Planning for Burghley-Normandy 2019

Considering that I can be a bit unorganized and a natural procrastinator, I freaking love planning these horsey Europe trips that have become a thing. Our 2015 trip required very little planning on my part, as we mostly just tagged along with someone else, but our 2017 trip was solidly on my shoulders. And I was kind of proud of myself for that one, I felt like we crammed a lot into a week. We did, really, covering 4 different countries, thousands of miles in a car, attending Bundeschampionate, and managing to see dozens of stallions. It was great. Naturally though, this time we’re upping the ante even more, fitting in a 5* event, a young event horse championship, a stallion show, a foal show, two countries, and at least 4-5 farm visits. In a week.

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My head has been spinning a little bit, trying to figure out the logistics of all this, but it can definitely be done. There are planes, trains, and automobiles (and possibly even boats and buses) involved. This is definitely not a leisurely vacation… we’re on a schedule. I mean, who wants their vacations to be leisurely, anyway? So many ponies to see, so little time.

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The Burghley side of the trip is the easiest. Well, ok… I’ve proven in the past that I’m a little bit dumb about trains so hopefully we don’t get lost on the first morning. We go from Gatwick airport to St Pancras in London, walk across the street to King’s Cross, and then get on another train to Peterborough. Bobby is meeting us at King’s Cross, so lord only knows what kind of shenanigans will ensue after that. Hopefully we at least make it to our Peterborough apartment.

Luxury City Centre Apartment with Parking
someone explain the colored lighting, it looks like mardi gras up in there

We have to take the train back and forth from Peterborough to Stamford every day to get to Burghley, only about a 10-15 minute ride, then walk about a mile from the train station into the show grounds. There will be a lot of walking during these first few days (add that to the list of “types of transportation” we’re implementing), which is good since we’ve already plotted out all the ice cream shops near our apartment and made plans to visit the fudge vendor and cheese vendor at Burghley. Priorities.

The Burghley days themselves are relatively simple… day 1 is for shopping, watching dressage warmup, and sneaking some peeks at the XC course. Day 2 is the young event horse finals and the stallion show. Or I guess most people will be over in the other ring watching dressage but ugh no thanks. We’ll be watching the baby horses instead (like any self-respecting psychopath, I have already looked up the pedigrees of all the entrants). Day 3 is XC day! They posted teaser drone footage of the course and it’s basically a video montage of all the shit I would never jump in my entire life, because while I’m crazy, I don’t think I’m that crazy. But hey I can’t wait to watch a bunch of other lunatics jump it. There are so many Americans entered this year!

So that half of our trip is pretty much already done and set. We’ve got plane tickets, train tickets, Burghley tickets, and the apartment is paid for. We’re skipping Burghley stadium day and instead using it as our travel day instead. We go from Peterborough back to London, and then across to France to start the second leg of our trip. That will also be when we part ways with Bobby and he goes home. Bye Felicia. I haven’t quite decided exactly how we want to get across yet… still weighing all the options and reading all the fine print and comparing costs. We’re only 2.5 weeks out at this point so, uh, clock is ticking. I have to wonder though, as I’m reading through details about documentation requirements, how the hell did people plan trips like this before the internet? I would have been screwed trying to do this back then.

Anyway, the following 2.5 days will be spent driving around the Normandy area of France, looking at horses. We’ve got 4-6 stallion stations to visit, and a foal show lined up to attend with our friend Milena. I’m really really REALLY hoping to go meet Mighty Magic this time, although I haven’t heard back from his owners yet. Y’all know I’m not above a little bit of friendly stalking.

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gonna try not to get arrested in France, but I make no promises

The France side of things is definitely still a bit up in the air as far as schedule goes. I have to figure that out and eventually look at hotels in whatever random middle-of-nowhere places we might end up at the end of the day. My goal is to make at least one of those overnight stays happen in a castle. Because CASTLES. This part of the trip might be a little bit more “by the seat of the pants” depending on when we can go look at all these stallions. Ultimately though, it’s pretty much just 3 days driving around the Normandy region, looking at horses. I can think of worse ways to spend 3 days, even if the schedule-obsessed side of me gets a little anxious about the idea of not having every hour mapped out in advance.

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Then there are all the other little things that still need to be done, like deciding what to pack (England in September… LOL), notifying my phone carrier and credit card, figuring out where I want to do the money exchanges, etc etc. Let’s not even talk about the Burghley trade fair, which is rumored to be the best shopping of any 5*. I’m taking a relatively small suitcase so that I hopefully can’t get myself into too much trouble, although I do have my eye on a couple things that are cheaper there than here.

