Shopping is my nemesis. I’m cheap and prefer used to new, but I like high quality goods that will last long enough to delay the shopping experience a good healthy while. I’ve already dumped more into H’Appy’s current tack set up than I did in total over 10 years with Gem, ugh.
There are a few more pieces I’d like to change out though which means more shopping and spending more money. Before hitting the various online and app based used tack places to search through crappy ads with bad pictures and important information missing , I thought I’d hit up the blogging community. You all are much better tack hoarders than I am and I was hoping to snag some used items from one of you instead of a complete stranger.
The two items I’d really like to snag right now are new irons and a set of iron covers. Seems like I need to do a better job protecting my new precious saddle with its luxe leather. The iron covers are nicely priced on Etsy and I am fine ordering from there, but maybe one of you makes them and wants some side hustle money? I’d buy the Bates ones, but they are purple and I’ve already sunk low enough to use navy. Purple is not going to happen. Seems like once you start down the purple road your brain turns to a purplish mush and you go insane.
Irons are more difficult to figure out. The Bates saddle I took on trial before ordering mine had wonderful stirrups on them. Unfortunately I wasn’t smart enough to take a picture or ask the brand before returning the saddle. I’ve done some research and I believe they were the Compositi wide bed with shock absorber like below:
I’m not set necessarily on that specific brand, but I really liked the wide foot bed, the aggressive tread and the slight give it had. The only two things I wished it had were a 90 degree eye so it laid correctly on the leathers and were a bit heavier than the plastic composition.
They aren’t even that expensive online, but again maybe a blogger has a pair they aren’t using and want some cash with show season around the corner. Anyone have anything similar they want to sell before I buy new?
For the past several months, the very thought of riding H’Appy brought about much trepidation. Bringing him in from the field was never an issue, much unlike his predecessor who hid behind trees on the regular, but once in the cross ties a fight to keep all my appendages in functioning order and attached to my body would ensue.
He would paw. He would eat the cross ties. He would whip that big orange head of his around and try to bite me. He would weave side to side trying to squash me against the wall. He would try to step on me. Tightening up the girth was an adventure always leading to pinned ears, angry faces and homicidal ideations on his part. You can imagine how that set the tone for what was to come on both our parts.
Last night was the perfect night to ride. The day had been sunny, warm and dry. The arena is still partly under water from the deluge earlier this week, but it was workable. I wanted to ride. It gave me pause though because the timing was not right. I’d have to bring them in for dinner and let the others out while I tacked him up. Or I could bring only him in and tack up before feeding but then the others would be hanging by the gate. The last time they did that, H’Appy started rearing in the cross ties so bad I threw him in his stall.
But I wanted to ride and a quick check of the weather showed rain today through the weekend. This would be my only chance this week and Hubby had agreed to cook dinner so I could ride. I drew in a deep breath, changed into riding clothes, grabbed his halter and decided I was not going to tip toe around his schedule. I was going to ride.
And you know what? He came up to me in the pasture and led in quietly. He stood int he cross ties while Gem and Pete stared into the barn feeling starved and deprived. He let me brush him all over with a cocked hind leg. I grabbed the saddle and he looked at me, but didn’t move. I tightened the girth and saw nary an ear flick in my direction. We waked off to the arena, through the gate and past his friends, and he never once planted his feet, pinned his ears or tried to eat me.
This was the third ride in a row where he was a GOOD BOY.
I went into this ride wanting to work on the canter. I hate the canter. My entire riding life has lived in the trot and I am very comfortable there at 12 mph flying down twisting, single track trails, up and down hills and over streams. I’m not so comfortable at a 6 mph canter in a flat arena. Time to fix that. He was already in a listening mood, so I worked a while at the walk to loosen us both up and working really hard on my seat.
