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?

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Let’s Discuss: Courage in Riding

Being brave is something I have struggled with since a child, and is one of the biggest mental challenges I deal with as an adult amateur.

I tend to assume that professional riders are where they are today not because of bank rolls and nice horses, but because of their lack of fear, or ability to mine courage where seemingly none exists. To me it goes hand in hand with the grit that is required of making a living from riding horses. Sometimes I dream of the fences I would jump if only I weren’t so cowardly, or how far along I would have progressed in my riding career if only I hadn’t been scared to try more challenges along the way.

Tattoo that helps me find my mojo

Yet despite my apparent lack of balls, the situation is that I own a horse that is a downright worry-wort. And two weenies do not [obviously] make for a brave combination. Add in that, oh yeah, we’re eventers, and bravery is kind of a necessary quality in this sport.

Jack is therefore teaching me to be brave, every ride. My trainer has embedded a mantra in my head for all those times he goes to look or spook at something- and that’s this:

Don’t tell him what not to do. Only show him what to do.

Here Jack, let me show you how to ditch

So if he gets tense, I shouldn’t also get tense- instead I should sit deeply, remind him to focus on the rhythm and going forward. It’s been a huge learning curve to go against instinct and not clutch the reins in panic, but slowly and surely I’m becoming a more reliable partner for my giant scaredy cat. Which I need to be- because as George Morris puts it, every second in the saddle you are either training the horse or untraining the horse. And if I have any hope of creating a confident partner in Jack, I need to be brave myself and show him the way.

Is finding courage something you also struggle with? How do you overcome your fear in the saddle? Is your horse one that gives you confidence, or do you also find yourself being the brave one? What tips or tricks do you have for squashing fear?

Let’s Discuss: Clipping Time

The weather seems to be distinctly schizophrenic at this time of year, which makes managing ponies a little difficult. With highs fluctuating from the 70s to the 50s, and lows in the 40s, layering is pretty much the name of the game. But for horses, that’s a little difficult.

A before image of the giraffe

Jack is a bit of a ninny in some ways, especially when it comes to bath time. I’ve discovered that the key to getting him not to dance around is to use hot water. Even if it’s 75* outside, cold water is still an affront on his soul. So with that bit of knowledge tucked away, and the work load getting no lighter, it was only likely that he would get clipped sooner rather than later.

If he’s moving it’s harder to see how jacked up it is!

Normally I like to wait until mid-end of November to clip, and clip once and be done with it. I’m a fan of a full body clip if I can get away with it, and admit that I hate the look of hairy legs on a svelte body. But Jack isn’t so hairy at this point, just enough so that getting him dry quickly after a good workout is still tough. So I opted to leave the legs on (for now) and leave a patch for the saddle, since he has some pressure bumps (or something) that makes clipping a little precarious anyway in that area.

hello dapples!

Blending his face was a little difficult, and I bet I’ll be doing my fair share of tidying him up before our next show in a couple weeks. But still, I’m hoping he’ll be more comfortable now and maybe we can avoid baths altogether for the most part.

When do you plan to clip? Do you have a multi-clip timeline? What pattern do you intend to do? Or do you prefer your pony au-natural for the winter? Does anybody plan on doing a fun “brand” or marking on their horse?

Let’s Discuss: Bling in the Ring

If you are an on-trend equestrian, you have probably noticed a bit of sparkle taking over your local tack store. Bling seems to be anywhere and everywhere, as the English disciplines learn the delights that Western pleasure riders have known for years.

Dressage queens have been adding a bit of shine to their game for some time, starting with incredibly subtle bits of glimmer, such as twinkling spur straps, and slowly but surely becoming emboldened over time. Bedazzled ear bonnet, browbands, saddles, and helmets are all currently en vogue at your average competition these days.

Subtle. (find them here.)

Jumpers have always had a lot of freedom when it comes to style, and eventers maybe more so. And while I haven’t noticed so much dazzle in the eventing world, it does peek in occasionally. Rhinestones adorning the cantle of a saddle, for instance, or along the stirrup leather keeper.

 

Less subtle.

For myself, I would be happy to leave the bling at home. Having just purchased the below bridle, I find myself cringing slightly when thinking of keeping all that flash clean. Instead I’m in the market for a toned-down browband with the same shape and a little less… that. Perhaps the fact that my horse already looks like a child’s plaything contributes to my not wanting to adorn him in all things twinkling, maybe I’m just not a blingy person.

The Kavalkade Mia Bridle

Where do you fall on the spectrum? Bring on the bling? Or go without? What trends have you noticed in your local arenas? What is the most outlandish, or your favorite sparkly trend you’ve seen? Do you have a favorite way to add some shine to your traditional riding gear?

Let’s Discuss: Dogs at Horse Shows

Let’s start off the week with a little sizzle, shall we?? Because this is sure to be a heated conversation.

I may be a dog lover, but in many ways I wish most folks would leave man’s best friend at home. In my opinion, many of the dogs seen at horse shows really shouldn’t be there. Unless you as a responsible pet owner, and your perfect pooch can meet the following criteria, I say leave them at home.

We’ll start with the obvious: Is your dog acclimated to horses?
And not just well behaved, half-dead ponies. But does Pongo handle baby antics, horses spooking in their direction, galloping by their faces, or snorting/bucking/farting right in front of their eyeballs with quiet aplomb? If Fido shows any interest in joining the melee that is any Beginner Novice warm-up (much less a big event), he should stay behind.

