So while it might seem like I've had a busy week, rest assured that I have not. In fact, I have been installed on our living room sofa for the entire week awaiting death. I watched more Netflix this week than I have in all the years that we have had Netflix. That was number 1.
Reading someone's blog gives you a false sense of their life. First off, many of us edit out a lot of the stuff that goes on. I do a lot of editing to protect the privacy of those around me. I also don't like to share all of my foibles and failures. It's hard enough to live through them once - who wants to do it for eternity on the internet?
So while it might seem like I've had a busy week, rest assured that I have not. In fact, I have been installed on our living room sofa for the entire week awaiting death. I watched more Netflix this week than I have in all the years that we have had Netflix. That was number 1.
I also did a lot of texting... Number 2.
Number 3 ... I also got Izzy's SmartPak order. I am trying out a magnesium supplement to help with relaxation. My vet also thinks he might be low since he lived on grass pasture. I haven't been able to start it yet, but hopefully he'll get his first dose today.
An exciting number 4 - I firmed up my riding plans for when we go to Portugal at the end of May. I'll be riding with a very small company called Algarve Horse Riding. They only have four horses, so it will be a private ride.
And finally, a disappointing number 5 - since I am a responsible adult, I cancelled my upcoming Monday lesson. It's hard to justify taking a serious lesson when a) I haven't been on my horse since the last lesson where I didn't feel very good, b) I am still on drugs to help me breathe better, and c) I have yet to leave the house for a walk, much less a ride.
I woke up feeling much better today, so I have high hopes that I'll make it back out to the barn today. I am very much looking forward to getting back on my regular schedule. Have a great day!
... also known as even more birthday swag!
I am either the most frustrating person to buy for, or the easiest. If it has a horse on it, I'll love it. With that being said, it must be exasperating to buy gifts for me because that's all I ever want!
My step-mom has obviously caved because now she's even handcrafting equine-related gifts for me. Check out these five things!
Yes, those really are feedbags! I am not sure exactly how she does it, but they are crafted on a sewing machine. The one on the right is strictly made from the feed bag, handle included. The one on the left is much fancier!
[Lauren, are you checking these out? These seem right up your alley!!!!]
This bag has nylon handles that are even stitched closed at the top so they are narrower and less bulky.
This bag also has an adorable liner in a horsey print along with an interior canvas pocket. I don't know a lot about fabrics, but I want to know where she bought this piece. It says, "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." - Michelangelo
Included in the gift box were these other items: a "sippy" cup, mug, and journal. Each has a dressage motif, which I love, Check out the sippy cup - the evolution of a dressage rider, too funny! I am off on a road trip today so this is definitely coming with me! The mug says Dancing with Horses. I broke my last trailer coffee mug, so this one is going in the trailer for my over-night stays. The journal is also going in the trailer as it is perfect to use at clinics and shows.
And if the text on the journal's cover isn't the perfect idea to take to a clinic, nothing is!
Many thanks to my step-mom and dad for the birthday gifts. I'd always rather have an equine-inspired gift than anything else. The mere image of a horse brings me joy.
I totally stole that title from Cha Ching's Mom. She wears bling like I wear a pony tail. Toss it on, and forget about it.
My Ovation Glitz helmet arrived the other day, and it is the coolest, sparkliest, awesomest thing I have ever bought!!!!! Two years ago, okay, two months ago, I would never have been brave enough to wear it. I do not know what has come over me. Could it be the new confidence that Sydney and I have found together? Is a right lead canter that much of a life changer?
I also added one of my monograms from Personally Preppy (check out their brand new website). Now I wish I had bought a fancier font!
And as if a new helmet and monogram stickers weren't enough, I also bought Sydney some baby spurs. My bigger ones rubbed a little patch of hair off of his right side, which is totally weird since I've been using them for almost two years. I think my position has changed now that he has a right lead canter. Or, he has a right lead canter because my position has changed. Either way, a hole in his side is unacceptable.
