Booking Confirmed

Man I have REALLY missed my horsey related travel. I haven’t been on a plane since we went to Burghley in summer 2019 (thank goodness we did it then at least) and since we used to do 1-2 fun horse trips every year, I’ve really been jonesing. We’d planned on finally hitting Ireland last year with a Millstreet/riding/stallion viewing combo (a big horse show plus stallion/young horse viewing has come to be our preferred method ever since Bundes in 2017 – it’s definitely the way to do it) but of course covid derailed all that. At least it happened early enough to where all I’d done was spend hours plotting an itinerary but we hadn’t actually booked anything yet. The little airbnb cottage I had found though, y’all. Le sigh. It lives in my dreams.

UNIQUE Airbnbs in Ireland: 39 Quirky Rentals You'll LOOOOVE
let me in, Ireland

It’s my style to try to get as much bang for the buck out of any horsey trip, hence putting horse shows and breeding stuff all together into one maximum bang-for-your-buck experience. If I’m getting on a tin can with a bunch of other people and being hurtled through space while spending a lot of money for the privilege, you can bet I’m gonna milk it for all it’s worth. So when I started thinking about planning a trip out to see Presto, the gears started turning. I mean, it’s Ocala… the potential is huge and it must not be wasted.

Of course, this is the worst possible time of year for my usual travel buddy Michelle. There are 6 mares due to foal starting sometime between ANY FUCKING DAY NOW PEYTON and late May/early June. Plus those mares need to be bred back, and Michelle does the majority of her own breeding work, which means a lot of ultrasounding and monitoring of cycles. She’s pretty much tied to the farm from March through June. Too bad, because she and I are really good at finding trouble any time we travel together, and we definitely enjoyed our last Ocala trip (one of the YEH/FEH symposiums in… early 2019 I think? That was a great travel year…).

But you know who else is an exceptional Trouble companion? Bobby. And you know who’s currently horse shopping? Bobby. Guess where’s a great place to go to look at lots of nice horses in one relatively small geographic area? O-freakin-cala.

Ocala: The Horse Capital of the World - ESPN 98.1 FM - 850 AM WRUF

I pitched my plan to him, which took about .00005% convincing on my part. April is Bobby’s birthday month, it’s extra easy to talk him into treating his’self anytime in or near that month. Plus like – who doesn’t want to go spend a few days trying horses in Ocala? Pffft. The idea sells itself.

We’ve been floating the idea for a week or so, while I dug through and looked at what dates would actually work for me. Bobby is already fully vaccinated but I don’t get my second one until the 10th, and I wanted to wait until after that. Looking at our two schedules, and Megan’s schedule, it seemed like the best bet was the following weekend. So yesterday we buckled down, starting hunting flights and rental cars and hotels, and started BOOKING SHIT.

And I have to give Bobby props (even if it pains me to do so, because it goes straight to his big overinflated head) he is a really useful person to travel with. He travels a lot with his husband so they rack up a ton of airline miles, and he has all kinds of special perks and memberships, plus hunting good travel deals is part of his job. He got us hooked the hell up with some flights, a discounted rental car, and a decent hotel at a great rate. Split that in half and, well, thanks to him this trip is costing me next to nothing. Well, except the pain and suffering that comes with having to deal with Bobby for several days. Pray for me. He farts in his sleep.

Thoughts And Prayers GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Jk, we’re gonna go find him a nice horse and then we’ll be even.

When those booking confirmation emails started to come through I got hella excited. It’s been SO LONG since I had a fun horsey thing like this to look forward to. So long since I’ve gotten to obsess about an itinerary, trying to figure out how to maximize every last minute. Plus I have like 36 vacation days to use and don’t want to end up losing 20+ like I did last year since we can only carry 5. I’ve only taken one day off in the past 6 months and I’m ready for a fun break. I’m excited to be going back to Ocala, and I’m for sure ready to see Presto’s crazy face again. I already started thinking about what to pack, because it’s not too early to start packing yet right? 3 weeks in advance seems totally reasonable.

The next step will be to start finding horses for Bobby to try, which is also super fun because I get to try to spend someone else’s money. My one true talent in the world! We’ve already got some plans brewing for other stuff too – we’re definitely gonna pack as much as we can into our long weekend. I can’t freakin wait. And just imagine the high quality blog fodder that should come out of the two of us idiots taking on Ocala together… comedy gold, surely. You’re welcome in advance.

Never Stopping Window Shopping

Sorry not sorry about my lame rhymes. It’s just par for the course around here these days, what can I say.

Anyway… although I’m on a self-imposed spending chill (“freeze” is a harsh word, ya know? Chill seems better.) while Presto is enjoying his Ocala spring, that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped window shopping. Let’s be real, if I ever stop window shopping it probably means I’m dead. I’ve always been one of those people that loves to flip through a catalog, be it a hard copy or an online store. I just really like seeing what’s new and different, whether I like it or not. I will admit though that it’s gotten a lot less fun in recent years as my collection of stuff has built up to such a nice point that I just don’t really find myself needing anything that often. I’ve got a lot of variety in my collection, and some good quality. Things do need to be replaced sometimes though, and there’s always room for an upgrade, so… window shopping totally justified IMO.

Sometimes I see stuff that just captures my curiosity because it’s a new concept. Like the Cabasus Smart Boots.

