Fighting the Dark

Dramatic title much? Borderline click-bait? Oh well, I got nothing else.

Can we talk about something real quick? This:

Weather

Now, the cold is totally something I can deal with. It is not even that cold. If you put on a few layers and keep moving, it’s totally do-able. What I am talking about is that bottom right hand corner… that SUNDOWN AT 5:22PM thing. As someone that works a job that requires me to be at work until 5PM and a job that is 40 minutes, without traffic, away from the barn, this is kind of a big issue.

Who cares if it’s dark, just get your horse from the barn and shut up about it? Right? Well… no. My barn does year-round night turnout. From a horse management perspective, I do really love this. The horses go out around 4PM and come in around 9AM, which gives them around 17 hours of turnout everyday. And with either access to grass or round bales in the fields, it also means my horse can more easily keep herself comfortable, temperature-wise.

However, it also means that if it is pitch black out, my chances of finding my horse in the field plummet. And trust me, I have gone out there with an amazing flashlight and stumbled around a frozen field more than once trying to find my horse… only for all of the horses to spook at me when I get close to them and run off again. Sometimes I get lucky and can catch mine, and sometimes I don’t.

The point of this post? There are 13 more days until the days start to get longer, and I am begging each one to go a bit faster.

What limits your riding during these winter months?

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The Unicorn Saddle Search Recap

Let me start this out by saying that I started our whole saddle shopping adventure more than 6 months ago. (May 8th was the official “start date” of this adventure. The goal? Find something that fits my horse REALLY well that I do not hate to ride in.

I tried the following over those 6 months.

  1. Albion K2 Jump (original jump saddle. Sold for around $1,800 used)
  2. Duett Bravo (around $1,500 new)
  3. County Saddle (no idea how much it cost. tried a barn-mates saddle, and it wasn’t even close enough to ride in)
  4. Black Country Solare (around $2,500 used, around $4K new)
  5. Prestige Eventer (about $3K used)
  6. Stubben Roxanne (about $5K new with the modifications I needed)
  7. Black Country Wexford (about $2K)
  8. Stubben Genesis (about $1K used)

 

There was also a wide range of other saddles that I seriously considered:

  1. Amerigo Saddles
    • $5K new?… probably more
    • I never could find a local rep or any used saddles in a wide. That was probably a bad sign.
  2. Patrick Saddles
    • $6K new minimum with nothing to actually try on my horse
    • I was told that they could bring me a medium tree to try… but I would have to ride a different horse. Sorry, but for $$$$, I need May to also agree that she likes it.
  3. Bliss of London Saddles
    • I saw these at Rolex and really liked them. They have a bunch of different tree options and some of them looked promising.
    • Loxley saddles start new at around $2,600, but bad reviews regarding customer kept me on the sidelines
  4. Another Albion
    • I couldn’t find any in the specs I was interested in trying.
    • The local rep was not helpful. She answered my inquiry with an “I can order what you’re looking for if you want to buy it…” Sorry, but I really need to sit in something before buying it.
  5. CWD
    • I took one on trial that claimed to be a wide… and turned out to be a narrow. I at least got my money back (including shipping) on that one.
  6. Fairfax Saddles
    • They literally do not make these saddles larger than a 17.5″
  7. Philippe Fontaine Saddles
    • The reviews on them are mixed, but the price of the one I was looking at was more than comfortable for my budget. I even found one in a wide and in the proper seat size.
    • Unfortunately, (or fortunately) I have gotten very good at looking at pictures of gullets and deciding if they would work. This one was a no. (after waiting 3 weeks for pictures)

Final Verdict!

