Where Are You Fall?

October in KY is usually one of my favorite times of the year. The heat and humidity drops away, the evenings are bright and pleasant, and the leaves start to show their colors. Except for the first 10 days of this month (I am still counting tomorrow). The first 10 days of this month, this year, have been my worst nightmare:

Weather

What the above doesn’t show is the humidity and lack of any kind of breeze… which brought “real feel” temps into the 90s. Even the nights were hot and humid. How does May feel about it?

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Are you sure we have to? #may #horsesofinstagram #whereisfall

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The poor girl has already really grown in her coat. And, do you see what is at the end of this week? Those are 50s with lows in the 40s. Ugh.

So last weekend, May accidentally got Saturday off when the husband and I forgot to completely remove the groceries from my car before I went to the barn. 90 degree temps mean you CANNOT store meats and cheeses in your car for any extended period of time. The adult in me won out, and I went home after picking her feet.

Then on Sunday, May got an easy hack around the field. Maybe 10 min trotting, 3 minutes cantering, and the rest of the half hour walking. She was covered in sweat, and it took a solid chunk of time to get her cooled out the way I like.

This weekend is a total wash, as we will be out of town for a wedding. 🙂 Although, I may have also taken off Monday just so that I could squeak in a riding day. I don’t really have the time at work to sacrifice a whole day, but you only live once and work will still be there on Tuesday.

I am coming to the conclusion that clipping is probably on the docket this winter, but poor May thinks that is just terrifying. What about you? Has fall fully rolled into your neck of the woods yet?

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Behind the Stall Door With: May As Well

When I found myself at a loss for topics for today, Tracy came through with inspiration. Then, Olivia joined in on the hop to officially make it a party. If you haven’t checked out their versions yet, do that first!

Behind The Stall Door With: All I Need

Behind the Stall Door with: To Be Frank

The partnership between Emily O’Leary and her horse, May as Well, began about as unconventionally as any horse partnership could.

“I was debating just selling my current horse and taking a break for a while. No matter what though, I knew I wanted a plain bay gelding.” Emily admitted, before continuing. “Then, I drunkenly made a trade offer on the internet for a short, yellow mare named Krimpet.”

It turns out, that their first ride wasn’t even that magically. “Oh, I couldn’t steer at all, and we didn’t jump anything higher than maybe 12″. My first thought was that she would probably easier to sell then my current horse.”

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However, the two have stuck it out and entered the sport of eventing together. Going from W/T tests and crossrails up to a recognized horse trial at the Beginner Novice level. Let’s open up the stall door and learn more!

May Really Didn’t Steer

While there definitely were videos of May navigating around courses in her sale ad, it didn’t immediately translate to her new role as Emily’s mount. “During our first lesson, she tried to run out of the arena, and she couldn’t make a 30M circle.” It was a steep learning curve, where May learned that life was just easier when she went along with whatever crazy thing Emily asked her to do.

May Coggins Photo
First Coggins Photo! She NEVER gets this dirty anymore. 

She Was Always Show Perfect

At May and Emily’s first competition together, they did an elementary level combined test. “I remember being terrified because the warm up for SJ was in an open field, and I hadn’t yet ridden May in an open field.” Emily had nothing to worry about, as May was a total pro.

 

May Field Jump.jpg

She Has Some Non-Negotiables

May is pretty laid back about everything. Does that new OTTB need a horse to pony off of? May will do it. Did the new dog at the barn just do a zoomies through May’s feet while she’s on the cross ties? She probably didn’t even wake up. However, there are two things that May simply cannot handle.

 

May Walk.jpg

Fly spray is best delivered through wipes, thank-you-very-much. May lets all her handles know through snorting, wide eyes, and prancing in place that the act of heedlessly spraying her with STUFF is not to be tolerated. Meanwhile, clippers should be avoided at all costs, unless they come with cookies at LEAST the quality of Mrs. Pastures Cookies for Horses. Sugar free substitutes will not be tolerated.

She Is Often Underestimated

It has been assumed that May is a Dressage-only horse, a companion horse, and a retired broodmare before. She will sleep on the cross ties, wander around on the trails, and sunbathe while other school XC fences around her. However, when it is time to go to work, she is all business. As one Equine Dentist once said, “Wow, she really gets up there. You wouldn’t think that just looking at her.”

You might not know it just looking at her, but those that have ridden her have never forgotten it.

