Role Reversal

Henry has been ponying Presto (and Presto has been ponied) since not long after Presto first came to live with me just after his first birthday.

throwback to their first ponying session

By now, Henry has ponied Presto just about everywhere. On trail rides, out cross country schooling, on road hacks… pretty much anywhere we could pony, we did pony. I thought it was a good easy way to get Presto exposure to lots of things. Henry took to the job just fine, never seeming exactly thrilled about it (then again I’ve never seen him thrilled about anything aside from food and cross country), but he didn’t put up any actual protest either so he can’t have hated it that much.

Over the past year the ponying has pretty much tapered off, as Presto has branched out to being a riding horse himself, able to take on All The Things under saddle on his own. I think all his early ponying time served him well, as he was able to pretty much go right into trail riding and hacking out without any fanfare or overexcitement. He’d already been there and done that, to a degree.

This week the horses got their vaccinations, so they got a day off and then I was going to hack each of them. But it was hot, and I was short on time, and I thought… why not just pony one? Which very quickly morphed into “omg I should pony Henry off of Presto!”. Because why not? New challenges!

just as thrilled as they’ve always been

So I went and got both of them, tacked Presto up, stopped to laugh and take a picture, and then mounted up. I had set up my Pivo in the little courtyard area in front of the barn to get some video, figuring we’d start there to make sure they both understood their new roles. Honestly Presto seemed to get it immediately, understanding that he was the leader (he’s always thought he SHOULD be, anyway) and seemingly fine with having Henry tagging along beside him. My only real concern is that Henry would be a total jerk to him and Presto would be worried about him and not want to let him get too close. Shouldn’t have worried, even when Henry made a few rude faces Presto was 100% unperturbed. He was enjoying his power trip too much.

Henry’s like “what the actual F though…”

We made a couple laps of the courtyard and that was no problem. I mean… poor Henry’s legs are like 6″ shorter than Presto’s, so even with Presto walking slowly Henry had to walk faster than he’d typically prefer. He ended up lagging behind a bit.

Once I felt pretty confident that they both understood what we were doing, we headed out into the fields. We covered pretty much the entire property, just at a nice walk (for Presto it was a leisurely walk, for Henry it was a marching walk). At one point Presto hopped over the little natural ditch and trotted away a few steps, and Henry followed suit perfectly. I honestly think I expected him to be a bit more curmudgeonly about the whole thing. I mean… his face was VERY unamused (“who the hell decided that little anklebiter should be in charge? this is bullshit…”) but it never went beyond the grumpy face. And Presto seemed absolutely delighted by his role, never once did he even try to reach over and bite Henry or grab the lead rope or pull any of the theatrics that he loves so much when he’s the one being ponied. Who knew he just needed a leadership role to excel?

That was a fun and successful experiment! Good to know that if I want to just hack them both or take both of them for a long walk, I have the option of taking both at once and using either horse in the pony role. Plus Presto gets to officially add “lead pony” to his resume. Not bad, kid… not bad.

Sweet Sweet Sparkly Dopamine

Epplejeck broke my heart in December. When I ordered my fleecey neck rugs from them I also tried to order a set of these absofreakinglutely gorgeous navy sparkle boots

but after I placed my order they emailed me and said they were out of stock and weren’t sure when they’d be getting more.

Image result for world's tiniest violin gif

I’m not a quitter though, so I’ve gone back to their website at least twice a week to check stock. Since one does not just casually pop onto a website, check a single item, and then pop back out (at least I don’t), naturally this has also meant that I’ve spent a lot of time perusing the rest of their site, which… is always dangerous. Once you start wandering into danger zone categories like breeches and gloves (for some people that might be saddle pads), you know trouble is looming on the horizon.

And the thing about Epplejeck in particular, being a lower to mid-budget European shop, is that they have A LOT OF FUN STUFF. Not just brands we can’t get here, but things that are maybe a bit more out there or less conventional than most of what you see here. For instance, Epplejeck even has “Theme shops” – there’s a unicorn shop, a leopard shop, an orange shop (they’re Dutch, after all), etc. Shops by discipline (a cross country shop, you say?), shops by horse type (got a foal or a Friesian?)… it’s pretty darn thorough.

There’s also (are you ready for this?) a glitter shop. I feel attacked.

