Return to XC

Last Wednesday, I received a text from my trainer, “Thinking about going XC schooling on Friday afternoon. Are you interested?”

Excuse me? Interested? I was DYING to go. My immediate response was, “I’d love to!” Cue panic. See, I work 8 – 5, M-F, and I really don’t have extra vacation days sitting around this year for various reasons. Luckily, it was Derby week, and I live in Louisville, KY. As a result, the whole city shuts down at around 12PM on the Friday before Derby; however, I work at a company that is heavily tied to the stock market, which DOES NOT close on Oaks Day.

So what does a still-pony-crazy, 20-something do? She slyly asks her boss and the rest of their team what their Friday plans were (after she had already committed to the XC schooling with her trainer). Luckily, everyone seemed to have plans to either take Friday off or leave around lunchtime. Woohoo!

So on 1PM on Friday, I packed up my bags, changed into some of my nicer riding clothes in the bathroom, and hopped in the car on a mad dash to the barn. I got about halfway there before the thought of, “I should really eat” popped into my head. A quick stop at a nice gas station, 1 protein bar, and 1 giant bottle of water later, and I was off again! So eager in fact that I was at the barn about an hour before anyone else would be ready to go. Oh well, May could use the extra grooming time to try and get MORE HAIR off of her.

But then, of course,  my mind wandered, as I have never actually trailered off the property with my current trainer. Would she want May’s saddle on for the 3 minute drive? (no joke, that’s how far we were going) Should she wear her XC boots for the trip? Should I used the lead rope with a chain or without one? Etc. Etc. Etc. Turns out, I don’t really think my trainer cares much, as long as I have some kind of plan and logic. Ultimately, May shipped sans-saddle, but with boots.

When we arrived at the XC venue, I had another thought. My horse hasn’t been off the property since we moved there more than a year and a half ago. Would she be a total beast while I was trying to get ready? Nope. She was perfect. She hung out by the back of my SUV, eating grass while I tacked up. She even stood mostly still to let me get on. Then, she pranced her way towards the XC jumps.

We started at the water, an old nemesis of ours. The water was big and dark with whatever grows in those ponds. I put my leg on. I kept my eyes up… and May wandered into the water as if she has never had a problem with it… Cool horse. Real Cool. We splashed around a bit, as our XC partners for the day were my trainer on a thoroughbred and another boarder on her standardbred. Neither of those horses had ever gone XC schooling before. After splashing a bit, my trainer walked her horse out of the water and over one of the smallest log I had ever seen. It looked fun, so we followed.

We then headed to the main field with jumps, and we walked over a few more really boring logs. My trainer explained that, for the less experienced horses, we didn’t want to make XC a big deal. It should just be like trail riding with things in the way that you go over. May and I hung out a bit, while they continued to familiarize themselves with the itty bitty logs.

 

Then, my trainer told me it was my turn. She immediately gave us a small course of 4 jumps. We started at the bottom of a hill, did two jumps, climbed up the hill, jumped a jump, then proceeded on mostly flat ground to the last jump. Feedback of the day? Don’t throw your body with your horse. Let the horse come up to you. I am not sure I mastered it at all the whole day.

We ended up adding the red house to the mix, a small combination (that was set for a nothing distance, and then two slightly larger green houses (which were actually set to a real 4 stride line. May didn’t look at anything, took me to each jump, and cantered politely in-between fences. The biggest feedback was to try and get May’s balance back WAY before the jump, like 8 – 10 strides. This way, I could get the balance back and then allow up to the fences, instead of getting into a fight at the base. I think it worked!

 

We only did it a couple of times as the big hills took a lot out of May, and the whole point was to just have a positive experience. We walked around a lot while the other riders put together a course with some smaller jumps and easier terrain questions. Once everyone was feeling especially confident, we went on a long trot to the ditches. Now, this venue is great because it has the baby-ist of baby ditches. I mean, this thing is about 12″ wide and 12″ deep. I pointed May at it, not making a big deal about it, kept the eyes up, my hands forward, and my leg on.

What did May do? She stepped in it. Just very politely, down into the ditch, and then up out of the ditch. My trainer just stared at me for a second and then said, “well, that’s not really right.” We tried again, with more leg, and she stepped over it. I even popped over the larger ditch a few times. We might have 99 problems, but a ditch ain’t one!

