False Start & Setting Goals

June was a really odd month for May and me. We moved to our new barn on June 4th, had a jump lesson, then a Dressage lesson. Then, this week was widdled away by the need to go bitless for a while, as well as KY showing off its adeptness at late afternoon thunderstorms.Today, I will hop back on with a bit for our last ride until the 2nd week of July.

Maybe I need a break after all the stress around moving (Although,  Michele has it SO MUCH WORSE), or maybe the lack of tangible goals has more of an effect on me than I realize. Either way, I want to come back from vacation with some goals in mind and a better idea of how the rest of the summer to shake out (Because somehow it is already July and summer is slipping through my fingertips).

What are my SMART goals? (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound)

1. Get Comfortable at BN Height Again – Due Date September

I haven’t consistently jumped at BN since 2016, and even then, BN stadium was my nemesis. Ideally, this would roll into a mini trial or two in the fall. If the money isn’t there for a HT, that’s ok, but I want to get back to that being our comfort zone (maybe even with some Novice height thrown in there to challenge us). I also haven’t schooled any BN sized XC stuff either, so that needs to get on the “to-do” list.

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2. Nail Down 1st Level Dressage – Due Date November

That’s right. I want the lengthenings, leg yields, and stretchy trot nailed down. The Training Level Test 3 is easily within our took kit now, and the leg yields can definitely get there. It would be really fun to be able to go to a couple of Dressage shows this winter and do the Level 1 tests.

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3. Get Fit – Due Date Mid August

Yup, I am a broken record here because life is life and finding time is hard. I have added some pilates and yoga into my routine, and it has helped my core strength in the saddle, but I still wouldn’t consider myself eventing fit. However, do you know how much easier the two goals above would be if I was truly fit? A LOT easier. A friend of mine sent me the EventingFit.com 30 Day Challenge PDF. It looks like a totally doable program, and I am going to dedicate 30 days to doing it to see if it helps me get into a routines. On vacation next week, I do plan on adding a long walk on the beach to my mornings.

What about you? Are there specific goals you are working on this summer?

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We Go Bitless Baby!

Let me start by saying: This was not a voluntary experiment. After our great Dressage lesson last week, I got on her the next time, and she was just spicy. There was lots of head throwing and dramatics and our ride just got worse and worse. I finally let the reins out, and we just went for a walk. When I hopped off, I realized that she had somehow got pinched by her bit that she was worn for nearly every ride for the last 2 years. (back to the baucher? Thoughts?)

I will say, that I had adjusted the Micklem bridle a couple of weeks ago because it was rubbing against a bug bite on her cheek. I guess it is time to readjust it back. I hemmed and hawed about what to do… I had ridden May a couple of times when I first got her in a hackamore, but the idea of shelling out cash for something I will probably use 3 or 4 times seemed super unappealing. I originally thought about attaching my reins to a crank noseband I have somewhere. I figured it would work kind of like a side pull. However, I COULD NOT find the thing, since I only use the figure 8 on that bridle.

I was convinced that I couldn’t fit my reins on the right attachment on the Micklem to use it, so I brought along some options to rig SOMETHING together and hope I didn’t die. It turns out, I could just attached my reins to the Micklem. I checked to make sure the nose pieces was high enough on her face not to cause any discomfort, and I figured I would give it a try.

Yes… she was THIS ENTHUSED about the whole thing. 

Conclusion? I had really no breaks or real steering, so we stuck to the outdoor and just did trot sets. I figured a nice, no pressure ride would help both of us get used to this new way to communicating. Plus, this was only a temporary situation.

Then yesterday, I saw that it looked like the pinched spot had completely cleared up. Since I am going away next week, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to just ride the rest of this week bitless. I threw on the bitless micklem, ignored some odd stares by someone who I am pretty sure was CONVINCED I was missing SOMETHING, and I headed to the indoor. I figured the 2 beginner type riders having a lesson in the outdoor wouldn’t appreciate the addition of a large yellow wrecking ball with both questionable steering and breaks.

Instead, a teenager and her thoroughbred had to deal with me in the indoor. I figured that today, being in the indoor, I would push May a bit more forward and try to drive her into my hands. No luck. 0 luck. Possibly even negative luck. I could steer a bit better, but the Micklem did nothing to help me stop any kind of forward motion. To do a downward transition was an act of full body control and divine intervention.

I even had the crazy notion that maybe if we cantered, it would get her moving better over her back! It didn’t work. I did a 30 meter oval to the left with a terrible upward transition and a nearly nonexistent downward transition. But you can’t just do it one way! So we turned around and tried the right lead! It was equally bad. I ended up seriously wishing I had though to at least put my spurs on or grabbed my whip so I had SOME WAY to INSIST on at least one of my aids being listened to.

