End of the Season

This weekend marked the end of the eventing season in Kentucky. There’s one last recognized event in Tennessee this weekend, but obviously, May and I won’t be going. Once again, I am left with the feeling that we let another season go down the drain, but in the spirit of being thankful and positive, I figured I would list out all the things we DID accomplish this year.

Got Back in the Show Ring

2017 was the year of no shows for us, so the fact that we managed to make it to two shows this year, is a massive improvement. Part of me wishes we had made the jump to tackle BN at our second event, but the majority of me feels accomplished in the fact that we really seemed to slay some demons in the show jumping ring.

Found Our Barn Family

Some of them read this blog so… Hi! Moving to a new barn has meant a better routine for May and I (when she isn’t escaping), and easier access to the level of shows that I am interested in at the moment. However, more than that, it has meant new friends, a trainer whose program is really working for us, and very few days or nights at the barn where I am completely alone. It’s added back a part of riding that I hadn’t realized I was really missing – the social part.

Found May a Second Rider

This was one of those odd times where timing, circumstances, and luck all kind of came together. I guess it follows along with the vein of how I got May. I put what I wanted out into the universe and… the universe delivered. Life is weird that way sometimes.

GallopOn
Our first full HT was 3 years ago!

However, now is a great time to refocus on the off season.

Get Fit

I guess this is a goal for both May and me. Having a second rider means May is being worked 4 – 5 days a week right now, which is pretty much ideal. As for me, I committed to working out with a friend of mine. First spin class is on the schedule for tomorrow morning. Wish me luck!

Get Lessons

Budget has been diverted to paying for things for the house in hopes of getting everything set before we have a full house for Thanksgiving (7 adults and 2 kids!). I will probably end up posting pics at some point. Either way, the extra income from a half leaser is going to, at least, somewhat, be diverted towards lessons.

img_0545

Make a Plan

Am I the only one already looking at the schedule for 2019? Budget will really drive our path next year, but I would love to do a recognized event at KHP at BN. Hopefully, that isn’t too much to ask for!

rollarcoaster
Plan should include more of this!

Anyone else having all the feels at the end of another eventing season?

Advertisements

Blog Hop: 25 Questions

Not a lot going on so far this week, so Amanda’s 25 Questions blog hop came at the absolute best time. Let’s get into it!

Why horses? Why not a sane sport, like soccer or softball or curling?

I dont think there has ever been a question of me doing anything else. Sure, I played soccer until high school and then a bit for fun in college. I played softball until middle school… I am sure I played a bunch of other random sports in between. (does marching band count?) However, I have always needed horses to keep me sane. Just ask the hubs.

What was your riding “career” like as a kid?

I guess my “kid” time can be broken into my experience at two different barns. One was a small barn, under a dozen horses. I did everything there from teach at summer camp to riding potential lesson horses. All the rules were broken when we hopped on horses straight off a truck from Mexico and jumped them over barrels in a round pen. Seriously…

DarlaI showed welsh ponies and cobs as a young jr. Typically they were really young 3 – 5. I helped break one or two of them. One I have kept tabs on, and he has gone on to show 3rd level dressage. Cool dude. One day, I will get myself a cob/thoroughbred or warmblood cross. If wishes were horses.

In my later teens, I rode at a hunter jumper barn. I went to exactly one A rated show, but I groomed at helped out at some of New York’s most classic h/j venues: HITS, Old Salem, etc. I still rode anything under the sun, but definitely also developed all the bad habits that come along with riding or unpredictable green horses. There was one horse that I rode on and off for almost 10 years. When I broke my hand, he was the one I got on first.

If you could go back to your past and buy ONE horse, which would it be?

Ugh Boo. Without a doubt, Boo. This is not my photo, nor me riding, so I blurred out the rider’s face. This was… many years ago, so before Facebook was a thing for high schoolers (or middle school?), no idea how old I was at the time.

Boo

Anyway, Boo was an  Irish Sport Horse. He is BY FAR the most athletic horse I have ever ridden. He was the type that, if you pointed him at the fence to stop, he would happily jump over it and just keep going. I wonder now what it would be like to ride him with all the tools I now have in my toolbox (and as an eventer).

I would love to own something like him now, but I doubt I would ever be able to afford it! I kept tabs on him for a bit after he left. He ended up owned by a vet in southern NJ.

What disciplines have you participated in?

Western Pleasure, English Pleasure, Pleasure Driving, Eventing, Hunter Jumpers, Dressage…

western

Most of my experience pre-late teens was more at generalist english barns.

What disciplines do you want to participate in some day?

