Thursday, September 27, 2012

Let's Shop

Sad truth: I shop for horsey things when I'm bored or stressed*. It's an expensive habit, but due to my OCD nature and the internet, it's not nearly as expensive as it could be.

That said, I work in a barn. I do not exactly pull in the big bucks here, so I can't just prance in to your local tack store and march back out the door with all those lovely, name brand items new off the shelf. That only happens in dreams.

Dressed for the party
However, despite being surrounded by lovely people with real jobs, my horse always looks the part. He has the right clothes, the right tack, and the right care. I am not wearing head-to-toe Gersemi (if only!), but I'm certainly not the rag tag barn help. Care to join? Here's a couple of things I do to make this whole horse habit more affordable.

Always only ever buy high quality items. Cheap leather will break. Cheap blankets will leak. Cheap tack will fail. Beyond that, if you ever get bored of something, the resale value of a name-brand item over some generic is ridiculous. It's easier to search for, it's easier to sell. I know, now you're saying, "But SB! If I could afford high quality items, I wouldn't need to read this post."

True. But here you are.

Dover boots. Seen in catalog.
Here's my process: I figure out what I want, usually from reading detailed item descriptions in the Smartpak/Dover catalogs. I figure out what the new price is. Then I hit the internet. My first stop is pretty much always eBay. This is where buying name-brand comes in handy. Searching "Rambo" brings up a whole list of fancy blankets. Searching "horse turnout" brings up lots of random crap you probably don't want your horse in.

I generally check used items first. I don't mind a little rip or tear that is repairable, as long as the item itself isn't compromised. I look for super sales. I prefer buying from individuals vs storefronts, because I find I'm more likely to get a good deal from someone just wanting to unload stuff than I am from a for-profit business.

Here's the trick to eBay, though: Know what you will pay. It's easy to get sucked into a bidding war on an item and not pay attention to how much it's really costing, particularly once you factor in shipping. Once you've set your max price, LEAVE IT ALONE. There will be another item.

If you've scoured ebay and nothing is available, I move on to the next most obvious location. Facebook! Seriously. With the blossoming of social networking has come a plethora of tack exchange groups. Here are some of my favorites: English tack trader, Used Horse Blankets. You have to wade through a lot of crap, but I have found some stellar deals.

Irish knit from facebook. $20.
If that fails, continue onwards! My local craigslist always=fail, but people in more equestrian-oriented areas can have good luck with it. I also love tack selling forums--the Bits and Barter board and the Outside Course. It's a mixed bag of both sellers and items, but I haven't had a bad experience yet.

Again, focus on buying quality items from recognizable brands. Many times I've snapped up an item I thought would work, then sold it on for more than I paid when it didn't work out. I'm not good enough to make a business of it, but let's just say saddle hunting has been a profitable endeavor for the most part.

Plus you have to wait for shipping
The biggest thing is having patience. Just because I want something RIGHTNOW doesn't mean it's available right now. I also pick items up at odd times of the year. In the past few weeks, I've gotten a show bridle, a waterproof quarter sheet, summer breeches, and paddock boots. Some things, like breeches and paddock boots, I search for nearly every time I'm online. They rarely go on sale, and I hate paying full price.

A corollary to the above principle is simple: be prepared. I've been winter blanket shopping since August. I won't actually need a winter blanket for probably another month, but just keeping my eyes open means I have a better chance of getting exactly what I want for exactly what I want to pay.

So there you go... that's my process for keeping Cuna in nothing but the best without completely breaking the bank.

*It bores and stresses me to shop for pretty much anything else. Ergo, I have needed black flats for two years. I live in the largest city in my state. Ask if I've done anything about that.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Having a Moment

Cute ponies eat cookies
Cuna is a stereotypical chestnut OTTB, right down the his ridiculously sensitive skin. I literally can't keep hair on this horse and I have NEVER had that problem before him. For being as smart as he is, he does some really dumb things, like peeing in his stall and sleeping in his run, thereby giving himself hock sores. Yay! 

Anyways. Last week, I noticed he was starting to get a rub -under- his saddle. The saddle hasn't changed, his muscling hasn't changed, the pad hasn't changed, the detergent hasn't changed. I assumed it was the super hot, dry weather we've been having that has been aggravating his skin issues anyways. To treat it, I switched to putting a sheepskin under the saddle pad, and then put equyss moisturizer on his rub spot after every ride. 

The only weird thing was that there was a rub on his right side, but not the left. 


It finally hit me. The saddle isn't rubbing Cuna--I AM. Dammit. It's my asymmetry affecting his conformation. It explains why on our long hacks my right hip has started cramping. It's probably compounded by the fact that I've been doing a lot of riding without stirrups and hacking, but zero dressage to keep me in the middle of the saddle. He is showing me my latest and most fun weakness. 

