Friday, January 23, 2015

CAN I RETURN THIS SADDLE

black breeches, jump saddle
I failed to consider the bigger picture. I went all crazy go nuts and bought this dressage saddle that makes my ass sing. I mean, I picked out some actual dressage shows to attend. I'm taking dressage lessons on my horse and having fun. I was in DO ALL THE DRESSAGE mode.



And then JenJ was all "you need white breeches".

FULL STOP.

CUE PANIC.

I DID NOT SIGN UP FOR THIS.

NOPE
White breeches? White?? WHITE??? I vaguely remember this about dressage, but I thought they'd modernized in the past few years. I mean. I am just an average adult ammy. I am not a gym rat and I have neither time nor money nor inclination to become one. AND I AM OK WITH THAT ABOUT MYSELF.

What I am not ok with is arbitrarily stuffing myself into blinding, glaring white sausage casings and then jiggling my ass all around the sand box in front of eyes I am paying to be critical. I'm an office worker, not a goddamn stripper AND I HAVE THE THIGHS TO PROVE IT.

Hellooooo. What deranged psychotic lunatic thought that as a bumbling ammy rider ANYTHING about my ride would be improved by wearing the world's most unflattering color in ridiculous tight pants I have no business in anyways?

So uh.... is there a way out if Micaylah won't take her saddle back? How do y'all get through this? Or is it like I suspect and all the other bloggers just magical teeny pixies in 24 breeches with no ass?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

SMTT Equestrian Scavenger Hunt

So Lauren had this fantastic idea about an equestrian photo scavenger hunt, but it's freezing cold and icy/muddy here and I have this rule about all original photography, so I sort of ruled myself out.

Then Carly showed the world how it's done.

Without further ado, I bring you the completely original-photography-but-knocked-off-idea of the equestrian scavenger hunt.

1. The most magical Friesian of all the Friesians
an ottb dressed like a clydesdale is practically a friesian

2. A 10+ Jumper
you're just jealous of my eq
3. A horse we can all call Shenanigans! on
ok i didn't take this, but it's my horse
4. The (best) worst clip job you’ve ever seen
I cannot explain why I did that to his face
5. The cutest miniature horse on the planet
SHE EVEN HAS A PINK BOW FOR HER BARBIE MANE
6. Bitchiest. Mare. Ever.
I win.
7. Funniest horse meme/cartoon
as if
8. The most matchy McMatcherson outfit
um yeah this was great
9. A most saintly creature
it can happen
10. The Black Stallion Returns… 2015 style
this was 2014... still count?
And there we go!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Meet the Blogger: Paint Edition

I've been trying to go through and update all my pages on the blog with current information. That gets a little tedious sometimes, and all of a sudden, I thought it would be sort of hilarious to introduce myself via paint drawing.

I dunno. It sounded like a good idea at the time.

Without further ado, meet me in paint:
I've highlighted some useful features that I can explain here:
1) hair that absolutely refuses to be contained
2) long ape arms that are the envy of all you t-rex folks out there.
3) I dunno, don't really use those anyways.
4) What bounces to distract judges from what's actually bouncing
5) what's actually bouncing
6) world's longest torso (tm). Actual torso may be less cylindrical and more bulgy.
7) super proportionate legs. no one is jealous of these.
8) because thigh gap is for losers

And my horse:
1) Ears
2) perfect hair
3) actually a little uphill
4) perfect hair
5) insert cookies here
6) muscle bulge that needs to go away. remember when i said i'd never own an upside down horse? ha!
7) legs for days
8) ridiculously sexy ass. not kidding. his back end is amazing.

As my stunning drawings no doubt show, we are pretty much the ideal partnership. My long arms compliment his short neck and he definitely has enough leg length to go around.

Sooooo how do you and your horse match up?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Talking Tuesday: Drugs and Horse Showing

but I used to jump, remember?
Given that I don't show horses on a national level (or even pay to belong to an organization that does), I generally keep my nose out of national equine politics.

But then I ran across an article on Chronicle of the Horse that argued for changing the banned substances rules. It's fascinating read if you have the time. If you don't, the gist of it is that the USEF can ban/fine it's members for even the tiniest violations, a 1000th of a 1000th of a gram, which is so small that it could be explained by a horse metabolizing a drug differently.

