They Call Me Dolphin Rider

That’s a lie. They probably don’t really call me anything, and I don’t even know who “they” is. But they should call me Dolphin Rider, because that’s basically my profession these days.

Henry has been back in work for about 4 weeks now. I’ve started him back really slowly, gradually building up the work load. We started doing mostly walk with some trots, incrementally lengthening the time and adding more sets, then tossed in a few hill repeats, and last week we started adding lateral work, more circles, and cantering.

You know who’s been really excited about cantering?

He’s lost a lot of strength during all his down time, especially in his topline, so I’ve been riding him in his bitless bridle. He looooves to stretch in that thing, and it’s easier to ride him longer and lower in that, which is where I want him right now. He’s kind of learned that that’s his “stretchy work” bridle, and his dressage bridle is his “up in the contact like a proper dressage horse bridle”. I also like riding him in the bitless when I’m really trying to tune him more to leg and seat. Since he’s just coming back, is rusty, and we aren’t doing anything remotely earth-shattering, I’ve taken the easier and more casual route with the bitless. The one downside of that bridle? When he’s feeling particularly feisty he loves to plant his nose between his knees and crowhop to his hearts content, like he’s trying out for the damn rodeo.

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what Henry thinks he looks like

I have talked about this before, but he sucks at bucking. Like most of the time there’s way more head flailing than there are hind feet leaving the ground, much less getting very high in the air. I love him dearly but he legit sucks at it. He remains blissfully unaware of that fact, though, and absolutely loves trying. I find this to be endlessly amusing, and he always seems so damn pleased with himself, so I just ride it out, laugh at him, let him play a bit, and then leg him on. Even on his friskiest days he’s good for maybe 15-30 seconds of what I have come to call dolphining before he levels out and settles into a normal canter. He rarely does it when he’s in regular work, but if he’s had some time off or it’s particularly cold/windy or we’re doing something he deems “exciting”… game on.

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world’s chubbiest dolphin

Those first few days of cantering again, though… boy. I don’t think he took one single step of normal canter. I was off to the world’s least impressive rodeo, and he morphed into Flipper.

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At one point he even squealed. He legit thought that he was the most impressively naughty bucking bronco in the whole world, while I was just trying not to laugh too hard.

This went on for the entire first week of canter work. By ride 3 of that week I was getting a few actual canter steps after a lap or two of dolphining. On ride 4 it was hot so he tucked his freak flag in and was normal that day, then the next ride it was windy and out it came again. He definitely is getting less and less enthusiastic about it as we ease back into a regular schedule, but sometimes he just can’t help himself. Like when we’re cantering uphill. Or like when we cantered with Bobby the other day, and Bobby peeked over his shoulder at us only to find Henry bouncing around like an idiot behind him. He found that to be quite entertaining.

trotting iz dumb

Henry is moving back into his real bridle next week, and we’re going to start adding poles into the mix, so he’ll probably be really bummed about that. He’s enjoyed his time as a completely lawless hooligan, leaping and bouncing around all over the place. It would break his naughty little heart to know this, but I kinda like it when he feels fresh enough to try to play a little like that. Maybe I’m weird but coming from him, I find it endearing. He’s coming up on 13 and shows no signs of maturing out of it anytime soon. Never change, Henny, never change.

Maybe he’s born with it

I am a strong believer in the power of genetics. Obviously. Otherwise it would be kind of dumb for me to breed or be so obsessively interested in pedigrees and bloodlines. While we haven’t gotten particularly far along in equine genetics, we do know that certain traits are heritable, or at least seem to be more heritable than others. Here are a few studies if you’re interested in nerd things:

http://www.hanoverian.com/ludwigherit.html

https://thehorse.com/110473/its-all-in-the-genes-horse-traits-and-heritability/

https://beva.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/evj.12196

If you really want to lose a couple days, there are studies out there covering the heritability of everything from facial hair patterns to OCD to cribbing to speed. Go to town.

1000% convinced there’s a derp gene, would like to see a study about that please

Obviously many breeders and breed associations are obsessed with this. The goal is to make superior horses, generation over generation, and data can certainly be essential to that. Most registries track the offspring closely, assign breeding values to stallions, and even make handy dandy charts to show how a stallion’s offspring tend to trend as far as size, gaits, foot shape, back length, hock angle, etc. While nothing is heritable all the time, I do believe that a lot of things are highly heritable, and some stallions (and mares) are more prepotent for certain traits. A lot of people base a lot of breeding decisions based off of that theory, me included. Looking at the trends among the offspring is much more valuable to a breeder than looking at the stallion himself – you want to know how he produces, what traits seem most heritable. That’s the important part.

