2018: A Review of Sorts

This time of year, blogs get flooded with year reviews and recaps. I love them all. With old familiar blogs, it is a way to remind myself of their journey and relive those happy and maybe not so great moments with them all over again. For newer blogs I just found, it is a nice way to quickly catch up. 

Who remembers this little guy?? He recently showed up and won a schooling jumper show in October. Still full on pony attitude but looking really good.

My year was not really that great. It could have been, maybe even should have been, but it plain old wasn’t. There isn’t a whole lot to do a month by month blow by blow recap of, so instead I’m going to try to sum up how I feel the year went, lessons I have learned, and where it puts me heading into the start of 2019. 

I’m going to select my favorite picture of each month from the blog to re share.

Gem and I conquered this ditch together in February on a xc school. It was the only jump I attempted that day.

The start of the year had me really focusing on Gem and improving my own consistency when it came to riding her. I set a goal of three rides a week and it really paid off through the beginning of the month.  With the recent move to the farm and having access to the arena and lights, there really was no excuse not to.  It paid off too through January and February. Gem was calmer, more willing to go to work and I felt like we were really making progress. 

March. Schooling rounds at FENCE. We did three 18″ rounds and Gem never said no to a single fence.

Except life happened, I needed to buckle down and study for my surgical boards and we decided to renovate the arena, a project that still isn’t completed and may never be.  My consistency flew out the window, Gem started showing signs of ulcers for the first time ever and after a 45 minute ride where all I got to do was try to reinstall the halt for the umpteenth time, I finally decided to listen to what the mare was shouting at me. After 9 years, thousands of conditioning miles, a 100 mile endurance completion,  a 30 mile Ride and Tie Championship completion, one amoeba level CT, and two schooling jumper shows, it was time to retire Gemmiecakes to a life of getting fat and happy in the pasture with her BFF Pete. 

April. Bette, Trainer and I headed out for a fun trail ride on our bay beasts. PC: Bette

That led me into the frenzy of horse shopping, not a fun or cheap experience. You would think living only 2 hours from Aiken and 1 hour from Tryon (home of TIEC and WEG), horse shopping would be a piece of cake. Nope. I ended up choosing Eeyore, now H’Appy, and brought him home with a clean PPE in early May.  We had a fun two weeks together and then he ripped his hoof half off with his shoe leaving him lame for nearly six freaking months. Currently he is healthy if more than a bit feral from all the time off and vacillates between amazingly fun and easy to hell horse extraordinaire. Depending on the day, moon cycle, status of his friends, and how desperately I am in need of a good ride. 

May. My first between the ears picture on H’Appy. Better weather, better attitude, better fitness. I want this back!

And that brings us to the here and now. Not where I thought I would be and not where I really want to be, but at least he is healthy and sound once again. The attitude can be worked on. 

What Went Right

  • Retiring Gem. Hands down this was the best decision of the year. Since retirement she has become a love bug. She nickers for me when I’m out doing yard work. Walks to meet me in the pasture. Begs for scratches. It’s a bit sad to see her lose her top line, butt muscling and abs but her mental health is the best it has ever been.
  • Consistency. The beginning of the year saw me really buckle down and ride three days a week regardless of how tired I felt after work, how cold it was or the dark. A lot of that was due to having and arena and lights which made riding in the evening possible. Gem was more willing work each time, knew what was expected and had more fitness. Of course that went out the window when I became horseless all summer but the lesson was learned.
  • Buying H’Appy. Ok, so the jury is still out on this one. I’ve spent so many hours re watching the test ride video of myself, looking at pictures and running every second spent with him during the test ride and PPE through my head looking to see if there was a red flag somewhere that warned me of his recent behavior. And there isn’t. If I were to find him and test him again (as he was then), I’d still choose him. The six months off have made him a bit feral but I believe he can come back from that. Time will tell.
  • New farrier. He is hard to get in touch with at times and scheduling is a bit touchy but his work is top notch and he is extremely patient with H’Appy. he has started coming out when I’m at work as long as I leave the horses in and even puts them back out after. Seriously can’t say enough good things about him. I love him even if my bank account does not.
  • Lameness Eval. I dragged my feet a long time before I made the appointment. It served to confirm my thoughts: Saddle fit and hoof issues. This let me let go of a deep fear that I purchased a lame horse unknowingly. 
June. Went cross country schooling on the orange beast. He was really well behaved, tackled everything I asked of him and it only took me half way through the two hour school to relax, let go of past baggage and enjoy myself. 