But wait. Embarrassingly, there's more! My little zipper pull/bridle tags also showed up! They are simply too sweet. Check out Emily's Equine Creations on Etsy.
And finally, do you remember that lovely purple lead rope I just bought this past February? I loved that lead rope, but unfortunately, Sydney freaked out while grazing in the yard in his halter and galloped off down the road and around the corner and back up the road and back down the road until he finally saw me waving at him. Once he came back to me, this is what I found - a shredded purple lead rope.
So I had to order a new one. That also just arrived. It's been like Christmas at my house this past week. Unfortunately, all of these things were very specific items which meant that they came from many different vendors. At least I can say I'm supporting lots of small businesses!
I have had several hundreds of dollars ($$$) of fun this past month. I am not much of a user of retail therapy, but January turned out to be one of "those months;" the kind that just kind of kick your butt. Every time I turned around I thought to myself, I really deserve that.
I started with a second Micklem bridle; this one was for Speedy. I do love it by the way, and if you are thinking of getting one, DO IT NOW!
The Micklem purchase led to the desire to spice things up a bit so I bought the clincher browband for Speedy which turned out to fit Sydney better. You cannot image how much I love this thing. When I ride Sydney, I get all kinds of warm and fuzzy feelings; it's just so pretty! It was completely worth the 20 or so bucks I spent on it. Imagine how warm and fuzzy I'd feel with some real bling!
And then I thought I might as well complete "the look" even though Speedy didn't end up with the browband. I love the pads just as much as that browband. Saddling Speedy up in pads that fit brings me so much satisfaction. He just looks so cute in his monogrammed saddle pads. I am such a dork; no need to point it out, but isn't it great that something so simple can bring so much happiness?
I have no rational for the $75 halter and lead rope purchase. I love my rope halter, which is what I've been using on Sydney for nearly two years. But somehow, I became obsessed with buying him the same Tekna halter that I bought for Speedy, but in brown. After an initial period of I am not sure about this, I have grown to LOVE this halter! I simply had to have a second one. Sorry for the less-than-flattering photo, but Sydney just would not cooperate. If you're interested in the Tekna halter, you can find it at the Riding Warehouse.
And who can buy a new halter without a lead rope? No one, that's who! I only use yacht rope leads which are on the pricier end of the lead rope spectrum. The price doesn't matter to me as these ropes last forever and feel wonderful in your hands. If you want to check out these ropes, visit the Riding Warehouse; they comes in 12 colors.
The lead rope actually has a funny story. I originally ordered it in Boring Karen Tan. No, it's not really called that, but my pals called me on it IMMEDIATELY! The thing is, I really wanted the purple one but thought it was too loud for sensible ol' me.
My email to the Riding Warehouse didn't make it on time (they ship SUPER fast), but they graciously paid for the return shipping of the tan lead and then paid to ship me the PURPLE one. You HAVE to check out this company!
By the way, Ladies, the purple is fabulous and looks super great on Sydney! Thank you all for stretching my envelope!
I really don't want to review the whole year. The first one I did at the end of 2011 was kind of fun; the second one I did for 2012 took me days and days to write, so I am not going to do it again.
Frankly, I just DO too much to report it in a short, monthly summary. Or, at least it feels like I am always doing something newsworthy. For me, there's a story in everything that happens at the barn, even when it's just a regular ride. So instead of the monthly recap, I am just going to give you some year-end totals and stats.
Here are My 5 Year-in-Review Things:
First, how much did I spend this year ($18,932) as compared to last year ($21,101)? The good news is, less! I didn't keep my accounting as carefully as in 2012, but it's still pretty accurate. While it appears that I spent less in 2013, it's only because I paid off my horse trailer which means I spent $2,800 less in the Horse Trailer category, but only $2,179 less overall.
There were a few surprises on the list. Look at my vet costs - barely $700? That's for two horses! They get their teeth done annually, vaccinations, fecal counts, chiropractic work, etc. I guess we were just lucky this year that no one got sick or injured.