SmartBoots™ — CABASUS

These haven’t actually come out yet, and I’ve seen a “smart boot” concept before, with the western style Zebra boots that monitor temperature to prevent overheating under the boot. The Cabasus boots will supposedly have features more like the girth attachments we’ve seen, like speed, gait, acceleration, distance, jump analyzation, etc. It can also supposedly detect unusual movement patterns (if you leave the boots on the horse, obviously) like pawing that could be signs of trouble brewing, and send notifications to your phone. I’m not sure that it’s something I’d really utilize myself, but it’s an interesting concept for sure and would be fun to play with. I’ll be interested to see what they look like and how they work when they come out. Horse wearables are always fun.

The other thing I always love is an online configurator. The Mattes one has gotten me more than once, and playing with the helmet and custom boots ones are a fun pastime. Horse Pilot used to have one for custom coats, although they were relatively tame. I feel like anytime I come across a configurator for literally any horse item I fall into a black hole and emerge 30 minutes later in a daze. Things were no different with this Flying Changes one. They have SO MANY color and customization options, it’s unreal.

Did I design a dark purple coat? Maybe.

Of course, I need another coat like I need a hole in the head. I’ve got one in my closet I haven’t even worn yet. So… no new coats. No. Noooo. Back away slowly.

I’ve also really got to break the Epplejeck addiction. I’ve liked everything I’ve ordered from them, and I’m especially obsessed with the glitter tights I got in the last go-round. They’re stupid comfy and fit me really well, and I like that the glitter aspect is super super subtle. The navy is so dark that it almost looks black, and the only other color they make them in is… black… so it seems a little pointless to buy the black ones too. That doesn’t stop me from wanting them though. If nothing else it would be good to have a second pair, right? Just nod.

Maury Povich Nod GIF by The Maury Show - Find & Share on GIPHY

I also still peruse the Riding Warehouse “New Items” section on the regular. For, uh, research. Or science. Or whatever. They added a bunch of new LeMieux, which luckily I am immune to. Apparently the new sunshirt thing is patterns, which… I’m definitely also immune to. I think Kastel owes my eyeballs an explanation and apology for this one.

Hard Pass

I’m not much a pattern person, I’ll admit, but that one seems particularly offensive. I DID notice a couple brands bringing back that ultra-90’s arm stripe though, which I am totally here for. Yes please. I will forever be loyal to my favorite decade. Except for maybe the bucket hats and the platform shoes. Arm stripes though, I’m in.

somebody crank up the Weezer

I admit that I DO actually like the sloth pattern that Pro Choice has come out with on a few items though. The colors are pleasing to my navy-loving eye and what’s not to like about sloths?

Riding Warehouse has it on a tote bag, a grooming bag, and a fly mask. I would buy this if my horses already didn’t have multiple fly masks each and if I didn’t already have multiple grooming bags. I mean, I’m not ruling out that I’ll buy it eventually anyway, but… not now, at least. There’s a unicorn print too but it’s lavender, which isn’t really my thing. Unicorns, though, I can almost make an exception for that. Almost.

Speaking of unicorn vibes, I also may or may not need this rainbow ombre dressage whip (which also comes in a short crop version and blue ombre or green ombre as opposed to rainbow).

majikal

It would match my rainbow box, ya know? Plus like… how could you possibly lose that thing ever. Do I need a dressage whip? No. Do I already own a black glitter unicorn-shaped whip? Yes, yes I do. Both of those facts are unimportant.

On a marginally more practical note they’ve got Mountain Horse pull on paddock boots in the clearance section right now, which DOES actually make my “trigger finger” a little itchy. I love my MH tall boots, and the price on these is really tempting. I don’t NEED new paddock boots though, having just bought new ones last fall. Still though. They have brown and black. My current ones are brown, so would black ones even count?

That Clearance section is maybe almost as dangerous as the New section… I’ve been eyeballing the clearance Anique shirts for so long that they’ve slowly sold out of almost every color in my size. Equal parts sad and relieved. They’re pretty shirts though, you have to admit, and 35% off is nice.

define “enough” shirts

Honestly I think we should all just be impressed that the window shopping hasn’t led to any actual purchases. Look at me with that self-restraint. Kinda sad watching those FedEx and UPS trucks lumber right on past my house without stopping though. Miss you, boos.

At the rate I’m going through fly spray right now it seems much more likely that I’ll be having to stock up on essentials long before I ever get back to anything superfluous. Practicality is boring. Maybe they should put glitter in fly spray and I’d be more excited about it.

Anything fun out there that’s caught your eye lately?

Accidental Stabbing

There are certain perils that come along with living in Texas. It’s a little bit like Australia in that there are a lot of things that want to sting you, bite you, eat you, or stab you, whether they be animals or plants. For animals it runs the gamut from rattlesnakes (I’ve had a horse bitten by a rattlesnake before, it’s NO FUN) to scorpions to those giant disgusting freaky feral hogs. *shudder* The plant life isn’t always much better, with lots of mesquite and those stabby little sandburs that hurt like fuck, and of course cactus.

When you say cactus a lot of people picture the big tree-size ones you see out in the desert if you go further west. Here in this part of Texas we’re kind of at the point where the west meets the east. Drive a few hours west, you hit desert. Drive a couple hours east and you’re deep in pine forests. That means we have a mix of landscape and vegetation, which gives us this interesting juxtaposition of things like super rocky soil but also pretty decent pasture grass, or big oak trees but also cactus. Mostly a few different types of little ones, which grow here and there but aren’t particularly noteworthy or noticeable. The horses tend to be very smart about avoiding them, and aside from Presto accidentally jabbing a mesquite thorn into his head once (because of course he would) I’ve never really had a horse tangle with any of the stabby vegetation we do have.