What Didn’t Go So Well

  • H’Appy. Yeah he is on both lists. I’m not sure I could have done much different to prevent his hoof coming off. He was being stalled at the time and out in the smallest back pasture for short periods when it happened. He had the shoes on he came with and I already had a farrier appointment set for them to be redone. Sometimes crap just happens. The spiral leading to six months off before shoes could be put back on sucked and led us to where we are now.
  • The arena project. My arena is awful. It sat unused and uncared for for six years before we bought the place and we new it was going to be an issue. I tried to do it myself. Fail. I hired someone to get rid of the vegetation and grade it. Fail. Now I still have vegetation but with the added bonus of really deep spots and valleys. We have called out three arena pros and each one has no showed the appointment even when we took off work to meet them. It’s a mess. Then only bright spot is that it dries really well and with winter here it should be passable until spring.
  • Training. I fell off my Trainer’s schedule from April-November due to work commitments, horse shopping and then lameness. When I finally got things in order to lesson again it was clear things weren’t going to work like they used to. All parties agreed a new situation would be best at least for a while until the basics got smoothed back out.
July. My favorite picture of Doofus. He is grace. 

Lessons Learned

  • Throw away expectations. One of the biggest issues with H’Appy is that I expected A and got B. I clung so hard to A for too long which did neither of us any good. By taking a step back and looking at reality an actionable plan can be made.
  • Trust my gut. Always in all things. I knew my original farrier wasn’t going to cut it. I knew his feet were the root of his issues. I knew my saddle wasn’t working. I’m not always right and I make more than my fair share of mistakes, but when my gut says something I need to listen.
  • Exposure is key. Getting out and doing things goes a long way in the training process. H’Appy is a pretty amenable dude in general and is happy to go out and see the world. The more times he goes the better he gets. He wont magically be a great traveler or show horse without the experience to get there.
  • Form a tribe. So I admit to being ornery in general and hating all these new hipster terms, but this one I like.  I didn’t need one for endurance, but having a support network is proving paramount in this whole jumping thing. Trainers, fitters, farriers, vets. Surrounding myself with those I trust, who I know have my best interests in mind and who want to see me succeed is what makes this thing work. I’m really starting to gather together a solid group: I love the fitter I worked with, my farrier is amazing and the lameness vet was pretty solid. I need to hone in on my training situation next. 
August. Wyatt started school this year. I can’t believe how fast the time is going.

2018 can best be summed up as a transition year. To the farm. To a new horse partner. To a new discipline. I’m finding myself surrounded by new people and looking for new knowledge and experiences. 

September. Trail hand walks to continue doing something with him while laid up waiting for his hooves to grow.

Going into 2019 I’d really like to get things on the training front hashed out, settle H’Appy mentally back into work and build his fitness so he can’t use that as an excuse to complain. That should set us up really nicely to make some sort of competition plans for the spring and fall which I really hope includes an amoeba level HT at Full Gallop. Its 18″ and only three mandatory xc fences plus a w/t dressage test. It shouldn’t be unreasonable to do.

October. First trail ride with Doofus. All in all he did really great for our first solo outing on new to him trails. More trail time would be fabulous. 

And that is that. Maybe not the best year but a lot happened and a lot was learned. Everyone made it out alive too which hasn’t been the case for the last several years. That is something to celebrate.

November. 5th Annual Thanksgiving Waterfall Hunt. Yellowbranch Falls.

