my current farrier (CF). I also got mixed reviews from people saying he didn’t totally know his stuff and he wouldn’t be their first choice. Oh well. I was desperate, I was out of work, and he was affordable.
He met me after work (major bonus because it was already past dark), and I held May for him. He asked me a little about my competition plans (there were none) and about May’s workload (very light). Then, he got to work. We chatted to pass the time, and it wasn’t until he pulled a hot shoe out of the fire that I realized we had never discussed if this would be a cold shoe or a hot shoe… or that I had no idea if May had ever been hot shoed before. He wasn’t overly concerned, but he did make sure he was holding on when he pressed the show to May’s foot. She didn’t love the smell or smoke, but she allowed him to finish.
May’s feet looked (to me) great when he was done. We had no issues with tripping, cracking, or soreness, and five weeks later, he texted me to set up our next appointment. HE TEXTED ME! It was like the sky opened up and angels sang.
Then, KY mud hit in the spring, and we began to lose shoes. RAPIDLY. May had never pulled shoes before, but I had always had her in a very small, dry lot, not the multi-acre field she is in now most of the day. Without hesitation, he would come out each time something happened (it was probably 3 or 4 times) and fix it. There was no formal charge, but I started paying him more than I owed him each time May had her feet done.
Then, this happened….
And we decided to go barefoot. He remained patient and diligent throughout the process of allowing that foot to grow back. After a few months, I texted him to see if he thought he could put a shoe back on that foot. He was pretty optimistic, so we did just that. The best part? I no longer feel the need to be at the barn when he comes, a giant crack that May had since I got her has been growing out really well, and she is one of his favorite horses to work on because of how well behaved she is for him. (I am sure he also appreciates the “extra” cash.)
So what does this all mean? It means that when temperatures rose to the high 20s for the first time in more than a week and for just one day, I got a text. He was asking if he could come that day and do May’s feet. She was due, but I had kind of decided to leave it up to his discretion. I certainly wasn’t going to call him screaming like a banshee, demanding my horse who isn’t working and is barely growing any hoof have her feet done at EXACTLY 6 week. When I got that text, I happily texted him back telling him he was more than welcome to do her that day and to just let me know when he was done. She got done, and he got an extra tip.
I am not saying that I will always use this farrier, as situations always change, but I am very happy with what I have found. What about you? Do you do anything special for the people that go above and beyond to help take care of your horse?
I (very) briefly considered writing up a 2017 in review for you all, but I realized it would’ve gone something like this: I have no trainer, I have a trainer for 2 lessons, I have no jumping saddle, we did some lateral work, I took May’s shoes off, May’s eye is puffy, I put May’s shoes back on, we did more lateral stuff, I found a saddle. All true, all part of the process, none interesting. SO! I figured I would just jump into 2018 with some goals!
- Do 1 Clinic: my barn hosts a few clinics with great riders and trainers throughout the spring and summer. All I really have to do is get in shape and sign up!
- Do 2 Horse Trials: Whether these are recognized or schooling shows is pretty irrelevant to me. Louisville has a wonderful unrated horse trial circuit, but my barn mostly does recognized events. (as a lot of people are going at least Training level and these tend to top out around Training). Also, if I was going Training, I would probably care if my horse had a real record on USEA. The level also doesn’t really matter to me. I would like at least one to be at BN, but if we decide to start out doing on starter, I wouldn’t be heartbroken.
- Get in shape: Maybe this should be the number one goal. I’ve already done a pretty good job over the last month of going to the gym or incorporating workouts at home. Although some overindulging over the holidays means that I am not really seeing any results! Oh well, it still feels good to keep active. May, however, has been on a serious vacation since Christmas. With holiday chaos and now temps that are staying below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, she is not in any kind of work. She is turned out about 16 hours a day, and I have been going to see her to give her a grooming and check on her; however, that’s the true extent of her workload right now. However, the sun now goes down past 5:30 at night, so as soon as it warms up a touch, I can start riding at night again. (I am also starting a new job with a shorter commute and more flexible hours, so that should help too!)
- Ride 4 – 5 Days a Week: This one is on hold a bit until it warms up, but it is something I really want to commit to in the new year. It isn’t fair to ask May to step up her workload if we aren’t working regularly. 4 – 5 days is usually enough to get her in shape without overloading her and making work less fun.
- Plan Out My Rides: I am always envious of those people with calendars on their walls of what “day” it is for their horse. Jump? Dressage? Conditioning? Light Hack? They know before they even get to the barn. I have decided to become one of those people. Starting in February, you all will start seeing my monthly riding calendar at the beginning of each month and a summary of how things went the previous month. It should be a great way to track progress and find a program that works for us.
- Get Comfortable Over 3′ Courses: Pretty self explanatory. We were pretty much there in the early summer of 2016, but really haven’t jumped much since then.
- Blog 2 Times a Week: I have been a terrible blogger. I would like to be a better blogger. This at least sets guidelines. 🙂
- Clean Up my Email Inbox: Seriously, I get HUNDREDS of emails a day from companies. I need to figure out who I actually buy from and unsubscribe from everything else.
- Start Meditating Again: I did this for a couple of months in 2016, and it was really beneficial. I need to start it up again.
- Do One Thing Every Month That is Outside my Comfort Zone
So that’s 10 things. They should be totally doable, especially since some of them are really a Feb – Dec type of deal. 😉 Are you starting 2018 with any goals in mind, or are you having more of a “I’ll just wing it” year like I did last year?
It’s really cold here in KY, but May and I wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!
Since this year didn’t totally pan out the way I had expected, I didn’t get the chance to meet really any of my original 2017 goals. (You can hear me complain all about it in this blog from August.) However, we are officially at the point of looking towards 2018, and hopefully, the horse trials that will accompany it. While it’s probably too early to set any concrete goals for our actual show season, I thought it made sense to put together some goals for our off season.
Well… I guess just one goal. We need to get in shape. Not just May, not just me, but both of us.
May is currently on a light work schedule due to the lack of light and due to the craziness of the holidays. I will be going away for a week in January (finally taking that honeymoon!), so I figure once I return from that, it will be time to start putting fitness back on May. Fun fact about draft crosses, especially those with no thoroughbred blood, they lose fitness FAST, and it takes a long time to really build it back up.
Our rides right now mostly consist of either long walks or easy, stretchy sessions. Basically just get the blood moving, make sure the buttons still work, and leave it at that. It just isn’t fair to ask for a full workout without any real breaks when she’s not in shape. (And that’s not even considering the increased possibility of injury)
As for me, I am hitting the gym. The nights when I would usually ride, but it is too cold and dark? Well, that is now automatically a gym night. The few days off I am getting around Christmas? Also gym days. (subject to the days my gym isn’t closed). Anyone have any fun/effective gym fitness routines they do?
A big shout out to Hillary at Equestrian at Hart for my secret santa gift! The ear warmer has already been put to good use (although we are going to have some warm weather around Christmas). It’s the first ear warmed I have found that I can comfortably fit under my helmet.
Not surprisingly… May’s favorite part we’re the cookies (which already made their way to the barn before I remembers to snap a pic)
Yeah… those are going to go real quick. 🙂 Merry Christmas May (those treats might be the last of the unhealthy kind until that goal up there is achieved hahaha)