30 Facts About Me

I saw this on a youtube video, and I thought it would make a fun blog topic!

1. I’ve been riding since I was 6 year old (nearly 22 years ago!)

2. I didn’t ride at all when I was at college, but I did ride 6 horses, 6 days a week each summer I was home.

3. My first horse was actually a buckskin, QH type. Unfortunately, we only had her for a year before we found out she had fairly serious bone cancer and needed to be put down.

4. I didn’t start riding with an eventing trainer until 2014. Before then, I had only ridden hunter/jumpers.

5. I received my bachelors degree in Economics Finance.

6. I work in the Hedge Fund world… doing compliance and operations.

7. My favorite colored horse is black… with minimal chrome

8. I rode one horse for more than a decade. He was an OTTB, and the first horse I got on after I recovered from breaking my hand and getting surgery. (Even before I got back on my own horse at the time)

9. My favorite breeches are the Romfh Sarafina breeches… I just can’t justify more than 1 pair for shows and clinics.

10. I have worn some of the most expensive helmets on the market… and I still prefer my OneK. (although the new technology in the Back on Track helmets make me think twice.

11. I have no desire to ever go beyond Training level eventing… The upper levels just are never going to be my cup of tea.

12. My favorite horse I have ever ridden was a fairly poorly trained Irish Sport Horse, who could jump the moon.

13. I am a dog person… but I do give the barn cats love whenever I am at the barn.

14. I hated Stubben saddles growing up… and now own 2 that I really like.

15. Both my left ankle and my left wrist suffer from the remnants of some old ligament injuries.

16. The only bone I ever broke around horses happened on the ground… lunging my old horse.

17. I almost took a job out of college that would’ve forced me to spend a year and a half out of the country. It was a higher salary than the job I ended up taking by $12,000, but it was completely the right move.

18. I hunter paced about once a month each fall and spring while I was a young teenage. I keep trying to get back to it, but haven’t found an opening. (Totally different leopard App below)

when I used to jump spotted things in the woods all the time #tbt

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19. Some days I seriously consider quitting eventing, buying a western saddle, and just trail riding. May wouldn’t care much either way… as long as we don’t go straight Dressage.

20. I used to play Eventing 2001 with a friend of mine… religiously.

21. The only time I have ever fallen off of May was in front of Marilyn Payne in her clinic. It was nearly 2 years ago, and I haven’t written about it yet.

22. I worked in NYC for nearly 3 years. It was a 3.5 hour commute to the barn to ride my horse at night… and then a 45 minute commute home… all to get up to catch the 6:14AM train the next day… but NYC is an experience.

Sometimes NYC shows it's pretty side. #nyc

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23. I have one, older sister.

24. My mom lives in Florida… but about 3.5 hours from Ocala.

25. I drive a Subaru, and it has gotten me out of some seriously icy and snowy situations. I wish I had it when I was going to school in MA!

26. My favorite saddle I have ever ridden in is a Butet… but I have never owned a horse that one would fit.

27. I might have a serious chocolate addiction.

28. My favorite non-horsey store is Lush. (Can I count this as a horsey store if I say their bath products are my favorite after a long day in the saddle?)

29. If I could live anywhere in the U.S., it would be PA in the summer and Aiken in the winter.

30. I would love to try fox hunting, and I think May would really take to it. She has no issue with dogs whatsoever, and tends to be very logical in a big group of horses.

All that being said, May is doing great with her fitness. I have a new vet coming on Saturday to do an evaluation and recommend if there is any maintenance we should be doing. (May had her hocks injected in Summer 2016, but hasn’t seemed to need them redone until recently.) Do you do any maintenance with your horses?

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Some (Free) Tech Upgrades

In a lot of ways, riding has stayed relatively low tech. There are really no substitutes for sitting on a real live horse, in a field, doing basically the same thing thousands (millions?) of people did hundreds of years ago. However, we are in an age where nearly everyone rides with a cell phone in their pocket, or at least nearby. (just check out those new USEF rules about headphones in the warmup ring!)