Still a Mare

It gets pretty easy to forget that May is a “mare”. She is totally cool with other horses getting in her personal space, I have never seen her swish her tail and pin her ears at anyone, and 90% the time, she just wants to get on with the thing. Whatever the thing is (eating, turnout, going back to her stall, riding, jumping, etc etc etc)

In fact, May apparently took some kind of small adventure on Sunday. The barn was out at a small show. When they left, May was tucked into her stall. When they came back, May was somehow in a stall on the other side of the barn. NT went over to her normal side of the barn to see what was up, and then she heard hoof beats behind her. May had re-escaped from stall #2 and was sheepishly making her way back to “her stall”.

You can see the stall guard and the step down here.

My theory? May ducked under her stall guard, wandered around the barn to see if there was any grain dropped on the floor. Spotted some food in stall #2, and decided to spend the rest of the day there. I think she is going to be relegated back to having the bottom half of her stall door closed when the barn is empty, especially now that the weather has cooled off a bit.

So how does May remind us that she is, indeed, a mare? She has OPINIONS.

Last week, I decided it was time to put May back into real work. She is sound now barefoot, and seemed perfectly happy to drag me around again. So it was time to reintroduce some real work. I threw on my Dressage saddle and grabbed my Dressage whip. The ride was planned to be fairly easy – reestablishing contact and bend.

Our warm up went fine. She was a bit stiff off both legs, so I returned those with the help of the whip. She got a bit tense while I was schooling the whole “one leg means move over” thing, but she quickly relaxed once we had a few successes. Great. I picked up the canter to the left and had a nice easy bend and lope in that direction.

Then, we went right. If you remember, bending right has been our issue lately. So, when she went to lean through her right shoulder, I lifted my inside hand and added my inside leg more firmly. As a result, she MELTED DOWN.

I mean, full on temper tantrum. Throwing her head around, stumbling over herself, shooting forward, sucking back, etc etc. For maybe a solid 2 minutes. What was I doing? Keeping my right hand up and my right leg on while cursing quite loudly. Here’s the thing with May. No matter how much she escalates, I can’t give in or escalate with her. I have to be firm, clear, and consistent.

Serious Opinions about Pictures lol

After her meltdown, she gave me a big huff and bent nicely around my right leg. I put my whip and cell phone down, since I didn’t want to really use either if she decided to have another meltdown, and we went back to work. She picked herself up through that shoulder, quickened the inside hind to compensate for the new balance, and moved better going over her back.

At this moment, NT came to the ring and complimented me on how well she was working to the right. I think I and both the other riders in the ring with me (both advanced riders thankfully) had a good laugh as we informed her about May’s mini drama series.

She may be a REALLY good mare, but she is still a mare. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. What about you? Does your horse sometimes hit you with overly dramatic opinions?

How Do We Grow Horse Sports?

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

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

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

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

Websites

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

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

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Is this relatable to the average person? Maybe?

Price Transparency

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

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

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

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

Diversity

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

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

Beginner Adult Friendly Barns

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog Hop: The Horse You Bought

After seeing Olivia’s blog post on “The Horse You Bought”, I hopped on over to Two and Half Horses, where the hop originated. Since it has been nearly three and a half years, I figured it would be fun to look back. I have zero media from our first trial ride, but I do have the wording of her ad:

Belgian/QH cross….UTD on everything. Has been shown and placed well at larger shows! Jumps up to 3′ courses. Trail rides alone and in a group, crosses water, trailers well… Literally does nothing wrong. Easy enough for an advanced beginner to handle!

To be honest, our first trial ride was not some beacon of hope where the clouds parted and angels sung. I could barely keep her on the rail, and at the canter, we basically careened around wherever she wanted to go. She leaned so badly that I was concerned she would trip and go down. The trot had no rhythm, and my first thoughts were “I could sell her as a trail horse for as much as I was paying” and “she’d be easier to sell than my c current horse.”

Seriously… so many people have this amazing AHAH moment when they buy a horse, like buying a wedding dress. BUT I didn’t have that. I had “this will probably work” and “I just need to ride something different.” She had really no personality and any jump we took that day was under 2′, and we got to it sideways. With all those romantic images in my head, I loaded her onto the trailer with a smile on my face anyway. Pure joy? Maybe not. Relief and terror? Probably more so that.

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Hilarious part? I still have this ENTIRE outfit except the breeches.