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I have another week or so to get all this stuff ironed out, then I’m barnsitting for a week, then we leave a couple days later. Which also means I have to figure out some show entries before I leave, because the fall season starts while I’m gone and barrels right into full swing as soon as I’m back. Things are about to get a lot busier around here! (thank goodness, I’m so bored y’all)

What the FEH

Tuesday was opening day for FEH Championships! I have not sent in my entry yet, because I’m not really that into tempting fate, but I did notice there are a lot of changes this year compared to last. Have I ever mentioned how convenient it is that they got a Central championship the exact same year that I had a horse at the right age to start participating in FEH? We’ll pretend that was on purpose. Thanks everyone.

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Last year the show was at Texas Rose, a really nice venue, but a bit far from me at 4 hours each way. Granted, this is Texas… everything is far. We drove up the day before and stayed overnight. But this year the show is being held at Haras Hacienda, the Real Fancy place where Presto did his qualifier. It cuts my drive in half, since Haras is only 2 hours each way. That technically makes it possible to just haul in for the day, rather than have to come the day before and stay overnight. Which is a good thing, since prices went up this year.

USEA cut some of their FEH funding this year, so the increased fees are not a surprise. Entry fee plus starter fees for central Championships are now $210 for yearlings and 2yo’s, $285 for 3yo’s, and $310 for 4yo’s. As much or more than a regular horse trial entry fee. My last Prelim entry was $280, for example. The costs associated with running the FEH Championship are crazy, and the number of competitors isn’t high enough to cover it, so I completely understand the increase in fees. I do wonder if it will deter people from participating in the program altogether, though. There’s no easy solution to that one. It’s tough to get sponsorship for stuff like this in America, where we’d rather go import horses than buy (and promote) what’s being bred and raised here.

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By hauling in for the day and working out of the trailer, I’d only have to pay a $30 grounds fee as opposed to a $65 day stall or $85 overnight stall plus $25 muck fee. It will make for an early morning and long day for both of us, but we’ve done it before. It’s also on a Thursday which is kind of a bummer because it means a day off of work. Between the entry fee and the grounds fee plus a $35 health certificate and the $50 handler fee (um, yes, you can bet your sweet ass I’m hiring Martin again, best decision ever) it’s shaping up to be an expensive 5 minute in-hand class. Especially for a horse that isn’t for sale or destined to be a FEH superstar. But, hey… he’s only 2 once, right?

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Presto is actually looking pretty good right now, despite being in yet another growth spurt. The barn owner has been trying real hard to get his ribs covered a bit more, and she’s done as good a job as I think is possible short of tubing lard directly into his stomach (… is that an option? Asking for a friend…). The fact that he’s in a not-that-ugly stage makes me nervous that he’s gonna go full blown Giramoollamapaloosa right before Championships, because he rarely stays looking good for long.

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I swear we feed him

At this point now we just have to keep him in one piece and try to minimize the various scrapes and bumps that are neverending. He constantly looks like he lost a fight with a weedwhacker.

I also have to decide which browband to show him in – his green and navy Boy o Boy Bridleworks or his swoopy spiked punk rock one from Dark Jewel Designs. His bridle is kind of barely fitting him these days, especially in the crown area, and he’s already pushing the limits of the Boy o Boy browband (which is freaking HORSE SIZE, what the hell, Presto!). The top half of his head is huge, and it’s certainly not because he has a big brain.

I also noticed after I snapped the browband pictures that in the month or two since I last put his bridle on him, he’s grown even more, and I need to lower everything a couple holes again. So uh, ignore that part. How is his head even still growing? It’s big enough.

Which browband should he wear for FEH champs? I’m on the fence.

Blog Hop: Favorite and Least Favorite jumps

If you spend any amount of time walking courses with other people, it seems like everyone has certain fences they like and certain fences they don’t like. Sometimes there’s a good reason for it, like perhaps you tried to stick your face through a rolltop once or you fell in a ditch and thought they may as well just go ahead and bury you in there. Other times there doesn’t have to be a real reason, it’s just a natural aversion.

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If you don’t have a natural aversion to this thing then I hate to break it to you but you’re not right in the head. Also I’m definitely gonna stand in this thing at Burghley and I’m definitely gonna need therapy afterwards.

Bobby, for instance, hates Trakehners. He can’t even look at one. Weldon’s Wall’s too. Basically anything with a ditch you can end up in, he’s not on board with it… can’t say as I blame him. I think he actually ended up in a ditch once, but I don’t remember the whole story.

If you walk the course with me, you’ll notice there are certain things I really don’t make eye contact with. While I don’t mind trakehners, like Bobby I really don’t like Weldon’s Walls. Horses tend to jump them great, but there’s something about combination of the width, the height, and the depth that has me wanting to vomit.

