It’s a Hard Nug Life

Guess who’s 5 months old?

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these two hand-holding bro nugs

Presto celebrated by getting his second official farrier-performed trim. You may remember that he was, um, less than cooperative for the first one, so when I was up there a few weeks ago we worked A LOT on farrier manners. Either the extra lessons worked or he just decided it wasn’t worth the fight, because he was very well behaved this time. The farrier also complimented the quality of Presto’s feet (now that they aren’t being aimed at his head).

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but what about the quality of my itchies?

In all honesty, Presto and Liam are pretty much ready to be weaned. They’re independent, they’ve been eating grain and hay for a while, and their moms are not all that concerned about them anymore. Under normal circumstances, now would be the time.

But we got inspection dates for the sBs (Belgian Sporthorse) tour, and they’re not coming through the US until the end of September. While it’s not really ideal to leave the colts on their dams for that long, it’s far less ideal to present them for inspection “off” their dams, for several reasons. So they might start getting separated a bit for feeding time (moms are starting to look a bit “drained” from these big babies sucking the life out of them, but if you overfeed, you risk physitis in the babies), with official weaning waiting until after the inspection.

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I’m still looking into options for moving him closer to me, but that will probably get put on the back burner until winter. I remembered he has to be gelded before he can be pasture boarded (duh), but I’m not going to geld him a) right after the stress of weaning b) in warm gross fly season. We’ve had enough complications so far, I’m not interested in stacking the odds against us any more than necessary. So maybe in November/December he can lose his manhood, and then I can look into bringing him home a month or so after that.

His current favorite hobbies are trying to catch the little goldfish in his tank (who knew he was a fisherman?) and snacking/napping at the same time.

Multi-tasking at its finest 😂 #nap #snacks #babyhorse #toughlife #nom #horselife #warmblood #growingboy

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Very tough life this kid’s got these days.

Prepared: what does it look like?

Knowing when to move up a level is, I think, one of the trickiest questions for us as riders. I’ve talked about it on this blog before, when we were moving up from BN to N (geez that feels like a life time ago) but it’s a subject that you see come up quite often on blogs and message boards. It would be nice if there was a handy dandy be-all-end-all checklist that we could go by, but there really isn’t any hard and fast rule that is going to applicable across the board. Jim Wofford gave a good outline of his opinions here, but even then, there’s more to it than that.

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And before anyone starts jumping to conclusions, NO I am not even thinking about moving up to Prelim. Like ever. That’s hilarious. Trainer can take my horse around that level but I’m gonna hard pass, thanks.

But even just to feel ready to show at a particular level, whether it’s a move up or not, there are certain things I want to be doing at home to feel like I’m well-prepared. For instance, I’m proooobably not gonna want to run Training if a 3’3″ stadium course looks at all big. Personally, I need that stuff to look small or I start riding in fetal position (ok, sometimes I ride in fetal position anyway). So for me, if I’m ready to go to the show, that means I’m comfortably jumping full courses a hole or two higher at home.

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That seems to be pretty common across h/j-land… always school higher at home than the level at which you show. It makes sense to not expect to go to a show and be successful if you’re performing at the very tip top of your current ability. It doesn’t seem quite as common in eventing though. I often see people very meticulously set a course to 2’7″ or 2’11” or 3’3″, whatever the height may be that they’re showing, and very rarely jump anything higher except for a single fence here and there. I dunno how they do it. I would legit die or pee my pants when I got to the horse show. Probably both.

Same thing for XC – if I’m running Training, I want to at least have jumped some legit Prelim fences. If nothing else it’s a great confidence boost if I’m worried about a tricky jump on my course, to be able to say “Come on self, you’ve schooled bigger harder things than this, don’t be such a baby. Sit up and kick. Jesus.”. You’d be surprised how well that works for my psyche.

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A similar idea can be applied to dressage, just without the death part. If I never school anything harder at home than the movements that are in my test, riding up centerline at a show would be exponentially more stressful and more difficult. And anyone who’s ever seen us do dressage knows that we’re challenged enough without any added stress or difficulty.  So we plug away at home with shoulder-in and haunches-in and leg yield and counter canter and 10m circles even though I wouldn’t, under any circumstances, enter a test that had all of that.