This month is going to see H’Appy off to training boot camp for at least 2 weeks. I’m really hopeful that it goes well and sees us getting back on track and heading into 2019 in a much better place with each other. He has a lot to teach me both in and out of the saddle and I hope to get the chance. 


Houston, We Have A Saddle

This is a story about the absolute best customer service in all the land. Seriously folks. It does not get any better than Farm House Tack. I’m fortunate to live about an hour away, but they also help over the phone and online. I can’t say enough about how wonderful they have been to me.

Monday night Nicest Fitter On The Planet drove all the way to my house after work to help fit the Bates with an anatomic girth. The girth was pricey at $300 (imagine cheapskate me pretty much dying inside with that price tag) and I likely could have found a cheaper one online, but her offering to bring it to me when the store is an hour away was pretty amazing and worth paying a little extra for. Shopping local and independent is important to me and while it can be a bit extra, you can’t get service like that from an online store. I’ll buy from them again and again just based on that.

Plus you know. My new horse is the most expensive gelding on the planet when it comes to tack preferences. Gem was a cheap date. This guy? Just assume the most expensive option is the only one that will work. Every darn time.

I bored. I getting ignored. I eat lead rope while glaring at you.

So anyway, she came out and met my orange beast. He was on his goofiest behavior but she had an Appy in the past and laughed at his ways. It helps that she didn’t have to take him home with her though he is slowly teaching me to get the stick out of my own butt and lighten up. He has a long way to go. I was born this way.

She brought two options in his wide load size (50″), one pure leather with elastic ends and another leather with a memory foam liner. I chose the one with the liner becasue I knew his princess self would probably like that even better.  And you know what? Angels sang when I tightened that thing. I already knew he preferred leather (see above regarding his tastes) and apparently his delicate nature approved of the memory foam liner because this was the first time since I brought him home that he didn’t try to eat me while I girthed up a saddle. He didn’t even flinch an ear when I tightened it all the way. With his fleece girth I had to dodge pawing legs and gnashing teeth while I did it up regardless of the saddle I was using at the time. It’s the reason the Stubben rep thought maybe his sternum was out he reacted so violently to being girthed. Except with this memory foam lined leather princess girth. You wouldn’t have known I was girthing him up at all.

I still ignored. I abused and neglected poneh. I paw and stamp hoof in protest.

I was leaning towards being sold at that point. He obviously approved but it still felt tight on his shoulder. Being the Nicest Fitter On The Planet, she put up with my insistence that it was pinching even though she knew better and eventually had me hold my hand in the spot I worried about while she walked him forward so I could feel. And I’ll be darned. No pinching at all. His shoulder moved freely.

I told her she could head home if she wanted to at that point. I wanted to ride in it but felt bad keeping her out at my place in the dark. Being the Nicest Fitter On The Planet she asked to stay and watch me ride in it and see my reaction. Seriously folks. Nicest Ever.

I still ignored. I sad poneh now. I stand good and rest.

From the moment I sat in it I really liked it. It was cushy enough to be comfortable yet didn’t feel like I was in a couch. The knee blocks were large enough to be secure but out of my way to make me actually learn to ride on my own and not rely on them. I think I need to move them up and back a little but that is the glory of velcro blocks. The only thing I didn’t like was how slippery the leather was. Now it wasn’t synthetic seat slippery like my saddles in the past and maybe I was spoiling myself with all the other lines I tried, but it felt a bit more slick than my wimpy butt would hope for.

We walked and he was free and moving really well without expressing any negative opinions about life so I asked for a trot. Or tried to. He had opinions on that and did more flailing and then slamming on the brakes because “oh crap this feels like work” but it wasn’t saddle fit related. That’s just him at the moment.

All was pretty great even through some tantrums. He moved super well, the saddle didn’t budge with the new anatomic girth and it fit me pretty well too. Of all the saddles I had tired to this point (14 not including the Bates), it was the absolute best fit for us both.