Reining would be super cool. I think there is a barn around here.

Have you ever bought a horse at auction or from a rescue?

Nope. I have only ever owned 2 as an adult, and one as a kid.

What was your FIRST favorite horse breed – the one you loved most as a kid?

Welsh Cobs. Hands down.

If you could live and ride in any country in the world, where would it be?

Probably Germany. I used to speak fluent German, and I just love the country. The UK would be a close second. img_4053

Do you have any horse-related regrets?

I’ve stayed at a few barns longer than I should’ve. I also regret not being able to put as much time and training into May and myself as I have wanted to the past couple of years. We should be going Novice, but now I am not sure that we will get there together.

If you could ride with any trainer in the world, ASIDE from your current trainer, who would it be?

Right now? Mary Wanless. I think bio-mechanics would make a big difference in some challenges I have had in all three phases.

What is one item on your horse-related bucket list?

A traditional 3 day event format. Even at BN, I think it would be an incredible learning experience.

If you were never able to ride again, would you still have horses?

Honestly, I am not sure. I would probably still be involved in horses, and May wouldn’t go anywhere. But horses can be incredibly emotionally draining.

What is your “biggest fantasy” riding goal?

Right now? Training level hahahaha. Although, one day I will probably switch to pure dressage.

What horse do you feel like has taught you the most?

My horse life has always been kind of a collage of horses. I could say Sport – the broken down quarter horse who was so terrified on cross ties that he visibly shook the first time I worked with him. He turned into a very dependable 2′ horse.

Buddy3

I could say my friend’s horse Henry, who was by far the best trained horse I have ever sat on. I should probably say the horse I owned before May. He taught me a lot about myself, my passion, and how to let go of something that just isn’t working.

If you could change one thing about your current horse/riding situation, what would it be?

I would have more time and money…. Isn’t that true for everyone? hahaha

If you could compete at any horse show/venue in your home country, where would it be?

The Kentucky Horse Park is still on my wish list. Hopefully, I can make it a reality in 2019!

If you could attend any competition in the world as a spectator, what would be your top choice?

Burghley.

Have you ever thought about quitting horses?

Yes. Many times. My original plan was to sell my previous horse and take a break before going shopping again. The universe had other ideas.

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the horse industry, what would it be?

Everyone would be more concerned about horse welfare than money and fame.

What’s the dumbest horse-related thing you’ve done that actually turned out pretty well?

Hah… buying May. I am amazed everyday I ride her at how cool she has become.

As you get older, what are you becoming more and more afraid of?

I want to say jumping, but I am not sure that is true. I have been so out of practice with my jumping that it is not fair to say that fear is growing with age. I would have to say now that it is probably riding horses that I am unfamiliar with. I used to climb on EVERYTHING and ANYTHING. (how about some REALLY old video for fun… you probably want the sound off)

What horse-related book impacted you the most?

Go ahead and laugh, but I don’t really read/listen to horse books. And I read A LOT. So… Black Beauty?

What personality trait do you value most in a horse and which do you dislike the most?

I really like a thinking horse. I am not sure everyone does, but I want my horse to give me their opinion. It tells me they are engaged and actively thinking in their work, even if I don’t always appreciate their opinions.

I cannot stand horses that want to hurt their rider. If you have never been on one, count your lucky stars. I got on a friend’s horse one day. He was incredibly talented, but I rode him halfway around the arena and a walk and then got off.

What do you love most about your discipline?

I would love to say that I love that no one cares what horse you’re riding, that it is more about ability than aesthetics. But honestly? It’s not really true in eventing. SURE, no one cares if you are riding a thoroughbred vs. a warmblood, but I have definitely gotten some disparaging comments about May.

So I will say that I love the challenge. I love that I am competing against myself. My goals are independent of those around me and directly related to things I can control. And ride times. I LOVE ride times.

What are you focused on improving the most, at the moment?

Strength and fitness. Officially down 15.5 lbs (don’t laugh, I am proud of that .5) and definitely starting no stirrup november tonight.

Ain’t Nothin But A Barn Dog

A lot of us talk about our horses all the time, and many times, our dogs come up. I have mentioned mine here and there, but I figured it was about time to devote a whole post to her. Hold on to your hats people, because there are A LOT of pictures.

Hannah (AKA Hannah Montana) is an 8 year old, Blue Heeler mix that the husband rescued from the shelter as a puppy.

Hannah.jpg

Do not let that face fool you. Apparently, this girl was… not a good puppy. How bad was she? Well, apparently she refused to be house trained… or crate trained. She thought the best use of a crate was to contain all of your poop and pee, so you can roll in it. Fun stuff.

