Last week was the first week in a long time where I only rode my horse once. On Tuesday, my trainer rode her, and I had all the plans in the world to ride on Thursday evening. Then… I got stuck at work until almost 7:30PM. UGH. Friday wasn’t an option because #Life. And then Saturday I had some adulting duties to attend to.
So Sunday, I got to the barn relatively early (before 9AM), and I pulled May out of the field. (Turns out, if it’s not too hot out yet, she is right near the gait eating grass. Good to know.) I threw her in her stall to give her a chance to drink some water, as I pull out my tack. Her field has an automatic waterer, which I have seen her use many times, but when the grazing is good, May would much prefer damp grass over actual water. (I feel the same way about a milkshake vs. actual water)
By the time I threw tack on, it was around 9:30, and I was already covered in sweat. Glorious. Given that she hadn’t been ridden since Tuesday, I figured I would do a fitness ride. 5 min of walk. 4 sets of 3 min of trot with 1 min of walk in between. 2 sets of 2 min of canter with 1 min walk in between. 5 min walk. Total ride, about 32 minutes with about half of that walking.
The cool think about our farm is there is ALMOST a complete track loop around the property. Unfortunately, it is kind of disrupted by the arenas/indoor/driveway. and it is super hilly between the arenas and the paddocks, so you can only really walk up and down that section.
My solution? I started looping and reversing direction through the arena, since the gaits are left open enough to trot though them (with some caution). I for sure wouldn’t canter through them, and I probably wouldn’t have done this if anyone else was riding in the outdoor, but it was just me and May. It worked out really well, especially since one loop around what part of the loop is available is about 1.5 minutes of canter. Winning.
I figured May was going to be kind of forward and want to blow through my half halts, so I was surprised when she came out kind of behind my leg. I think I spent the first two trot sets kicking her along and wishing I had my Dressage whip with me. Oh well, notes for next time. She really does not like the heat.
However, a ton of walk breaks meant that, by the time we were done, she was hot and tired but not overly uncomfortable. We just about broke a full body sweat before finishing, so I figure that’s a job well done in this weather. How did May feel about it though? Less than enthused.
Yay Cross Country Day! Right? Right! Except…. we left the barn at 6:30AM to make my trainer’s ride time and… it rained most of our drive. I anxiously watched the weather report, and that wasn’t looking promising either. My 3:46PM ride time was right smack in the peak of the anticipated thunderstorms. Plus, if there were lightning delays, we might run out of sunlight before my division could run. UGH UGH.
No matter what though, our team would not be deterred! We all hopped out of the truck and hustled to get my trainer on. It was super fun watching the Prelim and Training level riders go out and come back on course. Although, I was kind of shocked at how many of them were going out in muddy, hilly conditions without breastplates on. Is this a thing? Let me know.
Things wrapped up pretty early, and the sun started to come out. We have a few hours until the BN riders had their rounds (around 2PM), so we got the horses all settled with hay and water and then grabbed some lunch. Honestly, those few hours were BEAUTIFUL.
After lunch, we decided to walk the course again with our trainer, since we had walked it on Saturday night without her. There were very few things to talk about on the Starter course, but we did have a short discussion about the water complex for starter. I really should have gone back and read the rule book about it. The water complex was marked S1, but the flags were snugged up around the water with no way to go around it.
Future reference, this is a compulsory passage. Here’s the rule:
Numbers and Letters – Each obstacle shall be numbered. Obstacles with elements or options (see EV140.2) shall in addition be lettered (A, B, C, etc.). Each compulsory passage shall be marked with the first letter of the level and numbered consecutively.
ERRORS OF COURSE. All compulsory passages and all obstacles, including all elements and/or options, must be passed or jumped in order, under penalty of elimination.
However… I couldn’t find anything about if you can even get a refusal in a compulsory passage? I wish I had known the answer, because if it was no (which I think it is), then I would have schooled the water. Oh well. More on that later. I figured I would throw the pics of the whole course below, so you can see it in SUNLIGHT. You know, the way I saw it before I left the startbox.
Around 1:15PM… it started to thunderstorm and BAD. We all ended up huddled in the dressing room of the trailer with the door closed because it was raining sideways. At this point, I texted the husband and told him not to try and come. The last thing I wanted was him spending nearly 3 hours in the car on a Sunday, driving through torrential rain, to see me NOT ride. The radar looked miserable and only one BN rider had gone out at that point.
Luckily, there was only one round of lightning delays. Once it was lifted, everyone moved quickly to get the BN riders out and on course before weather could roll in again. At this point, I have to give so much credit to the organizers, volunteers, and competitors at this competition. Everyone HUSTLED, but there was NO chaos. Riders showed up in warm-up, got their place in line (seemed to be 4 – 6 horses out), got warmed up, and went. No one complained, got angry, or even seemed all that frazzled.
