Review: Majyk Equipe Compression Ice Boots

I’ve been using these since December, but I was really waiting for some hotter weather to give a complete review. It’s easy to be an ice boot in the winter… it’s harder to be an ice boot when it’s hot.

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They are the Mayk Equipe Cold Compression Ice Boots, and I got them from Riding Warehouse. I’ve been on the hunt for a good ice boot for years, and haven’t been particularly pleased with any of the ones I’ve had or tried in the past. Most just didn’t get that cold, or didn’t stay that cold. Using real ice on a regular basis is a bit of a logistical nightmare though, so the ease of an ice boot has always been really appealing. When I saw that Majyk Equipe came out with these, I really wanted to try them. They looked rugged and heavy duty, and I liked the added optional compression factor.

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My first impression is that they were way heavier and more substantial than I expected. Most of my ice boots have been pretty light (bordering on flimsy, if I’m honest) and these had some real heft to them due to the substantial inner ice pack. They come in a carrying case to make them easier to transport, which is really helpful for toting them to lessons or schoolings or shows. The velcro is very heavy duty and secure, and the outer material (meant to reflect sunlight to keep the boots cooler) is extra rugged as well. I lovingly call these things the Space Boots, because they legit look like something NASA would make.  They’re also longer than other ice boots I’ve had, covering everything from the knee to the hoof, and you could position them slightly further up or down depending on your needs. This is a big perk for me with a horse that has a slightly lumpy right knee.

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The ice pack liner, which covers the ENTIRE inside of the boot, is removeable if you’d like to just toss them in the freezer or ice chest to reduce space. You can also throw the whole ice boot in there if you want, a nice perk for those of us who are lazy. The liners are easy to velcro in and out though, if that’s your preference. They suggest to cool the liners/boots for 3-4 hours before use. The ice packs get quite cold, but still stay very flexible and easily mold around the leg.

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a closer look at the gel liners

The real question though – do they work?

I’ve been using them on Henry after more intense conditioning days and harder jump schools. I just put the whole boot in the freezer, then after I ride I hose him off and slap the boots on for 20 minutes. Every time, without fail, his legs are cold when I take the boots off, and the boots are still quite icy themselves. No other ice boots I’ve tried have still been this cold by the time I’ve taken them off, and with most of them his legs weren’t particularly cold either.

still frosty after 20 minutes on Henry

I have used the compression feature a bit too. I do pump up the boots at least a little bit every time, because they are a one-size fits most (15h to 18h) and I think he needs a few pumps to help them stay snugly in place. I’ve gone a little further with the compression a few times too, adding more pressure – Majyk Equipe suggests 18-20 pumps for compression, but you can stick a finger in the top to check that you get the pressure just right for your horse. I don’t think you’re going to get a ton of compression from these, if that’s the feature you’re after, but the option to add some is nice. The hand pump is attached to the boot and stores in a little pocket on the outside, behind the knee. It’s easy to use and quite straightforward.  Pump up to add air, press the valve to release it.

Overall I’ve been really pleased with these. They definitely stay colder than any other ice boots I’ve tried, and I love the ease of being able to just throw the whole thing in the freezer. Definitely worth a closer look if you’re in the market for ice boots!

Ay, Corona

Boy does it feel like shit is starting to hit the fan with the coronavirus. SXSW here in Austin got cancelled, the Houston rodeo got cancelled, NBA is postponed, 30 day Europe travel ban, Road to the Horse postponed, talk of postponing the Olympics (or not), and uh oh, not Tom Hanks.

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While I am admittedly not super worried about the virus when it comes to my own health, I’m concerned about what a widespread pandemic could mean for the elderly and my immunocompromised friends, especially if our medical system were to become overwhelmed (ala Italy – which is a heartbreaking situation). The government’s response so far leaves a lot to be desired and the lack of readily available testing could prove especially problematic.

The potential economic impact is frightening too, for everyone, especially since we’re already seeing the trickle down in that department. My company makes equipment for the oil and gas industry, which was already struggling and will likely continue to struggle especially if people aren’t traveling. Some of our biggest customers have already changed their budgets in response. The potential overall trickle-down effect from this throughout many industries (except maybe toilet paper manufacturers…) is huge, and definitely a little scary. From the health side of things, there has been some company-wide discussion of possible work from home protocol if it gets to the point where that seems prudent. But since our particular group is hands-on, and it isn’t really possible to work from home, we would have to continue to come in.