It's an interesting argument, to be sure.

not a DUI
Basically, the only proof needed to hand out punishment is trace evidence that something was ever present. The author argues that the USEF ought to also be able to prove that the substance was available in an amount that might have a therapeutic effect.

Part of me agrees with the author. The hoopla around the disqualification of Jock Paget at Burghley even when he proved he did nothing wrong intentionally was wildly unfair in my opinion. The other part is offended that the author's examples are enforcing speed limits (on vehicles by police) and blood alcohol limits placed on DUI enforcement.

only strike dramatic poses on cloudy days
It bothers me that the author compares horse sport with motor vehicle operation because a horse is in no way equivalent to a machine. I don't worry about my car consenting to drive me to work. I don't ensure that every drive ends on a good note. Why? Because it's a non-sentient being.

A horse cannot consent to compete in a sport verbally. It can't understand the risks inherent in putting that kind of stress on a body and it has no concept of what another option might be.

Because a horse cannot give informed consent, I think the standard of evidence for riders MUST be higher. It's not as simple as saying "I drugged him, but he wasn't impaired" to the USEF enforcement officer looking at a tainted blood sample.

At least, in my world, it shouldn't be.

Thoughts? I really can argue this one either way.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Oops I did it again

too cute to be believed

Yeah, we're rocking the 90s pop blog titles lately. Sorry not sorry.

I don't really know where to start. Some of you probably remember when I took my teensy puppy out for barn day and got to play dressage (poorly) on blogger Micaylah's horse.

I absolutely loved her saddle, though it didn't make me look that much like a dressage rider. Oh well.

obviously, he's fine
Anywho. Courage and I have been playing dressage in a jump saddle this winter. My instructor assures me it's fine--it won't make me a dressage rider, but Courage can certainly learn the necessary skills at this level without specialized tack.

It's certainly been fun.

Buuuut I have taken dressage lessons before and I know it's easier when when you ride like a proper dressage rider and dressage shows are on our goal list this year.

yeah. just keep thinking that.
I'll admit to having poked around online for cheap saddles, but nothing struck my fancy and I hate cheap tack and fit is such a crapshoot.

And then there was the slight problem of Micaylah wanting to sell her old saddle. I asked about it, but apparently she wanted money for it and money is not so much for me right now.

But what harm could possibly come of me taking it on trial, right? I mean, if it doesn't fit her and her giant super wide horse, there's no way it will fit me and my average medium horse.

Am I right?

and lipstick
I put it on Courage by myself the first day and it looked pretty perfect. I sat in it and my butt sang songs of happiness.

Seriously.

There may have been butterflies.

But that was just me on my own. It's been like two years since I've sat in a dressage saddle correctly and I knew for certain I was doing it wrong.

I didn't want to commit to anything (plus the whole cash flow thing) and I'm not 100% comfortable fitting saddles without a second pair of eyes.
that time i accidentally bought polka dot polos
So I dragged Micaylah out to the barn. Now you might say it's a conflict of interest because she's the one trying to sell it, but bear in mind she has to live with me if I hate it... so I was ok with that risk.

She liked the fit on Courage just as much as I did.

We poked around with it (on my hotass freshly clipped horse) and then tacked up.

Complete with cookie monster bonnet because **** you, January.




the best at stretchy trot
Micaylah talked us through some dressaging, which was fun (SIT UP LEG DOWN OMG WOULD YOU SIT UP ALREADY)

She also took pictures, but dark and blurry indoor+iPhone will only get you just so far apparently.

At any rate, Courage looked and felt fantastic. Plus some of the pictures are blurry enough that I don't look THAT terrible. Yay!

So. Micaylah is taking payments and I'm buying a dressage saddle.

Sigh.

if you squint a little, i could be dressaging. squint harder.
Wait, what?

How is it that I suddenly have a friend whose cast offs I want?

If you need me, I'll be over here playing with my saddle and pretending I look all glamorous and German instead of like a dumpy American who can not haz dressage.

Friday, January 16, 2015

1/16/14 - 1/16/15. One year without.

My whirlwind romance with my big red man ended a year ago today. I still don't really have words to capture him and I can't bring him back. Here's a pictorial journey of our last months together.
After the first vet visit. 

