2019 – First Thoughts

Typically, this would be a goals post, but goals are SO 2018. Right?

Joking aside, I was pretty torn about goals this year. I know a lot of people have forgone them this year, while others have set up broader or process-based goals. The truth is that even the first 8 days of January haven’t gone how I expected, so I don’t really feel like I am on steady enough ground to set any kind of goals…

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So instead, I am going to talk about the things I want to focus on this year.

Fitness – This started in 2018 and has been a great addition to my regular routine. I am not setting a goal of “x” number of times in the gym each week. Instead, I just want to keep an emphasis on moving and listening to my body.

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Blogging – I really LIKE blogging. I really want to get BETTER at blogging, AND AECs are in KY this year, so I even have a chance to see some of you. Blogging shall continue… but I would like to get some new media for you all.

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Friendships – 2018 was a weird year for me.  It marked 2 years of living in KY, and I have definitely felt the loss of some of my East Coast friends. I want to say yes to more things with my friends here in KY.

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Enjoying May – I want to ride and have fun with my horse. I want to try new things and be in the moment. I want to let the bad rides go easier and hold onto the good ones a bit longer. Heavy competing still won’t be in the budget this year, but hopefully, we can find some fun things to do within our budget.

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Continue Improving our House – We have some projects that need finishing touches, and a lot of painting still to do. However, it has been a labor of love, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

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And… that’s it. It’s short and sweet and without a lot of frills. I know a lot of you have already set your goals this year, so most of you are a whole week ahead of me already! Only 51 more to do. 🙂

GIF Name Game

After Hillary posted this fun name game… I just couldn’t resist doing it for May. Don’t worry, 2019 goals are coming but today needed a fun break kind of post.

Let’s start with the name May had when I met her… Krimpet. To be fair, she is totally a TatyKake

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Epic Fail

mmmmmmmk. Great start. So Then I tried her show name when I got her: Too Many Cupcakes…

There is definitely some reference here I am missing… anyone watch Adult Swim and can fill me in?

Let’s just say… May is not the kind of mare to be shining rainbows and hearts out of her hooves…

Apparently, she was once even called Delilah:

I’ve seen this face from her many times….

Delilah was of course short for “Hey There Delilah”

A fat mare named Delilah… Poor girl…

So when I got May… in May… She got the name May… Yup, Super Original.

OMG WHY ISN’T HER SHOW NAME “It’s Gunna Be May!”… Missed that opportunity

Finally, we have May’s show name “May as Well”… and I had to laugh when I saw it:

First of all, I had many people try to correct me that the phrase is “Might as well” not “May as well”… but Might would have been a terrible name for this horse.

However, my favorite part is the fact that this GIF totally encompasses May’s thought process. If you’re not going to take charge, she will totally start making decisions for you.

Hope this was fun! Serious, 2019 Goals post is in the works!

2018 Goal Review

Alright – it’s already the 2nd of January, but I realized that combining this with my 2019 goals would be a MASSIVE post. Apparently, I always write this post on the 2nd of January because… reasons. Check out the original 2018 post here, if you missed it (or have forgotten). And my update mid-year.

Riding Goals

Do 1 Clinic: Nope. Didn’t happen. I ended up moving barns and changing trainers mid-year, and money was too tight to drop $$$ on the 4* clinician that did come across my path. I barely scraped by enough to do some horse trials and lessons.

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Do 2 Horse Trials: Yay! We did two and they were both GREAT successes that showed improvement. Given the changes between the horse trials (new trainer, barn, no time for XC schooling), we stayed at Starter, but that is ok with me.

May Horse Trial

Dressage       Show Jumping      Cross Country

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August Horse Trial

Dressage       Show Jumping     Cross Country

Get in shape: This was kind of a “Coming in at the End” kind of achievement, but I am giving myself a passing grade on this. I joined the local Y in mid-November with a barn buddy and, other than the week around holidays, have been going 2 – 3 days a week. Since starting towards a healthier lifestyle in August, I have lost nearly 20 lbs and am already back on the bandwagon after the holidays. Our Y also added a bunch of new classes in 2019, and I am excited to give them a try. I can’t wait to see how this winter of work affects my riding in the Spring!

Ride 4 – 5 Days a Week: Adding the gym to my routine meant something had to give, and I decided to half lease May out. While I am not riding 4 -5 days a week, May does now get ridden 4 – 5 days a week. A big part of this goal was around MAY’S fitness, so I am saying ACHIEVED…. even if through new methods.

