A Footloose Jumping Lesson

If you’re wondering what happened to me last week, join the club. I was called in for Jury Duty, and they quickly explained that, of the 60 people called, only 14 would be selected and the rest could leave at lunch time. Great! Except, I ended up being one of the 14 people and spent the majority of last week as a juror on a federal criminal trial. It was also at a location WAY DOWNTOWN in Louisville, so I was 45 min from home and 35 min from the barn, without traffic… given that there is always traffic in that area and they kept letting us out late, I basically didn’t get to ride last week… Oh well. Here is a summary of our lesson from the week below.

NT LOVES grids. She thinks that, especially in eventing, it is important to train horses to be responsible for what they are doing with their legs. The truth of the matter is, no one is ever going to hit ever jump from the perfect distance, so we have to train horses to make sure that they are confident and comfortable getting us out of some less than ideal situations. So instead of building exercises and courses that allow a jump, 20 strides, another jump, 5 strides, another jump, she built exercises that force us to think and react a bit faster.

The first exercise? A modified circle of death. In essence, we did the circle of death going to the left, but making right circles after the first 2 poles. See below… enjoy my paint skills.

Circle of Death

This was shockingly harder that I thought it would be. I really needed May to move off my inside leg and into my outside rein each time we changed direction, when all she wanted to do was drop her inside shoulder through my leg and barrel through my aids. Fun stuff. Eventually, we were able to do it without flailing around corners with me hopelessly hanging on the inside rein. Yay!

So then the circle of death changed again. We did it in the traditional manner, then circled in the opposite direction and came over an oxer in the middle of the exercise.

COD Oxer

Now, something interesting happened. If I could keep the balance and rhythm through the circle of death, then the turn and the oxer ended up being super smooth and easy. May POWERED over the oxer, and we ended up only doing this once in each direction. Calling it a win!

Now, it was course time. Let me just throw this out there… then I will explain. Luckily, all pics below are the jumps at the height they were set for our lesson, so you can have an idea of where we’re at. (somewhere between Starter and BN).

July Course

I always label the jump numbers on the side of the jump you are jumping from. So jump 1 was jumped from left to right, then the 2 combination was jumped from right to left. So yes. That means that the course started by jumping 1 near the rail, leg yielding out to the rail, then making a tight turn to jump the 2 combination on the quarter line. That two combination was a tight 2 stride… that I tried to make a 3 stride the first time we did it. The rest of the first course (which only went to jump 6) can be seen through my cambox!

It’s on mute because otherwise all you would hear in my heavy breathing. It was HOT and HUMID that day. After getting the 3 in the 2, I realized I really needed to get our butts in gear. I rode forward properly from there and, SHOCKINGLY, the rest of the course came up great. We were supposed to do the inside turn after the barrels, inside the red white and blue jump… but no luck the first attempt. Jump 4 jumped well, but I kept my leg on because of the liver-pool under jump 5. I shouldn’t have worried, May couldn’t have cared less. The triple rode AWESOME. It was a 1 stride to a 2 stride with the oxer at the end. So first course attempt was establishing the rhythm, but loosing the turns.

Our second attempt, we were told to add in jumps 7, 8, and 9. Except… I seriously massacred jump 4. I lost her right shoulder to the outside going around the corner, pulled (which made her MORE crooked), lost the distance. She chipped in, and jumped through her right shoulder, shoving my foot out of the stirrup and landing in a heap. I, embarrassingly, thought I was going to fall off. Nothing like impressing a new trainer in your second jump lesson by falling off because you lost your stirrup….

Here you can see the triple combination to jump 7. You can also see jump 4 (the watermelon jump) and jump 9 (the far, red white and blue vertical)

I regrouped, and we started again. I nailed one, got through 2, made the sharp turns to 3 and 4. Then, I got a little tight to the entrance into the triple combination. I am about 95% sure that I stopped breathing. We made it through fine. May really does have plenty of step. I made a VERY BAD turn to 7, and I realized I was REALLY dizzy when we landed. I circled and regrouped and came back to the walk. It was a cop out. I keep thinking that I probably could have made it through 2 more jumps, but was probably worth it in a lesson? Probably not. We took the walk break, and finished over 7, 8, and 9.

Just a slightly “to the left” pic compared to the one above, so that you can see the blue barrels and how close they were to jump 7.