Until yesterday anyway. I went out to get Henry and he was standing by the gait very pathetically, resting a hind foot but also looking very irritated. At first I thought it was the flies – they’re starting to come out in full force – but as soon as I got closer I could see the little chunk sticking into his leg. Poor dude! Some of those thorns were really jammed in there too, at least half an inch.

First I took a good look at how many they were and where they were. Nothing in a joint or anything like that, luckily, so I tied up his tail and started the process of carefully pulling them out. There were 9 total, with a few stuck in there deeper than others. They definitely hurt, he threatened to knock my block off a couple times. I tried to just be quick about it while also trying to avoid stabbing myself in the process (wasn’t 100% successful with that, I stabbed myself once). A few spots bled quite a bit, which I figured was a good thing to help clear them out.

Glad I didn’t find him like THIS, I’d have thought he’d been bitten by a snake for sure

They stopped bleeding pretty quickly, and I scrubbed them up, ran my hands all over the area to make sure I didn’t miss any and that none of them broke off, and he seemed fine after that. I think the spots must have stung a bit because when walking through the longer grass in his pasture he hiked that leg up a bit more, but he trotted out sound and seemed no worse for wear. He’s normally pretty smart about nature in general, so I figured something must have spooked him and he flew backwards into the wrong, unlucky spot.

Then when I was grooming him I found a little swelling and a bite mark on his neck, which makes me think the neighbors horses might have been involved. There are definitely some stabby plants up near the back fenceline, and if Henry was playing bitey face with them over the fence and things went too far, he easily could have flown backwards into one.

suspicious

Henry is also zero percent stoic and extremely high drama, so he milked his multiple stab wounds for all they were worth. Plays me like a fiddle, this one. I lost count of how many cookies he had, because according to him, cookies heal all wounds. At least one cookie for every stab, that’s for sure.

moar please, I has owwie

I can honestly say this is the first time I’ve ever had to extract so many big sharp thorns from a horse, despite how long I’ve had horses in Texas and just how many stabby things we have here. Guess it was time for nature to bite back. I gave him a little bute last night just in case, and took a good look at the area this morning by flashlight, and all seems fine. No swelling, and you can’t even see the spots anymore. He walked out of his stall looking totally normal. Hopefully he stays that way.

And, uh, hopefully he keeps his chonky ass out of all the stabby stuff from now on. Lesson learned, maybe?

Tell Me Tuesday: Flatwork

I got to wondering about this the other day when someone posted on facebook about having a flatwork lesson and what it entailed. Over time my general flatwork routine has definitely evolved, from horse to horse and discipline to discipline. Back in the hunter days we might do different size circles, some transitions, a little bending left and right, maaaaaaybe some shoulder-in, mostly in a stretchy trot type of outline. When I moved to the jumpers it got a bit more intense – shoulder in, leg yield, opening and closing the stride, smaller circles, etc. And then of course over to eventing, dipping our toes into actual dressageland (um, -ish…) and adding in such fun things as haunches-in, canter squares, half pass, etc.

As I’ve learned more, my overall flatwork routine has definitely evolved. Of course a lot depends on the horse you’re sat on and their level of training – I can’t just go in the ring and pop out a casual half pass on the 4yo for funsies. But he did get a lot of things introduced to him earlier on than some of my other horses, because I have more of an “established” (lolhelpme) background in flatwork fundamentals. I’m still shit at it, but… ya know. A little less shit?

Anyway, I think a lot of us probably have a “typical” flatwork routine for most of our horses. Like, let’s say, it’s just a regular ol’ work day, not a lesson day or anything, and you’re flatting your horse just to push some buttons and keep them moving and tuned up. I’m curious – what does that look like for you with your own horse, whatever their stage of training or discipline?

Sometimes I feel like I’ve spent our entire eventing career struggling against his conformation

For example, mine: Henry was a Prelim event horse but we don’t really seem to show anymore (at the moment anyway). I can’t tell you the last time I put a dressage saddle on him, but we still do flatwork several times a week. I push all the same buttons I spent so long installing, both to keep him tuned up in case we ever do make it to a show again, and to keep his body stronger and more gymnasticized. So for him, just a regular ol’ not-at-all-special day of flatwork starts at the walk, usually going back and forth from freewalk to contact, opening and closing the stride, and doing figure 8’s on 10-ish meter circles to get him bending around my leg. Then we move to trot, which he usually likes to do a big stretch before we really dig in, so we might make a few 20m circles or laps of the arena just letting him stretch before I start to put him back together a bit. From there we do a lot of lateral work – leg yield and shoulder-in are is his jam, he is always Mr. Tension and it helps him relax into the outside rein – and serpentines. I’ll play a lot with transitions within the gait – lengthening the stride, then making it small, then back to working – and going back and forth and in between. We’ll throw in a few trot/walk/trot on a circle (rapid-fire transitions have always been his “come apart” trigger, and some days they still are). Then canter, with leg yield, maybe a little baby half pass, always some counter canter loops, and most assuredly our favorite and most important exercise for an event horse – opening and closing the stride. I want to be able to go from a 10′ stride to a 14′ stride to a 12′ stride and back again at the drop of a hat while jumping, so transitions within the canter are probably the #1 thing we do and we do it EVERY ride (I think if you sit outside the jumper ring or the cross country warmup that’s probably the thing you’d see most often too). If you can’t quickly and easily adjust the canter, you’re screwed on a jumping horse.

