Let’s Discuss: Dolla Dolla Bills Y’all

This is a fairly personal discussion today, so feel free to not participate if you’d rather not share. But it’s one we certainly all think about- how do we finance our ridiculously expensive equestrian hobby? I realize that my own situation is just as unique to me as anything, but I’m curious how others make it work.

Horse ownership in a nutshell

Luckily for me, the husband is appreciative of my extracurricular activities because it keeps the weepy-Kujo version of myself at bay, among other less-emotional benefits. So when our finances became one we created a system for paying bills that covered basic horse expenses (board, farrier) and also reciprocated in affording some of his specific needs as well.

Precious pony gets what precious pony wants. Sometimes.

Everything else is on me. This includes all the tack, supplements, lessons, clinics, shows, breeches…. The list goes on and on. For all of this, I sit in front of my calendar and make a list at the beginning of every month of the expenses I have planned- lessons, a clinic, paying off that saddle I just bought, etc. Then the list goes through prioritization mode (i.e, what do I want most, what moves me towards my goals, and will I die if I try something without taking a lesson first, etc). Lessons and clinics tend to come before extraneous (beautiful) tack additions, for instance. After crossing things out, adding up the results, I can then create a budget.

Maybe it’s maybelline, maybe it’s really expensive blueing shampoo

Of course horses being horses, no plans, and definitely not expenses, are ever safe from change. So my budget allows for a little to be added to the future trailer fund savings account each month just in case. I try not to make quick decisions about purchases (as much as possible- not always possible) and take care of the things I have in order to help them live as long as possible (see posts about 15 yr old bridle, and brushes etc of similar age). My photography jobs help me fill in any gaps as well, and though it keeps me even busier, it’s huge for me at the moment to recoup some of the costs from you know, buying a horse recently.

How do you guys make it work? Do you have a side-hustle to support your hobby? Are there expenses that you prioritize before others? Are there things you forego in order to achieve financial stability? 

Adventures in Horse Shopping: How did we do?

Remember that ISO ad that traveled the interwebs? Well now that I am 7 weeks into owning the Barbie Dream Horse, let’s see how he compares to the initial requests in my unicorn hunt.

Adult amateur seeks fancypants unicorn in ultimate champagne on a beer budget scenario.
In budget? Check. Bonus: Champagne colored.

Prefer warmblood or warmblood X gelding, at least 15.3 hands tall and between the ages of 3 and 9.
Check. 9 yr old German Warmblood sticking at 16.3h. A bit bigger than I need but beggars can’t be choosers.

16.3h, most of which is shoulder.

Must have great brain, preferably canine-like personality and cuddly tendencies. A forgiving nature, for those amateur moments, is an absolute requirement. Need not be able to memorize show jumping tracks, but being able to count jumps would be helpful to this occasionally ditzy eventing DQ.
Great brain- got it, despite his tendency to notice everything. Personality-wise, he’s still blossoming, but is a big fan of chewing on his lead rope (or sneakily eating the right rein when I’m not looking). Definitely a cuddler, and thank goodness he’s forgiving of my rusty jumping game.

Suspension and athleticism important. And by suspension, I mean that of a Porsche or Audi, not a Model T.
Decent gaits- we has them. I don’t know cars that well (obviously)… maybe we’re like a new Volvo? Are those nice? Whatever, I drive a Kia.

Prospective owner seeks to be competitive in the dressage court up to 3rd level and in the eventing irons, that is, if she can remember her courses. Proven jumping ability preferred, but willing to survive training a green but willing jumper as well.
Horse can definitely jump, and probably fits the green-but-willing-jumper description. We’re going to be working on learning how to canter fences and not trot/gallop them. And that’s OK.

Horse will receive almost daily attention from prospective owner, be taught ridiculous tricks like smiling and bowing, and in general be spoiled rotten. As such, the horse must in turn tolerate copious amounts of picture taking, both as the subject of his new owner’s photography experiments, but also on a routine basis for the purpose of bombarding the blogosphere and social media channels with their presence.
Welcome to the blogosphere, Jack, aka Jack-Jack, aka Barbie Dream Horse, aka Goldenboy, aka Blondie. Thanks for giving me new things to write about. And photograph. Side note- we are already working on smiling.

Besides being sound of mind, horse must be sound of body. While this amateur owner has become efficient at wrapping, icing, hand walking, and bonding with vets, she would like to turn her attention to other hobbies. Like riding. Lemons need not apply, and you better believe there will be a pre-purchase exam.
Besides a few unsightly blemishes and a need for more conditioning…. I’m going to knock on wood right now.