Does this make my butt look big? 🤣#horsesofinstagram #thelwellpony #fluffypony #may

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Like my wedding dress, I ended up buying the cheapest saddle I sat in over the course of the entire 6 months. I bought the Stubben Genesis Jump Saddle in an 18″ with a 32cm tree. In fact, I now own 2 Stubben Genesis Saddles in a 32cm tree because it is almost the exact same model as my Dressage saddle, which May loves and no saddle fitter has ever been able to find a flaw with. (the Dressage saddle seat is 0.5″ larger)

I have now owned the saddle for a couple of weeks, and I have a couple of early thoughts. (sorry for this “listy” post)

  1. It is NOT a lot of saddle.
    • My Albion had LARGE front blocks. This Stubben has almost none. It has a very close contact feel, but it does not lock you into place in any sense of the word. After riding in my Dressage saddle for so many months, this is taking some getting used to.
    • might end up swapping the blocks out to the velcro versions and getting the larger blocks as an options.
  2. The act of jumping has not gotten easier.
    • I think this has more to do with my comfort level with this “less than” saddle than anything else. With increased strength and balance, I think it will feel totally normal again.
  3. But jumping May has
    • Jumping May around typically “wakes her up” and she gets a bit rushy and opinionated and stiff. She even used to crow hop after fences in my Albion if we took a huge distance or hadn’t jumped in a while.
    • In the Stubben? She has actually seemed to get MORE relaxed the longer that we jump, even if we haven’t jumped in a while. Another thing to continue to keep an eye on.
  4. I forgot how much my Dressage saddle sucked when I first got it.
    • Stubben wear like iron. They last forever, and I would think most people have probably plunked one on the back of a school horse when they were first learning to ride.
    • That also means that they are TOUGH to break in. My dressage saddle was also only slightly used when I bought it, and it took probably a full year to get it fully broken in. With similar leather and treatment, I hope my “new” jumping saddle takes the same amount of time to break in.

Here’s to celebrating the end of a long search, and to hoping to not have to do it again for a LONG TIME.

through-the-hole

The Nicknames

Defiantly continuing my blogging about random topics. Today, the nicknames.

Most horses have 2 names: their show/registered name and their barn name. Some have 3, like a Thoroughbred with a Jockey Club name, a show name, and a barn name. However, I have affectionately given several horses in my life extra names for really no reason:

May – AKA Fat Mare (also called Maysville by my trainer) Granted, May came with the name “Krimpet”, which apparently had been changed from “Delilah.” Her show names were also “Too Many Cupcakes” and “Hey There Delilah.” I think May, Fat Mare, and May As Well are upgrades.

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May

Ezzie – AKA Lady Bird

Red Mare
Ezzie

Why did I call her Lady Bird? Honestly, she sometimes reminded me of the dog from King of the Hill. Occasionally though, red devil would have been a better name for her. She would buck and scream and carry on, but I absolutely loved that horse. Below are a couple of the few videos I have of her.

There was another fiery chestnut mare with a big white blaze named Ellie that I rode for quite a while. I just called her mama. I used to have a picture of us jumping a maybe 2′ vertical jump… and our takeoff spot was a solid stride and a half before the actual jump.

There was also Hamlet… who the entire barn renamed Beelzebub. He started out as Hammie… then he decided that scaring the crap out of people until they got off of him was his new favorite game. He was the first horse to convince me that you really do need to buy the brain, not the looks.. and I was all of 13.

Hamlet
ALSO – who loves my hunter duck here? For some reason, we entered a horse that had never completed a x-rail class at a show in a 2’9″ hunter division. 

Then again, I also do this to my dog (as does my husband). Hannah becomes Hanner-Nanners almost everytime we refer to her. She doesn’t seem to mind.

Happy #nationalpuppyday !!! ❤#hannah

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What about you? Do you have alternative names for your pets?

Selecting the Corgi Horse

I’ve written before about how I came to acquire May (story here. Spoiler alert: Sangria was heavily involved.); however, I have seen a lot of posts lately about wish lists from horses. Michele blogged about finding a horse online, Tracy posted about her Unicorn List for horse shopping, and Amanda wrote about her perfect horse as a response to Olivia’s post on the topic.

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Old media is better than no media, right?

It got me thinking about my own brief and painless purchase of May. (looked at one horse, traded my previous horse for her, made 0 negotiations on price, did not vet check… still cannot recommend this method EVER.) On paper, my previous horse should have been everything I ever wanted.

  1. 16.1
  2. Well Built
  3. Quarter Horse (papered)
  4. Schooling Show Experience
  5. Not spooky (turns out though, he was also VERY sensitive)
  6. Athletic (3’+ was no issue for this horse)
  7. Brave and Honest
  8. Vetted Clean

I took my time with him, but after 3 years of him proving to me that he did not want to be my horse, I bit the bullet and put him on the market. (or more like I cried for 3 months and then put him up for sale). He now has a wonderful home with a teenager who absolutely adores him. I follow him on social media, and it is incredible how much happier he is.