The footing though… was pretty shot. As a result, there were a lot of refusals and a few eliminations, so I was rethinking my plan.
Once our BN riders were done, I looked around and realized that they seemed to be almost done with BN, so I hustled back to the trailer and threw tack on May. How quickly did I get ready? I put my riding pants on OVER the leggings I was wearing, and I wore my trainer’s C4 belt because I couldn’t find mine.
We power walked up to the XC area, and I felt my little fear bird show up.
The mud was deep. My horse is barefoot. The course was soft and easy for her but I don’t think I have ever ridden this horse in conditions like this. Then, I walked my way through my fear. The truth is, I spent my younger teen years hunter pacing very green horses over WHATEVER in the Spring and Fall in NY/NJ. We never used studs, and I had definitely ridden in worse weather. I just needed to take my time, ride the rhythm, and keep May’s hind end under her.
I warmed up on the flat as quickly as possible, since the footing in warm-up was fetlock deep mud at this point. NT advised me to pop over the crossrail… and I told her I couldn’t. the takeoff and landing for the crossrail was pretty much gone. Deep skid marks crisscrossed through the mud on both sides and at all angles. We decided to just pop over the small coop and then the log. May was ON her game and taking me to the fences, despite the footing. I felt good, so we headed to the start gate. On the way to the start gate, someone commented to me that my horse looked totally unfazed by the footing and was definitely a mudder. I couldn’t agree more.
Then… as we were standing by the start gate, the water flag conversation came up again. I guess people weren’t going through the compulsory crossing by the water. We were coming up with a plan for it (i.e. just go through the flags no matter what), and then all of sudden I got the “5, 4, 3, 2, 1” countdown… and I was probably 20′ from the actual box. DAMN! I pulled May around, trotted into the box. Stopped, set my watch, and went!
Jump one rode great, but she quickly fell right on me. We had a discussion about NOT doing that… and then she did it again at jump 2. I guess the starter jumps were too easy, so she needed to add her own level of difficulty.
Jump three was a VERY small jump, but it was off a tight left hand turn. It also had a steep hill right after it that crossed over both the BN and Novice paths from earlier in the day. Since I wasn’t sure about the footing there and the jump was so small, I trotted the turn and kept May in a collected canter over it.
We swept down the hill to the brush at 4. There’s a picture of this somewhere… I didn’t totally get our rhythm back by it, and I didn’t want to make any big moves in this footing. As a result, it rode pretty awkward. Oh well, May could care less.
Jump 5 was a little roll top on the hill. May was looking back at the warm up and we jumped it weird. Oops. Jump 6 was shared with BN, but they took the brush off the top for us. It was a bright blue roll top that rode GREAT.
Jump 7 was a little oxer thing. By this point, we were getting into a rhythm. The rhythm was simple. Pitter patter canter on the long stretches. Then, I would pick her up and get her moving forward maybe 8 strides before the fence. Then land and back to pitter patter. We had SEVEN minutes to finish this course, so I was in ZERO rush.
Jump 8 was a little red coop that she jumped great… with her eyes mostly closed.
Jump 8 was a cute little cabin going downhill. I kept her canter super collected so that we didn’t launch ourselves down the hill in the mud.
After Jump 9 was the water crossing. As I got closer, I saw that the flags had been moved so that you could go around the water. Again, I wasn’t sure about the rules here, so I went around the water but through the flags. May took a hard look at it, since it was now deep, dirty, and a bit slick, but she went through. At this point, I had 3 jumps left in a mostly straight line, and I had a 4:15 on my watch. The penalty time was 5:00, so I decided to grab a quick trot circle. (Of course, now I realize my watch was slightly behind but whatever). Either way, I am glad I did because it led to some cute pics (PC: Vic’s Pics).
After wasting maybe 30 seconds, I continued on. Jump 10 was tiny. like TINY, so that was fine. Jump 11 was a cute little saddle rack. Then, it was over the last, through the flags, and within time!
Neither May nor I was at all winded, but it was just starting to rain again. While I chatted with my teammates a bit, May got to walking around. I saw the girl in 1st place coming through the finish line after me. It was a junior rider, who was just BEAMING ear to ear. I congratulated her on a good weekend before walking my own pony back to the trailer.
Overall, we finished on our Dressage score of 29.3 and in second place. I couldn’t have been happier with my little yellow mare, who was a total professional the whole weekend. I guess it’s time for the BN move up. 🙂
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).
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!
Now, it might not have been the wisest decision to push forward with my trip to Cincinnati on Sunday. Saturday it rained all day, and then temps dropped into the single digits and it snowed. In fact, a lot of churches around Louisville actually cancelled services. Buuuuuut I had an insanely tough week at work*, and I was dying for some retail therapy.
