While Henry has had a couple of chiropractic visits, he’d never had a massage before. Not for any real particular reason… I tried to make him an appointment with someone in the area a couple of times, but both times the scheduling just didn’t work out. Then Patently Bay posted about Eli’s massage from a mutual friend of ours (I didn’t know she had started doing massage!) and boom – within the day I had made an appointment for Henry with Kelly of The 36 Equestrian. Supporting a friend’s business while also benefiting my horse, that’s a win-win.
I wasn’t really sure if Henry would like a massage or not. He generally doesn’t really love being touched or groomed, so I kinda just thought he might stand there and let it happen, but not particularly enjoy it. I was wrong.
He’d had a pretty hard week leading up to his appointment – a fairly intense dressage ride, two jumping days, a hard conditioning day, and XC schooling. As soon as Kelly put her hands on him she said “Ooo, he’s crunchy.”. That’s what you want… a crunchy horse. Poor Henny. He’s working hard these days.
At first he was a little bit unsure of her intentions, but as she starting working on him his head got lower, then his lip drooped, then his eyes closed, then he started drooling. A couple of spots were particularly tight and he yawned repeatedly until she worked them out, then would just lean into her. He was totally blissed out.
She worked on him for what felt like forever, and he seemed to love every minute of it. Totally worth it! I’m surprised but really happy that he liked it so much. We’ll definitely be adding regular massage therapy to our repertoire. And for anyone in our general area – I highly recommend Kelly (you can email her at The36equestrian@yahoo.com)! She did a great job.
On Saturday evening after Jersey Fresh I was chatting with a few different people about the tragic accidents that had occurred that day. Everyone I talked to had opinions, which varied both in intensity and subject matter, but when they asked me for my own thoughts I really struggled to put them into words. It’s easy to know how I FEEL about it; I’m completely devastated and heartbroken for the family and friends of Philippa and for the owners and connections of Ouija. But feelings are one thing and thoughts are another.
My honest answer at the time was a very dejected “I just don’t know”. Two lives were lost on the same cross country course in one day; one equine, one human. That’s as bad as it gets, truly the darkest kind of day for any sport. But at the same time, it’s my sport, the sport I live and eat and breathe. Your knee jerk reaction is to defend it to it’s critics, but this day was pretty indefensible. I spent the whole weekend mulling it over.
I believe that having horses and riders die on course on a regular basis is totally unacceptable. I can’t comfortably stand beside the people saying “at least she died doing what she loved”. While I don’t disagree with the sentiment, to me the words feel a bit empty, a bit naive, and somehow seem to lessen the enormity of exactly what was lost. Don’t get me wrong, if it’s my time, I’d rather go out doing something I love. But that doesn’t mean I want to die at a competition in a rotational fall that could also kill my horse and would undoubtedly leave permanent scars on the psyche of everyone unlucky enough to witness it. On the other hand, I also can’t join in with the people that are lambasting eventing in general, saying that it’s too dangerous and the sport – especially the cross country – needs to end.
I truly love and believe in the sport of eventing. Call me an optimist, but I think there is a middle ground here. There is a way to keep the sport intact and true to its roots, and still make it safer. I don’t know what that is, obviously none of us do yet, but I have 100% faith that it exists. I also have 100% faith that we can find it.
Note that I said “safer” and not “safe”. This sport will never be safe. No horse sport will ever be safe. There is an inherent risk involved any time we choose to be around or throw a leg over the back of a very large animal with a mind of it’s own. There is simply no way to prevent every single accident, and that’s something we just have to recognize. But we certainly can make improvements to minimize the occurrence of them, and the severity of them when they do occur.
I have seen a lot of comments on Facebook and horse forums saying that the “powers that be” in eventing, specifically the USEA, have continually turned a blind eye to the fatalities. Setting aside the fact that JF was an FEI event, I still don’t think that’s a fair statement. Studies, reports, and data-gathering have been happening for years. In most recent memory, USEA has been trying to raise money for a collapsible fence study.
The first question is “Has any of it made any difference”? In some ways no, obviously people and horses are still dying. In some ways yes, we’ve seen frangible pins help prevent countless possibly serious accidents. The next question is “Are we doing enough”? Personally, I don’t think so. But I also recognize the fact that a lot of it comes down to funding, and the fact that studies take time. So do solutions. Changes take even longer.