 

Overall, I was over the moon with Ms. May. She, as usually, was the exact same horse off the property as she is at home. Have you been able to get off the farm and do anything fun lately?

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3 Years With The Corgi Horse

Three years ago, my trainer and I drove to PA with one horse in the trailer. He was tall, handsome, and as athletic as I could ever need. We returned with a short, kind of strangely built, corgi horse (and me with a lighter wallet).

It was probably a trade that made no sense. My old horse was easily jumping around Novice courses. He was brave, flashy, and even registered, but our relationship was in tatters. I had very few rides that didn’t end in tears, and he was just as miserable.

May (then known as Krimpet aka Too Many Cupcakes) was about as green as any horse I had ever ridden. Steering was optional, rhythm didn’t exist, and we needed about 20 – 30 trot steps to get the canter. However, she was clearly brave, smart, and pretty unflappable. In the end, that was all I needed. I loaded her into the trailer, shrugged at my trainer, and said, “If it doesn’t work out, someone will want her as a trail horse.” In fact, the below was the best pics we could get of her the first day:

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It’s been three years, and I can pretty confidently say that it worked out. (And I’ve gotten a lot better at photographing her)

Blog Hop: What I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know

Big thanks for Olivia for some blogspiration. She recently posted this topic on her blog, and I just had to tackle the idea!

Apparently, I am having a bit of a throwback week this week. (sorry, not sorry). I am going to go back a few years, to just before I bought my first horse. Let’s call it, “5 things I didn’t know I didn’t know about owning a horse”.

1. This is your responsibility only.

This one seems obvious right? You’re buying a horse and that horse is your responsibility.  However, it really comes down to how it is YOUR responsibility ONLY. Your trainer, barn manager, and friends may all be incredible resources for you on this journey, but this horse’s training, happiness, welfare, and health all fall on your shoulders. Be ready to educate yourself beyond your core group.

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2. You will feel guilty, and that is ok.

Shocking to no one, owning a horse is expensive. Owning a horse you want to train and compete is VERY expensive. I have always made enough money to support my horse habit, and I have always responsibly reined back my expectations for myself and my horse when funding just didn’t cover my goals. However, it is still expensive. Even spending the bare minimum, I still often feel guilt. I should be riding more, doing more, succeeding more.

Horses don’t work that way though. Just enjoy what you are doing, make sure you aren’t spending beyond your  means, and remember that a horse doesn’t care if it has the newest, fanciest anything. She really just wants a carrot.

3. You will fail, and it will make you better.

Failure in horse ownership takes so many paths. I have failed to prepare my horse properly for a competition. I have failed to recognize the signs of ulcers. I have failed to call the vet immediately for an injury that I thought was minor that turned out to need more extensive help. I even failed to make my first horse into what I hoped he would be. Now, however, I am a more educated horse owner, rider, and trainer, and every horse I touch is better off because of it.

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4. You will succeed.

I recently downloaded a mood tracker on my cell phone. I wanted a better sense of what impacts my moods (food, caffeine, hormones, etc.). Most of my ratings hang out in the middle of the scale, kind of like a Dressage test. There are lots of 5’s and 6’s and 7’s, even the occasional 4. However, after my first lesson of the season, I pulled out a 10. I was beyond myself. I called my husband just to word vomit to him all the amazing things I did with my horse in 28 minutes. I get the same high after a great horse trial and, sometimes, even after that perfect Dressage transition.

5. Ignore the Rail birds

Rail birds take all forms. They are the catty teenagers (and adults!) on the sidelines at show that feel the need to comment on your troubles. (Fun fact, it is not fun to watch the video after a rough SJ round and hear this commentary in the background.) There are friends and trainers that will try to put you into a box surrounded by what you “should” and “should not” do. There are COUNTLESS people on the internet that will love to critique your position, horse, tack, weight, and more. These people don’t matter. The beauty of riding, and eventing in general, is that this is a sport of you and your horse. Buy the horse you want to ride everyday, and then go out and ride it whenever you can.

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After 6 years of horse ownership, I have grown a ridiculous amount, and I know I still have so much to learn. What about you? Do you have any advice for yourself prehorse ownership?

Birthday Lesson!

