Embrace the Blur

I’ve talked before about how I am the only eventer at my barn, and how, for the most part, it’s actually kind of nice. I’m really one of just a few people there that even rides more than a couple days a week, and definitely the only one dumb enough to show up on rainy days or days with temps below 50. Apparently normal people find those conditions to be undesirable.

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Granted, if I was just riding for fun, I probably wouldn’t show up on those days either.

Nah, j/k, I totally would, I’m a glutton for punishment.

different from being a glutton for cookies, although I am also a glutton for cookies

There are a lot of perks to being solitary. I have basically taken over an entire corner of the tack room. I pretty much always have the crossties to myself. I almost never share riding space with another person. I can bring the corgi sometimes and not have to worry about his goofy ass getting in anyone’s way.


The barn owner also lets me put jumps wherever I want, and once I set them, nobody else ever touches them. You know how annoying it is when you spend forever setting a good course, only to come back the next day to find everything taken down to crossrails and all the filler removed? Clearly I don’t have baggage about that kind of stuff at all. (seriously though, I will break your damn fingers)

Of course, the down side to having everything to myself is that I have to drag those damn things around and set them completely… by myself.

not gonna lie, I reset my course like 3 times a year basically

It also means that there is never anyone around when I jump. Not my favorite thing, but I let the barn workers know when I’m headed out to the jump field and tell them that if I’m not back in 45 minutes, please come get my body with the golf cart. I also always keep my phone with me, either on a standard or in my pocket if I can fit it. Not an ideal situation but it’s reality.

This also means that I basically NEVER have media of myself riding at home, unless I prop my phone up somewhere to video and then try to get screenshots later. A media-less blogger is a tough thing to be. Who even reads posts with no pics? No one. Did it happen if there’s no proof? Definitely not. #bloggerproblems

FYI when you’re bored of all the pole exercises you set, this totally functions as a skinny 

So there I was this weekend, alone, ready to jump school. I was tired of my course (I’m past due for a re-design) but too lazy to move everything around right then and there. What to do in that scenario? I dunno, I figured I’d just jack a couple of them up a few holes. Of course, I have to get off to raise the fences, so I went with the lazy man’s method of setting a 3′ warmup fence, a 3’6″ oxer, a 3’9″ gate, and a 4’3″ vertical. Options, people. Options that don’t require getting off and back on the horse several times.

this is some amazing photography, I know

Then I was like well, if we actually make it over that 4’3″ jump without dying, I’m gonna want proof, so I better go prop my phone up on the barrel (the one that acts as a standard for another fence, bc my life is honestly just kind of ghetto) and see if I can get it. Of course that barrel is kinda far away but it was the only propable surface within video distance, since my jumps are in the middle of a giant field.

And well… that isn’t exactly conducive to excellent quality media. You can tell the blur is a horse and you can tell that the blur is jumping over another blur, but that’s about it. Still though, it’s the biggest I’ve jumped this horse and I’m claiming that it totally counts as photographic evidence.


These are the times when I honestly wish I had someone around to video. Or set jumps. Or any of those things that you totally take for granted when you aren’t solitary.

I say that, but I should actually qualify that statement to be more specific, because the SO came out to the barn with me the next day (for the first time in like a year) and the only video he got is a few seconds of some monstrosity that he shot through literally the worst filter ever created by mankind.

That. Is. Terrible.

It is also still blurry.

It is also set to some kind of weird techno beat.

I should probably look more closely at something like a Pixio or a Soloshot (do those even work in big open spaces?), but I think I’m probably way too cheap for that kind of thing. Not sure that I can justify hundreds upon hundreds of dollars, even if it would be a great learning tool, unless someone wants to give me a bag of money.

Until then… just embrace the blur?

Riddle Me This: DQ version

While I was getting all caught up on the Shelley Browning controversy over the weekend, I totally got sucked into the live feed from Del Mar. I am not a DQ, I don’t go to dressage shows, I don’t often watch much of it (love y’all but I’m an eventer, you cannot thrill me), and I definitely don’t know what’s “fashionable” in that world. Every discipline has it’s things, and I’m pretty familiar with the h/j world, very familiar with the eventing world, but admittedly 100% out of touch with DQ’s. Except for the stuff I see on Instagram and now what I saw during the less than an hour that I spent watching the Del Mar live feed. But that little bit of exposure has left me with some questions.