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It helps a lot if you miss the distance *heavy fucking sarcasm*

The other thing that I hate the most, always, unequivocally, are the big square tables. Especially with a square front edge. I can’t help it, I always imagine a horse catching a knee and flipping over it. Also they tend to be stupid wide, which my stomach still has a bit of trouble processing. For some reason adding brush to the top of it does make me like it more though, hoping it will help encourage a little more lift, even though it makes it look even Stupid-er Big-ger than it already was.

they were supposed to take the brush out for Prelim but they didn’t, which made me happy

Those aren’t the most logical jumps to hate, really. Horses tend to jump them both really well, and you can just keep galloping forward to both and jump them out of stride. There’s nothing technical or tricky about either of them. My brain knows this, but it still doesn’t stop me from hating them. Logic doesn’t apply.

Also not the biggest fan of upbanks after I tried to kill myself on one at Chatt. I feel like pretty much everyone has a “falling up the bank” story sooner or later. I would rather jump down a bank a few dozen times than jump up it once, to be honest. I still clearly remember the show when there were 3, count em THREE, upbanks on course. Shudder.

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I have upbank PTSD

For stadium, I cringe hard every time I see a big square oxer as the first fence, especially if it’s off of a long approach. Come on guys, I have a hard enough time with stadium already, throw me a bone.

On the flip side, there are certain jumps that I really love, also probably for no real logical reason. You can make a rolltop as big and wide as you want, and I’ll still jump it. I dunno why but that nice curved top just seems so inviting – in contrast to the sharp ugly death edge of a square table.

I also really like anything with a dropped landing.

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SIGN ME UP

If the ground falls away quickly on the landing side, or if the landing side is significantly lower than the take-off side, I love it. I have no actual reason for this except that I think they’re are super fun. It’s like WHEEEEE jumping down into the abyss. Extra bonus points if you’re landing in water, because splashing. Duh. Same goes for jumps IN the water.

I like brush too, because I can say to myself “the brush doesn’t really count” and ta-da, the jump is instantly smaller.

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What do I like in stadium? I dunno, whichever one is the last freaking jump.

What about you? What types of fences do you love, and which ones do you want to burn to the ground (not that I’ve ever actually imagined doing that to a Weldon’s Wall or anything…)? H/J people, this totally applies to you, too. Let’s talk about how not logical our brains are!

Pom Club

Eventers – we are an eclectic bunch. Spend a day standing out in cross country warmup and you’ll see every color of the rainbow, sometimes all on one horse, and probably at least a little bit of glitter. Coming from h/j-land it took a little while for my eyeballs to get used to this, but now I can’t help but appreciate it. I’m a firm believer in the “this is supposed to be fun” aspect of horse showing, and if decking yourself out in head to toe hot pink for XC makes you even a little bit happier, I say go for it. It might not be to my own personal taste, but you have to appreciate the individuality of it, especially in a sport that is otherwise so traditional and boring. Plus, like… if we’re being forced to do dressage and stadium, I fully believe that we’ve earned the right to wear whatever the fuck we want when we get to cross country and are galloping at solid fences.

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I’m a much more boring person when it comes to color, with a deeply ingrained love of navy, but I’ve tried to inject at least a modicum of fun into it. Like, you know… little bits of yellow. Give me some credit, that’s a lot for an aesthetically dull person. Nothing makes my heart happier than a nice crisp, clean, contrasting navy and white. Just like half of the entire eventing population these days, apparently. So I added the little touches of yellow to at least try to be 5% different from the masses.

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Believe it or not there are 8 little bits of yellow in this ensemble

While I don’t think I’ll ever break from my love of a relatively sedate color scheme (Presto’s colors are navy and dark green, so…), one “out there” thing that I’ve always secretly kind of liked are pompoms on XC helmet covers. I don’t know why, I can’t even explain it, but there’s just something about a pompom that says “I’m here to party”. They were pretty popular way back in the day, and while they never really seemed to go out of style in the UK, you don’t see them here very much anymore.

I’ve always kind of thought that there are two unspoken rules for pompom wearing:

1) you must be under the age of 15.

or

2) you must be a mothafuckin badass.

I have a few friends that rock the Pom and they are most decidedly the latter. They’re are definitely 100% here to party AND they don’t give a flying fuck what anyone thinks. They’re serious about what they’re doing, of course, but they never take themselves too seriously. Those are the people I want to hang out with, almost without fail. Is it the Pom that does it, or is that particular personality type just attracted to the Pom? Is there a club that I don’t know about? How do I apply for membership? Is the first rule of Pom Club that you can’t talk about Pom Club?

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I admittedly have serious doubts about whether or not I am cool enough to rock the Pom. A unicorn stock tie, sure. No one can really see that. But a pompom… that’s some next level shit. Everyone can see it. From real far away. You gotta be super secure about your badassery as a person if you’re gonna rock one of those as an adult, because there is nothing subtle about it. But lately I’ve stared with increasing jealously at other people’s Poms, and blurted out a weird and I’m sure exceedingly creepy-sounding “I LOVE YOUR POMPOM” anytime I see someone wearing one.

