Book Review: In the Middle are the Horsemen

I don’t typically do book reviews here because I generally find them to be uninteresting, but this book… I just had to write about. Mostly because I need everyone else to read it too so that we can discuss. Who’s in for book club?

Tik Maynard’s new book, In the Middle are the Horsemen (on Amazon here or direct from Trafalgar Square Books here), is not your typical how-to equestrian book, the kind that tells us all what we should do and think and be when it comes to horses and horsemanship. Rather, it’s more of one man’s story about his journey – how he set about learning, what he learned, what he’s still learning, what he’s done right, and what he’s done wrong. In one word, the book is very relatable, especially to me.  I’m not going to write a summary of the book, you can read about it online if you want details like that, but rather I want to talk about the general undercurrents of the book and some of the main takeaways that I had.

I really bought it because a) it’s written by an eventer, and I will buy pretty much any book that supports a fellow eventer, b) it’s described as more of a memoir, and I have been on a hell of a memoir kick lately. Tik was at Chatt while I was, and even had a book signing, which I totally meant to go to, but I got distracted by ponies and somehow missed the whole thing. Whoops.

In the Middle are the Horsemen covers a period in Tik’s life where he set off to be a working student for a wide variety of different trainers – from a dressage trainer, to eventers, to showjumpers, and even a Texas cowboy to explore the worlds of “natural horsemanship” and colt starting. He worked for a lot of big names, and he even got fired a couple of times, which Tik openly talks about. From there it evolved to how Tik eventually struck out on his own, then together with fellow eventer (now his wife) Sinead Halpin.

What made his story so relatable for me is that Tik and I have had sort of similar backgrounds, albeit his on a much grander, far more intelligent, and dramatically more successful scale. I too was a working student, first for a h/j trainer and then an eventer, I too have met my fair share of failure along the way, and I too have had a lot of interest in learning about the “horsemanship” aspect of training – pouring over books and videos to try to understand how to communicate more effectively with horses. Like Tik, I have spent many hours thinking about (and probably way overthinking) all of it, trying to figure out how it all fits together. Clearly he has been markedly more successful at that than I have.

Obviously he’s also a writer, historically of magazine articles and now a book, whereas I also do magazine articles as well as this very amateurish blog. He talks a lot about being a writer, coming up with what to write about, hard topics that he’s tackled, and some criticism he’s faced as a result of what he’s written. He also talks about the importance of writing about his mistakes and misjudgments, something that I think a lot of fellow bloggers can identify with.

Aside from just being relatable, Tik’s writing style is fantastic. There are so many little quoteable gems in the book that I think half of it would be yellow if you tried to highlight them all.  The words flow easily, nothing feels forced or overworked, and most of all it seems very honest. He reflects on what went wrong as well as what went right, and what he learned from both. Learning really is the consistent theme of this book from start to finish – discussing everything from what he thinks it means to be a good student, a good teacher, a good rider, and most of all, a good horseman.

Tik manages to do all of this without coming across as though he’s preaching at or lecturing the reader; his humility is evident beneath his words. Tik’s thirst for knowledge and desire to find answers is contagious, and the book continuously left me reflecting on my own life and my own journey with horses. It’s the kind of book that you find yourself still thinking about in the shower, or in the barn while you’re grooming your horse, or while you’re out for a run, even weeks after you’ve finished it. It’s the kind of book you feel like you need to get everyone else to read so that you can all talk about it together.

When I started In the Middle are the Horsemen I was really just expecting a good story about how a professional eventer got to where he is today, but it ended up being so much more than that. Tik’s story is one that I feel like everyone can identify with, on some level, and I think that anyone who is interested in being a better rider, trainer, or horseman – regardless of discipline – should definitely give it a read. If nothing else, it will make you think. For me personally, it’s been a long time since a horse book has effected me this much, on a visceral level. It makes me want to do better, to be better, and to learn more. Any book that can leave you feeling that way, inspired, is worth buying.

P.S. Not gonna lie, one of the first things I did after finishing the book was go to Tik’s website and look up his colt starting rates. Presto, you wanna go to Florida in 2020?

Mind: Blown

These “what Presto is up to” posts (ie not show posts, just the day to day drudgery) seem to happen about once a week, even though I hadn’t planned it that way. I really thought there would be very little to say about Presto for quite a while, seeing as how he spends 99.99% of his time just eating and existing. And growing. Always growing.

Stop trying to be taller than your brother

Turns out that his life is kind of interesting, at least to me. I dunno if any of you actually care or are just totally bored to tears by it, but I like to write about it so here we are and you are my captive. Presto and I are always working on something, and everything with him is fresh and new and different. Seeing how he reacts to things and how he progresses and learns and builds on each experience is downright fascinating and, honestly, really rewarding. I friggin love babies. Even though they’re dumb as hell.