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First off: patent. Explain. Surely that stuff gets scratched easily, right? Yet there’s patent on bridles, patent on boots, patent on saddles… I know I’ve even seen it on horse boots and saddle pads before too. Does it just stay shiny forever? Do you have to care for it with kid gloves? What does it look like as it ages? BURNING QUESTIONS. Prior to this trend I thought patent was always something that looked super cheap, like a pair of platform Sketchers from 1998. Is it the shininess factor that we’re going for here or am I missing something important? I need to know these things.

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Kind of related to patent but not necessarily – those stiff, fat-ankle tall boots that makes it look like everybody’s got cankles. Can you walk in those? Does it feel like your leg is in a cast? Why the cankle look, don’t we spend the rest of our lives trying to prove to the world that we don’t have cankles (ie skinny jeans)? H/J people go the extreme opposite direction and cover their lower legs with the tightest-fitting, thinnest calfskin possible, so everyone knows exactly how skinny their legs are. I personally lean that direction too, because my legs are thick enough without putting a big ol’ cankle boot at the bottom. Are dressage boots less fitted for a reason? Explain.

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Fly Hat Capulet Green

According to Instagram, matchy sets are The Thing. Especially Le Mieux and PS of Sweden. The bonnet, the saddle pad, the polos… all the cool kids (I think?) are doing it. Usually with exercise bandages underneath and some skeepskin lined bell boots. I can barely manage the one schooling pad and one half pad per saddle situation that I’ve got going on, and they’re all white. Same with my one set of polos – white. Because white goes with everything and I don’t have to worry about it matching. I can match for shows, but that’s about the extent of my devotion. These are all schooling outfits that y’all are doing though. By my count there are well over a dozen different color sets just from Le Mieux alone, so do you just pick one and stick with it or do you have multiple color coordinated outfits? Where do you store all this stuff? Do you have to always plan your own outfit so that it doesn’t clash with the horse’s? What happens if you mis-match things, are you automatically DQ-d from DQ-land? Y’all realize that extreme matchiness is tip-toeing dangerously close to eventer territory right? Just checking.

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Ok, dressage folk, educate me! Tell me the reasons behind your ways. What’s cool, what’s trendy? Clearly I will never be, but I still want to know.

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My favorite page on any website

Surely I’m not the only person that loves perusing the “New Items” page on tack shop websites? I love seeing new season stuff, or new brands that a store is carrying. Some websites don’t have that page, of course, and others don’t update it very often. But Riding Warehouse… I’m there at least a couple times a month to see what’s new. And this month in particular, they have really delivered. I totally got sucked in over the weekend.

First and foremost, I don’t even like purple nearly as much as most of you people, but did y’all know that Kerrit’s has a new PURPLE show coat? And it’s only $130? Ok eventers, I expect to start seeing these pop up all over the place (Michele, I’m looking at you). I know y’all are into that, I see your cross country colors. A purple coat would be kind of badass. DO IT.

RW has greatly stepped up their stirrup iron game in the past few months too, now carrying everything from the Acavello Opera, the MDC line, a very Jin-looking Kavalkade iron, and a full range of Tech Stirrups. The ones above are the Tech Stirrups magnetic safety irons, which have a release mechanism at the top in case you ever get hung up.

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They’ve also got the Tech Stirrups 3-in-1 exchangeable spurs, where you can just change the tips as needed instead of swapping spurs. These are as close to “techie” as spurs can possibly get, and y’all know I love all things techie.

Mere weeks after I bought that cute Kavalkade bridle from Europe for Presto, guess what popped up on RW?

Clearly great minds think alike. High five to whoever it was in purchasing that decided to pick up Kavalkade, especially this Ivy bridle. I really like the styling of it, it’s different without being too “out there”, and super affordable at only $113 (hence perfect to be Presto’s first bridle). Totally would have bought it from them if I’d known it was coming. They have other bridles from the Kavalkade line too, including a patent dressage bridle, if you’re into that kind of thing. Which… we need to talk about that, dressage people, but that’s a subject for another day.