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I want to be in whatever club she’s in
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her too
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this lady is going face first into the water and she STILL looks like a badass
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these kids are all 2000% cooler than I am

Although I’m still waffling on a bit on whether or not I can actually pull it off, Trainer did grant me official permission to wear the Pom. I have it in writing, so is that enough to get me into Pom Club or do I need more references?

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And THEN, once you decide that you ARE brave enough to let your freak flag fly and wear the Pom, how do you pick one? Do you go for a small one or a big one? A yarn one or a fur one? How the hell do you pick a color?

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They even make helmet covers with changeable poms, so you can switch it around depending on your mood, or even take it off entirely if you wuss out. This is the most attractive option to me, although they all come in color sets and I don’t like any of the sets. Still, I’m sure the idea could be easily modified for a DIY version of changeable poms with my existing helmet cover.

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I’m not very cool, but am I cool enough to rock the Pom? I don’t know. Jury’s still out. But, um… anyone know where I can find a Pom Club application?

Older

Well guys, if I still did the hunters I’d officially be an older amateur today. Ok USEF does ages differently, not on actual birthday, but still. Luckily eventing gives it’s age groups way better titles, and on different ages, so I’m still a few years away from my “Master” title. Which, btw, seriously h/j y’all should adopt our age group terminology, MASTER sounds awesome. Anyway, its a weird age. I’m now closer to 40 than I am to 30. I’ve been an adult for half my life. That’s baffling to me, because sometimes I still find myself looking around for an actual adult.

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still my favorite meme

I’m also lining up some relatively life-altering plans at the moment, ones that will change my horse situation and my living situation alike. It’s a really good opportunity for me, and I think will help lead to a lot more “adultier” things down the road, especially from the financial aspect. It’s really exciting, we’ll talk about it eventually. Well ok it’s a little overwhelming and daunting right now, because there’s a lot to do, but… it’ll be good. I’m going to be cleaning out my entire house over the next couple months, so brace yourselves for lots of stuff for sale or giveaway.

Since it’s Monday, that means a work day for me. It’s not even fun to play hooky on your birthday and go do horse things when it’s hotter than the 7th circle of hell.

The boys are conveniently located near the 110 sitting just east of Austin

So, no real riding today, but I’m definitely at least going to go give the boys some treats (I’ve been saving their Snacks 5th Avenchew donuts for a special occasion, why not today?) and hose them off. August in Texas is really boring.

I did get to spend lots of time at the barn this weekend though, so that counts for something. I got there early so that it was… slightly less hot… and rode Henry, gave baths, doctored Presto’s nasty ass (literally), and gave more baths.

Lots of baths.

Presto’s hematoma is (KNOCK ON WOOD) looking good. We were thinking at the end of last week that we might have to put a drain in, but the beauty of living on the vet’s property is that he can walk out to the barn every morning and make sure the little cut is still open, and massage the fluid out. Presto doesn’t seem to care, so it only takes a minute. He’s had to reopen it a couple times, but every day there is less and less fluid, so that’s a good sign. I wash it every day and massage more fluid out myself, which is relatively satisfying. The hematoma is only about the size of a fist now.

Last week I put some pebbles into plastic jugs and hung them in his stall as toys. I wasn’t sure he’d play with them, since he totally ignored a jolly ball, but boy oh boy. He stands there for hours and shakes and bites and tosses those things. I figured putting pebbles in there might make them loud enough for him to actually like them, since he’s into MAXIMUM CHAOS (man, I really missed a naming opportunity there…) and I was right.

Thank goodness you can’t really hear them that well over the noise of the fans or the barn owner might want to kill me by now. It’s kept him busy though on these hot afternoons when he’s stuck inside. I might need to keep collecting jugs though, because I have a feeling he’ll destroy them all relatively quickly. And I did end up having to tie them a bit lower, because he learned how to throw them over the stall wall and scare the shit out of the minis in the stall next to him. I think he likes to watch them scatter.

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Two days in

Henry did some flatwork on Saturday and got to jump a little on Sunday, plus he consumed an entire bag of carrots in 2 days. He’s happy. He’s really eager to work and feels fantastic, so I’m kind of itching to get back to our regular schedule. But… he’s also not handling this extreme heat very well in the afternoons/evenings, so we’ll keep waiting to actually do anything “for real”. I’m ready to fast forward to September.

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I hope it’s less hot wherever you are!

TGIF (and week in recap)

Just me or has this been the longest week ever? I thought yesterday was Friday for most of the day so that was a massive disappointment. I hate when that happens.

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Not that it really matters, because it’s supposed to be like 105 here all weekend. I’m over it and it’s not even mid-August. Send help.

Anyway, this week has certainly been interesting in my little world. Dramatic, but interesting. The highlights for me were two-fold, and the fact that they’re my “highlights” is probably pretty telling about the week as a whole.