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Plan Out My Rides: EPIC FAIL. I would love to blame this on having a half leaser, but the truth is, this died almost as soon as it started. It put too much pressure on both of us to have “successful” rides on certain days.

Get Comfortable Over 3′ Fences: EPIC FAIL. I wish I could say I was comfortable over BN sized fences, but they still look big to me right now.

Other Goals

Blog 2 Times Week: SMASHING SUCCESS. This blog got a lot more consistent in 2018, and I look forward to continuing it into 2019.

2018 Post Calendar

Clean Up My Email Inbox: Need to get back at this.

Start Meditating Again: Fail. My new office environment does not include an actual office, so closing the door for 5 min on my lunch break isn’t an option. I try to be just more mindful.

Do One Thing Every Month That’s Outside My Comfort Zone:

  1. January – Went to St. Lucia and did a tour of the island on a speed boat. Super Fun.
  2. February – Dove into a new job taking on responsibilities beyond my wildest nightmares.
  3. March -Took some serious steps into managing May’s health and well being. I tuned out the opinions of others and listened to my gut… which ended up with the vet agreeing May needed injections and a new dentist finding a very old problem.
  4. April – Opened up a lot more on the blog about my mistakes and regrets.
  5. May – Attended a horse trial at a new venue with minimal outside help.
  6. June – Moved barns.
  7. July –  Launched the May as Well Event Facebook page. It is something I had wanted to do for a long time, but I hesitated because I was afraid how others would take it. So far – all positive from anyone who matters.
  8. August – First horse trial with new barn. Fitting into an established team’s routine as a new member is always a steep learning curve.
  9. September – First XC Jump Judging experience. Something I always wanted to do, but never put myself out there to do.
  10. October – Opened up May to a half leaser, and found a great one! It was a big leap of faith for me to turn the reins over to someone else, but it’s been a great experience so far. Can’t wait to play owner at shows this summer.
  11. November – Joined a gym. Started taking classes.
  12. December – Started laying the ground work for a side hustle. Needs more time and attention than I have had to really get it moving forward, but I am really excited with the possibilities.

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The thing that really didn’t happen:

Moving May As Well Event to its own domain… I just need to set aside the time to get this done. Preferably in January.

Holiday Recap!

Whew! I’ve been away from the blog for a few days as the holidays have pretty much taken my life by storm. While the activities this year were, in some ways, lighter than years past, I am somehow still sitting at my desk, exhausted, on a Thursday. Let’s recap!

Blogger Gift Exchange!

On Sunday morning, the husband and I were hustling out the door to go to a football game with a couple of friends, and I basically stumbled over a box that had arrived… at some point over night? early morning? Who knows. I didn’t recognize the “From” address, so I immediately figured it was my blogger secret santa! Unfortunately, we were in a terrible rush, so I didn’t get to open it until later that night.

However, it definitely did not disappoint! Sarah at A Soft Spot for Stars was my secret Santa, and she did an awesome job! This is my second year participating, and I am always blown away by what gifts everyone comes up with. I receive 2 new, beautiful brushes, a jumper decal, and May got treats! (which she actually got to eat on Christmas!) Sarah got an immediate message, since I knew I would have no time to write this post for a few days.

Massive Thank You goes to Tracy at The Printable Pony for pulling off this incredible feat!

Christmas Gifts!

I’ll keep this (mostly) horse related to keep you all from being bored by the details. First and foremost? BOOTS!

Ariat Boots

The husband ended up buying me the Ariat Ladies’ Heritage Contour II Field Boots in a 7 foot, medium height, and wide width. I was actually really pleasantly surprised by the updates they made to these boots vs. my original Heritage Contour boots. They added elastic to the top tab and a zipper keeper, a leather piece to protect the back of your ankle from the zipper, and an even better footbed. While I can’t get them COMPLETELY zipped yet in breeches in socks, and they still need to drop, I did get to ride in them on Christmas. Even not zipped up all the way, they felt really good, and I am sure they are going to feel amazing once broken in.

If you have to buy a boot off the rack, and you are a somewhat hard to fit size, I really do like these boots. With all things, I will give you all an update in a few months with my longer term thoughts.

