Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Moving forward.

Hello faithful listeners, it's been a year since I've blogged so anyone reading now must actually be faithful, or have nothing better to do!

I wanted to use my decrepit blog to muddle through some things, get some stuff off my chest, vent a little, maybe cry a bit.

In October of last year my former barn manager, and friend of over a decade, fell off her gelding, suffered a catastrophic injury, and never woke up, eventually being released from this world to go wherever it is people go when they die.  It was an emotionally challenging time.  People have a lot of reactions to the death of a friend, especially when they die doing their daily joy of swinging a leg over a horse.  For me I threw myself into the task of rehoming 19  horses.  She took great care of her horses, was lousy at selling any, and there was no way I was going to let them end up on a truck to Mexico.  The community really came together, and in a few weeks most of the horses were gone off the property, with the last and the oldest leaving with a great person who knew it was probably hospice.   I think many of the people that took time out of their lives to load up senior citizens knew that the horses weren't coming back home yet they showed up anyway.   They called me at all hours asking how they could help take care of her horses.  Not having a will complicated matters, but luckily for the horses she didn't have a lot of bills and there isn't a lot of value for old broodmares.  I tried to place horses in the right homes, with the right people.  People who would get them going under saddle again and rehome them.  People who could start a few of the younger horses and make them productive citizens.  People who didn't mind picking up a 34 year old mare with no teeth.  It was something we felt we owed my friend, for being so active in the community.  To take care of her horses when she couldn't.

Winter moved into the farm quickly, and before I had fully sorted out the horse situation it was dark at 5pm, we didn't have any money to fix things that broke, the property flooded frequently (at one point I was trying to keep my horse fit in a 50x50 patch because my indoor had gotten snow inside, which melted, then froze), and I was stuck in a state of depression that left me with no desire to ride, no desire to own a farm, and sitting in my arena sand sobbing because a gate fell off the hinges.  Stella was in varying stages of crazy due to lack of work, or lame with abscesses.   Pulling her rear shoes for winter backfired horribly.  I don't care who gets mad, but having an indoor arena doesn't matter when it's 20 degrees outside.  I cancelled lessons.  I showed up at lessons with no real desire to ride.  I was pretty sure I was going to sell the farm in the spring, what fun is a farm if you can't ride?  You question your sanity when it's 20 degrees and a good friend fell off a horse and died.  People fall off horses all the time.  People die doing it.  But not people you are close to.  I think I went a month without riding.  It made me sad.  But then I didn't want to ride anyway.  That made me even more sad.  I didn't want to get on a fresh horse after working at a job I hated and have a bad ride.  I didn't want to fall off.  I didn't want to.

For some reason I am a person that just keeps moving.  Even when it feels like I'm pushing a rope up a hill.  Maybe because I don't know how to do anything else.  Maybe because I'm too stupid to realize that I should just quit riding.

Even when life says "take up golf"

When I tell a trainer I want to quit riding my entirely unsuitable green horse I got dumped off of weekly and just ride lesson horses, then I have a panic attack riding said saintly lesson horse due to my being dumped weekly by another horse.  Then that trainer dumps me as a student, and tells my friends that I'm going to ruin her lesson horses and maybe I should just take up dressage.

When another trainer tells me that they don't think I've made any progress

When the super talented mare I bought.... green.... because of course.... ends up not being a suitable match for me over fences and I finally have to look at the writing on the wall.  Talented horse with the right rider.  Which I'm not.  Can't even keep my leg on to the base.  Cause I sure don't tend to improve as a rider even with weekly lessons with qualified instruction.

I keep moving.  I'm not sure it's exactly moving forward, since people say I don't make any progress in my riding.  But what's the alternative?  Golf?  Sewing?

When my friend died I inherited one of her horses, an 8 year old gelding who hadn't been off the farm but once in his life.  I'd started him, he'd been for 30 days of training, and then he just sat.  So last winter instead of taking Stella for a lesson (she was lame) I took him.  He spooked at A LOT OF STUFF.  He still spooks.