Officially in the “I wanna put everything in my mouth” phase

I’ve started doing a little bit of round pen work with him once or twice a week. I don’t believe in running growing babies in circles, thus we keep everything at a walk and quiet trot and limit it to under 10 minutes. Just enough to get us communicating, get his ear on me, and remind him to look to me for leadership. By now he’s getting pretty good at yielding to pressure, going where I point, lowering his head when you press his poll, etc. Really the biggest challenge is keeping his attention, since he’s so easily distracted.

Henry was not okay with these windblown tarps. Presto thought they were NEATO.

The thing that continues to be a real ongoing work in progress is patience. I mean… he’s a yearling colt. His quarter runs out real quick. But I don’t approve of pawing or dancing around in the crossties whenever he’s not getting attention, or getting super preoccupied with what other horses are doing and forgetting his manners. He’s been spending time out on his patience pole again, and I often leave him in the crossties and completely ignore him while I groom and tack up Henry. Some days he just stands there and sulks quietly, other days he is Very Offended and does his patented, very pathetic method of pawing that is really just 2-3 BIG DRAMATIC smacks on the ground followed by a lot of pouting.

extra points for flexibility?

For the most part he’s pretty darn good for a yearling, and he’s certainly much less dramatic than his mother was. I’ve been trying to go out of my way to expose him to things that he might have to deal with later in life, too. Like going and standing in the back of the field to watch the construction workers build houses just across the fence. Or walking past blowing, billowing tarps or the pasture of galloping mares. Or keeping his cool while other horses ride up his butt or zoom past him.

Or wearing boots and bell boots. It sounds like such a small thing, and he’s been wearing boots on and off for months now. They were never a big deal, so I didn’t think much about it when I put his new bell boots on while he was in the crossties the other day. He had ever so slightly overreached one day while we were ponying, so I picked up a pair of cheap bell boots for him to wear for our powerwalking hacks. I put his boots on as usual, put the bell boots on, and then went back to tacking up Henry. I turned back around to see this:

He was like WOOOOW WHAT ARE DEES TINGS ON MY LEGS DID YOU SEE DEES MOM WHAT IN THE WORLD HOW DID DEES GET HERE WOOOOW. He wasn’t scared of them, he was completely and utterly fascinated. He kept throwing a leg out and staring intently at his feet. I was dying. Couldn’t even breathe I was laughing so hard. Go figure that he handles all this other stuff like it’s the most boring thing in the world and I’m wasting his time, but I totally blew his mind with bell boots. Weirdo.

I also sent in Presto’s entry for FEH Champs the other day. I know a lot of the people that are bringing horses so it should be a fun time in the barns, albeit probably loud with a big collection of screaming babies all in one place. There’s also an in-hand/freejumping clinic the day before that I signed up for as well. An in-hand lesson from Willy Arts? Um, yah. Can’t pass that one up. It’s nice to go into Champs just for fun of it, with no expectations and no pressure. Hopefully we can get some good pics, because that’s what it’s really about right?

“What The…” Wednesday: Stirrups

My history of buying saddles from overseas (England, France, and Germany to date) has led me to be a member of some pretty damn random facebook groups. Mainly tack groups based in France, where all the good fancy stuff comes from. Sometimes I see interesting things in these groups… things that are new and different, or haven’t caught on in the US yet. We tend to be a few seasons behind them, and way more conservative in general.

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me, at most places in Paris

This thing I saw last week though… it had me doing a serious WHAT THE all over the internet, trying to figure out what it was all about. Behold the K’Vall stirrup.

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Apparently I am super late to the game on this and these have been around for a long time, because in my research I found people (Europeans, natch) talking about them as long ago as 2009. They seem to have never really gained any traction here aside from a handful of endurance riders, which I guess makes sense.

My first thought was that these things look unsafe, although further research revealed that they do have release mechanisms built in at the heel area similar to a peacock stirrup iron. And then I thought it must feel like you’re standing on an elliptical on a pair of skis. And then I was trying to figure out the biomechanics, and how they would actually work in different scenarios, especially in eventing where we need to be able move around so much. I can see them being more stable in general, but I don’t see how you’d be able to get your heel down for added stability in sports like jumping. Granted, if you’re essentially standing on a big ass platform under your entire foot, maybe you don’t need to?

Most of the reviews you see for them are pretty positive, but then again there aren’t really that many to begin with. I can’t get over how weird the whole thing looks. Guessing it’s next to freaking impossible to lose a stirrup, since you’re strapped in and buttoned down. How easy are they to get out of, if you need to dismount quickly? I have a hard time thinking these would be competition legal?

I think I’ll stick to my “regular” weird irons, Lorenzini and Royal Rider.

Anyone seen these before?




A Horse Person’s Birthday

I turned the big 3-5 on Sunday. Which means that, naturally, I woke up on Saturday with a seriously messed up back and couldn’t even stand up straight all day. So this is how it’s gonna be, is it? Apparently I’m at the stage where the simple act of sleeping can wreck my body.