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On the equestrian-specific side of things, it’s starting to get reaaaaally interesting. What does the Europe travel ban mean for the World Cup, set to take place a month from now in Vegas (a city that already has confirmed cases)? Many events in Italy have already been cancelled, Saut Hermes in Paris was cancelled, and Longines in Hong Kong was cancelled. Land Rover says that as of right now they’re still a go, but in the end it may not be their decision to make, especially since Lexington already has the virus and has been cancelling “large gathering” events left and right. Even the Olympics is starting to look like it could be on shaky ground, and they’ve put forth a 2-year postponement as their back-up plan (and then backpedaled on that idea, so… who knows). That would really toss things up, especially considering WEG.

USEF has said that they’re “monitoring the situation” but for now I haven’t really heard of any regular horse shows or events being cancelled. Organizers do seem to have stocked up on hand sanitizer and are encouraging a lot of hand-washing and caution, but I assume at some point the liability may become too great if the situation doesn’t become more contained, and travel to bring in judges/staff may become quite difficult.  It kind of makes me glad I didn’t have any grandiose plans for the year.

touchface

It’s definitely going to be interesting to see how this continues to unfold, both in the short-term and long term, and what kind of effects we start to see within the equestrian industry. Even just totally putting the health aspect aside, the financial one could potentially be quite profound. The last recession had effects on the industry as people stopped spending money… not as many people buying horses, or property, or going to shows and events. Not to mention the impact that these big event cancellations has on local economies and a wide variety of businesses.

Have any of you started to see any first-hand impacts from the virus yet? Has it changed any of your plans for the short-term?

So far I think the worst part of all this is that someone showed me this stupid video and now I can’t get this song out of my head for the life of me. All the hand sanitizer and toilet paper in the world can’t get rid of it.

When mom gives you a mullet

The grass is green, the wildflowers are blooming, Cadbury mini-eggs are back on the shelves at HEB… spring has sprung for real in Texas, y’all.

And by spring I mean pre-summer.

it felt more humid than this

I am not ready for this shit again yet. And apparently neither is Henry, because I went out to get him yesterday afternoon to ride and he was like “I cannot, I am dying of heat stroke” so instead of riding we body clipped. The front half of him had shed out pretty well, but from his saddle area back was still fuzzy. He grows an insanely thick and coarse coat, and since I only clipped him once last fall, there was just too much hair left. Combine that with the fact that he doesn’t handle heat and humidity well anyway, and yeah… it needed to come off.

Of course I wasn’t planning to clip at all, so he was dirty and I didn’t really have time to bathe him and let him dry, nor did I have my supplies prepared. I went digging around in my clipper bag and came up with three different semi-dull blades – a 10 and a T-84 for my Andis and the medium on my Listers. Oh well, it didn’t have to look perfect.

it actually ended up looking decent though

Between the three blades I managed to get the job done (with some artful blending required) and 45 minutes later he seemed much less miserable. Granted, now I was the miserable one, with sweat rolling down into my eyeballs and horse hair stuck all over me.

this seems like a lot of hair considering he’s been shedding for 2 months

I hosed Henry (and myself) off, sprayed a little Unicorn Grooming Spray on his coat, turned him back out, and went to clean up my supplies.

At which point I found a new T-10 blade buried in the bottom of my clipper bag that I had totally forgotten about. Dammit. I struggled through 3 different dull blades for NO ACTUAL REASON.

Then I looked up and saw Presto standing at his gate, also looking hot. He’s been shedding, but not as fast as Henry.

You know where this is going.

mom no, dis is embarrassing 

I restrained myself from giving him a full clip, which I really wanted to do. His coat is longer but so much thinner and finer than Henry’s, so he’s really quick and easy and satisfying to clip. And although Henry is very well-behaved about clipping (as long as you don’t do his legs or ears) Presto is even better. Well ok he tries to eat the clippers when you do his head, but otherwise he just stands like a rock for all of it. Makes sense considering his first bodyclip was at 3 months of age (thanks rhodococcus meds).

I started with just the little strip on his chest/neck but then dear god his head looked even BIGGER, so I clipped the bottom half of his head too. The hair on his jaw was so long. Now he’s rocking what can only be described as a modified mullet… a little business in the front, but a whole lot of party in the back.

when you’re always the nerdy kid at school

It’s still possible that I might cave at some point and clip the rest of him, since it sounds oh-so-satisfying, but for now at least he’s a little cooler. Which is good, because it’s supposed to be even hotter today. Stop it Texas.

Who’s blog is this anyway?

