There have been a lot of posts going around the blogosphere lately about how people budget their horse stuff for the year, what their total costs are, and how they keep track. It’s strategic, well thought out, and honestly pretty impressive.
I am none of those things.
It probably surprises precisely no one to find out that I’m more of the fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type. I can be a bit impulsive, and I definitely live and breathe the “you only live once” credo. I am acutely aware of the fact that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow, and with horses especially, you can never count on “next time” being an option. Sometimes the stars only align once. If there are things I really want, or really want to do, and they’re even remotely feasible for me to find a way to afford, I’ll make it happen – budgets or spreadsheets be damned. And I flat out refuse to feel bad about it.
That’s not to say that I just live like gangbusters and run around buying whatever I want, racking up massive credit card debt like YOLO and not saving a dime. That sounds fun, but I’m not that level of irresponsible. I pay my bills on time every month, I have enough of an emergency fund to where I can sleep at night, everything is insured, and I’ve got a 401k. I don’t live on ramen (not that I would necessarily mind, sodium is delicious), nor do I live in a cardboard box.
If I want to go to a bigger more expensive show, maybe I’ll cut out a smaller less important one. Or maybe I’ll pick up another side gig. Sometimes work can also be bartered to help cut down on expenses. I’ve literally never had a trainer that I haven’t worked for, in some capacity, at some point. I once braided 18 horses in one night at a warmblood inspection, so that I could fund an A show I wanted to take my jumper to. I’ve spent more days grooming for people at shows, or cleaning stalls, or body clipping horses, than I can even count. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
I do cut expenses where I can though, in my regular life, and I have a lot of side gigs. Doing my taxes is complicated, with all of my 1099’s. I’ve had to get very creative over the years to be able to afford to do a lot of the things I’ve wanted to do. It’s all been worth it, because I’ve gotten to do so many awesome things. And it’s on my dime, so I don’t have to justify it to anyone or feel guilty about it for even a second. I might not have new street clothes very often (and they’re always guaranteed to be cheap), it’s possible that I haven’t had a haircut in a year, my house is not fancy, and my truck might have hand-cranking windows, but these are sacrifices I happily make without a second thought. Everything else meets my basic needs – my indulgence is the horses.
Let’s be real, I know how much I spend. I have a calculator buried deep in the back of my brain, silently adding and adding and adding. Of course I have a good idea of what I spent on the horses every year. Pretty sure we all do. But I also pretty much flat out refuse to put it to paper. Mostly because I can’t think of a single reason why I should. It wouldn’t change a thing except for probably making me feel irresponsible or guilty or whatever else – which I refuse to do. I chose the horse-poor life a long time ago, and I’ve been exceedingly happy with it. I don’t want to find myself taking shortcuts with my horse’s care, or not buying things that I really want, because I feel duty-bound to fit inside of a number on a spreadsheet. If I can make it work, I’m gonna do it, and I’m gonna do it with no receipts attached.
Maybe that makes me selfish, or naive, or reckless… I don’t know. All I know for sure is that I’ve never regretted a single hour that I’ve put in, or a single dollar that I’ve put out. To me there’s a huge difference between the price and the value; the value I get back from horses and riding is astronomically more than the price I pay. I completely understand why people choose to track expenses and budget extensively, or approach things differently than I do, or have different priorities in life than I do. I respect and admire that a lot.
In the past few (coldish) months I’ve added some things to my line-up that I’m really liking. Or they’re interesting. Or I’m weirdly obsessed with them in ways I can’t quite explain. I talked about my Champion skull cap a couple weeks ago, which I continue to love more and more, but there have been a few other (perhaps less exciting) acquisitions that are worth mentioning too, especially this time of year.
Okay it’s weird that I’m so obsessed with this thing, I admit it, but hear me out. I’ve been hesitant to put up a net in Presto’s stall, because he tends to put his feet in/on everything and turn whatever isn’t firmly tethered into a projectile. But I also didn’t like him eating off the floor, because his hay goes in the outside part of his stall, on the dirt (the inside stall he uses as one giant toilet). I’m trying to minimize how much sand he’s eating, plus that horse can hoover hay like nothing you’ve ever seen. For real, 2 flakes lasts him about an hour. Which meant that on the nights he’s stuck in his stall due to the weather, he was spending the majority of his time with nothing to eat.
Several years ago I had a NibbleNet, which I liked the design of, but the horse (Presto’s mother, actually) destroyed it within a couple months. Considering how expensive it was, I wasn’t thrilled with the longevity. I thought that style might be perfect for Presto though, maybe less likely that he’d put his foot in it or somehow entangle himself in it than a regular hay net. On a whim I tossed in the Tough-1 large size slow feed net on one of my Riding Warehouse orders, since it’s about half the price of a Nibblenet, and I’ve been really thrilled with it. So thrilled that I’m buying another one for Henry, because it’s that awesome.
The net is big, I can stuff 4 flakes in there if I really want to (which I’ve been doing a lot lately, because growth spurt), even though it’s advertised as holding 2-3. The opening at the top has plastic inside the webbing which makes it more rigid, thus easier to open and fill, and lies flatter to stay shut when it’s hung. It has a bunch of d-rings at the top and bottom that give you lots of different options for hanging, which I really appreciated considering that keeping my idiot baby horse’s feet out of it was my #1 concern.
The barn guy loves it because it’s very easy to unsnap and fill while it’s still hanging, no wrestling with a net required. It’s even survived the wrath of Presto totally unscathed so far, which is impressive considering how mercilessly he attacks it with his teeth. It slows down his consumption pretty well too, hay lasts him about 3 times longer than it used to. I generally only use nets in the winter when my horses are stuck inside more, but these are totally worth it anyway. And it comes in purple and teal if you’re into that kind of thing.