Especially when they’re built like this

Canter squares are big for us too, because Henry is a croup-high, naturally quite downhill horse, and they help get his hind end more underneath him and his front end up a bit. I’ll do a simple change here and there with him sometimes but almost never flying changes, because he loves to throw flying changes into dressage tests where they shouldn’t be. We’ll do some canter/stretchy trot/canter or some canter/walk/canter or some canter/trot/halt/rein-back/canter too, how many or which variations depend on the day and how spicy he is. After that we do some free walk, more stretchy trot, stretchy serpentines, etc, and then we’re done. It could be 20 minutes or it could be 45 minutes, depending on the day.

Presto obviously isn’t here right now and is neon green, but before he left his flatwork sessions were about 15-20 minutes and consisted of transitions between walk and trot and canter (mostly walk and trot since he was still kind of struggling with his canter balance in the dressage arena), beginning leg yield (he was actually pretty good at that), the extreme beginning of shoulder-in (less good at that), small transitions within each gait, serpentines, and figure 8’s. Nothing particularly complicated, but enough to keep him focused and thinking and paying attention to my leg/seat and not just blobbing around on endless 20m circles. At the canter he either did simple laps around or did circles. We had just started playing with opening the stride and then coming back when I sent him off for training.

starting to leg yield off the quarter line

So tell me – what does your average, not-special flatwork day look like? Discipline and level of horse? I love seeing what everyone else does and why!

Round is a Shape

Just me or are weekends way too short lately? When the sun is shining and the weather is mild, it’s extra hard to want to go back to work and spend all day in front of a computer.

It was a nice horsey weekend though, in all regards. Henry’s back up to being ridden 6 days a week now since he’s the only horse on my plate, and he’s been doing a bit more fitness work. Definitely getting some strength back and getting back into more proper shape, despite the fact that he reminds quite round. Round is a shape.

On Friday afternoon I brought him in for a fun little conditioning hack out in the back (where he inevitably always turns into a dolphin at some point during the canter laps) and realized he was looking a little… ranchy. So I got out my scissors and my rake and got rid of a lot of that mane, which kind of just makes him look even rounder and chonkier. Whatevs, he’s owning his figure.

Sometimes when I’m feeling cheeky I’ll make little challenges for us, like the time I set the two little piggies up as a bending line of skinnies. On Friday after we finished our canter sets I was like… I wonder if I can put both reins in one hand, canter down the alley, hang a 180 turn through the gate and under the tree, and jump the little log. While holding my phone to video, of course. Tis the Instagram era. Henry, bless him, has been dealing with my weird shit for so long now that he’s not even phased. He was in his sidepull, but no matter, we cantered down one-handed, made the turn through the gate, under the tree (just about dropped my phone ducking under branches) and popped over the log. Sometimes the little random goofy stuff like this is really the highlight of my rides. It’s fun, and it’s spontaneous, and doing weird shit just for the sake of it is totally my jam. I like testing all the buttons that have been put on my horse over the years, and he seems to enjoy doing different stuff.

Saturday was Henry’s day off, and was split between barn chores, errands, and stalking Mason on the Carolina live feed. He looked like he was having a GRAND time galloping around that track, ears pricked and full of running all the way through. He crossed the finish looking like he could have happily gone around again.

He’s entered at Kentucky for his first 5* so fingers crossed that everything goes well and he gets to go. #1 fan right here, for sure. I just love watching him go around… his enthusiasm, his gallop, his balance, the way he hunts the fences like he’s just having the best time… totally my type of horse. He eats cross country for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If Presto decides to be even half the horse his doppelganger brother-from-another-mother is, I’ll be delighted.

On Sunday I went out and set my cavaletti exercises back up in the arena. We’ve been working over those twice a week, trying to build Henry’s hind end and topline strength back up. This time I pulled out my rail raisers (which are actually Ikea potties) and put them on a curve to make it a little more difficult. These are my skinny rails, only 4′ wide, so it’s definitely an accuracy exercise especially when they’re on a curve. Henry was pretty good when they were half up…

But as soon as I put them up on both sides he was convinced they counted as jumps. It took 3 or 4 times through before I finally successfully persuaded him to stop trying to bounce through them. Which was… awkward. Although I guess that’s one way to get a butt workout.

Can’t blame him for trying to make some boring work a little more interesting I guess. He’ll make a jump out of anything if he can.

I’ll try to get a Presto update this week, and I’m planning a trip down to Ocala to see him sometime next month. Otherwise there’s not a whole lot going on around here. Peyton is edging her way towards baby time, she’s at 334 days today, although she doesn’t appear to be in any particular hurry to release her hostage. I dunno about y’all but I’m ready for some baby horses. Let’s do this already. I need my weekly doses of cuteness. I don’t think we’ll be getting a Foal Friday this week, but maybe next week? Feels like I’m a kid waiting for Christmas morning.

Hope everybody had a good weekend! Send Peyton some “wrap it up already” vibes so we can get this show on the road.

Friday Bits

Time flies when the weather is nice. That’s what the saying should be anyway. Spring is the best time of year in Texas, and it’s always early and short-lived so we have to enjoy it while we can. Right now everything is green, the days are fairly mild, and the nights still have a little bit of a nip to them. The whole 10 day forecast is highs between 70-80. It’s almost enough to forgive Texas for all the bullshit it pulls the rest of the year. Almost. Anyway, at the moment we’ve got good riding weather and happy horses and beautiful pastures. Plus, ya know, I’m ALWAYS in a better mood this time of year because it’s breeding season and foaling season and there’s nothing I love more than delving into bloodlines, picking stallions for the mares, and waiting for the babies to show up (Peyton is at 331 days today! Getting close…).

