Corona Day 1 – Dressage

I’m trying to find something to say about this day that doesn’t sound like whining or sour grapes. That could prove to be a little difficult, honestly.

3 horses this time = trailer caravan!

It started well… we rolled out of the barn around 7am and arrived at our destination in west Texas well before noon. We were one of the first groups to arrive so we had lots of room and time to unload and set up out stabling area. AND, since our group was the first to send in our entries, we got the best stalls/spot on the property. Major score.

Right next to the dressage ring and warmup

After settling in we tacked up the horses and took them out to stretch their legs. The facility has a trail running all the way around the perimeter of the property, so we had a nice little light trail ride and then put them away.

Bobby and I both had volunteered to do our dressage on Friday evening to help speed things along on Saturday, so we pretty much sat around the rest of the afternoon and played the waiting game. Finally 6pm rolled around and I hopped on to head to the warmup.

purple bands in the braids for Mom

Our dressage at home has been kind of tense and crappy the past couple weeks, for some reason he’s been in canter-canter-canter mode, so I was really just focused on coaxing Henry through the test without him getting upset. Our warmup was mostly walking and halting and trotting and walking and halting and leg yields. That tactic has worked really well for me, almost like boring him to death a little bit so that he settles.

As soon as we started trotting around the outside of the dressage ring he screamed once for Halo, and I got a little concerned for a second. But he went in and honestly tried super hard to be a good boy. He was a bit tense throughout, his little mouth was chomping at times, and the trot-canter transitions & halt were of course not good (they never are), but otherwise I was super pleased with him. Not our best effort but certainly not our worst. Fairly steady, at least, with no major loss of rhythm or disobedience.

When I saw that the score was a 38 I wasn’t very happy – our worst ever. When I got the test itself and read the comments, I was even less happy. When I saw that we ended up 12th of 14, behind horses that were explosive, had their noses way behind the vertical, and/or were flipping their heads the whole time, I might have had a bit of a moment. We got the same score as a horse who did all of it’s canter work traveling completely sideways and barely kept all 4 feet on the ground. I kept watching the video and reading her scores/comments, trying to see what she was seeing, and 75% of the time I just couldn’t.

Comment on this turn: unbalanced

Comment for this canter circle: heavy on forehand


Comment for this canter-trot transition: crooked


I sent the video and the scores/comments to my dressage trainer at home and he at least validated my feelings by saying “That’s bullshit”. I guess sometimes the judge just really doesn’t like you, and this was our day.

That said, I really could not have been happier with Henry. I felt like he showed a lot of maturity to keep himself together even though he was tense and nervous. A few months ago that would not have been the case. He did everything I asked him to do, when I asked him to do it. The pieces will get better as we go along, and I thank the judge for her opinion, but this score sheet is going in the trash. I don’t disagree with the score I got, we all know how subjective the actual numbers are, but I definitely disagree with where we ended up in the pack as compared to some of the other tests I saw.

What Henry thinks of that test

Tomorrow – on to the fun stuff! And a bit of redemption…

5 more things I (don’t) need right now, and a contest reminder

Because after the last 5 things, it wasn’t long before 5 more things showed up on the need list. Most of which are Riding Warehouse’s fault, as usual. I get those emails that are like “See what’s new at Riding Warehouse!” and I’m like “That sounds like a great idea, please show me what’s new, this will be super! Clicky-clicky!” and we end up with more posts like this. To my credit, I only bought one of the 5 things on the last list. Granted, I tried to buy another but it was sold out. Details.

  1. Kastel Denmark sunshirt in yellow. Because last time everything was navy, and because my life needs more  yellow, and because Kastel is my absolute favorite.
  2. Ovation Fashionista H belt in navy. Ok, more navy, I know. But the price is right, it’s cute, and we’re going to pretend like the H stands for Henry. The only way this belt could be improved was if the horse was a unicorn.
  3. Tuffrider neon peach breeches. I can’t really explain this one, except to say that I’m in a really big peach/coral phase right now and I feel like these would go well with my plethora of navy things.  Don’t judge me.
  4. This brown CWD dressage saddle. Go ahead, look it in the eyes and tell it you don’t love it. Can’t, can you? I dig the brown dressage tack.