First of all, I noticed that Riding Warehouse is carrying Quick Knots now. You used to have to order them from Europe and wait.wait.wait., but NOT ANYMORE, friends! Granted, I’m still working through the original package that I bought over a year ago. And I probably won’t need anymore for like… another year. But still, I’ve bought a few for friends now and the wait is always a little annoying. I’ve become a total Quick Knot convert (because lazy. so incredibly lazy.) so it’s exciting to me that they’re now easily and readily available, and for cheaper. It’s the little things, y’all. I do a little happy dance every time I don’t sew in a f*(%!#g braid. Thank you, overpriced paperclips. Worth every penny.

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Quick Knot: Saving my sanity since June 2018

But, I have to say, I think the best thing of the week for me has been the video that I got from the vet on Wednesday morning. Remember Presto’s little hematoma from last week? LOL. Yeah well, over the weekend it went very suddenly from the size of a tennis ball to the size of a watermelon. It. Was. Nasty. I’ve never seen one that big with my own two eyeballs. Of course, he happened to do that over the few days when the vet was out of town. Horses. They have a sixth sense for when to require veterinary care, I think. As soon as the vet got home, he came out first thing the next morning and lanced it.

And, y’all.

O. M. G.

If you’re easily grossed out, do not watch this video. But if you’re ready for some of that pimple popping shit on steroids, you have to see this. I’ve watched it no less than 100 times.

This isn’t even all of it, it had been flowing for a while before he started filming (you can see way up on Presto’s hip where it started), and then after he stopped filming he had to keep massaging more fluid out. It’s so nasty. It’s so fascinating. I have to say, if you’re gonna get a $215 vet bill, it’s nice to at least get a great video out of it.

True to form, Presto has been a good patient. He’ll let you massage it (or as I like to call it – milk it) and clean the drain cut just standing in his stall without a halter on. The vet left the hole open to drain but it seems to keep closing up quickly (by now Presto is an expert in healing himself, I guess), so we might have to put a drain in today. We’ll see. It’s already back down to tennis ball size again, but it’s going to need to be able to keep draining freely for a while as it heals.

Horses, am I right?

In less disgusting news, for anyone who was interested in those Premier Equine merino wool pads, they’re back on sale again this weekend, 20% off. For Americans, VAT is removed once you go through checkout so they’ll end up even cheaper, too. Like $52.

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Another highlight of the week for me in bloglang came from Meg, who wrote what I thought was a really great post about how horses think and what it means when it comes to how we relate to them. If you read one thing this week, it should be that. It’s a good reminder to all of us to always remember the big picture.

Last but not least, thanks to everyone who reached out to talk after yesterday’s blog post. I’ve been on the fence for a while about throwing my opinion out there on this issue, and didn’t after the Rob Gage turmoil, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that our industry is in this situation now partly because we haven’t talked about things openly enough. Also, I’ll be honest, I was frustrated as hell. It’s been enlightening for me in a lot of ways, whether we agree on this particular subject or not. I’ve had some really great conversations with some of you, especially the younger contingent on Instagram. Trainers and industry professionals, too. Groups I never would have expected. This is a tough topic, very emotionally charged, but it isn’t going to go away so we have to figure out a way through. Thanks for being open to having the conversation with me, it’s been really helpful.

Let me make myself unpopular for a minute

Boy oh boy have I been able to do some thinning of my facebook friends this week. I’m just gonna throw this out there, but if your response to someone being set down for sexual misconduct with a child is to petition to have SafeSport disbanded (I do think its kind of funny that people are submitting a petition to the very same government that put SafeSport in place, though. The irony. It kills.), or to blame the victim for not coming forward before now (what makes you think they didn’t?), or to make excuses like “it was a different time” or “it was a long time ago” (newsflash, molesting kids was illegal then too), or to try to give someone a free pass because of “all they’ve done for the sport”, I’m not interested in maintaining a friendship. Maybe that seems harsh, but if you’re a child abuse apologist and sympathizer, then well… that’s all I’ve got to say about that. That’s the only black and white part of all this.

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Whether or not GM actually did it, we don’t know for sure. I’m not here to debate that or spread gossip about who said what when. We aren’t privy to the details, nor are we entitled to them. Guilt or innocence doesn’t even matter for that particular ethics debate. As soon as you start making excuses for child abuse or blaming the victims, we’re done here. I admittedly can’t wrap my head around this “I Stand with George” facebook group either. How can you possibly stand with (or against) a particular person when you have no idea what all the investigation uncovered? That’s not support, that’s blind hero worship, and that’s dangerous. That’s how we got here in the first place. Keep in mind that this was the exact same reaction when Larry Nassar was outed, by the way. If you still haven’t listened to the Believed podcast, I’m starting to feel like it should be a requirement. None of us have any idea what goes on in private, even with our closest friends.