So yesterday was my birthday, so I am not going to apologize for the lack of media here (although, that should be changing soon!). It was one of those birthday that just happens between the time you can legally drink and the symbolic “decade” birthdays. Solidly out of my Mid-Twenties though and into my Late-Twenties. As an extra special surprise, I got a text from my trainer on Monday morning. All it said was, “Lesson at 6:30 on Tuesday? Jump? :-D”

Obviously, I answered with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” (followed by about a million smiley faced). Then, I sort of panicked. See, May and I have only kind of loped around fences super casually, and I didn’t get the weekend at all to prepare. Saturday we did some long and stretchy stuff, and Sunday we did some walking.

My “crop circles” from Saturday. Three 20M circles connecting. Love using this to get stretchyness and relaxation. 

We also have only had 3(?) jumping lessons with this trainer over the course of the year and a half I have been at this barn. The last jump lesson was a year ago. (I am not counting the impromptu lesson we had where I jumped around tiny jumps in my dressage saddle… but I guess I could.)

Most of my trainer’s clientele are either actively competing or planning on competing at the Training/Prelim levels this year, so sometimes, she cranks the jumps up. So, in a totally normal reaction to stress, I polished my boots up, wiped my saddle down before my lesson, and worried about having forgotten to grab a clean white pad to replace my teal, fuzzy, and now very hairy saddle pad. (I don’t think my trainer cares about any of this in reality, but I needed to do something to “prepare.”)

I got on about 20  minutes before my lesson to let us warm up before the lesson started. Unlike trainers of my past, my current trainer likes to get right into jumping or Dressage or whatever it is we are working on that day, so it is best to be warmed up before we get started (unless we are working on building or fixing a specific warm up routine for whatever reason).

While I was warming up, another lesson was going on. This woman at my barn competes Saddlebreds in the breed competitions, but she has fallen in love in eventing and is retraining her REALLY successful Saddlebred mare to be an eventer. I think this was one of their first jumping lessons, and let me tell you, that girl has hops! My trainer was laughing about the variety of horses in her barn, going from training a Saddlebred to my little draft cross mare. It makes it fun and interesting, and it shows just how many tools she has in her tool kit.

Onto my actual lesson! Below was the general set up of the arena. There were two outside lines that aren’t shown on the below, but we didn’t jump them, so I didn’t include them. I think it’s busy enough as is!

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So where did we start? Well, we started with my trainer explaining that this would be a gymnastic-type lesson to see where we’re at. Works for me!

We started with trotting that single orange pole at the top. Literally. One pole on the ground, at the trot. My trainer had me establish rhythm and had me focus on NOT pushing May past her rhythm, which was actually a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. We ended up having to do this twice, each direction, to get it right. Then, we moved to the set of three, teal, poles next to it. Each of these were raised on one side in an alternating fashion.

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Like this, but slightly higher on the raised sides. (not my photo, full credit and a good video here)

Again, the focus was keeping the rhythm even and a little slow. To get the power and push from behind without the horse trying to run through the exercise. Thanks to the first exercise, this one was pretty easy. We got it quickly, and were able to move on.

Tired jumping pony. (really liking this bit btw)

We moved onto the “Circle of Love”, which is the circle of blue jumps and blue cones in the above diagram. (my trainer REFUSES to call it the Circle of Death). Either way, it was a 20M circle with 4 jumps, and 4 sets of cones. At first, she only had 2 of the jumps up, but we were able to do that with absolutely no problem, so she made it up to all 4 jumps after 1 circle. Moral of this story? I do not need to throw my body over fences, and I need to be more comfortable with correcting quickly after a fence. I would say the first time through in each direction was rough, but once I got over the idea of letting May lift me out of the tack instead of throwing my body around, it got a lot easier.

My trainer explained that the goal of an exercise like that would be to first be able to get through the exercise comfortable in both direction. Then, to get the same number of strides between each fence. Once that is established, then you can make it more difficult by going outside the cones and adding 1 additional stride between each fine, and then weaving inside the cones and getting 1 fewer stride between each fence. She said this is something you would build over time, and wasn’t something we should try to drill into the horse in a single session.

She was pretty impressed with how quickly we figured it out, and was even more impressed with the fact that May wasn’t huffing and puffing after it. Fitness is working! (for her… this was the hardest I had worked in the saddle in a while, and I was feeling it!)

So what was next??

Next was an exercise in adjust-ability. We moved onto the three purple poles in a straight line down the middle of the arena. Not sure if any of you remember an earlier post, but I had jumped through these in a super open 3 to try and jump from a more open stride. Yeah… not the focus of this lesson. I was told to jump in and just let it happen in 4. We did that once in each direction, and then my trainer told me to do each of them in 5.