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Me, all day Saturday and most of Sunday.

Which, ya know, my spine isn’t straight, so back pain isn’t exactly a rarity for me. It was relatively liveable for riding, ponying, mucking, and all my other activities of the weekend, right up until the part where I had to figure out how to move 10 bales of hay around. Pro tip: use your leg as a ramp and just drag it up until you can rest it on your knee, then waddle around with it that way. Totally works. (my life is every bit as glamorous as it sounds)

Since I was still barnsitting I was able to get away with a pretty low key birthday, which is my preference. The SO came out on Saturday night and made dinner. He bought me those fancy Saddle Boss saddle racks for my birthday, for the trailer that I bought myself for my birthday. Last year I got myself a saddle… I give myself the best presents. The SO kept asking me what else I wanted, but all I could come up with was macarons from Ma-ka-rohn (it’s possible that I said “if you don’t get a couple of the Galaxy ones, don’t even bother coming.”). They were beautiful and delicious and I regret nothing. Life is short, eat beautiful cookies.

On Sunday morning I got up and fed/turned out, then we went to breakfast at this awesome restaurant in the next town. I love that place… it’s one of those little old-school restaurants where the big breakfast is $6 and they make a shit ton of pies and cakes in house. Those places are never bad.

After breakfast I went out to my barn to play with my own ponies. It was to be Henry’s first “real” ride back since Chatt – ie one where the intention was actually to work, and wherein he was wearing both a saddle and a real bridle with an actual bit. He’s been living that bareback-and-in-a-sidepull life for all our walk hacks. It was a nice cool morning for Texas in August, with a chance of rain. We hadn’t had any rain in over a month, so I was hopeful that we’d get some later that afternoon like they were predicting. Of course, as I was putting my helmet on, the sky opened up and it poured buckets for about 10 minutes. Henry was looking at me like “don’t you dare”, because he’s a princess that melts in the rain.

He got to wear Presto’s spiked bonnet for the ocassion

It was just a small blob on the radar so I let the rain pass before swinging aboard. Besides being our first “real” ride since Chatt, it was also our first solo one since then – no Presto for Henry to babysit. It was nice to be back aboard my best buddy, just me and him wandering through the field on a lovely morning. It started sprinkling again when we picked up the trot, which elicited some angry dolphining from Henry, but it stopped and he settled and we had a nice, albeit quick ride. He picked right up where we left off after our Georgia adventure and he feels really good right now – I think all the long walks during his downtime helped keep him strong and fit, and the time off from the demands of his normal work schedule, mentally and physically, served as a nice refresher.

After I was finished at the barn I went back to where I’m barnsitting to do stalls, and pulled up the radar to see a big storm taking shape to the south. I knew I would be cutting it close so I rushed to get the stalls done and buckets dumped/filled and hay in the hay nets. I was opening my last bag of shavings when it started raining. And it didn’t just start raining, it went from nothing to absolutely pouring in 2 seconds flat. I quickly tossed the empty shavings bags in the trash and ran out to get the horses. Except I leaped right into the part of the courtyard where most of the water drains off the roof and promptly went SPLAT on my ass in the mud. It’s a good thing I have a lot of padding back there because I hit hard enough for my whole body to pop. Unexpected perk: it seems to have helped my back.

This of course scared one of the horses, who bolted to the back of the pasture and proceeded to gallop around in the rain like an idiot while I wrangled the rest of them one at a time and brought them in. By the time they were all inside I was soaked to the bone. There wasn’t a single spec of dry clothing on me. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself as I was standing there in the barn aisle, dripping a puddle onto the rubber mat. Horse people – we are insane. I’m fairly certain that this isn’t how normal people choose to spend their birthdays. I’m also fairly certain that normal people are missing out.

I stood in Toni’s stall and watched the rain come down for a while, until I felt like the horses were settled and it slacked off enough to retreat to the house. After a change of clothes I poured myself a bowl of cereal for lunch and started going back through the book I just finished, In the Middle are the Horsemen, taking notes of some things that stood out to me so I can write a book review.

I feel like this is probably not typical of how most 35 year olds spend their birthday. It’s definitely an odd life that I’ve chosen, and while it wouldn’t appeal to everyone, it suits me pretty perfectly. I might be sporting a big bruise on my hip today, and I might be sore from head to toe and unable to identify exactly which ache came from exactly which activity, but I don’t regret a thing.

Presto the Not-Hunter

Presto officially has three horse shows under his girth now! Wait, can I even say “under his girth” when he’s never actually worn a girth? His figurative girth, I guess. I took the day off work on Friday because I’m still barnsitting, and there’s just no way that I could do all my barnsitting chores, go to work, and get the baby horse cleaned up and to a horse show in the afternoon. Just no. Also I’ve worked there for like 100 years and have way more PTO than one person could ever actually use, so why not. What BETTER reason to take a day off work than “omg I just have so much horse stuff to get done”?