Of course, we also know that getting all the necessary traits for success into one package is a tough thing to do. The horse can have all the speed in the world, but if it doesn’t want to run, it won’t be a successful race horse. It could have gaits like Totilas, but if it doesn’t have the brain to withstand the pressures of the job, it probably won’t be winning any medals. Or if it doesn’t stay sound, or if it’s ridiculously hard to ride, etc etc. There’s also the flip side, where the horse might not be particularly talented, but it loves to work and is easy to ride and wants to do a job. Many horses live somewhere in that area. But the truly tip top horses… they tend to have a lot of those qualities combined into one horse.

excellent at yoga

The recipe for success certainly isn’t as easy as breeding a tip top horse to another tip top horse. Zenyatta’s foals are good examples of that. These traits, while definitely carrying a heritable tendency, just don’t come through all the time, or even most of the time. And to make things even more complicated, there are certain individuals that seem to either seriously out-produce their own quality or seriously under-produce their own quality. It isn’t at all uncommon for a relatively mediocre performance mare to become an absolute tip top producer. Breeding is hard, and relatively unpredictable, at least from our current understanding of genetics.

Like I said earlier though, I do believe that heritability, or at least some genetic tendency, is generally a relatively reliable thing. I become even more convinced of that when I watch JB and Presto at play. JB, the yearling, is very well bred for dressage. He doesn’t quite have the big flashy movement yet, but his natural balance is quite impressive. I have watched him do more textbook perfect canter pirouettes than I can even recall at this point. He’s naturally much stronger behind and across his topline, and has much more natural “sit” ability than Presto does. Which makes sense. Presto is bred to do this:

It’s really interesting to watch them, because they both love to run and buck and roughhouse and all the things that babies do, but their natural predispositions – their purposely bred genetic tendencies – definitely come out. JB’s balance. Presto’s boldness. They’ll be galloping together and then all the sudden Presto will veer down and zip past the edge of the pond, or jump down the bank, or leap over the ditch. He likes the more fun “offroad” path and aims for it on purpose. JB tends to always decline those options, instead choosing to redirect himself to a less risky path, probably throwing in a lovely lead change in the process. I can watch them forever and be endlessly fascinated by it, theorizing on why and how they’re wired to react the way they do. Most of it makes a lot of sense.

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He loves water more than any other horse I’ve ever met

I chose Presto’s sire specifically because of the rideability and seemingly natural cross country prowess of all the offspring I’ve seen. He appeared to have a relatively high tendency to produce whatever qualities combine to contribute to success in that phase, particularly with amateur and junior riders. Of course, I do believe that the mare is a, probably the, crucial part of the equation, so I went with a mare that had similar qualities too. Watching Presto now, as he shows me some natural predisposition to his future job, I become even more sold on just how heritable all of these things can be. Certainly, a lot of it is “nurture”, but you can’t discount the basic influence of what we breed into their nature.

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always looking for something fun to do

I can’t wait to see what scientists keep learning about all of this as we move along and our understanding and technology increases. I’m relatively convinced that there’s a genetic factor to almost everything, maybe even the things that seem anomalistic to us now.

Stall Psychology

Taking care of your own horses 24/7 definitely gives you a different perspective on them, and you start to learn some weird things. Particularly when cleaning their stalls and picking up their poop day in and day out. Like for instance, I came to notice that Presto’s turds are consistently small for a horse his size, like for real they look more like pony poops. Which led to a closer examination and determination that he has, well… a tiny butthole for a horse his size.

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Seriously I don’t know why you people keep coming to this blog.

Anyway.

Aside from such earth-shattering revelations as tiny buttholes, I’ve also become keenly aware of and interested in their stall-keeping habits. Right now the horses are out for about 12 hours and then inside for about 12 hours. They have nice size stalls with runs attached off the back, so they’re free to come and go between the two spaces as they please. It seems like most of the horses prefer mainly pooping outside and peeing inside, which is nice. Easy to clean. Sometimes they’ll have one or two piles inside, but nothing major. Henry and Presto, however, are polar opposites at extreme ends of the spectrum.

Henry is very much a “poop where he’s standing” type of guy. He doesn’t seem to give it any thought, he just shits wherever he happens to be at the time. There could be 5 piles in his stall in all different spots. Or they could all be piled in one corner. Or he could have mulched it all up into soup. Or maybe it’s all outside. Every day is different, depending on how he spent his night. He seems to give zero shits about laying in poop and has zero motivation to “keep his room clean” so to speak. His is always the dirtiest stall and always takes the longest to clean. You just never know what you’re going to find and where.

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Presto, on the other hand, is the opposite. In the entire two months that they’ve been coming inside at night, he’s pooped in his stall a grand total of twice. His poops are almost always relegated to the very end of the run, spread in a semi-circle next to the fence. Usually he has one pee in his stall, in the exact same spot every day, and he never lays in it. He uses hardly any shavings and it takes maybe 4 minutes to clean his stall and run.