Cuna spent the first two weeks after the initial incident with some dear friends while his barn got worked on. It introduced me to what life without a show barn could look like for him and gave me some mental space to make better choices. I still believed he could get better and that if I did the right things, I could help him.
taking time to breathe

Shortly thereafter, I took a rare me trip and realized that I needed to quit pushing the recovery and get Cuna out of the situation he was in. It was time to dial everything back and let him be a horse.
someone was happy

I have rarely regretted a decision less. Cuna loved his stall, but he was always pissy and weird in a barn situation. His whole demeanor changed with this move--he played with his buddies, enjoyed his time, and almost completely gave up flipping his nose at bugs.
beautiful and broken

I carefully monitored lameness levels on detailed calendars and gave him the best of everything. An early winter vet visit helped us out for a while, but I could read the writing on the wall.
he didn't love that garland

We tried to live like it wasn't. I saw him nearly every day. His feed, feet, and comfort levels were carefully managed. Cuna's barn (a private situation with one other person) was a sort of haven for us. I didn't offer to share it with other people very often. That time was just for him and I.
courage

January came and I knew it was time. Even through tears, I could appreciate what Cuna had brought to me in terms of the little bay horse. I posted this shot on the internet, only labeled "Courage" and I made the last appointment we'd ever need.
Hakuna Matata
I ran an auto scheduled post morning of. If I'd thought of it, I would have stopped it.

But I didn't have words and Ellie wrote the post that told the blog world one of their own was no more while Lindsey and I trekked through impenetrable fog.

Even now, I don't know what to say.
I'll see you again, red man

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Face Off: Rambo Micklem vs PS of Sweden High Jump Bridle


The 900facebookpony already did a comprehensive write up of the PS of Sweden High Jump bridle. If you're at all curious, read it. This really is one of the coolest bridles I've been around and the thoughtful details are just incredible. Of course most people, including myself, draw an immediate comparison to the Rambo Micklem bridle, which I reviewed here.

So instead of just a straight review of this latest addition to the bridle hoard (just think if I never sold bridles. omg.), I wanted to talk about the really obvious comparison between the Rambo Micklem Bridle and the the PS of Sweden High Jump bridle.

Here is what I absolutely love about both of these bridles: they completely reject "traditional" styling that's been basically unchanged for centuries and instead look at the anatomy of the horse's face. Which is better for what and why?

Here we go!

Bridle Comparison

sparkle browband not included

Availability and Price

Micklem

The first and most obvious question to answer is how does one acquire either of these lovely pieces--neither is American based. The Micklem was designed in England and is widely available in the US through major retailers. A new Micklem runs in the $200 neighborhood and includes reins.

No special knowledge is required to order and many tack stores have started to carry Micklems as they have picked up in popularity due to being legal in all USEF English-riding disciplines (dunno about driving, reining, or vaulting). They show up quite frequently in upper level eventing competitions.

cute bay horse not included

High Jump

A High Jump bridle isn't hard to acquire, but it takes a few more page clicks than a Micklem for the US-based audience. It is available through the PS of Sweden website here. Here's the thing: It's list price is $313 when using the English version of the site.

North Americans (and basically any non-Europeans) are exempt from the VAT tax, which means that when you look at your cart, the price excluding VAT is $250. Shipping to the US (via UPS 2 day) is $30, which puts you at $280 for a High Jump bridle with reins.

It's not rocket science, but your first overseas order can be confusing. Bonus, PS takes paypal, so no worries about converting currency or whatever. The internet is magic.

Leather Quality 

Micklem

To me, a bridle in the $200-300 range is pretty standard and I don't get my panties in a twist about whether or not it's the second coming of leather Jesus.

That said, not everyone is a bridle ho like I am.

The Micklem bridle has what I call "passable" or "workmanlike" leather. It's not pretty. It's not French. It gets the job done. I don't feel bad if I ride in the rain. Despite months of meticulous care by me, the Micklem never really got that "well broken in" feel I love in quality leather.

I don't worry about it falling apart, but I don't love handling it.