However, when I decided to sell him, I was left with a dilemma. How do I NOT do this again? I started with the things he had and that I had to have again:

  1. Sound
  2. Not Spooky
  3. Brave and Honest
  4. Easy to live with

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Honestly, on the ground, my previous horse was the easiest horse in the world. Farriers loved him. Vets could do all sorts of things to him without medication. He would turn himself in and out to his paddock. (Although, I learned last week that May now handles her own turning in and out situation. Works for me. We all know she isn’t going much farther than the next patch of grass.)

I then added in the things that would have made my partnership with him successful:

  1. Lack of tension (Notice I didn’t say No Thoroughbreds. Below is a (10 year old!) video of me competing a thoroughbred that I rode for not less than 8 years.

I realized that his tension was the number one reason we did not get along. Nothing I did seemed to ease his tension. I tried everything I could think of, but we just could not get through that tension. 3 years later and with a lot more knowledge of Dressage and training under my belt, maybe I could deal with it now. However, I know I would not want to. I am an amateur. I have to WANT to work with my horse.

So what else did I add to the list:

  1. 15 – 16 hands
    • I am 5’3″. I really do not need height and was quite a bit intimidated by my last horse)
  2. 6 – 12 years old
    • I have ridden A LOT of young, green horses. As a junior, I put a lot of “firsts” on a lot of horses, but I also could ride multiple horses, 6 days a week. Now, I cannot commit to being at the barn as much as a really young horse needs me to be, and I cannot afford to put something into a program with a pro.
  3. Not gray
    • After owning a gray, I actually wanted a plain bay… Oh well. I found something yellow.
  4. Ability to become a packer at BN
    • First of all, I COULD NOT afford a made packer at any level. (seriously, May didn’t steer when I bought her).
    • Second, IMO, a horse needs a bit of athletic ability beyond the level you are competing at to be considered a “packer” at that level. (i.e. the ability to easily bail you out of a bad situation)
    • Right now, I would consider May to be a packer up to starter level for an intermediate level rider. I have, intentionally, made her too sensitive to the aids for a beginner, but I have seen her pack advanced riders around after they have taken an extended break for one reason or another.
  5. Unfailingly Sensible
    • I am not going to use the word “quiet” here. I don’t necessarily need a “quiet” horse. I do need a horse that is still thinking even when pressure increases.
    • Really good eventing horses are able to think through complex jump and Dressage questions when the pressure is on, and it is not a skill that is easily taught.

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Things I would not put up with under any circumstances:

  1. A horse that rears
  2. Heavy amount of maintenance
    • Not to get into the politics of it, but if a horse cannot comfortable run around BN without heavy and expensive vet care, maybe it is in their best interest not to event anymore
  3. Something super HEAVY
    • Physically carrying your horse around a XC course is not fun. Sure you can lighten a horse up with a lot of dressage, but I have found that if this is their default way of going, it will surface again. (often when they are tired)
  4. Something careless over fences
    • May and I knock rails… a lot because I miss a lot. However, she has the ability to get out of her own way on XC. Horses that cannot do that make me very uncomfortable to jump.

I then scoured the internet and found… May. How does she stack up?

  1. Sound – I have injected her hocks once, and they will need to be done again next year. However, I think that is fairly reasonable right now.
  2. Not Spooky – Lol. Nope. Definitely not spooky.
  3. Brave and Honest – Always. I have to really mess up for this horse not to jump. And then, it is usually in self preservation.
  4. Easy to live with – exceedingly. my farrier can do her on the cross ties, my husband can lead her around without issue, and she ground ties wherever I put her (with our without a halter).
  5. 15 – 16.1 hands – Yup. We are around 15.2. (I think, I have never measured her.)
  6. 6 – 12 years old – In theory, yeah. No one has really any true idea how old she is.
  7. Not gray – … not Bay either.
  8. Ability to be a packer at BN – Totally. I just need to like… jump stuff to make this happen
  9. Unfailingly Sensible – this is probably the hardest thing to evaluate when shopping. May is sensible, but she can flip me the hoof if she hasn’t been ridden regularly. She doesn’t run away or buck or rear or do anything really naughty. She kind of just.. tunes me out? It’s a tough sensation to describe to people.