It was kind of surprising to me to find that he’s such a neat stall horse. He’s not a clean horse otherwise, in fact he rolls at the edge of the pond every single day thus always has mud clinging to him somewhere. His mother was a pig in her stall too, so I have no idea where he picked up this inclination. At previous barns where he didn’t have a run, he wasn’t very neat, and often walked everything into a mess when he got bored. Something about having two spaces (and more space) makes him happier I guess?

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With work and my long commute and barn stuff, my days become a balancing act of trying to fit everything in during daylight hours, so the less time I have to spend cleaning stalls, the better. Thus Presto, who always has the cleanest stall of the four, always wins the unofficial Stallkeeper award. If you think about it, it kind of fits.

The whole “I’ll shit where I want and you’ll pick it up because that’s your job” attitude is very Henry. And the desire to please the human and do the good boy thing is very Presto. I’ve found myself pondering this often when I’m cleaning stalls; how weird it is that each horse’s poo habits fit so perfectly with their personality? Obviously the horses aren’t thinking “I’m gonna poop outside because the human prefers it” or “screw her, I shit where I please”… that’s not how their brains work at all. Yet somehow their habits do end up matching their basic personality anyway.

And then I was listening to a book about FBI profiling, and I was thinking maybe you could build a psych profile on a horse based solely on it’s stall keeping habits. Thinking of the four I take care of, you totally could, and you’d be pretty spot on. Perhaps this is a book idea in the making? Could you tell your horse’s psych profile from it’s stall? All this time people have been using whirls to attempt to read personality, but maybe instead we should be gazing into their dirty stalls.

Yes, these are the kind of ground breaking topics I ponder when I’m cleaning stalls. You could probably profile me based on that, too… tiny buttholes and horse personality profiles…

Exploring the Neighborhood

Despite having been out at the new place for about 4 months now, I haven’t had much opportunity to really explore the area. First it was still super hot, then Henry was lame for a while, and it just didn’t happen. But now (knock on copious amounts of wood) Henry is back in regular work again, and we finally got the chance to do some poking around.

There’s a boarding barn pretty much right across the main road from us that recently opened, and they’ve got a covered arena, a decent size outdoor arena, and a lot of land. Fun fact, Sadie did her very first little show there as a 3yo literally a decade ago when the farm was under a different name and management, but I hadn’t been back since then and didn’t remember a whole lot about it.

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we did “hunter versatility” which was basically a little trail course followed by a few crossrails

Bobby mentioned wanting to go trail ride somewhere, so I figured this could be the perfect opportunity to go check out the farm. I’ve been following on facebook and it looks like they’re set to make some improvements, including clearing more trails for conditioning, adding some XC jumps (particularly ditch/bank/water), and putting in a rider gate right across from the stop sign at the end of our road. That would make it all of a 200-300 yard ride to get from our gate to their property. Considering I want to spend most of Presto’s first year under saddle just hacking him out and trail riding, easy access to 80 acres would be a big boon. Plus it would give me a bigger space to do Henry’s conditioning work, or just get him out for a change of scenery. Naturally, I would like to be best friends with these people.

Presto was really excited to meet Halo again and put on his best arabian neck
Henry, not so much

So I made an appointment for us to hack over and ride out there on Sunday. Bobby trailered over to our place, and we got on and rode over to the other farm. On the way over we just rode down to their driveway, which is about half a mile down the main road. It isn’t a particularly busy road but the cars do tend to travel fast… luckily both our horses are well-used to road traffic, so it wasn’t a problem. I wasn’t super clear on exactly what was their land versus other people’s land, but once we got there we figured out that the one big empty front field actually has a gate out onto the main road that spits us out really close to my road, letting us avoid that half mile walk down to the main entrance. Bonus.

The space kind of brought back memories of the fields we lost at the barn that closed last year. It’s slightly rolling, which I think will be super nice for my needs. These wide open spaces just make my heart so happy.

If you can see the green road sign in the distance, our place is like 2-300 yards down that road to the left. Super close! 

We managed to make almost a 2 hour hack out of exploring everything and poking around the farm. They’ve got great bones to work with, and lots of land, so hopefully their vision will come to fruition. It would be great to have an extra big place to go hack the boys, especially if they put XC jumps out there. What a luxury it would be to not have to drive 2 hours each way to do some cross country! There’s also talk of doing some schooling shows (there are already some western dressage ones – their discipline of choice – set for this year), which would also be amazing. In what world have I ever been able to be within riding distance of a show facility? It could be great for Presto especially, as I start putting miles on him.

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Peep Halo’s burgundy sparkles

The facility is offering a one year riding pass for $125, which would be a pretty great deal if I utilized the space even just once a week. I’m excited to see how it comes along and what else they add. Bobby and I definitely had a good time poking around on a gorgeous 70 degree day!

2019’s #1 Biggest Accomplishment

Well, we’ve made it to the end of the 2019 recap posts, and I’ve saved the best for last. It is, perhaps, the pinnacle accomplishment of the year. The crown achievement. The apex. My own personal zenith.

