A friend of mine, like good friends do, helped me put things into perspective recently. It isn’t shocking to anyone that I am type A and a perfectionist. Good enough…well isn’t.
Thinking back I had a surgical attending tell me during a case in residency one day “Sara, the enemy of good is better.” A saying that I have to remind myself of constantly in life.
While my friend was out massaging the orange beast’s butt (his second favorite thing in life) I lamented about the saddle shopping experience. My issue? What if the next saddle fits better? Makes me more secure? Places me in a better position? There are so many brands and even more models within a brand – how do you choose? What if I settle for A but should have gotten B?
I’ve now had three different fitters out with four brands: Custom, Smith Worthington, Prestige and Stubben. I also sat in a Black Country Wexford that I took on trial from the local tack shop and fell in love with. Too bad it was a size too narrow for him and too big for me or I would have bought it.
Being me, I began researching Black Country and got it in my head that although the Wexford fit great and I loved it, well maybe the Quantum would be even better or the Richocet or…..
And that brings me back around to my friend. We don’t manage horses the same. She prefers barefoot, bitless and treeless and I’m more of a “if it works, do it” sort. I was talking to her about saddle shopping fully expecting her to tell me to go treeless when instead she looked at me and said “you buy the best fitting saddle your budget can afford. End of story.”
While that is a simple statement it hit me pretty hard because the truth is that good enough has to be good enough. I can’t afford a $6,000 custom made saddle nor do I really want one while his existence here remains questionable.
I found a saddle I really liked. It was so secure and comfortable and allowed me to work him through his temper tantrum without getting tense or grabby. I could ride trails and hunter paces and feel confident. So why not pull the trigger and buy it? Why fuss with other models thinking maybe the next would be even better? Perhaps the Quantum would fit a bit better. Or the Richocet may make me secure without so much saddle under me. But you know what? Maybe they won’t and I really liked the Wexford. A lot.
Sometimes good enough is good enough.
The enemy of good is better.
So that’s it. I’m done with saddle shopping in a sense. I know what I want. I want a Black Country Wexford jump saddle in 17″ Wide.
No more fitting fees. No more shipping costs. Now to find one in good condition for a good price and get back to riding my orange beast. If anyone knows of one for sale $2000 or under please let me know! The big guy needs his job back before he goes totally feral on me.
I’ve joined every facebook group I can find including the UK based Second Hand Black Country page. I emailed Trumbull Mountain to put a bug in their ear though the tend to run $500 more than elsewhere. I put out ISO ads. I’m stalking Pelham saddlery (they do have a 17″ Wide Quantum used in great condition for a good price but it isn’t the Wexford and I don’t feel like spending the $110 shipping fee to try it), Maryland Tack Exchange and the Aiken used tack store. Hopefully something pops up soon.
Ok, folks…I can’t figure out this new editor when I write on my phone. I can’t seem to get the pictures to be anything other than billboard size. Sorry.
Five years ago I was handed a book containing fifty waterfalls in SC and GA. This spurred a tradition that all three of us look forward to every year.
On Thanksgiving morning we pack up the car, load all three humans and whatever canines are with us and head out to find the next waterfall.
The trickiest part is finding the trail head as the book gives directions from a road intersection. So far we have stuck to the falls found in the Walhalla area due to proximity to us (just over an hour) and length of hike (under 4 miles) to ensure that we get to enjoy it and make it home for dinner.
This year I chose Yellow Branch Falls which boasted a three dimensional “Mayan city-esque ” feel. Our family had dwindled to five of us this year and I had convinced my mom that cooking for three days for five people was over kill and to go out to eat this year instead. This freed her up in the morning and she got to come hiking with us.
The trail head was easy to find having been in the area in the past and the parking lot was empty when we arrived. By the time we left there were eighteen cars! Being an early bird has advantages.
The morning dawned brisk in the upper 30s, but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and I knew it would warm up with the sun. The sky was that brilliant deep blue that is only seen in the fall and I spent as much time looking up as I did at the trail.
The trail was really fun with multiple creek crossings, foot bridges and plenty of technicality to tire us all out. It ended up being closer to four miles and I was so proud of how Wyatt handled it all.
The dogs remained on leash for the majority of the hike. I was shocked Dusty let Waggy come. We are still trying to figure out what brace, if any, will work for her dead leg and I thought for sure he would leave her behind. She happily kept up though and as we neared the falls and the trail grew very narrow and steep, we let the pups off and both dogs handled the terrain without issue.
After climbing and descending, twisting and turning for nearly an hour the trail came to a dead end at Yellow Branch Falls. Wyatt was in the lead and he let out a very excited “I found it!” that echoed down the valley.
The dogs were off leash at this point and both plowed into the icy water to play and drink. Wyatt wasn’t far behind them.
We learned a long time ago to pack a towel and full change of clothes as there is no way Wyatt is going to be kept from playing in the water no matter the temperature. He ended up soaked, shivering and happy before we changed and headed back towards the truck.
I was shocked at how busy the trail was on our way back. We passed an almost constant stream of hikers headed towards the falls and I’m so glad we are early morning people. (I’m typing this on my phone at 6:15 am Saturday morning).
I think we have one fall left to see in the Walhalla area before moving to those at the SC/NC border.
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! This tradition has been so much fun from the planing of which one to the execution to looking back and watching Wyatt grown up.