I also think it's interesting that my lesson costs were so much higher than my show costs. I showed at five USDF shows this year; but I obviously spent a lot of time with trainers and clinicians, too.
So how many shows and clinics did I do? I always keep a list on My Show Results tab which you can easily check out, but here's the run down:
With Speedy I did …
With Sydney I did …
To list it another way …
I am not sure how helpful this chart is, but I am including it for those who like visual aids. Obviously I ride most of the time with my regular trainer, JL. I also rode with two clinicians this year as well as with two other trainers for a total of 65 lessons.
JL was on vacation in September which is why I rode with her only once. Most months I ride with her once a week, but in the summer, I tried for twice a week, but with my hectic show schedule, we just couldn't get the intended 8 lessons done. I find it interesting that I got a lot of instruction during the month of December; 8 lessons in total!
Rides on My Own
I had planned to tally just rides on my own without a trainer, but it got too tedious to itemize so instead, I counted every time that I rode whether it was at a show, with a trainer, or just on my lonesome. With one exception: if I was at a show, I counted it as one ride even though I probably untacked and rode several times during the day.
I work "full time," vacation with my husband, get tired, attend meetings, and have the occasional pedicure. Even with all that craziness, I managed to ride my horses a total of 358 times during 2013. I rode Speedy G 171 times, and Sydney 187 times.
Even more surprising to me was the number of non-riding days: 109! I feel like I ride nearly every day, but in reality, I only rode 70% of the year. What I find even more interesting is that I rode those 358 times on only 256 days; that's a lot of two-a-days!
We went to Central America for 11 days in June which explains the large number of non-riding days in that month.
Speedy was lame for two weeks in October due to an abscess (?) which explains his limited time under saddle.
Speedy was ridden more at the beginning of the year because I showed him through July, but after that, it was more about Sydney.
I am sure you're wondering how I know all of this. I keep a calendar at the barn, and before I leave each day, I note what I did, who I rode, where, and any other tidbit that seems interesting. If someone seemed off, bucked like crazy, or was particularly mellow, I note that too. It's an easy way for me to keep track of both horses' health and riding schedules.
In the End
I am very disappointed in Sydney's year. Until just now, I didn't realize how many times he left the barn for some kind of field trip. I showed him six times, and while he did show improvement, it was ever-so-slight. I also took him to a Ride-a-Test, two clinics, a fox hunt, and an away trail ride. This means he's left the property in the trailer for activities eleven times this year! Hmmm …
I really don't know what my plans are for him in 2014. Sometimes I think I should cut my losses and sell him, but then I think about how much I am learning by riding him. I know I am a much better rider by struggling with him than I would be without him. Am I having tons of fun doing it? No, not really, but so far it has been worth it.
As disappointed as I am in Sydney's year, I'm very pleased with the year that Speedy had. We started out struggling to crack 60% at Training Level, but ultimately, we rocked it with scores as high as 67% at USDF shows. We finished the show season with a Championship neck ribbon and the confidence to move on to First Level in 2014.
But first … I'll be at a clinic on Saturday and Saturday so you won't hear from me until Monday. Enjoy your weekend!
And the final day … Again, thanks to Tracy at Fly on Over for providing the questions. Here are My (final) 5 Things.
21. Favorite classes to watch: I really like to watch the level that I am working towards. Right now, that would be First and (someday) Second Level. By watching riders at these levels, I get to see how the movements should be ridden. I also watch the USDF video, On the Levels, for the same reason.
I also enjoy watching the highest level tests like the Grand Prix and Freestyles because that gives me a picture of what the ultimate dressage horse and rider team should look like.
And strangely enough, I adore watching show jumping at the Grand Prix level. In fact, it's what I watch every night when I go to bed. Those riders are simply amazing. Watching them helps me ride Sydney better when he's gone a bit coo coo for Coco Puffs. If they can manage a 1,200 pound dragon seven or eight feet in the air while galloping at 20 miles per hour, surely I can handle my own little monster while trotting 20-meters at C!