Henry would like to remind everyone that this is his damn blog, as evidenced by the frickin title and the giant banner photo across the top (that the kid already tried to worm his way into). Not cool, bro. Not cool at all.

stink eye

He went to a show on Saturday and didn’t even get the Monday blog spot, which he finds incredibly offensive. I tried to explain the whole “landmark moments” thing to him with regards to Presto’s first ride but I don’t think he cares. Scratch that, he definitely doesn’t care.

Anyway, yes, Henry did go to a show on Saturday, another one of the small little schooling shows nearby. It’s 25 minutes gate to gate and under $50, which is hard to resist. Nothing has ever been that close to me. Ever. These schooling shows are super laid back and chill, so it’s really just an opportunity to get off the property and go jump a couple courses somewhere else.

Lately no one else has really entered anything above 2’6″, so it turns into more of a schooling than an actual show for me, which is totally fine. I’m not there to really show anyway, just to jump around outside of our home environment. The organizer Paulina is super nice and flexible, so once the smaller classes were done she put all the jumps up for me and I jumped my two rounds before she put everything back down for the people that wanted to school after the show was over. It’s like all the perks of a show but none of that whole stand-at-the-gate-forever-and-wait-for-everyone-to-go thing that I can’t stand. Plus if I didn’t like how I rode something, I can just go back and do it again.

Paulina even videoed one of the rounds for me, too, since she knows the importance of blog media (thank you!).

 

The ground was still a little bit slick from rain earlier in the week, so we kept things on the smaller side and I opted to ride to the quieter deeper distances. He’s not drilled and tapped at the moment, so no studs. He was very chill and rideable, and agreeable to my ideas (not always the case with him, because he’s a diva). After I warmed up I felt like I had a little too much whoa, so I asked Paulina to loosen my hackamore. This facility is getting pretty familiar to him by now, I have pretty much the same horse there as I do at home. I don’t need a lot of brakes.

We did the course for the timed 1st jumpoff, we did the course for the power and speed, I re-did an approach to an oxer that I hadn’t liked the first time, and then we were done. Easy peasy.

no idea why he gets mistaken for a QH

I want to start taking Presto to these shows, since they’re so close and easy and cheap. They have one pretty much every month except during the summer. I briefly entertained the idea of taking them both, but I don’t think I hate myself enough to do that alone. Henry has a way of stirring Presto up, as I’ve learned. 99.9% sure it’s on purpose, too.

Presto has been to a couple there before already, when he was a yearling, and I think they’d be good experience for him to continue doing now, especially once he’s broke enough to start riding around. Plenty to look at, but not super busy or overwhelming. It’s a nice first step before thrusting him into the hubbub of a bustling recognized event with hundreds of horses. Plus their classes start at literally poles on the ground and go up from there, so it’s great for green ones, and there’s a little xc course on site with ditches, banks, and water. It’s got Presto written all over it.

It’s pretty much that time again – horse show season is upon us. Anyone else got shows on the horizon?

The Riding Horse

We did a thing, guys.

Yesterday Hillary and Karen (how appropriate that a group of bloggers was involved, considering this horse was created and raised on a blog) came over to help me put a first “real” ride on Presto. Karen was the official photographer/videographer, and Hillary was my groundperson. Considering I’m not dead and also have extensive video (next month’s training vlog will have more!), they both performed their duties exceptionally well. 

I brushed Presto, tacked him up, and we headed out to the arena. I don’t have a round pen, and the only arena is the dressage arena with it’s low walls, so I opted to use a lunge line for the first ride. We went out, I lunged him both ways at the walk and trot for a couple minutes first to make sure the whoa worked, then I handed over the lunge line to Hillary and climbed aboard.

I haven’t actually swung a leg over him since that one and only time I sat on him last May, but he didn’t seem to care. We’ve continued the mounting block sessions in that time, so the idea of the human standing there or leaning weight over was well-established. I swung aboard and he was like “oh yeah, ok, we’ve done this before.”. Then we asked him to walk off and he was like “Whaaaaaat? I cannot possibly move with this giant lady on me omg how?”. With some encouragement we got him walking, and after a few wobbly steps he adjusted to carrying a human.

Hillary led us for a couple minutes as he got the idea, then we moved on to lunging on a circle at the walk. We tested the whoa (works exceptionally well), the go (much more difficult) and the steering (lol). After a few tries he got the basic idea of squeezing leg = go somewhere (where, who knows, just somewhere), so we took the lunge line off and went for our maiden solo voyage.

Not too bad for a first attempt. 