I had thought I'd sell him.  When he's not being quirky he's safe, and quiet, and in general willing to please and put up with mistakes.   I struggled with that because I'm clearly no horse trainer, despite what my friends say other people say different.   I'm no pro.  I've had people tell me I have no business pretending I can train green horses.

But.... he's safe and quiet and in general willing to please and put up with mistakes.  He jumps my crossrails.  I put flying changes on him in one ride.  He's a good boy.  Will I get to BN?  Given my previous history, I'm gonna go with a firm NO.  But screw it.

I keep moving.

So I take lessons and probably give my trainers nightmares about my stunning lack of progress, and I go to shows and jump my crossrails and get a sunburn and go home and take a nap and take care of my mudfarm.

I'm not sure I'll keep up my blog, I don't feel like there's much interest in mediocre riders with green ponies but I wanted to update for the sake of moving forward.

Monday, September 3, 2018


 Hello all,  Life has been busy and I have not felt I've had anything worth blogging about.  Or that my blog is particularly interesting to people so I've let it go by the wayside.  I've decided to make a post since I've found myself with the need to get something off my chest without clogging up everyone's Facebook feeds with my whoa is me story. 

As some of you know, I bought a farm.  When you buy a ramshackle farm that has sat empty for 4 months and neglected for however many years it comes with all sorts of great opportunities to work until dark and not have any desire or time to ride.  Which I guess wasn't really a big deal since Stella broke a splint bone 12 hours after bringing her home. 


When Stella was ready to go back to work again she had other ideas, the new environment, smaller herd, and time off gave her a wicked case of buddy sour and I quickly saw my vision of becoming a brave and forward rider by spending lots of time hacking over my 10 beautiful acres end up in the dirt.  Along with actually ending up in the dirt.  I have a lovely grass jump ring with an entire course of fences and I've been in it TWICE.  I just keep mowing it and not wanting to ride in it since she's an idiot.  It makes me sad that I can take her to lessons and trail riding and she's fine but the rides when I've tried to leave my outdoor (or hell, even in the outdoor a few times) have not been awesome. 

Well, I had several rides that were nice.  Including one where I rode with my other half and Stella and I galloped all over the field.  Then she spooked at a plant 24 hours later in the same field and I fell off. 

Since June I've taken two lessons.  One where I actually jumped some things.  I figured it would be excellent motivation to attend a local HT with extra tiny teeny fences.  Getting dumped 2 days before the show probably didn't help my confidence but we had a wonderful dressage test, I had someone else ride her stadium, then I packed her up and went home.  I realized at that moment that I had no desire to fail and wimping out and going home early was far better than getting nervous, feeding Stella my nerves, and have a rearing runaway like the last two times I attempted to go cross country. 

I did not share my day with anyone beyond who was there.  My Facebook feed was full of people on their horses doing well. 

I've been handing over the reins a lot this year and having pros do what makes them pros and give Stella confident rides around XC or show jumping.  I see the difference it has made in Stella, and I'd rather not ride her at all than risk screwing her up.  Or failing. 

So where do we go from here?  I'd like to say that I've lost my mojo since moving.  But I'm not entirely sure I've had any mojo this year at all. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

All the showjumpers

Continuing from my last post, I decided to expand my range of trainers and use multiple trainers to help me with multiple things.  While they all find most of the same faults in me (which means I either suck consistently or they are all quality instructors) they approach things differently. 

Featured this week is my ultra fancy jumps Grand Prix trainer.  He has really been helping me focus on my position in the air over the fence as well as my approach to the fence in a quiet and methodical method that I seem to work well with.  Here are a couple videos from my most recent lesson. 

The first video is Stella in a one stride that was originally just one fence.  You can see how my first approach sucks big time so Stella stops at the new thing.  Did my approach suck because I thought she was going to have a problem and under rode on purpose?  Thoughts to digest.

Then as my approach becomes more consistent Stella gets better and bolder

Then we put everything together into a course.  I really like my approach to the diagonal fences.  Maybe the blocks have something to do with it, maybe they are there because I suck at turning.  I'm getting Stella to the fence with a clear plan.  Who woulda thought!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Solid in the saddle

Spring is in the air?  Or at least the prospect of another show season is looming and I've got goals!  I made a decision over the winter to expand my trainer horizons and do things with people that challenge me.  I'm signing myself up for clinics and I'm pushing myself by taking lessons with a variety of people.  I want to put a strong focus on my position over fences, and I've picked a HJ trainer to help me with that.  In general, no eventer is going to complain about you getting left behind, it's a position of safety to be in the back seat over a solid fence on questionable footing. 