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You see, Bobby has always been a hater of glitter. In fact, I’ve heard him refer to it as “the herpes of the craft world” on many occasions. He has always been the least fabulous, most khaki-wearing, plain black or white saddle pad type of guy in existence. Simple. Straightforward. No frills. It’s quite disappointing at times, to be honest.

Over the years I’ve certainly worked some of my magic on him a bit. Gussied him up, got him looking more modern with his turnout, converted him from synthetic to leather tack. I’ve even slowly but surely turned him into a bit of a shopper, as evidenced by the Burghley trip. Granted, the real reason he went and bought that hunt bridle was because Ben Way had one on one of his young horses, and Bobby is a total fanboy (Ben Way also had a Fairfax breastplate and I tried to talk Bobby into buying one so I could steal it, but apparently his devotion as fanboy ends somewhere well before the $350 mark). But whatever… I totally talked him into all the other things.

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like this shipping halter, which he petted for an uncomfortably long time while we sat at The Maltings

So I think when he switched over into Dressageland this year, he was a lot more primed and ready to accept their blingier culture. I mean, he still went to nationals in a Wintec (which is honestly kind of badass, don’t tell him I said that), but otherwise he looks super legit. He’s even got more than one show coat now, and neither of them is a women’s blazer (he will never live that down as long as I’m around).

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But still, when I showed him the Punk Ponies glitter boots, I expected him to make some kind of herpes comment. Because they’re glitter. Bobby HATES glitter. Like he once threatened to tit punch me because I entertained the idea of sending him a glitter bomb in retribution after he sent me an anonymous package of gummy weens (which was not anonymous at all because I only know one asshole that would send me that).

So you could have knocked me over with a feather when he LOVED the boots. And then proceeded to order himself a set. And not only did he order himself glitter boots, he ordered them in NAVY. WHAAAAAT? Seriously, he has lived and died by black/white/red for the entire time I’ve known him. Navy, while absolutely the best color, is just as far out in left field for Bobby as glitter. NAVY GLITTER? Has he been body snatched?

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He has seen the light.

And I mean… I don’t want to gloat, but…

I totally got Bobby into navy glitter.

Let me just revel in that for a second.

But it didn’t stop there. Not only did he buy the boots, but he also went back and ordered the matching navy glitter pad. Yep, that’s right, now he’s 1. Navy 2. Glitter 3. Matchy. Hell hath frozen over friends. There is no way I can top this accomplishment.

Indeed, he decided he liked the navy so much that he also found and ordered some burgundy glitter.

TWO sets of glitter. And neither are black. He’s even talking about coordinating browbands. Who is this person?

I don’t know what happened, or how it happened, but… this is a glorious moment in history, friends. Light a candle for the old Bobby, who swore that Halo didn’t wear boots or bonnets because he didn’t like them, owned one black saddle pad and one white saddle pad, and liked his plastic tack because he could hose it off. Now he’s a full-fledged tack cleaning, outfit-coordinating, matchy, glittery DQ. I mean, he still won’t buy things unless they’re a good deal or on sale, because I raised him right, but he DOES have a weakness for pretty things that didn’t exist before.

Maybe I should just retire. I can’t top this.

2019 Top 5: The Miscellany

We talked about the best parts of 2019 and the more disappointing parts of 2019… now we get to the rest. Maybe these seem like totally random categories, but in case you haven’t noticed, I myself am pretty freaking random, so it fits.

Top 5 favorite products

This was TOUGH because I acquired so many things this year that I really love. I had to go with the ones that either made the biggest impact or sparked the most joy.

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The Burghley hunt bridle – I found a few good deals at Burghley and this one is definitely my favorite. It’s the classy, classic hunt bridle that I’ve always wanted, and was so cheap I almost feel like I stole it. Henry looks dapper AF in it.

Dark sparkle boots – technically I have two dark sparkly boot items, Henry’s Cavallo boot and Presto’s set of open fronts. They both make me way happier than they should, but dammit if those dark sparkles aren’t fabulous.

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Premier Equine merino wool pads – probably the most practical thing on the list, but I got these hoping they’d help with Henry’s rubbing issues and they’ve done that and more. They’re so reasonably priced, are holding up well, have superb airflow, are really pretty… I have no complaints about them and now own 4. I’d have more if they had other color combos that I liked (can we do hunter green with navy, please?). Possibly my #1 favorite product of the year.

Spikey browband and bonnet – okay again this is 2 things, but they’re both spikey so I’m saying it counts as one. I love spikes. Maybe it’s weird that I also like sparkles, but… it’s who I am. The spiked browband looks badass AF on Henry’s XC bridle, and Presto wore it at FEH Championships. The bonnet was really meant for Presto to wear eventually, but Henry has donned it a couple times. It’s my favorite bonnet. Plus they’re from two of my favorite small businesses.