5. Which means you’re gonna need this to go with it – PS of Sweden’s newest model, the Get Set. Word is that they will eventually offer interchangeable nosepieces for it, too. Oh the possibilities.

After you’re done either drooling over everything or questioning my taste/judgment, don’t forget to go check out the Unicorn Contest. As of right now I have no entries. Zero, zilch, nada. So I guess Bobby and I get to keep all that awesome stuff for ourselves instead of give it away!

How we do summer horse trials in Texas

The end of August in Texas is still basically mid-summer for us, so it’s still hot as hell here. There are very few recognized horse trials in the summer because of that, but the one we’re going to this weekend has a pretty good way to work around it:


Basically everything happens either before noon or after 6pm. Because no one wants to ride in 100 degree heat with 50% humidity. No one. But at 10am it should only be about 80 (granted, with around 70% humidity) and at 6pm is should be about 90 (with more like 35% humidity), both of which are better than 100 degrees in the mid-afternoon sun in West Texas where there’s not much shade.

I’ll be bringing a lot of ice, ice packs, and fans.

ghetto-rigged ice packs

I will also try to keep our warm-ups under 15 minutes. Mostly walking before dressage, and just a quick canter and a couple jumps before Stadium and XC. This will be Henry’s second Novice and the rumor is that the courses will be set soft (and the XC speed is only 350mpm) so I just want him to hop around and get more confident at the level. We only need 3 more completions to qualify for the N3DE next year, so that takes a lot of pressure off. I’ll go with the same plan I had at Greenwood and Texas Rose with the dressage: calm and quiet, even if it means leaving points on the table. He’s still easily frazzled by dressage and Novice Test B doesn’t flow so well for us, so this will be our standard tactic for a while to come. I would not mind getting back another dressage test with comments like “lazy” and “needs more forward”. For this horse that’s a win.

Coats are waived so I’m gonna go pick up a purple sunshirt to wear in honor of my mom. It’ll match Henry’s purple braids.

because I bought these, and pulled out the purple ones

It’s been a long 12 weeks since Texas Rose, I’m beyond ready to get this fall season on the road! Corona this weekend, AEC in 4 weeks, Greenwood 2 weeks after that, and then wrapping up 3 weeks later on Halloween at Pine Hill. Let’s do this. Also, Bobby is moving up to Novice this weekend because peer pressure totally works. And he’s going to kick everyone’s ass, as usual, including mine.

The Tail Tutorial

Normally I really hate doing how-to posts because it makes me feel like a little bit of a douchebag, but since several people asked, I’ll show you my process for a tail makeover.

Henry’s tail started out sunbleached, almost touching the ground, and pretty unkempt:


If he was a hunter I would have dyed it and left it alone. If he was a jumper I would have dyed it and banged it a few inches. Since he’s an eventer I dyed it, banged it about 6″, and trimmed the top.

What you’ll need:

  • scissors and/or clippers
  • hair dye (see more about that below)
  • a plastic grocery bag
  • vet wrap
  • clothes you don’t mind getting trashed

I started off by trimming the top of his tail. There are a lot of ways to do this, my method of choice just being one of many, but it’s the one I’m most comfortable with and it works for me. A lot of people swear that pulling a tail is the only way to go – I’m not one of them. I will never pull a horse’s tail. So that leaves either the scissor method or the clipper method. I feel like I have a little more control with clippers, so that’s what I use. How far down the tail you go is up to you – some go quite a ways down the tail bone, but I personally just go the point of the rump, which ends up being about 6 inches. I pretty much do exactly what’s shown in the video linked above, making sure to go slow and be very deliberate about what I’m shaving off. Remember – you’re only trimming the hair on the sides, never ever ever the hair on the top.

Bobby cameo

With that done, it’s time to dye. You could bang it first if you wanted to, but I prefer to do it afterward when the tail is totally detangled and brushed out so you get a tidier cut.