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Even Hannah is excited to finally see spring! #dogsofinstagram

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At the end of the ride, I just had to laugh. No harm was done. I doubt I undid any of May’s training, and if I did,  it would be a quick fix anyway. The horse enjoyed the ride thoroughly, and I got to use some muscles that I didn’t even know I had. How about you? Ever gone bitless?

So What’s the Plan?

I think I mentioned that, during my first ride on May at the new barn, NT asked me what the plan was with May this year. My original response was that I needed lessons, which is 100% true, and I have been able to take both a Dressage and a Jumping lesson within the first couple weeks since moving in. As a result, I find myself looking at the calendar and seriously considering what it is I want to do.

There are a ton of options, including just jumper shows every Wednesday night during July and August, schooling horse trials at least once a month, and maybe even some opportunities to do something fun with the local hunt club, like a hunter pace or open cubbing. The dream schedule?

  • Register as a member of the local mini-trail series and seriously campaign in the rest of them at BN.
  • See if the local fox hunt is something I want to actively get involved in.
  • Put May in full training with NT for the week I am gone for a week in July.
  • Do the 1 recognized event that is near us in September.
  • Participate in the winter Snowbird Dressage series (that starts in November). I am not a DQ, but I could totally play one on TV.

However, the truth of the matter is that, while May and I may be ready and able to do ALL the things, each of these things costs money. (off topic – got the cambox working for my Dressage lesson. Quality is better on my computer than it showed up on instagram, and I need to work on some of it, but it is still SO COOL)

Some unexpected life expenses means that pretty much everything outside of lessons is on hold for the near future. In the meantime, I am working on a cost analysis for each event and looking at my stack of horse goods to evaluate if there is anything worth selling. (honestly, I really don’t think there is, as I am pretty frugal about only investing in pieces that I will use and keep for a long time.) I am even debating doing lessons every other week and putting aside the extra cash for an event or two in the fall; however, this might just put us farther behind than we already are.

I just keep reminding myself that May is 12 (or 9 or 15… somewhere in there) and in good health. There is no real reason why she couldn’t keep doing BN for the next several years with proper maintenance, so I am hoarding my pennies, thinking up ideas for a side hustle, and debating just selling a kidney. This will be our second year mostly sitting it out, so it’s tough to be patient. What about you? How do you juggle the various horse-related expenses with real life expenses?

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Saturday afternoons are for naps. #dogsofinstagram

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Dressage Lesson – How Does One Even Fancy Prance?

This is going to be a very text-heavy, Dressage focused post. I could have broken this up into 3 posts, but I didn’t want to torture you all with that. Apologies in advance for what is interesting content to me and probably no one else!

Last week, I texted NT and literally asked her, “Can I get on the schedule for a Dressage lesson? I have forgotten how to fancy prance.” Luckily, she understands my humor (or is just good at faking it), and put me on the schedule for Monday.

On Sunday, I showed up to the barn to a horse missing a shoe. This wasn’t totally unexpected. During the transition period of May to the new barn, she spent a couple of days out during the day, and she spent a good amount of that time stomping at flies on the REALLY hard ground right now. I had already put an SOS out to the farrier, and he was scheduled to come out on Monday afternoon.

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Old Random Photo 🙂

So on Monday, May’s feet were cleaned and trimmed up (and a hoof supplement was added to her smartpaks), and we were headed into our first Dressage lesson with NT after May basically got 4 days off. Whoops.

Given the heat and humidity, we decided to do the lesson in the indoor arena. I have to say that the shade of the covered arena combines with the breeze through the open sides REALLY made a difference in the comfort level of both May and me. NT gave us a simple directive, “just go ahead and warm up, and I will watch.”

Ummmmm ok. I can do that. I have been riding for 22 years. I can warm up a horse on the flat. Hah… hahahahah. Now, before I get into how our warm-up went, it is probably worth noting that I made a pretty significant change in our equipment lately. I have caught myself riding almost primarily off my spurs and in a way that had May completely behind my leg. As a result, I have switched to a Dressage whip and no spurs. The Dressage whip used to make May incredibly tense, but a lot of hacking out while carrying one has made it a mostly non-issue.

Our warm-up was… mostly terrible. I got her in front my leg, but she was definitely dull to any bending aids, and as usual, she wanted to continuously pop off the connection of my outside rein when tracking right. (i.e. the left rein) I did some loops and worked on moving her shoulders around to try and loosen up the middle part of her body, but she mostly just continued to shuffle along like a board. We did a bit of canter, with a turn on the haunches in between, and then I looked at NT for instruction.

“You need serpentines” was the summation of the explanation that followed. Basically, I was losing either May’s shoulder or her haunches around basically every turn.