Gem has been in my life for almost 9 years now. It has been a long ride that flew by in a blink of an eye. I’ve documented her transformation as a riding horse ad nauseum on here, which was impressive in and of itself. What I find even more impressive though is her change in character since retirement.
Gem has always been a very aloof, independent workmanlike mare. She had her job under saddle, get us down the trail safely, and I had mine, pick the pace and don’t miss ribbons. Our partnership worked out pretty well in endurance. I learned to stop micromanaging her and she learned to listen to my directions. Riding with others in the sport was always interesting as they never failed to mention how Gem would pick her way down the trail avoiding ditches, holes and rocks all on her own while I watched for ribbons, major obstacles and slowed or quickened the pace as the trail allowed. I refused to tell Gem where to place her feet. That was her job. If I had to watch the trail for everything I’d be at risk for missing the ribbons. Gem knew this and on the occasions I forgot this rule and began nit picking our way down the trail she would put a stop to it quickly.
She also learned to pee in the pasture when she saw me coming with a halter, eat and drink at every opportunity and be prepared for any length of adventure from a quick speedy 5 mile run to a literal all day experience. She came ready for work no matter what the job was.
What she wasn’t was overly friendly. She tolerated my grooming regimen including a big neck hug when I switched from her left to right side. She stood still and sucked up spa days. She never ran from me in the pasture as she knew that was a line to never cross, but she also refused to meet me either. If I wanted to ride, I had to get her myself. She expected me to put in my share of the work at all times.
In fact, it was almost like a business partnership.
Then I retired her in the spring. At first she was skeptical. Was this a vacation like so many times in the past? As the months have gone by and with the addition of H’Appy as the horse the halter snags and who gets loaded in the trailer for adventures, it has sunk into her that her time for that is over. Her new job is to eat, take sunny naps and enjoy life.
With this has come a significant change in my favorite bay mare. I can no longer describe her as aloof or workmanlike. She is now friendly nearly down right snuggly.
She greets me with a nicker when I’m out in the yard beckoning for me to enter the pasture and give her scratches. She comes to the gate every night when I yell out “Gemmie! Dinner!” Even the promise of food in the past would not make her budge. She demands her itchy spots scratched before she will leave the stall after eating and will stand ground tied in the aisle for her grooming with eyes half closed and bottom lip drooping.
While she still high tails it when the trailer gets hooked up, when I enter the pasture with a halter she stares at me and then walks towards me these days. Which is nice because butt head is so jealous that it brings him over. When I do slip her halter on to bring her in at non food times, typically for the farrier or when it was going to rain and be cold non stop for days on end, she shoves her head in the halter herself. Wyatt leads her in/out of the pasture and barn by himself regularly and she walks with careful steps and a slow pace never pushing ahead or spooking at even the scariest piece if wood.
Was she a miserable working horse? No. She enjoyed the trail and the adventures. But she had a contract it seemed and stuck to it. She was there for the work and put up with the rest like a day job you mostly enjoy except for that one co worker who talks non stop about their vegan diet and cross fit routine. I loved her then and I love her now. I’m glad I got the chance to retire her at home so she can relax and enjoy the next ten years eating grass, getting loved on and taking long naps in the sunshine.
Okay…anyone else having issues with the new wordpress editor??? Pictures are coming in either super big or super tiny and not where I want them. Frustrating. Sorry for any weirdness in this post as I try to figure this out.
Well, there is $230 I’ll never see again. Plus I lost my temper which is something I try to avoid doing and in general I am pretty good at fuming silently to myself. Of course the moment I snapped was the moment Bette, who had so kindly invited me, happened to pull in and walk up. Sorry, Bette. My limit had been reached.
H’Appy hasn’t been too many places with me and I was pretty nervous about how he would behave. I warned both the fitter and the lovely woman in charge of organizing this that he can be interesting in new places and asked if I could come early. I was the first appointment of the day and was given the ok. We pulled in about 40 minutes early and I unloaded H’Appy to walk him around the facility and settle in.
Turns out I needn’t have worried. He was on his best behavior and beyond some angry grazing he never made a peep, pulled on the lead rope or acted a fool. I was really, really proud of my big orange beast. He has come a long way from the anxiety ridden mess that I brought home.
When it was time for the fitting, I walked him over and introduced ourselves. I had had a lengthy conversation several days prior with the fitter’s wife and went over my saddle fit concerns, his size and background, my background and budget. They knew he went in a wide tree in other brands and I was looking for a close contact/jump saddle in a 17-17.5″ seat. When we walked up I told the fitter that H’Appy gets nervous around new people and asked him to take it slow before poking or prodding him. I filled him in on the history since May, the lameness eval and the fact that his current saddle is too narrow down his spine putting pressure on the spine and creating back pain. I showed him the area of concern as well.
Well, my idea and his idea of slow were very different and before either of us knew it he was digging his fingers into the spot I told him was sore. Surprise! H’Appy about flew out of his skin and any calm he had before that was out the window. The guy turned to me and told me I needed to put him on a muscle relaxer. I blinked and stared blankly not knowing really how to respond to this.
He moved on commenting “I don’t think your horse trusts me” as H’Appy bent like a pretzel trying to keep his eye on this strange man who was determined to shove his fingers in all his sore spots. Once he poked his other side he commented again about putting him on a muscle relaxer to which I responded that my vet said no drugs were needed, had prescribed massage which I got done (of note the massage lady who took her time found soreness in his right shoulder stemming from his foot pain but barely anything in the back) and a new saddle which was why I was there. No medicines thank you.