We wandered around for a while, stopping and going and attempting some steering, then we figured, well… might as well try trotting? So we put the lunge line back on, and with more encouragement and a lot of clucking, we got a couple trot circles each direction. 

baby’s first trotting screenshot

He tried to get a little “naughty” the second direction by snaking his head around (which was really just his attempt to stop, because whoa is his favorite) but we kept asking him to go forward through it. Definitely never any consideration of bucking or bolting or anything like that. His main motivation is clearly laziness. Next time we’ll use a lunge whip. I opted not to for this first ride because every once in a while it can make him a little over-enthusiastic, but clearly I don’t think we’re going to have any issue with whoa.

Despite the ground driving we’ve done he’s remained fussy about the bit and steering. The wolf teeth are out and the dental is up to date, so at this point he just has to get used to it. It’ll come with time. His attention span is also approximately 3 seconds long, he’d be concentrating on what we wanted and then look off into the bushes or trees or across the pasture and completely forget. Nothing reactionary about it, just gawking at things that are clearly far more interesting than we are. 

only Presto can look distracted and asleep at the same time
“someone send halp, I is being aboosed”

He is definitely very narrow at the moment, much like his mother was at this age. It feels good to sit on him though, and actually ride him a little. I definitely think a summer of trail riding and hacking will be just what he needs to help him figure out his legs and his balance and get a little stronger in his body. Hopefully I can get a handful of rides on him in the next couple months and get the forward/steering established enough to be ready for some summer adventures. 

And with that, Presto is officially a riding horse. For a first ride I think it went really well. He was a little confused but certainly never worried or upset at all, and I think he’ll learn quickly. He got an extra cookie last night, because the horses that get ridden (ok Henry, it’s always just Henry) get an extra cookie at night check as a thank you. He still seemed skeptical as I gave him his second cookie (and Henry was mad to witness this) but I’ll buy him over to my side sooner or later. The “working” life has it’s perks.

Many many thanks to Hillary and Karen for helping out and documenting the occasion. It takes a village! 

Review: Hylofit Heartrate Monitor & Tracker

You guys have heard me talk about Henry’s fitness on here a lot. Probably to the point of annoyance sometimes, because I do believe it’s really important for ANY horse, but especially for an event horse like mine who has a heat intolerance and some lung issues. Keeping him fit, and knowing exactly how fit he is, is absolutely vital to his health and well-being. And there’s no better way to measure that than via a heart rate monitor. Enter: Hylofit.

First of all – why is it so important to know and have some standard of measure for a horse’s cardiovascular fitness? For me personally:

  1. Safety. A tired horse is a horse that makes mistakes, and mistakes are dangerous. The last thing you want at the end of a cross country round is a horse that’s out of gas and struggling. Same goes for the rider – a tired rider becomes a passenger, and that can be just as dangerous. I love that the Hylofit also measures rider fitness in direct correlation.
  2. Performance. Aside from making dangerous mistakes, you can also make costly ones when a horse and rider are tired, particularly if you’re showjumping after cross country.
  3. Injury Prevention. Fatigue injuries are a very real thing. On the flip side, you also don’t want to be getting a horse so over-fit that you beat up their legs unnecessarily in the day-to-day work and end up with an overuse lameness.
  4. Recovery. You want a horse that recovers quickly, not one that is absolutely knackered for hours or even days after an event. If they are, you haven’t prepared them adequately. You could even argue that as a horsemanship/welfare issue, in my eyes. Being able to easily measure how fast a horse’s heart rate is recovering can help you evaluate whether or not they’re prepared for what you’re asking.

So if your goal is a fit, safe, sound, happy, well-performing athlete, it makes sense to have some kind of method by which to measure and track your progress. Equine heart rate monitors have come a really long way, especially in the past couple years, and Hylofit is one of the leading brands, I think for good reason. It measures the horse’s heart rate, the rider’s heart rate, is simple and easy to use, gives speed data, zone data, mapping, and even weather information like temperature and humidity. You can even overlay video to see exactly what you were doing when the heart rate went up and down (Doug Payne has some really cool integrated videos that are pretty neat to watch).

This was especially helpful to me over this winter as I’ve been bringing Henry back to regular fitness. If you don’t know where you’re starting from, and it’s not measurable and quantifiable, how do you really know where to go? For instance, these metrics below, from one of his first rides back, are from some shorter trot sets. It was super helpful to give me an indicator of where he was at with his base fitness just coming back from his bad foot bruise, and give me some direction so that I could plan out his program to start ramping back up to peak over the following months.