Also worth pointing out that the Kavalkade mesh bonnets are only $23. Just saying.

I’ve also got this kind of weird fascination with the TSF Stretchtec girths. I’d love to try one with my monoflap jump saddle, I just balk at the price. I really like the idea behind it though, so I remain intrigued.

There have been a lot of cool brands popping up on their website in general… Arctic Horse, Grand Prix, GPA, Kask, Pikeur. Makes it pretty fun to wander through and click on that New Items page every once in a while.

I find myself doing the same thing on the Divoza site (because they always have the weirdest european stuff and I love looking at it) and Luxe EQ (because they always have the PRETTIEST stuff) too.

Like the new Ego7 breeches. I must check these out. I love my Ego7 boots, so the brand has definitely piqued my interest.

The belt selection is so dangerous though. Especially when they’re Duftler spur belts and come in navy stingray.

There’s also non-riding related stuff like cute pillows with very true sayings

and cashmere. Delicious delicious cashmere.

I’ll be working in the Luxe Eq mobile later this week so I hope y’all are ready to see all the new pretty things that I find while I’m there. New pretty things are my favorite. Just not my wallet’s.



Friday Odds and Ends

I’ve got a serious case of the randoms today, but I have a bunch of little things that I’ve been waiting to mention that don’t really warrant a whole post on their own. Pardon this weirdness that you’re about to experience.

First, hinging off of yesterday’s post, I had a few people message me and ask for suggestions on what kind of breeches to try in place of Tailored Sportsman. It’s been a while since I’ve worn any TS, so I’m not a huge help here. I know some friends that have switched to Pikeur Ciara’s, RJ Classics Gulf, or Equiline, but that’s about it. I figured it was better to pose this question to everyone and see what kind of suggestions you have. So, TS-wearers, what other brands of breeches are you finding that are similar?

Second, I totally forgot to announce the winner of my little contest a few weeks ago. Whoops. Congrats to Rhiannon, she won the Presto calendar, ombre lead rope, and Riding Warehouse gift card. Watch this space, because sometime in February I’ll be launching the annual Guess the Foal contest and I’m currently working on putting together the prize package (which should be pretty awesome)! We’re less than two months away from the first foal. OMG.

Speaking of foals, it’s possible that I’m ordering a bonnet for Presto. No it won’t fit him for a while, but when I saw that If the Bonnet Fits can now do logo patches, I might have had a bout of temporary insanity. She’s managed to make a patch out of the Willow Tree logo, so clearly Presto NEEDS a bonnet to rep his birthplace. Henry might wear it a little bit until Presto grows into it. Yes I have a bonnet problem. But… logo patch?

Last week while I was scrolling through my blog reader feed, I came across a post about a recipe for easy horse treats. It seemed super simple, and I had to go to the grocery store anyway, so I grabbed the ingredients I needed ($5 investment) and went to town on Sunday afternoon. I did modify the recipe a bit, first by doubling it, but I also decided to use a little bit less applesauce and a little bit more molasses. It seems like the recipe is pretty hard to mess up, and easy to add or take away and still end up with something a horse would happily eat. I thought the cookies were still quite soft after the 15 minute baking time so I let them go for another 10 minutes. Like I said, it’s pretty foolproof. Doubling the recipe made 63 cookies and Henry absolutely loves them. Will definitely do this again… for $5 worth of ingredients and 30 minutes of work, it was worth it. We go through a lot of treats.

Last but not least, Ovation is giving away one of their new Comfortflex body protectors! It’s very easy to enter, just go here and put in your name and email address.  They are pretty much always running a giveaway on something, so I definitely suggest following them on facebook if you aren’t already. Everybody likes free stuff.

Speaking with your Wallet

Me on social media this week, watching the whole Tailored Sportsman Debacle unravel:

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Mostly because a few years ago I had the fortune (misfortune?) of seeing this kind of behavior from them up close and in person. Before that day I had always liked supporting the company, since they’re made in the US, but what I witnessed caused them to lose my business forever. Haven’t bought a single thing from their brand since. Granted, they’re the most popular h/j breech brand on the market, so I don’t think they’re hurting from losing my business in particular. Might be a little different now that a lot of other people are feeling the same way. I have to admit, I was a little bit delighted to see their craziness broadcast loud and clear all over the internet for everyone to see.