Now, May now knew that these were a 4, and turning an open 3 into a 5 is a pretty big ask from the big lady. The first time in, she blew off my half halt before the first fence, blew it off between the first and second fence, and my trainer told me to halt before the last fence. We did, and then we tried again. It continued to be REALLY difficult for her, and there was a told of dramatic head throwing. However, she was completely capable of doing it. For my part, I had to think of getting a real Dressage-Like canter. I mean, I was visualizing the canter I need to get a solid leg yield across a diagonal type of Dressage canter. I needed to keep May really high through the poll and shoulders. I don’t think I have ever asked this horse to collect her canter this much, and you know what, I should be. A couple of times, we close momentum and ended up in the trot, but I just circled and asked again. If she went through the jumps correctly, she got to canter on a more forward stride and looser rein as a reward.

So how do you build on that? You jump a very technical course with very low jumps!

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We were instruction to come down the purple line of jumps in a 5 to a 4, go around the 9 o’clock jump on the circle of love, go between the cones, jump the 6 o’clock jump on the circle of love, go through the next set of cones. Then, we had to complete the S patter, by jumping the gray diagonal jump, turn to jump the last 2 jumps of the purple pattern in a 4, and then make a right turn to jump the oxer. After the oxer, we had to keep our line to fit through the super tight opening between the middle purple jump and the teal, raise poles.

So how did it go? Well, the first time, I wasn’t able to get the 5 to the 4. I didn’t push May forward over the second jump, and we just didn’t have the power to get 4, so we started again, and we nailed it. I came around to jump 4, which she jumped a bit big, which left us big to jump 5… and then I promptly forgot where I was going. My trainer told me, “I knew you forgot because you were looking at the wrong end of the arena.” whoops!

You can see the narrow path we had to take here. 

We restarted at jump 4, since May seemed to really understand the purple exercise. I rocked her back for jump 4, kept the bouncy canter for jump 5, demolished jump 6, cross cantered to jump 7, got my balance back around the corner, and jumped 8 beautifully before easily keeping our line through the small opening before ending our course. Was it pretty? Nope. That’s why you do these types of things with small jumps.

We decided to end on that note. Sure, the 4,5,6,7 line could’ve been cleaned up a bit, but we kept our rhythm and our line, which was the whole point. Since she jumped 8 so well, we through that was a great note to end on.

Another pic of that square oxer at the end. The purple and teal jumps in this photo are the purple jumps from my diagram. The circle of love was the same height. 

And today? I am so sore! hahaha. Can’t wait for the next lesson! (we also might have put a local schooling horse trial on the calendar for next month. Stay tuned!)

A Tale of Two Rides

As per the flavor of the month in the blogging community, I downloaded the Equilab app on my phone on Monday. I was planning on having a thorough Dressage school after our very brief jumping session on Sunday. I already knew that Tuesday wasn’t going to be a barn night due to severe thunderstorms being in the forecast and Wednesday is never a barn day as I have to go straight home to take care of the best dog ever. (I might be biased… enjoy the over indulgence in puppy pics this post) As a result, Monday HAD TO HAPPEN.

There are few things better than waking up to some #puppylove #dogsofinstagram

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So Monday was marked on my calendar as a day I HAD to ride. It was also the first business day of the month, causing my work day to be even more hectic and stressful than usual. By the time I got to the barn, I was a massive ball of stress, anxiety, and frustration. I hopped in the saddle, we walked around a ton. May gave me some great work including some lateral work and starting to reach into the left rein when tracking right (a big accomplishment since getting that wolf tooth pulled).

I, however, was horrendous. I’m sure my riding was fine and my aids were correct, but my attitude wasn’t. As the ride wore on, I felt myself asking for more and meeting resistance not with patience and humor (the only two emotions that belong in the saddle according to Mr. John Lyons) but with frustration. After we completed our warm up of all three gaits and some stretchy lateral work, we walked for a bit.

Apparently the dog days of #summer have already begun! #dogsofinstagram

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Then, when I asked her to trot, ready to start asking for the harder work, she popped up above the bit and threw her shoulder through the transition. I am sure my timing was off, or I hadn’t gotten her properly balances before the transition, but I mentally just couldn’t get past that she was being bad and a jerk. Even worse, I was getting more frustrated with myself for not being able to get past my own frustration…. Sounds great, right? So I stopped. I put big loops in my reins, gave her a pat for the work she had done earlier, and we walked a bit longer. The total ride was only 32 minutes… and Equilab tells me that 24 minutes was spent walking.