My seat has two modes: rigidly braced and loosely driving. Neither are good. I really want to correct this and focus on a light, following seat at all gaits so that I am more neutral in the saddle unless I am asking for something instead of either blocking or yelling. So at the walk, I really concentrated on this. I’ve gotten pretty good at not being rigid and braced at the walk, but it has recently swung to me trying to move for him and that drives us both crazy. Last night I really allowed my hips and lower back to relax while sitting tall and sucking my navel in and just moving with him.
This will be super shocking to you all, so brace yourselves here. By doing this, H’Appy gave me a wonderful forward, marching walk that was in front of my leg without me forcing it and he even began to stretch down into the contact. It was a baby stretch down, but man did it feel good! I completely messed it up by not having contact to reach into, but baby steps here folks.
After a brief trot tour to see how he was going to react to transition work, a bit of head tossing but nothing major, and it was on to the work of the night: the canter.
His canter button is really amazing. Sitting a few steps of the trot, bringing my heel ever so slightly back and a light graze on his side and he is off! I focused hard on having a quality trot before asking for the canter and some times managed it and sometimes not. Over all though he was ok. I forgot to steer the first few times and ended up nearly plowing into the arena fence, but he was game to keep trying. I worked him left and then right concentrating on forcing myself to sit deep in the saddle versus being braced and rising ever so slight out of the saddle, lowering my hands that want to come up to my chin, letting my legs hand loosely but on so as not to nag him…oh and that whole steering thing.
I’d give myself a B- overall. Nothing horrendous happened, we picked up the correct lead every time, and I managed to keep his flubby body in the canter until I asked to trot at which point he told me to screw off and halted instead. Steering needs a lot of work. Sitting deep needs a lot of work. Not letting him plow onto the forehand or go flying off into the distance needs a lot of work.
But I kept my head screwed on, thought about my position, planned somewhat ahead on my track of progression and had fun.
In the interestingly ironic and yet predictable way that life works, I made the same mistake with H’Appy as I did with Gem that I swore I would not do.
Namely, I ignored the fact that we didn’t know each other and jumped in head first only to land on that head in short order, figuratively speaking.
With Gem, I was bold, brave and stupid. She was green, lacked confidence and intelligent. It led to a lot of fights, tears and declarations of a sale that never happened. Things didn’t improve with her until I moved to WI, had her in my back yard and was forced to slow way down due to 90+ hour work weeks and no sleep.
When I unloaded H’Appy I was timid, cautious and a lot smarter. He was bold, brave and wicked intelligent. It led to a lot of fights, a few tears and a declaration of a sale a time or two. Thankfully I’m extremely stubborn and hate giving up, so he is still with me.
The thing is that even promising myself I wouldn’t push things too fast, I still did. Here I was with this new orange horse who I paid way too much money for and I felt this internal pressure to now do all the things with him. I bought him specifically to do all the things, he was purported to be able to do the things, and I had a bit of a need to prove to myself that some issues were truly a Gem issue and that I wasn’t the worlds worst rider.
So I pushed this new to me horse in a new to him environment to do things. It didn’t go very well.
I’m a slow learner, but I can learn and so right now as we get back under saddle and moving forward again, I’m taking all the pressure I have placed on us off.
I’m riding as able and working on what feels right to me in the moment. Some days that is jumping. Others it is simply walking with a few trot transitions thrown in. If he is listening well and calm, I canter. If he isn’t, we walk and halt and work on square turns and halting off my seat.
I want him to learn that I am fair, predictable in my requests yet persistent and a voice that can’t be tuned out. I want him to trust me not to get himself killed and I want him to continue to be bold and brave, two characteristics that made me choose him over others.
It means a lot of small rides with small questions scattered with bigger demands and higher standards.
To that point I went to ride Friday afternoon and found a compliant gelding in my cross ties. He had new shoes put on Thursday and I’ve learned to give him bute in his dinner the day the farrier comes to help with any soreness from the procedure. Of note, farrier is much happier with the status of his feet these days and thinks we may get him out of pads eventually.