As consumers, we do at least have the power to vote with our feet, speak with our wallets, and take our business elsewhere. These days there’s plenty of competition across just about any market, so it’s rare that you have to settle for buying products from a brand you’ve had a bad experience with.

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so many of my favorite companies represented in one picture

Of course, having a bad experience with a company doesn’t always mean that someone else has or will experience the same. Sometimes mistakes just happen. Being a blogger, my opinions and preferences are readily known, and I’ve had people message or email me about a bad experience they’ve had with companies that I like. I appreciate knowing, but at the same time it doesn’t really lessen the fact that my personal experience was positive, nor can I do anything about your issue, nor am I privy to the details of what actually happened (let’s be honest, there are often two sides to everything). The opposite is also true: there are a few companies I’ve had terrible experiences with that most other people love. Tis what it tis. Luckily for all of us, there are plenty of other choices out there that we are free to utilize.

I will admit that I am fairly forgiving, as a customer. I know that mistakes can happen, so what really makes or breaks the situation for me is how the company handles it. I also try to be realistic… if I wash something incorrectly, or if I don’t communicate effectively/timely, or if my horse did something stupid and broke something because that’s what horses do, I don’t feel like it’s someone else’s fault or like someone owes me something. Some of the complaints you see from people can border on downright ludicrous. I’ve worked in enough retail situations to know that some people are just impossible to please, or out to get something for free. The customer definitely is not always right, but in this day and age companies almost have to go along with that line of thinking.

definitely always looking to get something for free

On the flip side of the coin, when you spend a lot of money on something there is an expectation of quality, and it’s nice to see a company that stands behind it’s products. This situation can be such a fine line though, and a slippery slope. Having been both a consumer and a retail associate, I can see a lot of situations both ways. Hence why I don’t want to get involved in other people’s transactions.

What’s a lot more black and white is customer service. Rudeness is never okay – from EITHER side. I strive to always be polite when things go wrong, and I expect the same in return. Any hint of rudeness and I’m out. I also expect a company to fix their mistakes immediately, if and when they happen. The same is expected of me at work, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect it from others.

service with a smile?

For as long as I’ve been involved in the horse world, only a few companies have made it onto my “never buy from” list. For the most part I think this industry does a really good job of trying to make sure that they have satisfied customers, and I’ve enjoyed really great relationships with many different companies. That’s what makes it so easy to speak with my wallet in regard to companies like TS… there are plenty more out there with similar products and no attitude.

What kind of expectations do you have when it comes to customer service, or basic interactions with equestrian companies? What type of behavior will automatically lose your business? And, maybe more interestingly… are you a good customer?

Learning How to Winter (aka there was a sale)

If there’s one thing Texans are really bad at, it’s winter. That’s because generally we have a couple of truly cold days a year (as in high’s near or slightly below freezing), during which everyone stays inside and complains, and then it’s over. None of us know how to dress for it either… why would you, when it’s so rare and fleeting? This winter has been super weird, with a lot of really cold days – weeks, even. When it stretches on for that long, you have to just buck up and go about your business, and that includes riding. Boy did I NOT have winter-appropriate riding clothes, though. Again, see above about things you typically don’t require when you live in an oven Texas (seriously trying to move away from this place, someone hire me).

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I heard about the netequestrian.com liquidation sale at just the right/wrong time. Right time, if you’re me, and were freezing TO DEATH. Wrong time if you’re my bank account. Granted, there’s never really a good time to be my bank account. But when things are 75% off does it even count as a purchase? I vote no.

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What I learned on those particularly cold and windy days is that the vents on my schooling helmet, a GPA Speed Air, work really well. That’s the reason I bought it. Because see above about how Texas = oven. The downside of those giant vents is that when it’s 25 degrees with a howling wind, your scalp feels every bit of it. I could have just bought one of those helmet cover thingies, but I also wanted a helmet that was more suitable for foxhunting anyway. So when netequestrian had their Charles Owen JR8’s for $43 (normally $170) and there was one left in my size, it went in the cart.