High Jump

Straight out of the package, I like the leather on this bridle more than I ever liked the Micklem. It still isn't Antares of course (dear god if they put Antares leather on PS designs I would die of happiness). The leather is soft and pliable. The padding is luxurious. It takes conditioner well and is already more pliable than either of the Micklems I had ever was.

The leather is nice enough. I'm going to grade it at "slightly better than Nunn Finer" and maaaaaybe whisper that a little bird told me they were planning to upgrade the leather this year. Time will tell if I can hold out and not get a new one when that happens.


cute head, but made like a block

Sizing and Fit

Micklem

One thing that has always bothered me with Micklem bridles is that they're pretty inflexible in terms of size. Your horse either has a Micklem-sized head or he doesn't. Period. I have no ties to the Rambo company and I don't know if they're working on this, but I've never been really impressed with this aspect of the Micklem.

In addition, the "jaw strap" always hits my horses funny. I get that the Micklem isn't supposed to be tightened down, but it just seems weird and uncomfortable to put it in the middle of the cheek. Now maybe my mileage would vary if my horse was more Micklem-sized (heh), but this is what I have to deal with. I do like that the awkward jaw strap kept the bridle cheeks well clear of the eyes, but there has to be a better way to do that.

For what it's worth, Courage always wears Cob size bridles and I ordered the same here. It was fine on the jaw strap and on the longest or second longest hole for the flash.That said, his muzzle is not his most delicate feature, so I'd say the bridle fits pretty true to size.

High Jump

Truth: even when I discounted the High Jump bridle as just a European take on the Micklem, I admired the fact that they found a way to make this concept adjustable. The "cavesson" is set on rolled leather, so it can move around to accommodate different faces. The strap behind the bit is similar to a conventional crank (except it fastens with a snap), so there are lots of length options.

The front strap actually buckles UNDER the chin instead of on the side. Admittedly, this makes it minorly more difficult to put on, but OMG then then buckle isn't catching my horse's lips constantly. Given that I want my bridle to fit my horse, I actually really love this feature.

Again, I ordered cob size for Courage because he always wears cob and he does fit in the cob. Buuuuuut if I were to order again, I think I'd do some measurements to see if he could rock the horse size. The browband and cheeks are fine, but due to the shape of Courage's face (I swear it's two parallel lines instead of something cuter), the noseband is on the very last holes.

Thus, if in doubt, I'd definitely size up.

DETAILS

Micklem

This is what really separates the wheat and chaff, folks.

Most bridles have two straps that run alongside the horse's face: the cheeks and the cavesson hangers. Straps make bulk. Bulk makes pressure. Pressure is what we're trying to alleviate here.

The Micklem deals with this problem by putting everything on the one strap. I mean, you've got to hand it to Rambo--the Micklem bridle has the least pieces of any bridle I've ever worked with.

HOWEVER that is exactly what keeps the Micklem from being adjustable. Everything goes where it goes and your horses either fits or doesn't.


The Micklem does a nice job with the comfort crown and I never had any trouble with it.

High Jump

This is where the High Jump blows it's competition out of the water.

To keep the flexibility in adjustment, the High Jump sports the usual two straps alongside the face, BUT it contours one to match the shape of the facial bones and then rolls the other to eliminate bulk.

It doesn't just have a comfort crown--the entire shape of the crown is designed to sit on the horse's head. The crown is what makes it so these bridles don't need throatlatches--they're so anatomic that they just stay put.

The High Jump adds great details like fancy stitching, the snap on browband, and the hidden elastic in the bit attachments and reins to incorporate a little more give for a softer ride on the horse.

Oh, AND while the Micklem reins are standard nasty rubber reins that I literally never used, the High Jump comes with rubber lined leather reins with hand stops. That are awesome.

And that brings us to...
spring=glorious outdoor pictures

FUNCTION

Micklem

The Micklem is an item that serves to hold the bit in the horse's mouth and attach the reins while interfering with the animal as little as possible. That is the goal of bridles and it certainly gets the job done. I'd like to say it's a magic bullet or some sort of miracle cure, but 99% of contact problems seem to have a lot more to do with training than any particular piece of equipment.

That said, the Micklem is gaining traction in the show world because it is another option for those fussy horses who like a little relief. I thought Courage went well in the Micklem I had for him. My very-traditional trainer didn't like it. I ended up selling it (to get my first ps) and now said trainer has a Micklem. So. It's making inroads.