I think I did pretty good! I continue to window shop on the internet, looking at horses that fit my criteria, and they are few and far between. (at least at the price ranges I could even consider paying at this point in my life). What about you? Do you keep a list of what you wanted/want in a horse?

Life Update! (and Lesson Recap)

It has been almost exactly one week since we signed the papers, and we are officially all moved into our new house! It is substantially larger than our old, little apartment, so it is empty and a bit bare, but oh so perfect. We’re staying in saving money mode so that we can afford to buy some furniture for it, but we are in no rush. My plan is to fill the place with things I love for the people I love. It also needs paint… I’ll include a few pictures below but basically every main living space is either lime green or yellow with gray molding.

Supervising Her Kingdom
Hello Lime Green
Hello yellow! (and boxes… so many boxes)

What does this mean for May? Well it has meant a lighter riding schedule lately. Moving a house does not leave a ton of time for barn time. This weekend was spent gathering essentials, unpacking boxes, hanging curtains, cleaning our old apartment, and actually taking some time to spend with my husband and dog. (Also, it was in the 30’s this weekend, so I wasn’t so heartbroken about not being able to get to the barn. May LOVES the cold weather, but I am just not mentally prepared yet).

It also means that I can start actively looking for a saddle again. Stubben is having a sale on November 1st, so I am going to see if there is anything that fits my (very specific and rare) criteria. If not, there is a local saddle that I might get to try, and I spotted a saddle at a popular consignment shop that might work as well. The journey definitely continues!

I did, however, get a lesson in during one of the warm days last week. A Dressage lesson (again). However, we worked a lot on the flexibility of May’s hind end and her willingness to isolate that part of her body. We started with baby haunches in at the walk down the straight line. Moving the haunches, then the shoulder when she straightened out, then the haunches again.

haunches-in
Picture from This Website

It’s definitely hard for May and not something she can hold, but this alternating between moving the haunches and moving the shoulders has made a big difference for her. Originally, she would snap straight as soon as I asked the shoulders to move straight, and if there is one thing I know about May, it is that I cannot simply shove the hind end over again when this happens. So how do I help her understand what I am asking? By asking for more isolation in a way she does easily understand. And guess what, she has started holding the haunches in without an argument or meltdown. Good mare!

When we moved into trot, it was more of the same with some leg yields. At this point, May simply moving off my leg is not quite the name of the game. I need to be able to dictate depth, speed, and trajectory of the leg yields. The best way to do this? At the sitting trot and using my seat. Now, sitting the trot on a horse like May is SEVERELY different from sitting on a thoroughbred. I can use the weight of my seat to encourage her to loosen her back muscles and as this looseness happens, she gets more swing (and dare I say even a bit of suspension) in her step. It’s a bit of an odd sensation, going from sitting on something rigid, to encouraging that rigid thing to move, but it clearly helps. It also meant I spent most of my lesson in a sitting trot and was rightfully nearly crippled the next day from soreness. Oh well, something to work on during No Stirrup November! (I have like no media, but this series of Laura Graves doing clinics on specific movements is amazing stuff)

Once May was swinging and in tuned to my leg aids at the trot, it was time to move into the canter… and combine the walk work and the trot work into one exercise. Now, May has developed a really wonderful canter leg yield in both directions off of both legs, so we were back to this concept of isolating parts of her body to improve flexibility and engagement. Great. So how’d we do it?

We started on a 15 meter circle at the canter. We then asked the haunches to come into the circle, while the shoulders stayed on the 15 meters. We rode the haunches in for 3 – 4 strides, then asked the shoulders to come in and join the haunches on the smaller circle. Then, we leg yielded out a couple of meters to reestablish the bend and the outside aids. And May did amazing. She immediately picked up on the idea of moving her haunches over, easily swung her shoulder in to match it, and obediently leg yielded back out to the desired circle size. It was awesome, but definitely exhausting for her, so we only did it a couple of times each direction before calling it a success. Maybe this means I will eventually have enough control of the hind end to do lead changes? One can only dream…

Virtual Barn Tour (finally)

So May and I have officially been at our current barn for a year (actually a year and 7 days), so I figured it is probably time for a barn tour!