How did Matt house train her? He threw her out with the goats for a while. Somehow this worked, and Hannah has turned into a really wonderful dog. When she met my grandmother, she was so excited that she ran up to my grandma… She must have immediately realized that her usual exhuberant greeting wouldn’t be appropriate, and she sat down in front of my grandma. Her whole body was shaking with excitement, but she didn’t dare jump up or bump into her. She just waited patiently for her pets.

She has met May a few times, and used to come to my barn in NJ regularly. My trainer at the time brought her two dogs almost everyday, but they were older, female, and (mostly) calmer. They got along great with Hannah, and Matt was able to come with me when we brought her. While May is great with dogs and Hannah is mostly good with horses, she doesn’t really appreciate me riding. She is very concerned for my safety and will whine as I ride past, especially at the canter.

IMG_2724

The first barn I was at in KY didn’t allow outside dogs, although she came by once when I had to make an early morning run to treat May’s eye before we drove to Kansas.

View this post on Instagram

Road trip time! #kansasbound #love4oleary

A post shared by Emily (@may_as_well_event) on

She has not been to the new barn. Although the new barn is dog friendly, Hannah is… a wimp. How much of a wimp? She has been attacked at least twice since I have known her. Why? Because if a dog comes bounding towards her, wanting to play, she will cower and roll over and tell the world that she is a wimp. Soooo she gets attacked.

Let’s face it, she was the star of our engagement pics.

While the dogs at the new barn are very sweet, I think it just would be too much for Hannah. Last night, there were 6 or 7 dogs at the barn. They ranged from a big chow mix from next door to a small pug and from basically puppies to much older dogs. Just too overwhelming for poor Hannah, who really likes being an only dog with her own yard.

View this post on Instagram

Even Hannah is excited to finally see spring! #dogsofinstagram

A post shared by Emily (@may_as_well_event) on

What about you? Do you have a dog (or other non-horse pet), and do they make it to the barn?

Blog Hop: Things I’ve Learned from Other Bloggers

The Roaming Rider posted about some things that she has learned from other bloggers, and I thought it would be fun to jump in. (Go check hers out first. It will give you all the feels.)

While I have been blogging for only a couple of years (can I still say only?), I have been reading blogs basically since I became horsey deprived in college. The flavor of blogs is as diverse as the people writing them. Some still make me laugh out loud at my desk at work, while others will instantly bring me to tears, but that is horses too. Many of us will describe our darkest and brightest days by the horses that surrounded them.

I don’t talk about other people on my blog as pretty much a rule, but I hope everyone will grant me a reprieve just this one because you all deserve a tribute for all have taught me! I wish I could include EVERYONE, but I am not sure ANYONE would want to read that, so here are my 5 highlights.

1. Emma from Fraidy Cat Eventing.

Fraidy Cat

Emma and I have somewhat similar stories. H/J backgrounds with a burning desire to event. While I tip toed my way in with lessons and then eventually moving my horse to an eventing barn, Emma JUMPED IN the deep end. Girl – you took a couple of lessons, bought a truck and trailer, and did the thing. You took a lease on an off breed horse and trained her into an eventer. When that came to an end, you took a pause before finding another horse and restarting an OTTB from the ground up. I hope you know how badass that is.

AHEM – Emma taught me to go for the things I want. To not worry if I didn’t have the fanciest horse or the most expensive tack. The only thing I had to answer to was my horse. As long as I was doing the right thing there, then I was doing the right thing.

2. Lauren from She Moved to Texas.

cropped-agave-logo

(I am linking her personal website because I think something funky is going on with her blog site)

I am not sure when I started following Lauren, but she was the first blogger that I took back to the beginning. The first one that I did the blogger version of netflix binged on. Why? I would say it is because her writing is beautiful, and I am obsessed with that kind of thing (which is true); however, it is because she has been so true to herself and her voice.

I am not sure I would 100% categorize her blog as a horse blog. I would say that, if anything, it is a life blog about a person that owns and rides horses. She taught me that speaking my truth is the only topic that really matters.

3. Megan from A Enter Spooking.

AESpook

Is it hyperbole to say that Megan was my first Dressage instructor? My first ever introduction to Dressage was someone taking a 45 minute lesson at my barn. During that 45 minutes they continuously trotted around a 20 meter circle. I remember having to rake the ring after because there was literally a ditch growing there. “Nope,” I told myself, “Dressage is not a thing I ever want to do.”

