Our First Cross Country Outing- Part 1, the Warm Up

Yup, this is going to be in multiple parts because, well, there is a whole lot to say. Also, limited media because I was alone.

Okay, lets back up shall we?

The original plan was to have a group outing at FENCE, a venue about an hour away, Friday at 9 am. I was super excited for not only our first cross country experience, but also the first group lesson we would be involved in. Trainer also had plans to put one of her students going for her A pony Club rating (basically professional level) on Gem during the outing.

But then this exchange happened Thursday evening:

Trainer puts up with my sense of humor

I admit to being really bummed. Pretty much everything I was excited about had evaporated and I briefly thought about canceling. I had taken a day off work for this and was thinking maybe it wasn’t worth the time away from the office anymore. In the end I decided that any lesson was better than no lesson.

Instead of riding pictures you get some shots from the hike Dusty, Wyatt and I too at Ceaser’s head over the weekend.

We started with a warm up in the jump arena. Trainer gave me the reins (hahahahahahha funny pun) and told me to warm up on my own while she watched so she could see what I was doing. I started off by working on those slow, purposeful turns maintaining rhythm and trying to achieve real bend at the walk. She had good things to say about my posture, my elbows being fluid and unlocked and my attempts at bend although my turns could have been planned even earlier.

Then I picked up the trot and Gem was floating and light. She really is liking the Baucher quite a lot. I think she needs the stability it gives her plus I am riding a million times better and more steady myself which helps create the balance we are looking for.

Devil’s Kitchen.  Wyatt overheard the Park Ranger telling us about it. As we walked up to the area, Wyatt was walking really slow. Then I heard “I hope he isn’t home. I don’t want to make him mad.” Poor guy has really scared that it was a real devil.

Honestly, the flat work was boring simply because it was so darn good. Gem was listening and while we are still fighting a lot of the same things, each time I can feel it improving.

A serious Wyatt surviving the Devil’s Kitchen

One of my (many) flaws in riding is lack of preparation. Gem can turn on a dime, but that doesn’t mean she should and it also kills off any momentum we have. Trainer is working hard on the training pyramid and we are just now beginning to get the whole rhythm thing down so we can begin to work on relaxation more. When I stuff her into corners or turn her sharply, it ruins everything. Plus it can’t be that comfortable for her.

So we worked on lots of changes of direction focusing on planing well ahead, giving Gem plenty of notice by using all my aides and turning like an 80 year old driving on ice. My main task was to keep the exact same trot pace and rhythm through it all. No slowing, no speeding up and maintaining equal weight on all four feet. No more motorcycling around turns on two wheels.

And….we nailed it!!! I started planning well in advance and it felt like we were barely working at all even though I was doing way more while riding than ever before. She turned here, she turned there. I made her go past all the scary objects that she was trying to spook at, I changed diagonals, I let go of one rein to give her a scratch on her withers.

Through it all she remained steady and even. My half halts were being listened to, my posting speed was getting through and we floated around like magic.

I didn’t think my smile could get any bigger.

And then……


Talk to Me About Cross Country Vests

As I get ready to embark on my first cross country outing tomorrow, it occurs to me that I do not own a vest. Trainer is lending me one for the schooling day, but if all goes well and we manage to not die on our first outing I will eventually be needing my own.

I’ve done some preliminary research because who doesn’t hate that person who goes online to ask a question they could have just googled instead. Or is that just me? Anyway…  I’ve read about the difference between the BETA and ASTM requirements and have looked up lists of available vests on the market today. This just made my head spin.

From what I have read and the little I have seen out and about, I have gathered a very short list of things I know I want and the rest is so up in the air that I am taking to the blog to ask all you for suggestions on where to even begin. The big issue I have is that the local tack shop only carries the Tipperary ASTM certified vest and that goes against one of the items on my list, so I can’t go try on  bunch and see what I like.

The AECs aare back in Tryon next month and I have signed up to volunteer two days. Last year they had a small vendor area and I am hoping it returns as well. If I can get some good opinions here then I can go armed with some info to try on as many brands as I can get my hands on.