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I mean, $43…

I wasn’t prepared to like it that much, but it actually fits me well and is comfortable. I definitely prefer it in 50’s or below weather, because otherwise I have a sweat-uation, but it’s way warmer on those cold days. $43 well spent, because I cannot afford to freeze any more of my brain cells. The only thing I don’t like is the super cheesy strappy nylon harness. I might bust it out for some schooling shows though, where I’m not as committed to my navy and yellow scheme.

Henry is super thrilled

The other thing I grabbed in that sale was a pair of winter breeches. I love my Aqua X breeches, they are great for 9 months of the year, but holy god I was quite literally freezing my ass off. It’s the wind here that makes it feel so awful, so I opted for a pair of black Irideon Wind Pro breeches. Normally $108, into the cart for $26. I was a little skeptical when they got here, because a) they’re tights, b) they look a little cheap, but those things are WARM and super comfy.

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The fleecy lining is nice and they really do a good job of stopping the wind. Again, if it’s 50 or below I’m much happier in these than regular breeches. Granted, they’re thick in the leg so I can’t fit my Ego7 boots over them, I have to bust out the show Tucci’s. #horsepeopleproblems

Those two things alone made a huge difference in my comfort while riding during the coldest (for Texas) weather. I’ve always been able to layer, because I may or may not own like 7 vests omg I LOVE VESTS, but I didn’t have the stuff I needed for actual cold weather. If it ever got below mid-20’s I would need additional pieces, but for this weird super-cold-for-Texas-but-not-that-cold-for-everyone-else winter, keeping my ass and my head warm made all the difference in the world.

Completely unrelated to that sale, I did allow myself one little splurge item from my bonus check. And it was 100% driven by how friggin lazy I am.

I’ve been eyeballing this Valentine Equine shirt since they first rolled it out. I hate stock ties. I hate keeping up with them, I hate tying them, and honestly I don’t even like how they look. Who wants a friggin poof on their chest? But sometimes I do actually HAVE to wear one, so why not have one that’s already built in to the shirt? It is sheer laziness but it is sheer genius at the same time. The only thing I didn’t like was the short sleeves (I spent too long in hunterland to not have some cuff at the bottom of my jacket sleeve) so I asked about getting a long sleeve version and VE said it was no problem. All of their shirts are made to order by their tailor, so getting custom tweaks like sizing or sleeves aren’t a big deal, and they didn’t charge me any extra for it. I also really like the fact that the shirt is made from recycled materials. Eco-friendly clothing, FTW. Can’t wait to get it so I can try it out and review it!

Here’s to never tying a g-d stock tie ever again, and having a warm ass.

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A Tweedle Dee without his Tweedle Dum

Yep, it happened. Liam left for his new home.

Just a lonely fuzzy Dee, sans Dum

In some ways it’s the end of an era. These two have been BFF’s since birth and spent their first 10 months pretty much side by side. They were the best of friends (and occasionally the worst of enemies) who played together, slept side by side, and had a lot of adventures.

Wait, maybe Presto was the Dum?
you really need to see that floppy lip up close

But at the same time, this is how life goes. At some point they have to part ways and move along to the futures that are waiting for them. Liam now belongs to a Grand Prix showjumper, the same guy who owned and rode his dam. His situation couldn’t be any more perfect for him. He gets to live in a nice pasture and make new friends for the next few years before his real life begins.


Presto was pretty beside himself when Liam walked out of their paddock and into the trailer. It was kinda like Weaning: Part 2. But he did settle down, and it’s had a little bit of an impact on how he views himself. He’s always been a cocky little turd, very sure of himself and his superiority. I call him “street”. But without Liam he’s not quite so sure anymore, and it took his swagger down a notch (now it just needs to go down like 25 more notches).

trying to decide if he’s desperate enough to be nice to Murphy

Yesterday Murphy (the QH baby) was weaned, and he got put in with Presto. Right now Murphy is a little upset, and Presto is actually being really nice and helpful to him. We’ll see if that continues once Murphy settles down a bit. Murphy is not nearly as placid and submissive as Liam, so once things go back to normal Presto might be in for a continuation of his reality check about just how much of a top dog he is.