“I do a lot of 20M circle exercises…” I tried to explain, but NT explained how, on a 20M circle, you can remain mostly straight and stay on the circle. She wanted us to really make TURNS that forced us to really BEND. 10 meter circles are really beyond us right now, but we could do serpentines with 10-15 meter half circles at each end, so that is what she had us do. She told me not to worry about getting the exact size of the half circles, as long as I got the correct bend and shape through May’s body. Cool! Our first attempt looked something like this:

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Basically, I just kind of threw May around the ring and tried to shove her around corners without ensuring I had the right balance first. I realized how badly it was going, and tried to sit the trot for the last loop. It seemed to help a bit, as I was able to better time my aids. Either way, by the end of that experiment, NT learned she needed to be SUPER literal with me. “I know I said you could do whatever size circle you wanted, but they need to be consistent. You still need to ride super accurately.”

During my second attempt, I sat the trot and implemented a solid half halt anytime I felt her balance slip. I rode my lines, and focused on really pushing her into the corner and my outside rein with my inside leg. It ended up looking more like this:

Better

By the end of the exercise, I had a horse that was much more connected in both directions, AND she was moving across her back and lifting through her withers. There will definitely be a lot more of THESE in our future. Now that we had (finally) established a real connection, something I had been struggling with for weeks, we wanted to add in some lateral work. We had a great connection, but the idea of moving off my inside leg was still a bit of a struggle.

The directive was simple, come down the quarter line and ask May to leg yield to the wall. Baby stuff! We started in the better direction, the left, and it was a total fail. Without my spurs, I was basically incapable of convincing May to move over. The closest I got to a “leg yield” was the shoulders sliding towards the wall and the head bent back to the left. I wasn’t even pulling on the left rein, but that is where the head was. “Do you want to try asking for that a different way?” My head snapped up at NT’s words. Do I need to reiterate that I have been riding for more than TWENTY years? Even the H/J did a lot of leg yielding.

None of this left my mouth; instead, I just meeked out a “yeah.” NT came into the middle of the ring and pretended she was on a horse. First words out of her mouth are, you don’t move your aids because you aren’t changing your bend. Wait… what? I kept watching, quietly, while she positioned her inside leg “at the girth” and moved her outside leg back to keep the hind end underneath her. She took a step to the right in the “leg yield” and then half halted by squeezing her thighs. (I really hope the cambox picked up all of this. I will have to check tonight.) She took another step, explaining how she was scooping the horse up with her inside leg and moving them into the outside rein and outside leg, which were allowed the horse’s body to move into them. WHEW!

She explained how I was losing the shoulder because I wasn’t half halting, and that made it impossible for May to move her body over effectively. Oh, and sit with the bend. Yup, sit with the bend. I have ALWAYS sat on the outside of my saddle. In a leg yield, I will practically throw myself off the outside of the saddle in an attempt to get my horse to move with me in the direction. No one had ever told me I should be sitting on the inside (or with the bend).

Part of me was shrugging my shoulder at this. Part of me was tempted to ask if I could just go get my spurs. It didn’t even seem like this new set of aids could work, but what I was doing right now wasn’t working. I figured I would at least try it. We started tracking left and came down the quarter-line. I shifted my weight SLIGHTLY in my left seat bone, I kept my left leg at the girth, and I moved my right leg back. I half halted with my thighs, and then, I thought of scooping up May’s body with the entirety of my left leg and moving her one step to the right… and it worked. I half halted and asked again, and it worked again. Pretty soon, we were cruising right along from left to right. May was straight, there was no fighting with her head, and we ended the leg yield with an EVEN BETTER connection. Magic. (Below – old footage of me asking the “old” way, outside of a lesson, and thinking I was doing amazing)

The right was definitely the more difficult direction, so May lost a lot of power through the leg yield. However, they remained straight and correct. NT explained that strength and flexibility in that leg yield will come with time. Sounds good to me. We walked for a bit so that May and I could recoup, given the heat. Then, NT asked me how our shoulder-ins were. I almost laughed, but I gave her a pretty diminutive, “not good.” She nodded and explained the movement to me again.

Again, the concept didn’t change. The inside leg stayed at the girth to keep the bend, the outside leg stayed back to steady the hind end, and my weight stayed on the side with the bend. Cool. This time, I would look to move as if we were going to make a 10 meter circle, and I would ask her to hold that shape while going straight. It was pretty rough. I REALLY wanted to swing my inside (left) leg back and the outside (right) leg forward to try and push the haunches towards the wall and the shoulders against the wall. Shockingly to no one, that didn’t work. May’s left shoulder popped on the inside, and the loss of bend and balance meant she was basically running away with me (albeit incredibly slowly).