I was exhausted. I felt heat sickness creeping up on me. I chugged a bottle of water while I hosed May off, and once she was in her stall under a fan, I sat down for maybe 20 minutes to regroup. It was bad. I was so sore the next day, and it was just really disappointing to me. I have spent the last couple of weeks getting up a 5AM to get to the gym before work, and this just reiterated how out of shape I have really gotten.

All I can do right now though is keep moving forward. I am pushing my morning workout a little harder, upping the amount of time I spend in the saddle (especially cantering) each ride, and I am making more of an effort to eat better to make my (and May’s job) a little easier with a few less lbs.

How did May feel? When I turned her out in her field (after a cold shower and some time under the fan), she took off galloping across the field to tell her friends about how awesome she is. I had to laugh. As usual, the problems are mine, not hers.

The circle of death! Hahaha (and the first 3 jumps of the course all the way in the background).

How do I feel about the lesson itself though? AMAZING. Reflecting back on it has made me realize just how much improvement I got from May through that one lesson. This horse has a habit of pulling me down and out of the tack after fences, but through these exercises, I had a horse that landing and came up to me, instead of pulling down. It was a huge improvement, and I can’t wait to keep working on it.

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Past Horse Shopping – Part 1

Quick Update – May As Well Event officially has a Facebook page!

I am not in the market for another horse. I don’t WANT to be in the market for another horse. In fact, when I bought May, she was the only horse I looked at, and I traded away my old horse for her. Why do I dislike horse shopping so much? Probably because the experience is always pretty miserable. However, now looking back on my horse shopping experience 6 years ago, it’s something I can laugh about, and I hope you can to.

When I bought my first horse, it was before I got into eventing, so I wasn’t looking for an eventer. I was looking for a jumper horse that could cross into the adult equitation divisions. 3′ and under. Didn’t have to be fancy. I think my specs were:

  • 15.2 or taller
  • Over age of 4 (I wasn’t in a rush, but didn’t have the time for a 3yo)
  • Under age of 13
  • Capable of jumping 3′
  • Wouldn’t kill me
  • Under $5K

I have seen this happen. In fact, I ended up buying it in May.

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However, I saw a lot of interesting horses with that spec list. Let’s start with horse 1!

Oldenburg Mare – 16H – Bay – 10YO

This one even had some show experience at the level I wanted to compete. Seller mentioned that she really wouldn’t be competitive as a Low Child/Adult Jumper (3’3″ – 3’5″) as she was a brave jumper but not always the most careful. That’s fine. Safe and fun was more important to me then ribbons, and it explained the lower price. All good, reasonable things. Right? She was even less than an hour away from my barn. Great!

We went to go look at her. I don’t even remember if the trainer got on first, or if I hopped on. Either way, we passed through the indoor and into the outdoor because “The outdoor has better footing.”

The mare was in a pelham, which I only remember because it had been quite a while since I had ridden in two reins. I was also handed a pair of spurs. Again, not something I had ridden in often. Not a huge deal. You can do the eqs in a pelham and spurs, and it isn’t outrageous gear for a jumper. I got myself sorted out, and asked the mare to move on.

Her whole body weight was immediately in my hands. I tried to give her a bit of rein, and the seller starts shouting at me, “Keep contact with her face.”

Really? I thought. This much contact? I tried just sliding my hands forward and got the same response. Fine. This is your horse, and I will do it  your way. 

At the trot, I picked up on another issue. The mare had 0 flexibility in her body. It was like the muscle that run along either side of her spine were tensed into solid rock and there was nothing I could do about it. Now? I probably have a few tools in my toolbox for her, but not back then.

Then, I asked for the canter. To the left, no issues. To the right, she swung her haunches in, levitated, and picked up the left lead. It wasn’t so much a naughty response, but it was like she just COULDN’T rock back on that left hind leg like she needed to. The seller’s advice? “Keep more contact with her face.” I wish I was kidding.

I finally figured out that it was easier for her if I really rocked my weight back with her when I asked. (mind you, I was all of 140 lbs then, and she was a stocky mare.) After cantering a bit, I was told to jump her through the triple combination set up on the outside at around 2’6″. I think it was a vertical, 2 strides to a vertical, 3 strides to an oxer.