Red ears always make me feel better
I spent yesterday having a fun emotional meltdown and making a huge deal out of stupid things. It didn't help that I made a great plan to treat our asymmetry including a pilates instructor, a physical therapist, and a riding instructor with a degree in exercise something or other, but all of them are unavailable for the next few weeks. Cuna and I went for a walking hack, because I needed to be with him, but didn't want to make him worse. I focused on keeping my weight even in my stirrups and getting my butt out of the saddle. 

Today, I had to stay close to the barn, so we worked on dressage. I practiced riding straight lines in the freshly worked arena and being very conscious of his body movement and how I affected him. We circled and serpentined as I focused on keeping his hind end engaged without driving from my seat. I tried to keep the weight even in my stirrups and sitting bones, which is remarkably easier on flat ground than it is in the hills. We were actually having some excellent work, right up until I had to leap off and meet the vet for another horse. 

I'm going to keep the sheepskin next to his hair, and back off the no stirrups while I get myself sorted out a little bit. I'm keeping an eye on his rub spot, and I think we might actually make some positive changes here. Finally. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Goin' for a Trail Ride

Since Cuna does poorly with days off, we are trying a new theory: no days off at all. It seems weird, but he's a stiff horse on a good day. The more days in a row I ride him, the better he is. Even one day off sends him spiraling back to his usual inflexibility and two days off? Heaven forbid. It's like starting all over. In an ideal world, he'd spend his days off prancing in a green pasture with a few old friends, but...

Yeah. He hates turnout. 

Yesterday was non-day-off #1. AKA "slow hacking". This is so far from being something that interests Cuna that it's almost funny. He does NOTHING slowly. Ever. In order to slow my brain down and keep things easy, I brought my phone along to document our fun.

What's it going to do, bite us?

Here's the beginning of the trail. Yes, we are badasses, going right around the 'No Trespassing' sign. (Noted: I think it's for motor vehicles. Horses are allowed.)

We are approaching the 'Angry Birds Tree', the big green thing ahead. It's also the only tree on the trail. Many young, green, or otherwise nervous horses are afraid of it. Cuna is not.

This looks way more fun.

We climb up the hill to the saddle where the trail branches off. Since we have walked this far, Cuna is already bored. If we turn right (pictured), we can go up our favorite long gallop stretch. And not walk. Despite Cuna's enthusiasm for the idea, we continue to the trotting loop. At a walk.

Ok, boring, but we get to trot the uphill.

We wind through the hills and finally start heading down towards the valley. Usually, there are panoramic views of the city spread out below us and all the way to the next mountain range over.

Today, there is smoke. Lots of smoke.

We also usually come across plenty of hikers, bikers, and walkers at this stretch, but pretty much no one is outside in this air. Just us and the lizards.

Not sure why this is complicated

There are certain parts of the trail that I never worry about because I have Cuna (aka 'the most awesome horse in the world') but that my barnmates prefer not to attempt without me. This is one of them. There is a sharp drop off on the left and straight ahead and we have to go on a single track trail around a barb wire fence that is barely standing up. Don't spook is all I have to say about it.

Cuna knows the drill. In fact, it is his mission to prove that a ridiculously long 17 hand horse can make that turn without ever bending his body.

We are not seriously walking all the way up?!

We finally reach the bottom of the trail and turn to go up. This is normally where we let the horses trot and use the hill to build muscle and stamina.

Because it is a "slow hack" day, I make Cuna walk. He is less than amused. Not only am I making him go slow, I am screwing with his routine. NOT OK.

Routines are very important.

Always walk on the wrong side.

The trail goes up from here. Up, up, and up some more.

Into the smoke.

I practice staying in balance up off Cuna's back (ENGAGE CORE. MORE CORE.) while he picks the trail up the mountain.

We do run across a solitary walker. Cuna gives him a single giant bambi eyes look and we move along.

And we're at the top. Cuna looks super cute here, but he's actually really annoyed with me for stopping him yet again to take pictures.

The pictures don't really show it, but his winter coat is just starting to come in. He's at the only fuzzy stage in which I think horses are cute. Hair is just a tiny bit long and so soft and fluffy, but not so thick yet that it's hard to dry them off. :) <3

Fun times.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hang Time

In a nearly unprecedented turn of events, Cuna and I got two lessons in one week. Pretty amazing. It was weird to not really have time to work on stuff between the lessons. I've never really had that feeling before.

2'11" square oxer from Monday

I took a screen cap off the video from our last lesson and was pretty impressed with how good we looked. I don't 100% love my leg, but all in all, I've improved a ton and I am relaxed and confident, so let's not nitpick too much.

Eyes are up, back is flat, straight line from elbow to mouth. Those are all good. Just need to get my leg a bit more under me.

Since our last lesson was Monday, I gave Cuna Tuesday off, then we hacked lightly yesterday and I rode without stirrups for a bit. That was it. Cuna was stiffer than I'd like today, since he's not the sort of horse that handles time off well. Steph gave us a cool exercise to use to help supple him up without fighting him, and we were ready to jump.