There are a lot of REALLY EXPENSIVE upgrade options that I would love to own, but cannot justify the price. A clinic or a Solo Shot? A show or a Equisense? Fun fact – the training will always win out. BUT I have found some free options that I am finding are really making a difference in my rides. Of course, neither of these things are horse-specific (or I am sure they would come with high price tags!).

Google Sheets

Remember that nifty calendar from the beginning of the month?

February Schedule
This one!

Well, it came from Google Sheets. Completely free, completely editable, and, best of all, easily accessible to me on my phone. Why is that important? Because I am often in the saddle and completely at a loss for what was supposed to be on the calendar that day. I can pull up the calendar, check my schedule, adjust if needed, and get on with my ride… and all before my 10 minute walk warmup is over.

IntervalTimer

Now this one took a bit more research. For Christmas, I got a very inexpensive stopwatch. While the big, eventing watches are cool, they are also far too big for my wrist and tend to just roll around throughout a cross country course. A smaller, and cheaper, runners watch should do the same job, and just as easily.

So when I wanted to start timing the intervals of my rides, I pulled it out and set to work. And then I realized how much trouble it is to set up more than 10 intervals on a watch… Back to the drawing board. Then I figured, there should be an app for that!

💋 #gomogo #eventing #eventersofinstagram #appaloosa #horseaccount

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(Pic of my absolute favorite eventing app, courtesy of my previous trainer’s instagram)

Eventually, I found “IntervalTracker” on the Apple App Store. It allows me to quickly and easily set up training intervals, and I can even set them to different noises so that I know when I am supposed to walk, trot, and canter, without interrupting my ride at all.

To decode this for everyone… a 10 minute warmup. Then it does an interval of low followed by an interval of high and repeats for how many sets you have. In this instance, you have 3 sets of trot with 3 minutes trotting and 1 minute walking. (Low is Trot and High is Walk). Then 2 sets of canter (Low is Canter and High is Walk). Then, I added one more set of trot (3 min trot and 1 minute of walk) before a 10 minute and 25 second cool down. Walk is a “Ding, Ding” noise, Trot is a single “Ding”, and Canter is a “Whistle”. All in all, this is working really well!

This is what the app looks like when you start. Obviously, you can choose to play music if you want too. (Thomas Rhett is a serious favorite right now)

What about you? Are there any cheap (or free) technology upgrades that you use to make your rides and horse life better?

On a totally unrelated note, has anyone ever worked with a nutritionist? I have cleaned up my diet (more vegetables, no red meat, no added sugar etc.) and have been really, really struggling with feeling normal (lots of nausea, headaches, etc).

You Know Nothing, Adult Amateur.

The wisdom of ignorance is a ridiculously important part of doing this thing we call “learning to ride”. I think many of us that rode as kids can think of a time when we really felt like we knew how to ride… like if we had the right horse and enough money of COURSE we could make it to Rolex or the Olympics or wherever. Then, we get a bit older. We get introduced to the “greats”. We read books, we watch clinicians, we LEARN. And somehow, in learning, we learn how little we do know.

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Recently, I was reading one of my favorite blogs. I real OG in my book. A Enter Spooking (If you EVER had a clinic in KY, I need to be there.)

I am not a Dressage rider. My only real Dressage training has come from Eventing riders and that only began in late 2015. During my first Dressage lesson, the trainer asked me to ride the horse into the contact, and I couldn’t do it properly. It was the first day in many days in which Dressage makes me feel like a total fool.

However, I had felt like I had started to grasp how this whole Dressage thing works, at least on a basic level. Then Megan makes a comment about how “the rider should kneel into their thigh”. What…. WHAT? I stopped. I blinked. I read it again. Dressage riders should not sit on their butts. They should kneel into their thighs. Oh… Oh well… That actually makes a ton of sense. So now I was staring at my screen, and I realized that I didn’t even know how to properly sit in a saddle, much less ride in one.

sunset-trot

But riders do not let our inability to do something stop us from trying. The first time you sat in a saddle, I bet that you couldn’t even make the old schoolie trot… or even turn. The first time you jumped, you probably had no idea where your horse would takeoff. And the first time you went a trail ride, I bet you had no idea how to get your horse through that one damn puddle. However, you worked at it. You read books, you tried different things, you sought instruction, and you got better.