In return for meeting these lengthy and lofty requirements, any future horse will be held on a pedestal above all others, if not in the judges’ eyes, then in his owner’s. He will receive the best of care at a top-notch facility, have his legs and feeding regimen obsessed over at length, and be stuffed full of cookies at every horse show. Oh, let’s be serious—he’ll be stuffed full of cookies on the daily. And with all hope, he will be a lifelong partner.
Yes, yes, and hopefully very much yes.

Lesson Notes 7-22

Somehow I survived my two lessons on Saturday, and both horses lived to tell the tale as well. And considering whatever the heat did to potentially addle my brain, in addition to my head already spinning with deadlines and the impending show this weekend, I find that I need to jot down the things I learned from those lessons while I still remember.

TC’s Dressage Lesson:

  • Conservative and correct is better than up tempo and tense
  • Sit into the canter transition (and keep mentally reminding myself to push him off the right leg from time to time)
  • Keep my elbows heavy and hands low
    • TC can be a head wagger occasionally- keeping my hands low and together (thinking about having a low center of gravity) stops his mouth from taking on any movement that happens as a result of posting with my elbows up high
  • Think about 10 meter circles as 2 halves
  • Prepare early for transitions- TC needs more time to process than I realize
  • Look out on the stretchy circle to maximize the number of steps available
  • Think about walk in the transition from lengthening trot to working trot- show off the “coming back”

Jack’s Jumping Lesson:
I had a very different horse under me for this jump lesson, despite the near three-digit temperature. Jack came out and was much stronger than I was used to, which is a result of his getting fit and building confidence. It’s also a direct reflection of his time as a foxhunter, where I was told that he was taught to either trot fences or gallop them. While we worked on managing his stride in front of the fence, trainer had some words of wisdom:

I’m going to take the suspense out of the situation for you. You’re going to have some ugly jumps for a while.

And well, as you’ll see in the video, she ain’t wrong. Here are the other tidbits that I need to stick in my skull moving forward:

  • Our flatwork is coming together (yay!) but I need to remember to not camp my legs out in front of me
  • As he gets stronger/fitter, I shouldn’t be surprised about his wanting to take the bit
    • Add a running martingale to allow for more control
      • Keep my hands up and reins short for same
  • Do not lean for the lead
  • Hold to the fence, then be sure to release as his front legs lift off

Between fences, we also chatted about goals. I would like to do a recognized show by the end of the year, and we decided to aim for Stable View at the end of September as a result. Even if showjumping looks a bit ugly, we should be able to get around a Beginner Novice course by then as long as I stick with the program. And with lots of schooling options between now and then, including a clinic in a few weeks, we should have a lot more experience under our belts as a pair before taking on Aiken!

 

This Heat, It’s Oppressive

We’re moving into the (so far) hottest days of the summer right now- so what sounds better than making all the riding plans?

Tomorrow I’ve got not one but two lessons. First TC at 8:15am in the dressage court, then I’ll be attempting to teleport out to the trainer’s for a jumping lesson at 10:30am. Luckily the fact that I have a lighter horse in a breezy stock trailer should keep us from melting on the way home.

The only weather appropriate activity for horse people this weekend… Perfecting the tan. Also- why does she have tan feet?

Sunday’s activities will either include staying in the air conditioning while the ponies enjoy their fans, or potentially wandering through the local forest on a trail ride. No need to go crazy on both days.

I hope everyone stays safe with the rising mercury! Happy Friday 🙂

Let’s Discuss: Alternative Therapies

Horse people are weird. We know that. We spend money on these animals in ways that even normal-crazy-people think are crazy. And sometimes that cray in us comes out in therapeutic sessions for our horses.

Accurate.

Sometimes we try things as part of the rabbit hole that can be lameness diagnosis (ask me how I know). Other times it’s because we believe in a certain program in order to keep our beloved ponies in the best condition possible. And sometimes it’s because we don’t like money.

Acupuncture and chiropractic adjustments have long been stand-bys in equine management programs. And even these have gray areas. What about chiropractic practicians that aren’t vets? What about acupuncture that doesn’t include needles? How many of you have had conversations about what type of horse yours is- earth/water/fire/etc?