But I had one hang up. The girth cost some big money and the saddle was in great condition but still used and not that much cheaper than a new one. I asked Nicest Fitter On The Planet if we could negotiate the price down. Using my ever famous wife math, if the saddle could be reduced by the cost of the girth then the girth would basically be free. She wasn’t sure the owner would go for it, but said she would ask.

Well, Tuesday she got back to me that the consigner wasn’t up for reducing it. I thought on it. The new version of this exact saddle with the upgraded super sticky luxe leather was only $400 more. I loved that sticky leather. That isn’t a whole lot more money. I loved this saddle other than the fact it was slick. If new was the exact same I would not hesitate to save the money and go used but I wanted that sticky leather.

The more I thought on it the more I convinced myself to return the used one and buy new. I never treat myself. I own two saddle pads. Two. And I still feel that is excessive. Pretty much everything I have is second hand and well darnit I want that luxe leather. I work 50 hours a week in a very much thankless job and well…merry Christmas to me. (I told Hubby he isn’t permitted to buy me anything for Christmas this year since I’m spending so much in tack and boot camp. Treating myself comes with a heaping dose of guilt)

So I texted the now Ever Patient Nicest Fitter Ever and asked if I could ship this one back and have her order one in the sticky leather. Of course she said sure. I mean you don’t get that title for no reason and she definitely earned it after I changed my mind three times on which saddle I wanted. Maybe I should stalk her online and see if she likes wine?

She then went even farther. I’m telling you all. Shop at Farm House Tack. You won’t regret the experience. Anyway…since I live an hour away and work to the point where I can’t get there except on a weekend, she said the store owner was fine with me holding on to the consignment until the weekend when the new saddle should be ready to pick up and save the money on shipping it back. If I had had any doubts about spending that extra money they were all gone now. I’ll spend that much to support them any day. What an amazing experience this has been.

Good pony gets to take selfies and be fawned over and petted. Good pony is smart. Good pony needs to learn this.

Of course I couldn’t help myself from being annoying still (maybe I’m like Doofus after all. That’s a scary thought) and triple checked that it would be the exact same saddle. I was assured it would be. But what about the blocks? They would be that same big size, right? Yup. And the panels would fit the same? Yup. And the seat…not only the same size, but with the same amount of cushion and everything? Yup.

Maybe I need to send her two bottles of wine.


H’Appy Doesn’t Live Up to His Name

Things with H’Appy haven’t been, well… happy. In fact I broke down and told him I hated him Sunday. Not my best moment and I’m not proud, but this is reality and not some horse fairy tale. I remember hating Gem for a long time in the beginning too.

What is a shame is that the horse I brought home and rode for 3 weeks was lovable. And fun. And willing. And safe. And sane.

If that damn hoof wouldn’t have ripped off he wouldn’t have been off for six months and I wouldn’t be here now.

But it did. And I am. And I need to figure out a path forward that leads to a resolution that makes us both happy be that a workable partnership or a new home for him and a new horse for me. Right now I actually don’t care which way this story ends as long as it does soon because honestly since bringing him home all I’ve done is burn money with absolutely nothing to show for it.

His coat matches the fall hues

A lot has been against us. His lameness to start. Then non stop rain. Now add saddle fit issues to the heap with continued non stop rain and well it hasn’t been conducive for consistency. He is fat, out of shape and mentally in a place where he is a toddler saying “I don’t wanna” while he throws down a major temper tantrum.

The thing is that it scares me and he knows it so he pulls his crap more and more with the hopes it will get him out of work. He isn’t violent and he certainly isn’t in any pain. He just plain doesn’t want to and my lady balls aren’t currently big enough after six months out of the tack myself to make him.

Anyone know a company that makes horse sized rain boots? Or maybe i need some swim flippers instead. This rain is insane.

The last good ride I had with him was a magical night under the arena lights on November 6th – nearly a month ago. He was light, responsive to my seat and relaxed. I felt invincible on him that night. It was amazing and I fell on his neck in a heap of giggles at the end.