The fitter moved on to use his super cool measuring stick and make a tracing of his back at the gullet area. He measured him as an extra, extra (yup two extras) wide in the brands he carried and then told me that he only had medium trees with him. I stared. At this point my patience was about up with this process. If he didn’t have any wide trees he should have told me that on the phone so I knew ahead of time that I wouldn’t be riding. In fact, had he told me he didn’t have anything wider than a medium I would have ridden with the potential new trainer and saved the hour trip and money. But there I was so I stomped off to hand H’Appy over to Dusty so I could look at the saddles he had.
He carries Smith Worthington and Prestige and pulled several out for me to look at and sit in on a saddle stand. Only one fit my needs. One was an AP that he was fond of but I told him I don’t want an AP saddle and the others didn’t fit me at all. The issue was that it was too narrow to go on my horse. So quite pointless really as we all know the fit in motion can be very different than on a stand.
He tried to pressure me into buying it. He had a whole talk about how the tree can be widened and the flocking redone and while I don’t question his knowledge or ability there, why on earth would I buy a saddle I never got to try on my horse? How does that make sense?
Then he dropped the bomb that he doesn’t sell any saddles he physically has and it would be 8-10 weeks before I could get anything. What the actual heck?!? I had told him very clearly on the phone that I needed a saddle now. Why not inform me of this little fact before?
Right at this moment I was done. I knew I would need to pay for this and had gotten nothing of use from my afternoon. I explained to him very pointedly that I would not order a saddle I haven’t ridden in and that is when Bette walked up while he mentioned for the fourth time about needing to use a muscle relaxer except now he decided to inform me that “it will help his brain” and questioned the need to find a new vet because obviously my vet was terrible for not putting him on drugs.
I lost it. Completely lost it. First, no a muscle relaxer has no effect on the brain which is not a muscle. Some can have a sedative effect but there is no mental benefit from a muscle relaxer. Second, you are not a vet. I have already told you I’m not going to drug my horse and either talk to me about a saddle or nothing at all. I was mean. I was bitchy. I was done.
I walked back to the truck seeing flames, turned around to grab my riding equipment that I didn’t get to use and Bette walked back to the trailer with me to meet H’Appy. We chatted a bit and then I went home. On the way home, while Dusty drove, I began a fevered search online of back pain symptoms, diagnoses and treatments. H’Appy had never shown so much reaction to back palpation before but if he was that painful it could account for his demeanor under saddle. I ran that rabbit hole during the hour drive home.
Once home I palpated the crap out of his back the way I was taught by my vet. Start at the withers and using the meaty part of your fingers, slowly and firmly slide down the length of the back towards the butt looking for a reaction. I did it three times pressing down as hard as I could. Nothing. No flinch. No ear flick in my direction. No reaction whatsoever. Let me repeat that. NO REACTION WHATSOEVER.
Here is a hint. Any horse no matter how good they feel can react to finger tips and nails dug into a single spot without warning.
All is not lost though! Last Tuesday I ran into the local tack shop to get a new blanket for Gem. Hers is nearing 7 years and has never been waterproofed since purchase and the heavy rain (we ended up with just over 5″ Monday-Thursday last week) made me worry it wouldn’t be good enough. Anyway. There sat a gorgeous Black Country Wexford saddle on consignment in my budget. It looked a bit narrow but I took it out on trial because why not?. I rode in it Friday and my butt sang the songs of the heavens. Well, mostly. It was a bit big for me and a size narrow for him (it was a medium wide) but I did like it. The thigh rolls kept me so secure I felt like he could have bucked to the moon and I would have stayed on.
The Wexford is a deep seated close contact built to feel extra secure and is very close to an all purpose. I’ve scoured the internet looking for reviews and read everything from “too bulky, no feel of the horse” to “I ride to the 1* level in it on xc and stadium and love it”. I was a bit worried about how much saddle there is. It is billed as perfect for the novice jumper, fox hunter or any one who wants a arm chair feel. Hmmm…not sure I want an arm chair feel in my saddle. I did find out that they make a Ricochet model that uses the Wexford tree and a traditional jump seat that is more low profile and I’d like to try that as well before deciding. There is a Black Country dealer in Aiken, but she charges $200 + travel fees for a fitting and I am already $300 in the whole with useless fittings now. I’m going to contact Trumbull Mountain and see if they can offer suggestions over the phone/internet and try out a few models through them for minimal shipping costs since I already have a good feel for what I need – 17″ (hurray for half sizes!)for me and wide for lard ass. If I was ordering custom made, I’d go the dealer route but I can’t afford that so will need to be looking for a close enough fit in a used saddle.
I spent all weekend thinking about this, texted both Emma and Michelle, and annoyed the hubby to no end. Friday was not good. The lesson started off bad and got worse until finally I called it quits much to the relief of all three of us. In fact, by the end I felt like I owed H’Appy an apology for the preceding 45 minutes of agony and that is never a good way to feel.
I probably shouldn’t have even had the lesson. It was 45F and had rained all day which meant that the horses were kept inside. The rain stopped right before the lesson and I could tell even in the cross ties that H’Appy was feeling good in a very “I have no intentions of behaving” sort of way. He flung his head in the aisle, tried to eat the cross ties and was a bear to hold still long enough to bridle. The exact opposite of the horse I had on Tuesday. I commented to Trainer that this was going to be interesting and laughed. She looked very skeptical about the whole thing.