While hunter jumper riders believe that a position that more closely follows the horse is better for the horse's form over fences on groomed footing.

On occasion I feel I have a semi solid position, but you can still see that my leg has slipped back


My hips don't fold and my default position is to stand in my stirrups.  While my hands have a good release, my lack of folding throws my legs back and I don't have a solid base in the air, which causes me to get left behind on the backside of the fence.  Potentially putting me off balance and punishing my horse.

I don't want to go in the opposite direction, the "hunter duck" or "praying mantis" which is an exaggerated trait that people feel shows off your horses big jump the best, but maybe we can meet in the middle?

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Bouncing along

Hello, how has everyone been?  Here in Indiana we've been alternating between freezing temps or endless rain and mud!    Stella had long periods of vacation time, punctuated by one or two rides with lots of bucking, then more vacation.  I think we have finally reached temps worth riding in so I've started up taking lessons again! 

Last weekend we hauled up and had a grids lesson.  Grids for me are a bit of a challenge, I had a horse that either ran through them or stopped in them so I'm a bit of a mess.  It's hard for me to encourage the horse to be forward and straight through a grid while at the same time staying out of the way. 

It was also a bit of a challenge for Stella, who is very careful with her feet and was a bit overwhelmed a few times with all the poles and an occasional lack of guidance from yours truly. 

What I like was how, as Stella became bolder and tuned into the grid, I was able to focus on how my position felt over the fences, and what the difference was between jumping up her neck or staying over my stirrups. 

We still had a set back after our cool down period, where we both lost a bit of confidence and Stella wasn't ready to go back to work, and I wasn't really to be supportive through the grid.  I think I'm finally grasping the whens and whys of when Stella loses confidence in me, but I'm still working on fixing that issue!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Review, Smartpak Winter Overpants

With temps in Indiana dipping below zero overnight and not above the teens during the day, this has been my fashionable winter apparel.  You have my Ariat Bromont winter paddock boots, Kerrits windpro breeches, Snow pant overalls, Mountain Horse Original jacket, Balaclava head covering.

It's also why you haven't seen any blog posts.  I've ridden.... 7 times since the clinic?  First the holidays got in the way.  Now it's like 10 degrees.  The clinic was my last lesson as well.  Sigh.  Winter. 

Winter, it's not like the catalogs.  Unless you live in Florida?  Sidenote, people in Florida you suck.

While my outfit kept my warm doing barn chores in those temps, it didn't allow for any riding.  I see all of my Facebook friends hoping on their horses bareback for a stroll around the arena, or tacking up for a short walk around the fields.  This lead to the idea that maybe if I had some overpants suitable for riding, I might hate horses a little less if I could actually ride them. 

Smartpak is currently having their winter sale, and their Smartpak Winter Overpants were only $60, with a $10 credit I figured they were worth the plunge.

The pants have an all elastic waist, with zippers that run all the way up the legs so you can take these pants off without having to take your boots off.  However, there isn't a tab to hold the pants on you once you unzip them so I imagine you would have to reassemble them at home.

There is also a synthetic suede full seat, something my snow overalls didn't come with, and something I hope will encourage me to ride more.

These pants are extremely bulky for warmth so I'm not counting on any fine tuned riding, and since the weather is dipping below zero again next week hopefully I'll get a chance to test them out for that peaceful bareback ride in the snow. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Molly Sue Kinnamon Clinic

Last weekend I participated in a Molly Sue Kinnamon clinic at local dressage/eventing barn Greystone Equestrian Center.  Although I had seen this clinic being offered I had originally passed for another lesson elsewhere, but when that lesson didn't work out I figured, what the heck!

Why not take a lesson with someone totally new?

I've been trying to push my buttons and get Stella out to other locations in an effort to become better partners, explore new places, meet new people, and generally work on my anxiety issues.

