Friday, May 29, 2015

Here Goes Nothing

not our most shining moment. also not our worst.
You might recall how last year, I signed Courage up for a totally do-able event derby at crossrails and then proceeded to have an epic brain melt (I don't xc) and failed miserably.

It was horrible.

Soooooo. On that logic, I signed up again this year.

since there's no IRL black and white filter
At ground poles.

I'm looking at it this way: I hate showing green horses. The only way to make them less green is to show them. That's never going to happen if I'm miserable.

And the only way to not be miserable at an event derby is to basically do a trail ride instead of any actual jumps. (For goals purposes, I am totally counting this as a jumping show. HA!)

and lots of wet saddle blankets
Courage has all the talent I'll ever need. I can ride well at home. Riding at shows is a whole different skill set and we need to start honing it if we're ever going to progress. We're literally doing intro A and riding through a field over poles, which seems like a decent starting place.

I hesitate to even say all this before the show, given that karma is not my friend this year, but fingers crossed we won't be the only people to get disqualified from the ground poles division...


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Never Apologize: Phone Photography for the Horse Blogger

took this. on my phone. 
I'm kind of known for going on and on about how it's ok to be an amateur and we shouldn't expect to be professional riders when we just plain aren't.

But that doesn't just apply to riding.

I always think it's kind of funny when people post pictures of their horses and then say "It's just a crappy phone photo".


best ears. yes edited.
1) It's 2015. My crappy phone photos are FREAKING AMAZING compared to what a picture from a "real" camera would have been even ten years ago.

2) No one (not even me or Wendy) has a professional photographer follow them around and shoot their every move. Most of our pictures (well, mine) are going to be screen shots from a video or ears pics on my phone or headshots of my horse standing still.

3) You can actually take pretty damn good phone pictures if you put a little work into it.

I mean. I'm not an expert. Or an artist. Or a photographer. I'm not educated about photography and the truth is, aside from Lauren's fantastic series on taking horse pictures, I'm not likely to ever take a class.

But in 2015, the technology is available, accessible, and cheap.

thank you burst mode
90% of the photos on my blog are shot on my phone (iphone 5s). 85% of them are then run through a photo editor (also on my phone) in a sequence that takes under a minute. Here are some (REALLY REALLY) basic guidelines:

1) timing is your friend. You know that awkward moment in the trot where it looks like the horse only has two legs? No one wants to see that. Most phones have a "burst mode" option. On my phone, you literally hold down the camera button and get like 47 photos. Choose the one that doesn't suck. Delete the rest. Magic.

from this
OR. (this is best if someone is taking pictures of you and their timing maybe isn't fantastic or the lighting is less than ideal.) Have them take a video. Pause. Screenshot. Voila! Exactly the moment you wanted.

2) Cropping is your friend. You know how to make a shitty off center picture into reasonably decent blog fodder? CROP THAT BITCH.

to this
Seriously. You don't even need an app for that. Center the horse (more or less) in the frame. Zoom in as much as possible without pixelating the image.


Your photo is 75% better already. It took you less than 10 seconds.

emphasis by Redheadlins
Noted: I generally leave a little more space in front of the horse than behind if the horse is going forward. I leave more sky if the sky is pretty or more grass if the footing is nice. If both sky and footing are unremarkable, there's no reason for them to be in the picture. Just highlight what you want to emphasize.

Also noted: instagram likes square pictures. Blogger likes rectangles. On my more motivated days, I make different edits for different mediums. That is not every day.

what my phone looks like before edits
3) Apps are nice. I started with "afterlight" (go to the app store. It's either free or 99 cents). It's a fantastic basic editing program. There are four settings I use all the time--contrast (more or less), saturation (BRIGHT COLORS Y'ALL), brightness (summer in Idaho is a bitch), and... that other one.

There are plenty of other options, but these are just simple, basic things that can drastically improve the visual impact of your photos and take almost no time.

If you're all fancy and cool, you can get pricier apps. I just upgraded to "phototoaster" ($2.99 in the app store) and it has all kinds of bells and whistles and widgets. Part of me knows I'm not technical enough to capitalize on all this, but the other part is determined to make it happen.

kitten <3
If you're on an android platform, I hear rave reviews of Pixlr.

There are roughly a billion photo editing apps out there and you can get REALLY FREAKING FANCY if you want to. I'll admit I got phototoaster after reading this article. While there are some great tips there, that person works a HELL of a lot harder than I do at photo editing. Also they sound like they have a clue about art, which I definitely do not.

yup. phone. 
I mean, if photos aren't your jam, I totally understand. I'll never pretend to have the art chops that Niamh and Lauren do.