My barn owner did offer me a “second horse” deal on board, so as soon as Presto is gelded and deemed ready to go, I think I’ll probably just move him there. My only real reservations are a) it’s not the big pasture I was wanting, b) I don’t love the fencing. He’d be in one of the shedrow stalls with a run, and turned out probably in one of the paddocks near Henry. There are a lot of positives to having him there, mainly that I can see him every day and work with him a lot. It would be great to be able to pony him off of Henry, trailer him places, etc. I’d just be giving up the benefits of kicking young horses out in big pastures to grow up, which is my preference. That’s just proving quite impossible to attain here, at least in my budget.


Also, can we talk about how hairy this little horse is? I love that he got his momma’s floppy, sideways pointing ears and soft sleepy eyes, but he also inherited her ability to grow excessively ridiculous amounts of hair. I think there’s a horse somewhere underneath that shag carpet?


In Which No One Died

Henry and I took a step out of our comfort zone this past weekend! Okay it wasn’t really that far out of the comfort zone, maybe just like a foot or an arm or something. We tried something new though… on Saturday we had our first go at a Prelim combined test.

the sticks are growing

Granted, I don’t think it totally counts since a couple jumps were under height and there were 7 fences with no combinations. That’s like… partial credit? But it was our first time trying to ride a Prelim dressage test, for sure. Which, since I didn’t decide to enter until the last minute and then I wavered on what to enter until Trainer put in her vote for Prelim CT, I did not actually learn or ride through the test until the day before. And by “ride through” I mean guessing at geometry and arena size in my big giant hay field.

I am bad at this.

he agrees

I love this little venue because it’s SUPER relaxed, but the warmup is not the greatest. It’s small and on a hillside and the footing is iffy. They do have a covered arena on the other end of the property, which I tried to utilize, but Henry’s brain absolutely fell out along the way when we had to pass within close proximity of a cow in a neighboring field and then he just COULD NOT after that. Back to the tiny hillside we went, where I spent the next 10 minutes trying to stuff his brain back in, but the tension stayed. You never know when that cow might try to sneak up on him again. Sneaky devils cannot be trusted.


I opted to ride the first part of the test, with all the 10m circles and turns and halt in the middle, in a pretty collected sitting trot. I wanted to try to keep him “with me” mentally, so we sacrificed the true working gait there. Sometimes when he’s tense he gets his feet moving so fast that his brain can’t keep up, and then he’s just a hot mess express that comes totally off the rails. Slower is better for thinking, and keeping him thinking in the sandbox has always been a problem. We did the circles and the turn and the halt just fine though, so I was okay with taking the dinged marks for a too-small trot for those movements. The leg yields were ok, not as good as we’re capable of. Stretchy trot fine, walk work fine, lengthening too conservative but again I was trying to keep him with me more than go for scores, since he was still a ball of tension.

wee baby lengthening

For once in his life he DID NOT try to jig in the return to medium walk so I’ll take that. The trot to canter transitions and turns up centerline were our best scores, which I found hysterical. His medium canter was legit nonexistent but I was not going to push the issue and risk unleashing the dragon at that point. The 10m half circles in the canter rode a lot better than I thought they might, although my biggest issue with these is that he REALLY thinks we should be doing a flying change when we get back to the rail. It takes a lot of convincing to keep him from swapping. I did manage to keep him in the correct lead for both of them, but it was a bit… bouncy.


Also I uh… halted way too early at the end. I didn’t think his whoa was gonna work that well after the canter so I asked early and was shocked when he immediately came to a halt. Like… way before G. Whoops. The judge did not like that one bit. Guess I should have had more faith in all the work we’ve been doing with the halts.

I mean, give him an A for effort?

Overall it was an underwhelming (and tense) but steady and obedient test. He did what I asked, when I asked, and he kept his brain together, it was just all mediocre. I was totally fine with that. The judge gave us a 39… she has never given us better than a 36, so I am not surprised. She’s always on the higher side of even my recognized show scores.

For a first attempt at a harder test, though, I wasn’t at all unhappy with him. Next time I think I can ride it a little more boldly, and I know what to go home and try to improve. There were a lot of places where I knowingly sacrificed points and I think it would be easy to get them back. Also will try to avoid close encounters with cows during warmup, because Jesus H Henny.