Now, setting aside the ethics debate, if you’ve got SafeSport policy or process concerns, then I 100% get it. There seems to be a lot of confusion out there about SafeSport, how it works, what the process is, what it’s job is, and how it relates to USEF. It is certainly not a perfect system by any means. None is. Look at our exceptionally messy judicial system. But I’m pretty sure if I have to repeat the line “USEF is not the one that made this decision” one more time, my head is just gonna explode. If you don’t even understand which organization does what, much less what they’re doing and how, you should probably do some reading before you comment.

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People also don’t seem to understand the difference between a criminal charge and a private organization’s sanction, and what constitutional rights (or statute of limitations, due process, or burden of proof) apply to which scenario. Please people, do some research. It’s all online. Handy dandy SafeSport flow chart is here. SafeSport Code is here. FAQ’s are here. USEF SafeSport policy and MAAP guidelines (with specifics) are here. SafeSport responses to specific questions and concerns put forth by the horse community are here. That should be enough to get you started. If you want to complain about it, great, no problem, but at least understand what you’re saying.

I know that most people won’t read any of that. They aren’t interested in understanding, they’re interested in reacting. Which… ok, fine. But what I have a major concern with is the industry professionals and trainers who don’t seem to understand any of this, nor seem to want to. Especially the ones that are standing here saying that SafeSport is going to destroy the industry, or that they simply cannot operate their businesses under these impossible constraints.

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I’m gonna be really blunt and unpopular for a second here.

Welcome. To. The. Real. World.

Look, y’all. It is 2019. It doesn’t matter if you’re a lawyer, a doctor, a teacher, a janitor, a rocket scientist, an IT professional, a cashier at Walmart, or (now) a horse trainer. You can be removed from your job or have your licensing taken away at any time, for any multitude of reasons. My HR department could literally pull me in today and fire me. The sports world has never had an HR department, until now. The best way to avoid losing your job? Learn how to act like a damn professional. Learn how to make your business practices comply with society’s standard of conduct. Other sports are doing it. It’s possible, I promise. Is it a change? Yup. Does it require some restructuring of a lot of programs? Probably. This business has been flying under the radar for a long time, and look what kind of culture we’ve allowed to foster and go unchecked for decades, both towards horses and towards people. Clearly we needed something like SafeSport to police us, since we’ve been unsuccessful at doing it ourselves. The truth is, a lot more big names are going to fall from grace before SafeSport is done cleaning house. There is a very ugly underbelly to our industry, and we’re past due to pay the piper.

It’s bothering the hell out of me to see so many trainers choosing to go after SafeSport rather than seeking to understand it, or seeking to clarify it, or reaching out and asking questions, or, if they’re so compelled, trying to champion SS reform. I get it, people are running scared. The common panicked exclamation is “One client with a grudge and my career is destroyed”. Not true. Unless said claimant can substantiate their claim in such a way that the investigators think that what they’re saying is likely to have occurred, no action will be taken. Furthermore, if said claimant is found to have knowingly filed a false claim, they themselves can be sanctioned. Even furthermore, lifetime bans are reserved for only the most severe of offenses, usually involving sexual misconduct with a minor. You aren’t going to get banned for making a kid do push-ups. Everybody is being a little overdramatic. I have to give a lot of props to Kristin Hardin, she’s one of the few I’ve seen that actually seems to get what’s at stake here.

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SafeSport doesn’t have to be the enemy here unless you want it to be. People might hate that they have to get with the times, or resist change, but the truth is, it’s going to happen anyway whether it’s SafeSport or someone else. There is no going back. Following SafeSport guidelines will actually protect the industry professionals too, if we let it. We live in a pretty litigious society, you would be wise to protect yourself.

Now, if you don’t like something about the SafeSport process – fair enough. There are plenty of holes in any process. Learn it. Get involved. Ask questions. If there need to be changes, find out how reform can happen. But SafeSport isn’t going away, and resisting it isn’t good for any of us. It’s up to us to figure out how to make this work. I also think it’s really important to remember why it exists in the first place. The mission statement: Our mission is to make athlete well-being the centerpiece of our nation’s sports culture. All athletes deserve to participate in sports free from bullying, hazing, sexual misconduct or any form of emotional or physical abuse. 

If you can’t get behind that, you don’t belong in any sport, and especially not in a position of power. Period. Full stop.

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The Sheepskin Solution

Y’all were exceptionally helpful last week when I asked for suggestions for fuzzy pads to help with Henry’s random and sporadic saddle pad rub issues. There were a lot of options, and I was really overwhelmed, but I appreciate you guys reaching out with your own experiences and product feedback.  It helped tremendously. I did finally make a decision, after much hemming and hawing, and then ended up adding another purchase a couple days later. Safe to say, I think I covered all my bases. I hope. Come on Henry.