But I see no need to apologize for a phone picture. They can be pretty rocking with just a very little amount of work.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Audacity of Hope (or something like it)

look at skinny race Courage!
Alternately titled "with friends like these...". But I digress.

Most of you know that I met Courage when he was still racing. When I met him, he was the been-there-done-that horse that anyone could handle. On the ground. He was definitely NOT his exercise rider's favorite horse and he certainly wasn't one they put new riders up on.

I knew that. 

Sometime after C came home with me, I started hearing more about why exactly the exercise rider wasn't a fan.

this horse be stubborn?!
Basically, before my friend the trainer got a hold of Courage, he had a nasty reputation. So nasty that his previous trainers never galloped him because the moment they'd turn him around to run on the track, he'd bolt until he was good and done.

My friend the trainer got C about a year before I started going to the track. And he wasn't going to pander to C. And I've heard stories about sky leaping and rearing and hopping down the track on his back legs because he was so mad that he wasn't getting to bolt.

loving the evening light
So when I met him, I knew he pulled like a train and wasn't a ladies' ride, but he was well beyond all that nonsense. He did his job and he was fine.

Once he figured out it wasn't going to get him anywhere, he gave it up. (Of course, his exercise rider was ECSTATIC to see him go. I can't really blame the guy.)

So at the end of the day, that's the horse I knew and that's the horse I know I can get back. Courage can and will give it up. And then he'll be fine.

hard things make sexy bodies tho
I mean, let's face it: Courage was perfectly fine for quite a while with me, but then we started stepping up the workload. And he's just not quite convinced that retirement from racing ought to involve hard things.

Unfortunately for him, he's too much horse to be happy tooling around giving old ladies trail rides, so he's got to learn to love his job.

He's a jackass, but I love him.
I've debated sending him off to different trainers, and I still haven't ruled that out (shhhhh no one tell the bank account. it would FREAK OUT). Honestly, the root of this problem is Courage testing me. He has his tantrums and he sees what he can get away with.

And to this point, he hasn't thrown anything at me that I can't handle or that is dangerous.

Even the other night, when he had his complete meltdown on the lunge line--when he started escalating, he got in BIG TROUBLE. And he only had to do that a couple of times before he realized it was a Really Bad Idea.

And quit.

It's definitely not a perfect situation, but I believe in the little guy. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Difficult Ones

pictured: not a game
I had a dressage lesson on Saturday. Courage brought his A game and was SUPER for his w/t/c both directions lesson. I was so pleased. All our goals and plans felt achievable. I left the barn with that happy glow of knowing I was right where I needed to be for both my horse and I.

And then there's Monday. I came out late because I wanted to hack around a little and grab some pretty sunset pictures so I could play with a new photo editor on my phone.

Or like.


the good moments are getting better
We could just not do any of those things and instead have a terrible horrible no good very bad day. (Really a rotten time to forget both martingale and spurs).


There were moments of brilliance on the lunge line, but mostly moments of idiocy. By the end of the session, Courage had completely soaked through an entire, thick saddle pad.

And I'm not even kidding.

He can be difficult sometimes. I don't know why it's asshole hour every hour.

I wanted to be mad at him. Hell, I was mad at him.

But he's just so damn beautiful. I look at him and I know I want this to work so freaking bad.

So tell me. I know there are others of you out there who have difficult horses and have worked through all kinds of hard things. What keeps you going when things are tough? 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Tack Ho Confessions: Justification

dressage saddle, standing martingale, mismatched blues
There is literally no way to have this conversation without admitting what an abject ho I am, so just roll with it. Or hustle your judgy pants down to the comments and tell me that you hate fine leather and nice things. Either way.

Courage flats in a plain cavesson with a standing martingale right now. I jump him in the running, but that seems a little too claustrophobic for dressage for him at this point and due to not wanting my face smashed in on his occasional tantrums, martingales are staying. For now. And I'm NOT putting a standing on a crank every day(1) tacky 2) lazy), so the dressage bridle is out.

do love this bridle
Also. Courage likes his big, fat sprenger eggbutt which is maybe one of the ugliest bits ever made. It's also wicked expensive. And gold. It's (SOB) too fat to easily go on and off the clips on my PS Flat Out bridle (seriously the only shortcoming of that bridle). It looks horrendous on my Aramus hunter bridle (no pictures). I've been taking the cavesson off of my horse size Nunn Finer and putting it on my Nunn Finer Figure eight to accomodate both bit and standing, but like...