And the lesson proceeded to be exactly as I thought it would. He was up. He was nervous over nothing in particular except the fact that he was finally outside again and was feeling excess energy. I could almost feel the energy radiating off of him. He pranced, he jigged, he tried to canter instead of trot, he called out for his friends (who completely ignored him per usual) and when things didn’t go his way he threw down a temper tantrum that would have made my 5 year old son proud. You know what though? I wasn’t scared and I wasn’t caving. I rode out his head shaking and when that didn’t work he curled his chin to his chest and I lost all neck in front of me. I rode that out as well. When he refused to bend, I asked again. Was I completely in control of all 4 feet at all times? Heck, no, but I also never felt in danger or careening out of control. He has very, very good brakes and we were fine.
All this behavior was a combination of excess energy and a deep desire on his part to avoid all work at all times. It was predictable in a way. Trotting in a nicely balanced rhythm is hard. Shaking your head and evading the bit is not. Calmly transitioning is hard. Hurling yourself upward and scooting off is not. And when that all fails, pull out the head dragging on the ground maneuver and western pleasure shuffle. When I ask for a trot, try flailing. When I collect with a half halt, screech to a full halt.
All basic green, rusty, lazy, ex lesson horse behaviors.
And I was fine with it. Not happy, ecstatic this is the best ride ever, fine with it. But honestly, I accepted his challenge and was game to work with him to find what would help and oddly excited for my future with him as I know there is an amazing, fun horse locked inside six months of lameness induced time off and a sour attitude about returning to the life of an ammy horse.
Except Trainer did not agree and was very decidedly not on board with working through this. She put us on a 20 m circle of death which worked about as good as you would think. He wasn’t capable of giving me a balanced rhythmic 20 m circle and certainly not 100 of them. Maybe he should have been, but he wasn’t. Not with me in the irons on that day. With every passing circuit all three of us grew more and more frustrated yet nothing else was offered up in its place. Had I been riding alone I would have used the entire arena, let him canter to burn excess energy, practiced a ton of transitions and probably used ground poles to keep his busy bee brain active.
When it was obvious to all of use that this lesson was not going anywhere useful, we had a talk. She recommended looking into depo to calm him down or selling him, neither of which I’m going to do. I talked at length with her regarding pro rides and boot camps and how much they could benefit a horse like him who isn’t intrinsically mean, just lazy and would rather be a little wicked than work. She doesn’t offer either of those things.
As she pulled away I had a bit of a sinking feeling. I love Trainer. I love all she has to offer regarding rider position, effective use of the aides and horse management. I love all she has given me and taught me. I love how supportive she is, how she knows when to push me versus give me room and how she helped me cross over from endurance to whatever it is I am playing at now. I hope to ride with her again in the future, but for now both of us agree that this is not going to work.
I have reached out to a local trainer who came highly recommended by several people I know. I actually did a xc school there with H’Appy the second week I had him and drooled over the facility. It even has a covered arena so I can ride in the rain! I had initially set up an evaluation ride for this Sunday but it felt funny and I realized that it was the exact same time as the saddle fitting, so I had to reschedule. We are planning on the weekend of Thanksgiving to do an initial meet, ride and discussion to see what her plan would be. I’m hopeful this will work out, but am being guarded. Certain teaching styles do not sit well with me, so I’m having an open mind going in but not putting all my eggs in this basket. There are other trainers out there that could work as well if this one doesn’t work out.
I did some internet stalking to see what she has out there. I mean, it would be fantastic to ride with a 4* eventer but I’m doing single 2′ fences at the trot with the big guy. I don’t need to be the remedial student of the bunch that they think is a waste of time. I was super happy to see that she put out a very excited post about a student of hers tackling their first amoeba level event and laying down good rounds. It gives me hope.
So much happened this weekend that I want to write about. I’m conniving some exciting plans for the near future and I need to really need to write about the lesson that went very awry on Friday, but have to put more thought into how I want to do that. Instead I am jumping forward to the saddle fitting experience I had on Sunday.
I had the Custom Saddlery rep out. She is local to me which is a plus and was easy to talk to/schedule with. I’m trying to go about this saddle shopping ordeal with the least amount of money waste as possible. With Gem I did the whole trial and error method which seemed like a good idea at the time, but ended up costing me thousands in trial fees and shipping costs. This time around I am trying out the saddle fitter route.
After the debacle that was Friday, I wanted to hop on him and warm him up a bit before she came. The last thing I needed was a bronc under me while trying to evaluate if the saddle fit him or not. He came out fairly well only melting down one time when he noticed Gem and Pete grazing just outside the arena fence. I got his head back in the game quickly though I was curious how he would handle getting tacked back up and working again and again and again.
What surprised me the most was that she didn’t take a single measurement of him or me. She looked at him, palpated his back and then went to the van and pulled out six saddles. I had told her I rode in a 17.5″, but she didn’t know if that was the right size for me or not. In fact, we didn’t even really talk about my goals, level of experience or his training. I told her I wanted a jump saddle and that he currently went in a wide Kieffer AP.