I had one thing I wanted to really work on: the backside of the fence. You see, I have this annoying habit of being so insanely happy to just get over a fence that I celebrate and throw riding right out the window as soon as we get over. When I jumped earlier in the week, I found myself careening around the arena going nowhere and I thought “hmmm…maybe I should do something about that”
So Friday I kept the small cross rail and added a single ground pole 180 degrees opposite of it on the rail. I wanted to trot over the jump and the pole and by adding this I not only had something to aim for (helping my lack of steering) but also something to make me come back to a trot.
H’Appy was feeling good and argued that cantering was both more fun and easier than trotting politely. This translated to more work for him but that’s his fault. After warming up using the arena at large, I started going right taking the crossrail at the trot, cantering away keeping my eyes on the ground pole, bringing him to a trot before it, trotting over, trotting to the crossrail and repeating. They were far enough apart to be taken straight and then bending after versus creating a circle including both elements.
Or at least that is what I tried to do. He thought launching over the ground pole and trying to fly off into the distance was a better plan.
It took a while but eventually he was trotting the pole and the crossrail going right. His canter felt so amazing though that I let him canter the exercise a time or two before taking a walk break and switching directions.
Guys, that was the first time I cantered a fence with him. It felt AMAZING! That’s a whole other post though because I have a lot to say about it.
Going back to the left was once again a discussion that we can’t rush to the good part and canter the entire thing. It took a long while to get him trotting it and once we had it down I trotted around three times and called it quits.
He was starting to get that horse sweat smell and was breathing pretty hard at this point so it was the perfect time to end it. I gave him a ton of praise as we walked back to the barn.
It was super fun and rewarding. I’m learning to be a lot more strict with him and planning ahead really helps that. I don’t want to drill him with the exercise but I think the idea of it is something we will continue to work on for a while to help us both out.
I also think that while I’m missing having lessons, for right now I’m not going to sign up for any. For one, chubby wouldn’t be able to handle an hour long session right now at his fitness level and I don’t want to cause injury or stress by asking him to do something he isn’t physically prepared for. I’m also liking having the ability to adjust on my own per how we are both feeling. This ensures a positive outcome versus riding with someone who wants us to do x even though we just aren’t able that day.
I’m really starting to enjoy this orange beastie of mine and looking forward to the future.
Exhaustion after a long day of treating feet and a preceding night of poor sleep.
The Dynamic Duo hanging over the arena fence to watch the show.
Gale force winds picking up out of the blue.
A missing right front shoe.
All obstacles thrown at me last night and last year I would have let any one of them stop me from riding. But I’m really trying to embrace living more and so instead of calling it quits and retreating back inside, I saddled up and rode anyway.
H’Appy is getting used to me and I am starting to get used to him as well. Part of the issue is that he has a naturally much larger stride than my little Gemmie and I need to let him do him without shutting it down all the time. The other part of the problem is that his head can be pretty firmly up his butt at times and he needs convincing that I really do mean what I ask.
Like trotting nicely instead of trantering or slamming down to a walk in a corner because he doesn’t want to any more.
It is getting there though. We didn’t have the typical first ten minute fight. Instead he came out really good and then after I gave him a walk break he decided returning to work was optional.
Sorry. It isn’t.
We worked on the second exercise which is a single ground pole in the center of a figure eight (so in the middle of the long diagonal lines) working on staying straight across the diagonal, slicing over the ground pole at an angle without losing rhythm, and having proper bend in the far turns.
It took a few turns through the exercise to get him listening, but once he caved in to the work it was really great.
Then I decided to let him walk which was right about the time Dusty got home from work and entered the arena to talk/watch. H’Appy decided this meant he was done (it had been maybe 20 minutes) and he clung to Dusty (who he hates by the way) to save him.
Asking him to trot again was a bit rough and that is when most of his evasions came out: curling behind the bit, shaking his head, rooting. I rode each out (man but I do love this saddle with all my heart) and eventually he relaxed once again.