Which hair dye to use has a lot to do with personal preference. My favorite is Clairol, either in Natural Darkest Brown or Natural Soft Black. If you get a very dark, blue-black color it will look a bit TOO dark and unnatural. Some people prefer to use dye specifically formulated for ethnic hair, but I’ve never had a problem with the Clairol taking and holding well, and it’s easy to find, so I’ve just stuck with it.

When you’re dying a tail, make sure that you’re either wearing black or something you don’t mind getting dye all over. Maybe other people out there are neater than I, but it’s inevitable that I get some on myself somewhere. Usually several somewheres. Also – fly spray your horse first. The last thing you want when you’re trying to dye a tail is to have them trying to fling it around all over the place.

Before I get started I put a nice generous coating of conditioner (Vaseline or something similar would work too, but I just use some of the conditioner that comes in the dye kit) on the sides of the rump near where the tail sits and above the dock. You don’t want any dye seeping onto the hair on the rump and making dark spots. If your horse has white on it’s hind legs and you don’t trust yourself to be tidy with the dye (I wouldn’t), put a layer of conditioner on those too.


This is what I call The Point of No Return. Once you start putting dye on the tail you can’t let go of it until it’s bagged. So before you start, make sure your hair is tied back out of your face and make sure you have all of your supplies handy. Put on the gloves included with the dye kit, follow the instructions for mixing, and apply the dye to the tail. I typically start at the top and work my way down so that I have more control over the tail as it gets coated (you DO NOT want the horse getting its tail loose from your grasp and whacking you in the face or itself in the body with a tail that is covered in dye!). This is a pretty simple process, just do your best to get full coverage. You can always go back later and touch it up.

When you’re finished applying the dye, it’s time to wrap up the tail. Before you start any of this, make sure your horse is okay with a plastic bag on it’s butt. None of mine have ever minded, but ya know… I’d feel bad if one of y’all died while dying. Take the bottom part of the tail and shove it into the plastic bag, tying a secure double knot at the top around the tail bone.


Some just leave it like this while the dye sets but I like for it to be extra secure, so I also take a roll of vet wrap and wrap over the knotted part of the bag, then all the way up the tail. That helps keep everything in place even if the horse starts swishing.


Let the dye set for however long it says in the instructions. I personally tend to err on the side of too long as opposed to not long enough. Usually that ends up being the perfect amount of time to pull/trim the mane, clip the fetlocks and bridlepath, and give Instagram a quick perusal.

After it has set, take all the wrappings out and rinse the tail until the water runs clear. Some people like to shampoo at this stage – I do not. I usually don’t shampoo for at least a few days after, but I’m not sure that it actually matters, it’s just how I do things. I rinse the tail and apply a good liberal coating of the conditioner that came in the dye kit, using the opportunity to work out all the knots and tangles with my fingers. Then I give it another good rinse, double check for any missed spots, and let it dry. Keep whatever left over dye you have and you can use it over the next couple days if you need to touch up anything… sometimes it’s hard to see missed spots until it’s all dry.

Henry considers sitting in a chair while he dries, and we witness yet another Bobby cameo. Proof that he’s stalking me.

Once it’s dry it’s time to bang. Make sure everything is totally brushed out first, and then figure out how short you want to go. Typically if you have a horse that is built a little downhill (like mine) or tends to travel a bit on the forehand (like mine), you want to keep it a touch longer. A longer tail helps balance out a slightly front-heavy horse… or so they say. I’ll go with it. You also want to consider how high your horse’s natural tail carriage is.

My particular horse is pretty busy with his tail and tends to carry it a little bit “up”, so if I banged his tail at mid-cannon it would look very short when he was in motion. With all of that in mind, I banged his just above the fetlock, so that when he’s in motion it falls about mid-cannon. The finished product looks like this:


As I said in the beginning, this is just my particular process that I’ve developed over the years after a lot of trial and error. Feel free to experiment and use/do whatever works best for you, but hopefully this helps get you started!

Growing Pains

Henry is the one growing, and it’s causing my wallet a lot of pain.