This is a multi-faceted problem; finding the answer is going to be incredibly difficult and ongoing. In order to fix the problem, first we have to understand what’s happening. No small task when every single fall has a completely different set of circumstances surrounding it and completely different things that possibly could have been done to create a different outcome. I don’t think there is only one answer; I think there are several. We just have to find them and put it all together.
That brings me to the next line of thought: what can I do to help? I’m not a scientist, I’m not an engineer, I’m not an upper-level rider, I’m not a course designer. I personally can’t fix this problem. But I do know one thing: change requires money, and I’m 100% capable of controlling where mine goes. Really want to help the sport of eventing? Let’s support the organizations, the events, the venues, the officials, the course designers, and the course builders that are dedicated to making everything safer for horses and riders. Let’s give constructive feedback to our governing bodies. DONATE TO THE STUDIES. If we really want to save our sport and help make it safer, let’s figure out what we can do to help, educate ourselves, and put our money where our mouths are.
There are a lot of people out there screaming that something has to be done. Unfortunately, that’s all most of them are doing – screaming. If all the people screaming and arguing on social media were willing to donate even just $20 to a safety study, how much better off would we be? How much more could we accomplish?
To those who look at the tragedies of this weekend, or really this whole year so far, and say “never eventing” – I get it. Once the fear of something overcomes your love for it, it’s no longer the right thing for you. This isn’t the right sport for everyone. Horse sports are already risky and this is perhaps the riskiest one. But I still love it, my horse still loves it, and I’m not ready to give up on it. For everyone out there who feels the same way, I ask you – what are we going to do about it?
Some of you may remember my first sneak peek at the new Majyk Equipe boot line from my AETA posts a few months ago. I’ve been a fan of ME since I got my first pair of their XC boots a couple years ago – their stuff is always so well designed and reasonably priced. From the moment I first laid eyes on their new leather boots, I was dying to get my hands on them.
I’ve had lots of open fronts over the years, especially having shown in the jumpers. From Eskadron to Equifit and a lot of things in between, I’ve tried many different styles. What I’ve learned through a lot of trial and error is that the two things I love most are stud closures and removable linings. But the thing I require for the horse’s sake (and why I no longer own most of them) is a lightweight, breathable liner. I really don’t like memory foam or thick neoprene that traps heat against the leg. So when I saw the leather Majyk Equipe’s on display at AETA and got to see and feel the liner, I knew I had to try them.
First of all, the boots are leather. Real, delicious, genuine, fantastic-smelling leather. No ‘pleather’ or ‘leather substitute’ (PVC) with these boots! They’re made from first grade Argentinian leather – the kind used in polo equipment and saddles. It was chosen specifically for it’s deep color and ability to stand up to a lot of wear and tear. The leather is vegetable (not chemical) tanned all the way through – it’s rugged and heavy duty while still looking really classic and elegant.
Aside from the gorgeous leather, the liner in these boots is what really sold them for me. Yes they’re pretty, but they’re also really functional. First, the liner is removable (and they use actual Velcro-brand velcro, the good stuff) so you can easily take them out for cleaning and pop them back in. But the best part is that they’re made from a perforated heavy duty foam, which makes them super lightweight and breathable. The foam is the same family as the material used in their tendon boots, but it has an additional layer of impact protection built in. This helps dissipate the force and concussion should the boot take a hard hit. The foam is also hypo allergenic and has a rebound memory so that it gradually shapes to your horse’s leg over repeated uses. And, unlike memory foam or neoprene, it won’t retain heat and doesn’t provide a viable environment for bacteria to grow.
What makes these boots most attractive, IMO, is the price. While you’re looking at easily $300-400 for a full set of most of the other high end boots, and more like $500-600 for real leather ones, these ring in at only $160 for the fronts and $117 for the backs (or less, if you follow Riding Warehouse on facebook and use their FB10 code for 10% off. *HINT*). So potentially you’re looking at only $250 total for a full set of real leather boots with removable liners. Great design plus great price – the very rare double whammy.