She was sort of easy to load (once food was involved), and we took her home. Then, I attempted to get a beauty shot of her at home, and I got this.

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And I wondered for a moment what I had done…

My first lesson? She couldn’t do a 20M circle and ran out the gate of the arena. Our canter transitions took more than a dozen trot steps, and my saddle really didn’t fit.

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And this was as good as our trot got. 

May was a lot greener than even I had anticipated, and I had ridden A LOT of green horses. I had started a couple horses from scratch, and this was even more difficult than that. There were moments of real promise… and moments where I couldn’t even figure out what was causing everything to go Oh So Wrong.

During one of these moments, I turned to my trainer at the time and just told her I was completely stumped. I knew we weren’t straight, thorough, or forward, but I couldn’t seem to get any of those things to work together. That day, I paid for my first pro ride on my horse, and it seriously helped us move forward.  I wish I had more media from those first few months because they were… not friendly to me.

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We added to her education with gymnastics and formal XC schools

I think this was our first “course” together:
Video Link

Overall, she was green but a fun horse to work with and every ride was engaging… even when I was mostly failing at accomplishing anything.

Fast Forward to 2018?

May has proven herself to be a really reliable partner. I have spent COUNTLESS hours ALONE riding at different barns. We have seen deer, bicycles, strollers, small children, quads, and, most recently, sheep together. We have done horse trails, Dressage, SJ, XC, clinics, hunter paces, trail rides, games days, and many bareback rides together.

May has been the horse my friends get on to ride something “other than a schoolie” before they set off horse shopping. She is also the horse that has, in slow motion, run away with more than one person in the arena. (never faster than a medium trot, just without willingness to walk)

We even did our first BN together… Which wasn’t the smoothest… But we got it done.

 

Her personality has come out of her shell. While naughty is probably never the right word, opinionated is probably a better one. She has broken cross ties, simply because she was hungry. She had decided that certain farriers should not be allowed to work on her precious toes. AND she has learned how to express to me when she feels a saddle does not fit to her standards (crow hopping).

However, now, I wouldn’t trade her for the world… Although, I could still definitely sell her for more than I bought her for!

Our First Hunter Pace

Now, this post is going to be full of old photos because, when I was a young teenager, I went on A LOT of hunter paces. I took barely broke youngsters on easier paces with manicured, rolling fields and jumps larger than 2’6″ marked with cute little cones. (Just in case my future-weenie self didn’t know a jump was “big”) I took school horses that needed a bit of schooling over the tough landscapes set by my local fox hunting clubs.

Domino
Check that helmet cover, crappy t-shit, suede half chaps, and an Appy who was probably not the best XC horse.

It was seriously my favorite thing to do on horseback. However, I changed barns (a couple of times) and then ended up in KY, where manicured eventing fields greatly outnumbered rough and tumble trails that highlighted the hunter pacing of my teenage years.

During my first lesson with her, NT asked me if I would like to hunter pace May. “Yes. Absolutely.” the words were out of my mouth without a second consideration. May had never been on a hunter pace, but she had always been reliable over fences and strong but manageable traveling in a group. Then, I promptly forgot about it.

The Monday before the hunter pace, I asked NT for a lesson, and she mentioned that we could do Thursday or Friday… but that Friday was probably too close to the hunter pace. It took a solid minute for the phrase to make sense in my brain. “Am I going to that?”

“I thought you wanted to…”

“Yes… Yes! I do!” A quick, but excited, text was sent to the husband to update him on my weekend plans, the entry form was filled out, and we were in business! I did not wear a helmet cover, a t shirt, or suede half-chaps. I pulled out my white sun-shirt, polished up my boots, cleaned my tack, and then stared at my bridle.

The D-ring Myler with the hooks is a great bit for May for eventing. It gives us a lot of help getting balance, but it doesn’t have a lot of “whoa” to it. (It doesn’t need to. I do enough unnecessary “whoa-ing” in stadium all by myself.) Would I even need more whoa on May? We were going about 5 miles in a group of 7 horses including at least 4 thoroughbreds. May is not a thoroughbred, but she likes to play one on TV.

I reached into my bit box and pulled out this bit. A 3 ring, Copper elevator bit with copper. (Thanks old horse for having the same mouth size as May.)