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It took me many visits to the site, stalking those boots, to actually fall that deep into it where I discovered any of this. But once I did, well… it spiraled. There isn’t a ton of stuff in the glitter shop, but if you search the site for “glitter” you get over a thousand results. I also discovered that they like the word “glitz” and “shine” to describe glitter. Yeah, I fell deep into the rabbit hole. In my defense, they also make just about everydamnthing with glitter. Like literally all of it. In any color you want. Also, things you put in your cart on that site stay there for a long dang time, so what started with just tossing these sparkle tights in the cart to sit there and wait until the boots came into stock

it’s hard to tell in the little picture but they’re dark navy with silver glitter in the fabric

seemed to spiral a bit more with every visit. Especially when things were 20% off. They love a good sale, something we have in common.

The tights soon found themselves joined by navy glitter gloves

And then I reasoned my way into a glittery navy helmet for dressage. (ride along with me on my reasoning: I always do dressage in navy and white, but the only navy helmet I have left is my daily use MyPS which has been scraped under enough tree branches by now that it’s starting to look a little roughed up, thus I clearly needed a nicer-looking navy helmet for the dressage phase. Why are you laughing at me. Stop laughing. That’s rude.)

Riding Helmet BR Omega Glitter

Anyway, that’s how I found myself with three navy glitter items in my cart, none of which are the brushing boots that have been the actual purpose of this quest all along since they still aren’t in stock.

And because I’m truly a great friend I shared the site with Hillary, who is buying a few things for her new little guy. And, ya know, I just casually threw it out there that if she wanted some things we could order together and split the cost of shipping. Win-win. And then there was a coupon code. Nothing was expensive at all to start with (I swear Europe has way better “cheap stuff” than we do). OKAY UNIVERSE, YOU CAN STOP TRYING TO SELL IT TO ME I’M ALREADY SOLD.

Plus my anxiety has been a bit high lately anyway so I needed a little hit of dopamine. Sweet sweet sparkly dopamine.

Image result for dopamine gif

We’ll see how long it takes to get here. I was pretty pleased with my first order from them, and interested to see the quality of these items. Of course, I’m STILL stalking their website, checking back all the time to see if those sparkly boots are in stock. So far no luck but you can bet I’m gonna jump on it ASAP if/when they ever do reappear. I’m sure by then my cart will have mysteriously re-filled itself again, too… weird how that happens.

The Leather Bit

I’ve gotten so many questions and comments about Presto’s leather bit, I thought we’d talk about it today!

This experience is my first foray into the world of leather bits. Mine came from Sweet Billy’s Bits (after ordering I figured out that I actually know the lady that runs this shop, small world!) and is the loose ring rounded version.

Admittedly I went for it at first because I was just a little perplexed about Presto’s bitting. I tend to start everything in a Nathe and go from there, and for Presto the Nathe was a bit too thick to sit comfortably in his mouth, he couldn’t quite close his mouth around it. Since that was the case I went for thinner, to a Myler comfort snaffle. I didn’t hate that bit on him, but he was still chompy and hesitant to really go INTO it. I tried a mullen happy mouth (too thick and he didn’t seem to like the rigidity). I tried tongue relief bits, which were a big hell no. I tried Henry’s Neue Schule, because it’s not too thick, but something about that link in the middle made Presto start playing with it and almost fall into a trance-like state where he just couldn’t stop. His mouth was busybusybusy fussyfussyfussy. My trainer had mentioned a leather bit, because one of her horses was very particular/fussy and they went through a lot of bits trying to make him happy before settling on the leather one. For less than $40 I figured what the hell – worst case scenario is that I add to my bit collection.

And while it wasn’t a quick fix, instant rainbows and daisies type of situation, there was no doubt right off the bat that Presto’s mouth was MUCH quieter in the leather bit. After a few wears he also started reaching for it when I bridled him, too, something he had never done with any other bit. He seemed more comfortable just wearing it, at the very least, and was instantly less chompy when he was bridled. After the first couple weeks as he settled into it, he also got steadier in the bridle and less fussy with his mouth. Definitely not perfect, but also a lot better than anything else I’ve tried.

you would almost NEVER catch him with his mouth closed around the bit before

Now that I’ve owned it for a couple months and have gotten familiar with it and how it works, I can 100% see why fussier horses like it so much. It’s got a nice soft warm feel as soon as you bridle them, much different than putting metal in their mouth. It’s super flexible, like you can completely bend this thing back on itself. As you use it on the same horse it also starts to mold to their general mouth shape, taking on a bit of a curve that makes it sit in there like it’s custom. If you have a horse with a larger tongue, fleshy lips, low palate, or smaller mouth space, I think the thinness of this bit also makes this sit pretty comfortably in their mouth.