Then Megan popped up on my screen one day, and well… just read this:

At the same time as straightening him on the outside rein to get him to step into the inside rein, TC needs to be a bit lighter off of my inside leg. His tendency is to lean into my leg with his ribcage, rather than engaging his inside hind leg and stifle under him.
– Knowledge Dump

I can feel what she feels when she writes, and I can feel her corrections. I never knew that people had these kinds of detailed dialogues going on in their heads while they rode, but here comes Megan with 81 posts tagged with “connection”. While Megan has opened up the world of Dressage for me, she has, more than that, taught me the important of really being a thinking rider.

Anyone else notice that the first three people are all from different disciplines?

4. Carly from Poor Woman Showing.

PWS

Does anyone ever know what Carly is going to do next? Carly teaches me and continuously reminds me that I am supposed to enjoy my horse. Not everyday will be sunshine and rainbows, but horses are there to be enjoyed. Does she compete? Yup. Does she win satin? Um, DUH.

Does she also stick her horse in a cart because it seems like a fun idea? Absolutely. Reading her posts reminds me that we don’t HAVE to have a serious Dressage schooling if we don’t want to. We can just go on that trail ride or attempt to jump crossrails while bareback. Dressage and “serious” eventing will be there, and I am not ruining anything by simply enjoying my horse.

5. Michele from Fat Buckskin in a Little Suit.

FBuckskin.jpg

I am going to be super cheesy here. I fell off the blogging bandwagon in 2017 a bit. Nothing was really happening, I had no jump saddle, I wasn’t really able to take lessons, and I was about to get married. Michele reached out to me and checked in. I was floored. Here was someone I never met who honestly cared about how May and I were doing.

Michele and I have gone through very similar struggles with our opinionated, rotund creatures, but Michele has taught me, more than anything, about how a love of horses really does bring people together and create friendships. I know you’re reading, so thanks girl. 😉

One day, I will get to meet some of you in person! hahaha Who else is going to join in on this positive blog hop?

Half Lease Update

Remember how I said I don’t talk about other people on my blog? Welp. That is also true for the girl half leasing May. However, I think you all deserve an update!

May was a perfect princess on Monday night. I mean like, I got on her, warmed up a bit, popped over some fences, and she was just soft and easy and in front of my leg. MMMMMK. (like this but probably SLOWER)

So what did I do? I made a friend get on her. I then made said friend jump some stuff. May continued to just pack around like a little school horse. Welp, I thought, she will probably be terrible for the trial tomorrow.

I was SO NERVOUS. Like our mutual friend has ridden May, but May is May. We chatted a bit as we tacked up. I gave her the barefoot history and gently explained that I have no bias against shoes, and I am happy to put shoes back on the horse if it looks like that is going to be a better solution than barefoot. She didn’t seem concerned. She did ask about my spurs (little nubs at the moment), and I told her that spurs are more for moving May’s body around than they are for speed or anything.

I rode first, obviously. May was almost as good as she had been the night before. I would say she was a bit stiffer through her body, but I wasn’t about to start an argument before putting someone else in the irons. At one point in the canter, I circled through the middle of the ring and just held the reins by the buckle to show that her balance will change, but she won’t run away with you. (or at least not with me.)

img_6351

I did everything I could think of to show that May was as represented. I popped over some fences, missed more than once, and then handed the reins over. Number one response everyone has had to getting on my horse? She REALLY swings through her back at the walk. I had no idea. I am just SO used to it.

There is definitely a learning curve with May, but the half leaser handled her really well. They seemed to get along, and May didn’t get frustrated or upset by any gaps in communication. She did decide to do the double add down the line of jumps… Oh mares. The strangest thing was being told how she is excited to ride something a bit more made instead of a greenie. I am still not used to the idea of my horse really knowing and doing her job. It’s a cool feeling and definitely true at this point.

Overall, it sounds like it is going to be a 2-day a week lease instead of a 3-day a week lease, but her being able to take lessons with my trainer is more important than May being ridden an extra day a week. In fact, she wants to take her first lesson the first week of November. Can it really just be this easy? I guess so!

How Do We Grow Horse Sports?

So this post was inspired by a post that was submitted as part of the HN Blogger Contest by Carson Nelson. In the post, she hypothesized about why people don’t get into horse sports. The number one answer she found – money.

However, I am not sure I buy that. I have looked into how much it costs to join a yoga or pilates studio… I have seen the cost of barre classes and crossfit memberships. The truth? They aren’t a lot cheaper than riding lessons. Throw in a cheap pair of paddock boots, a barn that has helmets, and yoga pants (or even jeans you already own!), and you are about there in terms of clothing. Again, not much more than a yoga mat and appropriate clothing.