Ok these aren’t really new, Henry has been wearing his HUG blankets for 3 years now, and I’ve sung their praises on here before. They’re the only thing I’ve ever found that doesn’t rub Henry’s shoulders bald, and they’ve held up really well. Presto even got a HUG sheet to wear this year, too, even though he’s only worn it like twice because he’s a walking shag carpet and it’s just not that cold. But they went on sale before Christmas and I was going to grab a sheet and blanket for Presto for next season, then I realized he’ll probably be wearing Henry’s size by then, so why not hand down Henry’s old ones to Presto and get Henry some brand spanking new ones? Especially because they had navy. The new ones are really nice, better quality than the old ones, with a few little upgrades in materials. So it’s possible that now I own 5 HUG sheets and blankets. I was never really sure how I felt about the design until I owned some, but if you have a sensitive or hard to fit horse they’re awesome and I continue to love them.
I know, a sweatshirt seems simple, but is there anything better than a soft cozy sweatshirt when it’s cold out? No. No there isn’t. And this one from Levade Kentucky is definitely the softest one I’ve ever owned. Plus it’s horse related! It’s cute enough to not just look like you’re wearing a frumpy sweatshirt, and it’s simple enough to go with pretty much anything, dressed up or down. I’ve worn it to work, to happy hour, and to the barn. It’s quickly become a staple for me, because comfort and warmth rule supreme. Levade is a relatively new, small business, and y’all know how much I like that. Their line will soon be expending to jackets, tights, and a few other items, so I’m interested to see where it goes.
Dark Jewel Designs Spiked Browband
Ok this isn’t really winter-related but y’all. I’m obsessed. I’ve been not-so-subtly dropping hints for a while to Amelia at Dark Jewel Designs that she should make a spiked browband, and she did! I’m testing this one to make sure everything holds up well before they’re offered to the public, and so far I’m really impressed. It’s stunning, and really well made, and I freaking love the spikes.
Really it was meant for punk rock Presto (and he WILL be wearing it at some in-hand shows, have no fear) but Henry is wearing it right now to test it out. I might use it on him for XC anyway, because it’s so awesome, how could I resist? I love the shape, I love the snaps (lets make all browbands with snaps, yes? So easy to swap out.), and it fits on my Lund bridles perfectly. You can’t really tell that they’re spikes until you get up closer, which I love. Subtle badassery. This suits me and my horses so much better than rhinestones. None of us are particularly sparkly.
Do you have any must-have items that you’re really feeling this season?
Presto has been doing pretty well since his castration last week. He was confined to his stall for the first 20ish hours, and since then has been on pretty much 24/7 turnout except for mealtimes. His stall opens up into his pasture, so at night we’ve just been leaving the stall door open and he comes and goes as he chooses. Otherwise I’ve just been cold hosing and making him move around more everyday with either a pony or a 10 minute walk/trot lunge.
The first couple days he was WILD. Like I texted the vet and asked him to come back out and stitch those things back on, because I was pretty sure we accidentally cut off his brains. Okay, granted, “wild” for Presto really isn’t that wild on the scale of baby horses, but still. There was snorting. There was tail flagging. He morphed into an arabian there for a hot minute.
The vet did warn me that the swelling would likely be worse by the 3rd day, and not to freak out. As predicted, the 3rd day was when things actually started to get puffy. That slowed Presto down a bit physically, but there was still a lot of Chaos, Destruction, and Anarchy running through that little walnut brain of his. Exhibit A:
I turn my back for like 10 seconds and this is the kind of hell that breaks loose. I mean, he’s kinda like this all the time, true, but this was Presto Chaos dialed up to 11. His typically derp-derp-derp brain is moving a thousand miles an hour, making him into a baby horse tornado. Luckily aside from making a general mess of literally ANYWHERE I LEAVE HIM UNATTENDED, the only real casualty so far is his feed bucket.
He ponied on Sunday, and when I walked him up to a puddle he immediately tried to flop down and roll in it. This spurred a lot of arm flailing and “NO PRESTO NO” from me, because I didn’t want him getting muddy gross water in his incision. I stopped him before he got past sitting on his knees in the puddle like a camel (which was a sight to behold), but my goodness, you little terrorist. He didn’t even give me any warning, he just dove right in. I mean I guess I should be glad that he’s not averse to water, but I also have visions of him rolling in a water jump with me at some point in his Beginner Novice career. We should take bets on that.
He ponied without too much mischief otherwise, especially after the first lap of the field when he decided we were super boring because I wouldn’t let him chew on Henry. After that I played a little bit with him in Dobby’s little trailer loading practice chute. I think Presto likes it.
To his credit, he’s been a bit better about the cold hosing than I thought he might be. He’s never been the biggest fan of water near his crotch/butt, which I spent all of last summer working on. It’s like he’s convinced I’m gonna stick the hose up his butt or something, which has literally never happened. At least for now he’s stopped curling up like a roly poly as soon as water touches his hind end, and actually he stands pretty still. Especially considering I’m shooting really freaking cold water onto his junk for 10-15 minutes at a time.
And yes, you may have noticed he’s gotten super awkward and babyish and growthy looking again. He’s gearing up for a growth spurt for sure, because a couple weeks ago he was looking almost like a normal horse. Let’s hope that the growth spurts this spring aren’t quite as dramatic as the ones last year, where he grew a hand in 3 months. He can slow his roll, thanks.
