Friday Five

Friday Five: Horse Trials Questions

This is how my brain works: have an idea planted (or plant it there myself), go bat shit crazy over all the details all at once even though it is months away, freak out when I don’t know something and do all the research.

Trainer wants me to head to Hickory Top Farms near Columbia, SC for my first HT. They apparently have a very nice and friendly course and offer from amoeba (intro dressage, 18″ stadium and cross country) through Novice. I’m not sure exactly which division I would do. The best bet would probably be to run it amoeba for the first time out, but tadpole is only 2′ with no optimum time and the 18″ jumps were just so tiny at the CT. Wait…who is this typing????

Either way,  my sights are set on this HT. If Trainer says it would be a great first outing, I’m on board. The event is scheduled for December 2 which would give me plenty of time to work on our stuff and prepare, hopefully getting out to a full cross country course a few times in advance.

Here though is where my brain goes a little off the tracks. I did some major stalking of their facebook page and was able to find the information from the HT they held last November. It looks like dressage starts at 8 am, cross country at 10:30 am and stadium at 12 pm. Dusty will be working that day (he has a 24 hour run Dec 9th) and I’ll be going solo and now I have ALL THE QUESTIONS! I am hoping you all can help me with some answers.

5.) When do you walk the cross country course? At the CT, I showed up insanely early (like 4 hours before my ride time early) and walked the stadium course between divisions while they set up. This was easy enough to do and with only 9 jumps it took only 7 minutes or so helped by the fact that I had zero idea what I was doing and just pretended I was gaining some insight while doing it. But I’d imagine cross country takes a whole lot longer to walk and there isn’t any between divisions set up time. So when do you walk it? Before they begin – so for this event before 10:30 am?

4.) It appears very common to go straight from cross country to stadium, so when do you walk the stadium course? You can sense a bit of anxiety on time management. With 4 hours before my ride time in June, I had all the time in the world to watch the others in stadium and memorize the course, plus I actually could have walked it about 4 times before my time to go in. I’m guessing I won’t have any time between cross country and stadium to walk it, so would I need to make sure I have enough time before the entire thing starts to walk both?

3.) Does the next phase not start until the first one is completed? This may be a really stupid question, but looking at the times and knowing that dressage takes all of 2-4 minutes in these divisions it appears that maybe everyone finishes dressage before cross country even begins? If you had the 8 am dressage start time and xc doesn’t go until 10:30 am, you’d have a lot of time between phases. I’d guess that cross country and stadium overlap a bit with us small fries going xc while the novice group is onto stadium. I ask this because again time management concerns. I grew up with 15 minutes early considered being late, so yeah my Type A is strong here. But in all my insanity, if I could figure out a basic roundabout time frame I could more easily plan before the ride times are emailed at the Thursday before the event.

2.)  Can I pitch a tent? Probably more a question for the ride venue. See, with the event 2ish hours away my concern is when I’d have to show up if I go same day. If I can walk cross country before the course opens at 10:30 am and while novice and BN are doing their dressage thing, then it would be an early but not cripplingly so morning. I could get up and plan to leave the house by 6 am to arrive at 8, check in and walk my courses with time to still tack up and warm up. If I’d instead really need to be walking it all before 8 am, then I’d likely just go the night before to save on stress and time. I’m not getting a hotel though, so I’d either be pitching a tent or sleeping in the truck neither of which are the best nights sleep. Ugh. My brain needs to chill out. Ok…maybe this question should really be….any local eventers want to come and babysit me for my first HT??? I might be willing to buy your entry if that sweetens the pot but still allows you to help me out during the event. 

1.) WTF am I doing? Am I insane? Um, yeah…rhetorical…maybe…sorta

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.
Friday Five

Friday Five: Ways I Organized My Trailer

Gem’s limo is a 2011 Eclipse two horse straight load. We researched the crap out of trailers comparing them to our needs and wants and this trailer fit the bill perfectly. We bought it new at a horse expo and got a great price. Since then it has travelled to dozens of trail heads, hauled the horses from WI to SC and been to every endurance/ride and tie/hunter pace/whatever else I’ve dragged Gem to in then name of friendly competition and has been great. 