The only real cons I’ve seen with are two fold:

  1. It’s only legal for eventing dressage, not for regular dressage. I mean, this isn’t a problem for ME, but it’s a problem for other people. Also for eventing dressage you need the rounded style, not the flat one.
  2. If you have a horse that chews, they can destroy it.

Naturally, Presto is a bit of a chewer. If you have this issue Sweet Billy’s suggests that you wrap the bit in Sealtex, something I haven’t done in years but am familiar with from back in the day. I ordered Presto a new one last week (because caveat – as the bit starts to mold to the horse’s mouth and takes on a curve, it will fit a bit smaller. I originally ordered his normal size of 5 1/4″ but really he ended up needing 5 1/2″) and this time I wrapped it in Sealtex to try to keep him from chewing on it.

cut Sealtex into two strips – thinner is easier to manage for something as small as a bit
wrap one strip tightly around the bit

It’s pretty straightforward, and didn’t seem to make any difference in how he felt about the bit. The Sealtex is still soft and flexible so there’s no difference in the action, but obviously it does make it a little thicker. How thick depends on how much Sealtex you use and how tight you wrap it. I didn’t want to go with too thin a layer of Sealtex lest he chew through it immediately, but I tried to avoid going so thick as to make the bit not sit well in his mouth anymore. We’ll see how well that approach works, and I’m sure it’s something I’ll have to dial-in as we go along. And we’ll see how long the Sealtex lasts before I need to cut it off and re-wrap it.

The only other slight con of a leather bit is that it does require a tiny bit of maintenance. Before I had the Sealtex on it, I wiped mine with water after every ride and then used a little bit of oil every couple weeks to help keep the leather from drying out. It’s not a big deal, but a little more maintenance than a regular metal bit.

Overall I’m glad that we tried it, and for now it seems to be Presto’s bit of choice. I’m for sure glad to have yet another tool in my toolbox going forward, in case I encounter another horse like this. Having more options is always a good thing!

Hitting a Wall

I admittedly feel like I’m hitting a wall with Presto right now. Now because of anything HE is doing, he’s continued to be a Good Baby Horse and also the cutest even when he’s causing trouble (which is always).

possibly biased but I’m still right

The problem right now is really threefold. 1) Q1 is really really busy for me at work, and we’ve got some other things going down at the moment that just pile on top of that. I’m struggling to get consistent time to work two horses during the week, and when I do I’m often rushing or not 100% focused on the ride. This is obviously not the situation you want when you’re riding a neon green baby horse. 2) I absolutely love my grass jump field with it’s beautiful trees, but it’s a very challenging space for trying to teach a big gawky horse the basics of jumping. I’ve about knocked my block off on branches at least 4 times, and not because he was doing anything bad, but just because he’s wiggly and green and not necessarily precise about steering through and around trees while also trying to jump. Plus it’s on a bit of a slope, which adds to the struggle. I can’t really ride him the way he needs to be ridden right now when we’re constantly dodging trees or having to balance down a hill. 3) His canter balance is still a bit of a struggle in general. In the dressage arena he struggles because his stride is big and gangly and kind of all over the place for a space that small. But then we go out in the field and we have the issue with the slope. Plus like, let’s be totally honest, I’m a capable enough rider but I’m far from great, so I’m 100% certain there’s something I could be doing to help him more. It’s one of those things where he feels so so so close to finally “getting it”, but I think he needs someone who rides better than me to help him click that last piece into place.

Plus there are a few other finishing touches I want him to have with his groundwork training that aren’t 100% there. I want him to self-load, because I’m always alone and my horses need that skill. He’s about 50/50 on that, and last time when he backed off the trailer he fell and kind of scared himself a bit, so a re-visit of trailer training would be good I think. I also need for him to be better at standing for the farrier than he currently is. He’s not BAD, but he’s just not patient enough for that and is wiggly and annoying. He’s about to get his first set of shoes next time and really needs to be better with his patience and keeping his foot on the stand (or not flailing it around for fun).

The way I see it, I have a few options. One, I could just put him on the back burner until work slows down. That doesn’t really help with my #2 issue, and it’s not really what I want to do at the moment given #3 – I do feel like he’s incredibly close to nailing down some major fundamentals and stopping now feels like the wrong thing. Plus I want to get the groundwork things ironed out fully before we really start diving into his “career”. I thought about finding someone local to haul him to for rides, but that becomes problematic due to item #1 – I have no idea when I’d find the time. The third option is that I could send him off for a month or so of training, to someone that has a nice big jump ring to ride him in and some cross country jumps and can help him put the pieces together without the additional challenges I have here at home, plus has the bandwidth to work on the groundwork things as well.