22. What’s in your cooler at horse-shows: Gatorade, water, lemonade, hard boiled eggs, sliced apples, string cheese, a sandwich, a bag of potato chips, and a coke for afternoon tests. Horse shows take a lot of energy, and sometimes I can't get what I need with my regular diet. I am not a soda drinker generally, but I've found that having a Coke before an afternoon test will help me get through the rest of the day, especially if I still have to drive 3 hours to get home.
23. One thing about showing (or riding in general) you wish you could change: I love how dressage shows are run. Everyone knows exactly what time their ride is so the sport suits my need for order and being on a schedule. With that said, the one part of showing that I don't like is coats. It is so warm here in Central/Southern California that I rarely wear a coat to ride in. On our coldest winter days, I usually wear a long sleeve running top with a fleece vest. Putting on a show coat, even a well-fitted one, makes me feel constricted and stiff. I would prefer to show in a fancy vest.
24. Your ringside crew: I am a one woman show. For my first few shows, a very good friend did come along to help me out, but who wants to continue doing 4:00 a.m. wake up calls? My mom came with me once which was really nice. But yeah. I travel alone. The upside is that I always meet really great people, and I've never not been able to find help when I needed it. Showing alone also lets me focus on just me and my horse without any other distractions.
25. Best prizes: one of the rules about endurance riding is that everyone who completes gets a prize. We got lots of cool stuff over the years: flash lights, laundry bags, travel mugs, buckets, belt buckles, t-shirts galore, sweatshirts, hay carriers, coffee mugs, and a variety of other things. Ride managers take pride in coming up with creative completion prizes.
Dressage shows are a bit different. Ribbons are obviously the norm, and at the beginning, I loved getting ribbons; especially the great big ones. Now, not so much. I can't say no to a ribbon, but I have also run out of ways to display them.
I've also won a fleece cooler, actually two if you count the one I won at an endurance race. I know there must be other prizes out there to win, but so far, the things I've won at dressage shows have been pretty standard.
And still more from Tracy's 5-Day Challenge and My 5 Things.
16. One thing you’d like to change about your horse: I love both of my guys the way they are, but that doesn't mean there aren't things that could be improved upon.
If I am to be totally honest, I wish Speedy was a bit happier with contact. He can be a bit lazy, and his way of escaping work is to drop behind the vertical. This happens more at home and less at show, thank goodness, but I do wish he was more enthusiastic about the contact.
As for Sydney, I wish I could turn off his anxiety button, especially away from home because this is so much fun to ride. Grrr...
17. Your horse’s future: Speedy's future is much clearer than Sydney's. I don't know how far he can go in dressage, but I hope that we can at least play around with Third Level someday. The good news is that it might take us a long time to get there which means that we have a long time to play around together.
Sydney's future is a little hazy. I hope we can start showing dressage with some success. SInce I don't know if that is going to happen, I am looking more into fox hunting, which he seemed to enjoy. Either way, schooling him has taught me to be a better rider which is worth a lot. For now, I am happy just learning to be a better rider. And if that's all he is, my schooling horse, I can live with it.
18. Your worst show ever: scoring a 48% at a California Dressage Society rated show probably qualifies. I haven't had any "bad" shows with Speedy G. Yes, I've been disappointed, but I always learn something, and I always come home feeling good about the experience. That show with Sydney, however, where we earned a 48%, kind of hurt, and it wasn't the judge's fault. Sydney simply wasn't prepared, and obviously I wasn't either. Moving on.
19. Favorite horse show venue: El Sueno. The show secretary is awesome, the arenas are beautiful, my camping spot is always so peaceful, and I always have a great time! What's not to love?
20. Your show day routine: get up in the middle of the night, dress, throw my breakfast and lunch in the ice chest, drive to the barn, halter my horse, load him in the near dark, drive for several hours, warm up, show, eat, and then drive back home several hours.