Then the lesson from Hades occurred on the 9th and every single ride thereafter has been a quick saddle test ride where I’m not really schooling him on anything or riding him out because that’s not what the fitter is there for.

So I’m not surprised that he has no interest in working. I don’t fully blame him. It’s why he hasn’t been listed as a project for a massive loss of money already. Someone recently said “never quit on a bad day” and it is the motto I’ve chosen to live by with him. If we have a ride like on the 6th and I’m still done? Ok fine. Sell him and move on.

Not all rides with him have sucked. This day was pretty fun.

Sunday it was finally done raining and while the ground is disgustingly squishy and my arena is half under water, I wanted to try the saddles and ride. He was a massive pain from the get go. I worked with him in the cross ties until he finally chilled out and then he amped back up in the arena.

He wouldn’t even stand still for me to mount and began his head shaking popping up crap at the block. That earned him time on the longe line and big boy let his energy out.

What I found impressive, and what keeps me holding out hope for us, is that even though all he wanted to do was gallop around, fart and kick up his heels as soon as I asked him to trot he did. He kept an ear on me and I could tell he was trying but could barely contain himself.

I worked him with a lot of transitions both directions until he was sweaty and that crazy glint was out of his eye and then I mounted. He still felt like a powder keg under me and the saddle was slipping all over the place so I only asked for a bit of a walk and then halted to get off. I knew if I asked for a trot he would fling around and tranter instead and there was no way I was riding that out in the County.

After I finished I debated pushing my luck in the Bates, but knowing it would have the tendency to slide forward (much like my Thorowgood which has a point billet and still does it) didn’t make it look too appealing.

Naps are very appealing to him

Things aren’t all lost yet though. I still believe that once back in actual work he will settle to being the horse I brought home. He has so many good qualities that I love: he is brave and curious in new situations, he has yet to spook at anything, he goes alone on trail or leads in a group, he has never refused or run out of a jump even with me clinging like a monkey to his back, he does water (I never would have ridden Gem even on her best day in a flooded arena), and when in work he goes in a lovely natural rhythm that makes things easy. He just needs to get over himself a bit.

He is leaving me on December 14th for boot camp. We are starting with two weeks and will go up to a month depending. I’m hoping two weeks will be enough. Well, my pocket book is hoping two weeks will be enough. I’m not looking for him to learn anything specific. This isn’t a training camp for jumping more technical courses, or adding flying changes or the half pass. I just need him ridden through this transition back to work by someone who won’t back down or escalate it. He has the basic training that I need already in there under all that bullying attitude.

It will be an hour from me which isn’t preferable but the lady is very good, highly recommended and super nice. I like her way of teaching and training a lot. I’ll get one lesson a week while he is there too. My biggest fear with this is that he will be great for her since she won’t let him bully her but will come home and return to his ways here with me. We will see.

This was early summer. Sure he is strung out, paying more attention to the camera than to me and I am a tense hot mess, but he was cooperative, steady and didn’t pull any of his current tricks.

After his boot camp one of two things will happen. He will either be great for me, or at least good enough, and then I can join up with the local trainer I want to use and get back to three day a week rides and twice monthly lessons.

Or he will flunk out of camp/ come home and degrade back to his current behavior which will tell me that our relationship isn’t going to work and he will be listed for sale. At least then I can say that he has had a professional refresher and hope he would sell easier. This is the worst time of year to sell since everyone is, but such is life.

The day we went xc schooling. We did the log into water then the log out and he was great. He trotted or cantered everything, never said no and I want this horse back.

Of course, this depends on him having a saddle that fits so come hell or high water I’m buying a saddle before then. This boot camp must happen and it must happen before I sink too much more money into him. I look back on pictures from the summer when he was rideable and I wonder. He was so good before all this time off. Not perfect but he was fun, safe and sane. Heck, I wouldn’t be thrilled to pull Gem out right now after her 8 months of retirement and try to actually ride her and that is with a decade of history with her and a huge amount of trust banked up. Where would we be if I could have ridden all summer? I’ll never know.