I also got a great gift from NT… A new saddle pad with the barn logo on it. 🙂 Super excited to rep the barn-wear at some 2019 events, clinics, etc.

fitbit

More of this year’s gifts were fitness related than specifically horse related. I got a new fitbit (the Charge 3). I’ve had the Charge 2 for two years now, and I even had fitbit replace the actual middle unit after it died on me last year. Unfortunately, I could tell that the heart-rate monitor and bluetooth connection was starting to go. Messages no longer came through to my wrist and most of my workouts came back with “no data” for heart-rate.

The new one is rose gold with a lavender band and a black band. The screen is slightly bigger, and it gives me a ton more options through the new interface. (Send me a message if you want to be fitbit buddies!) OH and this version is swim-proof, so no more worries about it getting wet at the barn.

I also got new sneakers and an amazing pair of yoga pants. I am usually playing the  “How Cheap Can I Find Workout Gear on Amazon Without It Being See Through”  game (these worked out), so getting a seriously nice pair of yoga pants was a serious treat. I feel like they are seriously on-par with lululemon’s but not nearly that pricey.

My last gift? A gift card to Dover! I have been scanning the website, waffling between the practical (a spare sheet for May), to the somewhat fun (new SJ boots), to the absolutely unnecessary but I want it anyway (a new helmet for showing). I think I should save it. If I lose the weight I want to lose (the holidays DID NOT HELP), then I will need new breeches, and it would feel really good to spend the gift card on that pair.

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Did you all have a great holiday? Did you get any horsey gifts? Should I blow my gift card on something fun now?

Bloghop: Favorites of 2018

Big shout out to Amanda for providing inspiration when things are a bit light on the content side of things. I don’t tend to do a lot of year-end wrap ups, so this is right up my alley!

Favorite Show Picture

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PC Bluegrass Equine Photography

Getting back in the show ring this year was a massive goal for me… and we managed to make it to TWO shows and make MAJOR improvements between the two.

Favorite non-Show Picture

Gosh… I did NOT get a lot of media this year…

Favorite Thing You Bought

Well… I didn’t buy it, but the husband bought it for me. That counts, right?

Favorite Moment on Horseback

This whole video…

If I had to pick a picture though… it would be this one. Getting through the water safely was BIG for us. I will admit that our hunter pace this year came in a CLOSE second.

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Favorite Moment Out of the Saddle

Uh yeah… another video. BUT getting to volunteer was something on my list ever since I started eventing. This year, I did it twice. Both times were a GREAT experience. 10/10 highly recommend.

Favorite “Between the Ears” Photo

Do I get multiples? This photo is so representative of how my horsey-life has changed since switching barns. Tons of new friends, and I am rarely at the barn alone. (And May likes the trail riding opportunities)

Favorite Horse Book or Article

Uhhh… I am going blank on this one. I don’t read a lot of horse books, BUT I do read a lot of books that can apply to horses. This year’s stand out book? “Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes. It sounds SUPER cheesy, but Shonda is a down to Earth and relatable woman with a fantastic writing style. (not surprising considering she is the creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder…)

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Favorite Horse Ridden (or groomed/cared for) Aside from Your Own

So… I only rode 2 horses other than May this year. I am going to give this one to Cal,

May’s neighbor. I got to hop on him for some fun, while his mom got on May. Let’s just say, as a 16.2ish OTTB, he was a totally different ride from May, but a really cool horse. Image stolen from the barn’s website, so shoot me. But you can see just how adorable he is!

 

Favorite Funny Picture of Your Horse

Multiple pictures with this one…

My sister and I showing up to the barn to find a free May was one of the funniest moments of the year. So far, the new stall guard SEEMS to have solved the problem.

Favorite Fence that you Successfully Jumped or Movement you Conquered

The water probably should be here. Buuuuuut you all are getting ANOTHER VIDEO! hahaha. This year wasn’t so much about individual fences or elements but about upping the complexity of our exercises at home to produce results at shows. Like this clip from one of our lessons:

Favorite Horse Meme or Funny Picture

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This wasn’t the exact one I was looking for, but same concept and it gave me a giggle.

Ugh Horse Why?

I wish I had a more elegant title to this post, but this is basically where I am at. Saturday ended up being a decent day weather wise. Sure, it was damp and in the 40s, but it wasn’t actively raining. So I was able to ride in the outdoor. All good things. My plan was to put in a Dressage ride with a focus on connection and bending since May was coming off of back to back jump lessons. (by back to back, I mean lessons on Tuesday and Thursday but no flat ride in between)

The ride started out well. I carried a crop, just in case I needed to reinforce the leg aid, but she was in front of my leg and even a bit spicy. No big deal. We did a lot of walk/halt/walk transitions before stepping into the trot. When we moved into the trot, she threw her right shoulder into my right leg to come off the connection and fling her head up in the transition. UGH.