Fine. I pick up a good canter pace. Turn the corner. She TAKES OFF. Jumps the first jump from a stride away, does ONE stride, and jumps the second vertical. I circle before the oxer. Nope. Not dying on this horse. Seller AGAIN tells me that I need to hold her face tighter and keep her more collected at the very beginning. Basically, I end up cantering towards the combination in a skiing position.

I managed to get two strides in-between the first two jumps and then halt half HARD to get the 3 to the oxer. Mare cracks her back and then tries to take off on the other side. We do a couple more jumps to prove how brave she was, and then I handed her back to the seller with a quick thank you.

I was crippled with muscle soreness for 4 days after that, and that was when I rode 4 horses 6 days a week. I also was later told some shady things about the trainer selling the horse… I won’t go into details, but passing was probably the right move.

SmartPak Update

After my review went live, another smartpak rep did reach out to me and recommend another fly mask. This one. Her comment was that it didn’t rub her thin-skinned thoroughbred. However, if it fits her thoroughbred, it probably doesn’t fit my draft cross, and it only comes in a standard horse size.

Honestly, I just might go try and support my local tack shop after work tomorrow. 🙂

Product Review – SmartPak Deluxe Fly Mask

I have been a pretty devoted Cashel Crusader fly mask user for a while. They seemed to fit most horses, lasted a while, and looked fine. However, I have had issues with the long piece that covers the nose. In certain muzzles, May benefits from this extra piece, while in others, it just gets in the way. Also, the sizing has also been slightly off for May. A “horse” sized mask wasn’t quite large enough in the right places, and a “warmblood” sized mask was massive. See below for happy horse in the Crusader mask. (Old video that makes me wonder WHY I LET HER GET SO FAT? Definitely at a better weight now)

 

So when I was looking for a new mask, I decided to try another brand. The most economical choise? The SmarkPak Fly Mask.

The SmartPak Deluxe Fly Mask is just what your horse needs to keep summer’s pests at bay at a price you’ll love! The Deluxe mask features a fleece bumper in the crown to help lift the mask away from your horse’s eye as well as a removable zipper nose piece depending on you and your horse’s preference.

Durable PVC mesh that holds its shape and keeps flys off your horse’s sensitive face

  • Soft mesh ears provides extra protection from pests in sensitive areas
  • Fleece edging ensures a comfortable fit on the horse’s face
  • Wide VELCRO® brand closure keeps the mask securely in place

Sounds pretty good. Right? Nice fleece bumpers for comfort, a removable nose piece, and a wide closure. It all sounded great.

It showed up, and the material was soft but sturdy and the fleece was a nice touch. It fit May’s ears, but it didn’t quite stretch all the way around her jaw. Not a big deal. It still closed with plenty of velcro making contact. Even in the picture on the website, the velcro was left a bit short. Worst case scenario, it would just fall off. Right?

Here’s the issue, there is no elastic in the closure. It is just a WIDE piece of velcro. At this point, I think it might even be that wide just so smartpak could slap a GIANT logo on it.

Now we get into the issue. I threw this fly mask on and then wasn’t at the barn for a couple of days. When I showed up a couple of days after introducing it, my trainer told me that something was rubbing May’s face. Given that she was wearing a muzzle and a mask, I didn’t jump to any conclusions.

Then I saw this. Ouch! You can see the rubs under the jaw in 2 places on both sides. Those places lined up with the front edge of the velcro and where the velcro sat on the widest part of her head. Mind you, the part facing the horse was not the rough “velcro” part of the velcro strip, but it was the hard, less flexible material. In 2 days of only night use, it had rubbed May’s jaw raw.

I removed the fly mask (obviously) and switched May to a fully fleece-lined muzzle, since it wouldn’t be raining for a few days. Then, I emailed SmartPak. Here’s the response:

Thank you for your email!
I am so sorry to hear that the fly mask wasn’t perfect for May!
Since that has been used, please feel free to give it to a friend, or donate it to a local rescue. I am absolutely going to issue a Smartpakcredit to your account for the purchase price of that. That credit of $27.19 will automatically apply to either your next purchase from us, or your next SmartPak for May, whichever comes first.
Please do not hesitate to let me know if there is anything else that I may help with, and have a wonderful rest of your day!
Happy Trails,

First of all, do you really need to call it a “Smartpakcredit”? Either way, the resolution was fine. Not great (especially since I was within the 60 day return window), but fine. I feel like the old SmartPak would’ve tried to figure out what the issue with fit actually was and try to recommend another one to try? Maybe I am using rose colored glasses there.