Either way this plays out it is going to be an interesting December and a life lesson learned.


Saddle Shopping Saga/ November Hours

Time slipped away in a flurry of celebrating Wyatt’s 6th birthday last week and I completely missed my call for hours. I don’t have any for November, so if you volunteered at all please get them to me asap.

The saddle hunt has continued despite my best intention to narrow it down to the BC Wexford which is proving difficult to find without a wither gusset. I’m still searching multiple times a day, but I need to ride the hairy beast before he gets too far gone so I’ve opened the search back up. Some internet research shows that people who like the Wexford tend to also like the Albion Kontrol and County Conquest, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Happy 6th Birthday little man!

First, I need to write about the Stubben visit. I nearly swore off fitters after the Custom lady tried to push an over priced demo that didn’t fit me at all and the “independent” fitter showed up with no saddles and diagnosed him with extreme back pain and ribs out of place requiring robaxin.

But I’m cheap at heart and when Michele texted me the Stubben sale I decided to burn all my money and have the Stubben rep out. I know her really well from the year I boarded with her. She was just starting back then and let me sit in all the models she had. Interestingly enough, most have been discontinued since then. Anyway, I wasn’t much of a fan but when saddles are on sale for $4,000 off, it’s hard to turn your nose up. Unfortunately, I still didn’t like any of the saddles. The good news to come from that visit was that the big orange butthead didn’t palpate painful anywhere although he did react strongly to the girth being done up. I know he isn’t a fan of the fleece girth, but I can’t buy him a leather one (why on earth does this PITA horse have to only like expensive gear?!?!?) until I know what saddle I’m going to end up with. She declared his sternum out of place which is something I’ve never heard of but I took it in stride and moved on.

It’s interesting that everyone who meets him for a few minutes diagnoses him with some new ailment completely unrelated to any previous one. Trust me. He isn’t painful, he is just being an ass.

Who me? Never!

Anyway…no matter how cheap they were I still didn’t like the fit for me at all and cried silently at another $150 down the drain. If anyone is keeping track, that’s $481 in fitter fees. That’s more than my current, albeit ill fitting, saddle cost.

That was when I said screw it, it is BC Wexford or bust. I could still hold that line but if H’Appy stays retired for another 6 months he may never come back from the brink. I need to ride my horse. The above mentioned search of Wexford like saddles showed the County Conquest and Albion Kontrol were similar in feel.

The County Conquest in decent used condition. The pommel is very high but the overall balance sits on him nicely.

It just so happened that someone responded to my ISO ad with a 17″ W Conquest for a decent price. I took it on trial and it arrived Friday. I knew immediately it wasn’t going to work but threw it on him anyway. I was right. The width was ok but the panels were made for a very different shape and came up too high with minimal contact. It wasn’t bad enough not to sit in, but I pretty quickly dismounted as the saddle was very unstable side to side with nothing to keep it from rolling down his barrel. It was a shame since it is a nice saddle. I’m shipping it back, but if anyone is interested in the details let me know.

A good tree angle match but the top of the panels sits well above his body. The saddle had a lot of motion side to side

Having failed that one ($60 in shipping lost, will return it tomorrow after work so I’ll know the total cost then) I grew pretty frustrated. There are two great tack stores near me: Farmhouse Tack and Aiken Tack Exchange. Both handle used tack and while I’ve scoured the Aiken store online turning up nothing, I hadn’t really paid much attention to Farmhouse. Being in driving distance means saving at least one way in shipping costs, so I figured they were worth a look.

Friday afternoon I perused their site and saw that they had a 17″ Wide Albion Kontrol on consignment plus a Bates Elevation Deep Seat with massive blocks that caught my eye as well. I had sat in a new Caprilli and didn’t like it so hadn’t thought much about the Bates line, but why not give it a try if I was going up there anyway.

Saturday afternoon I dragged the kiddo up with me. I really liked the Albion. A lot. So comfy. So much security. Except the panels were really curved and he needs a flatter panel. It wouldn’t have worked for him but I was glad to find that out in person without shipping costs.