Here is what I know I want (or at least think I know I want):

1.) BETA approved
2.) Not air
3.) Off the shelf. I am pretty average in my measurements and do not need a custom vest as my starter
4.) Some basic color choices would be nice, but it does not need to get fancy
5.) At least a little cool. It is so insanely hot and humid here that I worry most about heat stroke in a solid vest than how I look or what color the thing is. I know they will all be hotter than not wearing one (much like a helmet), but safety is more important. If I can find one that offers a little better heat dissipation that would be great.

And that is about it.

So…any pointers, tips, suggestions, recommendations? Please lay it on me so that I can go armed with information and ready to try on all the things.

Waggy Tail

Waggy Wednesday

Waggy Tails has settled right into life at our house. I keep telling Dusty that she is going to be one excellent dog when she is grown up as I keep seeing little snippets of her personality come to life.

Super Wags to the rescue!!!
Einstein wasn’t so thrilled with his batdog outfit

For starters, she is wicked smart. I thought I was getting a big, dumb dog, but instead I have a likeness closer to my Corgi, Hero. In fact, there are so many times that I see her out of the corner of my eye and think I see Hero looking back at me. It is a flash back to older times and one I didn’t realize I missed so darn much.

She learned her name in under 24 hours, mostly has the whole house training thing down with only a few puppy mishaps when I can’t get to her quick enough, and has begun work on sit and come. I am waiting on stay for a while yet as she is only 9 weeks old.

Lazy puppy chilling with me at work.

In general, she is a very lazy pup. I’ve been spoiled in the past with high energy dogs, but specifically wanted a more chilled out breed with our busy work and non dog approved life schedules. She has about an hour to an hour and a half of play time in the morning that result sin full blown passed out puppy napping until dinner. Even when she is awake, she prefers to sit or lay down to play.

Eating while laying down. Gotta save those calories for growing.

I finally managed to convince her that it was a good idea to walk to the horse pasture this past weekend. The hubby is already having flashbacks to the attitude of Hero and just shakes his head when he asks her to come along outside with him and instead she sits, looks at him, looks back at the house and saunters back to the garage to ask to come inside.

She melted

Waggy Tails refuses to use up any more energy than she absolutely must at any given time. In fact, she is sounding more and more Gem like to me as I type which does’t surprise me as I tend to gravitate towards that personality.

Pink with sparkles suits her

She is absolutely perfect with Wyatt. She puts up with him carrying her around, wrestling and in general annoying the crap out of her. She has never run away from him, hid, or made a peep. Actually, she hasn’t made much noise the entire time we have had her. Wyatt adores her and I catch him often hugging her and telling her she is his best friend. In fact, she is pretty much amenable to everything.

Too much adorable for me

One of my biggest concerns with getting a puppy was the cats. Smokey is 14, Echo 8 and they really didn’t take to Einstein very well even though both have been around dogs their entire life. I don’t know if Waggy Tails puts off the right type of signal or if it is her laid back attitude, but both have taken to her immediately and I see no signs of any change in their personality, health, eating or daily routines.

Why hello there!


Waggy Tails has really been a blessing for our family. I had gone back and forth about it. Life is hectic enough with everything else going on that adding a puppy to the mix could have been a disaster. It may still be, but for now all that has happened in the addition of more love.

Rawr! Get him Waggy!

Riding the Horse You Have, Not the One You Had

At what point do you let bygones be bygones?

This is an issue that Trainer brought up in my last lesson. We were just starting the jumping portion and I did what I always do: got defensive in front of the jump and completely took my leg off her. This gave me the same response I always get: Gem stopped and refused to jump. Not her fault, since I was telling her loud and clear that I didn't want to actually go over it. Now, a more forgiving horse would have jumped it anyway since she was clearly pointed right at the middle of the thing and knew fully well what my intentions were. But she isn't a forgiving horse.

At that point Trainer piped up. While Gem isn't a forgiving horse, she is an honest one and was telling me three strides out she needed more support to go over it. Even then she kept going up to the base asking for help which she never received and finally at the last minute she politely refused. No buck. No dropped shoulder. Just a polite "well, if you don't want me to then screw it I wont".

