Pipe Opener Recap: Jumping

Expanding on yesterday’s dressage recap, after dressage I was slightly meh about my test, but determined to still give a good go of the showjumping. I paid in advance for an extra round, with the expectation that he would be his normally spooky self in the show arena (which he was) and give him a more confidence building experience the second time round.

Since Jack started out being looky at the lakes puddles that dominated the facility that day, I purposely got his feet wet over and over again in the warmup ring- not hard to do when the “puddles” are almost 20′ wide. This gave me hope that I wouldn’t be swimming once we got into the arena proper, since there was literally no approach from 6B to fence 7 that avoided a splash zone.

After confidently navigating the water, we had a beautiful warmup, thanks to friend C channeling the trainer’s words from Tuesday’s lesson. I actually felt like my leg was under me, and for the most part that my shoulders were back, and Jack felt lovely and supple and relaxed. Where is that horse for dressage??

She helps me tack, warm up, and video- also her hair is fabulous!

But all that relaxation went away as predicted the moment we stepped into the competition ring. Just like all the previous times, he would basically ping off of all the fences while I tried to assure him these were fences of the non-horse-eating variety. Enter again lots of verbal praise to calm the big weenie.

Accurate representation of Jack on course

Beyond that, we had a decent go.

Except for this. Right here. On the last fence, and the last foot over- cost us a rail that moved us from a potential 3rd place to tied for 7th.

Oh well.

We sat around for 20 minutes and came back in for our schooling round, and I was shocked to find Jack more spooky on re-entry than before. I can only figure that he was tired at this point and backed off. So we really didn’t get to smooth anything out until after fence 4. You’ll see in the video that he comes back to a trot, and I think the adrenaline wore off and I actually was able to give him more of a decent ride than before.

Overall, I’m really happy with the big blondie. We got all our leads, and even though we got a couple wonky spots (including a deep one I asked him for- sorry buddy but waiting is a thing), in general it felt way smoother than our last time there in November.

I believe the plan is to shoot for Novice height at the next SJ outing at the end of January. We’ve also got a cross country schooling this weekend if the weather cooperates! All the things!!!


Pipe Opener I Recap: Dressage

My goal with this first show of the year was to put in a solid test, aiming for a 30 if we could replicate our efforts at home. Spoiler alert- we didn’t. But we got close!

I think a lot of what’s to blame is that I haven’t figured out the key to unlocking the warmup. We tend to have very relaxed showjumping warm ups, but dressage lacks the suppleness and relaxation that should be there. Despite the warmup area being fairly calm, he was holding a lot of tension through his back and was super stiff through his right jowl. I tried going forward, lots of canter, figure-8s… but none of this accomplished what I was after.

Skeptical about the dressage ring

The test then was a bit of the same. There are moments where he takes a deep breath and relaxes, but the centerlines and canter transitions bely the underlying tension. Take a gander to see what I mean:

Overall we scored a 31.4, putting us in the upper half of the 20+ competitors that day. Jack scored a 7.5 on gaits, and I got a 7 on my rider score, which were a big help towards our score. Things I wish we could have fixed obviously include the canter transitions, and being able to get more push in the trot without breaking into the canter (which we got dinged on).

I feel that if I can get the relaxation in the warmup for dressage, these pieces will come. Tomorrow, onto showjumping!

Showjumping lesson recap

Tuesday we had our first showjumping lesson post-holidays, which meant about 3 weeks since our previous session. Thankfully there was a break in the frigid temps, and at a balmy 50*, this ended up being a godsend, since Jack came out thinking the devils were lurking in every shadow, pole, and different-colored-dirt-patch.

We’ve come to learn that this horse doesn’t tend to do well coming back from a break. While eventually he settles in, that first ride is a bit of a roller coaster, and it doesn’t take much to convince Jack he’s under duress. Case in point:

Eventually we built up to going between two (gasp) flower boxes to the itty-bitty fence, and once we conquered that we moved on to actual jumping.


My position was definitely a bit weak, and I had trouble getting my heels down and shoulders back. My other go-to moves include A) making a move with my shoulders when I get nervous B) not staying folded long enough on the backside of the fence and C) turning too soon on landing instead of staying straight (which probably also relates to point B).

mental note: shoulders HERE. legs HERE.

We wrapped up with a fairly simple course, staying quiet down the lines and working on the afore mentioned points. The video below is the last of the evening.

My game plan for Saturday’s CT is to trot fences until he settles, stay straight through my landings and keep my shoulders back. We intend to also do a second jumping round as a hopeful confidence boost.

At least that’s the plan!

A Jack Update

Jack and I are gearing up for our first show of the year this weekend, a Combined Training event at Beginner Novice. What I thought would be a small show actually has ~25 competitors in my division (maybe they’ll split it? probably not), but I’m hopeful that we’ll be competitive. I hope I’m not jinxing myself right there.