While I love my stud closure version of the boots (because I’m lazy), they also make a really pretty brown version with buckle closures, if you’re more old school. All the same features, just buckles and brown leather instead of studs and black leather. Another really classic looking boot but with all the awesome modern technology.
I’ve been using my boots for a little while now and really love them. They’ve broken in nicely and started molding to Henry’s legs. The elastic is thick and heavy duty, everything is very well-stitched, and they really do seem like they’re built to last. They also stay in place, definitely seem to breathe well, and Henry appears to find them comfortable. It can be a little bit tricky to find open fronts that don’t move around on his front legs because of how crooked-legged he is (if the boot is sitting correctly on his leg it’s not actually pointing straight forward, it looks a little off to the side because of his deviation, so some boots have a tendency to spin on him) but these have stayed in place perfectly. I have no complaints! When they get dirty I wipe them off with a rag, slap on a little Belvoir, and they look new again. They really are super beautiful and “check all my boxes” for what I’m looking for in a set of boots. Definitely two thumbs up… I can’t find anything to NOT like.
Henry had his second Trainer XC ride yesterday and it was, in a word, freakinawesome. There’s video at the bottom, but I pulled screencaps for those who don’t want to dedicate 51 seconds to watching a video.
It rained all night Tuesday at my house, so when I woke up and checked the radar and saw the huge blob of rain headed toward the XC venue, I was sad. But magically, the closer it got, the more it dissipated, and before you knew it everything was clear and good to go. The cross country gods win again. I packed in half a day of work by 10:30 and then headed out, loaded up, and away we went.
It was so hot and humid… like 90 and sticky. I brought some ice water for Henry so that I could sponge him during the ride to help him stay cool, but turns out he handled it pretty well anyway.
The main objective of the day was for Trainer to jump Henry off the Training level Irish Bank, which freaks me out a little. Mostly because it’s giant and Henry still tends to launch off the banks (I’m pretty convinced he’s never going to just drop down them like a normal horse), so I have visions of being left in the ditch on the back side of the bank as he goes gallivanting around the forest without me. She also wanted to jump some of the Training combos, hoping to build his confidence a bit for his move-up.
Turns out, they did both of those things. Henry was a total rockstar! He jumped everything first try and totally gobbled it up. The more he did, the more he strutted. You could practically see his ego inflating as we went along. That’s perfect, exactly what we want!
He definitely did take a flying leap off the Irish bank with a big peek down into the ditch on the way down, and it was not beautiful, but Trainer did a great job of slipping him all the rein he needed, staying balanced over the back, and sticking out the awkward leap. Definitely glad it was her riding him off of that thing for the first time and not me! Really happy that he was so game about it though, there was never any question about whether he was gonna go or not.
He also jumped the Training double up bank to skinny combo, the T water, the T offset feeders, the giant brushy T ramp that gives me slight heart palpitations, PLUS the Prelim coffin and a Prelim box. I was SO happy to see him handle everything so easily! Trainer does such a good job of sitting up, waiting, closing her leg, and letting him figure things out; it’s educational to watch. Someday I’ll get better at that.
He cooled out quickly and was even a little wild when we got home – also good to see that his fitness level still holds up well in the heat.
If anyone needs Henry, he’ll be pimp-walking his way around the barn for the next few days, telling all his friends how great he is. I can’t disagree.
Last Saturday I finally had the magical combination of time, good weather, and an empty ring, so I seized the opportunity to set up some fences and have a little jump school. We hadn’t jumped more than 2 fences since Holly Hill two weeks before and I couldn’t really decide which thing out of my “bag of tricks” to work on, so I ended up setting up a random mish-mash of stuff.
For me – a low wide oxer and a triple bar, to force me to ride all the way to the base but still support with my leg off the ground. For Henry – a big cross rail to help tighten up his sometimes drapey legs and a vertical with placing poles on the approach and landing to get him rocking back on his hind end a bit better. For both of us – a skinny box that was set in a place where we could either ride it as the “in” or “out” of a bending line, or as a very tight rollback from the vertical next to it. Straightness, it matters.