Each time we peel back another layer of the “riding” onion, we realized another skill (or set of skills) we do not know. But now, we have something that we know we can learn to make us better. So we try, and we get better, and we master more skills… and learn how much more we don’t know and can’t do. 🙂

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Deal With It

Riding at my barn is typically a very standard affair. I can pretty much rely on the fact that there will be no more than 2 other people riding at any one time, and in winter, there are never any lessons going on. Things tend to be quiet and calm and all that. (Seriously old media this post, sorry everyone)

Then, I showed up to ride on Saturday. Due to the weather, May didn’t get the ride I was planning on Friday, so she had a few days off. Either way, I was expecting to find my horse wide eyed and looking frantically around the outside of her stall… cool. Some deer came flying out of the woods, and I figured that was the end of it.

(Side note – how did I ever think the chair seat my old saddle put me in was at all acceptable?)

My plan was to just get the first day of our fitness plan started. I hopped on, and the ground was frozen enough to allow us to go on a walk through the adjacent field. It has a small hill in it, and it seemed like a good place to start our ride. And it was. And then we started heading back toward the main ring. Then, she saw it.

Recently, a horse owner with some disabilities moved into our barn. She uses a wheelchair and enjoys her VERY CUTE Morgan gelding by driving him. The cart has been hanging out in the indoor, which May hasn’t objected to, but seeing the cart chasing a horse around the outdoor arena was too much. We pranced, neck arched, and nostrils snorting. She threatened to spin and take off on me, and of course, I was using the mildest bit I had in my arsenal. Great.

There are two ways riders react to these situations, and I have been on both sides of both options.

  1. Freak out. This is always fun. I once rode at a barn where there were several older riders. One had a horse who had a nasty habit of bucking and breaking parts of her body. So when something spooked her horse, her reaction was to get off, start slamming things, and screaming at whoever DARED to spook her precious Pookie. I understand where this behavior comes from. She was scared. She had been hurt. She did NOT want to be hurt again. However, for the several years I knew her, her horse’s behavior only ever got worse because he never actually had to deal with anything.
  2. Just Ride On. I own a horse that I know I can handle. I specifically own her because I know that I can comfortable and capably handle her even at her worst. So I sat deep, kept reminder her that walking was what she wanted to do, and I continued our ride in the dressage arena. I didn’t push the issue by forcing May to work in the same space as the cart. (Partially because the lack of prep was unfair and partially because I have never actually seen this person drive and I wasn’t going to try and play dodge ball with something my horse is afraid of) Instead, I modified our trot sets. They were no longer about anything other than relaxing over her back and coming forward into the bit, and you know what, it took her all of 2 full 3 minute trot sets to relax into real work.

For our finishing walk work, I walked back to the main outdoor arena where the horse and carriage were now cantering around, and we walked outside the arena. May pranced a bit, especially when it came rolling up from behind her, but she was significantly more obedient than the start of the ride.

You can bet the next time I see that cart, I am going to ask if I can ride in the arena with them. (also, how cute would May look PULLING a cart?) How do you handle unexpected changes to your rides?

And for the record, May thinks all’s well that ends well, as long as it ends with cookies.

Creating a Plan

Back from our honeymoon! It was AHMAHHHHZZZIIIINNNNG, and I promise I’ll post some pics for you all this weekend.

However, I now have a pretty daunting challenge – Getting May back into shape. I rode her on Sunday, after getting back in the country around 1AM, and she was fantastic. We did a lot of walking, then ran through both BN tests for funsies, then more talking. She, fitness wise, seemed fine with it. Tuesday, I showed up to ride, and she was a bit stiff and sore. I am not sure if it’s from starting back into work or from all the mud KY.

Either way, I decided it would be good to set a pretty strict fitness plan for the next month. I know that she does need her hocks done, but I would prefer her to at least have a solid basis of fitness before we inject the hocks again. Last time I did them when she was still fairly unfit, and it was difficult to tell if they helped or not.