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❤️ #may #palomino #draftcross #ponylove

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NT reminded me to fight the urge to give up on the inside leg to outside rein, and she reminded me to half halt. Half halt? We are barely moving. Again though, I suspended my disbelief and tried it. I kept my inside leg on, my outside leg back, sat to the inside, and then, I turned her shoulder just to the inside and half halted. She took two steps of great shoulder-in before coming off the rail a bit. I half halted again, and we got three good steps. And then, I got another nugget of wisdom from NT, “the moment you feel her wanted to come off the rail, that is when you need to half halt.” However, we didn’t want to drill the exercise, so we took a walk break before going in the other direction.

To the right, things were a bit more difficult. Granted, this is May’s more difficult direction, so I wasn’t sure we would be able to do it at all. We would get straight, I would ask for the shoulder in, and May would throw her head around. I was told just to do a 10M circle and try again. I tried again, and I got the same response. “STOP PULLING ON YOUR INSIDE REIN!” I heard from the other end of the arena. From more than 100 feet away, NT had seen something I hadn’t even noticed I was doing. I shoved my inside rein forward, and we suddenly had a small, but correct, shoulder in. We did one more line with me riding like someone who has done this before, and then, we gave her another break.

“She really tells on you when you’re pulling on that rein,” NT joked. Then she asked if there was anything at the canter I wanted to work on specifically, since we didn’t want to do much of it in the heat.

“My transitions suck.” I explained how, in my last real Dressage lesson, May had been completely incapable of picking up the right lead, and that, since then, I have basically settled for letting her throw her head up and then just shuffle her way into the canter. NT made a comment about seeing that in our warmup, and she told me to pretend that I was asking the stifle for the canter.

“Take a deep breath, let it out, swing your outside leg really far back, and ask for the canter.” No… there is no way that is going to work. Hah… hahahahaha.

I picked up the trot to the left, got the connection, started sitting, took a deep breath, let it out, and swung my right leg back. And good Lord, that mare just threw that right hind leg under the body, rocked back, and picked up a canter. It was uphill, it was connected, and it was prompt. I looked up at NT with a MASSIVE grin on my face. We did it one more time, and decided to switch to the right. To the bad direction.

I had a bit more trouble reestablishing the connection on this side after our walk break. She really wanted to throw her shoulders to the right, but I got it. Then I sat, then I took a deep breath, I let it out, I swung my left leg back, and she gave me the best canter transition I have ever gotten. On any horse. We came back down to the trot, I let her stretch, and NT said we should just be done on that. It was a 9 transition, and there was no point to trying to “train” a tired horse to do something it already did great.

Today, I am sore. My abs hurt from all the sitting trot. My inner thighs hurt from all the half halts, and my back muscles hurt from making sure I was sitting as tall and balanced as possible. However, I feel like we are fancy prancing better than ever before!

As for the cambox, the instructions are in French, so I am fumbling my way through learning how to use it. Also, I am learning how to use my Mac at the same time… anyone know how to get a video from iMovie to my iPhone, so that I can put it on instagram??

Random Things I’ve Been Eyeing

May has been settling in really well in the new barn. She has decided the mini pony mare is her baby, but hasn’t been obnoxious about it. Our rides have been pretty mediocre, as I have been having a lot of trouble really getting her into the connection. I will have to get a Dressage lesson on the calendar for next week. So what does a girl do when she really has no events in the near future and riding hasn’t been awe-inspiring? She window shops.

A new XC Top?XC Top

The Aubrion Women’s Performance Cross Country Shirt caught my eye on Riding Warehouse’s site this week ($50). The Navy blue with the silver dots would be really fun for XC, but I am a bit concerned that it might be too hot. The description says it “is made from lightweight, quick drying material to keep you cool and comfortable”, but without the mesh under the arms and perforated fabric, I am not sure it would be as cool as my other shirts. Link

A Real Stock Tie?

Stock Tie

I will admit here that I have never owned a real stock tie. I have owned one stock tie in my life, and it is a SUPER CHEAP pretied stock tie. It doesn’t even need a pin because it has a few silver crystals on it, so I figured that’s good enough. I also probably don’t need a real stock tie, since I have gotten to use all my nice show clothes exactly ONCE since I got them.  However, I am tempted to do some real Dressage shows this winter, so maybe I do need one? Either way, this one from Stock Bubble REALLY caught my eye ($36). Silver and Navy and Classy? Sign me up! (Although, some may argue that I am better suited to the “I’ll Have Another – Red Wine Stock Tie”) Link

A New Helmet?

Now, I have really loved my OneK since I got it, and Facebook reminds me that it is only about 3 years old. However, there are two things that I am really torn about. 1 – the new Trauma Void helmet ($249) and 2 – the Rose Gold OneK ($260). The OneK is pretty, flattering, and I know it will be comfortable and fit great. However, the Trauma Void has new technology that might significantly decrease the severity of a brain injury. The Trauma Void will probably get a trial when I go helmet shopping next, but that can’t stop me from drooling over the OneK. Links: TraumaVoid, OneK

New Boots?