Again, if you like us, you should watch this. It's only 15 seconds long and there are no endlessly boring trot loops or anything, so you should be good. This was our last ride down through the grid. I was working on keeping weight in my feet while riding straight.

Oh, and not completely losing my mind about the MASSIVE JUMP at the end. I actually did really well--not one panic attack or moment of nausea. That's a huge leap for me.

You know what else is a huge leap?

Another screencap. We need real pictures again soon.

This monster. After the lesson, I hopped off and measured. Yes folks, Cuna and I jumped a 3'3" oxer. More than once.

And we lived to tell the tale.

As you can see in the picture, we had hang time. All feet off the ground.

What a feeling. <3 my old man horse.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tack Review Tuesday!!

Ok, so it's Wednesday. Tuesday just sounded better in the title.

Cuna had Tuesday off and a light hack today, so not a ton to talk about other than how the rest of y'all are missing out because you don't have a Cunafish of your own and I am NEVER SHARING, but that gets repetitive after a while.

Our model
Today I thought I'd do a review of the fly sheet Cuna has been sporting all summer. It's the Kool Coat Airstream Detach-a-Neck from smartpak.

List price: $53.95

What I paid: $53.95

Sizing: Cuna is a big, long horse. He wears an 81" winter blanket in the Amigo/Rambo side of things, and he fills it up well. I got him the corresponding 81" in the Kool Coat and it fit perfectly. No rubs, no problems.

General Description: designed to keep a horse bug free and as cool as possible in the summer time, the Kool Coat features a soft cotton body with white mesh cutouts to allow air circulation. The cotton doesn't stretch or move with the horse, but it never bunches or binds, either. There are two chest buckles, a hidden surcingle, hind leg straps, and the removable neck cover features one normal buckle and three plastic snaps to close. I've never actually taken the neck off of the blanket, so I don't remember how it attaches.

Pros: Cuna is an incredibly sensitive horse. I literally can't keep hair on him. That said, this sheet hasn't caused me any rubbing problems whatsoever. The neck stays up remarkably well. The sheet also washes well--I just toss it in my normal, top loading machine at home and it comes out bright and beautiful. I hang it to dry, but have experienced no shrinking whatsoever. I thought that material might be contributing to Cuna getting a bit sweaty under his sheet in the heat of summer, but a subsequent purchase of a lightweight, no-neck sheet proved that he just gets sweaty in summer, period. Thus, this sheet is no hotter than any other sheet.

Cunafish in summer
The other great thing about this sheet is that it really keeps the sun off. Cuna is a rich, dark chestnut, but he quickly fades out to a nasty yellow in the hot summer desert sun.

Cons: Super lightweight. Cuna is easy on blankets, but a harder-wearing horse would literally destroy this in minutes. A friend described it as a single season sheet, and I think she's right. I'll probably be able to eek a couple months out of it next year, but I doubt it will last me two full seasons like the higher-priced sheets do.

Conclusion: I got what I paid for. This sheet has been extremely functional and I don't regret buying it. I hope to have $200 lying around next summer to snap up a Rambo Fly Buster, which seems to be a lot more durable, but in the interim, this is a perfectly acceptable piece of equipment for those sensitive horses needing bug and sun relief.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Now with Video!

Hello blogosphere! It was a quiet weekend around here--I spent time hacking and running and riding without stirrups. Mostly I wanted to keep things low key since we were scheduled to jump today. Omg! Yay. :)

So. Today we played with an interesting concept: getting close to the fence. I know it's totally dangerous and bad, but I'm always happier when a horse stands off and jumps instead of getting close to the fence. Bad, dangerous, frowned upon. Fortunately for me, Cuna thinks long spots are absolutely asinine and in the history of me riding him, has taken maybe two. Both on XC. At a mad gallop.


We started out the lesson jumping a little square oxer both directions with the placing poles set at 15'. This made for a very compressed stride to the jump. Because Cuna is smarter than the average bear, he knows that compressing his stride is hard work. THEREFORE, he would take the absolute largest stride possible, which put him right next to the fence.

Yikes! I stayed quiet and with him, and he kept saving me, and I eventually started calming down a little bit. It appears that Steph did not video this section, which is probably good. Other than all the interesting faces I'm sure I made, it wasn't terribly complimentary.

Then we started jumping simple patterns around the arena. She gave me lots of time in between the fences to get a good canter and relax.

In the above video, I gunned him at the vertical a bit, so I re-rode the pattern.

That was smoother.

Then we put the whole pattern together.

Much better.

Finally, we did the exercise the whole lesson was building up to: the beloved S-curve!!

Oh yeah. If you're like me and you get bored of incessant video uploads, WATCH THIS ONE. I swear it's only like 11 seconds long and we are totally rocking.