With all the hill work and strengthening we did last year (and almost complete lack of jumping and competing), she never showed any signs of needing her hocks done again. Now that I am looking at a competition calendar again, I think it is only fair to call in a vet before the season really gets rolling and get some serious eyes on the whole picture. First though- FITNESS!

February Schedule

Whew! It took actually longer to build this than I thought it would. The rides of walk-heavy, which I think is totally appropriate, and I try to build time before building intensity. Given that February continues to be an unpredictable kind of month, the schedule is flexible. (i.e. today was supposed to be raining and frigid, but temps might be warm enough for a ride tonight instead of Friday)

Of course, I also forgot my stop watch today, so we will see. There isn’t a whole lot of tracking this first round anyway, so I will probably just stick to it as best as I can with my phone.

Since I have never created a plan like this… ever…, I know it will probably take some adjustments along the way. Have you ever laid out a fitness plan for you and your horse? Or are you more of a “let’s see how it feels today” type of rider?

Walk the Walk

Sunday the sun rose and it was… a livable 27 degrees… as a high. Oh well. It was good enough to get to the barn. I had plan for a w/t and maybe even c hack. I was going to focus on quiet aids and a relaxed horse. I even put on my Dressage saddle and tall boots. I was ready. May greeted me with bright eyes and looked as ready for me to get some work done.

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Kind of Like This 🙂

Then I walked into the indoor. It was a bit colder in there. No worries. As I always try to do in winter, I hand walked May around the indoor a bit. I always feel like it is a nice opportunity for her back to warm up before I hop on up there. Then I felt it, under my feet. Frozen footing. Then super soft and deep footing, then frozen footing, and back and forth. Well, there goes my plan.

So what to do? With 3 inches of snow on the ground over at least an inch of ice, going for a trail ride around the property (my other go to) was also out of the question. I started off just walking around the indoor on a loose rein, but after 20 or so minutes of that, I needed to do something else for my sanity.

downhill
Let’s Face It… This is What We Want to be Doing

So we started working on some lateral work. I pushed May’s shoulder away for a few steps, then straight a few steps, then the other direction for a few steps. At first, she totally resisted, as this isn’t something we have worked on since November. Then she started to get loose, and I could tell the pony yoga was working. So I transitioned into moving the haunches away. The same pattern persisted: resistance to enjoyment.

Next, I reiterated the idea of moving away from my leg laterally in both directions in a super controlled way. We turned down the centerline and went 4 steps to the left, then straight, then 4 steps right, all the way down the centerline. It keeps her paying attention and holding herself, so she doesn’t just throw her shoulder over and fall out through my outside aides. Once I felt that we had warmed up properly, I asked for some more difficult stuff.

too-cute
Ah! Yeah! Movin’ That Body!

First, we worked on haunches in. All I looked for was 2 steps of proper haunches in before I moved the shoulder back into line with the haunches and gave huge pats. We ended with no sweat, but definitely a warmed and more stretched out horse. How are you dealing with this RIDICULOUS COLD?

The Staples – Products I Love

I think horse people are really picky about their “stuff”. We are typically conscious of how much this sport costs, and when we’re choosing between a new pair of breeches or a couple of lessons, we get pretty critical of our gear. We are also abusive. Change from riding pants to jeans in the middle of summer to haul some hay? NOPE. Those pants better hold up.

I am more abusive than most (I think). My saddle pads get washed every once in a while on the highest setting my washer can give me. My tack rarely gets a deep clean. My schooling clothes, including pants, go in the washer and dryer. My gloves also go in the washing machine… So what has lasted me? (and what hasn’t)

Piper Knit Breeches by SmartPak – Mid Rise Knee Patch & Full Seat

Have no doubt about these, the silicone patches are STICKY. Sometimes, I find the full seat just a bit too much (especially when I am trying to get out of my car). However, the material on them is like yoga pants (in the best way). I do prefer wearing a belt with them (as I do with all the piper pants), but I don’t feel like I get “saggy butt” in these. If you were disappointed with the original pipers, I would give these a try.

