Getting With The Program

Last night, I had my first lesson in… a while. Anyone else sick of hearing me say this? I AM sick of hearing ME say this.

I had originally wanted to take a jumping lesson, but the flooded status of KY in general, ridiculous winds, the threat of MORE rain, and a dropping temperature meant that I decided on a Dressage lesson instead.

The barn was oddly quiet last night with just me and NT around that evening, so our lesson was a bit more casual than usual with lots of chatting and catching up on the state of May. (Future injections, 2019 plans, etc). I’ll probably write about the lesson tomorrow, but suffice to say, we have both seen a lot of progress thanks to her help this past fall and the work my half leaser has been putting in.

As with most eventers at this time of year, I am looking at the 2019 competition season. My grand goals are, and have been, to get back to a recognized horse trial at Beginner Novice. Last year was a “I am hope we get back into the show ring.” This year is a “I want to do this.”

So I started looking back. What made May and I capable of moving form starter to BN in 2016? How did we get to the point where we were schooling Novice sized SJ course with relative ease that summer?

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I remember this being fun.

It wasn’t because I was younger (26 – 29 is not a huge jump… unlike 22 – 25 which seems MASSIVE). It wasn’t because I had access to a better trainer. (There are some serious similarities between NJ trainer and NT.) It wasn’t because May was more educated.

It was because I was in a regular program… and I haven’t been in one since.

Late 2016, we moved from NJ to KY just as show season was winding down and trainers in KY were looking towards Aiken and Ocala rather than their own backyards. Money was tight, and I let lessons fall into the category of “nice to have.”

^This feels like a lifetime ago…

Then in 2017, I had committed to lessons with my trainer at the time, but due to a job that had me traveling and her own schedule, we would average maybe 2 lessons a month… at best. Money was still tight, I got married in mid-summer, and the lack of competition goals meant that again, lessons fells to the back burner.

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Our First Lesson Together.

2018… I moved barns in mid competition season, but I still made it out to a couple of shows to get our feet wet again. (Literally and figuratively). Lessons started up again, and I was surprised at how much I felt like a fish out of water. My whole riding career had been focused on weekly lessons (and catch riding). Here I was, on my own horse, and feeling odd about lessons.

Then this year… I find myself really prioritizing lessons. So, for the first time since Spring of 2016, I have put myself into the weekly lesson rotation schedule. Fingers crossed that this has really been the missing link in my confidence lately!

So I really want to know – Are you a “weekly lessoner” or more of a “when I need them” or even a “don’t need no trainer” type of rider?

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Quiet Week

Quiet week over here. The weather has gotten drunk with a 60-something degree day yesterday followed by some snow flurries this morning. May has been really good lately, and the warmth last week let her do some fun things (like a little fitness ride in the fields with our half leaser).

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This was all grass this weekend!

On Monday, I even threw one of my friends up on her to play around with the Dressage buttons. Note to self: my horse takes a lot of leg and core to really hold collection. No wonder my thighs and core/back muscles ache after a good dressage ride.

Other updates, May is (hopefully) going to get a trace clip tomorrow. We will see how she feels about it. Historically, I have drugged her for body clipping… but we have done a lot of work with clipped this past year getting her mane trimmed regularly. Fingers crossed that it’s not an issue.

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Partly nakey #may is all ready for winter! #horsesofinstagram

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Finally, May has her annual injections scheduled for the first weekend in March. My trainer is going down to Aiken, and May has started showing some stiffness behind. Part of it might be fatigue through her stifles due to ALL THE MUD. The lameness shows up as a slight hip drop when the top line and hind end isn’t engaged properly under saddle. It’s a pretty classic showing for her that she’s uncomfortable… even if she looks totally sound 90% of the time.

Given the increase in her workload going into Spring and Summer, I am committed to keeping her comfortable. Are you all making any steps to set yourselves and your horses up for great things come Spring?

A Lot To Do About Nothing

I don’t really have a whole lot to talk about this week, so enjoy some old media… Things at work got settled, so that is a big plus. But the weather has been pretty abysmal. Our indoor is open, so it does get quite cold. (shout out to Karen for sticking with it).