He always comes over to watch me hitch up the trailer

The show office called me in the morning while I was mucking stalls, asking if I was still planning on coming. Apparently there was only one other horse, a 3yo, entered in the hunter breeding, so if I wasn’t coming they weren’t going to have it. I assured them that yes I was still coming, and that whoever owned the 3yo was welcome in advance for making the division and giving them the Best Young Horse title. Ha. Just Kidding. But not really, because Presto = Not Hunter. Also yearlings basically never beat 3yo’s, because have you ever seen a yearling? Especially next to a 3yo?

It’s all about what angle you stand at. He’s actually not too unattractive right now for a yearling, but just give him a few days, it’ll change.

Anyway… they were able to give me an estimated start time for the class at least, and I worked my plan backwards from there. Luckily that particular show is only about a 20 minute haul, so I could take my time and get to the barn, bathe Presto, chop some mane off, clean his bridle, etc and not be rushed. His pretty new cob size Lund bridle came just in time, and in my as-always totally unbiased opinion, he looks adorable in it. Although he’s already pushing the boundaries of the cob crownpiece and browband… I doubt we can get more than 6 more months out of those parts. The noseband and cheekpieces have plenty more room though!

Presto was not that enthused about his mini spa day, but I had him as spiffed up as he was gonna get. Every day he looks a teeny bit better, but he’s still mega-faded and in need of a topline. Oh well. Yearlings. I loaded him in the trailer 10 minutes ahead of schedule and made the trip with no problem (maiden voyage for the new trailer with a horse inside!). I checked in, got my number, put his bridle on, unloaded him, and then took him over to the big main arena so he could take in the atmosphere and watch the last of the o/f classes.

Who dat big kid wearing a big kid bridle standing next to the big kid ring?

We hung out for a while, just watching the other horses, until it was time for the breeding class. He neighed a little, but otherwise was very well behaved. Since I was the only yearling we were the winners by default (wow, go us) which bumped us on to the Championship class, which of course the 3yo (who was big and fancy and huntery and CUTE) won. We weren’t there for that part, I know Presto is not really what the hunter crowd is looking for. We were there for the commotion and the ring time. Presto stood pretty well for judging and then walked and trotted quite politely in hand. I have no complaints about his performance or manners in the ring, although outside of the ring he was definitely more anxious in general than he had been for his FEH class a couple months ago. It was subtle, but I could see a difference in his general demeanor. He still got many compliments on his excellent behavior, which is a testament to what a good boy he really is.

After the class when we all dispersed, Presto got a little upset about where his new BFF was going and why I was taking him back to the trailer (the only trailer in the area, no less) alone. He was distracted, a bit pushy, and slightly reluctant to load. It probably took me a minute and a half, whereas usually he walks right in. I just waited him out, and we were on the road and back home in no time at all, although Presto stayed a bit unsettled and keyed up, pawing off-and-on during the trip back.

Well ok once we were home he was chill again. This is right before the blue ribbon disappeared into his mouth and I had to fish it out

From Presto’s side of things, I have no complaints about how the outing went. However, I feel like I could have done a better job of getting his mind more focused and making it less stressful for him. I think I get so used to how easy Presto is to deal with on a daily basis that I tend to forget he IS just a yearling, and horse shows are still new and different. He’s also still a colt, and while he’s never in his life acted even a hint studdish, those hormones are still there and could possibly affect his behavior, even if only in more subtle ways (like more anxiety). I need to always be hyper-vigilant about setting him up for success as best I can – especially away from home. Next time instead of getting him out and taking him straight for a bath, I’ll do a little bit of groundwork with him, let him move his feet and relax his brain, get him thinking and focused on me as his leader and companion, and then tackle the show prep. Also, when we got to the show grounds, same thing – I should have worked him a bit more in hand to keep his brain occupied and get him more focused. That always helps the babies relax and look to the human for guidance, I know that, and I feel like I didn’t do my part this time as well as I should have.

So, I’m really really glad we did this. I think now I have a good idea of what we need to work on before FEH Championships, and what I need to do better to prepare him properly both before we leave and while we’re at the show. Granted, FEH Champs will be his first overnight show, so things might be a little different, but I’m going to take what we learned here and keep it in mind as we move forward. He’s really a super good kid, I just need to make sure I’m doing everything I can to keep him that way! He’s also building quite the resume for himself now… in-hand trail: check, future event horse: check, hunter breeding: check!

Doodads and Doohickeys

One of the perks of all these orders I’ve been placing lately for trailer stuff is that I’ve also been able to toss in a bunch of small things that I’ve been wanting to buy for a while, but just haven’t. Either they’re items that wouldn’t get used a lot so I always forget about them, or they’re really small things only available a few places and I never had enough other stuff to order that could justify it. Because if there is a free shipping minimum, it’s like CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. But then I’m picky and can talk myself out of things just as easily as I can impulse add-to-cart, so it inevitably turns into an hour-long ordeal and I just give up. The complicated online shopping life of moi.