I'd seen a few FB posts of people visiting Molly Sue at her home barn MK Equestrian in Pennsylvania and they all came back alive so I figured it wouldn't be a bad idea.  From the clinic entry form, here's Molly's history.

Molly competed at the 3*/Advanced level aboard Havarah's Charley and was named to the Developing Rider List, where she had the opportunity to work with Mark Phillips, Boyd Martin, and Phillip Dutton, who remains her coach to this day. Molly has finsihed in the top 10 at CC1* events in the last several years, and aboard Diesel Boy finished at the top 25% at Fair Hill International CCI2*. Just last week she finished in the top 5 at the Virginia Horse Trials CC1* event in that horse's first ever 1* event. She participated in Pony Club Championships, earned her Pony Club "A" rating, and was a working student for Olympian Jil Walton. During her tenure with Jil, Molly competed on the 1998 NAYRC 2* Team. She then attended Fresno State University where she was a NCAA Varsity Equestrian Team member and received a BS in Animal Sciences.

Stella had been to Greystone once before, but only in their indoor, and this clinic took place in their outdoor arenas.

Here's their outdoor dressage arena, with the barns and indoor in the background

Jumping arena

The warm up was over three cavelleti placed down centerline of the dressage arena.

You circled over the two far poles first, then over one of the end poles and a middle pole several times, concentrating on getting the same distance over each pole and making your circle circular.  Then you did a lead change over the middle pole and circled over the middle and pole at the other far end. Some of the riders made this exercise look easy.  Others, such as myself, launched over the poles like Superman leaping a building and buck farted away on the other end.  Sigh.  This is an easy looking exercise that contains a good deal of difficulty for a horse with an uneven stride and poor rate-ability.

After completing this exercise we were ready to jump.  What I liked was that Molly Sue moved the fences around almost constantly.  Each group started with the same exercise but she wasn't afraid of modifying the exercise to suit each horse in each group and if an exercise didn't work for one horse she was quick to change it to something that did, modify the distance, lower the rails, or add guide poles in an effort to do what was best for each horse.

In this exercise we are trotting into our first one stride!!!!  Then coming around over a simple line using placing poles in front of and behind the oxer to make the distance more accurate.

Molly focused on accuracy and taking things back two steps before going forward one step.  She wanted the horse to understand the exercise in a calm manner so even with a horse that was capable of jumping much higher she kept the fences small and focused on details.

Did the horse understand the exercise?  If not, was it the fault of the rider for not making things more clear?  What helped the rider modify their riding to help the horse understand what was being asked of it?

 This helped with the greener horses because they were asked to slow their brains down and think about the exercise, and it helped with the experienced horses because they worked on refining their response to the aids.  The experienced horses were required to be more accurate with the obedience, where they put their feet, how many strides they fit down the lines.

She was able to deal with a wide range of rider/horse combinations from professionals on their project horses, to ammys on school horses or their green projects.   I think she's an excellent instructor for someone looking to learn some new skills with their green horse, learn how to ride their schoolmaster, A pro who has been out of competition for awhile or has a greener horse, or for someone to refine some rusty skills. 

What I found difficult was getting out of my head when Stella had a bad start to the clinic.  Stella needed my support in a new location while I was busy being concerned about looking like a moron to the large group of spectators.  Molly was an excellent clinician for both someone like me, and for a couple professionals looking for some new ideas for their competition mounts.

Overall I'd definitely come back for another clinic with her, and I'm happy I was able to add another notch to my "clinic" belt.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Christmas List

As a horse owner on a shoestring budget most of my Christmas present ideas are about practicality.  I'm pretty much a practical gift person.  Gift me something I can use over and over as part of my daily life and I'm happy.  Gifts should be thoughtful but useful.  OK, so maybe it's boring but that's what I like.

My first want is the Horze Prescott figure 8 bridle.  I saw this bridle at the event formerly known as Rolex last summer and loved both the price and the attention to detail.  I thought it would make us look like serious eventers. 

Do I really need another saddle pad?  Does anyone?  Maybe if it's the Horze Turner saddle pad which has a little bit of a different design to it so it stands out in the crowd.  I love the big bold circles and the color choices!  This would make a great XC pad for the eventer on a budget. 