 

Bit

I threw two reins on, one on the snaffle ring, and one on the milder gag ring. I figured that,  if she’s good and easy, I can just ride off the snaffle, but if she is strong, I have the gag bit. Then, I did something another trainer had taught me. I vet-wrapped the buckles of the reins together. (The ends farthest from the horse… not sure why this is so hard to explain… The buckles that are included in the bight of your reins… I hope you get the idea). The idea here is I could  hold just the snaffle bit without risking losing the curb rein or creating too much of a loop. If I dropped my reins, it would be MUCH easier to get them back, and I minimize the likelihood of a rein going over May’s head. Quick, Easy, Safe.

So on to the actual pace. I didn’t charge/pack my cambox because there had been a chance of rain. Of course, my luck, it was sunny and warm all day. Oh well. Next year! (Tried to find someone else’s video on youtube, but couldn’t find a single one!)

We tacked up the horses, and May was her usual calm, happy self, munching on grass while I tacked up. I hopped on, and she even stood like a statue at the mounting block… I almost threw myself off the other side. I figured out my 2 reins (luckily a smooth curb rein feels a LOT different from my pebbled, rubber reins). We even snapped a quick pic before heading to the start box.

Hunter Pace Team
See? Barely a cloud in the sky…

My biggest concern going out was May’s fitness. I had been on hunter paces that had stretched to over 2 hours and covered roads, rivers, etc. I was assured that this hunter pace was 5 miles and optimum time was likely right around 55 minutes. Great. We could do that. Headed to the start box. Started off… and May’s shoe came FLYING off. She must have loosened it during the trailer ride over.

Now, NT is VERY familiar with the farm, and she had already ridden the course once that morning on another horse. I trotted May off. She was TOTALLY sound. I was assured the footing was super forgiving, so we decided to continue. I would just avoid jumping anything of any real size. (i.e. anything larger than 2′ LOL). How did May feel? Like a screaming ball of fire. She kept up with the thoroughbreds on every gallop, big hill, little jump, etc that we found.

Buddy2Then, we came up on an ITTY BITTY stream at the bottom of a TEENY TINY hill. I brought her back to a walk, so that she could walk over it. I grabbed my neck strap with one hand, kept my body back, and waited for her to figure it out. And she LEAPED over it, snapping her head up.

Luckily, her head doesn’t come that far up, but it did bring my right hand up at an alarming rate of speed… It also brought the butt of my crop, in my right hand, up to my face at an alarming rate of speed. I ended up smashing the butt of my crop into my chin/lower set of teeth. My teeth took off the skin on the inside of my lip, and I immediately tasted blood.

A quick “tongue check” of my teeth found them all still in my head and undamaged. So I kicked on. I ended up sporting a sweet face bruise/fat lip for a few days after.

Near the end of the pace, May was definitely tired. Still sound, but tired, and she politely trotted/loped the last couple of jumps. There was a LARGE stack of barrels I really wanted to try, but it will have to wait for a time when we have our shoes on (or are really acclimated to going barefoot.) After crossing the finish line, I spent some time trying to find her shoe near the start, but I had no luck. Oh well. It was hot, and I wanted to untack, hose May, get her (and me) in the shade a bit. As for my bit choice? Considering that I am sporting at least 4 different blisters, I am glad I upgraded this once.

Sunny
How cute is this dude? Pulled out of a trailer from (or going to) Mexico with all skin and bones. Quickly developed into the most reliable school horse one could dream of. During this pace, I trotted a 2’6″ coup… from a trot… while looking backwards because I didn’t see it and was checking in on a teammate.

We ended up coming close enough to the optimum time to come in second! Second apparently included a whole bunch of swag including: gift certificates to the local tack shop, t shirts, bags, medals, and a pair of slippers. Our barn brought 14 riders and 4 teams, and three teams ended up in the “medals”. Super fun day with the barn family.

As for aftercare, May got her hooves packed with magic cushion and was rubbed down before being turned out for the night. I am a big believer that turnout is the most important thing you can do for recovery. Even after being fully cooled out and spending time standing on the trailer, all of May’s legs were tight and cool.

Her foot looked a bit broken up, but it was mostly from losing the shoe. The magic cushion was probably more for me then her since the ride was 80% grass, 15% mud/dirt, and 5% minimal gravel (where we walked), but hey, it couldn’t hurt. May got her shoe put back on Monday, and I rode her on Tuesday. She came out fresh, happy, and totally sound.