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My navy blue pair of the knits

As for the piper line, I have the originals. I find the material too stiff and the cut of the waist a bit odd. I still wear them, but rarely. I, for a while, was IN LOVE with the classics with the side zip. I mean, they looked like the tailored sportsmans and they stayed up on me! Then… every pair I owned started to disintegrate. Stitching that was there when I put them on, magically dissolved by the end of my ride. I had ridden in each pair for about an hour, once a week for a year, and they fell apart.

I can honestly say that I will never buy them again. Smartpak offered me a 50% coupon on my next pair of piper breeches, and they allowed me to apply the coupon to the knit breeches (which had just come out). Otherwise, I am not sure I would have ever tried another pair of pipers. Of course, if I could afford to ride in the Romfh Sarafina’s everyday, I totally would, but at $150+ per pant.. I will ride in my pipers for now.

Piper Holes
Yes, those are holes at my crotch and in the euroseat… And these devloped in one day

Matte One-K Helmet

After I fell off in my Samshield…

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I was reluctant to spend that kind of money on a helmet again. I am a strong safety advocate. I always ride in a helmet. So while I didn’t want to spend $500+ on a helmet, I was willing to do it if that was all that fit me well. Luckily, the husband (then fiance) lived near a Dover store at the time, so I tried on a bunch of helmets. IRH, Ovation, GPA, One-K, Samshield, Charles Owen, etc etc etc. The One-K fit my head like the samshield but was deeper and, somehow, even more comfortable or less than half the price. SOLD!

If you'd show in it, you should train in it. #rain #eventing @onekhelmets

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Since then, it has taken abuse through wind, rain, and dust. And, to me at least, it still looks as good as the day I bought it (with the use of a damp towel). Its comfortable in the winter and nice and cool in the summer. The only problem? I really want on in Navy too. 😉

Heritage Premier Show Gloves

Now, I know most people are HUGE Roeckl glove fans. They swear by them. I was convinced of trying them over a new pair of the Heritage gloves a couple of years ago. Never again.

Gloves

The heritage gloves are soft, comfortable, and breathable. They fit well and the flexibility across the knuckles is a really nice feature. They also last. While the Roeckls fell apart on me after a new months, my current heritage gloves are pushing a year. A year of sweat, heat, rain, washing, etc. etc. They also come in both brown and navy, which I think are fun

What are your staples, and have you tried any hyped products that have left you disappointed?

 

I Finally Rode My Horse

Sunday managed to reach temperatures out of the 20s and even into the 30s, so I finally got to ride. May hadn’t been ridden since Christmas Eve, so I did what every adult amateur does. I hopped on and went for a trail ride. Or rather, I got on and then avoided all 4 riding rings at the barn.

Thanks to the onslaught of rain we got before temperatures dropped into the teens and twenties, all of the outdoor arenas were frozen solid. They were full of ice chunks and solid hoof prints. Also due to the long stretch of frigid weather, the indoor was incredibly dusty. So the long hack seemed like our only real option.

Luckily, we were joined by another rider who hadn’t ridden her mare since before the holidays. The mare is a warmblood cross who the woman has owned since she was a barely broke 3 year old. Ever heard of horses that are “born broke” well, our trail partner is one of them. We got to tell fun stories about our spunky mares falling asleep before cross country and then taking the lead when we made mistakes.

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After our trail ride, I did end up taking May into the indoor to try and get a little work done. All in all, we ended up doing 40 minutes of walking and maybe 10 minutes of trot and canter total. Just enough to stretch the legs and get the blood flowing. May got a cookie and sucked down some water after our ride, so it must have been just enough for her. I am hoping to enjoy the next week of warmer weather before things fall frigid again.

In non-horsey news, we updated our basement, ripping out the old, dirty carpet and replacing it with some laminate flooring. The basement is the main entryway into the house from the garage and driveway, so it needs to be horse-stuff proof! Happy it’s done, can’t wait to add some storage solutions!