I was admittedly a little bit wary of relying on a heart rate monitor at first. My experiences with them in the past had been a little bit hit or miss as far as accuracy, reliability, and ease of use, but the Hylofit has been a much more positive experience. The only time I’ve had inaccurate readings was that one time I forgot to tighten my girth… because the electrodes sit underneath the girth, it needs to be held snug against the horse to get accurate readings. Since my horse was a little bit hairy this winter, I’ve also been opting to use an electrode gel just to make sure it’s getting optimal contact. I already had some from my Microsense unit, but you can also pick some up for $3 on amazon if you wanted to use it. You don’t need the gel, you can also just wet the electrodes instead, but I figured I’d use it just to make sure I’m getting the best possible readings through the longer winter coat. If you use the gel just make sure you clean it off after every ride to avoid any buildup interfering with readings.

sleek and flat and unobtrusive

The Hylofit comes with some additional velcro straps to help stabilize it to your girth, if need be, but mine sits perfectly and has never shifted, so I haven’t had to use anything other than the main strap. The shape is very simple and flat, so Henry doesn’t even seem to notice it under the girth and since it sits in front of my leg I’ve never felt it either. The human heart rate monitor fastens around your rib cage, under your bra line, and stays in place without being annoying or uncomfortable. Being able to see my own cardio data has been really interesting, especially when it’s in comparison with Henry’s. If my own fitness is lacking, I need to know that too.

My favorite thing about the Hylofit though, especially compared to other systems I’ve used, is that it’s easy and simple. Hylofit has detailed set-up instructions on their website, as well as a video tutorial. It wasn’t much of a learning curve to figure out how to use it, and the app is very user-friendly and easy to navigate, with all the data displayed for quick and easy interpretation. It’s all saved by date and the type of ride it was, so it’s fantastic to be able to quickly and easily look back over past rides and see how you’re trending – again, it helps you plan your program. The zone training feature also, IMO, makes the whole thing much more simple and easy to understand for people that may be new to using and measuring heart rate data.

I also really like that you can see the data in real time. The transmitters talk to your phone via Bluetooth (and can also display on your Apple watch, if you have one) so I can always pull my phone out on a walk break and see the results of the last set or if he’s recovering in a timely manner. If I had an Apple watch I could look down at any given time and see the data… legit the only time I’ve ever found myself wanting one of those. Still, even with just my phone it gives me the ability to tweak the ride as it’s happening, rather than just seeing all the data afterwards.

I haven’t been able to play with the video merge feature yet, as I almost always ride alone, but I’ve been using the monitor itself for over 3 months and have found it super helpful even just from a pure data perspective. I also really like that you can share your data with others, like your trainer, so if you’re a little bit unsure of what it all means, you can quickly and easily get some input. I would have LOVED to have had this thing back when I was prepping Henry for our Classic 3 Day. It kind of makes me want to do another one…

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headed into the vet box at Coconino!

At $250 for the full system (rider monitor and chest strap, horse monitor and girth strap, and the app) which is on the lower end for a complete system like this. The real value for me is in the design (so unobtrusive), the app (way better than others I’ve seen/used), and the “support” (it’s an American company run by fellow equestrians, so there are no language barriers, lingo issues, or time zone problems if you have questions). There’s a lot of good information on their website and useful tutorials, videos, photos, and Q&A’s on their Instagram as well. You can buy the complete kit or also just the horse or human systems separately in the Hylofit store – use code 900PONY20 for 20% off! It’s also carried at some other retailers too (like Riding Warehouse), for those of you who might have a gift card burning a hole in your pocket or if you have a favorite shop that you like to frequent.

If you want more information on measuring heart rate and using heart rate data, there are some good articles here:

Why Training with Heart Rate Matters

Peak Fitness

Training Smarter

I also very highly recommend listening to the new Equiratings podcast series “The Hold Box” – there is some FANTASTIC data and information in there about using heart rate and how it relates to overall fitness, and why all of this is important for the sporthorse.

Superstitions

I think it’s safe to say that horse people tend to be a bit of a superstitious bunch. At the very least most of us tend to at least be believers in luck, or karma. 

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I had never really realized just how prevalent this was until I started listening to the Major League Eventing podcast, and they always ask each interviewee if they have any good luck charms, rituals, or superstitions. Damn, I had no idea how many people are having to put their left boot on first at shows. This was a new one to me, yet so many people have said it. Where does that even come from?

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There are other seemingly common things too, like lucky socks/underwear, a lucky whip, not wearing anything new at a show, having to listen to a certain song, put things on in a certain order, or folks who insist on having an even number of braids. And of course we’ve all heard that it’s unlucky to change a horse’s name, or the old

One white foot, buy him.

Two white feet, try him.

Three white feet, be on the sly.

Four white feet, pass him by.