Now I remember why I love hunterpaces. Both horses and riders tend to really enjoy them. Looking forward to our horse trial this weekend!

The Next Four Weeks…

For probably the first time since May and I moved to KY, we have a real calendar building out for the next several weeks.

Saturday, August 11 – Long Run Woodford Hounds Hunter Pace

Hilariously, this might be the thing I am most excited about. I hunter paced A LOT during my early teen years. I took green horses, babies that were barely backed, school horses that needed their heads screwed back on straight. Whatever was offered to me, I would hunter pace.

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Other than one pace maybe 3 years ago, I haven’t done it in more than 10 years, and I have never done it on a horse like May. Something that is sensible but game, and a horse that I know like the back of my hand. I am also going with a great group of people, which definitely makes the whole thing a lot more fun!

As long as it’s not raining, I’ll bring the cambox along.

Sunday, August 19 – Spring Run Farm Mini Trial

This barn is actually a barn I looked at to board May at before I moved to KY. It is a beautiful facility that used to host USEA rated events. While it wasn’t the perfect fit for us, boarding wise, I have definitely wanted to take a run at their really awesome XC course.

May

Since the courses tend to be bigger than your average schooling show, we are just going to play it safe and stick with starter. I definitely want to have a solid SJ and XC round in before trying to move back up. (Of course, I accidentally entered BN through their online entry portal, instead of starter. A call is in to the secretary to fix it.)

Sunday, September 9 – Blackhorse Stables Mini Trial

Hoping to move back up to BN here to end our season. I have been told that SJ and XC is a little more forgiving at this venue, and while it’s actually another barn I had looked at for boarding, I didn’t get a great sense of their XC facility when I went there. Luckily I have some time with this one, as the closing date isn’t until the end of the month. Yay schooling shows!

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After that? I will probably need to lick my financial wounds for a bit. These things aren’t crazy expensive, but it’s still extra money out of my wallet. I really need to take the time to list some extra items I have for sale this weekend…

What about you? How is your late summer/early fall schedule shaping up?

A Footloose Jumping Lesson

If you’re wondering what happened to me last week, join the club. I was called in for Jury Duty, and they quickly explained that, of the 60 people called, only 14 would be selected and the rest could leave at lunch time. Great! Except, I ended up being one of the 14 people and spent the majority of last week as a juror on a federal criminal trial. It was also at a location WAY DOWNTOWN in Louisville, so I was 45 min from home and 35 min from the barn, without traffic… given that there is always traffic in that area and they kept letting us out late, I basically didn’t get to ride last week… Oh well. Here is a summary of our lesson from the week below.

NT LOVES grids. She thinks that, especially in eventing, it is important to train horses to be responsible for what they are doing with their legs. The truth of the matter is, no one is ever going to hit ever jump from the perfect distance, so we have to train horses to make sure that they are confident and comfortable getting us out of some less than ideal situations. So instead of building exercises and courses that allow a jump, 20 strides, another jump, 5 strides, another jump, she built exercises that force us to think and react a bit faster.

The first exercise? A modified circle of death. In essence, we did the circle of death going to the left, but making right circles after the first 2 poles. See below… enjoy my paint skills.

Circle of Death

This was shockingly harder that I thought it would be. I really needed May to move off my inside leg and into my outside rein each time we changed direction, when all she wanted to do was drop her inside shoulder through my leg and barrel through my aids. Fun stuff. Eventually, we were able to do it without flailing around corners with me hopelessly hanging on the inside rein. Yay!

So then the circle of death changed again. We did it in the traditional manner, then circled in the opposite direction and came over an oxer in the middle of the exercise.

COD Oxer

Now, something interesting happened. If I could keep the balance and rhythm through the circle of death, then the turn and the oxer ended up being super smooth and easy. May POWERED over the oxer, and we ended up only doing this once in each direction. Calling it a win!

Now, it was course time. Let me just throw this out there… then I will explain. Luckily, all pics below are the jumps at the height they were set for our lesson, so you can have an idea of where we’re at. (somewhere between Starter and BN).

July Course

I always label the jump numbers on the side of the jump you are jumping from. So jump 1 was jumped from left to right, then the 2 combination was jumped from right to left. So yes. That means that the course started by jumping 1 near the rail, leg yielding out to the rail, then making a tight turn to jump the 2 combination on the quarter line. That two combination was a tight 2 stride… that I tried to make a 3 stride the first time we did it. The rest of the first course (which only went to jump 6) can be seen through my cambox!