A cold front blew through last night so hopefully he didn’t spend his evening doing more fantastic arabian impressions or destroying his remaining buckets. Or whatever else he could get his mouth on. So far (knock on literally all the wood) his surgery and aftercare have gone pretty well. Hopefully things keep healing as they should, and maybe his brain cells will start regenerating soon.
Okay it’s not really fair to call Texas winter “Winter”, especially when some of y’all are knee deep in snow. I’ve ridden in a sunshirt 3 times in the past week, and once in a t-shirt. But winter does mean off season for us, in that we don’t have any recognized shows between December and February. That tends to be the time of year when we all buckle down and get to work, gearing up for the show season to come. I’ve noticed that I tend to take more lessons and school XC more in that time of year than probably the entire rest of the year combined. This year is no exception, with a pretty full calendar for the next couple months.
This fall and winter being a lot wetter than normal has put a damper on that a bit, but we still manage to find ways around it much of the time. This past weekend we loaded up early to head down to Pine Hill for our 2nd XC schooling in as many weeks, which feels like a fantastic luxury. The weather was nice, but Pine Hill has continued to get pummeled with rain, so most of the facility was too muddy to use. No problem though. Instead we headed up the highest, driest part of the course and worked on uphill and downhill bank combinations.
This is the kind of stuff I’m really craving right now. The major difference between Training and Prelim (aside from the extra 4″ of height and 9-12″ of width) is the technicality. Combinations are a lot harder, the jumps come up way faster, and there’s significantly less room for error. Technicality is what we really need to work on, so I can start reacting faster, which helps Henry think and move faster too.
After we warmed up, Trainer set up a little vertical at the bottom of the hill, 3 strides to a bank, 2 slightly bent strides to a rolltop. We rode it both ways, up and down. If you rode in passively, or rode in forward but then became a passenger, it didn’t work. Each element required you to keep riding forward in order for the next part to work out. Adding the terrain element made controlling your upper body especially important. I loved all of it, because these are the things that have shown to be so crucial as we’ve started testing the waters at Prelim. When they’re that big, you have GOT to keep coming forward. When they’re that big, you have GOT to be good with your body. I love exercises that make it very obvious when you’ve accomplished those things or not.
It wasn’t a long school, or one where we were jumping a lot of bigger fences, but that’s not what we need right now anyway. We know that we can gallop up to the big wide tables just fine. What we lack is some education and finesse at the technical aspects, so this kind of stuff is perfect for us. We’re knee deep in details, in every part of what we’re working on right now. It’s no longer about getting through the dressage while holding Henry’s brain together as best we can, or getting from one side of the fence to the other smoothly. Now we’re getting down into the nitty gritty, the fun stuff, the hard stuff. The bar has been raised in more ways than one.
It’s not easy, but it’s also really exciting. For the first time in my life I’m in a place with a horse where I really get to concentrate on myself. It’s uncharted territory. Sometimes I’m lost and wandering, other times it feels like a grand adventure. Either way, I love it. Hopefully the weather holds this week, because I’d really like to take Presto out next weekend and let him scope things out, put his feet in the water, and investigate the ditches/bank. He’s overdue for a field trip, I think!
Oh, and Bobby rode Cannavaro for the first time this weekend, just a quick and easy poke around to get acquainted.
He was perfect, of course. Would you expect anything less?
Honestly, describing the castration process as “snip snip” is wildly inaccurate. It’s more like squelch squelch and then the sounds of metal on metal. Which… the squelching is a gross sound. I’m good with the blood and the tissue and all that, but lord, the squelch. Barf.
I’m not gonna lie, I was really nervous about having Presto gelded. I still am, honestly. I don’t think I’ll breathe easy again until he’s totally healed and back to normal. I am a thousand times more paranoid about any kind of medical procedures with this horse than I am with anyone else. I have major flashbacks to the beginning of his life any time a vet goes near him. That’s not an experience I would like to repeat. Luckily I seem to be the only one with that baggage, because Presto doesn’t care.
My vet prefers to do standing castrations, if the horse is a good candidate for it. A “good candidate” for him is one who is tall enough to be able to see well underneath, is well-mannered enough to allow it, and has two clearly descended, easy to find (and hence chop off) testicles. In a standing castration the horse is sedated and then local anesthetic is injected at the surgery site. The main benefit of doing it this way is that you don’t have the added risk of putting the horse under general anesthesia, and my vet feels that there’s less risk to the horse and the surgical site/clotting by taking out the wobbly “standing up” part of that process. I am relatively terrified of anesthesia, so I was totally okay with trying it standing. If we had issues, we could always stop and lay him down.
So first thing first, he was sedated. This poor kid, he has every reason is the world to hate vets and hate needles and hate ALL of this crap, but he is so good. He stands like a rock for all of it, and this time was no exception. While the sedative kicked in, the vet started prepping the site and getting all his tools ready. Once Presto was nice and drunk, the local anesthetic was injected. From there, things escalated quickly. I was holding Presto so I couldn’t see most of what was going on, but Hillary was standing in full view of it all and I did get to watch all of her reactions, which went something like this.
That part was quite entertaining. Until the squelching. Then I too was making some of the same faces.
The first testicle, the left one, was out relatively quickly, thoroughly examined to make sure the vet got everything, and then it was tossed aside.
After several minutes with the clamp and an extra look to make sure everything was good, it was on to the right side. This is the testicle that took longer to drop, and still sat slightly above the other one. Once we got it out we saw why… it was little! The vet jokingly called it a micronut (very scientific term, I’m sure) and it was about half the size of the other one. Once the clamp was on, the vet showed us the anatomy of the whole thing, which part did what, and what parts you have to make sure you get out so that the horse doesn’t end up proud cut. Just what I wanted on a Thursday morning – a horse testicle anatomy lesson.