My next chance to ride was Thursday. I threw my jumping saddle on and planned on just doing an easy flat hack. ~40 minutes, no pressure. When I got to the arena, there were 3, 18″ fences lined up through the middle of the arena. After our rhythm issues on Sunday, I figured it would be a great idea to add that line into our hack. I won’t go into details, because the ride was REALLY boring and simple. However, it was good. I was able to be fair and effective in the saddle, and my horse is better off because I stepped away on Monday.

Ending this post with a old #failfriday 🙂

Riding into Monday like…. 😂😂😂😂 #misseditmonday #goodgirl #fail

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We Jumped! (And Got Video Of It!)

I was scrolling back through my posts to see if I could confirm this, but I am pretty sure Sunday was the first day I did an actual course of jumps in my new jumping saddle… I have popped over a few single fences here and there, but hadn’t actually strung a course together… nor do I think I had jumped an oxer in that saddle… and I know I wasn’t jumping oxers in my Dressage saddle… so how long had it been since we had jumped an oxer… Oops. Oh well.

#marecrushmonday #everymonday #Hunterprospect ? Definitely #huntereq

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(I think that might have been our last oxer… 11 months ago) Sunday was actually really beautiful in KY. We had about 18 hours of dry weather, which was enough for the amazing footing in our outdoor arena to dry up. So I begged and pleaded for the husband to come take video for me. (Really, I just asked since the weather was finally nice enough.)

Hindsight? I should’ve brought my crop with me. The horse with the carriage was out there when I went to get on, so I got on in the indoor and then walked over to the outdoor. No reason to get dumped because I didn’t want to bother to walk an extra 50 feet to a less busy arena. May didn’t seem to have a problem with the carriage this time, which was definitely improvement, but she was definitely just preoccupied with thoughts of what the cart was doing. I couldn’t really get her totally in front of my leg, but she was relaxed and obedient.

My stirrups might actually be a tough TOO short…

Since the jumps were set pretty small, I figured I would just warm up a bit and hope she woke up a bit. (This is terrible horsemanship, but… oh well… I had a relaxed horse.) There was a small box (maybe 12″) set up so that you could canter a 20 meter circle over it, so I started with that. I worked on establishing rhythm without losing suppleness through her body.

Getting back into it! #may #eventing #IForgotWhatTheSunLooksLike #horsesofinstagram

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After a few times in both directions, I asked the husband to turn on the camera, and I pointed out the few jumps I was planning on doing. The footing nearest where he was filming was a bit deep and wet still, so I just avoided that line, but I wanted to pretty much jump everything else. haha

The moment she realized we were doing more than one jump at a time…

My original plan was to get through the course and then clean up the parts that I felt were messy. Mind you, early in the week I had tried to jump a few fences, and I missed to Ever. Single. One. I COULD NOT find a distance. This time, I shortened up my reins a bit, and focused on keeping my hands a bit higher than what I am used to (but what is probably correct), and keeping my reins short enough that my hands were about halfway up her neck. Below is what we got:

Overall? I am really happy with that. The biggest issue is obviously pace. Our pace should be closer to what we have in this clip:

However, the most important thing to me when reintroducing a horse to jumping is to make it as nonchalant as possible. It should feel like no big deal, just popping over a few fences. I can always light a fire under a horse’s butt if I need to… It’s a special skill of mine, so a quieter than expected jump school is a good place to start. Our simple changes were pretty good (although very numerous), and our only small argument was coming to the oxer, where I wanted to hold for no reason coming around the corner. I was wrong, she was right, and I had to pony-club kick for the long spot. Enjoy our small fail photo below:

It is probably also worth noting that I was testing a different bit in this video. A Myler D ring with hooks. No chain, but hooks. Jury is still out on it, but I clearly don’t need the pelham if she keeps going like this! So how do I feel about my jumping saddle around a course and over an oxer? I am pretty damn happy with it still. It doesn’t rock over fences like other saddles I tried. May clearly seems relaxed and happy giving me the long spot in it, and I felt my position was fairly solid given how long it has actually been.

WHEW! Just happy to be doing more than fancy prancing and trot sets though!