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One thing I’ve been meaning to buy FOREVER is the portable hanging tack hook like my trainer has. Every time we’re at a show together and she hangs that thing up I’m like omg I want that, look how much better that is, why don’t I have that. And then the show is over and I go home and literally never think about it again until we’re at the next show.

But I was ordering a couple of small things from Big Dee’s the other day, and set off on a quest around their site, looking for a few more things to add to my cart to hit the $70 free shipping minimum. My general approach is to browse through the site, add anything to the cart that I might need/want, and then go back to the cart at the end and start ruthlessly cutting whatever things I can’t really justify. Because that first pass always ends up at like $200+, and that’s dumb. Tell me I’m not the only one who does this?

Uh… just imagine this is the top of a stall front instead of a fence.

Anyway, as I was kind of mindlessly scrolling through the barn stuff, I spotted the folding tack hanger that Trainer has, and right below it, the tack hook. It all clicked and I finally remembered – OMG MUST BUY THIS, and was all too excited to add it to my cart. For a total investment of $15, I’m way more pumped about this thing than anyone sane would be. Especially because the PS of Sweden bridle crown is too wide for the stall front bridle rack that I had been using, and at Chatt it fell off that damn rack, into the dirt, right after I’d just finished cleaning it. Never again! The hooks on this prong are wider, plus its so much easier to clean the bridles when they’re hanging up at eye level and away from the wall.

I also tossed a Tiger’s Tongue into the cart, because I’ve heard people raving about this thing for a while. I decided I had to see what it’s all about. I’ve only played with it once, but so far I’m pleased. It really does do a great job with saddle marks, leg mud, and skin funk, at least, better than the jelly scrubber does. I could see using this for a wide range of things from soap baths to scrubbing buckets. We’ll test the bath theory today.

On one of my many Amazon exploits I finally remembered to toss a heavy duty expandable hose into the cart. I’ve been saying for THREE YEARS that I need to get a hose to bring to shows, because several times I have found myself right next to a spigot but without a hose. It was just kinda the same situation as the bridle hook… out of sight, out of mind. I have one now though, which probably guarantees that I will never find myself stabled near a spigot ever again.

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Yesterday I had a SmartPak gift card, so I finally caved and got the navy halter that I’ve been eyeballing since they first released it. Since I’m also on a “horse show stuff” kick, I was waffling about throwing this folding clothes rack in there. It would be nice to have somewhere better than a bridle rack to hang my coat, xc vest, helmets, etc, especially where they aren’t touching the usually dusty/dirty stall front. I just couldn’t decide how I felt about it though (it seems kinda big?), so in the end I decided to hold off. Does anybody have that rack, or use something else for hanging clothes near their stall at shows?

Mostly I’m trying to use this “trailer prepping” time to also re-think and re-organize my horse show setup as well. Do you have any cool little racks or tools or organizational items that you find to be super helpful at shows? I have saddle racks, and my cool new bridle hook, but maybe there’s another super handy thing that I’m missing out on. It’s just gotta either be collapsible/folding or small enough to easily pack in my trunk!

The Black Stallion

As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m currently in the middle of an almost 3-week long barnsitting stint. With 9 horses in my care, including a foal, it’s definitely a lot of work (especially doing it around my regular job) but I do enjoy it a lot. The money is good, and time spent in the barn, cleaning stalls or feeding or sweeping, has always felt a bit cathartic. At least on the days when it’s not 105+ degrees. On those days I just think I’m probably an idiot and wonder why I couldn’t fall in love with an indoor hobby.

It’s pretty out here though

While I try not to be too biased, I will admit that my favorite of my charges is Toni (aka Kovington), the black Trakehner stallion. This is probably partly because I’ve always really liked stallions and gotten along well with them over the years. They can be a little hormonal and stupid sometimes, sure, but a lot of them are also very kind and extremely intelligent. They usually also have a little bit of cheekiness about them (I love a cheeky little shit of a horse, I can’t help it), and Toni is no exception.

Toni is older, 20 this year, and he’s been around the block a time or two by this point. He can size you up right away and figure out just how much he can get away with, to the point where you can sometimes almost hear him chuckling to himself at your expense. He always knows what the point of “too far” is, though, and he’s careful to never cross it.

whoa there wild man

Toni is also completely beautiful. He’s big and solid black, well-muscled, and has a walk like a cougar. I am generally not a big Trakehner fan, but he is by the only Trakehner stallion I really like – Enrico Caruso. He likes to prance and “talk” on his way out to turnout while he’s passing the ladies, whether they’re actually paying attention to him or not (usually not). He also makes a big impressive production about galloping a lap of his turnout when you first turn him loose, as if he’s trying to remind everyone of just how gorgeous he is. When I go to bring him in, usually all I have to do is call his name and he comes running up again, shaking his neck, always showing off.