We gave him plenty of time in the clamps, since he was still just chillin, then he was examined one more time. He got some antibiotics and then we just kind of stood around and waited for the sedation to wear off so he could go back to his stall. It didn’t take long before he was like “well ok then, guess we’re done here” and off he marched.
The vet slowly packed his stuff up, wanting to stay for a while afterward to make sure there wasn’t any major bleeding. Some dripping was ok, but you obviously don’t want a stream, or a strong drip. The first few steps Presto took, there was maybe one little drip per step, but after that there was nothing. Everything looked well-clotted and good to go. The vet left me with post-care instructions and said to let him know if anything looked out of the ordinary or if he started bleeding again. I assured the vet that he’d likely be getting a photo of Presto’s crotch every day until it was totally healed. He knows I’m not joking.
I stayed for a little while longer to make sure the bleeding really had stopped and that Presto seemed fine. He had perked up out of the sedation really quickly and was totally back to normal by the time I filled his hay bag and went back to work, seemingly none the worse for wear.
I came back out a few hours later to check again and everything still looked good. No signs of fresh blood, and he was still standing there stuffing his face. He’d been drinking too, and there was fresh poop, so I went off to ride. Later I came back with a bucket and gently cleaned the area to get all the blood and gunk off his legs. He didn’t give a crap, just kept right on eating. Well, he was kinda mad about the bute I put in his dinner. He ate it while glaring at me out of the corner of his eye and making grossed out faces. Taking the nuts was fine, but ruining his dinner was a step too far, I guess.
It was a relatively uneventful thing, and I’m pretty sure that I’m way more stressed out about it than Presto is. Now we have the harder part: the aftercare. We have to cold hose and make him move around and try to manage the swelling. It’s not quite cold enough to have killed all the flies, but there are only a few. The weather looks like it will remain relatively dry, but our temperatures are fluctuating from the 70’s to the 30’s and back again.
Fingers crossed that everything heals up ok and without complication. If anyone needs me I’ll be staring like a weirdo at Presto’s crotch for the next couple weeks.
Well guys, Bobby’s new horse Cannavaro has officially landed in Texas! He arrived right on schedule, around 2pm on Tuesday.
Of course, I was at a damn doctor’s appointment right when he was getting there. Luckily Hillary was able to jet over to document the arrival, and Cannavaro and Bobby’s first meeting. She was providing live updates, which seemed very amusing to my doctor when I explained why my phone was going nuts (oh and also could y’all PLEASE HURRY UP I gotta get out of this stupid medical office!).
The rig could not comfortably fit down the driveway and be able to turn around, so they dropped the ramp and unloaded him on the side of the country road, literally into a ditch. The horse gave zero shits, like it was perfectly normal to spend 4 days on a cross-country trailer ride and then unload into a ditch on the side of a road. He very calmly stepped down the ramp, and then off they went walking down the driveway to the barn – passing scary trash cans and all kinds of fun opportunities to spook or be stupid. Cannavaro looked around and took in his surroundings, but he still wasn’t spooky or worried, and didn’t care about any of it. We were actually joking that Bobby was way jumpier and spookier about things than the horse was. How’s that for a first impression?
By the time he was off the trailer I was done at the doctor’s office, so I put the pedal to the metal and drove out to Bobby’s barn to meet the unicorn. In the mean time Bobby put him in the round pen to let him settle. Cannavaro immediately starting drinking, grazing, and got a nice thorough roll in the dirt. He wasn’t wide eyed, he wasn’t wild, he wasn’t upset… he just calmly looked around his new home.
He was as perfectly behaved as a horse can get, much less a coming 5yo OTTB, 3 weeks off the track, who just traveled 1600 miles and hadn’t been turned out in a while. He also seemed to recognize pretty immediately that Bobby was his person, coming up for snuggles and pets and cookies. The bond was immediately evident.
When I got there Cannavaro was just grazing in the round pen, calm as a cucumber. He was eating and drinking like a champ, and he has one of the sweetest, kindest faces I’ve seen in a long time. He’s got these big soft eyes, always interested in what you’re doing, but never wary or worried or upset. First impression? He was freaking perfect. I was so impressed with his temperament. Clearly he’s been well taken care of.
After a few minutes of watching him, we decided to put him out in a bigger turnout. Clearly he wasn’t going to be a nut or a danger to anyone or himself. As soon as Bobby started opening the gate to the round pen, Cannavaro came right up to him (HI DAD!) and we walked him over and stuck him out in the field next to Halo. They sniffed noses a bit, but mostly Cannavaro was interested in eating. Every few minutes he would gallop maybe 10 strides, then stop and eat again. Whoa there wild baby OTTB. Whoa there.
After watching him do basically nothing for a while, we got bored and went to tend to our own horses, leaving Bobby to get acquainted with his new kiddo alone. We got a photo update when the horses came into their stalls for dinner, and Cannavaro got an up close meet and greet with his older brother Halo.
Bobby even got him out, put him in the crossties, and groomed him. We had already warned him that some OTTB’s don’t know about crossties, but LOL. I’m pretty sure you could hogtie Cannavaro upside down to a tree and he’d be like “That’s cool, bro. No problem.” because he’s just that unflappable.
I think it’s safe to say that we’re all in love with him already. You couldn’t ask for a better brain on ANY horse, and he’s just so sweet on top of that. He is EXACTLY what Bobby was looking for. He’s absolutely 100% as advertised, if not even better than Jess made him sound. The messages from Bobby that night were awesome, and they’ve continued to be nothing but positive.