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Neue Schule bit – I know some people think these are overpriced and overhyped, and maybe they are, but all I know is that Henry loves his Tranz Angled Lozenge Eggbutt. Will it magically take your horse from llama to Valegro? Of course not. But for me it took a horse that was 75% happy in contact and made him 99% happy in contact, and much more relaxed in his mouth and topline. I’ve tried a lot of bits on him over the years and he’s by far the happiest in this one. Probably because he just likes to test my devotion by making me buy him expensive things.

Honorable mention to the shirt with Henry’s XC face all over it. God that thing is GLORIOUS, it deserves to be on this list for sure.

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behold

 

Top 5 most popular posts

The massive Black Friday sales post is always #1 and this year was no different, with 10k hits. So let’s toss that one aside and take the top 5 “regular” posts.

Let me make myself unpopular for a minute – ah SafeSport, you were the gift that really kept on giving all year. I have a feeling that will continue into 2020.

Why I don’t calculate the cost – explaining my complete aversion to tracking horse expenses.

It’s OK to just not – the art of doing what you actually want instead of what you feel like you should want

Neue Schule bit review – ha, see I’m not the only one obsessed with them

Gutted – when I found out the old barn was being sold to developers

 

Top 5 favorite podcasts

I spend a lot of time in the car, so audiobooks and podcasts were a big part of my year. Mostly podcasts, because audiobooks get expensive.

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Buckoff banter – I’m sorry but the Brits are just waaaaaay fucking funnier than we are. This is the only horse podcast I listen to religiously, always on the day it comes out.

In the Dark season 2 – this was originally out in 2016 I think, but I just listened to it this year. And holy crap. Crime, race relations, scandal, conspiracy… it’s a horrifying story that’s got everything and will leave you outraged.

Believed – originally from 2018 but again I just listened to it this year. THIS is why we have SafeSport. THIS is how predators get away with it for so long. THIS is how many lives they can completely ruin in the process.

Hunting Warhead – another one related to child sexual abuse, the dark web, and what they’re really doing and thinking. The whole SS/GM thing set me off down this path and it was certainly enlightening. It’s next level bonkers to see into the minds of these people, but it was also really educational.

Root of Evil – a family does some digging and finds compelling evidence that makes them believe that a relative was the Black Dahlia killer. History and murder, two of my favorite things.

 

Top 5 favorite memes

Yeah this is silly, but look y’all, memes got me through some tough times this year. I love a good meme, I can’t help it.

Gotta have a baby Yoda meme

I can’t explain why but this one makes me actually laugh out loud no matter how many times I see it.

Valid coping mechanism

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Sadly, the vet bills were high AF.

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Sorry, I try to keep politics off of here, but this is hands down my favorite of the year, so…

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Happy 2020

Happy 2020 everyone!

festive as always

I stayed up a little bit late (like 10:15… I normally go to bed at 9 so that’s late for me) to make sure the horses weren’t worried about the fireworks, and luckily they weren’t. The neighbors have been shooting god only knows what in the woods for the past couple weeks so I guess everyone is well accustomed to the pop-bang-pop-bang noise by now. I sat at the table doing a Harry Potter jigsaw puzzle (sometimes your dork level reaches maximum, what can I say) and watching the horses on the cameras until I was comfortable that there wouldn’t be any trouble, then I went to bed.

But not before coming across this meme, which might be a new favorite. New year, new memes.

I decided a while back that I didn’t want to do a goals post this year. I’ve gotten away from that more and more as time has gone on, and I didn’t feel like it was really enriching my life or adding any value. It kind of just made me want to chase the things that may or may not be the right ones, as time moves on and circumstances change. Maybe instead 2020 is the year of “fuck it, let’s see what happens” and being more receptive to going with the flow and adapting to whatever life may bring, rather than feeling like it HAS to go the way I’ve plotted it out in my head. Not rudderless, per se, but more like sails up and receptive to go wherever the wind takes us.

That was a lot of boat references in one sentence.  My apologies.

Really I think Muddy Mayhem laid out my feelings pretty well in her facebook post yesterday:

This is Marla. Marla is going to say it.
Marla fucking hates new year. She hates people trying to schedule ‘fun’, she hates the competitiveness of looking back at how much she might have (or not) achieved, she hates the weight of expectation that somehow what she has done already wasn’t enough & this year she needs to ‘step it up’ & smash 2020.

Because the thing is, Marla might not have glittering results, frillies, championship qualifications & eleventy billion sponsorship deals but Marla knows this. She did her fucking best.

Yes, sometimes that felt like it fell majorly short. There were still dressage tests that were twatlaps of chaos, show jumping rounds where she couldn’t see a stride even if there had been a massive flashing sign saying ‘Oi Twatchops THIS is the spot you want’ & Cross country rounds where her fuck ups picked up faults & even going training there were visits from The Fuckening that left her doubting whether she should even still be riding, let alone attempting to event. But Marla knows this: every time she went out & put a saddle & bridle on her horse, she wanted to do her best. And you can’t apply a shiny social media filter to & a hashtag to that…because, quite frankly, that is enough.