While I don’t believe that one at all, and I am not into such level of detail as which boot I put on first (lets just be glad I remembered to put them on at all, and that they’re hopefully on the right feet), I do have a few little things that I admit to doing.

a correctly placed horseshoe

Big confession – an upside-down horse shoe (heel pointing down) bothers me juuuuuust enough to where I compulsively have to turn them all right side up. The saying is that if they’re upside down, all the luck will fall out. Granted, there is also another saying that if it’s the other way, all the luck in the shoe falls out onto the owner. I dunno about y’all but I want my horses and barn to keep all the luck, and for some reason that dumb thing I heard as a kid has wormed it’s way deep into my psyche to where I will absolutely flip a shoe the other way if I see it. I can’t even help it now. 

XCsocks2
best socks ever created

I also definitely do have lucky socks, at least for cross country. I used to get a new pair every year, themed juuuuust the right way (like my “carpe the fuck out of this diem” socks or my “thou hast balls” socks), but for the past few years I’ve been wearing my Henry XC face socks. Those are pretty great, albeit looking pretty worn by now. I’ve already thought about the fact that I’ll have to get new lucky socks for showing Presto, because he needs his own special magic, and yes I am aware of the fact that this makes me a lunatic. 

I don’t have lucky socks for lessons or the other two phases, but I definitely will avoid socks that I think might have the wrong juju. For example, my “ringmaster of the shitshow” socks… they have never, and will never, be worn to a lesson or a horse show, lest they prove to be true (we will ignore the fact that a shitshow has occurred on more than one occasion even without the socks being involved). 

Image result for bad juju gif

I also don’t like to use anything new at a show, and if I do find myself in that position, I will touch said item to the ground. Like… new whip? It’s gotta touch the ground first. New gloves, same. New anything. This makes no logical sense except in my own mind, but I know I’m not the only one that does this. And the one time I forgot to do it, I fell off, which clearly just confirmed my psychosis. It’s like if the item has already touched the ground once, it won’t be in such a hurry to get back there again? I don’t know, I can’t explain it because it’s not logical. I know it’s not logical, but I can’t stop myself from performing the act anyway. Because, ya know… 

Image result for just in case gif

I’ve definitely got a little bit of the crazy in me. I feel like horses do that to most of us, sooner or later. I know the things I do are ridiculous and really do nothing but make me feel like I have some extra measure control over a situation’s outcome, but just on that .000001% chance… I gotta try. I also do a lot of knocking on wood. Because horses have beaten down my soul. If luck is a thing, I will take what I can get.

What about y’all… any superstitions or rituals either at shows or at home that you find yourself doing, or “lucky” pieces of equipment/clothing? Please tell me I’m not the only one. 

Captain Unimpresto

It has become a little bit of a game to see what kind of new stuff I can come up with to entertain Presto. Ok maybe it’s me, maybe I’m just entertaining me. But I swear I do have actual reasons for doing all these weird things to him, which I’ll talk about more in depth on his next vlog. I’m not just a crazy person.

This past Saturday, he met a tarp for the first time. 

Yeah, he was just as terrified as he looks.

We started with it folded up on the ground, which he just pawed into oblivion, and then I opened it up to full size on the ground, which he again just pawed into oblivion until he was standing on a wadded up ball of tarp. Well ok then, lets up the ante.

Over his back it went, first folded up small, and then unfolded to full size. No reaction. I flopped it, I flapped it, I waved it around in the air behind him… yeah nah, that’s just a boring tarp, ma. Ok fine then. I fashioned him a cape (securing it in front with a hair band, so I could quickly yank the whole thing off if needed) and sent him out to walk and trot around me.

And that’s how Presto became Captain Unimpresto, the superhero. He just needs a mask or something spandex to complete his outfit. 

I then completely ruined his newfound awesome alter ego by cruelly forcing him to stand tied up at the barn the entire time Henry got new shoes put on, even though he’d already gotten his trim. I might be first on his list for vigilante justice.

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DIS IS CRUELTY TO SUPERHEROES

It was good for him in lots of ways… having to stand there for a long time, watching Henry get hot shod (“um.. bro… did you know you is on fire?”) and the farrier’s kids had tagged along and were running around so he kind of got a glimpse into his own level of chaos, just in tiny human form. Presto was mostly just irritated and stood there glaring at me most of the time. Clearly I was ruining his Saturday, he could be out like, fighting crime or something.