And in the spirit of the season, it’s possible that WTW has acquired a new mare to add to the eventer-breeding string. My love for the sporty TB has rubbed off on Michelle, who’s spent the winter deep diving into TB performance lines. For real, y’all should see all the notes she’s gathered from the research she’s done and competition results she’s dug through, it’s a literal book. But anyway, we’ve been keeping our eyes peeled for a really good quality mare to add, and indeed I feel like we’ve seen every TB mare on the internet at this point. Lots of cute ones but none that were quite right. We found a really lovely one a few weeks ago but were about an hour too late and another eventing breeder snapped her up before we did. Lesson learned.

Gotta Be Quicker Than That GIFs | Tenor

And then earlier this week we came upon this one in Arizona (much closer than Delaware, at least!).

She’s 8 years old and still racing on remarkably clean legs – selling point #1. When she decided she wanted to be fast, she was, but unfortunately that only happened once, in a turf race. Otherwise she’s seemed delighted to toodle along mid-pack. She’s reported to have a good temperament, is a nice middling size around 16h, has a great gallop, nice uphill balance, and the right kind of conformation to breed to warmbloods for sporthorses. Plus, like… look at them airplane ears. She also really ticked the pedigree checkbox – we were looking for a pretty specific handful of lines, and hers are well-suited for our purpose. Lonhro mares are hard to find and tend to go quick, his offpsring have great canters, are smart, super athletic, and forward-thinking but not idiots. Broken Vow has made a lot of super sporty ones too, and of course Lyphard and Riverman on the bottom. Definitely a nice pedigree for sport.

The discussions about who to breed her to first have already been flying, complicated a bit by the fact that a lot of frozen semen brokers are sold out and awaiting delayed shipments. Frustrating, but we’ve got a lot of good options still, so we’ll see where we settle. I’m pretty excited to have another really nice TB mare in the crew.

Along the same breeding lines, I had intended to do an In The Blood post for Carolina 4*S but I was just too busy with other stuff this week to get it done. The good news is that they have the live stream at least (granted it’s behind the H&C paid firewall) so let the stalking begin. Poor Mason was a bit wired yesterday in the dressage and had a hard time – not the only one with that problem – but Carolina isn’t a dressage contest so we’ll see how things go. I keep hearing about a new Normandy Bank on the course that’s supposed to be pretty gnarly so hopefully we’ll get to see it on the live stream.

stalker mode: engaged

Also a big shout out to Event Entries for a really cool new feature that some of their events have. See the little blue i bubbles next to the horse’s name? Some events are actually showing breeding information right there in the results! Not a ton of them yet, but some, and a lot of it is incomplete since the USEA data is as well, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. This screenshot is from the Ocala results. I LOVE this feature. They also show all the individual dressage marks, which fences they have rails at, and which jumps they have issues with on XC. Really cool data to poke through if you haven’t seen it yet.

Last but not least, Riding Warehouse and Better Dressage Scores have teamed up to offer an online horse show, with all proceeds benefitting the Optimum Youth Equestrian Scholarship. It’s open to USDF tests, USEA tests, and Western Dressage tests, so something for everybody. Entries aren’t due until April 8 so you’ve got some time to get your tests videoed and submitted!

Have a good weekend, everybody!

Unpopular Opinions: H/J edition

Y’all know I love me a good discussion post, and a podcast I listened to earlier this week definitely provided plenty of fodder… I’ve been thinking about it all week. Most of you probably know that I grew up in the h/j world, splitting about half and half between the hunters and the jumpers. I was always a fan of a good hunter, and indeed Sadie was bred to be a hunter. I give this background mostly to say that I’ve been in that world, I think I have a decent understanding of it, and I’m not here to just criticize it and be a dick. I genuinely want the sport to improve, because I do think it has a lot of value and good things going for it, even if I’m no longer a participant.

scenes from a different life

Anyway, on to the podcast in question. It was an episode of Heels Down Happy Hour, and they had Hope Glynn on to talk about things that could be improved when it comes to h/j. She had several points I agree with completely – especially the idea of making all jumper classes under 1m into Optimum Time (yes, omg yes, I’ve been saying this for years) and changing the judging/licensing structure for hunter judges.

The part I really want to talk about though, starts at around 44 minutes and you only need to listen for a few minutes to get the gist of it.

Basically the points she makes are that the demand for quiet, safe, low level amateur horses is so high that it drives up the prices beyond what a lot of people can afford – totally agree with this part. Hunters are SO expensive, at every level. She also says that horses end up lunged too much and medicated too much in order to make a borderline unsuitable horse into a quieter and safer and sounder one – agree with this part as well (I have never in my life seen anything in a sharps container at an event, which was kind of shocking coming from h/j where those things were full a couple days into a show). She also makes the observation that the majority of people at horse shows, the ones that really pay the bills, are the low level childrens and amateur riders, and their horses are being so used up so quickly from all the lunging and meds that they’re having to buy new ones every few years, which becomes even more exorbitant. Yep, I’ve seen that a lot too. Totally with her on her thoughts of some of the biggest issues.