I also love this ECP quilted contoured correction pad.  Not only does it have a really cool cutaway XC design but it has inserts for included memory foam shims, ensuring that your horse is getting a little bit of a cushion when he's out there galloping around like a beast.  It's not only affordable, but it comes in all the colors you need to be matchy matchy.

At some point you might want some white breeches when you feel you've earned them but you struggle with wearing white around horses.  These Horze active silicone grip breeches fit the bill.  White with a sticky silicone grip seat for sitting that trot at an affordable price so you don't cry when Dobbin slobbers grass all over you or you get bucked off in the warm up. 

This is more of a camping item.  Do you hate using the slightly sketchy poorly light full of smells and wasps pit toilet at camping sites?  Or do you find  yourself at barns without a public toilet but you can't quite bring yourself to peeing in the trailer?  Try this Camping flush toilet, set it up in your dressing room and feel slightly more like a regular person. 

Still being a relatively new horse trailer owner I can't get enough of safety gear.  These Reflective horse trailer signs are supposed to keep you more visible at night and warn people that you have a live load.  I'm not sure if drivers actually care but I do feel like drivers tail gate slightly less when I have my rear curtains off and they can see Stella. 

I also like this Noble Outfitters grooming tote.  It comes in plenty of colors and has enough storage for all of your things for lessons and shows. 

Road ID provides a great alternative to the old medical armbands.  This handy bracelet comes in lots of colors and has an online option. You can wear it at horse trials, while biking, hiking, or just every day for that hopefully never to happen emergency. 

“EV113.3 MEDICAL CARDS/MEDICAL BRACELETS. An approved and completed medical card or medical bracelet is required any time while jumping. Medical cards must be enclosed in a transparent, waterproof carrier. Medical cards must be securely attached to the competitor’s upper arm on the outside of the competitor’s clothing. Medical bracelets must be visible on the competitor’s wrist. Medical cards must include any relevant medical history, injury (particularly to the head), drug allergies and current medication. If wearing a medical bracelet, any relevant medical history injury (particularly to the head), drug allergies and current medication must be included in the online medical form of the bracelet’s vendor website. Athletes are responsible to record all injuries on the card or in the case of a medical bracelet, update their medical information online. Failure to wear one’s own medical card or bracelet shall be penalized by a fine of $100 (payable to the Organizing Committee).”

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Going Pro, part II

So, I promised you a video of Stella's dressage test with THE PRO.  Sadly my phone is a disagreeable sort and ejected the video out the window. 

To recap in boring type, Stella did great!  She got a 35, which two seperate 4.5's.  One for "I don't really want to canter in this cave like indoor lady, OK FINE I guess I can" and "HALT?  What halt!"  Other than that she was obedient and Pro was able to keep her in the bridle for the entire test.  YEAHHH!!!!

Moving on, I had signed Pro up for a Crossrails round so they could work out any kinks over smaller fences.  I didn't anticipate any problems as Stella is usually pretty good for me over the small stuff, and she was just as good for Pro. 

Then came the 2' 3" round, a division that I've been struggling with at shows.  This is the round I was really looking forward to seeing.  Would Pro have any issues here, and would she be able to correct them?  Would they be big spectacular issues? 

Stella got a little nervous and flat over a few of the fences, probably a combo of my previous poor riding and someone new.  She hit a rail, which is something she has never done with me, and then over jumped several, which is something I'm glad I didn't have to handle!  It was nice seeing someone stay out of her way and reward her for the extra effort.  She did get a few clucks and a solid WHACK over the owl fence.  This was an oxer, and Pro said she had a hard look at the things on the ground and wasn't sure she should jump the oxer but went with a solid whack.

Overall I was very pleased, and a little disappointed.  Which is a weird mix.  I guess I expected more fireworks?  Pro's rides looked relatively easy, which I suppose is a compliment to my riding being the only person to work on her with the dressage and the only person to take her over fences.  Yet considering the difficulty I'd had with her at the last show I expected more of a schooling round. 