To her credit, I think some of this was because the trees in her saddles can be adjusted with her special machine to fit any size, so it really didn’t matter what his size was as she could easily modify any of her saddles to fit him. Still, it was a little odd to see a fitter just throw saddles on him and say “yep, looks good!”.
Anyway, I ended up trying six saddles: two Jeffries, an AP and an event, and four Custom, all jump. It was nice to sit in a variety of flap configurations, seat styles and leather types to get a feel for what I like.
H’Appy for his part was holding his crap together as best as he could given the fact that we kept tacking him back up and heading off to w/t/c and tackle a cross rail. I made the nearly fatal mistake of using the Wintec Chafeless girth which is 2″ longer and fit a bit better with the shorter billets on her saddles. I very quickly remembered why I no longer use this on him. He hates it. Deep in his soul hates it. I hopped off and changed out the girth to his fuzzy fleece one which appeased him some. Of note, when I tried the event saddle with long billets I borrowed her short leather girth and that made him very happy. I’m telling you this pain in the butt beast has expensive ass taste.
Of the six saddles I tried, two I ruled out before even asking him to move on. I sat weird in them and just plain hated them. One he ruled out without question even with the happy girth. That left three remaining, one I didn’t like the super flat seat on and two I gave a second go around in to compare.
The Jeffries event saddle was a nice fit for him, he moved out really well in it and I sat pretty ok. I liked the single flap design (different than a monoflap apparently although right now I can’t recall all the details on how it is different) and the large knee roll. The flap was a bit too forward for what I need and I found the calf block to be restricting on the flat. Not surprising since it is built to go cross country in a more forward seat position. Lovely saddle, just not what I need.
That left the Custom Monte Carlo close contact. I rode in it twice and it was my favorite of the bunch. If you look closely you can see pretty blue piping. I was a bit worried the +2 forward flap would be too forward and I am still iffy on that, but my leg hung effortlessly and when he decided to buck a little because someone had to pee but refused to do so in the arena, I felt secure enough. The seat felt a bit roomier than I would like and kind of slippery, but she assured me it would break in.
I was waffling quite a lot. It fit him well, but honestly he is a really easy horse to fit. He has plenty of real estate, a standard shaped back with well defined shoulders that keeps the saddle back plus he has lower withers. Seriously, I think most saddles as long as they are wide enough will fit him which is such a difference from my extremely hard to fit Gemmie.
The saddle I tried was a well used two year old demo and while it was reduced in price it was still a bit of a shock when she told me the price. For that much money (think double my planned budget) my butt better be singing and I better never come out of it. I was about to tell her no thanks when she mentioned the 10 day free trial. Since she lives close by it wouldn’t even cost me shipping to return. I figured taking it on and riding in it for a while wouldn’t be terrible. If I did decide I loved it I could start a search for a used version or if I still wasn’t in love I’d know for sure to move on.
When she left I had a not bad but not wonderful fuzzy feeling either. Like, all she did was slap a bunch of saddles on his back and have me ride in them. No real input otherwise unless I dragged it out of her and honestly who knows if a smaller seat size would have been better, she never even mentioned it and went off the 17.5″ I told her I typically ride in. I’m honestly not even sure it was worth the $95 it cost to have her out, but I will say that she was very patient with his shenanigans and my own wimpy refusal to canter or jump until I had his focus at least somewhat on me instead of firmly up his own butt.
I have another fitting this Sunday with Bette, thanks for the invite!!!!, with a totally different line of saddles that I am excited to try. I will need to apologize profusely in advance for his behavior. I have zero idea how he will be off property surrounded by other horses and rain is in the forecast today through Thursday so no riding will be happening. Which sucks. But oh well. As long as he stays in the arena and I can test some things out I’ll be happy. Well, mostly happy. Happier if I end up with a saddle I love and can move forward with my diabolical plan to make him a better behaved steed.
Yeah…this is a bit late. Sorry! Life is ramping up here towards the end of the year. Deductible season is upon us and as a surgeon that means cramming in so many surgeries that my head blurs together. In the last two weeks I have scheduled 12 surgeries all needing done by the end of the year. As of right now, I’m full. No more available time. Of course, that now means I have to get creative in added cases before and/or after office hours. Folks, be nice to your surgeons and if you know you have a procedure you would like done before your deductible restarts, contact them early!
Anyway…my saddle fit/lesson for today got rescheduled due to nasty, nasty rainy weather. Honestly, I was still game but something about getting all those pretty new saddles soaked during a fitting with someone who may not even purchase one was a bit off putting to the fitter. Go figure. She is coming to my house on Sunday instead. Unfortunately Trainer won’t be available but such is life. This fitting is a now or in two months sort of thing so now it is.
Farrier came out on Wednesday while I was at work and did the ponies. He was very impressed with how much hoof Doofus was able to grow with shoes on and is hopeful that he can graduate out of the pads in another cycle or two. My pocket book is too. Going form $60 trims every 8 weeks for the Dynamic Duo to $245 trim +shoes every 5 weeks for the Tiresome Trio is a bit of a sticker shock. Anything for the Big Orange Beast though.
I didn’t get to ride last night due to rain, but it looks to be tailing off around dinner time today so I hope to hop on still tonight. While my arena footing is awful, it remains firm even under water so I can ride in all weather on it so big guy won’t get out of work that easy. He will get tomorrow off and then have the fitting on Sunday. Hopefully I can get back in for a lesson sometime next week.