I brought her back to the walk and tried again. Same result. I halted and asked her to move her right shoulder around in a turn on the haunches. Nope. Nope. Nope. She did not need to do these things, she is a JUMP HORSE now. NOT a DRESSAGE horse. (These pics disagree)

MMMmmmmk. Let’s break it down further. Walk on a small circle and bend her neck around the circle. NOPE. She flung her head up and threw her whole body to the outside, stumbling sideways and flinging her tongue out of her mouth.

Alright, I am thinking… maybe this is physical. Maybe she is pretty sore and stiff from the jump lessons and bending her neck hurts. (Anyone else immediately fall down this rabbit hole?) Then, she saw a horse being ridden over across the field from the other barn. And She Lost Her Mind.

Suddenly, she could bend all the way around to the right, while cantering, to try and see the horse behind her. Any kind of half halt was met with head flinging and tongue wagging. It was 45 minutes of me just trying to get SOME kind of response from her so that I could end on a good note. I ended up just riding her super straight and doing some collected/extended transitions in the trot (where to be honest, she had some moments of actual suspension).

Unfortunately, I still got off feeling frustrated and annoyed. I gave May a proper cool down, put some thrush stuff in her feet (standing in the mud at the hay bale for hours on end is a great recipe for thrush), and used from probios cookies to do some stretches JUST IN CASE.

However, it is one thing to have a really bad ride and have to go back to basics consistently with a horse that has talent. It is another to do it with a horse that is basically a BN horse AND has been a BN horse for 3 years.

I know other people have worse rides. Rides that are genuinely dangerous. This ride wasn’t dangerous. It was just like… (trying to find a not super crude thing to write here)…. it was like writing a post where every time you finished a paragraph, it totally disappears on you.

I think May got Sunday off, so today will be the follow up ride to Saturday. Then, my half leaser is out of town for the holidays, so I have her to myself for a while… and some extra time to actually ride. Maybe the weather will hold out, and we can go on a hack. BUT as Michele knows… it will probably rain.

Anyone else just want to turn their horse out into a field for the rest of winter and hope that Spring is better? (Also, gave up on the new WP editor and went back to the classic. Best decision EVER)

12.11.2018 – Jumping Lesson

It had been MONTHS since my last jumping lesson. Actually, I just looked back and… Yup. It has been FOUR MONTHS… which makes it the fourth jumping lesson of 2018. BUT that also means that I got TWICE as many jumping lesson in during 2018 than I did in 2017. That counts as improvement, right?

I was totally inspired to take this lesson after watching a friend of mine tackle this exercise a week earlier. However, I am sure no one is surprised to find out that thing were a bit rough around the edges. (Also, apologies but the lesson was at night, under the lights, in the cold, and I didn’t want to expose the helmet cam to all of that… so there’s no media)

After warming up, we started trotting through a fan of poles at the end of the ring. It was similar to the exercise below, but there were four poles and they were just on the ground. 

I had a lot of trouble to this going to the left. May really wanted to fall out through her right shoulder, and I felt like I couldn’t quite keep it in the line I wanted. Definitely something to work on. The canter was somewhat better than the trot, but May kept wanting to jam in an extra step before the last pole (keep this in mind). 

Going to the right, the exercise was a lot easier, because all I had to do was regulate how fast her right shoulder came around… a lot easier than trying to pull the right shoulder in and around. 

Next, we started setting the groundwork for the main course. This:

Four verticals, one oxer with 2 placing poles. 

To get May moving forward and get me riding a line (the whole purpose of the above set up), we started with creating a circle from the yellow vertical to the green. In both directions, I messed up either my line or my rhythm the first time, but totally nailed it the second, so we didn’t spend much time on this. 

Then we moved onto the full exercise. The verticals are set exactly 4 strides to the placement poles and the placement poles are one stride from the oxer, so as long as you take a fairly direct line but jump all the elements straight, it is 5 strides from each vertical to the oxer and the oxer to each vertical. 