I was actually pretty happy with how I rode. I'm going to keep up the no-stirrup work for increased leg stability and an independent seat, and I want to do more work in two point. Steph also recommended spending time in a bit of a half-seat, basically letting my breeches touch the saddle but not putting any weight in it. That will give me a greater range of motion over him and teach me to sit without using my seat as a driving aid.

Excellent. Now I'm going to go watch all my old videos with Cuna and enjoy noticing just how much we've improved.

PS I forgot. When we were jumping the individual fences, Steph had them up a little bit higher. Then she dropped them a bit for the S curve. Then she measured them. Our "low" course was 2'11" to 3'1". Omg!! And I wasn't even terrified!!

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Ok, so much to my surprise, my mom managed to snag some pictures of Cuna and I at the show despite having a new-to-her camera and a sum total of no working batteries. I don't know how she conned it into taking pictures, but she got a couple of decent shots. 

Here goes! Cuna and I are approaching jump #1 in the 2'9" class. This is actually the highest he and I have jumped together in competition. It rode great, and honestly doesn't look too big in the pictures, so I think we're game to have another go when I can afford shows again.

Note: when I say "it rode great", I mean the course was flowing and I was adequately challenged without feeling overfaced. I do not mean that I rode horribly well this round, unfortunately.

After jump 1, we do a hard right rollback to jump two, the white oxer. This is the one that I thought would get me jumped out of the tack, but it actually went fine.

Go Cuna!

And jumping out of the triple! This was our super awkward triple, where I put three in the two and one in the one (are there extra points for inconsistency?). Still. At this point, we had gotten our acts together and we look ok.

I actually like a lot of things about my position. There is a straight line from elbow to bit, my back is flat, my eyes are up, and my leg appears to be in a decent position. Maybe I've finally started resetting my positional defaults to something not-horrifying to see in person. Yay!

In the foreground, you see the barrel oxer. They put the rail up and squared it in our next class so it could be jumped either direction. Hence, you see why I was not upset with Cuna about pulling a rail when tired and running downhill. It was a substantial jump and a lot of people had trouble getting over it. I don't recall anyone falling, but there were many refusals and quite a lot of rails down.

On looking at the picture, I actually wonder if Cuna might have pulled the rail because he thought he remembered how tall it was and didn't think they'd raised it. Huh. Maybe? We were genuinely exhausted though, so I'm sure that was it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

SB and Cuna go to a Show (long)

AKA "a whimsical adventure, part duex"

Early last week, the jumper show organizers sent out an email. They expected a good turnout, but warned that the classes would be small and go quickly. The lunch break was moved from 1pm back to noon, and since the lunch "classes" (egg and spoon, that sort of thing) would go quickly, we needed to be there by noon for the afternoon round.

So far, so good. The weather was in the 70s and breezy and Cuna and I were coming off an awesome weekend of jumping. We had a my Dad's truck and a trailer lined up to borrow and it was going to be my first ever show all by my onsies.

Saturday morning dawned bright and clear. I putzed around the house for a couple of hours and did nothing tiring. I wanted to be at the barn by 10.30 to be hooked up by 11 so I could pack at a leisurely pace and arrive at the show grounds just before noon. I'd rather have more time than less.

Finally, around 10am, I left the house. I had to run over to my Dad's office and pick up his truck key from his desk.

It wasn't there.


I dug through all the keys, and tried every single one that looked like it might work. No dice.

His phone is off on the weekends and he was not at home or work, so I had no way to contact him. I drove to his house and looked through every single place he kept keys. Still nothing. Not ever something that I could try: there were literally no keys to be found.

Uh oh.

I could even get inside, but no way to drive
I drove back to the office, just sure I'd missed something. I dug through every desk and drawer. I could get a key to every company vehicle except the truck that I needed to pull the trailer. Great. I text the girl whose trailer I was supposed to borrow to let her know I'm not coming. I'm about to tell her she can ride Cuna today if she wants, since I'm really disappointed and don't even want to go to the barn, when she calls me.

"Hey! Another boarder is here loading and going to the same show. Want me to just throw Cuna in their trailer?"

AND WE'RE SAVED!! I tell her yes and head to the barn to pick up my tack and follow them over. Since I'm not packing the trailer like I planned to, I make extra double sure I have everything I could possibly need. I assume the other boarder brought essentials like buckets and haynets. I make it to the show grounds a few minutes before noon and the morning classes are wrapping up, right on schedule.

Cuna is ok, aside from his usual fussiness about bugs, but I see the boarder didn't bring hay for the horses. Well, it's supposed to be a quick show. I have high hopes of being on the raod headed home in an hour or at most two. After all, there are only two classes after lunch before mine start in this small, local schooling show.

I learn my course at the arena and watch a small child get run away with by a pony that's afraid of the ribbon race. Good thing I have Cuna--this sort of chaos doesn't phase him at all. They start calling the first jumping class after lunch, and I head back to the trailer. I figure I'll leisurely tack up, hack around the grounds, pop over a couple of jumps, and be ready for my class in perfect time.