Where she loses me, 100% and unequivocally, is in the proposed solution. Particularly “find a safe tranquilizer” that can be legalized to give to these horses so that they don’t have to get lunged as much or given as many other medications. I admire the fact that she’s ballsy enough to say this out loud – she’s certainly not the first that’s said it, but still it’s a controversial opinion. I just couldn’t help but massively massively massively cringe at it though. Especially because one of the big reasons I left that world is because I was so disheartened at what went on behind the scenes with regards to medication and the constant attempt to make horses into robots. If you’ve ever seen one dropped by a bad mag shot, it’s not something you easily forget. Not everyone is doing it, for sure, but most of them are very quick to reach for a liquid solution (there’s literally the term “liquid lunge”, y’all).

My real issue with this proposed solution is that it doesn’t actually fix anything. It slaps a band-aid over top of some much deeper issues. Not to mention that IMO it’s not safe AT ALL. Please do not jump tranquilized horses. Good god. And I say that as someone who grew up riding with a very Ace-happy trainer and I FOR SURE have done it many times in the days before I really understood what it meant or what it was. These days you could not pay me to jump a tranquilized horse, I’m sorry. I like my neck in one piece thanks, not to mention that it seems like a lawsuit waiting to happen. Anyway, rant over… back to the deeper issues.

As Hope mentions, part of the problem here is that many of these young fancy warmbloods are just plain unsuitable for the job of low level amateur/kids horse. They’re big and athletic and fancy. If the judging rewards big and fancy robots, then big and fancy robots are what people will bring to the ring. So, if we’re willing to say that all jumper classes under a meter should be Optimum Time, what are we likewise willing to change about the structure or standards of low level hunter classes? Would these people not be safer on less athletic, less fancy, perhaps smaller horses?

Here’s where we get to my probably very unpopular opinion. How about, let’s say, in the 2’9″ and under amateur and children’s classes, we have different standards of judging? Much like dressage tests start easier and get progressively harder, with different frames and carriage at the lower levels vs upper levels, why should a 2’6″ amateur hunter class have the same standards as a 3’6″ open class?

For example – for under 3′, why count strides? Allow people to add strides with zero impact on their score. Let the shorter strided horses safely and comfortably do the add, if that’s what makes a more appropriate picture. Gunning it for the 5 makes no sense if the horse could safely and easily do 6, and they shouldn’t score any lower because of it. This would also make it a lot easier for smaller horses or “honies” – many of which are much more size appropriate for kids and small adults.

Allow simple changes without massively impacting the score. I’m sorry but a well-executed simple change is MUCH better and safer and more correct than the floppy, crooked, front-to-back change (aka what every other discipline calls a “hunter change”, hate to break it to you) that you see so often as the kid or amateur tries desperately not to miss a lead change because they know it’ll most likely mean they’re out of the ribbons. If your priority is safe and proper riding and a well-schooled horse, then a good, quick, nicely executed simple change is perfectly fine. Take a couple points off if you want to, but certainly don’t drop the score to an automatic 55. Plus this would open up the market a lot (horses without a 100% perfect flying change could actually have a place in their world) and likely make some more affordable low level ones.

Also, at this level and for the children/adult crowd, should we really be expecting horses to jump out of their skin? Should we reward the horse that the rider can barely cling to? Is that an appropriate mount? Why not the horse that jumps consistently tidy with its knees and has a bascule congruent to fence size instead – isn’t that one actually the better horse in this particular scenario? I think in these classes that’s the that type should be rewarded more, because it’s more suitable, and leave the more extravagant knees-to-chin ones for the pros and the higher divisions.

And last but not least, please for the love of god can we stop expecting horses to plod around like a robots? A few tail swishes here, some ear flicks there… if the horse isn’t actually being naughty or rude, let it be. They’re living creatures with thoughts and emotions and reactions, trying to strive for an automaton is just unrealistic and leads down some seriously dark paths in the quest to achieve it. Aside from the obviously much worse issues of LTD (lunge to death) and drugging, have we stopped to consider how ridiculous it is that most people add weight via fake tails to make the horse’s tail be more still? It’s… an absolutely absurd concept that hints at the much deeper issue. They’re HORSES, for god’s sake, we shouldn’t punish them for acting like it.

Basically my thoughts are: instead of trying to find a “safe” tranquilizer to drug unsuitable horses to meet an incredibly difficult standard, maybe instead we should change the standard to actually suit the horses and the riders.

Hope talks about how there has been almost no growth in the hunter world over the years, and I think there are a lot of reasons why. For myself I know it was a combination of cost and all the crap going on behind the scenes that I just couldn’t stomach. Imagine if someone like me, with a cheap but extremely safe and suitable horse, could actually come in and stand a chance at doing well at the national level. That’s what eventing offered me, and that’s why it ultimately lured me away. A “quick fix” thing like making tranquilizers legal isn’t going to fix that kind of issue. It might keep some people around longer with their unsuitable horses, but I don’t think it’s going to bring people in and grow the sport. Making it more accessible and easier for the average, middle class person to actually be able to compete and do well… that’s what’s going to make the difference, and in order to get to that point, there are some big overhauls that need to be made from the ground up. In my opinion, anyway, of course.

hats off to the only hunter trainer I’ve ever really loved, who always did it the right way

It seems like these types of conversations are going on in a lot of equestrian sports right now, with many of us having to step back and start to reconsider how we do things. What are your thoughts? What changes do you think would help make all equestrian sports more accessible? And for the hunters in particular – what changes would you like to see? How would you feel about changing the drug rules to allow tranquilizers? What would help make horses more affordable again for the lower ch/ad divisions? What would help keep the horses from having to be so heavily medicated or lunged? If you’re someone that’s been lured away from that world like I have, tell us why you left. Or if you’re someone in that world now, tell us what your biggest struggles are and what would help keep you actively participating in the sport long-term.