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The Super Goop repair on my tall boots has been holding well, and a friend of mine just got a patch done on her boots that looks great. However, my boots really are on their last leg, and I am debating what to do about it. If money were no object? I would LOVE to have these DeNiro Ride & Fly boots ($$$$). Basically a sneaker on the bottom of my boots? Yes Please. However, these are probably WAY outside what I would want to pay for boots, and I am not even close to being a fancy enough person to even know where to buy these things. So I would probably either replace my Ariat Heritage Contour boots ($300) with the updated version that just came out, or I would try the TuffRider Suregrip Field boots ($200). The TuffRiders are about $100 cheaper, so they might get the first try on. Links: Deniro, Ariat, TuffRider

Summer Riding Pants?

Ariat Back

Now, I have tried a couple of pairs of “cooling” riding pants. Most of them show a LOT of LUMPS AND BUMPS, which is not what I am about. I even tried the Ovation AquaX pants, but the fabric just didn’t work for me. Then, I saw that Ariat came out with the new Tri Factor Breech in knee patch and full seat. The pants are made with “Icefil® Xylitol-based cool system reduces skin temperature”. Huh… that sounds… nice lol. I want cooling breeches that offer the same look and support as a more traditional breech. Of course, Ariat only shows breeches on a model that wears a MUCH smaller size than I do (and no shoes apparently). Either way, her butt looks cute, so maybe mine would too? At $150, these aren’t cheap breeches, but they aren’t out there expensive either. With a white and tan option in both the full seat and the knee patch, they might also end up being great summer show breeches. (Am I the only weirdo kind of put off by her bare feet in these pics? Ariat makes some nice boat shoes that would solve this issue.) Link

I think that is mostly it! Obviously, nothing I need now, but I always find it fun to window show for horse stuff. What about you? Anything you have been eyeing?

First Jump Lesson with New Trainer!

(and my first jump lesson since my birthday back in April) New trainer and I chatted a bit as she set jumps from the prior x-rail lesson. “What height have you been doing? Like BN?”

I blanked… I admitted we hadn’t really been jumping and then said, “between Starter and BN is pretty comfortable.” Spoiler alert, turns out it wasn’t super comfortable (but everything was a hole or two smaller than the pics). The jumps were laid out in a way that gave a lot of options, gymnastics, and related distances. Overall, everything was set up to be super technical.

June 7 Course

The orange line was a placement rail, 5 one-stride jumps, and then another placement rail to help riders get into and out of the gymnastic on the right stride. The blue line was a x-rail, two strides to an oxer, and then two strides to another x-rail. The green line was set in a moving 4, and the purple line was set in a steady 5. The only “stand alone” jump was the blue, double barrels. The new trainer offhandedly asked me if I thought they would be an issue, and I flippantly said no. (and then immediately was thinking (OMG we’ve never done barrels like that.”)

I warmed up, and she had me head through the gymnastic towards home, trotting in and cantering through. It was originally set really small, with just one side of each pole in the cups, and the distances were a true one stride. NT explained to me that the ring has a bit of a slant towards the barn, so things will always ride more forward coming towards the barn (i.e. traveling left to right of the above photo).

May was a bit wiggly the first time, and I don’t blame her. We haven’t done a gymnastic like this in a LONG time (like more than 2 years), and she wasn’t totally schooled in them at that time either. However, I kept my legs on, my reins open, and we were just fine. We alternated our approach to it a couple of times (making a right turn into the gymnastic, a left turn at the end, then a left turn into the gymnastic and a right turn at the end), until it was smooth and easy. Then, she put them up to small verticals (about a hole smaller than the above pic).

After that, it was time for our first course. Down the gymnastic (left to right), right turn and up the green line in 4, left turn and down the barrels. Sounded easy enough. Except I also cannot remember the last time I did a line that was oxer to vertical… That line was set to about 2’6″, and the approach to it was a bit weird. I tried to capture it in the below photo, but you had to come maybe 2 strides past the corner of the ring, turn, and then had maybe 2 – 3 strides off the rail to the oxer. AND THEN we would have to turn right and come down the double barrels that I wasn’t too sure about.

The “Green” line (oxer to vertical). 

I nodded. I picked up my canter. I came through the gymnastic, May landed on the right lead after, I looked for my line to the oxer… and looked… and then just pulled back around the corner, lost her shoulder, lost any straightness or rhythm, and had a BIG OL’ CHOCOLATE CHIP into the oxer. I kicked on out to get the 4 strides to the vertical on the second half of the stride… and finished really well over the barrels. (At least there was some good)

Then the dreaded trainer words, “So what do you think happened there?”

I briefly blanked before blurting out, “I lost her shoulder in the line and then everything fell apart.”