Please be aware, all of the below is a HUGE generalization of the horse market, and it is not directed at any person, barn, or organization. It is just my observations as a member of horse sports in, arguably, two of the most horse-dense areas of the country (excluding NYC).

Horse Pop
Chart from The State of the Animals IV: 2007. Highlights mine. 

Websites

I think it is terribly confusing, difficult, and discouraging to try and find a lesson barn as an adult, ESPECIALLY as a beginner. We no longer live in a culture of phone calls to strangers. We live in a culture of email, contact forms, and online scheduling. Farm websites tend to be clunky, not mobile friendly, and lack even basic SEO to show up on google searches.

As someone who moved to an area and knew no one, I know how much power your website can have. For a beginner adult – they are looking for something that looks approachable. Unfortunately, most websites either show an amazing plethora of small children, with no adults, or they show shiny show horses and only people in full formal attire. Neither of these things is likely to resonate with someone considering taking riding lessons.

img_0543
Is this relatable to the average person? Maybe?

Price Transparency

Farms can also have a nasty habit of hiding costs, leaving outdated prices on their website, or telling people to “Call for Pricing.” Pricing is readily available for nearly any product we could want, and we can pay for almost anything with a credit card. Therefore, it can be a bit off-putting to not find the real price of a service on a farm’s website.

How many times have you heard of someone being burned by a barn, including experienced people, because they weren’t made aware of other charges they were incurring? It goes from something as innocent as “would you like us to tack up your horse before your lesson?” (no mention of it being $15 extra) to THOUSANDS of dollars worth of charges at someone’s first competition. Nothing quite like having to shovel over some of your savings to make you want to quit a sport.

Trainers – have a rate sheet. Hand it out. Post it online and in your barn. If you don’t know how to do this, I can guarantee you that someone in your barn does.

Horse riding would benefit as being sold as a form of fitness, as much as a hobby. Then, maybe, people will be more likely to devote a portion of their budget to this “new kind of classes.”

Diversity

Let’s face it. Horse sports fall pretty far to the bottom of the diversity spectrum. We lack diversity in race, ethnicity, body types, and socio-economic status, among other areas. At the lower levels, the only Olympic sport where men and women compete against one another also lacks gender diversity. There are a multitude of reasons for this, but let’s just say that being friendly, welcoming, and promoting a sense of inclusion at barns would probably help keep everyone more involved.

It is scary enough to join a new sport as an adult. As for me – how many classes have I taken in sports/classes I am not already familiar with, alone? (None). If you are an average sized woman or man, are you going to call the barn that only shows very slim riders in white pants in their photos? Or no one that looks REMOTELY like you? Didn’t think so.

Beginner Adult Friendly Barns

Where are the Mimosa Rides? or the Wine Wednesday Evening Lessons? I will admit, both of these things appeal to women more than men AND serving alcohol with horses is a terrible business idea. However, there is just about no marketing barns do to encourage adults to come try riding lessons. In contrast, I have seen “Back to School Specials”, “Spring Break Sessions”, and “Summer Camps” for the under 18 crowd. Let’s try material that is targeted for the adults. Hey, it could even be “Back to School Specials” with special lessons during the day for stay-at-home adults.

Most adults don’t want to lesson with children. We learn differently, our bodies react slower, and our muscles don’t grow as fast. Trainers need to offer private and semi private lessons to accommodate adult schedules. AND have the horses to accommodate them.

Ridiculous outfit
Hilarious photo of May as a “lion” and me as a “lion tamer”… This is a fun facebook pic… but probably doesn’t below on your barn website. 

I am sure I can go on, but I think this is a good start. Is there a market for this? Honestly, I think there is. Plenty of adults lacked the funds, time or access to horses as kids that  might be able to try it out now. MANY adults are bored, and open to trying something new.

I don’t think large membership campaigns, such as USEF’s “Join the Joy”, have made any significant strides, especially outside of the already established horse community. Growth will have to be the grassroots kind, and, as tough as it is, that starts with the trainers and riders with their boots already planted firmly on the ground of their communities.

What do you think? What can riders, trainers, and organizations be doing to help grow new interest in horse sports?

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)

img_7145
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.)

img_5764

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:

View this post on Instagram

Happy mare #majestic #horsesofinstagram

A post shared by Emily (@may_as_well_event) on

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

View this post on Instagram

May wishes everyone a #merrychristmas! #horsesofinstagram

A post shared by Emily (@may_as_well_event) on

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!

New Barn.JPG

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!