As many of you might recall, Henry lost quite a bit of weight last year at our previous barn, which is what prompted the move to our current place.

so narrow

Since the move he’s really blossomed, putting on a ton of weight and muscle. His girth is 5 holes tighter and he’s rounded out so much that’s he’s starting to look like an applebooty. I’m pretty thrilled, because he looks and feels amazing and at this point I think his condition is perfect. Of course, there are other things impacted by the massive change in condition. It started a couple weeks ago when I went to put on his fancy PS of Sweden breastplate and had to basically crush his windpipe to clip it across his chest. A month prior I had to let it out several holes but this time there were no more holes left. Crap, he’s outgrown his cob. I guess that makes sense, since his chest has pretty much doubled in size from when I bought it. So I ordered a full, pulled out the backup breastplate to use in the mean time, grumbled a little, and got over it.

Backup breastplate and derrrrpppp

Then we had a couple of dressage rides in a row where he really tensed up any time I sat the trot and had some icky canter work. After the second bad ride I tossed my beloved Devoucoux up on him to check the fit and wow… there’s no denying it doesn’t fit at all anymore. The hollows that he used to have on either side of his wither are gone, and he’s significantly flatter from side to side across his back. My jumping saddle, which I was having to pad up six ways to Sunday before, is a pretty perfect fit now. So… at least there’s that. Because CWD = ❤ Unfortunately there is no denying that the Devoucoux is definitely pinching and sitting funny, and I can’t ride him in it anymore. Cue me feeling really really stupid for not thinking to check that before now.

Here we are a month before AEC and I’m basically dressage saddle-less. So now what? I can have the Dev repaneled, but it’s $900 and I don’t particularly trust them to get it done right or in a timely manner. The only viable option for me is to sell it and then try to find something else. That pains me greatly because I love the hell out of that saddle for me, but Henry has filled out in such a way that there’s just no making it work for him. I took pictures of it and officially listed it for sale last weekend. I’m hoping that it sells before AEC and that several vendors show up there with used saddles for me to try. But for now… it looks like we’re doing all our dressage work in my super forward CWD.

which looks like this

Henry is not allowed to change shape ever again after this, and every horse after him must be built the same. Saddle shopping is the worst. I have no idea what I want, no idea what will work for him, no idea what will work for me, and nowhere closeby that has lots of consignment saddles I can happily trial my way through. Ugh.

Weekend recap: Rainbow Terrors and Makeovers

First I need y’all to understand the circumstances that this post is being written under, so that if it doesn’t make any sense I have a built in excuse. Quinn has chosen me as His Human, and as such my life apparently now revolves around him. It’s hard to type around fat corgi feet.

Next guest blogger?

Friday was pretty lovely, mostly because lots of good food was involved. Good food is the gold standard. For dinner we went to a great ramen restaurant, then tried out a vegan ice cream place. I know what you’re thinking “Ew, vegan ice cream. Why would you ruin ice cream that way? That’s just wrong.”. That’s what I was thinking anyway. But I was 100% wrong because that place was awesome. The ice cream was good, period… vegan or not. We got something called the Rainbow Terror – two scoops of ice cream (we opted for chocolate and mint chip) – covered with peanut butter magic shell, sprinkles, toasted marshmallows, gummy worms, crushed oreos, and edible glitter. Yes I said edible glitter. I couldn’t get a picture to quite capture just how sparkly this thing was, but it made my little unicorn heart go pitter patter.

They also had cool stickers.

And a sign that I really wanted to steal for my house.

We will definitely be back for more Rainbow Terror, or perhaps a Glitter Beast next time.

Saturday was designated as spa day for Henry. It’s been a couple months since I did his mane, and I’m just going to braid into regular buttons for Corona next weekend, so it had to lose a few inches.

the Before Dinosaur
After – tamed dinosaur

I also finally did his tail. I’ve been saying all year that if we got to AEC he would’ve officially earned a real eventer tail, so that’s what he got. The top got trimmed up, it got dyed back to a normal color, and I banged a good 6″ off the bottom. It now hits solidly mid-cannon when he’s in motion. Sorry hunter folk, but he’s all kinds of eventer-proper now.