Which is when I decided to jump him for the first time in like four months. I had set a 2′ vertical but as we approached and he locked on I wimped out and turned him off. With Trainer’s anger ringing in my ears for teaching him to say no, I asked Dusty to make it a cross rail and he attacked that like a super star.
After we trotted in to the fence, he cantered away very much proud of himself for hopping over it. We did it a few times each direction and then I called it a night.
He really likes jumping and I think I need to suck it up and grow a set so I can ride him better over fences. The baggage is real but he is teaching me that he will say yes when I ask. It’s what he does on the back side that I need to worry about more than the approach or going over but I can only work on that if I, you know, let him go over the darn thing.
It should be nice enough to ride again Thursday and as long as he either gets a new shoe or is sound in the boot I plan to set up a small course with my four jumps and play around with him giving him a fun day.
First, thank you to all who participated in any way you could. This challenge was really fun to host all year and gave me something to look forward to each month. I love shopping for other people and finding interesting and useful horse themed gifts was a nice challenge for myself.
I wasn’t able to get all the data I wanted. Most people didn’t give me the event name or job performed, so I don’t have a lot of interesting information about the most popular venues and jobs. I can say that cross country jump judging was the most performed job, for the most number of hours.
There were an impressive number of hours donated over 2018 and I really hope everyone who participated enjoyed their experiences and that all those organizers recognized how lucky they were to have you all lending a hand.
I’ve been wracking my brain for the perfect gift to give out for the Champion and Reserve Champion. The winner already got some pretty cool things along the way and my first idea wasn’t going to work out. I think I finally have it though and I am really excited to announce the winners and their awards.
First – we have to work up to it though by looking at everyone’s participation:
She put in a whopping77.5 hours and even traveled half way across the country to get those hours in. Congrats Amy!
My original plan for you was to create a book out of your blog posts and send that to you. I made one myself a few years back from my adoption blog and it turned out really neat. I love having a hard copy of my posts and pictures from that time in my life and it is my favorite book on my shelf.
But….unless you want to send my all the original, high res photos I can’t make it work. I made a small trial book online and stole some of your pictures from the blog, but they are not high enough resolution to print well. So I guess, if you want this you could look back through your top 20-25 posts and send me the pictures (I can steal the text from your site) and I can still put the work in to design the book.
Your other option, which isn’t nearly as personal or cool, is a mohair girth/cinch to match the reins you won in Q3. I’d just need to know what style (western cinch or english girth) and the size and I can get that ordered to match the reins.
Your pick! Just send me an email to let me know which you want.
Now for the Champion of the 2018 Volunteer Challenge:
Emma went out there and donated 85.6 hours! That is nearly 4 days worth of volunteering this year. Congrats Emma!! I am blown away by your effort. I’ve had to wrack my brain a bit for an award for you and it took me a while to track things down, but I think I have it all sorted out.
Right before my beloved corgi, Hero, passed away in 2015, I reached out to none of than the Dressage Curmudgeon to get a portrait drawn of him before he left me. She did an amazing job and the picture lives framed on my wall by my bed. I adore it.
Emma, for all your hard work this year, I have ordered a pencil portrait from her of Charlie. Or well, I guess anything you want (how about a H’Appy portrait instead? HAHAHAH!). I’ve pre-paid for the portrait and will text you how to get in touch with her to sort out exactly what you want her to draw (well, once she gets back to me with her contact info that you can use)
I hope everyone who participated enjoyed it as much as I did this past year. I’m not hosting again, at least not this year maybe I will again in 2020, to let my bank account rebound a bit, but I still want to encourage everyone to get out there and lend a hand. Remember: these events can not be put on without a horde of volunteers doing the work so please next time you debate competing or volunteering maybe give volunteering a second or third thought. Your local event organizers will love you for it.