My defensiveness stems a long way back. When I first got her she was a witch. A little bit mean, a whole lot obstinate. Back then she would pull dirty stunts at the base of a jump even when I had my leg on and was fully committed to making it over. Heck she would pull dirty stunts just about anywhere anytime. She would act as though she would do the thing and then drop her right shoulder, spin 180 degrees and bolt. I ended up on the ground more times than over the jump. This behavior taught me to be scared, timid and not 100% committed to going over.

But that was years ago. She no longer acts like that. Sure, she doesn't go out of her way to help me, but we came to the agreement many years and many miles ago that she would do her job and I would do mine and we would stay out of each other's way as much as possible. The mare hates it when I nag and I hate it when I have to.

The problem is that I am still riding her like she used to be instead of the way she is now. My defensive riding has no place in her non aggressive behavior and yet I am still holding on tight to past grudges. I know that when I ride her more assertively towards a fence, that she will go over it. In fact, she has yet to refuse any jump that I am committed to going over, even if it is attached to a train.

Once Trainer demanded that I ride the horse I currently have, Gem moved around the course like a dream. She locked on to the jumps several strides out and pulled me towards them. She didn't balk, she didn't hesitate, she just soared over and went where I directed her to go.

It is a seismic drift in our relationship and way of going and one my body and mind has been slow to adjust to. The issue is that now I am beginning to punish her for her kind behavior by being restrictive and tense. Sure, she taught me to be that way but now she is trying to teach me to be trusting again and I haven't been listening.

It is going to take more than one good lesson to release the years worth of defensive tension from my muscle memory, but I could start to feel it ebb away by the end of it and hope to continue being a more willing partner moving forward. Well, as long as Gem holds up her end as well and continues to be a trustworthy mount.

What about any of you? Was there ever a point in your partnership where you had to let go of the past and move towards the future? What helped you make the transition from riding the past to the present?


Officially Retired

In March 2010, the hubby looked over at me on the couch and asked when I was going to find him a haflinger. I paused for all of 20 seconds before jumping online for a very quick search which landed on a small add for a 10 year old Haflinger gelding. We drove down to meet him and two things were immediately evident: he was neither 10 years old nor a Haffy. It didn't matter though, the hubby was smitten and there was no way we weren't going home with him.

Pete has been the perfect hubby horse. From day one, his personality just meshed super well with Dusty. He has a can do attitude for all things under saddle and has taken Dusty on countless trail miles, swimming in the river, over stadium fences and along a cross country course. I've never seen him say no to any challenge. 


On Dustys end of the relationship, he has come at Pete with a great sense of humor which has allowed Pete to blossom. When Pete decided he had no spine and was therefore incapable of bending, Dusty just laughed as they cantered sideways into a tree. 

When Pete froze in his tracks at the sight of a small butterfly and watched in amazement as it fluttered around for 5 minutes, Dusty chuckled and gave him a pat. I'm not sure anyone else could have brought Pete out of his shell like Dusty did. 


Pete even went on an endurance ride with us. He thoroughly enjoyed the first 13 miles, but decided that was about enough for the day. He did manage to complete is last place though. 


Dusty rode Pete typically twice a week up until Wyatt was born and then it was once a week. Slowly over time it has continued to decrease. Prior to moving him home he hadn't had any work at all for 6 months and only a few rides total in a year. 

He didn't seem to mind though as he ballooned up to whale size and enjoyed playing in the field. Pasture life suits him well. He gets along with everyone and if he can convince his friends to go galloping around and bucking he will. Unfortunately Gem isn't one to waste energy and rarely gets kicked up into a frenzy. 


The goal has always been to get him back into work once he was brought home. He is 26 by best guess, but still frisky and perfectly sound. He has always loved exploring the trails and getting to stretch his legs. We actually felt pretty bad about his mostly retired status all these years and figured he would be happy to get back into the swing of things. 