In his stall he’s basically a puppy – 100% gentle and would not hurt a fly, but also maybe don’t turn your back to him or he might grab the back of your shirt, or turn your muck bucket over, or grab your muck fork and drool all over it/throw it out the window. He’s also got these big lazy floppy lips that you can’t help but want to wiggle, even if he looks at you like you’re embarrassing the hell out of him while you do it. He’s really goofy, but he doesn’t want to admit it… not good for his street cred.

Last weekend I hopped on him for the first time, just taking him on a quick hack around one of the fields. If it’s possible for a horse to feel regal and noble and elegant and sophisticated, he does. Sometimes horses just give you that feeling that they’re special, and Toni is one of them.

Toni isn’t the first stallion I’ve dealt with, but he’s one of my favorites. He reminds me a lot of one of my favorite horses ever, the stallion Valentino Z, who just passed away. Valentino was also extremely intelligent and kind, much like Toni, and also brimming with plenty of personality.

RIP “Vino”, my good buddy

I’m not generally the kind of person that falls in love with other peoples’ horses, but I have to admit that I’ve got a real soft spot for Toni. In a way he kind of embodies everything that makes a kid fall in love with horses in the first place, back in those simpler times when all you saw while looking at a horse was a big beautiful creature that was awe-inspiring beyond measure. Not conformation, not breed, not suitability, not gaits, just… plain and simple beauty. It seemed like every cheesy kid’s book about horses featured a black stallion in it somewhere. It’s nice to be reminded of that sometimes – to see one that is so magnificent that they can stop you in your tracks and make you appreciate the sheer perfection of the animal in front of you. Toni does a great job of that.

Protect that Bod

Whether you call it a body protector, safety vest, or XC vest, the end result is the same: it’s pretty much time for me to get a new one.


My current one is only 3 years old, which is on the shorter end of the recommended replacement period. Yes, vests do indeed have a limited lifespan. If what people say/buy/sell on facebook is any indication, it seems like not many people know that they have pretty much the same “replacement requirements” that helmets do. From British Eventing:

Body protectors should be replaced at least every three to five years, after which the impact absorption properties of the foam may have started to decline.

If you should have a heavy fall, your body protector should be checked immediately for dents. The foam will expand back to its original shape within 30 minutes; but if a dent is showing on examination, then it’s likely that this part of the garment has lost its impact absorption properties and should be replaced.

Hidden damage that a body protector may have sustained is also a good reason for avoiding second-hand garments or those with unknown histories. Taking good care of your body protector means that it will last longer within the three to five year recommended lifespan. So don’t leave it lying around at the yard or in the lorry to be chewed and trodden on. Spending too much time in a hot car or damp tackroom won’t do it any good either.

When not in use, body protectors should be hung on a clothes hanger. Doing up zips ensures they keep their shape, while closing Velcro fastenings will help prevent them becoming clogged with horse hair and hay particles.

Most body protectors are made from heat sensitive PVC nitrile foam, which is why they feel increasingly comfortable as they soften and mold to the wearer’s body. 


Lots more info about body protectors can be found here, if you’re interested in reading up. Many people like to keep their XC vest in their trailer or car – that’s bad. Don’t do that. Also if you’re wearing an old ass Tipperary, or have taken a few tumbles in your current one, love yourself enough to buy a new one. It’s as if we think that since it’s not covering our head, it isn’t as important. I’ve been guilty of that many times too. In reality though, proper protection for your body is obviously really friggin important. And putting an air vest over top of a damaged, old, or sub-par body protector does not make it more safe either. I won’t even start on my thoughts about air vests though, ain’t nobody got time for that.


It’s not so much the age that is the driving factor for me buying a new one. It’s 3 years old, I haven’t fallen in it, and I store it inside (ok a few times it’s been forgotten in my truck for a few days because I am a hot mess of a person). But anyone with particularly keen eyes will notice in the banner picture of the blog that a little bit of orange is showing at the chest strap of my current vest. This means that it’s a bit too small. For more information on properly fitting a vest – go here.

That vest was a pretty snug fit when I bought it and I’m a bit… er… fluffier than I used to be. If I tighten those chest straps to where they really should go, I legit have a hard time breathing. So either I get to breathe or I have to set the strap in a place that isn’t ideal. Neither of those are good choices.

I’ve been really happy with my current vest, the Airowear Outlyne. It’s a bit bulky, but basically any BETA 3 approved vest will be. Thorough protection requires a certain amount of bulk – example being approved helmets vs unapproved hunt caps. Foam takes up space. I definitely want another BETA 3 vest, and knowing that the Airowear brand fits my shape well (they have different cuts/sizing for men, women, and teens) I have been eyeballing their AirMesh model since it came out. The idea of better airflow is really appealing, since I live in the devil’s armpit.