Henry jumped on Saturday (which was kind of a mess on my part – remember how I said my eye was coming back? HAHAHAHAHAHA I cursed myself.) so on Sunday I opted for an easy tackless ride in the field. It’s been a while since I rode him in just his neck rope. His brakes and lateral work are pretty good off of just leg and seat, but the steering leaves a little bit to be desired sometimes, especially out in the open like that. And I don’t think it’s because he doesn’t know what I’m asking, because he most certainly does, I think it’s because he’s got a demonic Thelwell living in part of his brain and he just can’t resist being at least a little contrary when given such an easy opportunity. 

when we agree on the direction of travel
that moment when the demon Thelwell starts to take over and my planned15m circle will quickly devolve into a 25m rhombus

My legs and core were definitely feeling it the next day. I can’t wait for my bareback pad to come in so I can get at least one solid bareback ride in every week, it’s nice to have bareback work back as a semi-regular part of the repertoire, I find it really helpful. 

What were you guys up to last weekend? Anyone else raising a baby superhero? Maybe we can start a support group.

Eventing Safety: the multi-pronged approach

There was yet another fatality (horse and human) at an event this past weekend, and I dunno about y’all but I’m growing weary of this same song and dance. Tragedy strikes, everyone gets upset and/or outraged and points fingers at what they think the problem is, but nothing ever actually happens. Eventually people stop talking about it, people forget, nothing changes, and we move on along until it happens again.

Image result for the definition of insanity

At least this time we’ve started to see a little action. The fatality occurred yet again at a table fence, like so many have recently. A few pros stepped up and started a fund to begin outfitting more fences with frangible/collapsible technology, and you can also donate to the USEA foundation (specifying that the money be allocated to the frangible fence fund). This is a great thing, and I’m happy to see the community rallying behind it. If safety technology exists, we have to utilize it, and it’s up to us in the sport to figure out how to help fund it.

The truth is, though, that this will take time. A lot of time. And money. A lot of money. Think of how many venues there are in this country, and how many fences we’re talking about that would have to be rebuilt (if possible) or scrapped and replacements built from scratch. It’s a big, albeit extremely worthy, undertaking, and while it’s part of the solution, it isn’t all of it.

 

I do think there are other things we could be doing now, or other avenues that should also be pursued in this quest for a safer sport. I see many people blaming one thing or the other, but the truth is that there are a lot of different aspects to this, and it isn’t as simple as fixing one thing.

Course design is a big part of it, and something that is already a work in progress and heavily studied. Understanding how horses read fences, jump shapes, trajectory, lighting and how it changes, terrain, speed, the flow of the course as a whole, etc – it’s complicated, but these things are all factors when it comes to safety. We’ve done a lot to improve this, but there is still more to learn. We’ve seen several fatal falls at tables in recent years – what is it about these fences that we’re getting wrong?

I also think, and this may be an unpopular opinion, that more liberal application of yellow cards and dangerous riding penalties would not be a bad idea. Officials shouldn’t be made to feel hesitant to use these if they think they’re warranted. I bet all of us can easily think of several dangerous situations that absolutely warranted a yellow card or a DR penalty but ended up as just a warning, if that. Hell, maybe we ourselves have deserved that kind of wake-up call at some point. With this particular rider there is at least one prior incident seen on video that was clearly a DR/yellow card offense, but none was given. Would it have ultimately made a difference many months later? Who knows. I know it’s a tricky situation, emotions flare, but we have to trust our officials to do their jobs, and we have to allow them to help keep us safe. Of course, officials also don’t have the ability to be everywhere at the same time either, and it’s just not possible for them to police everything, which brings us to…

Rider responsibility. You have to be realistic about yourself and your horse, where you’re at, and what you’re capable of. If you can’t quickly and easily adjust your horse’s gallop, if you can’t keep them straight to the jumps, if you’re getting dragged around XC… you’re not safe. Many horses are just not capable of moving beyond a certain level. Surround yourself with people that will be honest with you, not with people who just tell you what you want to hear. Err on the side of caution. Know when to call it a day. Stop getting so caught up in ticking boxes and moving up that you are willing to overlook red flags. Your life may depend on it. I was absolutely appalled to read a comment on social media yesterday from someone saying that they had a rotational fall in warmup but got back on and ran cross country. This is ghastly. Do not do this. Do not let your friends do this. Do not let your student do this. I can’t believe anyone would even want to, or think that’s a good idea. We have to be smarter than that.