I leisurely tack. I hack. I visit. I go to check the class order, and realize that despite the fact it is well after 1pm, they are still on class one. Moreover, this 2'3" class is split into two sections and there are on section one. Beyond that, section one has a ton of horses left to go and people are tacking on schooling rounds at the end willy nilly.

"No worries," I think, "Lots of people jump 2'3" to optimum time. I'm sure there will be less in the jump off class and it will thin way out for the 2'6" and up classes.


Like this, only with tack on
I got off of Cuna eventually, but couldn't take him back to the trailer--there was nothing to eat and no shade and he hates bugs and would be miserable. Instead, he and I hand grazed in the sun.


I kid you not.

Finally, it was getting close to time for my class. I have been riding/standing in 100f heat for 4 hours with minimal water and no food, because I hate eating when I think I might be nervous. I got on and warmed up. Cuna (the saint) was forward and responsive. A little heavier than normal, but not bad.

We went in to our class. It was a cool jumper course with roll back turns and related distances and I was actually pretty excited to ride it. I hadn't accounted for how tired my entire body and brain was. Jump one, a simple vertical, was simple. Tight roll back to jump 2, an oxer. I buried him to the base, kept my leg on, didn't panic, and was pleasantly surprised to not be jumped out of the tack. Sweet. We made a neat left hand turn to the biggest jump, a max height (2'9") square oxer with barrels under it. It had been causing carnage on course, but I kept my leg on and Cuna didn't blink. Jump 4 was a vertical on a related distance that rode fine.

Right about there, I gave out. As we cantered to jump 5, a spooky wishing well, I got my eye on the line and rode positively towards the base. Cuna was pulling my arms out of their sockets and I felt us getting long and flat (and VERY fast). I pulled back, but in my head heard Steph saying, "SIT IN THE SADDLE". I ignored mental Steph and we squeaked over the jump.

As we motorcycled around the corner to the triple combination, I knew I couldn't hold Cuna up anymore. I didn't kick and I didn't pull, so he dragged me forward. We cleared the first jump, but it was a long spot. That meant we landed closer to the first fence, which meant I needed leg to make the two strides to the second fence. Unfortunately, my tired brain was processing well behind the speed I needed, so I sat in a helpless lump while Cuna added to make a three and collapsed over the second element, pulling a rail.

My body finally cooperated with my brain about the first distance, so I sat up and put leg on, and we got the one stride done in one. We finished the course, but it was rough.

Waaaaay rough.

The next class was the Gambler's Choice, set at 2'3" to 2'9" with various point values assigned to fences. Make your own course for 60ish seconds. Higher fences=more points. Most points at the end wins. Kicker: after you finish your course, you have the option to jump the scary barrel jump (again, largest thing on course) for 200 points. If you pull a rail, you lose 200.

Cuna and I were first.

Before going in, we had a pep talk with Rinsie, who said crazy things like, "SIT YOUR ASS IN THE SADDLE" and "DEVELOP A RHYTHM, IDIOT". Next time we are chatting before my first class.

This round rode so, so much better. I took Rinsie's sage advice and Cuna and I finally found a rhythm together. We jumped all the big jumps twice and as many little jumps as I could fit in. We we flowing together, really feeling good. The bell rang, indicating my chance at the joker fence.

Why not? Everything was great and we've certainly jumped bigger fences.

I took a nice line to the jump, sat in the saddle, kept my leg on, and held my hands steady. I left Cuna choose his spot, and the Old Man cantered boldly forward. We leaped into the air...

...and heard a rail crash down.

Because I am always so socially appropriate at Pony Club benefit shows with oodles of children present, I yelled out, "SHIT!!! Sorry buddy." and we left the arena.

I rode fine and Cuna was jumping well. I honestly think that we were both just tired and the approach I'd chosen was on a downhill slope, which didn't help me collect him at all. Poor guy.

As I debated the merits of doing our next class when we were tired and I'd already ridden well, I slid off of Cuna's side. My thighs were shaking uncontrollably and Cuna rubbed his hot, itchy head on me.

We were done for the day. Rinsie politely scratched me from the next class and I trooped back to the trailer. It was 4.30pm. And 100f.

Gratuitous cute us shot
I gave Cuna water out of my bucket that I just happen to keep in my car (yes, it's true). He drank thirstily and then I sponged him off. What a good boy. Calm and cool, even after something like that. We won a giant yellow ribbon even with our expensive rail down, and I couldn't be prouder of how Cuna went for me. I have a lot to work on in terms of showcraft, but all in all, it was not a bad experience.

In order to give credit where it is due:

1) Cuna. He was such a trooper about the whole thing...

2) My mom. She's started coming to my horse shows this year and she just loves Cuna. She even held him for a while and let him graze while I had some water and sat in the shade. Any of you grown-ups with non-horsey parents know what a huge thing this is. She's never held one of my horses before, but she feels safe with Cuna.