Image result for airowear airmesh

The only bummer is that it doesn’t come in navy. – black or dark gray only. Airowear, why you gotta go harshing my navy vibe? Granted, the one I’ve been wearing is half navy and half gray, so whatever. The color isn’t that big of a deal (does any eventer actually say that and mean it? No.). I haven’t quite decided which color I want yet, although there isn’t a huge difference between the two since the gray is pretty dark. I can certainly overanalyze this decision past the point of oblivion though. Either way, a new vest is definitely on my radar as an upcoming purchase.

Anyone else buy a new vest/body protector lately, or currently shopping?

Always an Adventure

Even a “boring” weekend at home will always be anything but, whenever Henry and Presto are involved. These two boys… they keep things interesting.

ignoring the fact that my yearling can already most definitely get his head up higher than Ol’ Chunky over there.

I’m in the middle of a long barnsitting stint, so I hadn’t really seen the boys all week aside from a quick visit on Wednesday. Several more packages had arrived in the meantime (continued sorry’s to the mailman, also I ordered a couple more things over the weekend omg SORRY), which meant that I headed out to the barn armed with all kinds of new goodies. The most exciting box was from Majyk Equipe… Henry got one of their new Impact pads

and Presto got some of the super fancy limited edition white with turquoise dressage boots.

whut deez?

They’re Smalls, which at this point barely fit him because Giramoose, but they sure do look cute. Or they did before he slobbered all over them, anyway. Now they’re sporting some lime green highlights. That’s ok, it’ll wash out. I’m pretty pro at cleaning white ME boots at this point, since I’ve been using white ones on Henry for XC for years. Lots of people have already asked me and yes, I will definitely be reviewing the Impact Pad once I get to use it a bit more. So far I like it A LOT and it has some really cool features that I’ve had a hard time finding all in one pad before. They did a good job with design.

Presto’s Nathe bit also came in, which I was probably more excited about than he was. I’ve just had such great luck with this bit for babies, from learning to wear a bit all the way through starting w/t/c. We worked more on bridling (with some molasses, you’re welcome kid!) and he wore his bridle Saturday and Sunday while we ponied.

Almost like a real horse!

He seems pretty happy with the bit. He does chomp a little for the first few minutes that he’s wearing the bridle, but stops as soon as he’s distracted by something else. What he’s more persistent about is trying to rub the bridle off. He’s kind of dramatic about it, like omg he’s dying of face itchies someone halp.

So much pouting when I won’t let him rub his face on things.

While the bridle doesn’t fit him that well, I do think he looks quite cute in it. Now I’m kinda waffling on whether I want to show him in a halter or a bridle for FEH. I need to work him more in hand in the bridle and see what kind of difference there is, if any.

Presto has also decided to start shedding like crazy, like waaaaay more than I’ve ever been able to get him to shed in his life, and the coat underneath is so shiny and silky and dark. Maybe he’s FINALLY getting a bloom on him, for literally the first time ever? Between his food and his lifestyle and his groomies, I’m definitely trying hard, that’s for sure.

except he still can’t figure out how to walk and poop at the same time

On Saturday while we were walking in the back of the hilly field, Henry decided to use the noise of the nail guns from the nearby construction site as an excuse to be a total moron. He’s heard it plenty of times before, but THIS DAY he just Could Not. He’s officially done with vacation, because it took me 10 minutes to get him to stop jigging and walk in a straight line. Even Presto was looking at him like “Dude, WTF?”. Time to start adding some trot sets back in and get Henry legged back up, because he is officially wild. He got 4 weeks “off”, anyway, that’s a pretty good vacation.

So on Sunday after a long walk I tied Presto to his Post of Knowledge and did 8 minutes of trotting with Henry.

I think he likes the post because he can still reach some grass

Henry seemed REALLY happy to back doing something, and decided to break out his fancy trot. Whether it was the time off or the new pad or a combination of both, he sure seemed to be feeling good. After his trot we grabbed Presto (who was very preoccupied with trying to figure out how to chew his mouthful of grass with that pesky bit in the way), did another 10 minutes of walking, and then headed back toward the barn. On the way we came across a hay tarp that had blown loose and was now strewn across our path. Naturally Henry’s first reaction was to stop and snort, whereas Presto’s first reaction was to march straight towards it. Once I convinced Henry to walk up and sniff it he relaxed, at least until Presto decided to pick it up.


Poor Henry. He’s by far the spookier horse of the two, and Presto just about gave him a heart attack with that thing. I feel kind of sorry for Henry sometimes with all the shit he has to put up with, so I just make up for it by giving him a lot of cookies.