After dressage I jumped off, switched my tack, and walked over to the arena to look at the stadium course. It was short and very basic, and the one bending line walked at kind of a 3/4 distance. As I was putting my bridle on I realized that I had forgotten to switch from his “home” bit, a copper french link loose ring, to his “show” bit, a full cheek Dr. Bristol. I didn’t really think it would matter for stadium, though. Ha. Hahahaha.

in the warmup

I got on, cantered a few laps of the hillside field, jumped the lone warmup fence a couple of times, and then went up to the ring. As soon as I picked up the canter and came around the turn to fence 1, I instantly regretted not having that Dr Bristol. I went to rebalance and he said LOL U IZ HILARIOUS BYEEE. Heavy in my hand + running past the distance = rail at fence 1. Are you joking right now, Henry? The whole course was a bit of a power struggle, basically. I was able to get him rocked back for most of the fences, but both of the ones where he blew me off and got heavy in front, we ticked the rail with a front foot.


I asked if we could stay in and do an additional round for schooling, which they happily let us do, and by the 2nd trip he had lost enough of his cockiness to where he decided maybe he should listen when I half halt. That round we were clear, and he was actually getting to the base nicely and really powering off the ground. He felt great. Of course… the 2nd round… the one that doesn’t count. Note to self: always bring Dr Bristol and avoid that whole power struggle in the beginning. Clearly these fences are not big enough to back him off at all.

You could sell ad space on those butts
definitely jumping better the second round, though

So it wasn’t a perfect outing, but it was a good first run at testing the waters with some bigger/harder stuff. There were no disasters, and I learned a lot about what we can do better for next time.

eating hay, go ‘way

And after all, that’s the point of schooling shows. The best part is, NO ONE DIED! For a first “move up” type of experience, I’ll take that as success.

The Dressage Rabbit Hole

Serious question though – why do eventers say it like DRESS-ahge but dressage people say it like dressAAAAhhgge? Things that keep me up at night…

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But for real though, Henry and I have been back in a regular dressage lesson schedule for 4 months now. Yeah ok, we only do a lesson every other week, so that’s only 8 lessons, but there has been a lot of progress in that time. Granted, I never have media of it because Dressage Trainer is also holding his microphone and trying to coach me at the same time. And as of late he’s been layered under blankets because Texas has decided it’s a winter state now. Seems cruel to ask him to video. Someday I will wrangle someone into taking a few clips, but that day has not come yet.

reaaaally good at getting pics of him standing in the parking lot, though

In October we started working more on haunches-in, which built up into renvers and half pass. We go home and work on the same exercises and combination of exercises that we do in lessons, and Henry has very quickly gotten quite good at some of this more complicated lateral work. Especially half pass.

everybody’s favorite shareable diagram, or as I like to call it, Dressage for Dummies (aka me)

For some reason he’s a bit of a savant about this particular movement. It’s gotten easier and easier, and better and better, on a very steadily upward trajectory that is uncommon for horses in general and this horse in particular. The half pass work at both the trot and canter on Wednesday got several “excellent”s from Dressage Trainer. We don’t generally get that word very much. Along with this little breakthrough, Henry’s started to get stronger in general and offer more “sit” in his canter. The connection issues that we used to have are pretty much gone and I can actually ride him UP into my hand most of the time.

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Well, unless he’s tense, which definitely still happens sometimes. Once he’s tense he just locks up his back and pretty much everything goes out the window in a heartbeat. I’m not sure that’ll ever change about him, to be honest. Which is why horse shows are always a mixed bag. The work at home though, it’s gotten so much better… it’s like the more complicated we make it, the better he does.

The strangest thing that has come out of this little re-dedication to the dressage work is that we’re finally to the point where I’m starting to… dare I say… enjoy it.

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Now that Henry has more buttons to play with, so to speak, our rides are a lot more complex, which makes them more fun to me. Too bad they won’t be putting half pass into these eventing Training level dressage tests anytime soon, that would really help me out. It has made me want to branch out a little and experiment with some more complicated tests, though, even if it’s just at home. The challenge is stimulating to me in a way that dressage hasn’t ever been before. Up to this point it’s kinda just been one big aggravating snoozefest. No offense.