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On Saturday, lessons were being taught in the indoor and the outdoor was partially frozen, so we just hacked around the property for a while. (Half leaser had a GREAT ride on Sunday though.)

Originally, I was going to ride on Monday when the weather was still somewhat decent. Then adulting intervened, and it didn’t happen. Then yesterday it barely got out of the teens with the sun up… so my ride in the dark was a non-starter. Today? Well its 11AM and the windchill is down to -21F… so… no…

This weekend is going to be in the 50s…. so I think May will just get the middle of this week off. Oh well. Stay warm my friends!

First Thoughts – The Rest of the Dover Haul

Remember when I was pretending I was going to be all responsible and save my extra gift cards for new breeches? Well… that plan went out the window REAL FAST once I was in an actual tack shop. (Funny how that happens). I ended up going a bit… wild… for me, and I bought things I just generally wanted instead of things I in any way really need. It’s been a long time since I let myself indulge like this, and it felt pretty good. SO WHAT DID I GET?

Flexi Spur Set

So I haven’t even tried these out yet, so have no real opinion on them. I really love my new boots (and will love them more once it’s not winter and I can wear normal pants under them). Unfortunately, I love them so much that I have hesitated putting spurs on them for fear of scratching them. My favorite spurs are… somewhere… I have no idea where, and the spurs I have been using are just little nubs that I am 90% convinced only have a placebo effect.

flexi spur setSo when I spied the spur rack, I immediately wondered if I could find a pair of rubber coated spurs. The rubber coated Stubben ones were $60…. I hemmed and hawed, and then looked at the basket at the bottom. There sat some unobtrusive black and rubber spurs. I liked the length and smoothness of the actual spur, the rubber coated interior, and the price point ($18… including fabric straps.) SOLD.

Then, I got home and mildly panicked that they weren’t legal because they weren’t metal. Here’s the actual rule (bolding is mine):

Spurs are optional for all three tests. Spurs capable of wounding a horse are forbidden. Spurs must be of smooth metal. If there is a shank it must not be longer than 4 cm (1 9/16 inches, measured from the boot to the end of the spur) and must point only towards the rear. If the shank is curved, the spurs must be worn only with the shank directed downwards. Metal or plastic spurs with round hard plastic or metal knobs “Impulse spurs” and “Dummy spurs” with no shank are allowed.

Since these are smooth and not particularly long, I think we are good. Anyone reading this differently? Worst case scenario, I can always change out my spurs for shows, but I like the idea of having the rubberized material stabilizing the spur against my boot.

LeMieux™ X-Grip EuroJump Square Pad in Navy

Alright, this dude is on sale for $130 right now… so it is still above what I typically pay for saddle pads (my white, smartpak branded pads.)

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56970721092__40a8415f-09ab-4146-ba4a-ab7280861807I have wanted something grippy and stock absorbing for XC. I have been using a ECP pad (the ecogold knockoff), and I like it…. but it definitely doesn’t fit quite right under the stubben. (also, if I do end up going to any rated shows, it would be nice to have one pad for SJ and another for XC). I also wanted to have a color with my next pad and NAVY! so YAY!

I rode in it on Tuesday. It seemed to have some shock absorption, but I didn’t feel as disconnected from the saddle as I did with my ogilvy. Everything stayed in place for the short ride, and it fit far better under my 18″ stubben. So far so good! And I am excited to have a fancy pad for things… because that’s important? I told you guys, this haul was not totally rational.

Professional´s Choice® VenTECH™ Contoured Jump Girth

Is this not the worst stock photo you have ever seen? And it’s literally the only photo of this product available… cool guys.

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I have been putting off getting a new girth for May for basically… forever. Her old as dirt SmartPak girth is starting to rust… and since the Stubben has really short billets (and May can hold her breath like no horse I have ever met), it’s also too short. I guess a new girth was somewhat sitting in the back of my mind when we went to look at helmets.

Then, after I put the helmet on the counter… this girth was RIGHT THERE.