No remorse for his actions

Both boys also got a bath. Henry is still so freaking itchy, and Presto is a filth magnet, so baths happen a lot around here these days. I still have another week of barnsitting left, so I won’t get to play with them much until the weekend, but it’s amazing how much fun we can have just from easy “boring” days like these. Presto is in such a fun stage, he soaks everything up like a sponge, and having Henry there as a role model (um, most of the time anyway) is fantastic.

Hope you guys had a good weekend too!


We’re officially less than 2 months away from Future Event Horse Championships! Well ok it’s still 8 more weeks from today, but who’s counting?

not counting, only judging

Presto changes so much from day to day, from horse to camel to giraffe and back again, I’ve long given up on worrying about whether or not he’s actually going to be attractive on that day. He still needs a damn topline, but he can’t seem to stop growing upward long enough to even think about finding himself a neck or a loin or a butt. I know he’s likely to end up near the bottom of the placings at Champs, and that’s ok. I really just want to take him somewhere fancy, get him some experience in a big atmosphere, and be like “Remember when they said 5-10% chance of survival? Look where you are now, kid!”. Because I’m a firm believer in taking full advantage of those kinds of opportunities every chance you get. He came awfully damn close to not getting any.

Gee, I wonder why he hasn’t filled out much. Maybe it’s because he’s been too busy doing THIS over the past 3 months? #pleaseslowdown

Last week I remembered that the local summer h/j series has a hunter breeding class at their last show, which is next weekend. Presto is kind of the polar opposite of a hunter breeding horse, but any chance to get him off the property and into the ring for relatively cheap is something that I appreciate. I mean, he’s already moonlighted as an in-hand trail horse, why not go play hunter baby for a day? One more little test run before Champs would be nice. Plus the show is literally like a 20 minute haul so it’s the perfect first outing for Betty 2.0.

Of course, while I grew up in the hunter ring and spent much of my 20’s there, it’s been quite a while since I’ve lived in that world. I think 2011 was the last time I stepped foot in the hunter ring? It feels like a lifetime. I’ve forgotten most of their ways, which are certainly VERY different from the world I reside in now. To start, they show all their babies in bridles, whereas for us, halters are an option for yearlings. They stand them up differently, they trot them differently, they present them differently, they wear different clothes, and of course they judge them very differently. I had to go back and watch some videos just to remember how it works, lest I commit some kind of gargantuan faux pas. A small faux pas or two… I can live with that. He ain’t a hunter baby, after all. Just nothing gargantuan.

The bridle thing is a small issue. He hadn’t worn a bridle yet, and I definitely didn’t have any hunter appropriate bridles anymore (they’re so boring it legit makes me sad). A friend offered to find me one to borrow, and a plain brown cob bridle that I’m getting from Lund may or may not get here by then. In the meantime, he tried on his cob size Kavalkade bridle for the first time last weekend. He’s got kind of a weird in-between baby and horse head at the moment. The browband was a bit snug and the throatlatch had to go on the loosest hole, but the cheekpieces were up as tight as they would go. The noseband, even tightened all the way, was still so loose it was floppy. He’s got like a horse size brow and jaw with pony size nose.


I also kind of forgot that loose rings aren’t really a thing that hunter folks do, so I had to dig in my collection for something else. I did find a happy mouth D ring, which is perfect, except it’s a 5″ and his little mouth is SO narrow.  He looked relatively ridiculous when I tried the whole thing on him. The sizing issues alone are a good enough reason to not make yearlings show in bridles, y’all. They’re awkward as hell.

I also couldn’t even remember how you enter these shows, which is extra sad because it’s only been like 2 years since I did some jumper classes at a regular h/j show. In eventing we have to enter so far in advance that I’m now perplexed at this whole last minute thing, and with not having to pay in advance, or provide/sign a bunch of different forms. And the lack of ride times. How did I ever survive that chaos? This is madness.

Image result for this is madness gif

I’m not braiding him, because it’s not rated (also GET REAL with those hunter braids, I can’t do that, not happening) and also because I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this but he’s not a hunter. A braid job won’t change that. We’ll pull ourselves together well enough to not insult the judge, but otherwise… we’re gonna stand out like sore thumbs no matter what. He’s very bleached out, when he stands just the right way his neck looks like it was put on upside down, AND you can see some ribs. Hunter ring horrors! Just passing through folks, nothing to see here.

Presto was not a fan of the bridle so we’ll work on that some more this weekend. Honestly though he might spend the whole class chomping away in misery, wondering why I keep doing this stuff to him. As long as he behaves himself, I don’t really care.

Last week I ordered him a little scrim sheet for $20 on clearance, just something to keep the dust off of him while he’s in his stall at FEH. The smallest they had was a 70 and I was worried it would end up being gigantic on him. Joke’s on me, I guess, since the damn thing fits. He hates it, but he’s cute in it, so he’ll wear it at FEH because that’s how life goes. Also now I’m getting concerned that the 72 sheet I bought him for this winter might not fit by the time December actually comes around. What happened to my little baby horse??? He’s not such a baby anymore.