The dressage test is pretty straight forward and flows nicely with the exception of that stupid first centerline. A enter working trot, then at X turn onto a half diagonal to M? That’s right judges, because the best way to make a good first impression is by starting to exit stage right halfway into the arena. I’ve been starting to repeat the pattern with Jack, but each time it catches him off guard. Probably because centerlines were only recently becoming an obvious thing for him, now we throw him for a loop.

Overall Gaits
Our canter transitions are starting to come along, and though there’s tension in the depart, he no longer goes totally inverted like he used to. Once in canter he is so much more balanced, and I can start to maneuver his shoulders more and more. I haven’t gotten to asking for more jump in the trot, but in general he is steadier in the connection.

No idea what height this was,?

The Fun Stuff
In my last lesson, my dressage trainer [gladly] kicked my butt, and we introduced half-pass as well as tuning our renvers, shoulder-in and haunches-in. We’ve also come back to the walk-canter departs, something we avoided in order to establish the trot-canter depart (which didn’t exist before with any quality). Jumping-wise, we’re working on related distances, getting the correct lead on landing, and not snowballing down lines in general. Fences are creeping between the BN and N level depending on the technicality.

Weight Woes
The above picture was taken December 22. The temperatures started dropping around then, and my guess is that the lack of grass, cold/thin-skinned TB part of him, and the regular work schedule just took its toll. Lest you think he’s neglected or abused in any way- Jack eats almost twice as much as any other horse in the barn. He’s a big guy at just a hair under 17h, but with the coldest months just getting started I really want him chunky. After discussing with my vet, homeboy is now on:

  • 2 flakes compressed alfalfa once/day
  • 3 quarts Pro Force Fiber 2x/day
  • 1.5 quarts Empower Boost (fat supplement) 2x day
  • 1 quart alfalfa pellets 2x day
  • Free choice orchard hay at night (~5 flakes)

And finally in the last few days he’s starting to look like a normal horse again (see below picture on right). I’m hopeful that the return of grass in the spring will mean we can back off some of the new additions to his meals, but we’ll obviously do what it takes to keep him in good weight.

That’s the latest on everyone’s favorite Barbie Dream Horse!

2018 Goals

New year, new goals. But with the following provision: these are goals, not requirements. There is no such thing as failing, there is simply moving the needle. Not that I would like to take them any less seriously, but if 2017 taught me anything, it’s that if life brings about circumstances out of my control that results in missing a goal, then it’s not fair, and not useful, to consider that achievement/goal a failure. For instance, last year we aimed to go abroad. Then family health, funeral, and other expenses caught up to us, and we didn’t go. Did we fail to go? I guess you could look at it that way- but instead I think I would rather put our lack of vacationing down as something to attend to another time instead of a failure.

Ahem, anyways, with that said.. Here are my goals for 2018:

The Horse

  • Get his weight up. This is a short term goal, as I expect to not have as many issues once the grass returns in the spring. But homeboy is looking a little rangy despite my literally stuffing him full of food like a hog for slaughter.
  • Gain confidence cross country. Meaning I would like Jack to become the master of ditches, and to be more forward thinking to new fences. This will only come with repetition, so that means I need to commit to getting out as much as possible.
  • Go penalty free at a recognized show. This spring, I’m aiming at the Southern Pines HT in March and Longleaf in April.
  • Move up to Novice. Obviously, this goal is contingent on meeting the above cross country goal. We’re already schooling the showjumping, and well beyond the dressage, but he needs to be less impressed by new cross country obstacles before attacking the black-on-white numbers.
  • Ride a First Level test at a schooling show, likely. But if finances allow, perhaps a recognized show could be thrown in there.

BN looks tiny compared to the yellow moose. PC: Brant Gamma


  • Book 1 Gold Session/month from March – November. Mostly this will be down to learning about marketing, and will hopefully be aided by the next goal, which is…
  • Implement a referral program. Incentivize former clients for getting the word out!
  • Plan at least one out-of-state photog trip. Last year I did shoots in Florida and at Fair Hill (oh hey Niamh! 🙂 ). I’m not sure if I’ll get to Florida this year, but with WEG and Rolex on my list of events to attend I would love to sneak in some tog-related stuff while I’m there. Also would LOVE to hit up some other destinations, so if you’re interested in a shoot let me know!
  • Save up for the Holy Grail of lenses. The Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 G2, to be exact. I rented this lens for Fair Hill last year (see below photos from the 3* SJ) and was so impressed. But it will take quite a few precious pennies to make it my own.
  • Start shooting with more precision. I’m hoping to get into the habit of back-button focusing, as well as utilizing all the available focus points on my D750.

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The Blog

  • Commit to 3 posts each week. Thank you to all who took a moment and participated in the survey. I guess you want to hear more about Jack, so I’ll be doing my best to deliver!
  • Try and get back in the groove of reading everyone’s blogs. I seriously neglected this (just like my own blog) over the last 6 months. Going to try and do better!
  • Write some posts for The Plaid Horse! What what?!
  • Host my first giveaway! Details to commmme!

Results from the Blog Survey

So here’s looking at you, 2018! Onwards and upwards!