First thoughts:

  • I love that the liner removes for easy washing (it was a feature of my old girth that I actually used)
  • The carabiner clip is held flat with a sturdy (seeming) piece of leather. I haven’t played around with this yet, but it’s always a handy feature. (But something I would 100% avoid if May was ever in bar shoes. I don’t care how “safe” it looks at the onset.)
  • The elastic is surprisingly long. I guess this is to keep down the bulk under your leg? In my case, it just made it somewhat easier to get on a fat horse who chooses to be fatter when saddles.
  • Speaking of fat horses, non slip is my friend and non-negotiable.
  • May HATES long leather girths, so I was a bit worried that the stiffer exterior on this one (Dover says it’s a TPU shell? but it just feels like plastic) would bother her. But it is flexible enough to be comfortable, and is better shaped for her forward girth groove than a traditional girth.

After using it on Tuesday, I was pretty pleased with how well it distributes pressure, despite the shape. May seemed to like it as well, and it looks quite nice with my saddle.

Overall, I am pretty happy with my “impulse” purchases at first glance, but I will definitely let you all know how these things age!

Have you bought anything “fun but not totally necessary” lately?

In Need Of Opinions – Helmets

Hello friends! I am on the hunt for a new helmet. The One-K is three years old, and while that is well within the life-span of a helmet, it is starting to look a bit sad. Also, I have no back up helmet laying around for A. Riding in Terrible Weather and B. if I fall off. So, I am looking for some input from all of you! (Keep in mind, my head fits pretty well in a Samshield and about perfectly in a One-K)

1 – Trauma Void™ EQ3™

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Who doesn’t love new technology in equestrian sports? Who in eventing doesn’t love new SAFETY technology?

Enter the Trauma Void. Top Safety Results, and Modern Look. Sounds like a home run!

Buuuut I know other One-K wearers who they just didn’t work for. (looking at you Centered In the Saddle)

 

2 – Charles Owen AYR8® Plus Helmet

COGYR8.JPGSo technically, the study linked above references the Charles Owen AYR8® Leather Look helmet as a “Good Choice”. Buuuuuut I don’t think that one has a removable/washable liner, and after having that feature in a Samshield and my One-K… I just cannot live without it.

The CO is classic for any ring/venue/english discipline. And I think they are flattering on most people. HOWEVER, I am not sure this would come event remotely close to fitting my head.

Honestly… I think that might be it. I could always get another One-K, and I REALLY like my One-K. I could even get the Defender with fun colors. Is there anything that I am missing that I should seriously consider? This is a BIG decision people! 🙂

2019 – First Thoughts

Typically, this would be a goals post, but goals are SO 2018. Right?

Joking aside, I was pretty torn about goals this year. I know a lot of people have forgone them this year, while others have set up broader or process-based goals. The truth is that even the first 8 days of January haven’t gone how I expected, so I don’t really feel like I am on steady enough ground to set any kind of goals…

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So instead, I am going to talk about the things I want to focus on this year.

Fitness – This started in 2018 and has been a great addition to my regular routine. I am not setting a goal of “x” number of times in the gym each week. Instead, I just want to keep an emphasis on moving and listening to my body.

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Blogging – I really LIKE blogging. I really want to get BETTER at blogging, AND AECs are in KY this year, so I even have a chance to see some of you. Blogging shall continue… but I would like to get some new media for you all.

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Friendships – 2018 was a weird year for me.  It marked 2 years of living in KY, and I have definitely felt the loss of some of my East Coast friends. I want to say yes to more things with my friends here in KY.

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Enjoying May – I want to ride and have fun with my horse. I want to try new things and be in the moment. I want to let the bad rides go easier and hold onto the good ones a bit longer. Heavy competing still won’t be in the budget this year, but hopefully, we can find some fun things to do within our budget.

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Continue Improving our House – We have some projects that need finishing touches, and a lot of painting still to do. However, it has been a labor of love, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

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And… that’s it. It’s short and sweet and without a lot of frills. I know a lot of you have already set your goals this year, so most of you are a whole week ahead of me already! Only 51 more to do. 🙂

Bloghop: Favorites of 2018

Big shout out to Amanda for providing inspiration when things are a bit light on the content side of things. I don’t tend to do a lot of year-end wrap ups, so this is right up my alley!

Favorite Show Picture

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PC Bluegrass Equine Photography

Getting back in the show ring this year was a massive goal for me… and we managed to make it to TWO shows and make MAJOR improvements between the two.