But, I prefer two-days shows where I can drive the several hours on Friday afternoon. When we do that, I can arrive in the middle of of the day, get my horse stabled, get my own camp set up, and then do a warm up ride on Friday evening.
On Saturday and Sunday mornings, I always get up early and feed and take Speedy for a long walk/ lunge to help him get his wiggles out. He's never "high," but he's not used to being cooped up in those small show stalls so he really appreciates getting out for a look around.
I like to hang out with him in his stall, but I also leave him to go and watch others show. I usually begin my warm up ride 20 - 30 minutes before my test, and if my next test is an hour or more later, I untack and let Speedy rest in his stall (or at the trailer if it's a one-day show). Once the day is over, he gets a beet pulp/rice bran/electrolyte mash and all the hay he can eat.
Once my final test is finished on Sunday, I always give Speedy at least an hour to rest and nap before I load up for the drive home.
And still more from Tracy over at Fly on Over … or, more of My 5 Things.
11. Critique your horse’s conformation: hmmm … no thanks. You can though, and I won't be offended in the least. Both of my boys have tremendous strengths and a few weaknesses. I know what they are but since they can't be changed, there's no point focusing on them.
I couldn't find good profile photos of either boy: Speedy is in a wash rack so you can't really see all of him, and Sydney is camped out on a slight slope with what looks like a fish eye lens. Best of luck!
12. Horse’s favorite riding exercise: I think this is a funny question. Both of my boys thoroughly enjoy eating and turnout, but like me, they'd rather leave the exercising for another day. With that said, they do like it when I am balanced and supportive in my aids. One exercise that I do is the up, up, down exercise where I stay in rising trot for two beats and sit lightly for one beat. This exercise helps me lighten my seat and ride with a stable leg position and a steadier core. Speedy and Sydney appreciate my efforts.
13. Favorite spa day products: I am not a thorough groomer, but I am a daily groomer. Since I ride each boy at least 3 - 4 days a week, they get groomed quite frequently which I think keeps their coats shiny and smooth, naturally. When I want to get a bit fancy, I really like Eqyss Survivor Super Detangle and Shine and EQ Body Wash. I also use Mane and Tail Detangler, but really, frequent grooming seems to get the best shine out of my boys.
14. Three best things about your horse:
Speedy G: he simply oozes personality, he LOVES to go places, and he's wicked smart.
Sydney: his ground manners are superb, his canter is awesome, and he's a really kind soul.
15. Favorite picture of your horse: Lori of Simplee Focused has made this quite easy. She did a photo shoot of us last fall and took some lovely photos. The action shot of Speedy captured his sassy attitude perfectly, and the shot of Sydney and me always makes me smile; he's a Steady Eddy in the making.
More from Tracy's 5-Day Challenge … Or, My (next) 5 Things ...
6. Favorite equestrian book and movie: Hmm … tough one. I really enjoyed Laura Hillenbrand's book, Sea Biscuit: An American Legend, the Eighty-Dollar Champion by Elizabeth Letts, and Buck Brannaman's The Far Away Horses. I am actually a voracious reader and have read nearly all of the horse books for kids. It's really hard to pick a favorite.
For movies though, the answer is easy. I am a Black Stallion fan all the way. I've seen it a million times, but if I happen to catch it on TV and the island sequence is on, I can't walk away. That musical accompaniment during the underwater dance is simply mesmerizing.
7. Most common riding misconception: that anyone can ride. I actually ran into this issue at a recent family dinner. One of the guests at dinner said she had a horse. Oh, really? I asked. Where do you board? And I mean no disrespect here, but when the answer came back that, I board at so and so, and I love it because I can not show up for two weeks and everything is fine, I gave a silent sigh and thought, yep, anyone can own horses and ride.
I don't mean to be such a stuck up, but in our society, people think that owning a horse is a lot like owning a bicycle. It's parked in the garage ready to ride at a moment's notice, and neglecting it for 6 weeks causes no harm.