Party in Da (Ocala Jockey) Club

Originally I had a much heavier post drafted for today but that can wait til tomorrow, right? Good. Because my temporarily-Ocala-based Texas friends really came in clutch yesterday on Presto’s birthday and they deserve some blog time. Plus there’s cute pics, so no one should mind.

birthday party spoiler alert

I’ll be honest, when I posted about Presto’s birthday yesterday morning I was kinda bummed to be missing it, but as the day went on and more people commented on social media and the memories started flooding back, I got more and more sad about not being there. Have I ever in the history of all my horses cared that much about a birthday? No. They get a cookie, a “happy birthday”, a picture, I spend a few minutes lamenting about them getting older and time flying by, and everyone moves on. But with every Presto birthday I vividly remember how close he came to not ever actually having any, and they hold a lot more meaning. The memories of that time around his birth are still so sharp, and still so weighty… it’s inevitable that I get dragged back into them a bit. All those hours sitting in the dirt, agonizing over his bloodwork, cleaning up his runny butt, constantly checking his joints for heat or swelling and praying to every god that has ever existed that I wouldn’t find any, helping run the endless bags of fluids and plasma, bawling the entire hour home worried that I was making the wrong choice, being too terrified of getting a bad phone call to fall asleep, then getting up and doing it all again the next day, day after day after day. Just thinking about it is, even now, still enough to make my heart skip a beat and my blood run cold.

So every year when I put some sort of goofy hat on him and take his birthday pictures, its not so much about the birthday itself as it is about what he overcame just to be here and to have that birthday. Every single one feels like a milestone. Plus I know the memories that are going to start popping up over the next couple weeks, and I always dread them. I don’t avoid them, because I feel like it’s important to remember, but they instantly transport me back to those horrible moments just the same. The trauma lingers on his people much more than it ever did on him, thank goodness.

Peak Presto

And the thing about it with him is that I’m not the only one. “His people” span far and wide, some that know him well and others that have never even met him in person, with so many having gone through it all via the blog, right alongside. I know I’m not the only one with a lot of emotion tied up in this horse, and the fun celebratory hat pictures are just as much for his “fans” as they are for me. Everyone was so supportive during that time, and has remained supportive of him and invested in him ever since.

So those were the real thoughts that were running through my mind as the day wore on and I was thinking about his birthday, and how it was the first one I’ve missed. There was some sadness in that for sure, alongside the fact that I do miss seeing his crazy goofy giraffe face every day.

My friend Julie is down in Ocala right now with some of our Texas contingent, at a farm just a few miles down the road from where Presto is. Upon learning that it was his birthday she immediately offered to go see him and take him an Oatmeal Cream Pie (since I was feeling like such a bad parent for not thinking ahead enough to have a box mailed to him). Already way above and beyond for her to do that, so I was thrilled.

Y’all may remember Julie from The Best Henry Selfie ever, from Coconino 2019:

Anyway, she sent me some pics and videos of Presto, and y’all my icy little black heart melted a bit for real. Not only did she go say hi to him and get him an OCP, she got him a little birthday cupcake, a hat, and a birthday boy ribbon to wear for some pictures. If I couldn’t be there, it was certainly the next best thing. If that’s not a seriously proper birthday party, I don’t know what is. And now the streak of Presto birthday hat/headband photos remains unbroken!

All in all he had a pretty awesome 4th birthday, I think. More treats than he could even stuff in his mouth, visitors, some fancy accessories… what more could a giraffe kid want? And then after his formal party he put on his clubbing attire and went out for another pasture party.

Holly says he’s embarrassed by his club outfit. I said nah, the dorky outfit is 100% on brand. In Presto’s mind he thinks he’s going to the club like this:

Download Its My Birthday Dance Gif | PNG & GIF BASE

But he’s really going to the club like this:

Night at roxbury GIFs - Get the best gif on GIFER

Complete with footage of how he gets his forelock ready:

A Night At The Roxbury GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

So ya know… dorky outfit is totally appropriate.

Many many many thanks to Julie (and Megan… I should have warned her about the stipulations that come along with this horse but I think she’s catching on) for arranging and pulling off this little birthday party and pics for me and Presto. It means A LOT more to me than you think.

Coming of Age

Omg today is Presto’s 4th birthday. Can you believe it? He’s officially an “adult”. It’s the biggest, most monumental birthday for a horse really, comparative to when a human turns 18. In a lot of ways this has felt like a looooooooooooooooong time coming (there is nothing slower than the first 3 years of a horse’s life, I’m convinced) but in other ways it feels like only yesterday that this little noodle popped out with no warning, in the middle of the afternoon, right into a hay bale.

Chaos from minute 1

I’ve been obsessed with him since I first saw that one little white foot and white nose poking out, and the obsession hasn’t really abated. Of course, we went through the ringer during the first month of his life (I absolutely DREAD the facebook memories that are going to be popping up over the next couple weeks, it’s still hard to re-live) but here we are anyway, sliding into his 4yo year Tokyo Drift style. Megan made sure he had his birthday cookies this morning, and he spent last night romping around a 30 acre field with a buddy having a party of his own design. A very Presto way to celebrate.

I had bought him a sash and a hat and big 4 balloon a few months ago in anticipation of our usual birthday photo, but of course the plans changed and now he’s not here. Boo. I’ll have to save it all for next year (except the giant silver 4, of course… not sure what to do with that…). Since we didn’t get to do a birthday photo shoot this year I figured I’d repost some of his past ones.