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Does not care about my problems, but looks real cute in one of his new pads. Don’t mind his, um… summer vacation body…

I ended up getting three pads, from two different brands. I started out with two Merino Wool lined pads from Premier Equine in the UK. Several of you recommended these, and Premier just happened to be in the middle of a 25% off sale, plus I found a coupon code that stacked, plus VAT is removed from the price. I ended up paying $108 total for both pads with shipping, which seemed like too good of a deal to pass up. I was bummed that they didn’t have a style that was shimmable, but theirs are half lined on the bottom, and they came in colors I liked (ie navy), and they have both a jumping style and a dressage style. That ticked most of my boxes, and I didn’t have to spend $500 to do it. Sold.

I ordered those on Friday night, and then on Saturday Hufglocken reached out to me because they had gotten a lot of traffic from my site thanks to the links that were left in the post comments. I ended up getting a Mattes pad from them – a half pad with sheepskin bottom and the correction system. That should tick all the other boxes that the Premier pads didn’t cover, giving me something that can go under a regular pad, or be used by itself, and something I can use on Presto to help Henry’s saddle fit him better as he’s growing. Ta-da – all boxes checked! The Mattes will take a while to get here since it’s a custom order, but in the meantime I have the Premier pads, so… I think it worked out perfectly.

All the fuzz! Before I finished brushing them out and re-fluffing after their overseas journey.

I have to give two huge thumbs up to Premier for their ordering and shipping process. Like I said, I ordered the pads on Friday night (my time) and they shipped out from England on Monday, arriving at my door in Texas before lunch time on Tuesday. It was crazy fast, especially considering that shipping was only $15 and they were in the middle of a huge sale. Like… if this was SmartPak my order wouldn’t have even been in a box yet. (I know this because I recently ordered a gallon of fly spray in their summer sale and it was 6 days before they even shipped it, calm down SmartPak fans)

Both pads also came with zippered carrying cases, which is a nice bonus. Much easier to tote around and keep clean for shows, especially if you have white.

It’s too early to give an opinion on the pads themselves aside from the initial positive first impression. They aren’t as super fluffy and soft and plush as Mattes, but a) they’re Merino Wool not sheepskin, and b) they were literally 1/4 of the price. They are definitely really pretty, and appear to be well made. They fit my saddles well, which is sometimes a rarity given that one of them is an extra forward monoflap. It was too hot to do anything but a quick hack yesterday so it’s tough to gauge Henry’s opinion for sure, but he acted completely normal so we’ll call that a positive for the princess. His back did seem to get less sweaty under these than usual, for whatever that’s worth. We’ll see how it goes with more time, and how they wear/wash.

So, many thanks for all of the input and for helping me make a decision. As usual, y’all came through. Hopefully we’ve found a solution! I’ll circle back and give all the pads a proper review once I’ve had time to use and abuse them.

Pest-o

You know what’s really annoying? TWO YEAR OLDS.

 

Good lord this thing is mouthy. I’ve had other people tell me that their Mighty Magic’s are really mouthy, and I’m starting to think they aren’t joking. Presto isn’t happy unless there’s something in his mouth. Preferably food, but anything will do really. He’s such a BUSY horse, he’s always got to be engaged with something. I’ve had my fair share of busy, mouthy babies, but none quite as extreme as this one. He is kind of a pest. If he was a human kid the doctors would be trying to put him on Ritalin. And apparently the other horses feel the same way, because:

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He got a swift kick in the ass

His level of pest seems to get higher when I don’t interact with him as much. Like he was ignored for most of July and the barn owner has about had it with his antics by now. He also destroyed two buckets just for funsies. So I’ve secured a few things to try to make toys for him (maybe he can destroy those instead?) and his ass is officially Back to School.

trotting up the hill

He’s ponying a couple times a week, and lunging once or twice. The timing kind of works out anyway, because we’re about 7 weeks out from Championships, and it would be nice to get him a little stronger. I ponied him a lot last year before FEH Championships and it seemed to help (a little strength is never bad for their gaits or topline…) so he can do it this year too.

Eating while he works out. Living the dream.
his cuteness is punctuated with a lot of OMG DID YOU KNOW I’M TWO moments
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I have to make the exercise harder to keep the hamsters busy

Ponying is admittedly not as easy as it used to be either. He knows the rules, and he knows how he’s supposed to act, but… two. Did I mention he’s two? Because he’s two. His favorite thing is to randomly slam on the brakes and yank his head down so hard that I can’t stop him, grabbing as much grass as he can get before I wrestle him back. He’s a turd, guys. Too smart and conniving for his own good. I’ve already started to imagine all the ways I’m gonna end up falling off this thing. I think I’m going to have to be very crafty about keeping him occupied so he can’t use his powers for evil. As soon as he gets too bored with something, out come the tricks.

Also, he’s big.