My horses are such important and precious members of my family that I always feel shocked and dismayed that other people don't view horse ownership with the same seriousness that I do. Any yahoo with enough money to pay board can own a horse. Should they? No, not usually. And I'll step down off my soapbox now.
8. 2 riding strengths and 1 riding weakness: I have a velcro seat, but now that I've written that, I am sure to come off tomorrow. Don't misunderstand. I have been tossed numerous times … and seriously enough to warrant emergency room visits that included amnesia, MRIs, X-rays, slings, crutches, pain pills, TBIs, cut cornea, and even a sprained pelvis! With that said, most of the time, I can ride it out.
I also have a pretty solid leg. It's not perfect, and no one is going to walk around talking about my good leg position, but my leg is pretty steady, and it's not something I really need to work hard to improve upon.
One weakness, and I only get to list one? Pretty tough, but I think the one thing I wish I was better at was actually feeling where each foot is beneath me. I know this is an indispensable skill for dressage. Knowing where each foot is in the sequence helps the rider know when to cue more effectively. This is something I am always trying to get better at feeling.
9. Least favorite thing about horses and or/riding: There is nothing I dislike about horses and riding. I live for this "hobby." I am not me without riding, shoveling poop, grooming, raking the barn aisle, freezing my butt off, sweating through my t-shirt, and swatting at flies. The one thing I could do without is spending the equivalent of a small nation's Gross Domestic Product.
10. What do you feed your horses: ahh … the question I most wanted to answer. And not because I feed anything special, but because I have strong feelings about what my horses eat. The simple answer is that they are fed free choice alfalfa and a soaked beet pulp/rice bran mash daily, while Speedy also gets alfalfa/oat cubes twice a day. We don't have easily accessible (cheap) hay choices here where I live, so while alfalfa is not necessarily the best choice, it's the economical choice.
This sounds rather simple because it is simple. I am a firm believer in the idea of free choice hay as it most closely mimics a horse's natural disposition to graze for nearly 24 hours a day. Neither of my boys "hoovers" down their food; they nibble all day long as nature intended. My barn owner is enormously generous in allowing me to indulge this one idiosyncrasy (okay, there are probably more).
Tracy, over at Fly on Over, started a 5-Day Blogging Challenge. I don't normally participate in these kinds of things as I have a hard enough time squeezing in everything that happens to my two boys as it is. In this case, I liked some of the questions, and I've enjoyed reading others' answers, so I'll give it a try. I also love that it is organized by fives - five questions over five days which fits nicely with My 5 Things.
Here are My (first) 5 Things:
1. Most influential person on your riding: right now, that would have to be my trainer, JL. I had two endurance mentors, but for most of my life I've been without a trainer or a horse-focused family. I just did what I wanted with my horses. I missed out on early formal training, but the upside was that I learned a lot on my own.
2. Piece of tack you’d love to splurge on: we're not rich or anything, but when I see something I really want, I ultimately get it. But there is one thing I've had my eye on for a while that I can't see myself buying any time soon; a nice all purpose saddle. I don't need it for dressage of course, but if I do more fox hunting, it would be more appropriate for that sport.
3. Top 5 riding playlist: I've never used headphones (except for an earpiece with a trainer) while riding. I can't listen to music from earbuds and ride; it's simply too isolating and would seem to remove the rider from the more visceral aspects of riding. When the neighbor has his stereo up loud, I do sort of dig listening to that while I ride, but I find that I tend to tune it out rather quickly and am not even aware it's playing.
4. Most important aspect of your barn: private and all inclusive. I board my two horses at a private home where I am treated as though I actually live there. Other than actually purchasing the hay, I am consulted on every issue related to my horses' care. My barn owners will do any "services" that I request like blanketing, feeding supplements, turn out, etc. I am there nearly seven days a week though, so I am free to do as I please.
5. Three winter riding goals:
1) Firm up some of the First Level movements (leg yield and lengthenings). 2) Get Sydney's right lead canter departure down pat.
3) Try at least one more fox hunt.