Also – who is going to the event-formerly-known-as-Rolex, aka KY3DE, aka Land Rover 3 Day… AKA who knows what they’re calling it now? I will be there for XC with the husband!

Move. Over.

So as May and I have been upping our fitness lately. There is one aspect I have let go. Lateral work.

After getting May’s teeth and joints squared away and getting our fitness back up to a respectable level (still not where I want it, but much closer), I figured it was a good time to see where our lateral work stands. If you read this blog at all last year, you know that, without a jumping saddle, almost all of our lessons were Dressage lessons where there was a strong focus on lateral work. Why? Because as my trainer describes it, May is a body builder… not a ballerina. She needs more yoga before we can achieve real collection.

It makes sense to me, and I did see a lot of progress in her way of going throughout last year. So, I started with the old 40 degree angle, nose to the wall, at the walk exercise.

Dressage Exercixe 1

This one… Black is wall, yellow line is horse (who should be straight) and arrow is direction of travel.

She was really good. She moved off my left leg, held herself mostly straight, and finished the move by straightening out and marching forward through the end of the arena. Awesome. I repeated it a second time with the same results, and then we switched to the other side.

I got nothing. I set her up for the move, closed my outside rein, but my outside (right) leg on, and she threw her hind end through my leg and snapped into a straight line along the rail… No.. not what I asked. I made a small 10M circle,and asked again. Same result. She got a tap with my spur and reluctantly moved her hind end over. Eventually, we mostly got there, but she was still a bit of a pretzel. I didn’t want to drill the move, so I moved on to walking leg yields.

I thought about my trainer’s advice last year. Ride the horse like a table. If you had a table around you, and you picked it up and moved it along the diagonal, without turning, the legs of the table would trace the line your horse’s hooves should follow. It’s a weird visual, but it works for me. Again, I started with having her move off my left leg. We started with the quarter line to the rail, then the center line to the rail, and it was something sort of magical. She kept her body straight, moved at the angle I requested, and I could simply hold the contact with the outside rein. She got a big pat and lots of praise.

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Old media, you can see how much this helped us last year.

Then, I reversed directions and asked for the same from the right leg. Again, I got no response. Cool. I rolled my spur into her, and she moved on her front end. Even more cool. I tried to hold her with my outside rein, but she sucked her neck back, popped her shoulder further to the outside, and twisted her neck to the right. Ugh. Mare. I straightened her out, rolled my spur into her, and asked again. Same response.

Of course, I didn’t have my dressage whip with me (which only really makes her tense and might not have helped anyway), so I reached back and patted her just at the hip. It was meant to be a “hey, you need to move this part too”, and was definitely not hard enough to cause any pain. However, May took serious offense to the whole thing. She flung her head around, threw her body sideways, and gave me a giant huff. Maybe I just surprised her? I have no idea. It mostly seemed to work though, and I was able to get some correct (albeit very shallow) leg yield off my right leg.

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Still pretty though… I gotta fix those hands!

The rest of the ride continued in mostly the same fashion. She moved easily off my left leg and tried to ignore my right side. (This is probably the root of my issue of getting her on the outside rein and was probably exasperated by the wolf tooth) I think the issue is still likely related to some general stiffness issues, so I am adding in some carrot stretches and her Back on Track sheet to see if those help. I am also going to continue with the pony yoga to see if it improves.

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Something like this for our next ride?

I think my next ride (hopefully tonight) will focus on stretchy circles where we leg  yield in and out. I think that will help with the stretching and moving over issues. All the mud probably doesn’t help any stiffness of muscle soreness either. -.- In fact, it is supposed to rain 10 out of the next 15 days. Pretty sure KY is going to float away at this point.

ADDED: Found an awesome resource on some carrot stretch exercises and information: https://vetmed.tennessee.edu/vmc/EquineHospital/Documents/EPR/UTCVM_LACS-EquineCarrotStretches.pdf 

Learning Through Doing – Trot Sets

Trot sets… or really any kind of planned interval training for horses is still a relatively new concept to me. When I rode in H/J, horses were just ridden for 30 – 60 minutes 4 – 6 days a week. You tried to balance out W/T/C and add in jumping as necessary.