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I still can’t imagine doing only dressage, the jumping part is too fun, but I’m starting to get a little more into it now. Lessons are something I look forward to instead of something that feels like an obligation. I kinda feel like Alice, falling down the rabbit hole of dressage.

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We’re signed up to try Prelim A at a small schooling show this weekend, mostly just for funsies. I haven’t actually ridden the whole test all the way through yet, and I won’t get a chance to try it in an arena before we get there so it might be shit, but that’s ok. We’re just playing around really, and taking the opportunity to get in the sandbox.

Now if only we could start getting some of this “at home” Henry to show up in the ring, we’d actually be cooking.

Riding with Compartment Syndrome

Fire. That’s what chronic exertional compartment syndrome feels like. The fire eventually leads to strange kind of numbness where you can’t decide if your legs are actually about to fall off or if you just really want them to.

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fairly accurate

CECS, in a nutshell, as defined by the Mayo Clinic:

When you exercise, increased blood flow to working muscles expands them. If the connective tissue (fascia) that binds the muscle fibers in a compartment doesn’t also expand, pressure builds up in the compartment. Over time, the pressure cuts off some of the muscle’s blood supply.

So basically, the fascia ends up strangling the muscle itself. Hence a lot of burning, which eventually leads to numbness when the blood supply has finally been cut off completely. Sometimes you also get cramps and your legs can swell up. All very fun things.

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I have lateral

Luckily CECS it isn’t something that follows you around 24/7. Honestly, I never even knew I had it until I started running a lot. I’d always had issues with riding in regular fillis stirrup irons, especially if my stirrups were short, but I brushed it off as some kind of flexibility issue. I would only get about 10 minutes into a ride before my lower legs and ankles were absolutely burning. The arrival of wide footbed irons was a major godsend for me and helped alleviate a lot of the pain. They’re an absolute necessity for me now.

What really brought this condition to light for me was several years ago when I was doing a lot of triathlons. It got so bad that I was to the point of being in pain pretty much all the time, so I finally went to a doctor. The first one had no clue, thought it was maybe shin splints or a blood clot, ordered an MRI which revealed nothing, and then finally sent me to a specialist. Within just a few minutes of talking to me he knew exactly what it was.


For riding by itself, CECS isn’t so bad. I feel it most when I’m jumping, or especially on cross country. A short stirrup combined with a lot of two point and weight in my heels will have my feet numb within about 5 minutes, with a whole lot of burning going on during that time. This is part of why you’ll often see my feet in more of a “home” position in the stirrups on XC. It helps alleviate some of the pain.



The bigger issue is running, especially if I’m running a lot when I’m also riding a lot. The two activities combined seem to be a little bit too much for my legs to take. Hot weather makes it even worse, and of course both of the half marathons I’ve done have been pretty excruciating. For my second one it happened to be almost 70 degrees that day and the entire last few miles were done with completely numb legs that ended up feeling like pure fire for days afterward. I generally have to cut my running activity way down in hot weather, and try not to ever run on days where I’m planning on riding in the jump saddle. Sometimes I have to break the ice packs out.

There really isn’t a whole lot you can do for CECS. The doctor said we could try a custom orthotic, to see if changing my biomechanics might help. Of course, those aren’t covered under my insurance and were quoted to me at $450 a pop. I asked him how often that actually helped (maybe half the time) and how much it helped reduce the symptoms (maybe 30-50%). Not really worth it to me. They mostly suggest that you cut out whatever activities cause it to flare up. If it gets particularly bad they can do a surgery that requires cutting the fascia and results in spending several weeks unable to use both feet. That’s a no for me.

So I try to manage it just by being smart about my activities, and planning my days carefully. Runs need to happen on dressage days or non-riding days, and the hotter the weather is, the shorter the run needs to be. For riding I tend to keep my stirrups a hole longer in my jump saddle until I’m actually jumping, and I do stick my feet further in the stirrups for long conditioning rides. I will probably always require a stirrup with a wide footbed, since for whatever reason it seems to help stabilize things and make everything more bearable. I will never have a particularly deep heel position. Whenever we stop for a break I often take my feet out of the stirrups and leg my legs hang to get some bloodflow back. Otherwise I just do what equestrians everywhere do all the time about all kinds of things… I just suck it up.