Then there’s more ‘modern’ treatments entering the horse world thanks to the wonders of technology. Some of these, just off the top of my head, include:

  • Equine Kenisiology [Rocktape]
  • Theraplates [Active proprietary Vortex Wave Circulation Stimulation Technology]
  • Magnawave PEMF [Pulsed Electro-Magnetic Field]
  • Infrared Equine Solarium
  • Ceramic Fabric Therapy [aka Back on Track]
  • Magnetic Therapy

While I have only tried a couple of the above therapies, I probably would try all of them if the price was right, for curiosity’s sake. Even if there are some things that I would slightly choke on to discuss…

So readers, I want to know- have you tried any alternate therapies? What worked? What was a waste of money? What did you learn, and what were your experiences? Where do you draw the line for treating your 4 legged friend and/or keeping him in condition?

 

Cross Country Schooling at the Horse Park

This weekend, Jack and I made our first ‘big’ outing together, heading all the way to the Carolina Horse Park to school the cross country course ahead of their War Horse Show. While we’ve been off property quite a bit at this point, we haven’t been anywhere that would have a show-like atmosphere. Schooling at the horse park allowed me to see how Jack would be in a place with lots of other horses [literally] running around, trailers, tents, flowers, etc. And I was so impressed!

Jack is officially self-loading at this point, and hopped on the trailer for the 2 hour trek to the horse park. I loved that he actually was eating his hay on the way down, something he hasn’t done so far on shorter jaunts. Since we were running late we tacked up in a hurry and got out to the cross country field where we got straight to work, trotting around and hopping over a green-as-grass jump. Jack was super in listening to me and focusing on the tack at hand, but for the first several jumps (green-as-grass followed by Maiden questions alternately) he would give the fence a hard look before lift-off. There was never a thought of refusing, more just a lack of confidence that slowly disappeared as the schooling continued. Eventually we started introducing cantering the fences and wrapped up the cross country with a Beginner Novice fence that felt so great we did it twice!

Since the horse under me after cross country had lots of gas left in the tank, we then moseyed over to the showjumping, where we walked the maiden course in the tack, then proceeded to do two schooling rounds. For the first we just trotted all the fences, knowing that Jack is more likely to look at showjumping filler than natural fences. Then we picked up the canter and did the course properly.

To say I’m happy with how it went is an understatement, even though I see so many things that need fixing on my part. I now have the confidence in my new pony to go out and do all the things, knowing that he can handle the atmosphere as long as I am there to give him a positive ride. Next time we’ll be schooling beginner novice fences instead of maiden, and that vote of confidence from the trainer feels like a feather in the cap after feeling out of the game for so long. Barbie dream horse indeed!

Photography Friday: Nicole and Logan

When fellow home-town equestrian, Nicole, reached out to me about doing her engagement portraits with her fiance Logan, I was all in. Two gorgeous horses, a simply stunning summer evening (75* in June- inconceivable!) , and just the most glorious light you have ever seen- this is the romantic session any photographer could wish for!

Logan proposed at the Carolina Horse Park, and its obvious that he is a wonderful horse husband in the making. The two are working on building their dream farm all while planning their wedding, which will be Rolex weekend! I’m so thrilled to have been a part of this special moment for these two, and can’t wait to see all the amazing things they will accomplish together!

Happy Friday all!

Guess who’s back

Through no fault of his own, one of my parents’ horses has had a little trouble finding his forever home.

So tonight, I’m off to go pick up a certain bay cob and help him on his way. Riley will be coming up to me to get in shape so he can show off all the skills he learned last year and hopefully find his new ‘person’.


In truth, I’m excited to see that sweet mug again and have some control over who gets to inherit this special creature.

More updates to come!

Girth Sores- What to do?

Summer in the Carolinas mostly guarantees one thing: sweat. For any humans like myself with a, ahem, low center of gravity, that tends to mean chafing and wondering whether the cooler benefits of shorts are worth sharing your equestrian-pale-legs that highlight that recent cellulite. For the horses, recently it seems to mean girth sores.

Jack may be prone to these already, being the very thin skinned creature he is, but they have definitely increased with the humidity and mercury.

I’ve moved him into a fleece girth, and hope that will make the difference. TC is in his shoulder relief girth and I may have to find a similar solution for this.

Does anyone have suggestions for girths or ointments that could help both boys not feel the chafe?

Photography Friday: Black background Mania

In the last couple weeks my photoshop fingers have been running at full speed trying to keep up with the number of photography requests I have had. Not that I am complaining one bit- I LOVE getting to show these owners how stunning their horses are through these portraits.

Having so many at once has also allowed me to refine my editing style, which (at the risk of sounding snobby) I’ve come to think of as slightly more ‘fine art’ than my previous edits. With more horses to shoot next week, I’m definitely excited to build some momentum around my photography and hopefully keep that ball rolling!

Happy Friday all, and enjoy your weekend!