So far we’re off to a fantastic start. Cannavaro is totally a unicorn, and while I really thought he seemed like he would be a good match for Bobby, I think he’s blown everyone’s expectations out of the water. This horse is very easy to love, the kind that everyone wants to own.
Bobby is going to hop on him this weekend and just take him for a walk. Cannavaro (who is currently trying out the barn name Charlie – we’ll see if it sticks!) needs a little bit of rest, and he needs to gain a little weight, but some light hacking will be good for him. I’m beyond excited to see this partnership continue to develop… like for real this feels just as exciting as if I’d gotten a new horse myself.
As for the contest – no one guessed the number exactly, but one person was really close! Bobby used a grand total of 185 exclamation marks in the 24 hour period between when we sent him Cannavaro’s ad and when he was officially purchased, and Renee had the closest guess at 182. Renee you did not leave a last name or email or blog address so I’m not sure how to contact you… please shoot me an email via my contact page with your address and I’ll get your prize package in the mail!
Bobby does read all the comments here and really appreciated all the support and good wishes from the last post. He’s not interested in blogging, but I will include regular updates on Cannavaro here so y’all can see what they’re up to!
To fill the other day of our unexpectedly-empty-thanks-to-show-cancellation weekend, we had a jump lesson! Trainer is coming more regularly to a farm about an hour from us, which is logistically a lot easier than our normal 2 hours each way drive to get to her place. Anytime she comes that close, I will definitely make sure that I’m there. Jump lessons haven’t been a thing that happens very regularly for us in the past several years, but they really need to. Because, uh… Exhibit A:
Boy did Henry have a bit of a wild hair up his butt on Sunday. To be fair, he hadn’t jumped since our XC school a week and a half before, so he was still kind of in his ballsy swagger XC mode. Which, as evidenced above, does not work well when I ask him to get quietly to the base. It was also really cold, and he had a very easy day the day before. He was quite rude for his first few jumps, for Henry anyway. I tried last time to put my curb chain on the hackamore to give me a little more brakes than the plain leather strap I currently have, but the PS of Sweden hackamore shanks are so wide that I couldn’t find a chain that adjusted small enough to come anywhere near being workable. I ended up ordering a miniature horse size curb chain, which should be here this week. I think that one will fit. Hopefully.
Anyway, after annihilating a couple fences, one his fault, one very much my fault (heeeeey, pro tip, do not change your mind about the distance 45 times in the last 3 strides before a swedish oxer), we started to get our shit together a bit.
At this height, Henry has a bit of a hard time jumping clear. He doesn’t really give a shit if he hits a rail, and we’re nearing the top of his scope. Any little thing I do with my seat, hands, or especially my body has a big impact on whether or not he jumps cleanly. Seriously, even if I just soften my shoulders an INCH at the takeoff, it can mean a rail. On one hand, this is great. I rarely get away with mistakes, so I’m really accountable for them, and that’s how we learn. If you want to be a student of the horse, he’s a great teacher. On the other hand, do you have any idea how hard it is to try to be THAT GOOD all the time? It’s literally impossible. At least for this very amateur rider. And sometimes that’s frustrating.
When I start feeling like that, I try to remember that in a couple years I’ll be sitting a horse where just getting from one side of the fence to the other in a semi-straight line will be the banner accomplishment for the day. Henry is giving me a great gift right now by teaching me the importance of detail and finesse, and I have to appreciate it for what it is. I know without a doubt that’s he’s making me better. I’m accountable for everything I do, every little move I make, and I’m instantly aware when I make a mistake. Some days that just kind of ends up feeling like I make a hell of a lot of mistakes and I’m a walking disaster. Other days it feels like I can actually use those mistakes to make improvements and move forward.
I always struggle a bit with keeping my upper body back enough at the base to help Henry come off the ground, especially when we get a close distance. He’s a downhill horse, not particularly powerful, and he really does need me to do everything right in order for him to jump well out of a deep distance. That little teeny minuscule softening of the shoulder, dropping them just a hair, makes a big impact on his balance as he leaves the ground. Trainer made a new suggestion – instead of thinking “shoulders back” to the base, instead think of keeping my chin up all the way to and over and jump. Just that little movement raises my shoulders the 1″ that Henry needed in order to be able to get his front end out of the way, without changing what I’m doing with my seat.
It’s such a miniscule thing, such a teeny tiny ridiculous detail. Chin up at the base? Really? Yet it worked. When I actively thought about raising my chin, he was able to get his front end out of the way a lot more quickly and efficiently. Add that to the list of 1000 other things I’m trying to remember on course.
Riding is hard y’all, and it just keeps getting harder. I kinda live in a world where “the more you know, the more you don’t know” is my constant reality. It’s funny, because it’s so easy to look at riders showing at levels higher than you and think that they must have it all figured out. I remember when I was running BN and thinking those Training riders sure must be a hell of a lot better at all this than I was. And when I was running Training I was thinking that those Prelim riders for sure were several steps ahead of me, they must not make very many mistakes, right? Truth is, we’re all making mistakes constantly. Things get better with work and time, as they do of course, but at the end of the day we’re all in the same boat, just trying to learn and do the best we can.
Gosh the process is fun, though. Humbling, and frustrating sometimes, but fun none-the-less.
This past weekend was supposed to be our second Prelim, but some rain late in the week made the already saturated ground at the show venue pretty unrideable. They opted to cancel the show, which I was 100% ok with. I don’t want to tear up the footing at Pine Hill, nor do I want to try to run Prelim in the mud. But the cancellation left us with an unexpectedly open weekend, which translated to a lot of barn time.