Then, I entered the eventing world, and I had a trainer tell me that my horse needed fitness… “Just add some trot sets into your routine.” (not her exact words, but most of her explanation just kind of rolled off. “How does one do a trot set?” was my first thought. Does one simply trot around aimlessly until they get a bit fatigued and then walk until they’re ready to trot again? Nope. I learned quickly that there should be some kind of plan to this…

Ok, how does on make a plan? I started reading as much as I could on the topic, but I definitely lack the most important element of knowledge in this area: experience.

This year, I am making a more conscious effort to really plan out my interval training with May and to make sure we are gearing up for this season in an appropriate manner. So, our rides lately have consisted of long walks or interval sets to improve fitness… so our rides lately have been boring.

bored over it GIF

The fields aren’t open for riding yet, and our barn doesn’t have access to trails. As a result, long walks are done along the road through the barn (a whole lap takes about 40 minutes so I try to do it twice), and interval training is done in the main arena (thankfully, very large).

Last week, we completed a 54 minute ride that included a lot of walking, 2 – 10 minute sets of trotting, and a couple of short canter intervals. What did I learn? That May is probably in better shape than I am. While she was a bit fatigued after the ride, my back was on FIRE. Definitely time to add some core strengthening exercises to my out of the saddle routine!

Making a Wishlist

With my sister’s birthday approaching, I was determined to get her a great gift. She has a very specific style and taste that keeps up with trends enough to be “on trend”, but most of her items are classic enough to stand the test of time. I also can’t just buy her horse stuff… since she hasn’t ridden in more than a decade and has no plans to start again. (boo)

After spending much too much time scanning through the websites of places I rarely visit (department stores, beauty boutiques, anything that shows up in a mall), I finally caved a bit and asked her if there was anything she wanted. She had a list… on a Department stores website. She forwarded it along to me, and while I didn’t have to search out the perfect gift, I did get to pick something out of a (rather long) list of things that I knew she would love. I could get her someone she wouldn’t just have to return, and I could cater my gift to my budget. Awesome! (budgets are important… unless a pony really needs something)

Since most of my family is 90% unfamiliar with my sport (especially if it is eventing specific), I figured this might actually be a helpful tool for them! I checked around on various equestrian sites (riding warehouse, dover, smartpak, horze, greenhawk, bit of britain), and it looked like only Smartpak, bit of britain, and Dover offered these features. While Dover has an amazing return policy, there isn’t a single actual store in Kentucky and the shipping costs can be a bit outrageous (and slow). Bit of Britain is also somewhere I have ordered form multiple times, but never actually returned anything to. So I decided to build a list on Smartpak!

26 Items made the list. Here are the highlights and why:

Schooling Breeches – Romfh Sarafina & Smartpak Hadley

Schooling Breeches

I own both pairs of these breeches in other colors. The Romfh Sarafina breeches are my favorite pair of pants (ANY KIND OF PANTS) I have ever owned. They are flattering, they are comfortable, they stay up on their own. And they should… They’re incredibly expensive. As a result, I only own one pair, in beige for clinics and shows where I don’t want to wear white (and we’ll get to that in a second).

The Hadley’s are much more affordable. They are SLICK though and not as flattering of a shape. However, I appreciate the fairly classic styling and, for schooling pants, they hit the mark for me. The colors aren’t too crazy without being beige, black, and brown. The rise is a bit higher than the Piper’s, which I like, but they also definitely need a belt, as (you can even see this from the pictures) they are not nearly as high rise as the Sarafina’s.

I did throw in one pair of the Kerrits “power sculpt” riding tights. I haven’t ridden in Kerrits in forever… or tights for that matter, but the marketing ploy of “Power sculpt” got me, and they’re a reasonable under $100 option.

Sunshirts – Kastel & Goode Rider

Kastel Sunshirt

I own 1 Kastel sunshirt, 2 of the Dover Cool Blast sunshirts, 1 tailored sportsman sunshirt, and 1 ariat sunshirt. The Kastel (in a light, butter color) is BY FAR MY

FAVORITE. It is the only one that I actually feel is cooler than a plain cotton t-shirt, it looks flattering, and it actually protects my skin from the sun. I got my original one for an incredible deal, and I would love to add more to my collection.

I was shocked to find that the Goode Rider sunshirt was more expensive than the Kastel’s, but I figured it would worth adding as just another option to try.

Various Show Stuff – Romfh, Ice Horse, Competition Pinny, Tredstep

White BreechesRemember when I mentioned white breeches? Yeah – I have one pair, and I absolutely detest them. I think I might still own them out of a sense of obligation for needing white breeches. (There’s no rule that says you have to wear white, any light, neutral color works). However, I am still shamed into owning a pair of pants that I hate and that hate me. Enter the Romfh Sarafina pants in white… full seat… and beautiful.