Kinda wish I’d done his tail like this from the get-go, his butt looks so much more shapely.

Sundays have become our long-ride days, so we started out with 20 minutes of trotting in the ring and then headed out down the road for some exploring. I’m trying to get at least an hour in, and it can get a little boring. We cantered up and down a stretch beside the road a few times and then meandered around the backroads. I stumbled across this fantastic little patch of nothingness in between corn fields and it has awesome footing. Given how dry it’s been lately it’s become more and more difficult to find fields that aren’t getting super cracked and dangerous, but this one has survived really well. New trot and canter sets field? Yes please.

It also had a little wash out that made a perfect wannabe “sunken road”… hop down, one stride, hop back up. Henry thought it was great fun and tried to celebrate with a dolphinesque victory gallop. He thought it was less fun when I pointed him at an abandoned twin mattress on the side of the road on the way home, but jump over it he did. Cuz he’s an eventer and all that, and none of my bullshit surprises him anymore.

Tonight we have a dressage lesson and then mostly light work the rest of the week before we leave for Corona on Friday!

Jog Outfits (aka the fun part)

I have to admit, it didn’t really occur to me until I wrote yesterday’s post that doing a three day means that there are jog-ups. And jog-ups mean that there are jog outfits. We’ll ignore the fact that they say casual attire permitted and plan spiffy jog outfits anyway. Because this is my Rolex, and no one can make me jog up in barn attire at my Rolex.

Looking back through other N3DE’s, everyone’s jog-up attire seems to fall somewhere between “this is what I slept in” and “I was outfitted by the british monarchy”. Fist bumps to those who see this occasion the same way I do. If I’m braiding my horse, I’m not walking out looking like a hobo. That’s all I’m saying. Plus pictures. Everyone knows the pictures are the most important part. And everyone also knows that if you look supafly, you look more competent. I would love to fool people into thinking I’m competent, even if only for a few minutes.

Although eventers aren’t really known for being fashion mavens, the jogs always seem to be a whole ‘nother world entirely. Everyone seems to have a style that they prefer, ranging from

sleek and professional

to conservative

to dressy

to BRAVE (all white AND heels!)

to suicidal

to a pop of color

to badass

to a bold print

to avant garde

to looking like you’re definitely sponsored by Dubarry

to channeling Sharon White because you effin LOVE orange

to a human kite

Wait… nix that last one. Don’t do that.

Obviously there is a wide range of styles, from dresses to pants, plain to colorful, boots to heels, bold to conservative. I know what I like, but what’s your preference? This is the fun part.

As for me, rest assured that navy and yellow will be involved. There will be no dresses and no heels. And no, I am not afraid of yellow pants. Or yellow blazers.

jogoutfit1 jogoutfit2




The Long Format? Sign me up.

As I briefly mentioned in my post on Monday, I’ve decided on a new “big” goal for next year. Because it’s fun to set big goals really far in advance. Just like I did last year with AEC. Not nerve-wracking at all. Nope. Not even a little.

I have always been a fan of long format eventing, or as some people now call it, “classic format”. When I was first introduced to eventing in the early 2000’s, things were just starting to change over to the short format. My one trip to Rolex in 2000 was when they still were still running it the “Classic” way, and I still remember it vividly.

For those who don’t remember or don’t follow eventing, the major difference is that the long format has 4 phases to Cross Country day (called Endurance day) instead of just one. Phase A is Roads and Tracks – basically a w/t/c warm-up of a certain length of time/distance. Phase B is steeplechase – galloping at speed over brush fences. Phase C is more roads and tracks – to cool down from Phase B. And then finally Phase D is cross country itself. Phases A, B, and C are concurrent but there’s a 10 minute hold in the vet box – from which your horse must be cleared as being fit to continue – before Phase D.

vet box action

While the long format no longer exists at the upper levels, USEA (good ol’ USEA oh how I love thee) started a program in 2012 called the Classic Series. This series allows show organizers to offer long format 3 day events at the lower levels – from BN through Preliminary. Right now there is only one Prelim level 3 Day (in Kentucky) and one BN level 3 Day (in South Carolina), but Novice and Training level are more popular. Surely you guys can see where this is going?