As always though, more organization helps and so over time we have added some small modifications that have had big impacts on the function of the trailer. Here are my top five small, extremely easy to do, projects:

5) More tie rings. Lessons are always learned the hard way it seems. At a ride and tie event a couple years ago, Gem pulled back at the trailer for the first and only time I’ve had her. She broke the tie ring and unfortunately the hag bag, connected to the same tie ring as she was, came flying with her which made a bad situation worse. It all ended fine, but I immediately ordered new tie rings and added a second one above the original on each side to attach the hay bag to. We then also added tie rings to the very back. This was done due to the hunter paces where they cram trailers in so close that it is nearly impossible to tack up. Having the ability to tie her out the back gives me plenty of safe options

4) Bungee cords for the buckets.  I have a bucket issue. I own, and I recently counted so this number is accurate, 21 buckets. Every time I’m at the feed store I buy a new bucket. The husband is not happy about this but I keep telling him you can’t have too many and besides it could always be worse. At least buckets are cheap. I could have a saddle buying problem instead. 

Anyway…. with all the buckets I needed a way to contain them so they weren’t flying all over the place. Two simple bungee cords holding them to the spare tire helps keep the ever growing tower stable. 

Not even half my total bucket collection. You just never know when you will need one. Or twelve.

3) Hanging my saddle rack. This saddle rack is one of my favorite accessories. It folds neatly for storage and when unfolded has a neat spot for the saddle/pad, a hook for the bridle and a basket for grooming supplies. Bonus: wheels for easy toting around ride camp or show barn. I don’t like things on my trailer floor, so we added a simple bracket and carabiner to hang the whole thing out of the way 

2) Hanging bag for all the things. Pretty much every boarding situation we found ourselves in had us living out of the trailer and with the horses home and no barn it’s now the tack room. I was at a loss at first with all the extra, but non essential items like their blankets, coolers, extra saddle pads, extra girth etc. 

I found this blanket bag that is supposed to be for horse shows and knew I had stumbled on the solution. We attached it to the trailer wall and it now holds everything out of the way and keeps it all clean. Right now it has our three winter blankets, Gem’s cooler, my two endurance mohair girths, a cantle bag and my spare endurance reins. It holds so many items and leaves the area free for every day use items. 

1) Hanging groom tote. I love this thing and can’t remember how I functioned without it. All my grooming supplies hang on the door for easy access. I can’t believe how much this holds: riding and hoof trimming gloves, no thrush powder, body glide to keep her skin happy, curries and brushes, ear bonnets, hoof pick, electrolyte syringes, sweat scraper, sponge, hair bands, shampoo, conditioner, fly spray, tail comb, leather hole punch, scissors, belly balm and desirin, quick braid spray, people bug spray, her body wash and then in the Velcro attached zip ouch I keep their coggins and health certificates. I attach my half chaos on one side and typically my bit for the endurance bridle on the other. It still isn’t full!

Friday Five

Friday Five: Tack Wish List

With a limited budget I tend towards the practical and generic. One piece of tack has to pull double duty for schooling and schooling shows and generally also has to work for both dressage and jumping until I can slowly build up the collection. That doesn’t mean I don’t have champagne taste though! Here are the five things I would love to have in my tack room:

5.)  Custom brow band. Words can’t express how much I love my custom brow band that Karen made for my trail/endurance bridle. It is pure perfection. I’m pretty picky and not really flashy in the blingy beads sort of way. The ones from Freedman’s are glorious though. This is my favorite, but at $95 for a brow band it is not likely to happen any time soon.

Taken from the Freedman website. My dream one would have thin tapered ends, black patent background, large white dots and red trim. Swoon 🙂

4.) Majyke Equip Cross Country boots. Gem has had naked legs the entire time I have had her. Boots just aren’t used very much in endurance. I talked to Trainer about her leg protection needs and she said that she would recommend them for cross country, but that we did not need them for our level of stadium. I hate neoprene and so does Gem, so any boot with neoprene is out and I also don’t like the idea of memory foam. These boots have gotten rave reviews and come in red!

From the Majyke Equip website. Red. All the red.