NT nodded and then elaborated, “You lose her shoulder, couldn’t find a distance and did nothing. When you keep this horse balanced and on the line, you have no issues with jumps, distances, etc. However, when she loses her balance, then she pulls you off balance, and then it all just kind of falls apart. Worry about balance and straightness, and if you’re in doubt, add leg. The barrels were really good though.” (I swear, she is SUPER positive, but the negative feedback is more important right now than the positive)

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Old blurry media… 

We did that course one more time and while the turn to the oxer wasn’t perfect: I didn’t throw my body at it or panic. I just added leg and tried to keep my body back. Overall, a lot of improvement.

Now for a new course! Down the gymnastic, a right turn to the purple line (so oxer to vertical), and then around to the barrels. Gymnastic was great. I got to the oxer into the purple line, and we lost our balance a bit. I over corrected coming down the line, and got to the out in 5 and 1/4 strides… and promptly threw my body up May’s neck. Uh… not helpful. We rubbed it hard and landed in a heap on the other side.

The “Purple Line” is the red white and blue, square oxer to the purple jump. You can also see the turn from the gymnastic to the oxer, and the turn off the corner to the “green” line. 

“KICK AND SIT UP!” I heard from the other end of the ring…. oh gosh. our first lesson and here she is terrified that I am about to eat dirt. Oh well, I kicked on. Got a brief instruction of “always kick away from something like that!” while I cantered past her, and back to the barrels, which were, once again, no problemI walked, and huffed, and puffed (it was like 85 degrees with 80% humidity). May was prancing around like she was ready to go run the Belmont. Trainer sent me back to do just the barrels to the purple line again. It got tight on me again, but I sat back and it rode fine. SHOCKING.

Finally, it was time for our last course. Is your head spinning? Mine was. UP the gymnastic, a left 90* turn to the purple oxer, a right turn down the blue line, a right turn to the barrels, and then ANOTHER right turn to the green line. The turn from barrels to the green oxer wasn’t quite as tight as it looks in the pic, but it wasn’t much more generous.

The Blue Line. 

I jumped up the gymnastic and actually had too tight of a turn to the oxer… and promptly forgot to turn right. I looped back around, got my right lead, and came down the blue line. Despite being a true 2 strides to 2 strides, the second half got a bit tight (*more of this later). The barrels, as always, rode great, but we landed on the left lead. I tried to fix it. I failed. I lost her shoulder and AGAIN the green line was ugly. At this point, I actually felt nauseous from the heat. (May was fine though. Totally amped and ready to keep going).

NT waved me over and said, “I am going to tell you something that is going to blow your mind. Stop worrying about the lead. Worry about balance and your line.” Now, I know this is kind of a controversial topic. However, I can tell you that for May and I to drop down to a trot, get the canter back, get balance, and get our rhythm back… it can sometimes take a lot of effort and coordination and TIME. So I decided to try it her way. (there is also a small chance that, if I stop fixing it for May, she might start fixing her own leads on her own.)

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I jumped the barrels, we again landed on the left lead, I left the lead… and couldn’t turn to save my life. I ended up pulling her around the corner at the last minute and almost missed the jump. I did get a nice 5 in the line though. I was officially done tho. We identified something to work on, and it was overall really positive.

NT really liked May. She was shocked by how easily she got down the line, how un-bothered she was by all my mistakes (my words, not hers), and how light she actually is on her feet. She seemed really excited to be working with us, and I felt like I got a lesson that really challenged me without over-facing us. The whole idea is to do really technical courses at home, so, at shows, things feel easy. Sounds good to me!

*Now the striding thing. Since May had her hocks and stifles done, her stride opens up MUCH easier, and I am still getting used to riding the difference. She is also more receptive to taking the long spot, vs. chipping in, so it has really affected my riding.

(As a total off topic, I came across this article on stretching tight hips. https://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Best-Stretches-Tight-Hips-44931840 I remember when I first got May, I had to be DILIGENT about stretching my hips to be able to ride her. Time to get back on that band wagon!)

The New Barn

I am sure some of you saw this pic on instagram:

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Happy mare #majestic #horsesofinstagram

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and you might have had a brief thought about how it didn’t look like this pic:

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May wishes everyone a #merrychristmas! #horsesofinstagram

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Then maybe you saw this pic:

and it definitely didn’t look like this one…

Or maybe you just know me personally and know that I moved May to a new barn! The “reasons” are pretty mild, as far as these things go. I wanted to be with a trainer that had more of a “team” going to the local shows like the one I did last month, I was also looking for someone who was around for at least most of the winter months, and I was looking for a program where a bit more of the horse care was on the trainer instead of the owner. This is 100% a preference thing, but I think this type of program just works better for my lifestyle.

The new barn!