A couple more notes about what makes this a bit unique. Our ring is not 100% flat. It angles slightly towards the barn, which means that coming towards the barn things are easier than going away from it. This totally becomes relevant, I promise. 

An old pic of the ring. 

NT tells me that I am most likely going to get a forward 6 to the fences and trying for the 5 will likely leave us too unbalanced to do the exercise correctly. Doing 7 will either leave us dead in the water or on too wide a line. I nod, and then immediately tell her that I feel nervous. She gives me a funny look. 

Our first course went in this order: Green, Blue, Red, Orange, Blue, Yellow. I ride the green perfectly with a great pace… Then I take a feel coming towards the oxer, and May adds an extra stride. This means we are kind of dead in the water and we add again to the red… BLAH. I kick on, but the orange and yellow kind of go the same way. NT notes that she liked my pace coming in, but I took my foot off the pedal once I had to actually jump and turn. She’s not wrong. 

We do it again. The Green, Blue, Red combination goes REALLY well, and I am feeling good. BUT remember that the ring slopes down in that direction… I ride the Orange pretty well… and then don’t kick enough towards the oxer. It’s a bit of a stretch for May to get over the placement pole, and instead of stretching AGAIN over the low, wide oxer, she shoves in an extra stride… takes down most of the oxer… I do manage to kick on and get 7 or 8 strides to the Yellow, so we finish… but not in great form. The oxer gets rebuilt, but I can almost feel May losing a bit of confidence here. I am DETERMINED to give her a positive ride. 

We change up the course a bit to keep May from anticipating where we are going. It was SUPPOSED to be Yellow, Blue, Red, Orange, Blue, Yellow. Buuuuut I forgot where I was going at the end, and I end up doing Yellow, Blue, Red, Orange, Blue, Green. 

Why do I forget where I am going? That’s right, because I still can’t get the distance from the Orange to the Blue to work out properly. I close my leg, but May keeps giving me this response like “this is as forward as I will go.” I am not sure if I am having trouble committing, or if she is just used to a different ride from my half leaser, but either way, she is going forward… but she is not in front of my leg. 

“Gallop in a bit like you’re going XC this time.” I nod. I go. I gallop. I jump the orange. I get four PERFECT strides to the placement pole. I close my leg on the fifth stride. The distance and pace are REALLY good. I lean… and May JAMS in an extra stride and jumps pretty much straight in the air. I get thrown up IN FRONT of my saddle and on her neck. My thought? “I can’t afford a new helmet right now.”

Proof that she can stretch for it. 

Luckily, May is still my partner in this whole thing, and she flings her head up, throwing me mostly back into the saddle. I scramble my way back and manage to get her stopped before she carried me over the green. Everyone was very impressed with my save, but I was fully freaked out. May has always been the horse that as long as I have a decent pace, she will safely get us to the other side of the jump. That decision though, was not the safe decision. Honestly, I am still kind of freaked out by it.*

My trainer confirms that everything looked good, but May decided that she needed to make the final decision on that one. Again, a lot of this probably comes back to the fact that it has been 4 months since we had a jumping lesson and this set up was really difficult, but she had really just not been fully responding to my leg all night. I’m not sure who suggested it, but my trainer ran back to the barn to grab me a longer jump crop. Something I could reinforce my leg aid without taking my hands off the reins. 

To test the gas pedal, we went back to the second exercise of just circling from Yellow to Green. It was way better, and I felt like she wasn’t sucking back behind my leg to assess each jump. So we adjusted the exercise again:

As you can see, we were now starting on the line I was having the most difficulty with. ALL I WANTED was to get the first line right. We jumped in, I rode forward, we got 6! I turned to the green. Another 6! I rode forward to 4. Never got straight to it… and got down that line in 5…. Yup, definitely more in front of my leg this time. However, doing the five put us way too off balance for the Orange, so I had to bend it out a bit and I got 7. But it was SO MUCH better with the crop in my hand. May was taking me to the fences again, and I felt like we found our usual groove. She puffed herself up and pranced back to the middle of the ring. 

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NT was also MUCH happier with that performance. For our last course, she just wanted me to do just the Yellow, Blue, Orange line to fix those distance, and then circle back through the fan exercise we had started the day with. (I think she was checking my breaks and balance)

Either way, we nailed the bending line, and May came right back to a perfect dressagey-canter to bounce through the poles and then halted easily to end our ride. 