The thought of sending him off kind of makes me want to vomit, if I’m being honest. To be fair, even some kind of fantasy scenario with guaranteed rainbows and butterflies would still make me want to vomit. The latent trauma I still have from this horse’s early life is real and I am very weird about letting him out of my sight or my care. I’m also particular that he be in a relatively safe, Presto-proof environment, because if there’s potential for trouble he will find it. He puts his feet in fences and buckets. If you leave something within his reach, it WILL become a toy and you WON’T like what he does to it. That’s just who he is, so he has to live somewhere where the potential for injury is at least minimized. He also requires a lot of turnout, the more the better. And, let’s be honest, someone who understands a personality like his (monkey, he’s a monkey) and knows how to deal with it. Some would find him… really freaking annoying. Sense of humor is required as is a good understanding of NH type groundwork.

While the thought of him not being just outside my window sends me spiraling into a pit of anxiety, the practical side of me knows it’s something that will happen sooner or later. I also can’t shelter him forever – it would probably be good for him to be exposed to a busier environment and someone who might do things a little differently than I would. I’m also the only one that’s ridden him, and I actually don’t think that’s a great thing. He needs to experience other riders, and any of my own weaknesses that I may be transmitting to him should be addressed early. I am definitely not the kind of person that wants to hoard the horse or is hesitant to get him pro rides. I just have to… cut the cord. I was planning on sending him off for a little while in the summer anyway, so it’s not like this is a new idea. And I really really really want to get the trailer loading and farrier skills at 100% ASAP, so that he’s fully prepared for his life moving forward.

I’m letting the thought percolate in my mind a bit, but I already know what my options are and have thought about it extensively. This is more of me venting/explaining than looking for ideas. My gut says it’s the right thing, even if it’s just for a month to help get us over the current hump, but I think my internal helicopter mom needs to finish coming to terms with the idea.

Three Little Piggies

Spoiler alert, the third piggie is Henry because omg Becky look at that butt gut.

He’s turning into an oatmeal creme pie

Really, I swear he doesn’t eat much grain. I wish I could take some of his chunk and put it on Presto, who eats everything I can possibly shove down his gullet yet it just disappears as if he is a black hole stuffed inside a giraffe.

Anyyywaaaayyy, my little Amazon piggies arrived yesterday! I’m really impressed with them considering it was less than $30 for the pair, they’re really sturdy and thicker than I was expecting. I wish the horse ones weren’t $50 (admittedly still a decent deal for a pair but just not as satisfyingly good) or I’d nab those too.

I immediately had to tote them out and put them on a jump.

Which, the cuteness of the piggies mostly just highlighted how sad and underwhelming my jumps are in general (stop laughing at my flowers) and I can’t quite decide if they’re helping or making it worse. Look, they were free 99 and I used discounted Oops paint to paint them last year, so at a point beggars can’t be choosers. I’m delighted to have anything at all. I do need to up my flower and filler game though, I think. Not that Presto has yet to register a difference between a no-frills jump and a nicely filled one. The piggies bring me a lot of joy, at least.

I was doing some pole work with Henry yesterday afternoon after I set the piggies out in the jump field and I glanced over at them and thought… “Ya know what else those could be? Skinnies!”. Henry is the champion of skinnies by now, considering all the single upright barrels and cardboard boxes and mounting blocks and whatever the heck else I’ve asked him to jump over the years. It’s a fun game.

He’s offended that I made fun of his gut so here’s a picture of him putting some bare minimum effort into his pole work

Once I saw them as skinnies I couldn’t unsee it, so we left the ring, walked over to the jump field, and I pulled them out from their oxer and set them in the middle. First I set them side by side, got back on, and cantered over them. Henry gave zero shits. So then I was like ok what if I jump both of them as singles? First I set them as a one stride, but then figured that seemed kind of easy, so I decided on a bending line instead. I eyeballed a distance, set up each pig, got back on, and pointed Henry at them.

Naturally he nailed it on the first shot, and true to form he looked bored AF about the whole thing. Add “jumps piggies in a sidepull” to his resume, please. Mostly I think he’s just learned by now that if he humors me the first time, it’s over sooner. And he was right, he got to be done with that and we went in and I gave him an oatmeal creme pie. His life is simple these days.

I still haven’t been able to find any good and reasonably priced giraffes or unicorns for jump fill, but I haven’t given up trying. Now that I have the piggies I think I kind of need them. I also ordered a pair to send to my trainer for her new facility, because what better barnwarming gift could there possibly be? Piggies for everyone! Except Henry, that particular piggie is just for me.