Any dog that gets excited about giant animals running around, and may be inclined to bark at them or give chase is NOT an appropriate horse show dog. And personally, I don’t appreciate being part of your pet’s social experiment when I, and any other rider, has put goodness knows how many hours of work, and probably even more money, in getting ready for our outing. I paid for my right to be there, and I expect to be able to give my horse a safe and positive outing; despite what is often taken for granted, dogs do not have an inherent right to be at horse shows.

If you are working an event or horse show, please leave Fido at home. And if you are a jump judge on the cross country, seriously- why? The number of judges I have seen bring their pooch to sit with them on XC is staggering, and truthfully, completely inappropriate. For one, unless you can guarantee (and you can’t) that your dog will not be a distraction to either yourself (who is there to act as steward of the sport, making sure that each pair passes safely through and being on hand in case an accident happens- which how will you be able to react quickly should a rider fall at your fence when you have a dog to be responsible for? Do you let go of the leash? Or what?) OR a distraction to the horse (which is hopefully not dog-averse, totally focused on the job at hand and won’t notice the furry creature doing God knows what some feet from the fence)… Just don’t. And if you bring a dog that is known to bark at horses (or other dogs, or humans, or invisible pixies living in the woods), shame on you if you bring a dog to jump judge with you. Take a look at this video and tell me that doesn’t inflame your senses.

Now let’s look at you, responsible owner that you are. Can you hold a leash? Great. Assuming that you are the greatest leash-holder ever and will basically be cabled to Miss Princess the entire show, let’s go over a couple other requisite skills. Have you taught your dog sit/stay/shut up? Have you socialized your dog with other dogs before coming? Are you willing to make amends to your schedule should it not suit your pup’s abilities? Or will your dog be one of many that end up being mentioned over the loudspeaker at Rolex, because it got loose/got left in a hot car/got overheated because your bassett hound couldn’t keep up with Boyd Martin on the course walk.

There are those that are willing to meet all of these requirements, and have a full understanding of how their dog can be just another respectful spectator at a horse show competition. And for those folks, power to you. I’m glad that you will do what it takes to be a good horseperson and do what you can to keep the show as safe [as possible] for the rest of us. Horses and dogs can be together in a busy competition environment if approached responsibly, and I wouldn’t want to be the person to deny the better-behaving people [and dogs] that right.

How do you feel? Do dogs have a spot at horse shows? How should dog owners approach bringing their dogs to a competition, and what rules (or not) should be in place to keep everyone safe?

Let’s Discuss: How do you Unwind?

You’ve worked extra hard towards accomplishing a goal- be that a competition, proving yourself in a clinic or lesson, finally struggling through trailer loading practice, and more. And after drilling yourself and your horse through the exercises, you’re ready for a mental break.

So what do you do?

Do you unwind with a trail ride? Ghost your horse for a few days? Break up dressage with a little jumping? Or what?

For me, trail riding generally induces clutching the saddle in a fetal position, or reaching for the nearest bottle of wine. And with eventing, it’s hard to just walk away for a few days and sacrifice any loss of basic fitness (more so in myself than the horse!). So my mental relief for myself and my horse tends to come in the form of stretchy days. Basic suppling exercises in dressage make me more calm with their repetitiveness and knowing that they are easy to accomplish for both of us, and of course the horse gets the benefit of stretching their topline and loosening up his back. If we get bored, we throw in a cross rail for fun, but typically nothing more. It’s just a fun, low-key way to take a step back for us.

What about you? What’s your way of taking a step back from the daily grind? What do you find to benefit you most? What does your horse most enjoy?

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? 

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?

 

Let’s Discuss: Social Time at the Barn

Growing up on a horse farm has its perks, but making friends of the human sort is not one of them. It wasn’t until college and entering a boarding barn situation that I learned that barn time can also include things like, oh, having conversations with people.

At first socializing something of a curve ball for me- barn time was horse time, and I was in the habit of going to my inner zen place and focusing on the task at hand at the barn, not catching up on the latest news or getting pulled into barn gossip.

Crazy people met and loved from the barn

And then I found a barn where the people somehow spoke my language. Everyone had goals and appreciated horse time as that golden hour of getting away from the responsibilities of a working adult. But they also cared about each other, and were excellent sources of advice, a helping hand, or an eye for diagnosing that latest cut/wonky step/braid quality.

Even more crazy barn tribe members ❤

Suddenly, barn time could be socializing time as well. Sure, it’s always about riding, but hanging around and chatting became one of the bonuses to the barn- a time to be part of a tribe of people that just get it. It’s a no-judgement zone of the best kind.

And the current tribe

I’m lucky to be in another place where I’ve found my tribe, though still regularly stay in touch with the first barn I fell in love with. Nights at the barn can extend well into the wee hours, and it’s a place where the people are as much a part of the barn as the horses.

It’s not always this way for equestrians though. What kind of horse-person are you? Is barn time sacred to just horses for you? Or is socializing a part of the enjoyment? Where do you draw the line when it comes to people versus horses at the barn? Do you see sharing a facility with others as a hindrance or a bonus? 

Let’s Discuss: Riding Multiples

I have been so incredibly grateful to ride TC for the last several months, as he’s taught me a lot about myself, and allowed me to have saddle time while I was technically horseless.

Aww TC

Even though I officially own my own pony right now, I’ve continued riding TC with the goal of hopefully competing at another recognized show at the end of July. Between getting to know Jack on the ground and in the saddle, and riding TC, albeit a bit more sporadically, plus of course the adult responsibilities like working a full time job… I admit I may be getting a bit burnt out.

What I would love to know is those that have more than one horse to ride- how do you prioritize? How do you keep yourself from eventual exhaustion? Do you feel that something eventually has to give? Or have you found a way to balance multiple rides with the rest of life’s responsibilities? Do you employ professional help? Or have strategies for keeping the rides fresh and exciting?