When You Find a Good One…

Now, May and I have had a pretty interesting go of it when it comes to farriers. The first farrier (FF) that I used when I got her was not up to May’s standards. In fact, I got a very upsetting call from the BM at the time, letting me know she tried to kill him…. Cool… She was then relegated to having to be held for the farrier… but she was still really poorly behaved. We pulled her shoes and switched her to the barefoot trimmer.

Here’s the issue. May had learned that she could pull her foot away from the farrier, so she did. While barefoot trimmer (BT) was fixing the issues, we learned that FF had been not really doing his job the way he said he would. I won’t go into details here, but it turns out that May was TOTALLY justified in hating this guy.

Once we started training seriously, May’s feet just weren’t happy being barefoot, so we called in Farrier Number 3 (FN3) to throw front shoes back on. All was well for a cycle or two, and then a cycle was turning into 10 – 12 weeks. He was the kind of guy that just couldn’t seem to get his schedule on track and would push appointments back farther and farther. Since May didn’t have any major defects, she was often the one being pushed vs. horses that needed pads, wedges, etc. etc. etc. Just as I was at my breaking point, it was time to move to KY, and May shipped to KY with 10 week old feet because I couldn’t get FN3 out. (and telling a new farrier to come work on my horse once before never seeing me again is not a great way to get a new guy out for one horse)

So then we came to KY and May needed her feet done BAD. I got recommendations and called farriers of other people at my barn… and no one would call me back. I am not sure if everyone was fully booked, if they didn’t want to work on a draft cross, or if I just sounded crazy on the phone. Then, I got a recommendation for my current farrier (CF). I also got mixed reviews from people saying he didn’t totally know his stuff and he wouldn’t be their first choice. Oh well. I was desperate, I was out of work, and he was affordable.

He met me after work (major bonus because it was already past dark), and I held May for him. He asked me a little about my competition plans (there were none) and about May’s workload (very light). Then, he got to work. We chatted to pass the time, and it wasn’t until he pulled a hot shoe out of the fire that I realized we had never discussed if this would be a cold shoe or a hot shoe… or that I had no idea if May had ever been hot shoed before. He wasn’t overly concerned, but he did make sure he was holding on when he pressed the show to May’s foot. She didn’t love the smell or smoke, but she allowed him to finish.

May’s feet looked (to me) great when he was done. We had no issues with tripping, cracking, or soreness, and five weeks later, he texted me to set up our next appointment. HE TEXTED ME! It was like the sky opened up and angels sang.

Then, KY mud hit in the spring, and we began to lose shoes. RAPIDLY. May had never pulled shoes before, but I had always had her in a very small, dry lot, not the multi-acre field she is in now most of the day. Without hesitation, he would come out each time something happened (it was probably 3 or 4 times) and fix it. There was no formal charge, but I started paying him more than I owed him each time May had her feet done.

Then, this happened….

And we decided to go barefoot. He remained patient and diligent throughout the process of allowing that foot to grow back. After a few months, I texted him to see if he thought he could put a shoe back on that foot. He was pretty optimistic, so we did just that. The best part? I no longer feel the need to be at the barn when he comes, a giant crack that May had since I got her has been growing out really  well, and she is one of his favorite horses to work on because of how well behaved she is for him. (I am sure he also appreciates the “extra” cash.)

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After the ripped off of the shoe incident, I got text messages with updates since I couldn’t be at the barn when the damage was revealed. 

So what does this all mean? It means that when temperatures rose to the high 20s for the first time in more than a week and for just one day, I got a text. He was asking if he could come that day and do May’s feet. She was due, but I had kind of decided to leave it up to his discretion. I certainly wasn’t going to call him screaming like a banshee, demanding my horse who isn’t working and is barely growing any hoof have her feet done at EXACTLY 6 week. When I got that text, I happily texted him back telling him he was more than welcome to do her that day and to just let me know when he was done. She got done, and he got an extra tip.

I am not saying that I will always use this farrier, as situations always change, but I am very happy with what I have found. What about you? Do you do anything special for the people that go above and beyond to help take care of your horse?

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?