We warmed up, I got Henry out in front of my leg, practiced a lot of adjustability in the canter, and then hopped over a little vertical a few times each way. He was feeling good and happy and attentive, so I went right into our Weirdo Exercise of Random Crap (ha, WERC). I started with the vertical with placing poles, then over to the low wide oxer, the big crossrail, triple bar, and ended with the vertical to skinny box rollback. All no big deal, he gobbled it up happily and landed from the skinny box with a tiny squeal and a few little dolphin-leaps to celebrate his badassery.
At that point I just laughed at him and grinned ear to ear – a grin that stayed in place for the rest of the ride. We hopped through everything a few more times in different configurations, Henry listening and understanding each question as we came upon it, ears up and looking for the next fence. I’m not perfect, he’s not perfect, but we were both having a lot of fun together, and that alone made it the perfect moment. It brings me so much joy to ride a horse like Henry, and it’s so rewarding to have him enjoy his work too. Fun is what it’s all about.
I’ve made a few lists over the past couple years of my own favorite things, but Henry has never made a list of his own. Granted, his very favorite things in the world are eating, sleeping in his own pee, and cross country, so I had to really work at it to find tangible items that made his list. But we finally did it, so here are Henry’s top 5 best things evarrrr.
Henry has his salt down to a science. He likes to eat his dinner, get a drink of water, lick his salt, drink more water, lick his salt some more, and drink more water. He closes his eyes as he methodically and rhythmically licks his salt, to the point where he looks high as a kite. Dude loves the thing, and it seems to encourage him to drink more, so he always has one hanging in his stall.
I love the Prinz brush because it works so well, but Henry actually loves it too. And that’s a pretty high compliment coming from a horse that really doesn’t like to be groomed. This brush is really good at getting the dirt off while also leaving a good shine, so I think of it as kind of a 2-in-1. Anything that is super soft and equals less grooming time gets two ears up from Henny.
Simply put, this horse is a Princess. He also is not shy about his opinions. So if Henny doesn’t like something, you know immediately. Likewise, if Henny does like something, you also know immediately (due to a lack of pinned ears and swishy tail trying to lash your eyeballs out). He’s been super happy in his Ogilvy half pads since day 1, and when I tried to go without it one day as a mini-experiment, he told me that was a no-go. Well, what he really said included a lot of expletives and was quite rude, but let’s just say it equaled “no”.
I’m still not totally convinced that the Back on Track voodoo is real, but I can’t deny the fact that Henry feels really good every time I get on him after he’s worn his mesh sheet. He’s too much of a blanket shredder to wear it unattended, but I’ve put it on him for a couple of hours before dressage at most of our shows this year and he does seem more limber right from the start. Plus he’s never once pinned his ears at it, so there’s that?
As far as treats go, Henry isn’t that picky, but he does seem to really like the Uncle Jimmy’s Squeezy Buns. I think part of it is the excitement and anticipation that comes with the crinkling of the wrapper as I open each one; he’s like a kid on Christmas. Plus they’re nice and soft and apparently really delicious. He also likes the Uncle Jimmy’s Licky Thing, a treat that is reserved for horse shows. Weirdo horse has a crazy strong oral fixation and will stand in his stall just licking the wall or the bars when he’s bored. When I put the Licky Thing in there he’s at least got something to lick besides the wall. The Licky Things also last him a lot longer than a Likit (he gets about 2-3 days out of a Licky Thing vs a matter of hours out of a Likit, so they’re perfect for shows).
And Henry’s slave owner also appreciates that if you’re a fan of Riding Warehouse on facebook, you can always get 10% off your order with the code FB10. Money saved = more Henny treats.
Anyone who has read this blog regularly or looked really closely at our show pictures has probably picked up on the fact that Henry goes au naturale – he gets to keep his ear hair and whiskers.
Basically, Henry keeps his ear hair and whiskers because I can’t think of a single good logical reason to remove it, but I can think of a lot of good logical reasons to keep it.
He keeps his ear hair because he has some aural plaque in one ear, and while he’s not at all ear-shy, he gets VERY fussy about wind/bugs/rain in his ears. The hair gives him some protection from the elements, so I won’t clip it out. Even if he didn’t have the aural plaque he’d still keep his ear hair… over the years I’ve really come to feel like horses genuinely need it, so while I used to clip the ears with some of my past horses, I won’t do it anymore. The hair prevents dirt and insects from getting in, and since Henry spends the majority of his time outside when the weather is good, I don’t think it would be fair to take his ear hair away. Plus Henry’s little squirrel ears really match his personality, I get a kick out of them. I just trim the little dingleberries before we go out in public.