Favorite non-Show Picture

Gosh… I did NOT get a lot of media this year…

Favorite Thing You Bought

Well… I didn’t buy it, but the husband bought it for me. That counts, right?

Favorite Moment on Horseback

This whole video…

If I had to pick a picture though… it would be this one. Getting through the water safely was BIG for us. I will admit that our hunter pace this year came in a CLOSE second.

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Favorite Moment Out of the Saddle

Uh yeah… another video. BUT getting to volunteer was something on my list ever since I started eventing. This year, I did it twice. Both times were a GREAT experience. 10/10 highly recommend.

Favorite “Between the Ears” Photo

Do I get multiples? This photo is so representative of how my horsey-life has changed since switching barns. Tons of new friends, and I am rarely at the barn alone. (And May likes the trail riding opportunities)

Favorite Horse Book or Article

Uhhh… I am going blank on this one. I don’t read a lot of horse books, BUT I do read a lot of books that can apply to horses. This year’s stand out book? “Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes. It sounds SUPER cheesy, but Shonda is a down to Earth and relatable woman with a fantastic writing style. (not surprising considering she is the creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder…)

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Favorite Horse Ridden (or groomed/cared for) Aside from Your Own

So… I only rode 2 horses other than May this year. I am going to give this one to Cal,

May’s neighbor. I got to hop on him for some fun, while his mom got on May. Let’s just say, as a 16.2ish OTTB, he was a totally different ride from May, but a really cool horse. Image stolen from the barn’s website, so shoot me. But you can see just how adorable he is!

 

Favorite Funny Picture of Your Horse

Multiple pictures with this one…

My sister and I showing up to the barn to find a free May was one of the funniest moments of the year. So far, the new stall guard SEEMS to have solved the problem.

Favorite Fence that you Successfully Jumped or Movement you Conquered

The water probably should be here. Buuuuuut you all are getting ANOTHER VIDEO! hahaha. This year wasn’t so much about individual fences or elements but about upping the complexity of our exercises at home to produce results at shows. Like this clip from one of our lessons:

Favorite Horse Meme or Funny Picture

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This wasn’t the exact one I was looking for, but same concept and it gave me a giggle.

Off Season – Cross Training

I have a lesson tonight that I am pretty excited about, but I figured I would set the stage with you all with an update of things I am doing outside the barn. Exactly a month ago yesterday, my friend and I joined our local YMCA. And yup – that’s the pic of it above. It is small, clean, and rivals Disney World as one of the friendliest places on Earth. 

Original plan? Take a couple of classes and stay fit and motivated through, what seems to have decided to be a ridiculously cold and unlivable, winter. Reality? Ummm yesterday marked our tenth visit, and that includes me basically taking the week of Thanksgiving off to be with family. 

This is my first experience with really taking classes, and it has been an incredible mix of completely intimating, a bit embarrassing, but totally fun.

Intimidation? When the entire class is there before you get there, and they have 6 pieces of equipment laid out in front of them in some kind of pattern that, even at the end of class, I am not sure I fully comprehended. Oh, and the super pregnant lady who was DEFINITELY lifting twice the weight I was able to, and she looked bored. 

Embarrassment? When the kettleball teacher spent half the class trying to keep me from shrugging my shoulder up past my ear on every lift. Even thinking about it makes my shoulder shrug. 

Fun? Fun was this weekend and CRUSHING my goal. The goal? Do 10 miles in the hour long spin class on Saturday morning. Result? Oh I did 10 miles. In fact, I did 11.4 miles. I also improved my average watts from the mid-40s to 60. I felt like I could push myself and really be a part of the class. 

Left? Second class ever. Right? Saturday. 

The best part? I really think all this cross training is going to have a seriously positive impact on my riding… once mother nature stops torturing us. What about you? Are you doing any cross training or trying something new in the off season?

Breaking Out the Cold Weather Gear

I FINALLY had another lesson yesterday. I had taken the day off of work, and I was determined to take full advantage of it. On Sunday, the weather was warm and bright. The temperatures were in the mid-sixties, and there was just the lightest breeze. PERFECT fall weather… and it was my half-leaser’s day to ride hahahaha. 