3) Rinsie. She dragged herself all the way out to a schooling show and sat in the heat for hours watching all these crazy classes. And still gave good feedback. All we have to do is get a camera to her and we're off to the races! (Plus I have high hopes that she and Pollo can be our show buddies next season. We could photograph each other!!)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ebay Spoils

This seems ironic, but it really isn't. I swear.

I know I posted yesterday about living on a budget and being poor from here until indefinitely, but the week before all this went down, I had a little bit of paypal money stashed away that I spent on upgrading Cuna's wardrobe. In a funny twist of fate, most everything ended up on my doorstep yesterday, right after I was telling my husband about how I couldn't even buy myself icecream for a long time.

Anyways. We are started along the process of getting equipped for winter on a budget. Cuna needed a nice irish knit sheet for trailering to local shows and wearing in his stall after a workout when it's brisk. I rounded one up on a facebook tack exchange group (they exist!) for $25 shipped. It's an 84" and he's definitely only an 81", but these things shrink like crazy and I was buying lightly used.

Of course he is posing today

My gamble paid off. The 84" fits absolutely perfectly. I was concerned the neck might be too large and create a pressure point behind his withers, but it fits like a glove. Excellent!

Now, you might be saying, "But SB!! The irish knit is cotton and cotton doesn't wick moisture. Aren't you all into science-y blankets and boots and whatnot??"

To you, I say this: You are correct. Cotton is very absorbent and non-wicking. It shrinks like a son of a gun. However, A) It is standard-issue for our barn, so we'll blend in B) It is not a long term use sort of thing--it is never on the horse for more than 30-45 minutes C) It is super easy to wash, which makes is more sanitary D) It is wicked cute on Cuna E) Have I mentioned I'm poor? Magic blankets cost $$$ that I can't spend right now.

That brings up to item #2. Cuna needed a lightweight sheet. I was given one last spring, but it isn't waterproof. This works better than you would think for Cuna; his old owner called him "Kitty" due to his thoughts on water. That said, we're rapidly approaching the rainy season and the old sheet was trying hard to die.

I snagged a great deal from fellow blogger Me, who has a giant chestnut TB gelding who is trying to grow up and be Cuna. (NOTED: If you don't read Charlie's blog, you should. He is like baby Cuna and I <3 him!) She was retiring one of Charlie's rain sheets and sent it my way. It definitely has more life left in it than the dying green one we already had.

Never compromise on a quality halter. Too cute!

Plus it is way cute and Cuna and fits perfectly. Hooray internet friends!

All I have left to come up with (by mid to late November) is a medium weight blanket and neck cover. I already have a liner. We're getting close!!

We're also pretending we're rich, which is silly. I am hopeful that I'll be able to sort out the financial situation fairly soon. Failing that, y'all will get to learn how tack whores make it happen with no time and no budget and a pony who needs only the best. :D

Really, what would the fun be in having enough money? I'd miss out on all this crazy pony shopping and just buy appropriate things new and pay too much for them. Insanity! As much as I'd like the financial freedom to just order crap from Dover and never think twice about getting gouged, the truth is that I really do enjoy the process of bargain hunting when it comes to horsey supplies.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Feeling the Squeeze

Let's just say it hasn't been the best month ever, money-wise. The show we went to Saturday cost me a grand total of $34 and that was a near thing. I've been wanting to buy clips for my pretty breastcollar (a total cost of like $2) and it's just not in the budget right now. I've been making it, barely, and I'm trying to actually start making headway. You know, putting money into savings, acting like a grown adult.

It is tight. I am a master scrounger, seller, and saver of all things, but even I am wondering how some things are going to work out right now. I watch clients with real jobs go to shows that cost considerably more than $34 and think that someday, I might like to do that too.

Things aren't exactly getting better yet, but I'm hopeful that they will soon. Why?

Well... I wrote the last check for Mr. Hakuna Matata this morning.

This was his best pose this morning.

This goofy face is here to stay.

It's left me rather poorer than I'd like, but I am now done paying on him. :) Yay!! Old man horse is all mine.

With all his foibles and fidgets, he is still the best horsey thing that's happened to me in a long, long time. He is immensely patient, fun to be around, and almost oddly wise. He is fiery enough to need a big bit to run xc, and quiet enough that my non-horsey mom can safely hold him at a show and never have a problem.

(Husband not pictured. He and Cuna dislike pics.)

We are officially done buying tack, going to shows, and doing anything else that costs money for the foreseeable future. I need to get some stuff worked out, because as much as I love the horsey lifestyle, I love financial stability just a hair more.

I'm back on a strict diet of eating only at home and not going out unless it's someone else's treat, but hey, when I've got these little buggers to come home to, what's there to complain about?

I want more colors. ALL THE COLORS!!

We've had our share of adventures this year. I hung all my favorite ribbons on the blinds above my kitchen sink to remind me, every day, exactly why I'm doing the dishes at home and not eating out.