Capture
Please ignore my bad drawing skills. Making things really pretty takes a lot of time. 

When May first arrived and for the first few months of our stay, May lived in the (very small) barn on the right side of the map that I circled in dark purple. The barn holds around 6 horses, and, at the time, they were all geldings. I think everyone was relieved that May doesn’t hate gelding and isn’t prone to squealing and kicking walls.

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This might actually be the only photo I have of this stall.

There were some advantages to this barn. It was quiet, there was plenty of room for my tack trunk, and May went out in the paddock right in front of the barn by herself (between the purple barn and the pool). There is also a separate wash stall for his barn and it pretty much never had a wait.

However, there is no direct route from this barn to any of the arenas (Indoor is circled in orange, the outdoor is in lavender, the dressage court is in bright blue, and the small outdoor is in pink). You have to walk along the driveway. This wasn’t an issue when I wasn’t working and was at the barn during the day.  However, once I started a full time job, riding in the evenings as it was getting dark got a lot more difficult. Much less trying to do so in the rain. I also felt like May would benefit from some buddies, and I would benefit from being in the more social part of the barn.

So we moved once a spot became available in the main barn (highlighted in light green). She seems to like this stall about the same amount as she liked the other one. Maybe more because she can more easily see above the front wall.

May is now turned out in the light blue field with a few other mares. There are literally only 5 mares on the property, so they all go out together. The field runs up next to the property next door that has a herd of cows, and May LOVES them. I once caught her reaching over the fence to groom one of them. The grassy fields of KY do mean that May wears a muzzle anytime she is out now, but she really doesn’t object to it at all. She also seems to be benefiting from getting the majority of her calories from grazing now, rather than from grain.

May’s Field:

#sofast or #sofat oh well. At least she's running towards the gate #may #draftcross

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Well… my pony is somewhere out there. #eventerproblems #foggy

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About the arenas. Every barn I have ever ridden at before this had a maximum of 2 arenas. An indoor and an outdoor (or back to my really early days, a jumping arena and a dressage court). This barn has 4. It also has 2 fields that connect to the outdoor arena with cross country fences in them (once fenced and once completely open.) We also have one field that can be used for fitness, as it has a huge hill in it.

XC field next to outdoor arena (there are actually 3 ditches dispersed throughout this area of various widths and difficulties. There is also a bank complex directly to my right):

The only scenery I need are #xc jumps that scare me 😂 #eventing #draftcross #horsesofinstagram

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Dressage Court (not set up but freshly dragged… Ill take it):

Indoor Arena:

Funnily enough, I have never actually ridden in the small, fenced arena on the property. It is really only ever used by people with really green horses either lunging them or starting them under saddle. So that is pretty much it! There aren’t any trails (bummer) but no area is off limits for meandering around, and meandering we have done a-plenty! Hopefully, next year we will get to test out some of those XC fences.

And that is pretty much it! Hope you enjoyed checking out the place with me. 🙂

We Jumped! (and had a jumping lesson… sort of)

Let me start this whole post by saying, I still do not have a jumping saddle. We are still ambling towards closing on our house, so patience is a virtue right now. However, eventers are not patient people by nature. We are go-ers, and do-ers, and show-them-how-ers. So, I jumped in my Dressage saddle.

The first ride was totally my test ride. ITTY-BITTY jumps with no one else around other than my husband (hence video evidence). Can we take a minute to appreciate how cute and happy May looks to be skipping over 18″ jumps? She was soft and willing but taking me to the fences, all good things.

That’s the great thing about May. Very small jumps, think 2’3″ and under, result in a VERY easy to ride May. She will happily lope around and find all her distances and be soft through the simple changes. I’ve lent her out for a couple of lessons at this height back in NJ when someone needs to get the feel for something that isn’t a school horse but that isn’t going to do anything dangerous.*

*Most of the time. May did once politely force a friend of mine off her back after a small crossrail… said friend had been competing her 6yo thoroughbred at Novice at the time… but I contribute most of that to May being a COMPLETELY different ride from her horse and the fact that the saddle didn’t fit and caused May to do that lovely crow hopping thing. 