2017 Wrap Up

2017 is over… and a lot of people, myself included, went through a lot of trials and tribulations over the last 12 months and are more than happy to show 2017 the door. We lost my husband’s father, grandmother, and great-aunt this year. My own family got dealt a major health blow in regards to my mother. I came to the realization that Smitty was not going to be the forever horse that I had hoped. Our beloved German Shepherd, Drake, spent several days in emergency care and scared the bejeezus out of us.

2017, let’s call you Felicia.


Even with all that, I would prefer to focus on the positives. In many ways I have become so much closer to my family than ever before. I was able to sell Smitty to the absolute perfect buyer, and somehow not record a huge financial loss in the endeavor. My photography side-hustle grew in a way that I had hardly dared to hope for. I found Jack, my barbie dream horse, and despite his own “looky-loo” tendencies (I’m stealing that from a friend), he is making me a braver rider than I have ever been as a result. The husband and I were able to take a lovely trip to Savannah for Christmas. And I met a great handful of amazing bloggers and continue to feel so blessed to be part of this community.

Even saw this pretty lady TWICE!

I have been marinating on what goals I’d like to set for this year, but I think I’ll save that for a separate post. The only one that I feel pretty certain about is that if I am to continue my photography pursuits, then this blog will never be able to be the daily exercise I had aimed for. Instead, I think it’s more appropriate to expect ~3 posts each week. Not being able to blog daily was a stressor last year, and honestly, that misses the point of blogging. It’s always meant to be a chronicle of the horse and house journey, and a way to have open dialogue with equestrians from around the world. More on this soon!

Until then, I hope everyone is feeling optimistic about what 2018 will bring. I know I am.

XC and SJ Lesson Recap

Don’t mind me, I’m just over here losing all the things… my ice boots, the $60 I had in my pocket, my mind….

XC schooling over the weekend was pretty mentally exhausting for the golden boy and I. Our focus was on creating a positive experience and getting over some baby ditches/banks- issues that bubbled up at the Boyd Clinic. And it wasn’t resolved without some initial drama.

moment of drama

little more drama with a hint of tail

too. much. drama.

Luckily my trainer has literal balls of steel and she helped Jack make better life choices. And he did. Including going over a baby ditch on the very first try.

We were able to even revisit the first ditch at the end of our schooling, and Jack remembered to move horizontally instead of vertically- wise decision indeed, and a lesson that hopefully he will remember when we get out there again in January.

Not one to let things lie, we then had a jump lesson yesterday. Golden boy’s brain was fully intact, and all the “scary” things were jumped the first time around. My challenge is to ride effectively and not let my defensive habits take over when I get worried. Unfortunately I have no media, but know that despite the scary screenshots from above, the Barbie Dream Horse continues to be in my good books.

Let’s Discuss: Wheels

Almost exactly two years ago, I traded in my towing vehicle for a more practical, gas-friendly daily driver. You see, I was this close to having all the pennies saved up for a proper truck, and was excited to be able to finally have an appropriate set of wheels to take Fosterpants to the destination of my choice.

The old rig

And then 3 days later, I learned I needed to retire Foster.

From making plans for Foster, to saving up for a new horse(s), my dreams of independently taking my horse from point A to point B were definitely quashed. So every time I went somewhere in the last 2 years, I borrowed a truck. But recently I finally, finally, filled the truck fund up enough to go shopping.

And came back with this beauty:

She’s an ’07 F150, with 4WD and over 8,000 lbs of towing capacity- huge overkill for my 2 horse stock trailer. And though I may be making payments for some time, I could not be more thrilled to finally have the wheels I dreamed of.

Now I can’t help but turn my dreams towards a trailer upgrade, though in reality this will likely be another couple years in the making. Not that there’s anything wrong with my trailer- it’s an extra tall 2007 2 horse straight load, and I’ve done my best to take care of it. But I hope to eventually get something with a tack room (though I have become a bungee cord queen over the years) that’s warmer in the winter time.

The Chariot

Isn’t it ironic that the days of horses transporting us from destination to destination have become replaced with humans spending thousands of dollars to do just the opposite?! What is your current rig set up? Do you have your own truck and trailer, or do you have a borrowing scheme in place like I did? If you own truck/trailer/etc what are the things about it that you love? What would you change? What would be your ideal set up?

XC Schooling Recap

Last week’s revisit to the cross country course was perhaps not as amazing as I had hoped for. I think in general ending on a not-as-great note with our ditch and water-drop issues at the Boyd clinic hurt Jack’s (and probably my) confidence a bit, and a couple exercises that had been easy for him before, like the baby up bank, were a little tougher this time around.

And we definitely ended on a good note this time- stringing together the new-to-us cabin, water, and coop and maintaining a steady rhythm throughout.

Jack continues to make his opinions well known, and I can’t help but giggle every time I see that tail flying high in the videos. So much so that I made a highlight reel of Jack’s latest opinions:

We need a solid outing and some real confidence boosting at our next cross country schooling, which is this weekend. No time like the present to nip some of these issues in the bud!