Our first ribbon together (little blue on right), our first derby together (pink), our first horse trials together (big blue) and our most giant jumper ribbon (yellow). So much progress, so little time.

He's worth it. Every penny.

PS We used the plain ol' breastcollar on Saturday. I really should tell that story.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Setting Goals

I'd call the show yesterday a success. It was a logistical nightmare on many levels, but when it came down to getting out there and riding, it went well. I achieved my goal for the show, which I was pleased with. In order to put it all in perspective, I thought I'd do a rundown of goals I've set for outings with Cuna.

#1: small local jumper show. Cuna and I had been together about a month.

Official goal: stay on the horse.

Result: Stayed on and 1st place in 2'6" jumpers

#2 xc schooling. My first time back on course since the wreck, my first time on course with Cuna, my first time ever on course with a horse who had done it before.

Official goal: If falling of, do not end up in ER.

Result: goal achieved, albeit poorly ridden

#3 xc schooling locally. My first time back at the location of the wreck and my first time back since being supremely disappointed in how I'd ridden at the first xc outing.

Official goal: ride the first fence and don't pull on Cuna.

Result: blind panic channeled into mostly-productive clutching.

#4 local schooling show at a new location. I'd realized that to ride better, I just needed to get out and do it. More.

Official goal: have a positive experience.

 Result: 3rd place in 2'3" jumpers (got too hot and bored to wait for higher classes). Interest in showing rekindled.


#5 XC schooling at the Rafter K derby. The day before our first attempt at an actual xc course.

Official goal: ride the line beyond the fences. Do not look at fences.

Result: good, solid ride.

#6 Derby ride at Rafter K in the BN division. We moved up a division after schooling a bunch of novice questions really, really well..

Official goal: make it over jump six, an above-max-height ramp.

Result: 5th place finish in our first BN

#7 local horse trials. Our first outing at a true three phase event. Our dressage goal was "improve 5 points" from a 38, which we blew out of the water by scoring a 29.

Official goal: bolt for 50% or less of the xc course.

Result: sucess! No bolting at all and 1st place in our second BN.

#8 Pony Club jumper show, moving up to higher jumps and harder courses in stadium.

Official goal: don't piss Cuna off by riding poorly, ie grabbing him in the mouth and jumping ahead.

Result: Kept hands and body quiet, but pulled rails in the 2'9" jumper and at the joker fence in the Gambler's choice class, ending up with a 3rd place finish in gambler's choice.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Cuna and I are making our debut in the massively huge jumper classes tomorrow (read: 2'9" and 3'). We are being brave and going without a trainer because Aspen is this weekend and there aren't a lot of local shows. This means two things.

1) I am making a list of things Steph always yells at me anyways for a bystander to yell at me.

2) TACK!!! I have two breastcollars.

 My extremely practical Nunn Finer

My extremely pretty FST.

Before rushing to a conclusion, consider the pros and cons of both. The nunn finer is easy to clean, really familiar to me, and has a grab strap, which might come up in a class with big fences. The FST is super pretty and theoretically, might allow more freedom through his shoulders. HOWEVER there is nothing to hold on to. Plus it's still warm out and it might get all sweaty and dirty.

Beyond that, consider that Cuna will be wearing his official show jumping outfit: Tboots with bells up front, Eskadron wraps in the back, black fly bonnet to match. The leather of the nunn finer is rather neutral background and don't distract. The FST will draw attention to itself and absolutely can't be worn with the brown bonnet. I haven't tried it with this one.

Such a dilemma. Thoughts?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Gearing Up

crossing the irons

We're all set for a local jumper show this weekend in which we will (eeek!) debut in the 2'9" and 3' class. I don't think it's fair to jump Cuna any more before then, but here's the view from my saddle today:

I've found that I absolutely hate riding/running/anything for a set period of time. Instead, I set a performance goal, do that, and then set another goal.

To maximize my without stirrups benefits, I warm up with stirrups, then cross them and immediately start doing the more interesting flat work--leg yields, shoulder in, serpentines. I go until I can't take the pain any more, then pick up my stirrups and finesse anything I was having trouble with. Pretty quickly, I drop then again and go back to work.

Currently, I'm doing three sets of no-stirrup work per ride. Each ride, those sets get a little longer and more involved. I'm focusing on the posting trot right now. I need to be a lot stronger before I'm ready to canter much just because Cuna is quite sensitive and rather unforgiving if I grab him.

I'm hoping that by next week, I'll be ready.

Flex those thighs, ladies!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Weekend Wrapup

On quite short notice, Cuna and I hitched a ride up to Steph's summer base camp with a group of her clients that were going up for the long weekend.

So peaceful

She leases a gorgeous facility nestled at the base of some lovely mountains.

This is just a view down the aisle of the barn. So pretty.

Neener neener

Most of the visiting horses lived outside in panels, but Cuna is super sensitive to bugs. Because at least in his mind, there are more and nastier bugs up there than there are at home, he scored a spot in the pretty barn.