3.) Mattes Couture All Purpose Saddle Pad. My precious! Oh you gorgeous thing you! Soft, fluffy sheepskin, colors galore and the cut out shape. It says it is all purpose, but I would use it under my jump saddle. With so many options for quilt, sheepskin, piping and binding colors I’d have to spend some serious time thinking about what exactly I would want.

Picture from the Dover website linked to above. I would likely pick red quilt, black sheepskin and red piping but could go the other way and do black quilting with red piping and red sheepskin. Oh my! I have shivers just thinking about it. 

 2.) 4 point breast collar. Gem is nearly impossible to fit in a more traditional style breast collar. The chest strap running to the girth is always too long. In order for it to fit it needs to be so ridiculously short that it makes it all fit weird. The ones without that strap seem harder to find. Lund Saddlery makes a lovely one although if I am seeing it correctly it only comes with navy and that is just not my color. I haven’t found the perfect one just yet, so no picture.

1.) EcoGold Flip Dressage Half Pad. My dressage saddle is just a titch wider than I’d like, but not so much as to create an issue. It leaves the perfect amount of room for a half pad to help take some of the shock out of the ride.  While my favorite material for Gem is sheepskin, I don’t see the point in using it when there is another pad underneath it that actually touches her skin. This pad has a lot of features I really like, plus it has two sides – hence the flip. This means that I could have red and black on one side for schooling and then use the white side up for shows. $250 is a bit much for me right now on something I don’t actually need, so it will stay on my wish list.

Taken from the EcoGold website. red and black on one side then flip it to white for shows. My only concern would be how white the white would stay if used on the underside for schooling.
Friday Five

Friday Five: Best Rides on Gem

Gotta make this next one positive! Gem and I have come a long way together. Part of me wishes I had media from back at the start, but mostly I am glad there is no proof of it. Still, there have been a lot of wonderful times over the years. Here are my favorite five:

5.)  The Day It All Clicked. I don’t have any media to share of this and only a vague sense of when it occurred. It was the spring of 2011 in WI. I had just spent that entire, very long and very cold, first winter working in the tiny indoor on Gem cantering without bucking, kicking or falling over. For months I taught her to go on voice command alone starting on the lunge and finally getting back in the saddle. From there it was adding back in the leg. One day, just as the outdoor arena was beginning the thaw, I asked her to canter by sitting deep and applying my outside leg and she transitioned up to canter without any issue at all. I was so elated that all the hard work and patience had paid off in the end. It felt like we were finally on the same page and working together.

4.) Green Creek Hounds Hunter Pace 2016. It is no secret – I adore the local hunter pace series. One in particular was special – Green Creek Hounds spring ride. Gem was in a particularly fine mood and thanks to all the preceding paces and our rigorous training schedule for the 100 mile ride the next month, she was also in tip top condition. The trails were gorgeous, but one section in particular stands out. We had spent the first half of the pace wandering through the forest and skirting picturesque farms with mountain views. After the hold, we entered what I could only describe as a Fairy Forest: the spring undergrowth was coming in neon green with trees sprouting from the moist and rich soil. I still can feel the awe I had riding through this secret Eden. That trail led to a large open lane and Gem felt like she was floating above the ground as we cantered. It was magical.


3.) La Rivier Horse Park. Back in WI, there were three main trail systems we rode with some frequency. La Rivier was in Praire Du Chien and was about 3 hours away. We only rode there a few times due to the distance. The leaves were turning brilliant colors against a bright blue, clear sky. We climbed our way up from the parking area and turned on to a different set of trails from our prior explorations. This trail put us out onto a large meadow and Gem and Pete were allowed to gallop down it. For some reason, Gem decided she needed to race and Dusty held Pete back so we could pass. It was the first time I ever was brave enough to canter Gem in the lead down a big open field. She flew over the land and by the end we were both breathing hard and very proud of ourselves. We had hoped to make it back again before we left, but I am glad we didn’t. That day will always rank among the best I’ve had with her.

My favorite picture of the boys. Not sure why it is blurry, but it is probably because I downloaded it from my facebook page to share here. 

2.) Full Gallop Farm CT. The entire experience, from leaving and returning same day to the atmosphere and friendly attitudes of the participants to the actual rides Gem gave me and the overall 4th place finish, was wonderful. Full Gallop Farm CT: Dressage Full Gallop Farm CT: Stadium


1.) Biltmore 100. No need to rehash this again, but if you haven’t read the ride story you can find it here. It was without a doubt the single best thing I have ever done with Gem and will be hard to beat.