So Monday, I had my lesson scheduled in the afternoon… and I woke up to 30 degree weather and snow flurries. That’s right. There was a 30+ degree drop overnight. Fun. Times. Also – what is this nonsense with the weather?

I bundled up, and I figured I would give you a rundown of my typical cold weather riding outfit:

32 Degree Jacket – LOOK HOW LONG!
  1. Smartpak Piper Winter Breeches – Do Not Recommend. Not even going to give you a link. Decently warm but too low cut, slippery, and stretch out oddly. 
  2. Under Armour in Baby Blue – Highly recommend. The link is to a more updated version, but I will never give up my UA base layers. 
  3. Ugly Christmas Sweater – Highly Recommend… but I couldn’t find a link to it. This sweater is at LEAST 4 years old, and I am pretty sure it is 100% acrylic. It is not floofy or soft, but it is WARM. AND it has held up to barn wear. Close enough to perfect for me. 
  4. Arctic Neck Warmer – Highly Recommend. These are 100% a staple in my winter, barn wardrobe. Keeping my neck warm is a nonnegotiable. 
  5. 32 Degree Heat Womens Sherpa line Fleece Jacket – GO BUY THIS. A lot of the comments complain about the cut (sleeves too long and a bit loose around the hips), but that makes it REALLY NICE to ride in. It does not bunch up around my hips, so keeps that lower back area warm in and out of the saddle. Horse hair loves to stick to this, but it lets me not wear my heavy jacket even when it’s 30 degrees and windy out, so I will deal with that inconvenience. 
  6. North Face Jacket – Highly Recommend, although, the link is to a newer style of the jacket I wear to the barn. The jacket I currently wear is probably older than 6 years old at this point. It was a hand-me-down from my sister. It is definitely a ski jacket, but I find these are long enough and more than warm enough for riding, and much prefer them to riding-specific jackets. The North Face is expensive, but several of the jackets I own from them are closer to the 10 year mark than brand new.  
  7. Heritage Winter Gloves – Meh. The gloves I used yesterday are so old that I am not even sure what the brand ever was. I also have these. The only point I will make is that I HIGHLY prefer winter gloves that are lined vs. bigger, bulkier winter gloves with synthetic material on the outside. Leather gives me grip, and I like that. They’re not waterproof, and I don’t think they are as warm as some other options, so if you are working all day at the barn, maybe avoid these. 

Would love to know if anyone has recommendations for super warm socks that aren’t too bulky? I typically layer thin cotton socks under warmer sock to make sure that moisture is wicked away from my feet without them getting chilled. 

Fail Friday – No Stirrup November

First of all – thank you for all the comments and advice I got regarding tall boots. The blogging community really is the ultimate resource. Super big shout out to The Everything Pony who basically made a review post just for me! (not really the truth, but it makes me feel special) Go check it out if you are also curious about the Mountain Horse Sovereign boots. 

We are halfway through No Stirrup November. Posts have been rolling in of various bloggers and their sore muscles, strength progress, and just general struggles. Me? I have ridden without stirrups… twice? I think?

Totally missed fall this year…

Now this hasn’t been due to pure apathy about No Stirrup November. It more has to do with life, weather, and daylight savings. Prior to daylight savings, I was able to round up a couple of no stirrup rides after work. Now, however, riding during the week means riding in the dark under lights.

While May isn’t bad or spooky under the lights and in the cold, she is definitely not her typical self. On top of that… my winter breeches are SLICK (any recommendations here?). To add insult to injury, the weather has just been plain nasty and my schedule has made it very difficult to get out to the barn. 

I’m not giving up though. Failure only really happens when you give up on something (or it kills you… whatevs). So I am determined to continue to drop those stirrups all winter and come back even stronger in the Spring! (maybe, one day, even with new media) Maybe tomorrow I will even get my first weekend ride in since… forever ago. 


One thing has been going really well though. Since joining the gym last week, me and my friend have made it to 3 classes: 2 spin classes and something that I can only describe as some kind of hellish combination of yoga, pilates, and barre. Even after a bath last night, I am INCREDIBLY sore, but it feels good to keep my body moving even when I can’t make it to the gym. 

What about you? Have you been able to take advantage of No Stirrup November?