If this is a dream, please do not wake me. Sunday was hands down the best day I’ve had in months. Maybe a year.
The sun was shining. There wasn’t a cloud in sky. Temperatures rose to almost 70F and this happened:
I’m not even sure how this came about. One minute I was talking to Dusty while scooping horse poop out of the stalls and the next Wyatt is asking to go on a trail ride on Gem.
Um..I think it took me all of 15 seconds to hatch a plan to make that work. The next day we were loaded up and heading to my favorite trail system with my favorite bay mare and blonde boy.
For the first time in my life, I hauled the horses tacked up. It seemed the smartest thing to do rather than fuss with them at the trail head in opposite sides of the trailer. It worked out fine and we were unloaded and mounted up quickly.
Before I knew it we were both mounted and walking down the hill to enter the woods. I chose the grey trail, which isn’t one I typically use, because it is mostly a very wide gravel access road. This way Dusty could easily lead Gem without worry of being stepped on.
And everything just went…perfectly.
H’Appy generally likes to lead but he is still inexperienced on the trail and had two instances when he just said he couldn’t handle it: over the entry metal bridge and again at the hairy creek crossing. Both times Gem quietly took the lead and maneuvered through the obstacle with her head low and teeny tiny strides.
No better view than my sons back on my favorite mare out i
If it was possible, Gem made me lover her even more on this slow two mile ride. She was a saint. All her typical spooky behavior, her need to go always faster, he hatred of mud and water, it was all gone. She knew Wyatt was on her and was a newbie. She walked through ankle deep mud that, had I been on her back, she would have either forced me to bushwhack around or would have jumped over. Not for Wyatt. She was so amazing. I can’t even describe how it felt watching her take such good care of him.
H’Appy did pretty excellent himself. He led most of the way up the steep hill on the way out. He made me laugh as he would be walking forward all eager and then would look back at Gem like “Are you coming? Move it! There is so much to see!!”
You see, while Gem is a killer endurance machine and ate that 100 miler for breakfast, she walks at a whopping 1 mph pace. Honestly. No joke. I walk faster than she does. It made endurance tricky as I could never give her walk breaks. She either trotted or stopped to eat otherwise we wouldn’t make time. H’Appy has a solid 4 mph walk without trying and I can get him walking at 5 mph if I push. Gem had zero intentions of keeping up with that.
Once we made it up the hill, Wyatt declared that he wanted to turn around. We were one mike out and that’s about as far as I figured he would get. He is six, horses aren’t his go to and walking it boring. But he had a smile on his face the entire time and had fun and that was what was important.
My heart was so full
We turned around, much to the dismay of H’Appy who desperately wanted to see what was around the next corner, and made our way back down the hill towards the trailer.
We ended back at the trailer with three very happy people and two well behaved horses who never put a hoof wrong. My heart was about to burst with happiness.
I can’t imagine having more fun riding with anyone else no matter the pace, distance or location. Wyatt tackled two bridges, a creek crossing and deep sticky mud and smiled the entire time. He asked if he could do an endurance ride with me and while Dusty is more than up for jogging alongside for 25 miles, he would have to get comfortable trotting to make it work. Maybe in time. For now, I have no plans and no schemes. If he never rides again I’d still be happy to have had this one trail ride with all my loves involved.
Kat asked in a comment Wednesday about the prompts I am using for my nightly journal. I’m not sure how interesting this will be for everyone, but she asked and it is easier to answer this in a post than in the comments.
Journals can come in many forms and with just as many purposes. For me, I want to use it as a way to focus my life a little better and grow a happier head space. Life is hard and always will be. Not every dream I have dreamed has come true and some have died very painfully. Some days are mundane and boring. In years past, I have been able to go through life with a, while admittedly not go with the flow personality, at least an attitude of “bring it, lets see where this next road leads, life is a journey until the very end” mentality. Not in 2018 though and I want the mental space I was in for most of 2018 to die a hard, cold death.