So after this test, I ended up having TWO lessons the next week. (yes TWO!). The first lesson was a W/T dressage lesson. Yes, we still have these. It was a REALLY hot night, and we spent a lot of time working on a new concept to help May flex laterally through her lower back and the area just behind her withers, which I don’t think is something May has ever really done in her entire life. I mean, we bend, but we don’t BEND like that.

I will try to get better at the exercise and then post it up on here. It’s a bit like a counter-bend halfpass on steroids. But again, more on that later.

The next lesson, I was warming up in the outdoor arena, and my trainer came over to see if we wanted to “play over some poles.” Apparently, she had seen my video and figured I was game. And I was!

We started with 4 poles, half raised on each side, to trot through. True to form, when the trainer asked me if May had ever done raised trot poles, I told her yet. Then May made me look like a liar the first time through by trying to canter them. Fine. Then trainer said, “you know, you’re supposed to do these types of poles really slow.” Wait… what? “Ummmm,” I replied back, ” how slow?”

Old footage of May doing pole stuff

She gave me an odd look and then said, “start trotting normally and just start slowing it down. Once you get to the right speed, I will let you know.” Fun fact, my default, super forward trot was the exact opposite of what we were looking for. We wanted to encourage her to lift up through her back and sit on her hind end. Which is exactly something she CAN’T do if she is plowing forward.

So we slowed it down, and we kept it down. Here is a good video of someone else doing something similar, and she talks about horses wanting to rush through this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0m2q4bKqbU **

**I add this with the note that I wouldn’t recommend 18 of these poles for horses that aren’t used to this type of work, and I wouldn’t use PVC poles. Horses hit them quite hard when they are learning this, and a splintering PVC pole could be a huge problem. However, there is practically no media in this post, so I had to give you all something. 

Once we got that down, we lifted three of the poles up to about 1′ on the block and set them for canter bounces. The fourth pole was removed. Then, we cantered through it. Again, the goal was to get May to hold herself to the base, so that she could rock back through the exercise. The first couple of times through, she wanted to dive on her forehand and throw herself through the grid. Eventually though, we figured out the rhythm and got a nice feel.

My trainer then added a 2’3″ vertical to the mix. Making it into the below “mini course”. We came down over the bounces on our left lead. Carried the lead through the corner and then up the single diagonal vertical. May was good through the bounce but then wanted to take me over the vertical, and we got a bit of a flyer to that one. Turns out, it’s hard to stay with a flyer in the Dressage saddle, but it was fine. We did it a couple more times.

Terrible photo of the jumps we jumped circled in black

Then we went off the right lead and added a single vertical the other direction (the brick wall). May tried to take over going to the new jump again, but I corrected. We got a chip to it the first time, but smoothed it out the second. Finally, we pulled together a little course. Bounces off the left lead, left turn to the first vertical, then a left turn around to the other vertical. May was great and soft and wonderful.

All I have to say is, I CANNOT WAIT to have a real jumping saddle back again.

 

A Whole Lot of… Not Horse Stuff

First off, I want to apologize to everyone for the sparseness of this blog. Life has been crazy and riding has been mostly boring (which I have learned can be a totally good thing!)

Let’s start with life. I got married!! (Special thanks to Tav Images Photography for taking such WONDERFUL photos!)

My wedding was everything I could have asked for. I cannot remember the last time I had so much fun! And I got to celebrate with all my family and friends, including those I hadn’t been able to see since we moved to KY. Overall, just amazing.

Then, we were supposed to take a break in life. Instead, we found a house and fell in love and are under contract. Keep your fingers crossed as it is UNDER 15 MINUTES FROM THE BARN! My current drive is between 35 – 45 minutes, so being that close would really be life changing for us.

As for May, she is doing great. Her mohawk is slowly growing back out, so I will have to pull it soon to make it look like a mane again. For the winter, I am sure she will appreciate having some mane back. She also got front shoes put back on. the feet looked great, but with the ground as hard and it has been, she was sore even in boots in a freshly dragged arena. It just wasn’t fair to ask her to continue to be uncomfortable.