The whiskers, I feel a little bit less strongly about. Henry keeps his because he manages to scrape and bang his face enough as it is, I’m not going to cut his whiskers off and make it even easier. Plus I do believe that there’s something to the fact that the whiskers have so many nerve endings and are actually sensory organs that link to the brain… I think they’re more important than we realize. I wouldn’t clip the whiskers off a cat or dog, so I can’t think of a good reason to clip them off my horse either. I’m not one of those that thinks trimming whiskers is cruel, but it makes me happy to see horses that get to keep them.
In Germany and Switzerland (and I think Belgium and Sweden, at least) it’s illegal to clip the whiskers off, plus I know the Brits discussed a rule change proposal a couple years ago as well. Go to a show in Europe and whiskers are the norm. I figure if they can do it, so can I, and no one has ever commented negatively on Henry’s whiskers. Probably because you really can’t even see them unless you get very close.
What’s your opinion on trimming whiskers and ear hair? Is your horse clean shaven, or au naturale? Why?
Because sometimes you just need a bunch of baby horse pictures to brighten up your life, I’m gonna do everyone a favor and post very few words today. These pictures were all taken at First Flight Farm in Boerne, TX (the farm where Sadie is currently residing for breeding). Happy #foalfriday!
What do you do when it rains 15″ in 3 weeks and turns everything into gross squishy swamp land? You get creative, that’s what. Hence the newest sport taking Texas by storm: Driveway Dressage.
Arena too slippery? Pastures bogged down in mud? Horse hasn’t been turned out in a week and you think you might die? Not a problem. All you need for Driveway Dressage is a death wish and a semi-rideable strip of ground 3-6′ wide. You’ll easily recognize it as literally the only surface your horse can stay upright while trotting on. The shoulder of your local county road or the strip of grass beside the driveway of your barn should work just fine.
Driveway Dressage is super informal. In fact, tacky looking outfits are encouraged. Ideally, nothing should match. Bonus points for big flowy shirts that make you look 20lbs heavier than you actually are and a ponytail flopping out of your helmet (skull caps are all the rage in DD these days).
In Driveway Dressage everything is freestyle. Really you should just make it up as you go along. Planning is strongly discouraged. All you have to do is make sure you include walk, trot, canter, and do something that is a vague attempt at lateral work but not actually a success. Lengthenings are extra credit, especially if they’re not intentional and feature some bucking and squealing. Straightness is strongly discouraged.
Oh, and every time you get to the end of the driveway and have to turn around to make another lap, don’t forget to halt and salute properly – with a fully extended middle finger aimed directly at the nearest puddle.
I keep slacking a bit on the review thing, mostly because I’m lazy and reviews are work. So I decided to group some things together in review posts – tack, clothes, etc – starting today with “show season extras”, because otherwise lets be honest it’ll take me a year to get to everything.
Cambox ISIS helmet camera
This is pretty new to the American market, with Dover being the only US retailer at the moment. They have it listed for $290, but I bought mine from a French website for $270.
The Cambox is, IMO, the absolute best helmet camera on the market. It’s very light weight and unobtrusive, to the point where you don’t even notice it’s there. I also find it much easier to use than my GoPro, too, due to the design. The camera sits under the brim of your helmet and has little LED indicator lights that you can see in your peripheral, letting you know when the camera is on and when it’s filming. No more fumbling around blindly for buttons or trying in vain to hear a faint little beep.
The Cambox comes in a convenient little hard shell carrying case that fits the camera itself, a cleaning cloth for the lens, and the USB cable for charging and file transfer. This also makes it really easy to carry around or toss in my purse without worrying about damaging it.