Marla has learnt that not everyone is going to like her & she can’t change that ( she also gets it because quite often she doesn’t like herself either) but she has a crew of people who, despite her loud, brashness & potty mouth, quite like having her around. They are the people cheering with her when she’s happy, sending her messages when she might be feeling low & inspiring her with a year planner filled in with what she should be aiming for. These are the people that matter, because to these she is enough.

Marla loves her horses. She appreciates the privilege of having them in her life. This last year she has realised that having that beautiful head looking over a stable door happy & healthy means more than any competition result, that doing your best for the horse in your life is more than any frilly. It is enough.

So if any wants Marla she is saying this. She is tiptoeing forward to 2020, with more wrinkles & grey hair, a slightly fatter arse (by the next decade that fucker is going to have its own postcode) but with a dream, a passion & the knowledge that she is enough.

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She said it better than I ever could.

So Happy New Year everyone, I wish you all the best! And oi twatchops (which I will now be using on a regular basis, god I love the Brits despite their insistence on all that Brexit nonsense), I hope your fuckenings and twatlaps of chaos are maybe a little fewer and farther between.

2019 Top 5: The Disappointments

Yesterday we covered my top 5 best memories from 2019, and for the sake of balance, it’s only fair to also talk about the less shiny parts. In general I don’t like to focus on what didn’t go well, because IMO you learn from it and move on, but I do think its important to be honest to anyone reading and talk about the bad as well as the good. I make mistakes. Sometimes things are disappointing. That’s just life.

The barn closing

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I think the thing that gutted me most was when the barn I’d been at for 3 years sold to developers and closed down. The place was a bit rough around the edges, not at all fancy, and mostly a barn for very occasional trail riders, but it had tons of beautiful open land, they let me do what I wanted, and it was only 20 minutes from my house. Over time I’d come to make that place work quite well for me, and I was attached to those back fields in a borderline spiritual way. It wasn’t just the fact that we had to leave that was so disappointing, it was the idea of the land being turned into more disgusting cookie cutter neighborhoods. It still makes me ill to think about. Plus it broke up our Hillary/Bobby/Amanda trio of trouble. But, it did lead to bigger and better opportunities, so I suppose “for everything there is a season”.

Human injuries

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he tried his best to pack me around, even with a messed up ankle

In May I managed to sprain my ankle pretty badly when I stepped down on the edge of the mounting block (it’s STILL not quite right) and then had a particularly nasty fall a couple weeks later while XC schooling. I ended up under the horse, and while overall I was fine, I was pretty well banged up. The hematoma on my leg is now a permanent dent. I think I learned a valuable lesson about taking better care of myself and giving myself appropriate time to heal rather than being stubborn and trying to power through things (as is my general nature). I think. I hope. I’ve tried to take the “treat yourself like you would treat the horses” approach a bit more. Grit is one thing, stupidity is another.

Vet bills

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remember Old Faithful?

It has literally been one freaking vet bill after another since June. It started with routine floats and vaccines and injections, then there was a respiratory funk, an allergic reaction, a hematoma that subsequently got infected, a skin funk from hell, a ripped off chunk of hoof/heel, a cut hock, a broken tooth that needed to be extracted, and then a mystery foot lameness. And now they’re due for routine stuff again next month. If I could go a month or two without giving hundreds of dollars to the vet, that would be fun. Between the money and the issues, it killed any hope I had of a fall or winter season. Which again, may have turned out to be a good thing, because it gave me time away from all that to really have a think about what’s most important to me and spend some time just enjoying the horses without any other pressures.

Going splat at Coconino

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the first jump was full of such promise…

So, real talk, that was a shitty moment. We’d had the best XC of our life the day before, and by the time we stepped into the ring for stadium we were literally the only pair left that hadn’t been eliminated. All I had to do was stay on and jump the jumps in the right order and we’d win, taking the $1200 Open Prelim division money home with us. And we jumped the first jump brilliantly, then almost fell down in the mud a few times in the corner before sliding through fence 2, and I went flying through the air to end that dream with an unceremonious splat. Disappointing, for sure. To be honest though, I kept waiting for it to feel like some kind of soul-crushing, life-altering defeat and it just never did. This sport is hard. Shit happens. To everyone. It would have been freaking awesome to win and bring home some money, duh, but I was still really pleased with my horse and no matter how it ended, the XC was a career highlight that could never be erased or minimized. In the old days, pre-working-on-my-mental-game, I would have been absolutely devastated. Now it was just… a bummer. So I guess, depending on how you want to look at it, it could have been a good thing? Showed some growth anyway.