Either way, I left a review about the velcro issue, and I will check to make sure it shows up. Smartpak branded items seems to have a LOT of REALLY positive reviews. Anyone else notice that?

I will probably try a different fly mask from Riding Warehouse. Maybe a lycra based one so that it is less bulk under her muzzle. Thoughts?

THIS REVIEW IS NOT SPONSORED, AND THE ITEMS DISCUSSED IN THIS REVIEW WERE PURCHASED BY ME WITH MY OWN MONEY.

Product Review – Whole Horse Equine Fly Repellent Wipes

I have a confession to make. There is one thing I have never successfully desensitized May to, and it is fly spray. No matter how often we repeat the exercise, the simple act of spraying STUFF on her body causes her to snort, back up, and stare at me with wide eyed fear. That’s right. Fear. From May. Because of fly spray.

Eventually, I do get her to stand still, but the whites of her eyes will continue to show, and she will still shake with fear. It’s been 3 years, and I still feel like I am torturing her. I have tried natural fly spray, strong fly spray I only need to use a little of, and even home made fly spray. It didn’t matter. She thought it was all going to kill her.

Absorbine.JPGI, however, have been a die hard Absorbine Ultrashield Ex (the black bottle) user for YEARS. Seriously, I once sent the husband into a Dover to just buy that. When they didn’t have the black version in the 32 ounce bottles, he guilted them into giving him a discount on the full gallon… because “that’s really the one she likes.” Unfortunately, that stuff is miserable to use. It smells awful, and too much of it can cause irritations for both me and May.

SO when I realized that this woman in my barn had a line of plant derived horse care goods. I was kind of intrigued. When she mentioned that she also sold fly repellent WIPES, I was all over it. Serious grabby hands.

Now the product description reads as such:

Our unique blend of lemongrass, essential oils and natural surfactants repel Flies, Gnats, Mosquitoes and other Annoying Flying Insects for up to 8 Hours.

What does this mean in real life? It means it smells great, doesn’t irritate my skin or May’s skin, and lasts several hours. It even means that I can wipe them easily on her ears, an area that I could never get near with traditional fly spray.

I bought this product in the beginning of June, so have been using it for about a month. I have found that 2 wipes work best for May’s whole body. At $25 per container of 90 wipes, this works out to about $0.55 per use, so it probably is more expensive than a traditional fly spray.

So would I use this if May wasn’t so opposed to regular fly spray? Yes, but only for ears and such. I would probably also buy their regular fly spray at $25 for 32 ounces.

Other items I am coveting from them? They are coming out with a purple shampoo AND they have a fungicide that I seriously think might come in handy if we have another wet fall. Check out their full line for yourself here: https://www.wholehorseequine.com/ 

What about you? Make any switches in your core group of products this summer?

THIS REVIEW IS NOT SPONSORED, AND THE ITEMS DISCUSSED IN THIS REVIEW WERE PURCHASED BY ME WITH MY OWN MONEY.

Cost of A Local Horse Show

First of all, our trip to the Outer Banks was amazing, even if traffic getting on the island meant we moved 10 miles in TWO HOURS. Oh Well. Worth it. We had warm, sunny weather, a few days of the ocean at like 80 degrees, and more sun and booze than I could handle. It was a great way to unwind, and it was so nice knowing that May was spending the hot, Kentucky days inside with plenty of water and a big ceiling fan over her stall.

We got home late on Saturday, but I still was excited to head to the barn on Sunday. May was HYPED for life hahaha. It was only in the mid 80s, so a lot cooler then it had been, and 9 days off were apparently too many. We pranced around the field for a bit before I decided to just do some trot sets and call it a day. Hopefully, her attitude will be much improved today!

A lot of people have been doing posts on their show costs, and I figured I would jump in. I have only done 1 horse trial in KY, and it was a very local schooling show. I only paid for trailering (no coaching), but I thought it would be great insight for anyone in the area who MIGHT be CONSIDERING trying out an event. ( DO IT! )

Show Entry Fee: $130

Trailering: $65

Photos: $30 (3 digital prints)

Lunch: ~$20 for 2 people

Total: $245

I guess that would be the reason why I plan on sticking with local, schooling shows for now! Next year, if I end up being able to show now, I will buy a membership with the schooling show organization at ~$40. It gives you $10 off each entry fee, so pays for itself in a few shows.