As we were getting dressed, I asked the husband if he was sure it would be ok. “It’s one major highway. It will be fine.”
And… it was fine. Sort of. We definitely hit some areas of the highway that hadn’t been plowed… some areas where only one lane had been plowed, and some areas where they were trying to plow/spread salt. The whole way up, I was refreshing the store’s facebook page. Begging it not to suddenly pop up that they had decided to close for the day.
At around 11:15AM, we pulled into the partially plowed parking lot. And I emerged from a salt and slush encrusted Jeep into weather that was just peeking into the double digits. (at least the sun was out!)
I walked into a fully staffed Dover… and we were the only people in the store. Then, I proceeded to be THE MOST annoying customer I think that woman had ever helped. It’s not that I wasn’t polite… I just wanted to try on all the things.
“What helmet do you have now?” the saleswoman asked, clearly hoping for a quick sale.
“A OneK, but it’s been a few years. I really want to try some other stuff.”
I started with the coveted Back on Track TraumaVoid helmet. Middle of the pack in terms of cost, but with all the bells and whistles I was looking for. The helmet fits right in on the shelf with the Charles Owens’, Samshield’s, OneKs and IRHs. The weight was comparable with the CO and Samshield. Maybe a TOUCH heavier than the OneK, but it wasn’t that noticeable. I doubt you could tell the difference on your head. We measured my head (since my current OneK is just a “M”), and the Dover salesperson scurried into the back to service probably the only customer of the day.
The Back on Track TraumaVoid came out. I pulled my hair neatly into my hair net and… it wasn’t even close. Ok. Let’s go a sive up. Nope. Let me put my hair down. NOPE. Let’s go one more size up… I finally got it on my head. And it was horrifically uncomfortable. It seemed that the only place it put pressure on my head was on my temples. I think I have a wide, oval head… like a rounded rectangle. >.< I shifted it around to try and get it more comfortable. I put my hair down, then up again. It just didn’t fit. I didn’t even try to buckle it up. It wasn’t going to work.
Ok then… Let’s try the Charles Owen. They were a bit more expensive than the TV, but they were 20% off! They had the round version, so I excitedly threw that one onto my head. And it was like it was only making contact with the front and back of my head… So… no. Maybe I am mistaken… maybe the regular CO will fit my head.
She grabbed one for me, and I put it on. It looked SO CLASSY. It fit pretty good. A bit tight at my temples, but not super uncomfortable like the TV. I shook my head around, and it stayed put. I know the CO are known for compressing down a bit, so I figured it would probably break in. Then I started thinking, what if it doesn’t with the removable liner? Or what if it breaks in too much? Is my head starting to hurt because of the pressure or because I am stuck is some kind of paradox of choice?
I looked to the husband for his thoughts. They’re all black… and they all look the same.
“You know…” I started as I looked at the saleswoman… “Maybe I can just try on the Suede Defender OneK.” For a split second, I thought the saleswoman was going to roll her eyes at me, but she’s a pro. She just nodded and found one for me.
“This one comes with an extra removable liner.” (now we were speaking my language.) I stared at the helmet. It’s not flashy, but I don’t tend to like how I look in boring helmets. Anything more flashy just makes me more uncomfortable.
I slid the OneK on my head, and the saleswoman immediately went “oh.”
Why “oh”? Because even from 5 ft away, she could immediately tell that it fit PERFECTLY. The OneK just hugs around my head. There are no gaps. There are no pressure points. It is just even, comfortable pressure all the way around my head. It comes down low enough to not feel like it is just sitting on top of my head, and the chin straps sits comfortably behind my actual chin, but in front of my neck.
So that was that. New Technology is REALLY cool, and I hope it catches into some other helmet brands. Unfortunately, it won’t benefit me until it comes in a helmet that fits my head.
Long and short of the story? Try on as many helmets as you can whenever the opportunity presents itself. When you know, you know. I’ll talk about the rest of my haul after I get to put them on my horse tonight!
*Work got so bad last week that as soon as I could escape on Friday. I went to the barn. I think my bloodshot eyes and not so subtly running nose immediately alerted everyone to how things were going for me. My half leaser had a lesson right after I arrived, but no one would move forward with the lesson until I got on my horse and took her for a walk alone around the field to clear my head.
I stayed that night until my toes froze and I could no longer feel my hands (I had none of my winter barn clothes in my car). But my heart and head were both lighter for it.
First of all, a GIANT thank you to everyone who commented on my post and facebook and instagram regarding the great helmet search! I think I will have to suck it up and make the pilgrimage to Dover (turns out, it is a full hour and a half away), to try on all the helmets. Be ready for an epic blog post about all the helmets.