So what's the deal?  Why does she go forward with a simple whack or use of leg with the Pro and not me?  Does she not "believe" me?  Is some part of me saying "NO!" while part of me is saying "GO!" and she just nopes it out of town?  Is this something I can fix with my own riding to give her the ride she needs, and is it something I want to fix?  Does she need a better rider and I need a more forgiving steed?

Friday, November 17, 2017

Going pro

Giving my general failings as a rider, and a trainer (who was it that said we train our horse every time we ride?) I've decided to go pro.

No, not me.

I decided to have a pro put some rides on Stella at a show.  We seem to be making steady progress in lessons but it all falls apart at shows and I wanted to try to get the bottom of 1. Her 2.  Me  3. Us 

So pro was the way to go!

I was super nervous as I've been the only one on Stella for a long time, and the ability of someone else to just hop on and go reflected my skills as a rider.  Or lack of skills.  Stella was pretty green when I got her, so did my training amount to anything?

I found a plucky young pro who came highly recommended and had a solid history of getting on strange horses and getting them to perform at their best.  She had seen Stella go in lessons and at shows and I gave her the lowdown on what I wanted from the rides.

 Her first ride on Stella was warming up for their dressage test!

Here's a video of them working together out in the field waiting for their turn in the ring.  It was about 28 degrees, the poop was frozen, but Stella performed great!  She settled into some contact in the bridle easily, with a strange person outdoors in freezing temps.

Cantering together!  Stella picked up her right lead promptly.  An indication that my work on her right lead was finally paying off. 

But would the dressage test in the scary indoor turn out just as well?  Stay tuned for more! 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Product Review, Big Dee's padded halter and lead

A few months ago Stella's leather turnout halter finally kicked the bucket during a trailer loading moment.  The leather simply fell apart with one good tug on the leadrope and I was left with a loose horse, luckily at home!  An important reminder to check your tack on a regular basis for signs of wear and tear.  Also, always care a spare halter on your trailer!  I can't say I was super surprised, she has worn it daily for turnout in all sorts of weather for at least two years, and Annie wore it before that (sniff).

While I'm fine with Nylon halters I like the look of a leather halter more, and there are literally hundreds of options such as this stunning twisted leather Premiera Vienna halter from 20X60 tack for a quick $119.95.  A stunning show halter no doubt, but not something I ever want to see rolling around in the mud or the rain or pretty much anywhere near my filthy beast.

I finally settled on the Padded Leather Horse Halter and Lead from Big Dee's.  On sale for just $39.  It looked decent in the videos, and satisfied my need for a padded leather halter that was nice enough it could go to lessons but not so nice I'd feel queasy letting her get turned out in it.  I chose padding because sometimes she gets rubs in the summer when she sheds, and I also wanted a throat snap and double buckle crown for ease of removal and adjustment.

Big Dee's even has a handy little Youtube video demonstrating its qualities.  I looked at a few more halters in the same range that came with name plates, but I've never had good luck with nameplates surviving regular wear.  As a bonus this came with a free matching show shank, something I had vaguely considered buying at some point just in case I felt Stella had a chance at being a halter horse.  Snicker.

Overall I was pleased with the quality of the halter.  It isn't something I'd parade around at an A show in, but it has good quality leather, is highly adjustable, and there were enough measurements to determine size.  The padding is nice and soft and seems to be protecting Stella's face during the break in period.  The leather is sturdy enough you don't feel like it's going to snap when you have to knock some sense into a frisky horse, but soft enough it isn't causing sores.

Here's the halter after a solid week out in the rain and mud.  I think the cob size is average, I'm picky about my halters and I like them to sit on the first or second hole on either side of the crown.  If it's done all the way up it's too big. 

Please excuse the mare face. 

close up of the workmanship and some mud!

The lead shank is OK for local open shows.  It's a nice color, and has a 24 inch long chain, but the leather is covered in a thin plasticy type layer, and where it sat wrapped up in the store you can feel bubbles where the surface has started to separate.   I'll keep it around for when I decide Stella has a career as a halter horse. 

What do you like for a turnout halter and how much do you like to spend?

Moving forward.

Hello faithful listeners, it's been a year since I've blogged so anyone reading now must actually be faithful, or have nothing bet...