He felt completely at home. Of course, despite wearing bug gear day and night and being drenched in the best fly spray money can buy, he still got hives. Poor guy. He just isn't designed to live anywhere with grass.

Tessa shows how to jump the big ones

We started out the first morning by watching a super cool lady getting ready to go advanced do a jump lesson on her horse.

All y'all rescue people: mare was picked up at a kill auction for $800 and is freaking amazing. Her rider is equally cool and it was super fun to spend some time around the pair. Of course, we gave Tessa (the mare) a pretty wide berth because she has a kicking problem, but she sure is fun to watch.

On to lessons! Tessa, of course, got to jump alone because she's on a whole different program, but the rest of us were divided into three groups: 2' jumpers, 3' jumpers, 3'6" jumpers. Guess what? Cuna and I made the 3' group. YAY!!! I feel like we're finally making concrete progress both physically and mentally, and I was excited to be in that group.

Jim and Zida demo the coop

Unfortunately, there are no pictures of us on day one. Steph set a GIANT course (jumps between 2'9" and 3'3", complete with oxers) and we jumped through it. I don't generally brag, but I rode really well and Cuna was his usual awesome self and it was lovely.

See this jump? Yeah. Cuna and I totally jumped it like bosses. I just have to point out that I did it on my first try without losing my mind and grabbing him and he didn't even peak at it even though he is sometimes a little chicken about funny looking fences.

Day two: with a camera.

For Gingham.  Distances approximated.
We started out with this crazy barrel exercise. There were four barrels set in a sort of square. The goal was to canter up, jump one, do one stride, and jump out over the next. Yikes! Steph did it first on a lovely mare and made it look easy. Then Cuna and I tried it.

Yeah... not so easy at all. Cuna had no idea that we were supposed to be jumping the barrels, so when I pointed him at them and then ceased steering, he took a detour around. Hm. I tried again. This time I gave him a stronger ride, but sort of lost all forward thought, and he stopped at the barrel. He was trying, but wtf did I want?

Now we are locked on to the tiny barrels

Finally, I got him on a nice collected cantered, steered to the base of the first barrel, and softened enough that he realized I wanted to go OVER the barrel. Oh. Super easy. We had a similar discussion about the next barrel, but then we were rocking.

The cool part about the weekend is that we have officially passed the point where I can just jump Cuna at our max height every day if I want to. Since we are actually jumping over things now, I have to be much more careful with him. Let's face it: jumping a giant horse over 2'3" fences was in no way shape or form a pounding. 3' can be. The less cool part? These pictures are all from a non-max-height day. Sorry. I wish there were pics of our giant jumps, too.

Cuna looks snappy though.

Anyways. We did some cool courses, including some pretty tight turns and lots of bending lines. The focus was on riding positively instead of constantly reacting and making each ride as smooth as possible.

For some reason, I rode rather stupidly--too handsy and I kept losing my lower leg back. This shot isn't terrible, but my leg is just not where it needs to be.

The hunky body builder horse

Regardless, Cuna was super and we had a great time. Shots like this make me so proud of all the hill work we do. Look at all his shiny muscles!!

Don't look at my lower leg sliding back as I jump slightly ahead.

I think he's starting to like the camera

A challenging exercise from that day was a little two stride combination. The jumps weren't overly high, but it was set as a forward two. No problem, especially if you are riding a super giant long striding horse except one thing: the first jump was maybe two strides off the rail, meaning you couldn't see your line in the two stride until you were literally taking off for the first jump. Yikes!

Because Cuna is giant and a rocking jumper, we nailed the two strides pretty much every time, but it took me several attempts so that I could actually see what I was doing and not just blindly point and trust him to solve the exercise for me. He will, but that's not the point.

Point and shoot, baby

On the last day, we re-did the barrel exercise, which was super easy since Cuna now knew exactly what it was about. Jump in for the one stride, tight left hand turn for a two stride. Yes, the big man can compress if need be.

Then we moved on to an exercise that I actually love: THE CIRCLE OF DEATH!!!!!!!!

I'm pretty sure every eventer knows what I'm talking about: four jumps spaced evenly apart on a circle. Riding pretty much exclusively from your outside aids, you must get the same (or a different, yikes!!) number of strides between each fence.

Cuna and I were rocking our way through that. After looking at the pictures from the day before, I knew I needed to work on my lower leg, so I really focused on keeping my feet forward. That, of course, stabilized my entire body, and the ride went much better. Then we did this crazy figure 8 exercise. Two jumps from the circle, then one set diagonally in the middle, then two jump from the circle going the other way.

Oh, and did I mention that the second to last jump was like 3'3" and going uphill? It was. I focused on the pattern, my outside aids, and my feet and Cuna jumped the whole thing like nothing.

Then we went for a hack in the hills and Cuna saved his equine companion from a barking dog and a scary bike.

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