The craziness of what is going on right now has forced most of our rides to be short, and occasionally tackless:

STILL don’t have a jumping saddle. Fat Buckskin in a Little Suit can commiserate with me on this one. If I needed a 17.5″ saddle or a medium tree, we would be in business, but apparently, there are very few 18″ wide tree saddles around? So odd to me. I have also found that what a lot of brands consider “wide” wouldn’t even fit an average warmblood. And anyone that has been under contract on a house before knows that throwing thousands of dollars around on something like a saddle isn’t something banks love to see.

As a result, I am sitting tight and waiting. I had a WONDERFUL experience with a Stubben rep, and I would LOVE to buy the saddle she suggested. However, I just do not think that will be in the cards. At a purchase price of nearly $5K, it just seems so irresponsible. Especially when you consider that used Stubbens (other than the monoflaps), only really go for $1,500 – $2,000 MAX. Oh well, I will find a solution. It just might take a while.


In my Dressage boredom, however, I did end up jumping some 1′ jumps the other day. They were set TINY for a VERY GREEN horse, and I figured I could do that much in my Dressage saddle. May could care less and just kind of hefted her body of them. I think she is bored too.


We have been having some lessons but, between my crazy schedule and my trainer’s show schedule, they have been few and far between. Maybe a total of a dozen this whole summer? Kind of a bummer, but we manage to make good strides in between lessons. Canter leg yields? We have them now in both directions, which is a huge accomplishment. Her canter feels so much better that I really cannot wait to see what she feels like over fences. Real fences. That require jumping. Not 1′ fences that she just steps over while I enthusiastically throw myself into a half seat.

We are having some serious difficulty with installing the haunches in. We get the shape all great through a small circle, but as soon as I ask May to hold the shape on the straight line, she snaps straight. We didn’t get to work on it much in our last lesson, other than just introducing the idea, and we haven’t had a lesson since (it’s been about 3 weeks). Hopefully, I will have more of an update after the next lesson.

May also went through an interesting period of being tense. Every ride was an argument. I was told she was being “difficult” and just needed to “get over it.” Now, this horse can need a dose of “I am more stubborn than you are, and I won’t give up until you at least try to give me what I am asking for,” but that is typically when we are doing something new or she has had an extended period of time off. This wasn’t either of those things. It was ENTIRE RIDES of her flipping me the hoof, dropping on her forehand, and barreling away. Not only that, but I wasn’t able to get a lesson during the entire period of this happening.

So I had to find my own solution. I decided to spend a few rides doing nothing but hacking on a loose rein. There will be no picking up or putting her together. There will be no insistence on perfect transitions, even if it means doing them 20 times. There will be no leg yield, haunches in, shoulders in, spiral in, spiral out, leg yields at an angle, etc etc etc. There will just be calm relaxed hacking on a loose rein, where calmness, rhythm, and obedience are all rewarded and bad behavior is simply ignored.

And it worked (video below, before shoes got put back on). I got a horse back that is far more rideable and happier in her work. It is so easy to drill a horse like May. She is so smart and picks up on concepts so quickly. However, she can get so concerned about what she thinks she should be doing, that she gets frustrated. It’s a delicate balance, but one I feel we are developing a system to deal with. Of course, adding jumping back in would probably help too. 🙂

#ponyspamsunday courtesy of lazy, low key hacks #horsesofinstagram #draftcross #palomino #may

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So TL/DR? All is crazy. All is inconsistent. All is well. Keep your fingers crossed that everything goes well with our house, and maybe I will find a jump saddle by Christmas.

If you don’t have anything nice to say…

Don’t say anything at all.

Unfortunately, that leads to a pretty blank blog. I always appreciate the honesty in other people’s blogs: Megan at A Enter Spooking has never been shy about sharing the issues she has with her young horse, Emma at Fraidy Cat Eventing has an amazing sense of humor about horsey fails*, and Nicole Sharpe at  Zen and the Art of Baby Horse Management totally highlights her horse’s quirk. As a result, I think it is only fair to lay it all out there.

*I am still on the Isabel era because I read all new (to me) blogs from the very beginning. Does anyone else do this?