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The barn is part of a 40 acre farm, but NT only manages the small barn in blue. May will be turned out in the field that is circled in green. The other part of the property is rented by a Dressage trainer who has her Silver medal and is an L graduate. Both sides get along well, share both arenas, and share some general barn duties (like dragging the arenas). I liked this mostly because it means that, even if NT is away, there is another professional keeping an eye on the arenas/general barns. New Trainer (NT) goes to Aiken for a couple of weeks before the start of the season in KY and travels a bit for shows, but that works for me. The barns are completely separate, so that keeps both programs from bumping up against one another.

The covered building next to the small barn is the indoor. This isn’t my picture, so sorry it is in a weird format. The interesting thing, for me, is that this is the first “open” indoor arena I have ever ridden in. They don’t close it in the winter, so it might be a bit cold. However, I figure it shouldn’t be much colder than a stand-alone, closed in indoor. In fact, it might even be warmer, as sometimes that stand alone indoor is like a fridge!

The indoor and outdoor arena are right next to each other (see the pic below). Next to the outdoor arena is a big open field, which most people use to either warm up, cool out, or do some fitness. The property next to ours is also open to us to go trail riding. I am pretty excited about getting to explore those a bit more!Image result for tuscany hollow stables

The barn May is in has an interesting setup, with a main barn aisle with stalls, tack room, feed room, etc and then a line of stalls that just open to the outside of the barn and back up to the feed room, tack room, etc. May is in one of those outside stalls, and she seems to LOVE being able to stick her head out and watch what is going on out in the fields. While the barn gets a nice crosswind with all the doors open, here are also ceiling fans that keep the air moving. Since the horses are in during the day, May seems to be really appreciating this feature.

So far, everyone I have met at the new barn has been super warm and welcoming. It’s definitely a very social barn, which I realized I had been missing more than I realized. I think that is pretty much it! May settled in really well. Although, she was a bit of a beast for our first ride on Tuesday. I think this was more due to the fact that I had barely ridden her the week before vs. the stress of moving. Either way, I have my first lesson tonight, so stay tuned!

My First Volunteer Experience

Now, it has been a goal of mine since I got involved in eventing to volunteer at horse trials. However, when I lived in NJ, horse trials were 2+ hours away, and I just couldn’t make the time commitment work. Last year, my late-summer wedding and then fall house search kept me from being able to make any reliable weekend plans.

This year though, I was determined to volunteer. I signed up for EventingVolunteers.Com, and I looked around… and I saw nothing. Ok… cool. I kept it on the list, and I vowed to check back. I figured an event at the KY horse park or even more locally would be in order!

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Then, I saw a please on facebook from those putting on the IEA Horse Trials at the Hoosier Horse Park in Indiana. I gave it a quick google and found it to be about an hour and half from my house. Great! Then, I dug a little deeper and found out that IEA Horse Trials also runs the classic format for Training and Novice, so I shot the event organizer an email and basically told her, “I have never volunteered before, but I am not a total newbie to this whole thing.” She signed me up for Show Jumping Scribe on Saturday, and a commitment was made!

When the day came, it meant I had to be in my car by 7:30AM to (get coffee) make it up to the event. I had to be there by 10AM, but I figured being a bit early never hurt anyone! I ended up pulling in around 9AM, and I was completely lost. I found a sign that pointed toward the show office, so I parked near that sign, close to some other cars. I grabbed my bag and headed that way.

I found the show office (next to a real parking lot, oops), and asked them where SJ was. The response I got? “It’s really far away.” Ummm…. ok, but like in what direction? Do I need to drive there? A passerby helped me out, and she told me that if I headed towards the barns and just kept walking, I would see it. Awesome. (It turned out to be a 5 minute walk… not far at all by horse show standards.)

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(Wish I had this map before I got there). The only difference is that the warm-up area for SJ was on the other side of the Stadium jumping arena.

The show was BUZZING with every barn seemingly full of horses, riders, trainers, equipment, bikes, and golf carts. I wandered through it all, feeling my heart lighten as I became a part of the horse show scene again.

I found, next to the stadium course, a slightly air conditioned building. I checked in, and immediately asked what I could do, since none of the other volunteers had showed up yet. “Flowers!” Someone called desperately from behind a table. “Please put out some flowers.” So I headed back out into the morning and began trying to pair the flowers with the jumps. The pink and green oxer? It got some tall greenery in front of the standards and pink flowers. In about a half hour, all the flowers were out, and I headed back into the SJ office.

I was introduced to the judge, who was great. She spent some time showing me how to set up the sheets for each division and explained how she preferred they be marked. For the next few minutes, I set up each sheet meticulously, making sure they would be clear and easy for the person entering them into live scoring to read. (I have horrible handwriting, so this was serious work! haha)

By 11:15AM, I was ready to roll, and we welcomed the first horse into the ring. The first couple of divisions were Open Training, followed by Training Rider. We then had a break before Open Beginner Novice, Beginner Novice Rider, and ended the day with Open Starter and Starter Rider. The last scheduled ride time was about 6PM.