The video quality is about the same as what I was getting from the GoPro, no noticeable difference to me for better or for worse. The battery life is the only real complaint I have – it’s about 90 minutes MAX. Not a big deal if you’re using it at a show, but something to keep in mind if you want to use it for a long ride or an XC schooling. Also, like the GoPro it is not waterproof, but unlike the GoPro there isn’t a waterproof case available. If it’s a super rainy day, don’t wear it; the footage would be crap anyway. I had a bit of a hard time getting the velcro attachment to stick to the alcantara on the underside of my Samshield brim – I ended up having to use some glue to make it stay. Didn’t bother me because you can’t see it, but I know some people would not be delighted at the idea of gluing velcro to the underside of their brim. I think it would stick best to plastic.
I’ve had to order a couple of accessories to optimize the camera for my skull cap – a second velcro attachment of course, and their brim stabilizer so that it doesn’t flop around on the looser brim of the cover. A little bit more investment ($25) but I really like the fact that I can put the camera on either of my helmets very easily.
Overall – 4 out of 5 stars for the Cambox, really only dinged for the battery life. If you’re a helmet cam lover, you need this.
I-Quip custom gloves
I posted about I-Quip a couple months ago in a Brand Spotlight feature, so I figured I would update y’all now that my gloves have arrived and I’ve been using them. Those with keen eyes might have spotted them in some of my pictures or the helmet cam video from Holly Hill, their first show outing. I’ve been wearing them every day at home too, because I really want to test their claim for exceptional durability and because I just really like wearing them.
The first impression right out of the box is that these gloves are super high quality and exquisitely made. I examined every stitch, inside and out, and couldn’t find a flaw. They’re butter soft while also feeling rugged. On the first ride they felt a little tight, but by the next time I put them on they had already molded to the shape of my hands and now they fit, well, like a glove.
In the past I’ve tended to stay away from leather gloves because of how they felt stiff and crunchy when they dried, and a lot of them leeched dye and stained my hands. I hate both of those things. But despite getting these things absolutely soaked through with sweat on many occasions, they’ve always dried just as soft as they were before and never left a hint of color on my hands. They are also showing absolutely zero wear so far. None. Zip. Nada. I have high hopes that these gloves are everything they claim to be, in addition to being beautiful and super grippy.
I know that the price is a deterrent to most people on these gloves. Their stock model, the black Signature, starts around $70, and the custom Luxury Eventer like I purchased runs more toward $150. Expensive? Yes. But a) they’re totally custom, color-wise and fit-wise b) even if I only get 3 years out of them, that’s how much I would have spent on Roeckl’s in the interim anyway. They make me happy both to look at and to wear, so to me they’re worth it. Treat yo’self.
Overall – 4.5 out of 5, only because the price point means I can’t justify 10 pairs.
Deco Pony custom stall guard
Deco Pony is a small company that makes custom printed vinyl stall guards and halter guards (as well as some other accessories like bags and shirts). I’ve seen their stuff popping up at events all over the place, especially the stall guards, so at Christmas Bobby and I went in together to get a custom one for our coach.
I liked hers so much that I went back and ordered one for myself a few weeks later. I needed a stall guard anyway, and most of them are in the $40 range, so why not spend $10 more and get something custom?
Since I was the one that set up our original design in the first place, I got to work one on one with Deco Pony owner Jenn to get everything just right. She made a few mock-up designs for me using the barn logo and I picked the one I liked most. She was very easy to work with and did a great job with the design, and there is no minimum order. Once your original design is set up its easy to just go in and order more of the same design, which makes it awesome for barns – everyone can order and pay for their own, rather than having to do one big giant order and pool money.
The stall guard arrived within just a couple weeks and I was really happy with the quality. The vinyl is thick and very well constructed. I keep mine rolled up and stored in my trailer in between shows, and just hose it off whenever it’s dirty. Henry has chewed on it, licked it, and even stepped on it, and it’s survived all of that with no damage. Plus I love the united, matching look of the stall guards together at horse shows.
Overall – 5 out of 5. Great value, durable, practical, and an easy company to work with!
Other items on the docket for review soon:
Majyk Equipe leather stadium boots (next week!)
Back on Track saddle pad, quick wraps, and mesh sheet
Ice Horse tendon boots
Camelot anatomic girth
PS of Sweden 3 point breastplate
Sporthorse Lifestyle Hudson shirt
Style Stock stock tie
Winston show shirt (gonna roll into review of Winston coat)