It’s on mute because otherwise all you would hear in my heavy breathing. It was HOT and HUMID that day. After getting the 3 in the 2, I realized I really needed to get our butts in gear. I rode forward properly from there and, SHOCKINGLY, the rest of the course came up great. We were supposed to do the inside turn after the barrels, inside the red white and blue jump… but no luck the first attempt. Jump 4 jumped well, but I kept my leg on because of the liver-pool under jump 5. I shouldn’t have worried, May couldn’t have cared less. The triple rode AWESOME. It was a 1 stride to a 2 stride with the oxer at the end. So first course attempt was establishing the rhythm, but loosing the turns.

Our second attempt, we were told to add in jumps 7, 8, and 9. Except… I seriously massacred jump 4. I lost her right shoulder to the outside going around the corner, pulled (which made her MORE crooked), lost the distance. She chipped in, and jumped through her right shoulder, shoving my foot out of the stirrup and landing in a heap. I, embarrassingly, thought I was going to fall off. Nothing like impressing a new trainer in your second jump lesson by falling off because you lost your stirrup….

Here you can see the triple combination to jump 7. You can also see jump 4 (the watermelon jump) and jump 9 (the far, red white and blue vertical)

I regrouped, and we started again. I nailed one, got through 2, made the sharp turns to 3 and 4. Then, I got a little tight to the entrance into the triple combination. I am about 95% sure that I stopped breathing. We made it through fine. May really does have plenty of step. I made a VERY BAD turn to 7, and I realized I was REALLY dizzy when we landed. I circled and regrouped and came back to the walk. It was a cop out. I keep thinking that I probably could have made it through 2 more jumps, but was probably worth it in a lesson? Probably not. We took the walk break, and finished over 7, 8, and 9.

Just a slightly “to the left” pic compared to the one above, so that you can see the blue barrels and how close they were to jump 7.

I was exhausted. I felt heat sickness creeping up on me. I chugged a bottle of water while I hosed May off, and once she was in her stall under a fan, I sat down for maybe 20 minutes to regroup. It was bad. I was so sore the next day, and it was just really disappointing to me. I have spent the last couple of weeks getting up a 5AM to get to the gym before work, and this just reiterated how out of shape I have really gotten.

All I can do right now though is keep moving forward. I am pushing my morning workout a little harder, upping the amount of time I spend in the saddle (especially cantering) each ride, and I am making more of an effort to eat better to make my (and May’s job) a little easier with a few less lbs.

How did May feel? When I turned her out in her field (after a cold shower and some time under the fan), she took off galloping across the field to tell her friends about how awesome she is. I had to laugh. As usual, the problems are mine, not hers.

The circle of death! Hahaha (and the first 3 jumps of the course all the way in the background).

How do I feel about the lesson itself though? AMAZING. Reflecting back on it has made me realize just how much improvement I got from May through that one lesson. This horse has a habit of pulling me down and out of the tack after fences, but through these exercises, I had a horse that landing and came up to me, instead of pulling down. It was a huge improvement, and I can’t wait to keep working on it.

Past Horse Shopping – Part 1

Quick Update – May As Well Event officially has a Facebook page!

I am not in the market for another horse. I don’t WANT to be in the market for another horse. In fact, when I bought May, she was the only horse I looked at, and I traded away my old horse for her. Why do I dislike horse shopping so much? Probably because the experience is always pretty miserable. However, now looking back on my horse shopping experience 6 years ago, it’s something I can laugh about, and I hope you can to.

When I bought my first horse, it was before I got into eventing, so I wasn’t looking for an eventer. I was looking for a jumper horse that could cross into the adult equitation divisions. 3′ and under. Didn’t have to be fancy. I think my specs were:

  • 15.2 or taller
  • Over age of 4 (I wasn’t in a rush, but didn’t have the time for a 3yo)
  • Under age of 13
  • Capable of jumping 3′
  • Wouldn’t kill me
  • Under $5K

I have seen this happen. In fact, I ended up buying it in May.

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However, I saw a lot of interesting horses with that spec list. Let’s start with horse 1!