The Bates Elevation DS. This saddle sits the best on his back but you can see the once glaring issue. With it girthed up appropriately, it shifts forward over his shoulder.

The Bates though. That was a nice saddle. Beautiful condition and super comfy. The saddle fitter who works there is one of the nicest people and spent a lot of time with me in the store. Bates is having a special where they are upgrading to their luxe leather (a stickier leather) for free. A new saddle with the upgrade would have only been $400 more than the consignment saddle.

I texted Emma for a voice of reason. New or used? Grippy or standard? She talked me off the ledge of buying new – thanks! – by reminding me that the $400 would be better off spent on his training versus sticky leather. I ended up taking the consignment home with me on trial though they only allow four days. Even if it didn’t work, I’d only have to pay shipping one way if I couldn’t drive back up there.

A close of view of where the saddle needs to sit for the billets to line up. Right over his shoulder. Not good.


It’s up in the air. The saddle fits him great with the wide gullet in place. The panel shape and angle suit him well and when girthed up it had a lot of stability.

Great fit through the panel without bridging. This is a pretty flat tree/panel configuration which confirms my suspicion that the lovely Albion would have too much curve to it.

I wasn’t a fan of how it sat on his shoulders though so I called the fitter and she asked me to send a bunch of pictures. Turns out what he lacks in wither height he makes up for in length meaning I needed to move the saddle back a good bit. She liked the look of it when pushed back and it no longer sat on his shoulder only the billets were too far back and I know that trick from years trying to fit a jump saddle on Gem. Girth a saddle like that and gravity wins every time. It will end up on his shoulders.

Placed farther back behind his large shoulder. The balance is even better here, but you can see the issue. Look at the tips of the billets and draw a line straight down. They lie pretty solidly behind his girth groove so that when it is girthed up it will shift forward and on to his shoulder.

I texted the fitter again and she recommended an anatomic girth to help hold it back. I’m leery. I wasn’t blogging back then but I’ve been through this with Gem. Anatomic girth. Cross the billets so the back is on the front buckle to change the pressure. Go wider. Go narrower. Nothing worked because the billets didn’t line up.

A closer view of the billets alignment. The saddle should have been a titch farther back still.

I couldn’t make it back to the store before they closed by the time I was finished with everything. She had two anatomic girths in his size and offered to bring them to me after work today so I can try it. The issue with an exchangeable gullet is that you can’t add a point billet since there isn’t a fixed gullet in the saddle.

As close to a confo shot I could get alone. His low, long wither and large shoulder are proving to be a tad more difficult to fit than I thought.

I can’t say I’m keeping the saddle the way it is now so we will see. It will be a shame if it can’t work out because I really like the saddle otherwise and think it could be a good solution.

If it doesn’t work, well at least she will take it with her so the entire experience will have cost me nothing for once plus I’ll have her keep an eye out for me for any 17 wide jump saddles that may come in on consignment. They have a lot of inventory which is nice and while I don’t want to wait that long, they may see an influx once people get some new tack for Christmas.

Keep your fingers crossed we can make this work out. I have an update coming about his behavior and my plans but it all depends on getting a saddle that fits and right now I’m open to just about anything. This fitter is super nice and knowledgeable so having her over, even if the Bates goes home with her, may prove beneficial just to get some more ideas on what would work for him. They stock Pessoa and HDR as well as the Bates new but I wasn’t a fan of the Pessoa. The HDR may work in a pinch (and is cheap enough even new) but the twist was pretty narrow and I’ve found that I like a wider twist. I’ll let you know how it goes!


Why We Need Friends

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.

Still can;t figure out how to make the pictures smaller when done on my phone versus ta desktop.

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. 


5th Annual Thanksgiving Waterfall Hunt

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.


War Horse Turned Cuddle Bug

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. 

My beautiful Gemmie

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.

Tolerating bath day

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. 

Who me??

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.

Wyatt and Gemmie…my two hearts

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.