I also don’t own a single pair of ice boots. (I know, I am terrible). When I needed to ice May last year, I took the liner out of my BOT quick wraps, filled them with ice, and left that on. It worked and was effective, but I probably shouldn’t be seen in public in them. The Ice Horse Evendura Wraps would just be a nice thing to have. Oh – and laugh you hearts out – I don’t own a pinny. I have begged and borrowed (but never stole) one when I needed one, but it’s probably about time I spend the $14 and get one… I really don’t need a custom one… right?

CollarAnother “wish list” item, would be an interchangeable collar for my tredstep solo pro coat. This is a total whim item. Like, why is this thing $50? But I still think it would look nice on my Navy coat with May in a white saddle pad… without being too much. 

Items I Couldn’t Find

This was a strange thing. There are 11 breastplates on SmartPak’s website (Bit of Britain has 20 and Dover has 12) and not a single one was even the style I was looking for. Every single one attaches to the front D’s of the saddle. (not a great setup for a horse like May, where it is more likely to just pull the front of the saddle down, rather than hold the entire saddle forward). I would much prefer one that attaches to the girth. Like this one from Dover, or this one from Bit of Britain.

Also – my favorite saddle pad is the EcoGold Secure XC Saddle Pad. Smartpak apparently only sells it in White, where Dover had both black and blue, and riding wearhouse had the black version. The blue is really the one I have been eyeing.

Finally, XC boots. I put the outdated version of the professional choice XC boots on my list at smartpak, but it is the new ones you can get from riding warehouse that I am really interested in. I current have the majyk equipe boots (the Gen II versions), but I have been using them for a couple of years now, and they aren’t really in “show” condition anymore. In fact, the one boot is missing almost all of the fabric edging near the bottom. I wouldn’t mind something that fits a bit better. I have been eyeing both the Professional’s Choice Performance Elite XC Front Boots and their Performance Hybrid Splint Boots. Let’s be honest, at BN, we probably would be totally fine with just the splint boots, and they may fit May’s corgi-legs better.

Whew! Well that was a lot. Tell me – what’s topping your wish list right now?

One Week Update

Saturday was our “one week” mark from May getting her injections. I wish I had more media to share with you, but I will explain why that wasn’t possible. Promise!

All in all, May felt really good. She has always had trouble through trot poles.This weekend, there were 4 fairly spaced trot poles set up in the outdoor, and we could do them from a slow trot without an issue. She could push through them without falling on her forehand and running past my aides. But why no media? Well, both days this weekend we had to share the arena with the horse-eating carriage.

Today we learned that the cart does not eat horses. #horsesofinstagram #may #isthatspringisee

A post shared by Emily (@may_as_well_event) on

In fact, on Saturday, our ride lasted  more than an hour. We walked, like usual, started our trot, then the carriage showed up. May was… not amused, so we walked. We followed the carriage for about 15 minutes. Then, they started trotting, which makes a lot more noise, and May had to be convinced to follow it again. By then half hour mark, we could reliably walk and trot with the carriage in the arena. Then, I tried to canter, and May put up a big fight. Flinging her head around, not allowing me to sit on her, and trying to run off with me… Fun. When I got a decent canter, I let her walk.

Then, the carriage needed a video, so I ended up walking around the arena while they took the video. After the video, I asked for the canter again, and I was able to get a mostly relaxed and collected canter. Whew!

The next day, I showed up to the barn still a bit sore from the day before (holding back the May freight train was a workout!). Of course, as soon as I tacked up, the carriage horse went out to get hooked to his trailer… cool. I went out and got on before they got out there, and another rider lamented that if the carriage came into the ring, she would probably end her ride.

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Nope. No Way. Not doing that. It was one of the first 50 degree days with sunshine in a while. I didn’t have time to stop my ride and pick it up again. We were riding through this.

Luckily, May ended up being a lot more relaxed about the carriage this time around. Not totally relaxed, but at least, totally rideable. In fact, I ended up loping over a few fences with her, all of which she took quietly and out of stride. Good girl!

Hopefully, we can get a real jump school in soon. Has your horse ever seen a carriage? Or have there been any majorly “spooky” things you have had to school your horse through at home?