I didn't think that the Micklem changed Courage's manners in the bridle in a substantive way, but he wasn't a horse who had huge issues to start with. I would absolutely LOVE to try this bridle on some horses from my past if I ever got the chance.
winter=blurry indoor pictures

High Jump

Everything the Micklem does, the High Jump does better. It's more anatomically correct, more detail-oriented, more fitted.

The High Jump bridle is currently USEF legal only for showjumping and the jumping phases of eventing. It has not been allowed in dressage just yet. That said, it's similar to the Micklem so if PS makes the push (greases the right palms?) as it gains traction in the US market, I wouldn't be surprised if it became legal.

I have not heard that they are working on that yet, but they're a git-er-done sort of a company, so I'll keep you posted if I hear more.

PS of Sweden High Jump Bridle

CONCLUSION

At this point, the Micklem is the cheaper, show legal option that is mildly more accessible in the US. That said, the High Jump bridle is a much higher quality piece of tack that is rapidly catching on around the world. I love how it fits my horse and I love looking at it, and it's not leaving my tack room any time soon.

I think it's a good option even for the average rider with a perfectly fine horse just because it's worthwhile to explore alternatives to the traditional. Yeah, maybe you won't like it, but maybe you will.

And maybe it won't be this innovation that makes a difference for you, but it's worth being open to ideas in case one of them does.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Clip Me Baby One More Time: Winter Pattern Baldness

so much hair everywhere
Here's a thing about me: I really, really, really hate hair. It makes me batty. I hate being shed on. I hate fuzzy winter horses. I hate goat beards and yak coats and all that shiznit. HATE.

I clipped Courage back in October. I haven't re-clipped since then.

I touch up his face from time to time, but like there is hair. Everywhere. It is not ok with me.








my sexy ass horse
BUT.

I know that I know that I know clipped horses are harder to care for and require more blanket changes. I know that shedding isn't harmful and many thousands of years of horseman were shed upon every spring and very few horses were murdered as an outcome.

I know that a fuzzy horse is a warm horse and a warm horse is less likely to buck me off, especially as the weather changes.

I KNOW ALL THAT.

so bald. so pretty. need mane pull. 2014 pic
But you know what else I know?

My horse is beautiful and I like looking at him. I absolutely refuse to tie up Courage's tail or even braid it because I like looking at it. I like the aesthetics of tack and how it compliments my horse. I really love the look of a freshly clipped horse. I love quarter sheets.

And hell, I own so many blankets I hardly know what to do with all of them.

Soooooooo.


Just a little bib clip.
I pulled my little clippers out and just did a nice bib clip for Courage on Monday. It didn't take long, it wasn't hard to do, and Courage didn't even need his cooler for very long after the ride. WOO WOO.














forgot how to take pics in the sun
And then Tuesday was warm and sunny and I had a little extra time.Plus Courage gives no shits about clippers, so he just dozes while I clip away.

It's a slow week at work, so I keep taking off a little early to play clippers. Who knows where this will end up...

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Teach Me Tuesday: Hoof Boots

True confession: I have never been "in" to hoof boots like... ever. The hellmare went barefoot quite a bit, but I never put boots on her. I did buy a set for Cuna at the advice of my vet, and I HATED them, though my experience was probably tainted by the fact that the whole experience was miserable and horrible and depressing.

And now I have Courage.

Who is rocking the barefoot thing for a cycle right now.

And the word "rock"ing probably makes him wince a little.


He's a bit tenderfooted, but no way Cuna's old giant size 3 Easyboots would go on him. I borrowed a pair from my BO and I thought they looked pretty ok. Heck, I didn't even swear very much putting them on.

I did chuck Courage on the lunge for a spin before I got on to see what he thought.

He didn't really give a shit, even when one of them flew off and hit him in the belly.

So I guess those didn't fit.

Thus, we are hoof-boot-less. I've considered trying to track some down for him, but I keep circling back to this: what are hoof boots really for? Are they an every-ride, every-time substitute for shoes? Just a band aid to stick on if Pookie loses a shoe before farrier day?

Hell if I know.

Ideas?
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