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July 2019

Luckily he’s still rightfully terrified of Henry (who is probably the one that gave him that swift kick in the ass) so I get a little bit of assistance keeping him in line when we’re ponying, at least. Granted, Henry is the one that taught him the sneaky grazing trick.

We’ll be going back to the round pen a little bit too, so he remembers that manners aren’t optional. When he’s good, he’s really good. He knows “whoa”, “walk on”, and “trot” really well from voice commands. He wears a saddle and bridle happily. He steers and stops on the long lines… mostly. He loads and trailers well. You can tie him up and leave him alone. But when he gets the devil inside him, he’s got a naughty streak that rivals that of a Thelwell, and he can turn himself into quite the pest.

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I have to be honest though, don’t tell Presto but I secretly am pretty amused by his cheekiness. It reminds me of Henry, and what’s not to love about Henry? They both know where their boundaries are, even if they quite enjoy toeing the line and driving me crazy. There’s something that I admire about that, even when it’s really really really really annoying.

So if you want to know what it’s like to own a baby horse you’re welcome to come over and spend a day with Pest-o any time. He is the babiest horse that has ever baby horsed. At this point I’m just counting down the months until I can actually ride this creature. I think having a job and purpose and something more mentally and physically difficult to do will help him a lot. Also… not being two… that would be greeeaaaat.

Off Season weekends

We are 3 weeks post-Coconino and already I’m going a little stir crazy. Normally this is the time of year where we take some time off, relax, and decompress. I usually quite enjoy it, and so does Henry. But we kinda did that in May when I hurt myself, and now it seems like neither Henry nor I am really feeling the need to do it again. I’d like to just say screw it and spend the rest of the summer hitting jumper shows and XC schooling, but two problems that: the VS outbreak and the weather.

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My horses are in Bastrop county, which – NATURALLY – has the biggest outbreak. So far we’re up to 51 quarantined facilities in the county, and it’s rapidly rising. The VS itself, while gross and painful for the horses, isn’t usually a huge deal, but the mandatory quarantine can go on for weeks or months, so there are multiple reasons to try to avoid it. VS is a virus that can be spread either via direct contact or via blood-feeding insects, thus while I can’t do a whole lot about the latter aside from smothering my horses in clouds of fly spray (I went through a bottle of fly spray in a week), I can definitely do something about the former. I don’t know that it’s actually possible for us to avoid getting VS at our farm considering that we’re totally surrounded by it, but we’ve voluntarily quarantined ourselves for now to at least try to lower the risk a little bit.

So, no jumper shows, no XC schooling, no lessons.

Of course, it’s also way too effing hot for most of that anyway. We’re supposed to be in triple digits all week, and the humidity has been gross too. Some changes at work combined with the new barn location have made it basically impossible for me to ride before work, and it’s really too hot to do much in the afternoon. Henry has been getting a couple days off during the week, and when I do ride it’s usually either a long walk to pony Presto or a short bareback dressage ride. That’s about the extent of what I can do during the week without feeling like I’m killing him. The “real” rides happen on the weekend.

Texas is just disgusting, in case anyone was wondering.

We’ve also not gotten any rain in weeks and the ground is like concrete, so it’s just an all around good time right now.

I did pull a few jumps out this weekend to take advantage of the freshly-cut hay field. I set up a jump on a short steep hill, a jump on the edge of the arena, and a coop near the fenceline. Henry was Pumped AF to be jumping and ran around like a crazy dolphin. I think he’s as bored as I am right now.

he loves his shirt, btw

I will say, the weekends do seem a lot longer when you don’t have a lot of horse stuff taking up your time. We finally went to see The Lion King, which was awesome except they ruined my favorite song. And the lady next to me in the theater started bawling before we were even 2 minutes in. Still, it was good.

And on Friday our regular horse-friends happy hour finally got to hit up the fancy milkshake place that opened a while back. Although they were out of the ice cream that serves as the base for the one I really wanted, so that was a bit disappointing. Still though. Behold.

Yes, OF COURSE I felt like absolute shit after that, for about 12 hours. Still worth it though.

Otherwise I spent a lot of time this weekend obsessively checking scores for shows that I was nowhere near. Not having any PanAms coverage was a real bummer, especially when I was just hitting refresh over and over again during XC. It was kind of a bloodbath with all the eliminations and refusals, so not being able to see what was going on was stressful. But yay Team USA for getting it done. The other show I was stalking was Millbrook HT, where there were FIVE Mighty Magic offspring (that I know of) competing. One at Advanced, two at Intermediate, and two at Training.

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second and sixth in the intermediate!

One of the Training ones withdrew after dressage, but the other 4 all jumped clear XC (the three upper level ones were all double clear XC, just some time for the young one at T) and had only one rail between them in stadium. Is it weird to stalk horses like this? Probably. Am I gonna do it anyway? Duh. I don’t have anything better to do.