The brass hardware on the cavesson totally clashes with the stainless hardware on the headstall. Can a get a resounding "OMG EWWWW" from my fellow tack hos?

Again. What is the point of being a tack ho if you're stuck in a franken-bridle? For serious guys. It's not ok.

not nunn finer
The obvious solution is simply to order the cavesson for the Nunn Finer. so everything is the right size and matches. I looked in to that. It was going to cost $70.

In my mind though, I already have a plain cavesson Nunn Finer. And if I were to sell the figure eight, I don't think having the cavesson would add any value. And all those things.

So instead of going that route, it makes more sense to buy something that 1) matches and 2) I don't already have and 3) I 've been wanting for ages but haven't put the obsessive energy into finding the right model of yet.

Oh, and what would that be exactly?

Race noseband with diamond cutouts and navy padding, havana leather and stainless hardware? Yes. that is what I want. Of course, the racing industry apparently doesn't exist on the internet and what I wanted was going to be a custom order...

but navy. it must be navy.

That happened.

Pics when it gets here.

And if you understood this post, congratulations. You're able to appreciate "the fine art of justifying absolutely anything". I'll get your tack ho name tag to you shortly.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Fried on Dressage

Probably because my equine "homeworld" (if you will) is eventer/jumperland, I'm generally pretty aware of what a fried jumper looks like. I've watched people create them and I've helped/watched people trying to fix them.

Let me tell you: it's hella better to just not fry them in the first place. Re-training is a nasty little bitch.

Anyways. While I'm aware it's totally possible to fry dressage horses (and let me tell you, when that shit happens it's BAD NEWS BEARS), I've never really thought about it as a thing that I would do. I mean, I barely even know how to dressage. How could I possibly "fry" a horse in a sport I do badly?

Answer: so, so easily.

Here's the thing. Courage is 10. He spent a good 6 years racing. He's been off the track less than two years. He's arrogant because he's used to being good at what he does. You don't race for 6 years by sucking.

So when I introduce him to a whole new sport (putting-head-down-and-using-butt), it's hard. And yeah, maybe he has a lot of potential, but he doesn't see the potential. He just sees that every day he does hard things WRONG and it SUCKS BALLS.

Of course, compounding all this is me getting excited and trying to overachieve my way to an accelerated training plan. Dressage day every day! What could possibly go wrong?

Just a quick gadget-free lunge
Well, I could start to fry my horse.

He's too much like me. He likes being right. He likes being good at stuff. If you tell him he's wrong constantly, he's going to shut down and quit trying, especially if he has any physical excuse (no matter how minor).


That's where we're at. I don't think we've done any lasting damage, but I'm trying to be very conscious about how much I'm asking Courage to do.

He likes jumping and he's good at it, so we need to jump 1-2x a week. We limit dressage session times and go hacks in the fields. We take days off. We mix it up, keep it fun, and find things we enjoy doing together.

And yeah, when we make our big debut at intro in two weeks, hopefully we won't completely suck.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Goals Update

not a goal. still fun.
It's Mid-May. Part of my goal for this year was to actually check in with said goals that I set early in the year. So let's see where we're at:

1) Compete at two dressage shows (schooling shows count) with Courage. Me riding. Don't care what level. Complete test and stay in the ring.

Well. Yeah. Does it count if I've signed up for two shows and have yet to actually be able to arrive? And signed up for a clinic I failed to get to? Not really. I'm signing up for more things. And actually getting to them. Somehow. 

2) Attend two jumping shows with Courage. Don't have to compete. Do have to hack around warm up.

Haven't even attempted this. In fairness, I was going to try and go to one two of them actually, but then I bailed in favor of the expensive clinic and then that didn't work out. Guess it's time to send in that event derby entry. HEY IT'S TOTALLY A JUMPING SHOW.

stretchy trot could be a goal
3) Comfortably jump around a 2'6" course at home, including oxers and spooky fill.

Well, this hasn't actually happened yet, but I am making steps in that direction AND I feel like it's doable AND this is a year end goal. So back pat, self.

6) Ride bitless. I dunno. Just want to try it and have an english hackmore, so might as well.

I keep contemplating this. I need to make it happen. It's quite achievable. 7) Take 1-2 lessons a month so I'm not just stalling out without help.