With all of that in mind, I set out last weekend to figure out what was missing in 2018 and how to bring it all back in a healthy, low pressure way. When I bought a small notebook to write in I sat down and thought about the best use of it. What was my purpose in maintaining a journal? Was it to track habits? Write down dreams? Write about the details of my day? Have a safe space to complain?
I already have a bullet journal that I use to track to do items, Wyatt’s schedule and certain habits. This lives at work since my home life has very little to do items and I spend more time at work than at home. I didn’t really need another version of this at home.
Writing details of my day went right out the window too. I mean, there are only so many times I can write “got up, went to work, worked, came home, went to bed” before it becomes a lesson in insanity. Plus, the entire reason to do this is to clear my head space and focus on the positives more, so complaining, no matter how poetically done, would defeat it before it began.
Ok, so what was left? I took to my phone searching for journal apps, of which there are dozens. I downloaded a few to try and quickly deleted them all. While I loved the feature of inserting a picture from the day, that function cost money and I had zero interest in paying for it. Plus, I missed putting the pen to paper in the very literal sense. What I did find though was an app that laid out the journal in grids. I hated every question they asked (very existential BS type questions), but I liked the idea of paring my day down into discrete prompts that let me focus on what I thought was important. The bonus was that it would allow me to journal quickly and efficiently, two things I need right now to make anything function in my life.
With all that back story, if anyone is still reading, kuddos to you. The prompts I came up with focus on celebrating the small wins each day. They may make little sense to others but here they are to finally get to the answer to Kat’s question (which she is probably regretting asking by now):
Three things that made me happy today. Setting the tone right away to focus on the positive has been really helpful so far.
What problem came up and how did I solve it? This has proven to be my favorite prompt so far. It is so easy in life to feel inadequate and impostor syndrome has plagued me since I left residency. Thinking over my day and finding a problem that I solved, no matter how small, really boosts my self pride.
What was my favorite part of the day? No matter how bad or mundane a day was there is always a bright spot. Be that a really good sandwich at lunch or a major victory won. Again, all about finding the good in every day to create a more positive attitude.
Three accomplishments from the day. Small things, big to do items knocked off, heck just managing to get through the day at all. This one is all about feeling good about a day well lived.
Did I complete yesterday’s three tasks? This may make more sense later in the list, but did I complete each of the three items I wanted to.
Family time. This prompt reminds me to focus on what really matters to me- my family. Did I call my mom? Eat lunch with Dusty? Snuggle on the couch for movie night? Work invades my life way too much. Time to shift the focus back to what is important.
Did Wyatt do anything new today, say anything funny? When you are 6 everything is a new experience and one of the best parts of being a mom is watching him grow and learn. It is surprisingly easy to forget the small stuff that happens every day in his life. This prompt gives me a space to write those memories down.
How were the animals today? I’m not sure I’m going to continue with this one. The point is to write about H’Appy in a way that isn’t achievement based. I track my rides and care in my bullet journal but want to write about my overall interactions with him. I need to work a bit in the wording of this one as I go along.
Overall feeling about the day. How did I feel the day went? How was my mood?
Three things to do tomorrow. This will make #5 make more sense. Since my bullet journal lives at work and I’m probably the most forgetful person on the planet, I want to write down a quick list of things I really want to get done.
Bonus: Summarize the day. I quick little jot down of my feelings of the day, what I thought went really well and what made me excited.
As you can see, all these prompts are to help improve my head space and I don’t leave room for negativity. I’m not trying to white wash my life in happy lies here. Trust me, my brain is very, very good at remembering the crap parts of the day and giving me hell over my mistakes. These 10-15 minutes are made to help me retrain myself to think positively at the end of the day.
The prompts may change over time as I hone them down to what works for me. Ideally I’d love to leave room at the bottom to glue in a picture from the day, but that requires printing of pictures. I’m terrible at doing that so I don’t know if it will ever get done or not.