Friday Five

Friday Five: Worst Rides on Gem

Until I have some more interesting topics to share, I thought it would be fun to do some fun lists and who doesn’t love a little week day alliteration? First up, brought on by my most recent ride, the five worst rides I’ve had on Gem, in ascending order of horror.

5.)  Mud. Falling off. Stupid decisions. This has them all!

This story goes back circa spring 2010 and both Gem and I were very, very different back then. The Dynamic Duo were being boarded at a “training” facility, hahahaha but that is another story, 50 minutes away from us. It was nearing our time to move to OH and I believe this was our very last ride there.

For some reason that is completely unfathomable to me now, Dusty and I decided to ride Gem and Pete in the small indoor arena while an old fashioned sprinkler was running.  You know the type – slow around then zips back? Yep…smart, right?

Dusty went first and hugged the arena wall which gave Pete plenty of time to eye the sprinkler. When it came his way, only his hooves got splashed and all was well and good. When it was my turn, I tried to do the same only husband, using some sort of male logic, came trotting up  between Gem and the sprinkler. Pete gets hit full blast in the chest and freaks out which causes Gem to subsequently freak out bolting bucking and throwing me to splat in the mud.

I was pissed though not at Gem.

4.) Endurance ride Twilight Zone. 

Flash forward to fall of 2011 in WI. Gem and I had completed our first LD three weeks earlier coming in 8th (though for full disclosure I fell off at mile 21). The season ended Halloween weekend and I was too excited to wait until the following May to begin again. Dusty and Pete joined us and even signed up last minute for the ride!

The actual time spent on Gem was fine. We finished with all As in 4 1/2 hours including the 50 minute hold, brain can’t do math right now, tied for  last with Pete in a drizzling rain that had lasted all weekend.

What made it awful was the entire rest of the experience. We arrived with several dishes for the pot luck. Waiting for the ride meeting and dinner in a crammed room, we happened to sit right next to the entrance door to the food. Once dinner was called, everyone ran to the door and Dusty ended up holding it open. Multiple people laughed at us holding the door and waiting patiently telling us that being nice would make us starve. These were adults. We watched as people left with heaping plates of food on multiple trays per person and when it was finally time for us to enter, it was all gone. No food left. We then sat for the ride meeting, hungry, and watched as people threw away all that food they so greedily took. We ended up eating peanut butter in our tent.

During the ride itself, people laughed at our slower pace over twisting, technical train covered in more roots than I had ever seen. Karma took over though – the ride had a really high pull rate for lameness and the vet went ballistic on people.

When we finished, 4 1/2 hours later with a 6 hour time limit, they had already taken down the finish line, nobody was around and dinner had been started an hour early. When we found people they told us to go faster next time, never mind that both our horse (draft horse included) had all As on the card in a ride where a lot were pulled. The vets told us we were rude for making them wait in the drizzle. Excuse me? We could have turned around before the finish and done another loop and still been under 6 hours!

It was enough for me to quit endurance until we moved to a new region.

3.) First solo conditioning ride: January 2014.

When we moved to SC, I decided that I wanted to try again with endurance. Re read #4 to see why I gave up on it back in WI. Wyatt was just over a year old which took Dusty out of the picture as a training partner and I didn’t know anyone local yet.

No to be deterred, I loaded Gem and made my way to the Clemson Experimental Forest for the first time. I wanted to go for an hour. Now, I had had Gem for 4 years at this point, she had done two LD rides and been on countless miles of trails with me and Dusty, this wasn’t her first trail outing by any means.

Dusty went off hiking with the dogs and kiddo and I pointed Gem down a different trail. I had no real distance marker in mind, but figured we could do about 4-5 miles in the hour given her past performances.

30 minutes later we had gone 0.75 miles. I was in near tears and so frustrated I couldn’t speak. She had spun around to go back to the trailer nearly a thousand times in that half an hour, spooked at nothing and crawled at a snails pace that my 1 1/2 year old son could have beaten. To say it was demoralizing is an understatement.