While it was sunny, the weather was far from pleasant. There was a steady 20-30mph wind with gusts up to 40mph, not COLD but cold enough to make you question all your life choices as soon as you stepped outside and almost got bodyslammed into your house by the wind. Welcome to Texas winter. I knew there was no point in even trying to have a serious ride with Henry, so I opted to pony Presto and we went for a long walk in the fields instead.
Presto has kind of mastered the art of his sass at this point, and with all the wind on Saturday he was a little wild on top of it. He kept bouncing into Henry and trying to lick/bite him, earning himself a boot in the ribs and a couple whacks with the lead rope. Henry still wasn’t having it and took matters into his own hands (teeth?), putting the kibosh on the squirmy colt. Luckily for all of us it doesn’t take much to kill Presto’s hopes and dreams. He gives up pretty quickly once Henry decides he’s had enough.
Little colt is starting to look chunky again (for him anyway) so I’m relatively certain that he’s gearing up for another hideous growth spurt. Slow your roll, kid.
After a lap around the big hilly field, we went over to the other field where all the jumps are set up. Or rather… were set up. The wind had already knocked half of them down by that point, and now 2 of our 3 barrels are nestled up to a fenceline across the muddy bog of a corn field. But hey, where there were half-demolished jumps, there was also opportunity. I decided to test our ponying skills and see if I could get Presto over the little gate.
First time over, trotting:
And then cantering:
And then I decided to see what he thought of the tire tracks that were full of water. It was kinda like little ditches.
He already understands the “go over stuff” game pretty well, it’s kind of cute. I think he likes it. He’s starting to get more clever about where he puts his feet, too, and how to get across things.
Which… I was lunging him on Wednesday, working on his voice commands/transitions, and I stopped paying attention to him for like 2 seconds to talk to the barn worker. Damn horse veered out on his circle and jumped the mounting block! What the??? PRESTO! I’m infinitely sad that I didn’t get that on video though. The expression on the barn worker’s face was priceless, and soon we were both doubled over laughing. I guess he likes to jump?
After we came in from the field we decided to try turning Presto out with Dobby to see how they got along. Once Inca goes home and Presto is gelded, I’d like for these two dorks to be pasturemates. I think they’d get along well and have some fun, since they’re both young and silly. Presto is still VERY submissive to adult horses, and kind of a huge freaking wimp, honestly. He definitely wants to play, but as soon as they so much as look at him funny Presto crouches down, lowering his front end and making the chompy submissive baby face. He’s gotta get a little braver.
Dobby is usually turned out with Inca, who is the undisputed queen of their little hierarchy. As soon as we put him out with Presto he sensed that this one was an easy mark, and Dobby asserted himself as leader right off the bat, with just the simple pinning of his ears. That’s all it took for Presto to skitter away.
Presto never really got brave enough to play with him, he mostly just followed him around like a nerdy little kid trails their cool older brother. He wanted to do everything Dobby was doing, even though he wasn’t actually brave enough to get up there and interact with him. Hillary was playing with Dobby a bit, jogging around the arena with Dobby trotting behind her. Presto was always the caboose, trailing a bit behind. He wanted desperately to be a part of whatever Dobby was doing.
By the end of their “play date” he was brave enough to at least stand near Dobby without immediately offering a submissive pose, so that’s a step. I think once he gets used to him and turned out with him every day, he’ll get a little braver and start to play. Presto needs more horse interaction, after spending the last 10 months living with donkeys and otherwise really only experiencing Dictator Henry (Henry is not nice). Soon, kiddo, soon.
Presto’s snip-snip appointment is scheduled for Thursday. The weather isn’t quite what I was hoping to get, with rain predicted on Saturday and highs in the low 60’s, but at this point I think it’s the best we can do and I don’t want to delay it any longer. Hopefully the rain/mud stays away and the bugs aren’t too bad. I’m nervous about the whole thing, honestly. I have a lot of emotional baggage with this horse and medical-related things, given his history. Hopefully everything goes well, and in a few weeks he can start going out with his new BFF Dobby!
No, I didn’t buy a new horse. I’m too broke for that. But Bobby has been looking for a few months now for his next “forever” horse, the one that will eventually step up and fill Halo’s shoes. It was a tough one, because Bobby and Halo have been a team for over a decade. He molded the horse from a wee baby OTTB to an AEC Champion, and in that time he hasn’t ridden many other horses, bought any others, or even been a close spectator to very many sales. He is, understandably, very comfortable with Halo, and the idea of buying and owning something different was daunting.
But Halo is now in his late teens, and it’s getting to be time to add a baby brother into the mix. Bobby tried several horses, some which he loved, some which he liked, some which he hated. For various reasons, none of them were The One. Still, Hillary and I talked him into going to sit on anything that was nearby that sounded even remotely promising, because I felt like the more horses he sat on, the more he’d get a very clear idea of exactly what he wanted and needed. He started out thinking he needed one thing, but after a few rides it became clear that maybe he really wanted/needed something a little different. What he flat out refused to do, very adamantly, was consider buying one sight unseen. He wants to feel a connection with whatever he buys, which I get, but… Texas isn’t exactly a land overflowing with tons of promising young event prospects. It’s a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack, especially if you want one that’s sound and has a great brain.