1 year

Delighted with my BS, even then

2 years

I swear he liked this one

3 years

not too many horses can pull off a “Seriously Magical” unicorn mullet hat while also holding their own lead rope

I still get a little emotional if I think too hard about his birthdays. Or, specifically, just how close we came (many times) to him not ever actually having any. Tugs on the heartstrings to think about what the alternative could have been, for sure.

If I was a good mom I would have sent a birthneigh cake or a box of Oatmeal Creme Pies for him, but in all the bustle of getting him sorted to leave for Ocala last week his birthday kind of snuck up on me and I forgot until it was too late. Terrible mother. Luckily Megan is there to pick up the slack.

Happy birthday, kiddo! Hope you’re having fun in paradise. The fact that he’s too tired from his party last night to even chew his birthday cookies with much gusto tells me that he must be having a fine time.

Right Place Right Time

Well that was a banner weekend. There is a lot to be said for being in the right place at the right time and just having some good old fashioned luck.

At the F1 track here in Austin they’ve been having mass covid vaccination events on the weekends. Ya know, those big drive through ones where they’re able to vaccinate thousands of people relatively quickly. Right now in our state you can only get an appointment for the vaccine if you fall into the phase 1A or 1B categories, of which I am neither. I’d put myself on every “waste dose” list I could find, just in case something happened to come available, but otherwise I figured I’d probably end up having to wait until May or June to be able to get one. And then on Friday afternoon the mass vaccination event at the F1 track had some leftover appointments and opened them up to the general public. Bobby sent me the signup link and I immediately logged in and got myself on the list. You had to be quick, all the appointments were gone within minutes.

I managed to snag a time slot though, and got my appointment confirmation email. I admit I was still kind of skeptical. My appointment was at the end of the day… would they really still have doses left? Would they turn me away if more 1A or 1B people showed up? I had an “I’ll believe it when they stab the needle in my arm” mentality, but it sure as heck was worth a try. So on Saturday afternoon I got in my truck, drove down there, and proceeded to wait.

The lines were crazy long. First you had to wait in a line to get into a line to get into a registration line. Then you went into another line to get into an actual vaccination line then you went into another wait line before they released you to leave. A lot of lines. The volunteers had it down to a science though, and I had planned on waiting thus I had my Spotify playlist queued up, and it was nice enough outside to have my window rolled down a bit. Not exactly a hardship to sit in my truck and listen to music. It took about an hour to get into the registration paperwork line where you filled out your info, confirmed your appointment, and got all the paperwork sorted. They had 8 lanes of cars for this part, and they did one full lane at a time. The volunteers brought your paperwork, you filled it out, they checked it over, and then once everyone in the lane had their paperwork filled out, they’d release that lane to proceed to the next line to wait for the actual vaccination.

the nurse who did my vaccine got a huge kick out of my mask, he was a hoot

Whenever they let a lane go there was tons of cheering and honking and celebrating from both the people in cars and the volunteers. Which I’m kind of glad I got to experience that… it really brought home how momentous this really is. How much covid has completely derailed peoples lives, how much we’ve all lost, and what a relief it is to have a vaccine available and feel like we have a light at the end of the tunnel. The feeling was jubilant, and hopeful, like maybe just maybe there will be an end to this at some point. It was one of those moments that you won’t forget, when you experience something with so many other people on a mass scale like that. I think if I’d just had an appointment by myself I would have been happy about it, but it wouldn’t have struck me in such a big emotional way. Sitting in my truck for 2 hours was worth it for that memory, I think.

So, one shot down, and I have an appointment April 10th for the second dose. I’m pretty freakin pumped. Get me back on an airplane ASAP. I’ve got places to go and horses to see.

In other weekend news, Presto is officially an Ocala kid. He arrived on Friday night, having caught a ride with another trainer leaving from the Dallas area that morning, since Megan didn’t have any room on her trailer. They drove straight through, which at about 15 hours was definitely Presto’s longest trailer ride to date but he seemed to arrive in good shape and wasn’t stressed. Megan arrived Saturday morning, got her horses settled, then went and picked him up and brought him over to join them at Ocala Jockey Club. They’ve got dressage rings, jump rings, a racetrack to gallop on, tons of hacking, xc, turnouts… what more could a horse ask for?

So far the only update I’ve gotten is the crosstie picture (I have come to call these “proof of life” photos) but I have a friend nearby that’s gonna go see him at some point, so maybe I’ll have more media soon. I’m very jealous and majorly wishing I was in Ocala right now too. I can’t wait to hear about what all he gets up to while he’s there!

The US Event Horse Futurity also started posting the “starting” vlogs this weekend, led by yours truly.

Don’t forget that comments and shares = entries for the Presto’s Favorite Things prize pack that I’ll be giving away (which I still need to post details about, someone remind me another day). The next vlog in May is where things will really start getting interesting, since it’ll be more of Megan taking over at that point and talking through what she’s been doing, but this one is a recap of everything he’d done through like February basically.

Last but not least don’t forget that Baby Bets contest entries are due TODAY. I have a little bit of bad news in that it appears as though Daisy must have lost her pregnancy at some point after her 60 day check. Michelle noticed that she just wasn’t looking as big as she should at this stage, so she scanned her and unfortunately there’s no baby in there. So we’re down to 6 foals expected this year. Definitely a bummer, but luckily there are still a lot to look forward to. Get those Baby Bets in before the end of the day if you want a shot at the $100 gift card!