FEH Champs

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lawd he handsome though

While I was happy that Presto qualified for FEH Champs again, and grateful that he was sound and could actually attend despite trying to rip his foot off a month before and then cutting his hock a few days before, I was admittedly disappointed in the day. I believe heartily in the importance of the FEH and YEH programs and want to support them as much as I can, and I had really been looking forward to Championships. Prices went up this year, which I totally understand, but it was a lot to spend (like as much as I’d spend on a regular recognized horse trial) and a very long hot day (we had to stand in the sun in 100 degrees for a couple hours after we were done to wait for results) to show a baby horse on the line. While Presto wasn’t unsound from the cut on his hock, he did move very wide behind to protect it, which (fairly) they did not like at all and seemed to interpret as a substantial overall weakness. We got good pictures and more experience, so it wasn’t a total wash, but given the time and money involved, it was a bit disappointing. Naturally he was moving normally again within a few days, because horses.


To be fair, these are really the only truly disappointing moments that spring to mind from the year. And even then, I think most of them have or will ultimately lead to something good. You live, you learn. Shit happens for a reason. Blah blah blah. I don’t always believe that, but as long as I’m learning from the blunders, I do believe they can turn into positives in the long run. Or ya know, build character at the very least? And honestly, sometimes my stubborn hard-headed self really does have to learn things the hard way.

2019 Top 5: Best Memories

I feel like every year I kind of change how I do these “year in review” type posts. I don’t really like doing just a summary of what happened, but I also think that doing a “by the numbers” thing kind of puts the focus in the wrong places. My goals are to have fun, enjoy my horses, and learn. Numbers don’t always really reflect that. So I’m going to try out something new and instead break up the year-recap into more of a Top 5 series. For today’s, we’re starting out with my top 5 memorable moments of the year, the bits that really spring to mind as the most spine-tinglingly “I’ll never forget that time when…” type of memories I made in 2019. These are in no particular order of course, because who could pick a favorite?

Finally getting a clear Prelim stadium round

I love Henry to the absolute depths of forever, but Jesus H Christ, it is hard AF to show jump clean on this horse. Especially at Prelim. XC is his forte, and he really just doesn’t care much if he hits a rail or three. Trying to dial in the stadium has been a lot of ongoing work. In February we finally pulled that shit together, and despite a few rubs they DID all stay in the cups. FINALLY. (I think it was a one-off incident of pure luck but shhhhhhh I’ll take it)

First “sit” on Presto

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I don’t know that it counts as a “ride” since I literally just swung a leg over and sat on him at a standstill for a few minutes, but there’s nothing quite like the feeling of being the first one to sit on a horse that you bred. I was there when he was created, I was there when he was born, and now my butt will always have been the first one to grace his back. It seems like a small thing but after years of investing so much time, energy, love, hope, money, etc it feels like a magical moment. Especially when he’s a second generation homebred for me.

Henry’s first recognized Prelim

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he is serious business, y’all

It sounds silly but once I knew Prelim was actually attainable, I really wanted Henry to have it on his official USEA record. I know, horses don’t give a shit about that, and since he’ll never be for sale it doesn’t actually matter at all, but something in me just really felt like he deserved to be an “official” Prelim horse. It’s a title he’s more than earned and I’m ridiculously proud of him. It kinda feels like a public record that testifies to the fact that he always tries so hard for me and is the most golden of eggs. When we sealed the deal on our first recognized Prelim completion, it was a great feeling.

Meeting Mighty Magic

When you realize that the apple definitely did not fall very far from the tree at all

Honestly that whole trip may have been the best yet, between Burghley and France I have so many great memories and cannot WAIT to do it again. But if I had to pick my absolute favorite moment of that entire trip, it would be meeting Presto’s sire Mighty Magic. We have met a lot of stallions in our travels but MM is special to me. I’ve loved him for so long, and finally getting to see him in person, and have him just be SO MUCH like Presto… it was awesome.

Conquering the jump that’s lived in my nightmares for years

You know how sometimes you see a jump and you’re just like hahahaha I would never jump that, you could not even pay me enough, that thing looks like death personified, EFF NO? I have felt that way about the Prelim/Intermediate (they share it) weldon’s wall at Coconino since the first time I laid eyes on it in 2016. Like I couldn’t even make eye contact with it then without wanting to barf. I figured I’d never have to jump it anyway, so I was content to let it live in the land of nightmares. And then we went to Coco and ran Prelim and there I was, staring that stupid thing down, trying not to shit myself. I still hate it, but we jumped it, proving once again that with the right horse, even those “never in a million years” things can suddenly be do-able. That whole XC round was probably one of the top 5 moments of my entire life, but finally jumping that stupid thing in particular felt equal parts terrifying and amazing, so it stands out.

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someone send it back to hell where it belongs (the jump, not Hillary, she can stay)
and take this BAT (big ass table) with it

It was definitely a year of stepping out of comfort zones and stretching ourselves, and also learning how to roll with the punches. Sometimes we succeeded, sometimes we didn’t (we’ll talk about the Fails in another post), but we showed up and we tried. I think I’ve finally learned how to really have fun no matter what happens, and how to put the most emphasis on the things that matter most (hint: it’s definitely not scores or ribbons or points).