On to other things. You all stepped up to the plate again in October with 65 hours volunteered. Thank you to everyone!
October was a random drawing month and those involved include:
Using my handy dandy online random name picker, the winner is:
Sarah (from Three Chestnuts) please send me your mailing address at agemofahore at gemail dot com and I will get your prize out to you.
What did you win?
As daylight savings time has ended and it is now dark at lunch time, I figured you may want a head lamp to light your steps as you take care of your ponies at home. I found it on clearance at Riding Warehouse, so my color selection is limited to red, orange and green. Unless you feel very strongly against my favorite color, red, that is what you will be getting. (Honestly though, if you want orange or green instead let me know).
November is the final random drawing so even you you work for one single hour, you have an equal shot at winning before the year is out.
I haven’t forgotten about October’s winner. It will get done on Friday morning. I’m running a bit behind.
Last night was gorgeous. It had poured all morning and early afternoon but the temperatures stayed in the mid 60s. By the time I left work the sun was out and it was almost humid. The great thing about our red clay soil is how well it drains. It has rained for two straight days with many days preceding that and the ground was perfect for riding.
Not even 12 hours after posting my plan, I got home, changed into riding clothes, made myself ok with being a mom who feeds nuggets to her child so I can go ride instead of cook, and headed out to bring everyone in for dinner.
That is when I saw this:
In five weeks he has not lost a single bell boot. And now, two days after his last ride he magically loses both of them. I was at my wits end.
Of course it was getting dark at that point as I headed to the 15 acre pasture hoping to find his tan colored bell boots so I could still ride. I didn’t want to risk riding without and him either ripping half his foot off or getting a nasty heel grab that would mean canceling Friday.
I texted the hubby who was inside with Wyatt (warning: strong language that I typically leave off the blog)
I then texted Michelle because misery loves company and she always makes me laugh.
A half hour later I knew this was a losing battle. I went inside the barn and Dusty hopped on the mower to see if the headlight would help but the grass is tall and it was pitch black. No such luck.
Fortunately I remembered that I had bought two pairs of bell boots and H’Appy’s latest attempt at being retired was foiled.
The big guy was oddly quiet in the cross ties and even cocked a back leg up while being brushed instead of trying to eat me. He didn’t even do his typical pawing while being saddled and gave his front right for his hoof boot without me having to fight for it.
I won’t bore you all with the details of a 20 minute flat ride but wow. It was AMAZING. Right from the start he was light, bendy and listening. I didn’t walk for long instead going straight to trot once I had him connecting to my outside rein in square turns at the walk. He made the transition without a temper tantrum, trying to canter or ignoring me. He was light to my leg but not in an overreactive way.
We floated around at the trot, popped over a cross rail a few times and then I sat and asked for the canter. Not atypical for most but he has been such a tool lately that I haven’t asked for it in months. He came up to the canter so smoothly without falling on his forehead or plowing forward and it felt so good to cruise around.
A few circuits at the canter and I hugged him while falling on his neck in a huge giggling heap. This was the horse I test rode. This was the horse I brought home. This guy. Not a kick ride but not overly reactive. Light but not avoiding the bit. Fun. Fun fun fun.
I know some day I’ll need to push for more. I know some day we will ah e to both get in better shape. But not yesterday. Yesterday was a celebration. Today he is getting his shoes reset and then it is onward with The Plan.
A draft cross gelding caught my eye this weekend. I contacted the seller and asked questions. I received videos. I asked more questions. I scheduled a time to visit over the weekend and ride him. We discussed a trial.
Then I looked into my pasture at my perfectly sound (currently anyway) able bodied new to me horse, bugged the hubby a whole bunch, and canceled the meet and greet.
I’m not ready to give up on the orange beast just yet. There may be a time when I am, but that time isn’t yet and money spent on a new horse would take all money away from H’Appy.
I formulated a plan which I hope to stick to as long as the orange beast remains injury free long enough for this to work.
Step 1: Get my head out of my own butt, focus on reality and move forward with that. Part of my issue with H’Appy is that he isn’t quite what I thought I was buying. Now I know horses are horses and basically 6 months off didn’t do his training/attitude any favors, but I shelled out quite a bit for him with the idea that I was purchasing some training at the very basics of w/t/c and introduction to jumps around 2′ already installed. No, I didn’t think I was going to hop on him, solve all my riding issues and go tackle a rated BN event, but I did expect to not have to spend 45 minutes arguing that trot meant trot and not canter or walk.
I’ve been through that with Gem and specifically went out with more money in hand to avoid starting over with that.
So when I get on him and have some very Gem-esque rides in the arena arguing that I meant to trot not canter and my half halt means slow and rebalance not use it as an excuse to halt, I get more than a little annoyed. Me getting annoyed isn’t going to change reality though and I need to stop wishfully thinking that he was the perfect gentleman I thought I was buying and instead work with what I do have. I honestly think it is in there, it is just buried under 6 months of vacation and my own riding flaws.
Step 2: Ride the darn horse. Yes, he has had a lot of time off due to his hoof issue and then his back, but the truth is he has had a lot of time off because I wasn’t that thrilled to get on him again. Go back up and read #1 as to why that is. I need to ride him though to get to know him, get his own head back in the game and get a true read of if this relationship is going to pan out or not.