For me personally, being truly prepared (whether it be for a move up or just for a show) means that I’ve done enough work at home to where I get to the show and feel confident in our ability to perform the task at hand. I’ll never be mistake-free, but I at least want to always walk in the ring or start box feeling like we’re more than capable of making it around. For me, it’s such a mental game. If a fence looks intimidatingly big, I’m probably in trouble.*

*Unless it’s a BAT (big ass table)… I reserve the right to say that those ALWAYS look too big and never walk within 30′ of them on foot…

What does “prepared” look like for you? Do you jump higher and school harder movements at home?

Bodybuilding 

As you may have guessed from all the mentions of counter canter around here lately, we’re working really hard to strengthen Henry’s back, SI, and hind end. Now that he’s post summer break (he says how the eff does it count as a summer break when I still made him do w/t dressage 4 days a week and one light conditioning day???) and post SI injection, and only 4.5 weeks from the start of the fall season, it’s time to get buckle down and get that big ol’ butt turned back into serious muscle.

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Big. Really big.

This is an ongoing thing with him really. The fittest and strongest he’s ever been was summer of 2016 when we did the 3Day, but of course he came home from that and hurt himself about a month later, garnering a few months off work. I legged him back up to decent fitness in the spring, but he definitely was not as strong as he was before his time off. He really loses it FAST when he’s not in hard regular work. His SI is just naturally not very good and his loin is perpetually weak. As we’ve slowly ramped up the hills, transitions, counter canter, and trot poles, he’s gotten better and better. Every week he gets steadier and stronger.

Of course, with the ramp-up in all of this hindend targeting work, we’ve had to deal with some muscle soreness. I’ve finally figured out that giving him days off makes everything exponentially worse, so what used to be his off days are now his long bareback marching-walk days. I think he’s getting tired of seeing me every day, but I just keep giving him more cookies.

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and donkeys

He’s always been a horse that gets tight and muscle sore pretty easily, so it’s certainly not a surprise now. I expected this. Luckily I’ve gotten pretty good at managing it and helping him work it out. We do stretches, psoas release, and lower lumbar/SI area massage daily. Then he gets a nice long forward walk to warm up, before we ever really start working. All of that makes a huge difference in how he feels.

I’ve also added a couple of new things to our repertoire. I’m not a fan of oral supplements in general, but I added MSM and DMG daily. It’s $25 a month for both and I’m hoping we can just use them temporarily as he comes back into full fitness. He’s been on this particular combination before, waaaaay back when I first got him and was bringing him back into work off of a year layoff. I thought it helped him a bit then, so it seemed worthwhile to try it again.


The other fun new thing that we’re trying out is microcurrent therapy. I’ve had good luck using electroacupuncture with him, so when I saw the Microlief system I couldn’t resist trying it out. I’m still waiting on my Medipore tape to get here so I can try it, but we’ll see if I can tell any positive difference with that too. Yes, eventually I’ll review it, once I get a good idea of whether or not it helps.

All of this might seem a little high maintenance, but it’s definitely working. His canter work is feeling better than it has in over a year, and really all of his flatwork continues to make steady improvement as he becomes physically more capable. Hopefully after another month or so he’ll be back at full strength and all of this will start feeling easier for him again!

Blog Hop: Dealbreakers

I’m pretty sure we’ve discussed dealbreakers before, at least in the capacity of buying a horse, but what about the things that would prevent you from even swinging a leg over in the first place?

I’m not a particularly timid rider, so most things don’t bother me. I don’t mind a hot horse, or one that might be inclined to buck or play or spook. Young and green is fine, and while I’d prefer to not have to ride one that requires a ton of leg (let me tell you what I’m not good at – slow horses), I don’t mind it every once in a while. My dealbreakers are mainly of the I-don’t-want-a-horse-to-crash-down-on-top-of-me variety.

For me there’s only one thing “on the flat” that will make me not even want to climb aboard: rearing. Been there, done that, got the bruises and the near death experience to prove it. If it rears, I’m not going near it. Period.

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There’s a reason I like eventing this horse

If we’re talking about jumping, I have one more dealbreaker: I will not jump a horse that has a consistent tendency to hang it’s knees and jump over it’s shoulder. See above about the whole not wanting to ride a horse that is going to crash down on top of me thing. Rotational falls are scary, I’m not interested in stacking the odds in favor of one happening by riding a horse that hangs it’s knees. I think I’d be cantering down to every fence just holding my breath, so… no thanks. Hard pass. I make enough mistakes, I don’t need to be extra worried about the potential ramifications of my bad decision-making. While it’s true that just about any horse can get to a solid fence badly enough to have a rotational in exactly the right circumstances, I sure as heck am not interested in stacking the odds in my favor by picking a horse that jumps with hanging knees.