As for Ms. May… she’s been both a delight and a frustration lately hahaha. I think the wet weather has been keeping her from really moving around in her field like she usually does, so she has been a bit more tense and flighty lately.
I rode her last Tuesday night, and it was just a really odd ride for a lot of reasons. First of all, the weather made a SHARP 180 during the day on Tuesday. From 65 during the day, to close to 40 when I was actually riding… and we were riding under the lights trying to stay out of the way of a pretty interesting jumping lesson.
During that ride, she was tense through her whole body, half halts were considered to be suggestions, and the idea of coming off her forehand was a foreign language. I ended up taking my winter gloves off and riding bare-handing (something I NEVER do) because I couldn’t figure out why the connection was SO bad. It varied between her hiding behind the contact to her leaning down and bearing into it.
So what do you do? You do a ton of transitions. Trying to get the horse to accept both the reins and the leg. Or at least… that was my plan for action. The canter was just an impressive feat of holding the horse together with all the aids. Leg stayed on until the hind end engaged, seat stayed deep until shoulders came back to me, hands stayed engaged until she flexed around the contact. Then, suddenly, it all softened, and I had a really nice horse on my hands.
She still wasn’t super supple laterally, but she was engaged and listening. Cool. Then, I spotted my trainer doing a cool exercise.
The exercise had you jump one wing (maybe 2′ high), loop around to the second wing (maybe 2′ high), and then come back to a trot or walk and go over the center piece (maybe 18″). The piece was really more of a spindle shape than a barrel, so it had small sides on it as well. However, it was REALLY narrow. (I would think the same method would work with a small barrel, but they definitely need to be LITTLE.)
The goal was to go perfectly straight over the center piece and really have the horse between your legs. May’s feeling on it? That it wasn’t worth jumping. She was great over one, and two, which looked like proper jumps to her. But over the spindle? Nope… she just stepped over it and knocked poles everywhere. But, she was straight, and I felt bad making NT reset jumps for me when I wasn’t even in her lesson. So we called it good. She was straight, she was brave, she was just UTTERLY UNIMPRESSED.
Friday night into Saturday morning it snowed, so I wasn’t sure if I would make it to the barn. However, by mid-day, the snow had melted off the roads for the most part, and I figured I should probably ride the beast again.
The barn was bustling with activity as NT and some working students and other boarders worked to make sure the place was fully winterfied before a serious cold snap passed through KY this week into next week. (The high this Sunday is 20 degrees, with a low of 4… I told the half leaser she can picks another day to ride haha)
I tacked up May… noting just how wet her feet are. Ugh. And I headed into the indoor. The trainer from the other barn was riding in there, doing one stride tempis around the outside of the arena… nbd. Let me just get on and try to bend right. I hopped on and we walked for a while.. I am not sure why I decided to just walk, but it was a good decision apparently. May got nice and limber, and by the time we went to trot, she was READY to get to work.
She was quick off my leg, but consistent in the contact. She wanted to get heavy through the transitions, so we did a lot of big loopy circles with transitions and changes in direction. I was concentrating so hard on maintaining this great feeling, that I did not see the working student approaching the arena with the massive wheelbarrow. May did, however, just as we passed by the arena entrance and the wheelbarrow was all of 5′ away from entering.
May popped off the contact, threw her head in the area, and SKITTERED away from the door. The WS kept apologizing as I put my leg on, lifted my hands, and reestablished the trot we had before. I told her it wasn’t her fault and no big deal… but I hope she took my word for it.
I spent a lot of time at a barn with some older ladies with some serious fear issues. Anything that you did the spooked their horses resulting in screaming, throwing things, and then at least a week of the silent treatment. I know it came from a place of fear, but I refuse to be that way. Spook my horse. Please. It gives me A LOT of information on where our holes are. (Or just confirming the fact that my horse is a bit high at the moment).
However, May settled right back into work. I did some shoulder ins and leg yields at the trot. They were great… ok. I picked up the canter and did some leg yields both away and towards the wall at the canter… also really good for something we haven’t touched in about 6 months. MMMMMK. I asked for a halt, and she rocked back and came right down, staying on the contact. I shrugged my shoulders. Gave her a pat. And called it good at about 25 minutes of work.
Just as I was leaving the arena, I noticed that a bunch of people were going on a trail ride, so we hopped into that group. What better reward for a yellow pony than a nice trail ride after a great dressage school?
WHEW! LONG POST. If you all made it this far, let me know, do you find that sometimes your best rides follow a ride where you really struggled?
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:
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.
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.
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.
Arctic Neck Warmer – Highly Recommend. These are 100% a staple in my winter, barn wardrobe. Keeping my neck warm is a nonnegotiable.
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.
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.
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.