Of course, once I turned her around she decided it was time to gallop all the way back. The next 30 minutes were spent turning back around another thousand times only this time directed by me as I refused to let her go more than a walk back home.

By the time an hour and 1.5 miles were up and I was untacking her, I was near ready to give up on endurance and sell her to a meat packing plant. Thankfully, I did neither.

Pretty sure we aren’t even on the trail here. It looks to be off to the right. Not surprising given how she would turn around all the time.

2.) The clinic from Hell.  

Ah. This still makes me angry. Flash back to our fake training barn in spring of 2012, OH. Trainer’s friend and clinician, B, was coming to the barn to do a clinic. At this point in my career with Gem we were just finally starting to walk with some trot work and no canter at all because asking made Gem buck.  Pete had a nasty rearing problem any time you asked him to stand still for more than a minute.

Trainer, likely trying to drum up business for her friend, signed both of us up for a half flat work and…wait for it…half cross country jump clinic. I wasn’t so keen, but she said we were ready. HA!

There were five us in the group: Dusty/Pete, Me/Gem, a scared to death young girl on a schoolmaster that a monkey could have ridden blind folded, and two middle aged women on their OTTBs. The clinician immediately hated us. Her whole shtick was to yell, make fun of everyone and screech in the most grating nasal voice possible. That is just about the exact opposite type of personality to get me to do anything. Anyway…

The clinic started off with us all sitting on our horses in a circle listening to her. Pete reared and spun and bolted and did anything but stand still. The young girl cried. At least Gem and I could stand. Then we went around the arena on the rail at the walk and when the leader got to C they had to trot while B yelled and screeched about how awful they were and shouldn’t they just get a mountain bike instead? Once everyone went around we had to canter. That went awful in every respect for us.

Having been yelled at for a half hour inside, we moved outside where she proceeded to point us over solid obstacles. I was petrified. Gem was awful. Eventually she told me I was so awful at riding that I was kicked out of her clinic and to just go wander around somewhere out of her sight. I wanted to punch her teeth in. Trainer was laughing the whole time. Two weeks later we moved to WI.

Walking around out of her sight
Learning Pete lives to jump at the same clinic. Dusty was much better at tuning her out

1.)  Trail ride horror show.

It was the summer of 2012. We were still living in WI and knew Wyatt would be born that fall. We spent the summer getting in as much time on fun, childless stuff as possible and one major thing on the list was one last ride together at our favorite trail system: Castle Rock. These trails were so much fun. Mostly double wide sandy roads, some single track technical trails in the woods and a river entrance made perfect for swimming. We used to gallop for miles and miles.

On this particular day I was riding in my WISE cross country saddle which I adored, but ended up not fitting the mare well enough. We were having a great time trotting and cantering through the woods when we came upon one of the narrower and more technical sections. I still don’t know what Gem’s issue was, but she ducked her shoulder and spun 180. The saddle slipped and I was dumped  hard on my hip. I got right back on, but I hurt. It was extremely hot and humid and my nerves were a bit wracked from the fall. My guts decided I needed to go…now. I pulled over and had pretty intense diarrhea (too much info??) in the woods with mosquitoes and horseflies everywhere. My butt itched for a week! To make matters worse, in a park where we had never run across anyone ever before, along comes a big group and there just wasn’t enough vegetation around for proper coverage. It was mortifying.

The ride back was 5 miles and I couldn’t trot due to the hip hurting, but my stomach was killing me and I just wanted to get back before having to partake of the woods again. Didn’t happen. Multiple times we had to pull over so my guts could relieve themselves in the semi open forest with minimal coverage and only leaves which I desperately hoped were not poisonous to wipe with. It was the worst 5 miles I have ever ridden. To make it worse, the heart necklace Dusty had gotten me for Christmas the first year we dated (2003) broke during the fall and came off and I didn’t realize it until that night when I took a shower. We never made it back to the park and even if we had I likely never would have found it again.

The only picture of Castle Rock I could find and given the date stamp should be from that same ride. This is one of the few wooded areas, so I’m guessing it was right before she dumped me

So there you all have it. The 5 worse rides I have had while with Gem. Granted, most of them weren’t actually due to Gem, but without her they wouldn’t have happened so they count!