What about y’all – any dealbreakers that make you not even want to ride a particular kind of horse?

Birthday Weekend Horse Camp

Who requests a gymnastics torture lesson on their birthday? My dumb ass. And when Trainer nonchalantly says “you should come up the night before for a dressage lesson and just stay over”, who answers “hell yeah, birthday weekend Horse Camp!”? Yep, you guessed it. Newsflash, I’m not any smarter at 34 than I was at 33.

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its ok, he’s not any smarter at 10 than he was at 9

I have literally zero media from Friday. Nary a picture, not even a shot of Henry in the crossties. But FINALLY Henry decided to show up for a lesson as pretty much the same horse I have at home, which made this lesson much more productive than last weekend’s. Plus I didn’t almost die of heat stroke, so… there’s that.

Mostly we worked on lengthenings and our counter canter loops again, and got several “YES YES YES!!!” and “THERE!”s from Trainer’s general direction, which I’ll happily take. They’re rare. At one point we apparently even got some toe flick. Who knew Henny was capable? We got good feedback (will I ever stop sitting to the outside at canter? probably not.) and homework, so it was FINALLY a productive dressage lesson. Thanks for deciding to show up, Henny.


Even with a 7pm lesson I sweated so much that it looked like I’d jumped in a pool, and by the time I’d showered and scarfed down some food, I promptly passed the hell out. I don’t even think I made it to 10pm. Wild parties these days.

As soon as I got to the barn the next morning I went to check on Henry in his turnout and found this:

Pacing, sweating Henry staring at the mare next door like a total creeper. I pulled him out to hose him off and he immediately started screaming and spinning. Oh good… those two precarious brain cells totally fell out in the paddock overnight when he apparently professed his undying devotion to the mare. Super.

Trainer pulled up to find him in the crossties screaming and pawing, and me standing there giving him whatfor. When I explained what was going on she smiled evilly and said “Grab a rope halter and tie him to The Tree of Knowledge for a while!”. And that’s how Henry legit ended up spending an hour and a half tied to a tree like a rogue 2yo while I jump crewed for the first lesson.

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not as embarrassed as he should be

He screamed, he pawed, he kicked out at the air, he bit the rope, and he tried to dig a hole to China, but by the time I went to get him to tack him up, he had gotten most of the temper tantrum out of his system. The Tree of Knowledge wins again.

The lesson itself was just what we needed, working on getting Henry powering to and jumping from the base, and trying to get me to stop chucking my body at him. That will probably forever be a work in progress, chucking my body is my fave.

Mostly though he was just extremely offended at having to TROT into the gymnastic. He warmed up like he thought he was HH Azur strutting into the Olympic stadium… he was so excited to finally be jumping after 3 dressage lessons in a row and very little jumping all summer period. Then he was horrified at having to trot into the line via poles and a crossrail, like he was some kind of green baby. DON’T WE KNOW WHO HE IS???

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he is beauty, he is grace, his legs are all over the place…

You never have to guess how Henry feels about something, his emotions are quite clear. We got a couple good efforts by the end though, and again took home some things to work on, so mission accomplished for the weekend.

Plus on the way home I stopped at a new gas station on my route and discovered that not only does it have a Which Wich in it, it also has FROYO with a ton of topping options. Happy effin’ birthday to ME!!! That’s my new official refueling spot from now on.

Most Loved Things – Review Updates

Last week I had a couple different people ask for updates on things I’d reviewed a while ago, so I thought I’d do a “quick n dirty” review update on how some of my favorite things are standing the test of time.

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Majyk Equipe boots

I sing ME’s praises a lot, but it’s because I really do love them. Not only are the boots great, the people behind the company are great too. My very first pair of Majyk Equipe XC boots – that I got in 2014 and have used almost daily since – have finally just now had the binding shred on one of the fronts. Considering how much my horse interferes, this is kind of miraculous. He’s a boot killer extraordinaire. I have many pairs of ME boots in my collection these days, and have continued to be extremely happy with all of them. They’re dedicated to using the best technology and materials, and always striving to improve, and it really shows.