Spoiled Creatures

The boys made out quite well this holiday season. Yeah I know, don’t they always? It started with Black Friday, with Henry’s sparkly AF hoof boot (the best hoof boot ever created, if you ask me) and the two new white merino wool Premier Equine pads (which may or may not still be sitting in the house with the tags on because I just want to enjoy them being pristine for as long as possible, ok?). Then of course it was Presto’s awesome gift from his horse mom, which continued the sparkly AF theme.

you’re gonna see pics of these a lot, get used to it

Things just kept coming in waves for them after that. There’s the Hylofit, which I’ve been using a lot as I bring Henry back into work,

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yeah I know, getting the Devoucoux re-billeted is on the docket for 2020

but it did highlight the fact that since I moved to the merino wool pads, they take up less space under the saddle, and thus my girths are a little bit big now. Like… almost to the top holes on each side, which means there isn’t really enough room for the Hylofit to sit where it needs to once I mount up and tighten my girth. So I used one of my amazon gift cards that I got for xmas to order Henry a smaller girth, which will fit Presto better too. It has memory foam. Tres fancy.

Image result for collegiate memory foam dressage girth

I went back and forth for a while between a synthetic like this one or a full blown sheepskin girth, thinking about completing Henry’s already ridiculously fluffy outfit. But he’s never had an issue with girths (except the fake fleece ones, which rubbed him, because Henry) so I opted not to introduce more sheepskin maintenance into my life where it wasn’t necessary. Maybe next time.

I also used a visa gift card to buy a tack shop gift card, so that I can get the reversible navy and green elastic breastplate that I’ve been wanting for Presto. Still waiting for that tack shop to email me the gift card…

Image result for nunn finer navy reversible breastplate

The boys also got an item that I’ve been lusting after for a while and talked about a lot – the space boots! Or more specifically, the Majyk Equipe cold compression boots. They look just as NASA-rific in person as I’d dreamed.

I haven’t used them yet, but I’m mega impressed by how well made and rugged they are. These things are legit. The ice packs are a lot thicker and sturdier than the LeMieux ones too, so hopefully they work better. We’ll find out soon. I’ve already played with the air pump, it’s quite fun.

Presto got a new Lund bridle, since he’s officially outgrown his old cob size one. Really that one hasn’t fit him well all year, he outgrew the headstall a long time ago, but now it’s just getting ridiculous and the straps barely reach. So now he’s got a new horse size basic snaffle bridle that should serve him well for the next couple years and be appropriate for any ring (he will probably find himself in some baby hunter classes at some point since I think that’s really good for the greenies). I just, uh… haven’t taken it out of the box and put it together yet. Probably this weekend, when I have time to condition it properly.

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it smells like new leather in the house right now though, it’s divine

The boys also got some cleaning-type stuff, which they perhaps might not find particularly exciting, but I do. We’ve got a new product to us, Unicorn Grooming Spray, which is appropriately named. It’s all natural and has a nice mild scent.

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And Blanket Safe, which I’ve been wanting to try for a while. I haven’t used it yet but I did open all the scents to smell them and omg they smell amazing. I can’t decide if I like the lavender or the clean linen the most. They’re anti-bacterial, detergent-free, and safe to use on waterproofing, plus I’ve heard really good things about their cleaning power for both blankets and saddle pads. If these work well on the blankets I think I might need to get their fleece and wool formula for my merino wool pads.

cherry, lemon, lavender, and clean linen

What the boys really raked in a lot of this year, though, was treats. Four different kinds, to be exact. Apple and Oats, Nicker Makers, Mrs. Pastures x 2 jars, and cheap Walmart oatmeal cookies (a favorite of Henry’s).

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three of the four laid out in a taste test for Henry to see which one he would eat first. It was the Nicker Maker, followed .5 seconds later by the Apple and Oat, followed 1 second later by the Mrs Pastures. Really he chewed them all up together like one big mega-cookie conglomerate, because that’s my boy.

They aren’t the only ones who were a bit spoiled, either. I’ve gotten a few fun horsey things too, starting with the mounting block that I already mentioned. Really though, I love my 3-step. I think I will especially love it once I try to swing a leg over that giraffe I’ve got living out in the pasture.

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previous step stool on the left, looking extra shrimpy

I’m also branching out and trying some breeches that are totally new to me – first a pair of Montar from The Dressage Store, which I’ve basically been living in for a couple weeks… it’s too soon to say for sure but they might be my new favorite.

And a pair of Shop Halter Ego’s Perfection breeches in a gorgeous dark gray with navy piping. They’re super pretty.

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So really I suppose we’re all spoiled creatures, and I’m gonna have a lot of reviews to write soon. Any of these things in particular that you’re particularly interested in a review on? I need to prioritize them somehow…