The goal here is to ride at minimum 3 days a week for the next month, squeezing in more time as able. My arena footing still sucks, but it is usable and I have lights so no excuses. I hopped on him Sunday, had a 50% decent ride and will be riding him tonight and Thursday. Wednesday he gets his feet done and the right shoe tacked back on so I can move forward sans one hoof boot. Friday I booked the saddle fitting plus Trainer will be there giving me a lesson as well, so that will make three rides right there with the weekend still available for another trail ride.
More miles, more consistency and more lessons.
Step 3: Boot camp. I’m going to talk with Trainer on Friday about either a 2 or 4 week boot camp. This really depends on him a) staying injury free and b) keeping his shoes on. I think a refresher course for him isn’t a bad idea. It will not only get him some additional training, but will give me more lessons and a different perspective on what he needs for a successful ride. I’m not sure if Trainer offers this or not, but I don’t think she does. If not, I need to find someone close enough that I can do a weekly lesson during this time. It doesn’t help me that a pro can ride him if I still can’t.
Step 4: Reevaluate. After all that, if we are still not meshing or if I still don’t get excited to ride him, then it will be time to move on. Moving on may look like keeping him as a pasture buddy and to hop on every once in a while as a back up horse or it may look like finding him a new home where he could thrive with someone who does enjoy riding him. I’m not sure yet. I’m hoping it doesn’t come to this and that with saddle time, a good fitting saddle, lessons and boot camp we get on the same page. I don’t expect angels to sing at the end of this time, but I do expect to have improvement in our relationship as a whole.
We will see. It is winter and a wetter than normal one at that, so my plans may go off track immediately, but I don’t have a specific time line for all of this to get done. If weather pushes boot camp back a couple of months I am fine with that. My longer term goal is to be able to do either the jumper schooling rounds at FENCE in February or the Riverbend schooling jumper show in March followed by an amobea level (intro w/t dressage test, 18″ stadium round, and tiny xc where only 3 fences are mandatory and the rest you can do as you feel comfortable plus even if eliminated you get to continue on in all three phases unless deemed dangerous) HT in late spring/early summer.
It isn’t asking much. I was there with Gem who was a lot harder to ride at her best than H’Appy is at his worst, so it should be possible. If the darn horse can keep his shoes on, hooves attached and be injury free that is.
Thanks Amanda for the very interesting blog hop! With more rain coming down yet again there isn’t a whole lot of riding going on, so the content idea is much appreciated.
Why horses? Why not a sane sport, like soccer or softball or curling?
My mind never stops. When I’m not thinking about work, I’m thinking about Wyatt. When it isn’t focused on him I’m going over my farm to do list or what to get from the grocery store or how I need to still stain that new barn door or or or….It is a constant flow of thoughts that never ceases.
Except when I ride. Then all of that fades into the background and all I am focused on is this very moment be that trotting around the rail, jumping a fence or going down the trail.
Soccer, running, competitive whitewater slalom racing. None of them did that for me. The moment I swing my leg over a horse all my stresses and duties and responsibilities just stop and it is the most freeing sensation I have ever had.
What was your riding “career” like as a kid?
Ha! HAHAHAHA! Career. You make me laugh.
We couldn’t afford lessons and I didn’t live near any barns that we knew of. My aunt had a horse farm 2 hours from us and I would spend weeks in the summer with her riding all over the country side. We would wake up before the sun, pack a lunch in our saddle bags and hit the trail only to return as the sun was setting 12+ hours later. We galloped and raced, we swam in the rivers, we scaled mountain passes, we traveled to Acadia Maine, the battlefields of Gettysburg PA, the forests of West Virginia and Maryland. It was magical and even then I knew I was lucky.
If you could go back to your past and buy ONE horse, which would it be?
None really. My aunt had some amazing horses that I loved and she kept them until they passed. They lived a great life and I rode when I could when school was out.
What disciplines have you participated in?
Endurance and hunter paces mainly. I did one CT with Gem and a couple jumper schooling shows, but I’m not sure that really counts as participating.
What disciplines do you want to participate in some day?
Eventing if I grow the lady balls to do cross country. An actual real bonafide jumper show would be great too. I have a not so secret desire to try my hand at vaulting but after watching it at WEG I know it is unlikely. I can’t pull those moves off on the ground let only on top of a moving horse.
Have you ever bought a horse at auction or from a rescue?
Nope, although I stalk the BLM mustang online auction quite a bit.
What was your FIRST favorite horse breed – the one you loved most as a kid?
I’m not sure I had one. My aunt had TWH so I guess that was it by default. Unlike so many other bloggers, I wasn’t around horses all that much as a kid and I didn’t have Breyer horses or read a bunch of books.
If you could live and ride in any country in the world, where would it be?
Wales. Hands down. During my semester living in Italy, I traveled to Southern Wales and spent my Easter break hiking around the island. I fell in love with it and would retire there in a heart beat.
We had planned to do a shore to shore ride on Welsh Cobs for our 10th Anniversary but then Wyatt came along and I think we had Cheesecake Factory cheesecake instead. That about sums up being a parent.
Do you have any horse-related regrets?
Not really. I could say that I wish I rode more as a kid, but it just wasn’t available to me and we didn’t have the funds to make it happen. I suppose I could have been a barn rat and worked off the money but to be honest I didn’t even know that was a thing you could do. I did all my riding with my aunt and I don’t think I knew lesson barns existed until I was a young adult.
I’m glad I got Gem and stuck with her though I wish I had that “training” money back since it did absolutely nothing and the trainer never even rode her , but such is life.