Our first trail ride in June he was more than happy to get caught and waltzed onto the trailer. He had an enjoyable ride going at a pace he was comfortable with and we walked when he needed a break. 

The next time out he was harder to catch, but still loaded just fine and while he seemed putzy on trail he moved without hesitation. 

Well apparently Pete is calling enough enough and has declared that he much preferred his retirement status. Ever since his third, and now sadly final, ride back out of retirement he has made it perfectly loud and clear that he is unhappy. He is impossible to catch now and won't even let me halter him to spray him with fly spray. 

He always enjoyed scratches with his dinner and now he is giving me the hairy eye and making sure he stands just far enough out of reach that he can leave if a halter comes into view. 

I had him checked to make sure he is still pain free and healthy and he is. I mean I can watch him gallop full title around the pasture throwing in fun bucks and rears for fun. He isn't sore. He doesn't have ulcers. 

He wants his retirement back. Honestly at 26 he deserves his retirement back. We brought him out thinking he would be happier with a job but that is blatantly not true. So, Pete is now fully retired with no plans to bring him out again. His tack has been removed from the trailer and put into storage in the garage. I'm a little sad to tell you the truth. 

Pete has a forever home with us though and he will be enjoying his retirement playing in the field. 

Happy retirement Pete!

Friday Five

Friday Five: Latest Tack Shop Haul

I already mentioned how above and beyond Trainer went to help me get the horses’ hooves trimmed. What I didn’t mention was that she also lent me a set of stirrups. I had my endurance and dressage saddle in the trailer from the recent rides I had done and when I went to tack up I was sad to recall that my stirrups were nicely attached to the jump saddle back home. Trainer lent me hers no issue.

Once I realized I was stirrupless I declared that it was high time I got a set of leathers and irons for my dressage saddle. I work hard and they aren’t that expensive. Having a set for each saddle would not only eliminate the issue of forgotten tack, but would also let me set them for my desired length and not have to constantly fiddle every time I switched saddles. So, Sunday afternoon I left the boys to themselves and headed to the tack store aimed at purchasing a set of black leathers.

I came home with the following:

5.) Lead Ropes x 2. Pete has broken two lead ropes lately. One when he pulled back at the trailer and the other I snapped when I tried to pull it out from under his hoof. As I browsed the store, I threw these in my pile.

Not super exciting, but necessary

4.) Fly Spray. We ran out of the black Ultrashield and I wanted to try something oil based instead with hopes that it will last longer in the rain and sweat. I forgot to get a picture, but take my word for it that it looks like a bottle of fly spray.

3.) Stirrup leathers. I did actually purchase what I went in for. I have liked my Black Oak brown leathers quite a bit. Soft and padded yet sturdy. I found a set in black and snatched them up.

I’ve really liked the ones I have for my jump saddle. They have taken the abuse of not only being adjusted for length every ride, but moved from saddle to saddle as well.

2.) Baucher bit. I can’t get out of the store without a look through the consignment section. This bit has been on my wish list for a long time. I put Gem in the full cheek 6 years ago on a whim and stuck with it. I’m not really a fan of it though even with bit keepers. I figured the Baucher would give her the stability she craves while still having somewhat of a full cheek effect for turning.

At only $20 it was a risk I was willing to take. I rode her in it on Wednesday night and while the angels weren’t singing and magic didn’t happen, I also didn’t lose my breaks and she seemed pleasant and happy. 

1.) Paddock Boots. My favorite find of the day. I’ve been riding in Ariat tennis style riding shoes since 2007. Those shoes are well beyond broken down 10 years later and have started to be really painful to wear. Paddock boots are expensive though and I’m cheap. When I saw these beauties in my size I couldn’t pass them up.

I’ve worn them now for a ride and absolutely adore them. They are so much better than my Ariats were even brand new. They look really cute with my half chaps as well and will be my new go to for schooling to save my tall boots for the shows.

They are stretched out in the ankle but with half chaps on it isn’t even noticeable.
At $15 there was no way I was going to pass these up. I love how they look. I’m starting to go over to the dark side of English riding little by little.