I sat down and looked at the schedule to see who offers a Novice 3DE, and the closest ones are Arizona (Coconino) and Colorado (Colorado Horse Park). Both courses look very straightforward and do-able. Coconino is a 15 hour drive and Colorado is a 13 hour drive – not much difference. They’re both in the summer, just a few weeks apart. Being that Henry is not a hot weather horse, the determining factor was weather. Coconino is in Flagstaff, which is the high desert, so the average high temp for July is 80 and the average low is 50. The lows are cold enough to where I’d have to bring his sheet! IN JULY! What do I say to that? I say SIGN ME THE HELL UP. (I mean really, look at the videos from Coconino and tell me you don’t want to spend a week in the pine trees)

These Classic Series events are pretty damn cool. They set it up such that it’s more like half clinic/half competition. You have meetings where they teach you how to properly present your horse for the jog-up, what to do in the vet box, and steeplechase practice where they help you learn how to ride at speed over fences. You have in-barn inspections and jog-ups. You have 3 separate distinct days of competition, culminating in a show jumping day run in reverse order of standing. You have a whole ‘nother special dressage test to learn (2012 USEA Novice 3-Day Event Test, I’ve got my eye on you).

And that’s not to mention all the prep. The introduction of 3 more phases on XC day creates a unique challenge in itself. The preparation and fitness required for the N3DE are no where near the 4* level of days past, but it’s certainly more than an average Novice level horse would need. The USEA guidelines for N3DE endurance day look like this:


Phase A: Time: 10-16 minutes
Distance: 2200-3520 meters
Speed: 220 mpm (about a medium trot)

Phase B: Time: 2 or 3 minutes
Distance: 940-1410 meters
Speed: 470 mpm (between T and P XC pace – true gallop but not super forward)
Efforts: 3-6
Brush Height: 3’3”
Solid Height: 2’9”

Phase C: Time: 15-25 minutes
Distance: 2400-5500 meters
Speed: 160 or 220 mpm

Phase D: Distance: 1600-2200 meters
Speed: 400 mpm
Efforts: 16-22

Steeplechase on the racetrack at Coconino

Until I get there I won’t know what the exact distances and times are, so I have to just prepare for the max. Can my horse trot for 16 minutes straight, gallop and jump for 3, trot another 25 minutes straight, take a 10 minute break, run XC, and still feel fresh afterward? Not right now, no. As you can see, that’s more work than a Novice horse would typically be prepared to do in one day (unless you’re one of those people that does seriously long and intense warm-ups), especially a day sandwiched between a dressage test/steeplechase practice day and show jumping day. Conditioning is the name of the game and the name of the game is conditioning. The idea isn’t just to survive – the idea is to finish endurance day with a sound, happy, healthy, energetic horse that will pass the jog-up the next day and be raring to go for stadium. They should be fit enough that endurance day is easy.

Interval work, trot sets, and gallop days have already been a part of our repertoire for a while now. Lately I started adding in long trot days (you don’t realize how many walk breaks you normally take until you set out with the intent of trotting for 20 minutes straight) and longer walk days (seriously, try the snoozefest that is known as walking for an hour) as well… we usually have two “conditioning days” per week. Really we won’t start gearing up for Coconino until late winter, but I like for Henry’s base level of fitness to be higher than what he really needs, and always want him to finish XC looking like he can go around again. I truly believe that a fit horse is a sound horse is a capable horse is a confident horse… tired, fat, unfit horses are more susceptible to injury and error. I think the extra miles and time and work will be good for both of us. There will be schedules to make, legs to ice, hooves to pack, and lots of learning to be done.

So there you go. The goal is officially out there on the interwebs now. We’ve got 11 months to plan and get ourselves qualified (just need 3 more completions at Novice) and then get more fit and ready to go. And you know what else long format means? Super important things like jog outfits.