If you could ride with any trainer in the world, ASIDE from your current trainer, who would it be?
I don’t know. I barely ride with my trainer at the moment. I love everything KC writes about her Trainer B and if he wasn’t over 2 hours away I’d like to burden him with teaching my butt to ride.
What is one item on your horse-related bucket list?
Small item would be to complete a HT even at the amoeba level. Making it to BN would be icing on the cake. Anything above that is a pipe dream.
My endurance dream was always to do the Vermont 100 while Dusty ran it. It would be so cool for us to do a 100 miler “together”. The other endurance biggie for me is the Big Horn 100.
If you were never able to ride again, would you still have horses?
Living on the farm, yes. I don’t have horses because I love to ride. I have horses because I love horses. It’s why I don’t actually mind H’Appy being unrideable for so long because he is fun just being around and he makes my day better by being in it. The question with him is whether or not he is the horse I want to depend on for riding. But in my mind those two are separate.
If we were still boarding then no. I couldn’t see spending that much money to have a horse I never saw and couldn’t ride. Although Gem and Pete always have a home with us regardless.
What horse do you feel like has taught you the most?
Gem hands down. She gave me independence. If it wasn’t for her I would never have taught myself to hitch the trailer and drive off to unknown parts. She taught me to leave my emotions in the car. She taught me to go for it no matter what anyone else said.
She also taught me a lot of trust issues but I’ll just ignore those 🙂
If you could change one thing about your current horse/riding situation, what would it be?
Oh man. Well, my current horse would get his head out of his butt and be rideable for more than a day or two in a row. I’d know for sure if he was the one I want to stick with long term or if I should be looking again.
The only actual trait with him that I want to change is his herd bound tendencies. Everything else I like. He is not crazy hot but is reactive to my leg and not a kick ride. He isn’t spooky about anything: dogs, deer, water, Wyatt and all his shenanigans. The big guy is a rock. He is honest to jump and will go over what I point him at and doesn’t go celebrating on the backside. Really if I could just erase his need to with other horses he’d be perfect.
If you could compete at any horse show/venue in your home country, where would it be?
I don’t know. In endurance it is the Vermont 100 and Big Horn 100. For eventing it is anywhere I can get my horse to and enjoy.
If you could attend any competition in the world as a spectator, what would be your top choice?
None. I really hate the upper levels of horse sports in just about every discipline. The over use, the risks, the money that decides pretty much everything. Ick. I’ll support the local schooling shows with my time and money.
Have you ever thought about quitting horses?
Yep. I even figured out that without them I could have a beach house or you know take a vacation.
Like most people have written I took a large break. Mine started in high school when my aunt wasn’t riding anymore and I turned to whitewater for most of the year and caving in the winter.
Then I went to college, got married and off to medical school. I found riding again by accident when a doctor at the VA invited me out to her barn to ride her Morgan mare and that started it all off again.
When I was getting ready to retire Gem I thought about getting out and not buying another but then we had the farm and it seemed silly to have a horse farm and no horses.
If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the horse industry, what would it be?
Get rid of money involvement. Get the sports back to being about the love of being on a horse and the relationship. Riders owning their own mounts. Riders doing the grooming, daily care and conditioning. Horses allowed to fully mature before being started (it makes me want to throat punch the person when I see a sales page for a 3 yo that already has a long list of competitions). But I dream.
What’s the dumbest horse-related thing you’ve done that actually turned out pretty well?
Gem. No way would anyone have said to buy her or keep her. She was a monster. Flash forward to all we accomplished together and I don’t regret a second of it.
As you get older, what are you becoming more and more afraid of?
Being hurt I guess although I’ve never been an adrenaline junkie to start with.
I’m not sure I actually believe in having a “heart” horse but I am increasingly getting worried I’ll never find that magical horse that makes me feel invincible and gives me wings. I’m a one horse at a time type of gal (well maybe unless I do decide on a back up horse but I have a feeling if I did then H’Appy would be a back up) and I am 36. That doesn’t leave a whole lot more horses in my life to find it.
What horse-related book impacted you the most?
None. I don’t read horse books. I enjoyed the Thoroughbred books a lot but that was pure entertainment.
The 101 Jumping Exercise book helped me a lot when getting into arena work with Gem as it gave me something to focus on.
What personality trait do you value most in a horse and which do you dislike the most?
Hmmm….I think I value friendliness above all else. A horse that wants to be with me, wants to go on adventures and isn’t pointedly malicious or mean.
My least favorite is herd bound. Gem never cared but H’Appy does and it drives me crazy because then I lose his focus and that can be a safety issue. It is also something that is super hard to work on when your horse is at home and you ride alone 99% of the time.
What do you love most about your discipline?
Endurance: the fact that anyone truly could do it with any tack and any clothing. There is nothing hoity toity about endurance and I love that.
Eventing: The fact I can do it in my back yard. Sounds lame but when you work 50 hours a week and have a kiddo that is a super big deal.
What are you focused on improving the most, at the moment?
Everything. I can ride 100 miles and end up with all As on my card. I can talk conditioning, electrolytes, nutrition and tack all day long in endurance.
But I can’t cross that over to arena work. I’m relaxed, loose and in good form on trail but as soon as I enter an arena I lock up my entire body. No clue why. If I can change that I feel like I can improve quicker.