So we looked, and we rode, and we looked some more. When Hillary and I were in Dallas for the Phillip Dutton clinic we went up and I tried another one for him, nixing it immediately. The problem with a lot of the restarted OTTB’s that we were looking at was that some of them were not restarted in a way that was beneficial to Bobby’s end goal. Some had gaping holes that would take a long time to go back and fix. We kept combing the ads, messaging sellers, and asking questions. I love Bobby and I want him to have a horse that he loves and that he can have fun with, but one that is also talented enough to do whatever he wants it to do. He doesn’t need a plodder, he just needs something with a good brain.
And then Jess Redman posted the perfect candidate.
For those who don’t know Jess Redman, she’s an OTTB reseller. She sells a ton of nice horses every year, and I know several people that have purchased from her. She has a good eye for a prospect and is honest about their strengths/weaknesses, so for someone who isn’t comfortable buying straight from the track or doesn’t have an “in” to that world, she’s a great source. You get to see what the horses are like away from the track, see them ridden w/t/c and even over their first few jumps. She takes tons of pictures and videos. She’s able to assess their temperament and get an idea of what they’d be good at. For Bobby, all of that is really important, and why he didn’t want to buy one directly off the track.
Only problem? She’s in freaking Delaware. 1,600 miles away.
Extra complication on that problem? She sells the good ones so fast, you’re unlikely to have time to arrange a trip up there to try one in person without it getting sold before you arrive.
There was no freaking way we were going to talk Bobby into this horse, right? And then Jess posted an update on her facebook.
I admit, as soon as she described him as a “gate licker” (her term for that derpy quiet amateur type horse who is probably standing there licking the gate while the rest of his idiot friends are running laps in the field), I was sold. As the owner of a couple Gate Lickers myself, I appreciate that kind of brain. Then I opened the video and watched as she flopped around on him, waving her hands around in the air, and he just kept on trotting like “well that’s an odd way to ride, but ok”. On his 3rd ride post track. In the freezing cold. After a week off.
THIS was Bobby’s horse.
Hillary and I had to work a little bit (and trust me we are zero percent subtle) to sell the idea to Bobby. After all, it would mean buying him sight unseen. Jess’s post and video were quickly spreading across facebook, and it seemed like everyone was quickly falling in love with this horse. I had no doubt in my mind that he would definitely sell within the next 24 hours. We convinced Bobby to watch the video, and then watch it again, and then read everything in the description carefully. There was no doubt that this one seemed absolutely perfect. Even Bobby couldn’t deny that this was by far the most promising one we’d seen. So he called Jess and talked to her more about him, and next thing you knew he had a PPE scheduled for the next day. I think we all felt that this one was special… including the huge wait list of people that were next in line if Bobby decided to pass.
The vetting was stressful, as all vettings are.
Ultimately though, Cannavaro looked really good for a horse that was just a few weeks off the track. We all talked about the results amongst ourselves, and with Trainer, and Bobby talked with the vet. Cannavaro would benefit from a couple months to chill and let his body heal from the stresses of the track, as they all do, but there was definitely nothing major or show-stopping. He was good to go for his next career.
I won’t lie, there was a lot of hyperventilating in our group chat that day. Ultimately though, Bobby’s gut told him that this horse was the one, and he took a leap of faith.
That’s really adorable, admit it. I think we’re all excited about this one. Also, this is a genius way to rack up those AmEx points. Buy the horse, pay it off immediately, cash in the points… genius.
Jess was super efficient and had the shipper booked immediately, lucking into an already scheduled load that was headed south. So on Wednesday we sent the horse’s ad to Bobby, on Thursday he was PPE’d, and on Friday the shipper picked him up. That’s how you do it, folks!
The shipper’s experience with the horse so far has totally meshed with Jess’s assessment:
So hopefully Cannavaro will get here by tomorrow, and Bobby will get to meet his new baby, Halo’s “little brother”. And yes, they even do share a little bit in common pedigree wise, both being Seattle Slew descendants – Cannavaro via his sire First Defence, and Halo via his damsire Tsunami Slew.
In the mean time Bobby has been doing what one does upon buying a new horse, and geeking out about all the things he’ll need when he gets here. I went searching and found the video of Cannavaro’s only win, in a Maiden Claimer last November. He wasn’t much of a racehorse overall, but hey… he did win once!
I’m over here feeling like the excited but nervous Auntie, waiting for him to arrive so Bobby can get to know him. I can’t wait to see Cannavaro figure out his new life, and blossom, and learn what eventing is all about. I LOVE this part of OTTB’s… they’re little sponges in that first 6-12 months post-track, and it’s so rewarding to see them change physically and mentally as they settle into their new life. Bobby is a great rider, so it will be really fun to see their relationship form and get to watch him bring along his next horse. I think we finally found one worthy of filling Halo’s shoes (and, uh, maybe being a little less spooky in the process!).
So to celebrate, I thought we should have a little “Welcome to the Family” contest.
As I mentioned above, the process of this horse’s purchase was mostly hashed out via a group chat. And as you can also see from the above sample, Bobby REALLY likes exclamation marks. Especially when you get him amped up. So I threw together a little prize package and decided to make this really simple:
Guess how many exclamation marks Bobby used in our group chat in the 24-ish hour period between when I first sent him the horse’s ad and when he actually purchased the horse?
Easy peasy! If no one guesses the exact number, I will go with whoever is closest. In the event of a tiebreaker I might ask you to also guess how many expletives were used by Bobby in that same time period. I doubt it’ll come to that though. As usual, please remember to leave your full name and/or blog link and/or email with your comment so that I know who to contact if you win.