I won’t lie. Rides were a bit rough that day. We had multiple eliminations, rider falls, and countless rails. I think I dreamed of the number 4 that night! The overall consensus in the booth was that the late winter really made it difficult for Riders to get into the swing of things this year. It might me 80-something degrees now, but it was snowing in April!

Either way, the day was a total education. My biggest takeaway? Somehow, Training doesn’t look that different from BN, but BN looks like a huge step up from Starter. Why? BN had combinations, fillers, and overall just more solid looking jumps. While Training just looked like BN (plus 1 more combination), with the fences up a couple of holes.

May

I also discovered that well… people mess up a lot in SJ, but no one wants them to. We cheered for the riders that had rough rides but got it done. We commiserated with those that left rails on the ground or bodies in the dirt. There was no one in that booth that didn’t want to see every rider succeed.

My final takeaway? Some people are straight RUDE. I have never been to a horse show/trial/even/combined test/etc where at some point something ran behind. Unfortunately, SJ was that thing. After 4 hours of Training riders, the ring was pretty shot. The lack of rain in this part of the country (sorry East Coast!) meant that the footing was dry and a bit fussy. We had to drag and water the arena.

Unfortunately, that put us about 40 minutes behind. We announced the issue multiple times to the stables and warm-up area, posted a notice at the office, and let XC know about the conflict so they would be flexible with competitors. However, we still had multiple trainers, parents, riders burst into the SJ office and, in the middle of some else’s round, begin asking for an explanation for the delay, demanding a change in their order of go, or just voicing their frustrations.

Finally, the judge had to ask people to leave the office, as we were desperately trying to make up time. Again though, with a rough SJ day, jumps kept coming down, riders came off, and there was only so much we could do to try to make up time. In the end, instead of the last ride going at 6PM, she went at 6:45PM. Please, have a little compassion for those working at your next horse trial. I promise they are doing the best they can.

Overall, it was a great day, and I am looking forward to volunteering again! What about you? Have you ever volunteered? What’s your favorite position?

I Have Regrets

Last night, I was scrolling through youtube, and I came across Mayim Bialik’s video, “I Have Regrets.” She starts the video by talking about how she used to be one of those people that always said things like, ” I live my life with no regrets,” but the truth is, we all have things in our lives that we regret. It is a mindfulness of these regrets that keeps us from continuing to make poor decisions, so I decided to list out some horsey regrets.

 

I regret losing my temper

We spend a lot of time reciting quotes like, “The only two emotions that belong in the saddle are, a sense of humor, and the other is patience.” However, I will admit that there have been times where I have felt my blood boil, my jaw set, and my temper rise. I have since learned that there is always another day and that a trail ride on a bad day is far better than a dressage ride.

I regret keeping the wrong horse for so long.

I don’t talk about it often about the horse I had before May. He was a good horse in so, so many ways, but he was an awful partner for me. Rides ended in tears more than they ended in smiles, and I dreaded going to the barn. Since finding him a much better home, I vow to ride horses that make me happy, at least more often then they leave me in tears. Life is too short to ride the wrong horse.

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I regret riding at barns with sub-par care.

This one is more of ignorance than it was active action, but I am still at fault for my ignorance. I will no longer board at a barn where turnout fields lack water troughs, where 6 days of care a week is considered “enough”, and where the barn skips feedings simply because no one felt like coming out that day. I may never board my horse at a “fancy” barn, but I now have some serious non-negotiables for my horse’s care.

I regret sticking with trainers who didn’t make me better.

I have been riding for 22 years now, and I have never, consistently ridden at 3′. Maybe a jump here and there, a couple of courses with May in 2016, but never consistently. In fact, the highest I have ever competed, despite spending more than 15 years trying to be a hunter/jumper rider, is BN. Now, I actively work to find and ride with trainers that have students riding at or above my goal level. In this case, Novice… eventually.

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I regret caring about what the rail-birds think.

I remember showing an old trainer’s VERY fancy, imported Irish horse in a 2′ equitation class when I was about 13. Let me take that back. I remember that day, but I don’t remember the actual jumping rounds. Why? Because I have a lovely habit of holding my breath through the entirety of my rounds, to the point of almost passing out. In fact, my mind has found jumping in an arena so overwhelming that it simply blocks out the memories. The worst part is: I am not afraid of falling off and getting hurt; I am just afraid of what others will think of my mistakes. From now on, I vow to ride to enjoy my horse. Go in the ring and just kick around for the sheer joy of doing it.

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None of a us are perfect, but I like to think that we are all trying to be better everyday. My goal is to one day be the kind of rider that leaves every ride free of regrets. What about you? Any horsey-regret that you have vowed to not repeat.