***NOTE: if you’re interested in supporting the Classic Series and long format eventing, visit this site and consider making a donation. All proceeds go to the organizers of classic format events, to help keep them running!

Dressage – what the hell is happening?

We’ve all seen and heard a lot about rollkur by now, and I think we can all agree that it’s disgusting. Pretty much everyone seems equally horrified and shocked to see it. So the next question is – why is this method of training being rewarded in the show ring?

If you haven’t watched the video of Edward Gal warming up at Aachen, you should. It’s eye opening. Sadly, he sure isn’t alone in his methods.

What’s more eye opening is the excuses that so many people make for this. “Oh, it’s only for a few minutes” or “Oh, it’s just to stretch his muscles”. Bullshit. This is abusive riding and it’s not ok. The way these horses are trained behind the scenes is very evident in how they show once they’re in the ring. They turn into tense leg-flingers with tight backs, necks bent in an unnatural place, poll low, nose behind the vertical, contact tight, mouths clamped tightly shut with borderline air-restricting nosebands. And yet they are rewarded with good scores from the judges. WHY? This isn’t beautiful, and it isn’t what dressage is meant to be.

The FEI Rules describe the object of Dressage to be “the development of the horse into a happy athlete through harmonious education. As a result, it makes the horse calm, supple, loose and flexible, but also confident, attentive and keen, thus achieving perfect understanding with his rider.”. What you see above isn’t harmony, it’s force and dominance. And these are some of the supposed “best” horse and rider pairs in the world, in the eyes of competitive dressage.

There was also uproar last week about the World Young Dressage Horse finals. Something else you must see. The second place horse looked like this:

photo from Horse Magazine
photo from Horse Magazine
photo from Horse Magazine

If that’s what scores well in competitive, top of the line, international dressage, I want none of it. The only word I can come up with is atrocious. I don’t care how much those legs are moving, this is not beautiful. This is not right. Yet the scores were as follows:

9.3 walk, 9.2 trot, 9.2 canter, 8.5 submission, 8.9 general impression. Total 9.02

A 10 is perfection and they think that’s a 9?

As the article states: “If this is dressage, then we must throw the classical principles out the window,” said one enormously successful trainer of young, and Grand Prix, horses… Aside from a clutch of wildly patriotic Scandinavians, I could find no experienced observer who was not outraged.

What is being rewarded here, with judging like this? Are we saying it’s ok to train young horses to be tense, overbent, and man-handled, all for the sake of flashy gaits? Are we condoning the kind of training that breaks down horse’s bodies and minds (enjoy your retirement, Totilas) and creates a false presentation? Dressage should make a horse better. Stronger. More elastic. More relaxed. Since when has it been a contest to see who can get the flashiest leg movement, at any cost?  Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro have been such a breath of fresh air for the sport, incidents like these are a slap in the face to progress.

needs moar Blueberry

This has to change, and if you aren’t outraged you aren’t paying attention. Or you just hate horses. Or you’re completely delusional. Let’s call a spade a spade here – this kind of training is brutality and abuse, plain and simple. We know it’s wrong… the question is: what are we gonna do about it?

Bon Voyage, Mom

I lost my mom yesterday. She’s been ill with cancer for almost 3 years so it was not a surprise but that doesn’t really make it any less difficult. I’ve never really talked about my mom or her health struggles on here, because I didn’t feel like it was my story to tell. But now that she’s gone I feel like it wouldn’t be right to NOT talk about her. She loved this blog, and I think my readers need to know a little bit about the magnificent woman I was lucky enough to call Mom.


My entire life I’ve always been the quintessential Daddy’s girl. As far back as I can remember, I always ran to him for comfort and saw my mother as the “bad guy”. She was the disciplinarian, the one who always said no and didn’t put up with me being a brat. When you’re a kid you don’t really understand those kinds of things, but as an adult I realized that she was just doing her job – molding me into a good person and productive member of society. That realization gives you an entirely different perspective.