Lorenzini stirrups

When I originally reviewed these my one and only real complaint was about durability, since I’d already had some chipping of the surface paint.  Luckily, aside from a couple of very tiny dings, the chipping has not really progressed, and is pretty much limited to the area that sits underneath the stirrup leather (as you can see in the above pic). I do still really love these things otherwise – they’re super pretty and I like the grippiness of the footbed and the weight of the iron. I know some other people that have tried them and had some knee pain, which I’ve never had a problem with myself, but as with any expensive stirrup I’d suggest attempting to trial a pair before you drop a ton of money.

 

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Kentucky Bridleworks halter

I loved this thing when I got it and love it even more now that it’s super soft and broken in. Henry tried to murder it when he was solidly in his “the hose is a snake” phase, but luckily he only broke off part of the crown (BAD HORSE) so it’s still usable. This leather on this thing is RUGGED, the hardware is solid, and it’s only gotten better with age.

 

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Ovation Aqua X breeches

These are my favorite all-around breeches. They’ve been so great this summer, nice and lightweight but still super flattering and comfortable. I wear them more than any of my other breeches and the fabric still looks fantastic. The only sign of wear is the silicone at the knees has started to wear at the edges, which is something that does happen with silicone. I can’t wait for the hunter green ones to come out this fall… slowly I will fill my closet with these things. 110% worth the extremely reasonable price.

 

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Kastel Sunshirts

This was one of the very first reviews I ever did, more than 3 years ago, and I’m still using the same shirts I was wearing back then. I’ve added many more Kastels to my collection in that time, and well as sunshirts from various other brands. The Kastels are still my favorite by far, and these days it’s pretty easy to find them on sale. A good sunshirt is an absolute necessity when you’re in the south, and there’s really no reason to not own at least 10 of these things.

 

Boy O Boy Bridleworks

I never did a formal review on my Boy O Boy products, I did a Small Business Spotlight on the company, but I really feel like I have to circle back around and sing their praises a bit more. I absolutely LOVE my custom belt and the matching polo finish browband, they’re just so impeccably made and look fantastic. BoB stuff might seem a bit on the pricey side, but you’re paying for something that is handmade and done to the absolute highest standards, so to me it’s worth it. These are the kinds of items you keep for a very long time.

 

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Lund Saddlery tack

I’ve reviewed a lot of pieces of Lund tack over the past year, and I’m happy to report that all of it is holding up really well. I’ve absolutely abused this tack and it still looks fantastic. They’ve worked hard to iron out some of the original challenges with ordering and shipping, and it’s been fun to see this company grow, expand, and progress since their debut. They continue to keep coming out with really solid additions to their line, which you’ll continue to see more of here.

Travelin’ Man

I try to always give plenty of advance notice to the barn owner and barn staff whenever Henry is going to be gone for lessons or horse shows. Ya know, so nobody panics when he’s not in his paddock or stall. I sat down the other day to text them his August schedule and realized… Henry is gonna be away from home for like 2 straight weeks. Big time traveler, this guy.

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very sophisticated Porkerpotamus 

His whirlwind Texas tour starts on the 19th, when we head up north for a Ride-a-Test/$5 Show Jump Rounds day, and then stay overnight so we can XC school the next morning. From there we head straight south for 6 days of barnsitting, and then from there I go straight to Trainer’s to drop him off for a week.

Pretty excited to be able to take him barnsitting with me… a couple of the horses are spending the summer in Colorado (lucky them) so that makes space available for him to come along with me. There’s a fancy. legit dressage arena on the property, so we’ll spend the week torturing ourselves in a real, bonafide dressage ring. Normally we don’t see those unless we’re at lessons or shows. Which probably explains a lot about my test geometry.

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what I did the last time I brought Henry with me to barnsit
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I’m an eventer, I can’t help it.

And then of course he’s going to “camp” at Trainer’s while I’m in Europe. He’s gonna head over there a couple days before I leave so that I have time to get all my shit together for my trip, and then she’s going to drop him off on her way through my town, a few days before I get home. Lord only knows what they’ll do together, but hopefully he’s not too mad by the time she’s done.

So now I’m figuring out what all I need to take with me in order for him to have everything he needs to be away from home for 2 weeks, and exactly how I should transport it all since I don’t have a dressing room in my trailer. He basically needs…. everything, I guess?? We’re about to be gypsies!