*I am going to add a note here. May HAS done similar things before when she loses confidence in me. The below video from Kent is a perfect example. After the combination, May was just DONE saving me, so we had a run out. Once I rode better, she went perfectly again. 

Today? I am sore and still feeling a bit back on the heels from the experience. BUT I am super proud of the fact that I didn’t give up in this lesson, and I didn’t decide it was just too hard for us. I kept riding, and I ended the lesson with a much more confident and trusting horse than I started with… even if things got REALLY messy in the interim. I will probably dissect my feelings a bit more in my next post. Until then, have you ever had a lesson that had to hit a pretty low LOW point before ending great?

Off Season – Cross Training

I have a lesson tonight that I am pretty excited about, but I figured I would set the stage with you all with an update of things I am doing outside the barn. Exactly a month ago yesterday, my friend and I joined our local YMCA. And yup – that’s the pic of it above. It is small, clean, and rivals Disney World as one of the friendliest places on Earth. 

Original plan? Take a couple of classes and stay fit and motivated through, what seems to have decided to be a ridiculously cold and unlivable, winter. Reality? Ummm yesterday marked our tenth visit, and that includes me basically taking the week of Thanksgiving off to be with family. 

This is my first experience with really taking classes, and it has been an incredible mix of completely intimating, a bit embarrassing, but totally fun.

Intimidation? When the entire class is there before you get there, and they have 6 pieces of equipment laid out in front of them in some kind of pattern that, even at the end of class, I am not sure I fully comprehended. Oh, and the super pregnant lady who was DEFINITELY lifting twice the weight I was able to, and she looked bored. 

Embarrassment? When the kettleball teacher spent half the class trying to keep me from shrugging my shoulder up past my ear on every lift. Even thinking about it makes my shoulder shrug. 

Fun? Fun was this weekend and CRUSHING my goal. The goal? Do 10 miles in the hour long spin class on Saturday morning. Result? Oh I did 10 miles. In fact, I did 11.4 miles. I also improved my average watts from the mid-40s to 60. I felt like I could push myself and really be a part of the class. 

Left? Second class ever. Right? Saturday. 

The best part? I really think all this cross training is going to have a seriously positive impact on my riding… once mother nature stops torturing us. What about you? Are you doing any cross training or trying something new in the off season?

A Long Term Bridle Review

I have a confession to make. A lot of reviews don’t “do it” for me. I love seeing how everyone feels about how a product performs, feels, fits, etc., but I often have the nagging sensation in the back of my head saying, “well, how is it going to look after YEARS of abuse?” Because, when it comes to where I am investing my very limited budget of horse stuff, that is where I want to put my dollars. In the things that last. 

SO – here is a review of a couple of bridles that I have now owned for YEARS. 

Dover Figure Eight Bridle

Seriously, I bought a bridle from Dover… at least 5 years ago. I was looking for a sub $200 bridle with a figure eight and a mono crown. I had a nunn-finer bridle that I really liked, but it wasn’t a figure eight, and it really as a reddish-brown color. I wanted CHOCOLATE. 

This bridle fit the bill. My original impressions included the sheepskin on the middle of the figure 8 being WAY TOO FLUFFY. I always had plans to trim it, but to be honest, I was too afraid of making it look worse. When I dabbled in some hunter/eq classes, I ended up buying the matching fancy stitched browband and crank noseband for this bridle. It definitely wasn’t the same price as the bridle when I bought it… Link here

So how is it 5+ years later?

Clearly, I still really like it. It is in everyday rotation at the barn, and it gets polished up and brought along for SJ and XC at horse trials. Is the leather as buttery soft as the Vespucci bridles I remember from 20 years ago? Nope. It has held up really well, but instead of softening, a lot of the leather has kind of wrinkled into position. 

While it hasn’t started cracking or anything like that, I do feel the leather just might be, after all this time, and all the use, coming towards the end of its useful life. 

Harwich Padded Dressage Bridle by SmartPak

I guess they don’t really make the same bridle anymore, so this might just be commentary on quality and all that. This bridle was a pretty serious impulse buy. I had bought a Dressage saddle, and I wanted a bridle that would match. (It was also part of the same order as a girth and leathers… neither of which I use anymore.)

Either way, this bridle has been in and out of rotation since February of 2015, so I think I have used it enough to have some thoughts. 

1 – The reins are HORRIFIC. I mean HORRIFIC. I ended up putting the Micklem rains on this bridle after getting that bridle. 