Oldenburg Mare – 16H – Bay – 10YO

This one even had some show experience at the level I wanted to compete. Seller mentioned that she really wouldn’t be competitive as a Low Child/Adult Jumper (3’3″ – 3’5″) as she was a brave jumper but not always the most careful. That’s fine. Safe and fun was more important to me then ribbons, and it explained the lower price. All good, reasonable things. Right? She was even less than an hour away from my barn. Great!

We went to go look at her. I don’t even remember if the trainer got on first, or if I hopped on. Either way, we passed through the indoor and into the outdoor because “The outdoor has better footing.”

The mare was in a pelham, which I only remember because it had been quite a while since I had ridden in two reins. I was also handed a pair of spurs. Again, not something I had ridden in often. Not a huge deal. You can do the eqs in a pelham and spurs, and it isn’t outrageous gear for a jumper. I got myself sorted out, and asked the mare to move on.

Her whole body weight was immediately in my hands. I tried to give her a bit of rein, and the seller starts shouting at me, “Keep contact with her face.”

Really? I thought. This much contact? I tried just sliding my hands forward and got the same response. Fine. This is your horse, and I will do it  your way. 

At the trot, I picked up on another issue. The mare had 0 flexibility in her body. It was like the muscle that run along either side of her spine were tensed into solid rock and there was nothing I could do about it. Now? I probably have a few tools in my toolbox for her, but not back then.

Then, I asked for the canter. To the left, no issues. To the right, she swung her haunches in, levitated, and picked up the left lead. It wasn’t so much a naughty response, but it was like she just COULDN’T rock back on that left hind leg like she needed to. The seller’s advice? “Keep more contact with her face.” I wish I was kidding.

I finally figured out that it was easier for her if I really rocked my weight back with her when I asked. (mind you, I was all of 140 lbs then, and she was a stocky mare.) After cantering a bit, I was told to jump her through the triple combination set up on the outside at around 2’6″. I think it was a vertical, 2 strides to a vertical, 3 strides to an oxer.

Fine. I pick up a good canter pace. Turn the corner. She TAKES OFF. Jumps the first jump from a stride away, does ONE stride, and jumps the second vertical. I circle before the oxer. Nope. Not dying on this horse. Seller AGAIN tells me that I need to hold her face tighter and keep her more collected at the very beginning. Basically, I end up cantering towards the combination in a skiing position.

I managed to get two strides in-between the first two jumps and then halt half HARD to get the 3 to the oxer. Mare cracks her back and then tries to take off on the other side. We do a couple more jumps to prove how brave she was, and then I handed her back to the seller with a quick thank you.

I was crippled with muscle soreness for 4 days after that, and that was when I rode 4 horses 6 days a week. I also was later told some shady things about the trainer selling the horse… I won’t go into details, but passing was probably the right move.

SmartPak Update

After my review went live, another smartpak rep did reach out to me and recommend another fly mask. This one. Her comment was that it didn’t rub her thin-skinned thoroughbred. However, if it fits her thoroughbred, it probably doesn’t fit my draft cross, and it only comes in a standard horse size.

Honestly, I just might go try and support my local tack shop after work tomorrow. 🙂

Cost of A Local Horse Show

First of all, our trip to the Outer Banks was amazing, even if traffic getting on the island meant we moved 10 miles in TWO HOURS. Oh Well. Worth it. We had warm, sunny weather, a few days of the ocean at like 80 degrees, and more sun and booze than I could handle. It was a great way to unwind, and it was so nice knowing that May was spending the hot, Kentucky days inside with plenty of water and a big ceiling fan over her stall.

We got home late on Saturday, but I still was excited to head to the barn on Sunday. May was HYPED for life hahaha. It was only in the mid 80s, so a lot cooler then it had been, and 9 days off were apparently too many. We pranced around the field for a bit before I decided to just do some trot sets and call it a day. Hopefully, her attitude will be much improved today!

A lot of people have been doing posts on their show costs, and I figured I would jump in. I have only done 1 horse trial in KY, and it was a very local schooling show. I only paid for trailering (no coaching), but I thought it would be great insight for anyone in the area who MIGHT be CONSIDERING trying out an event. ( DO IT! )

Show Entry Fee: $130

Trailering: $65

Photos: $30 (3 digital prints)

Lunch: ~$20 for 2 people

Total: $245

I guess that would be the reason why I plan on sticking with local, schooling shows for now! Next year, if I end up being able to show now, I will buy a membership with the schooling show organization at ~$40. It gives you $10 off each entry fee, so pays for itself in a few shows.