We butted heads a lot, especially when I was a teenager, and seemed to always be able to push each others buttons. In retrospect, I think this is because we were a lot more alike than either of us would’ve cared to admit. Both stubborn, both prideful, neither of us lacking conviction. A lot of my other qualities can be credited to her as well… my independence, my love of the written word, my self confidence, my very liberal mindset, and my passion for the arts. Although anyone who has seen me try to sew a button onto a shirt knows that I most assuredly DID NOT inherit her gift for all things crafty. She made the most amazing quilts, she could paint, she could decorate… she could make beautiful things wherever she went with whatever materials you gave her. Her ability to find the beauty in anything was truly a gift. My mother was one of the most creative people I’ve ever known, and she always encouraged that quality in me, even if it meant being “weird”. She loved purple, and her nickname amongst all her quilting buddies was Purple Princess. She was a free thinker in every sense of the word, always with an open mind and big heart.


I think my mom only went to one horse show ever – standing outside in the heat and dirt wasn’t her thing – but she supported me in lots of other ways. She drove me and my friends to the barn after school every single day. She supported me after high school when I decided to delay college to move to the east coast to be a working student. She always bought whatever weird random horse thing was on my Christmas list. She absolutely loved seeing pictures of the horses and hearing updates and seeing ribbons. She was proud of me even when I wasn’t proud of myself. But at the same time, she didn’t just hand me anything… I had to work for it. I might have been the “poor kid” at the barn growing up, but for that I thank her tremendously. I learned what it means to really love something enough to work your ass off for it.

One of the earliest memories I have of my mom is her driving me home from swim practice in our very brown 1980’s era Honda Accord. She’d just gotten the newest B-52’s tape and had the windows cranked all the way down, blaring Love Shack and singing along at the top of her lungs. That was my mom. She did what she pleased and she was who she was, and if you didn’t like it – too bad. She taught me to believe in myself, to speak my mind, and to be my own advocate. She also never once told me that I was incapable of doing something. If I wanted to do it, no matter how far-reaching it sounded, she told me I could. I always felt like my mom believed in me 100% and would support me no matter what, as long as it made me happy. What a tremendous gift that is to a child, to always have that feeling.


I know that my mom went through a lot when she was first diagnosed as terminally ill. It was a shock to all of us. She was a tough lady, bossy as hell, incredibly strong-willed, and I just never imagined she’d be taken down at such a relatively young age by such a nasty disease. The diagnosis was hard on her and she went through a wide range of emotions before settling right where I always knew she would – courage. This is the virtue that I have always considered most important and maybe now I know why… I have always seen it in spades from both of my parents. She faced her illness with honor, with dignity, and with grace. Her strength was always and will always be an inspiration.

It’s easy to get mired down in the sadness. There is a big gaping hole in my heart that no one will ever hope to fill. No one can, and no one should. The hardest thing for me is to think that she won’t be there on the other end of the phone when I have my next inevitable life crisis. She won’t be there at Christmas to wrap nine million tiny presents in 9 million different ways. She won’t be there asking me if I’ve read the latest James Patterson book, or tried the new Mexican restaurant down the street.

But I really can’t be that sad, can I? In a way I don’t feel like I’ve lost anything at all, because so much of her is so deeply rooted in me. How incredibly lucky was I, to be able to call this amazing woman Mom? Lots of other people out there would have traded places with me in a heartbeat, and lots of other people didn’t get as much time with their mothers as I did. So I’ll let myself feel the sadness for a while, but then it’ll be time to crank those windows down and sing along to Love Shack once again.

The word “goodbye” doesn’t seem quite right to end this post… something about it just isn’t HER. Since she loved to travel, instead I’ll say Bon Voyage.


I’m sure many of you will ask if there’s anything you can do – there is. Call your mom today, if you’re lucky enough to still have her. Wear something purple. Roll down your windows and have a good sing along to Love Shack on your way home from work. Be weird, love yourself, and don’t take no for an answer. Be unapologetically YOU. And always, always give ’em hell. That’s how we honor her, and it means a lot more than flowers or condolences ever could.