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From the beginning, I knew 2017 would be a bit of a throw-away year. I started the year in a new state, at a new barn, with a new job, a pay cut, and a wedding to plan in the middle of the summer. (We are officially less than 3 weeks out from that one!) However, I did have some goals. I wanted to improve my riding, I wanted to get confident over Novice sized fences, at least in the arena, and I wanted to get May solidly to a 1st level understanding of Dressage with some schooling of 2nd level stuff. It is August and none of these things have been accomplished. In fact, I haven’t had a lesson in a month, and I haven’t had a jumping saddle in more than 3 months.

All year, we have had 2 jumping lessons and a series of repetitive Dressage lessons. The repetition of the Dressage is not my trainer’s fault. The skills we are working on (strength and flexibility) take time to develop, and when you have a lesson every week, there isn’t enough time in between lessons to develop enough that we can go on to new skills.

So what has happened this year…

  • The end of March marked our first lesson since the previous December. It was a Dressage lesson, which I was quickly able to follow with a Jump lesson, which was not eventful enough for a post.

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  • We had a jump lesson where we actually really jumped things.

More #ponyspam #jumping #horses

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  • Then… May ripped off her shoe for the 3rd time, and I decided it would be best to let her feet go barefoot.
  • As a result of the transitioning to barefoot, I thought it would be a great time to have the fit on my questionable saddle checked. As you all know, it didn’t fit… at all… and was probably contributing to May’s crow hopping after fences.

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  • Either way, we had our Dressage goals, and we made some serious progress on those in May!
  • Then… June… and May’s eye decided to blow up the Thursday before I had to travel to Kansas for a wedding party. It took about 2 weeks to resolve, but I was able to keep riding through it.
  • July got hot… very hot… really too hot for May with 95 degree days with serious humidity. Rides were reduced to quiet walks. I wasn’t upset when my trainer and I had to cancel a couple of lessons due to scheduling conflicts.

#dressage in the rain is only ok if it comes with cookies #may #horsesofinstagram

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  • Then August. August has officially broken my heart. I found the saddle of my dreams for May and I, and it is more than $1,000 past the budge I had set if I ALSO sold my Dressage saddle, which is not something I really want to do. The lead time on getting the saddle ordered is 10 weeks (a custom Stubben), which would put me at the end of October… and the end of the season. With the wedding and wanting to (hopefully) buy a house this year, spending so much on a saddle feels completely ludicrous, but I have yet to find another viable option.
  • August has a part 2. May came in last week with a swollen back leg. No heat. No lameness. No idea… I cold hosed it, put a BOT wrap on for a while, came back the next day to ice it again… and there was no swelling anymore. Iced it anyway and gave her another day off before giving her a light ride on Sunday. No big deal.
  • Then August part 3 came up, I showed up on Tuesday this week… and a front leg was swollen. No heat… no lameness, but I pretty good cut on her fetlock where it seemed she had kicked herself (or something) really good. Cold hosed… BOT… an anti-inflammatory for good measure
  • Plan was to go up last night and check on it, but a migraine so bad it left me sick meant I couldn’t physically drive myself to the barn. Tonight we’re supposed to have our first Dressage lesson in over a month… but we will see.

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Saddle Trial 3 – Prestige Eventer

Can I officially say that I am over saddle shopping? 🤣

I found a great deal on an 18″ 34cm Prestige Eventer from VTO Saddlery. It shipped super quickly, and I had it to try on Saturday. 


My stubben Dressage saddle is a 34cm, so I had some hope. The saddle was beautiful, but the seat was pretty hard. I didn’t think much of it. At this point, if it fits both of us, I will buy it. I would buy a seat cover if I had to to make it more comfortable. 

I threw it on May and took some pics. 


Hmmmm the reddish color of the leather was actually quite pretty on May. 


It sits up a bit, but not terribly (for May and the way she’s built). Alright then. 


I liked the width down the gullet. 

Then I slid my hand down the panel…. and it gapped like no ones business from front to back. Like, I could see daylight. Here’s my attempt at a picture. 


Pffffff nope. Back in the box it went, and I gave VTO a call to tell them I would be returning it. 

Any other ideas? Reached out to trumball mountain to see if they can help. I would love to try an Amerigo, but I cannot find an 18″ Wide tree to try (or a rep) to save my life. 

Officially. Frustrated.