2 – The leather quality is crap too. Sorry. Not Sorry. They must have rubbed this thing in motor oil in the photo on the website, because it does not clean up like that. 

3 – I still kind of use it. This bridle is… somewhere. It makes it into the rotation when I need a third bridle for some reason. (i.e. I want to put a happy mouth in May’s mouth when the temp dips super low, but I don’t feel like changing out my main bridles). I should probably sell it, but it doesn’t seem worth the effort for the $50 it might be worth. 

Horseware Rambo Micklem Competition Bridle & Reins

This bridle was a gift, and I have had it two years. That also makes it the newest bridle in my rotation. It is also the most expensive. 

The most hilarious part of this bridle is not the amazing, awesomeness that is the anatomical benefits to the horse. Honestly, I am not sure how much May really cares. I might be able to convince myself that she’s a touch more steady in this bridle vs. the figure 8 or traditional bridle with a flash. However, I do not think it is a $200 difference, so to me, that’s mostly irrelevant. 

The reason I really like this bridle? It sits in such a different place on her face that it is perfect when she gets any rubs from her muzzle. There it is. Right there. The best part of this is that it keeps me from worrying about the bridle rubbing in the same place as her muzzle. 

As for quality, it is a nice bridle that looks nice and, I think, flatters May’s face pretty well. As mentioned above, I did upgrade the reins, and I actually use thinline reins on it now. Would I buy it again? Not sure. I am happy with it, but there are places that I wish it fit just a SMIDGE better, and it isn’t that adjustable. There are so many options on the market now for anatomical bridles, and I bet there is something out there that would fit better. 

What about you? Any bridles that you have had a long time and are still in love with?

THeSe REVIEWs are NOT SPONSORED, AND THE ITEMS DISCUSSED IN THIS REVIEW WERE PURCHASED BY ME or a FAMILY member WITH our OWN MONEY.

A Back to Basics Dressage Lesson

It has been… quite a while since my last dressage lesson. Quite a while as in, I am pretty sure I was complaining that it was REALLY HOT at the last one. When I have these kind of gaps in lessons, the first question is always, inevitably, “Is there anything specific you want to work on today?”

My first inclination was to say, “nope.” I think I actually did say, “nope”. Luckily, my trainer knows me better than that and gave me an extra 10 seconds to actually think about my rides lately. 

“Actually, I think we could use some work on transitions.” Doubly-Luckily,  my trainer also knows what I mean by this. Yes, I can get May to halt/walk/trot/canter etc on cute, fairly promptly. HOWEVER, I wanted to work on keeping the connection and balance before, during, and after each transition.  I know. Riveting stuff. 

Let’s not forget this halt to trot transition at our last horse trial… where May drifted about 5′ left for no particular reason. 

The majority of the lesson was spent on a 20 meter circle. We started with walk/trot/walk transitions. You know, the most basic of the basic. Positives? May stayed in front of my leg. Negatives? She enjoyed being in front of my leg and falling on her forehand. Solution? Change walk to halt. 

Our first trot/halt transition was met with her just dissolving onto her forehand. She practically took the last step in the stumble. It was super majestic and graceful. So NT had us back up a couple of steps and try again. 

The next time? May pulled a typical May move. Instead of falling on her forehand, she rocked back and halted… and then immediately backed up, away from the contact. How do you fix that? Rinse and repeat. Forward, halt, forward, halt. Eventually, we got the halt/trot/halt transitions so tuned in that I could do 90% of the movement with my seat, with barely any additional input from my hands and leg. 

Adding this to my goals this winter – get all transitions tuned into the seat.

We moved onto the canter, but we changed up the rhythm of the transitions. We did a lot of trot, canter, trot, halt, trot, canter, trot, canter etc etc type of work. May started off running a bit into the canter, and I played into that by making my aids BIG and UNNECESSARY. 

We do not canter with our shoulders. 

However, by the end, I could just swing by seat, close my outside leg, and get a nice connected canter. Funny how that works. 

The lesson finished off with transitions on the quarter line. I had to work VERY hard to be clear with my aids and keep her straight and connected. I thought my brain was going to melt with how much mental capacity this exercise takes up. Is it weird that I can’t wait to try it again on my own?

There ended up being a ton of nuances to this lesson, that I am still really digesting, but it filled up my tool box (and my motivation chest) with a lot to help us move forward this weekend!

Are you setting any specific goals this winter?