Here’s the prize package! The black polka dot stock tie (from Sweet Iron Co, an Australian brand) is to represent the dot on Bobby’s aforementioned never-ending exclamation marks. The Likit is a nod to Cannavaro’s “Gate Licker” reputation. The Impossipuzzle (unicorn, space, and donut themed, naturally) is because that’s exactly what finding a new horse for Bobby felt like sometimes… an impossible puzzle. And the Unicorn Popper, because duh, Cannavaro is a unicorn.
Good luck with your guesses and welcome to the family Cannavaro!
I know what you’re thinking… “girl, how many helmets do you need?”. You’re not wrong, I do have several helmets. However, I would say that the correct answer to how many helmets a person needs is the same as how many horses a person needs: always one more than however many they currently have. A gal needs options, ya know?
In all seriousness, though, I needed a new skull cap. My previous Charles Owen Pro II was at the end of it’s lifespan, and to be honest I almost never wore that helmet anyway because it just never fit me right. Or rather, the padding squished down so much that it never fit after the first couple rides. I really love the idea of a skull cap for cross country, something that is actually required in the UK by British Eventing due to safety concerns involving a fixed brim contacting a solid fence. It was also kind of bothering me that my usual show helmet – a Samshield – performed so poorly in the Swedish study that focused on oblique impact. I’ve mostly been riding in the Traumavoid since then, and it just felt wrong strapping the Samshield to my head for cross country.
With the difficulties I had finding a Charles Owen skull cap that fit, I felt a little stuck. There are other brands, of course, but none that had the same kind of proven commitment to safety that CO has shown, and most were not readily available in the US. And then I found out that Riding Warehouse was now carrying some of the Champion line of helmets. Champion is another UK-based brand, with a reputation equaling Charles Owen. The fit is also a bit different from CO, so I was hoping that their Pro-Ultimate SNELL skull cap might work a bit better for me. I have not been disappointed.
The first thing I noticed was that the structure of the Champion ain’t no joke, it looks and feels incredibly sturdy, like I could drive a tank over that thing and it wouldn’t notice. It’s made of fiberglass and Kevlar, so… maybe you actually could. You know a helmet is serious when the Charles Owen looks and feels a bit flimsy in comparison.
The ventilation, while still not fantastic (helmets lose structural integrity when you start poking a lot of big holes in the shell, so this is typical for skull caps), is also better in the Champion. The harness is wider and sturdier, and the chin strap buckle is METAL, and fastens kind of like a seat belt. I have always wondered why we put relatively fragile plastic buckles on something that is only effective if it stays securely in place, so seeing that metal buckle made me happy.
The lining of the Champion is also completely removeable for easy washing. Aside from just a better fit for me in general (which is so good that I can leave the thing unbuckled, shake my head, fling it back and forth, and it still doesn’t budge), the Champion also feels more padded and comfortable against my head. With the Charles Owen it almost felt like the shell itself was sitting against my skull.
In the UK, Champion has developed a reputation for safety that rivals that of Charles Owen. In fact, they even submitted the Pro-Ultimate skull cap for SNELL testing, a standard that is optional for helmet makers, but goes well above and beyond our typical ASTM/SEI testing standards. There are currently only 4 equestrian helmets in the world that carry the most recent 2016 SNELL approval.
Why is SNELL so special? Mostly because their testing methods are different, and their pass/fail standards are higher. Their standard has the highest crush resistance rating (a BIG thing for me, or probably anyone who remembers Ollie’s horse falling and rolling over his head at Rolex 2010) of over 2,200lbs, they have a higher drop test, and use a variety of differently shaped objects during impact testing.
They want the helmet to cover more of your skull, but not obstruct your peripheral vision, and they check for stability. SNELL also tests the helmets in different weather conditions, temperatures, and from different angles. For full details on their testing, you can read the PDF here, or if you want a summarized version watch this video. It’s from the old standard, not the 2016 updated one, but it’s really cool anyway. Seriously, if you do nothing else today or get nothing else out of this post, watch that video. I highly recommend. It’s fascinating. Even more fascinating that many of the basic standards don’t test helmets nearly this thoroughly. It’s easy to see why SNELL approval is so difficult to achieve.
In addition to meeting a higher safety standard, the helmet (and all Champion models) also has a great replacement policy: within 1 year of date of purchase 50% off retail price, within 2 years of date of purchase 40% off retail price, within 3 years of date of purchase 20% off retail price. Since these are distributed in the US via Toklat, it means that you won’t have to wait as long for a replacement from overseas, and it means that the helmets carry the ASTM/SEI certification labels as required by USEF rules.
The Champion is slightly heavier than the Pro II, I think, although not enough to be noticeable while wearing it. The better ventilation and comfort cancels out any possible additional weight, IMO. It only comes in black, but of course, you can put any skull cap cover on it that you want. I’ve never been much of a skull cap girl, but I find myself reaching for this helmet more and more often. If you can give me comfort AND safety, I’m all in.
While the Champion helmet is a bit pricier than some other skull caps, coming in around $450 regular retail, it’s not out of the realm of what is normal for a helmet these days. And honestly, for the superior fit, design, and highest safety rating, the price seems plenty reasonable. I want to go out on cross country with safety equipment that I trust, and having a SNELL certified helmet strapped to my head offers a little bit more peace of mind that I’m doing what I can to help minimize risk.
If you’re in the market for a new helmet, I highly recommend looking into the new Champion line at Riding Warehouse. Aside from keeping safety a priority, they also make some really pretty and unique helmets. If the other models are anywhere near as well-made and comfortable as the Pro-Ultimate, you won’t be disappointed. And of course, RW has a very easy/free return or exchange policy if you’re unsure of fit or sizing.