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Which also segues to the whole “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” thing that so often gets thrown around. In this situation, it’s crap. I’m sorry, but it is. Everyone makes mistakes, even Michael Jung, and mistakes are one thing, but we all know an accident waiting to happen when we see it. I’ll go ahead and put this out there for myself – if you see a consistently dangerous situation, if you think that either I or my horse is not prepared for what I’m attempting – call me out. I mean, have empathy, do it kindly from a place of caring, not a place of judgment or meanness. Take me aside, don’t be rude about it, but please, say something. I would hope that all of us feel the same way. Ego is dangerous, hubris is deadly, and we have to be able to accept constructive criticism and doses of reality. If your friends don’t love you enough to be real with you, get new friends. If you don’t love your friends enough to be real with them, be a better friend. If your trainer isn’t willing to stand flat-footed and say “you aren’t ready for this” or “you need to be better at x thing before you’re safe to move up” – get a new damn trainer. Keep a team around you that knows you well, sees you regularly (at home and at shows) and that you trust. Also, be willing to listen to those people that care about you and are more experienced than you are.

We also need to talk about how behind we are in the US when it comes to rider safety equipment. We can’t even manage to pass a rule making BETA 3 vests mandatory, and I’m sorry but that’s just ridiculous. I think it’s well past time that the US aligns it’s own safety equipment rules to at least match those of British Eventing. We know (because science) that this equipment makes a difference, why can’t we require it? This is very easy, low-hanging fruit. It was mega-frustrating to see the rider involved in the latest fatality wearing a sub-par vest that did not even come close to fitting correctly. Again, would it have made a difference? Who knows. But we can police this, and we should, because it might make a difference for someone else.

BEhelmetrulesBEvestrules

Other possible rule related changes – NQR’s and MER’s. Also might be an unpopular opinion, but I don’t think it would be a bad idea to revisit the basic requirements that have to be met before someone is qualified to move up, and to start those requirements at Training level or even Novice. I also don’t have a problem with requiring them to be met by the the horse/rider combination either. This would inconvenience the upper level riders who bring horses up more quickly or obtain already-established upper level horses (maybe there can exemptions to the lower levels for extremely qualified horses and riders, I don’t know), and yeah someday it might even mean that I myself might have to hang out a certain level longer than I might want, but I feel like that’s a much better alternative than letting people leave the box when they really shouldn’t.

I also whole-heartedly agree with the Eventing Nation piece yesterday about accident reports and transparency. Not just the basic fall reports that are required and processed internally, but public ones, with extensive evaluation and detail. It’s frustrating that all we ever know about these accidents is what gets passed around the rumor mill – never any specifics on exactly what happened or how. I realize it’s a very sensitive subject and must be handled with compassion, but we have to do this. To me it’s an even bigger tragedy to not even be able to understand and learn from these types of accidents. How do we fix it if we don’t even know what went wrong? How do we ensure that we personally do all we can to not make the same mistakes? Other sports do this, we can too. We have to.

Everyone has their own idea of what the problem is, and in a way I think everyone is right to some degree. This isn’t a simple thing with a simple solution. There are so many factors that influence safety and accident prevention, and it’s up to us to figure out what all of them are, and pursue them all equally. If doing some of these things means that my entry fees or membership fees go up a little bit, raise them. The things that can be done quickly and easily and immediately – we have to do them. The things that will take longer and require more work – we can’t lose sight of them. The future of our sport, even our lives and those of horses, depend on it.

Presto Vlog #1 – The Introduction

Okay, this whole vlog creation thing took a lot longer than I thought. Mostly because nailing down the logistics was the hardest part… figuring out what program to use (and then how to use it), struggling with my laptop’s microphone, trying to download videos off the internet… it was a big learning curve. The only thing I couldn’t really figure out was the glitchy audio – you’ll notice several times in the vlog where it seems like a syllable or even a whole word disappears. No I don’t have a speech impediment. No I wasn’t drunk. Yes I know how to pronounce words such as blogger and dressage. I struggled with the audio forever trying to figure out why it was glitching, and re-recorded several times, but didn’t have any luck. It’s gotta be either the software – HD movie maker pro – or my laptop’s microphone. I dunno. I’ll try to figure it out before the next one, but I was at my wit’s end for this one (I welcome assistance from anyone who thinks they might know what the problem is. I had no luck with Professor Google…).

Anyway, here we go – Presto’s Vlog #1!

 

This first vlog is basically covering Presto’s backstory – how he came to be, detail about his parents (and video of them both), why I chose Mighty Magic, super cute baby horse footage, and a recap of his early struggles. It was a lot to cover so I condensed it as much as possible but it’s still a bit long. Sorry. I’m wordy by nature. I promise the next ones will be shorter, since they only have to cover a month instead of 3 years.

If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or criticism, feel free to leave a comment or shoot me a message. My main goal for these is to share more detail about my own thought process and show a little more of what happens behind the scenes, so I’m happy to address things either one on one or in future vlogs.

Thanks for watching!