Winning! I think I am actually doing this. We're a little behind this month, again due to not clinicing (sigh), but I don't feel lost and alone.

I'm really glad I looked at this. It prompted me to actually fill out and mail in two show entries. Omg! As of now, Courage and I are scheduled to do this:

5/31 - Event derby at ground poles. IT COUNTS AS JUMPING OK?! I have long standing XC issues, but C just needs exposure right now, so it's basically a dressage test and a trail ride. I love trail rides.

you know you'll see this again
6/3 - dressage schooling show at intro. I swear I'll make it this time. No ribbons. Two tests. Just to get him out. 

6/20 - dressage show (ribbons!) at training level. Two tests, opportunity classes. 

And we'll see where we go from there. Our goals may not be earth shaking, but I at least feel like they're achievable. Even for us. I have a couple of options that will satisfy the jumper show thing. We'll figure it out. 

math dog is judging you
Noted: if you are like "WTF sb, those numbers don't make a list" you are correct. I'm just checking in on the things that are achievable so far to keep myself on task. Other things are being worked on or need these things complete before I can really work on them.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Blogger Road Trip!

it is beautiful. also not satin.
While all y'all were out winning ribbons this weekend (I swear me and Serena are the only ones with no loot), I plotted world domination.


I pretended my horse would get on a trailer.

Funny joke!

so much road! (photos by redheadlins)
I caught up with Niamh from Life of Riley on her cross country adventure and planned a meet up. Redheadlins, Alyssa, and I headed east across the state to meet in a small(ish) Idaho town for yummy lunch at a local place. I didn't know the town at all, but the text under the name informed us it was a "damn good bar" and that seemed like a good place to start.

Haha. The sign wasn't wrong.

At any rate, it was basically the OTTB Lovers' Club, USA style. Funny how despite being worlds apart and living completely different lives, we all have so much in common. And can talk for hours.

I mean, Niamh walked in and sat down. We didn't even need introductions and the poor waitress was probably ready to shoot us because we kept talking about horses instead of reading the menu to order. Ooops. Sorry nice waitress.

It was a total blast (Niamh is awesome. I already knew the other two were.) and I'm so glad we can meet up. I mean, isn't half a third some of the fun of riding just having other people who are crazy like you to hang out with?

I certainly think so.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Check Out my Sexy Bay Horse

plus put barrel under jump for de-spooking
In our barrel jumping adventures last week, I noticed that Courage was jumping a little too up and down and not enough forward and out. Part of that is because I was keeping things slow and not really letting him canter forward over them, but part was because he hasn't jumped all winter and needed a reminder how all the body parts work.

So when Redheadlins came out to play on Epic Pony Saturday, it was high time to lunge Courage over some jumps so he could figure out how to work all the parts without a rider interfering.

It's a strategy I've used for him before and been really happy with the results.

SLICE IT. Fix that distance.
He isn't super jumping fit right now and we are just trying to help him learn. We kept it really simple--he's on a lunge line to give me control over the pissing off/galloping away that he might otherwise try (which is not productive), and we only jumped each height 1 or 2 times nicely, then told him what a good boy he was and reset it.

He's definitely stronger to the left right now, but he gave the right a good, solid effort.

Oh, you don't believe me? What if I have it all in high def slow motion video courtesy of iphone?


jumping the standards because we can
All that to say.


And OMG YOU GUYS you should have seen him start to open up his back end over the oxer, which is unfortunately not on any of the videos I've seen so far, but it's coming along.

Like... once he's more jumping fit, we're going to try this again, because there are gears in there we've never even touched.

Ahem. The whole entire point was to get Courage on more of a bascule, jumping out and across instead of just up and down.

Misson accomplished.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bay Horse Brag

In our continued quest to find common ground and have fun, Courage and I started back over fences. I know, wtf, most people who can't turn right in an intro dressage test shouldn't be like "EFF YEAH JUMPS MAKE IT BETTER", but well... We jumped a lot last year and Courage is good at it and so we're doing it.

I already talked about how we jumped two jump blocks side by side with nary a blink from C Rage. I joked to someone about how a single barrel was next, and then I was like "um yeah why not".

yes i did lunge and take this on my phone #badass

I did pop him over it on the lunge first just to help us have a good experience. He didn't blink or question it, so off we went.

True confession: for my entire life until Courage, barrels have always scared the crap out of me. I don't know why.

But on C, they just aren't scary. He gets them, I get him, it's all good.

The first time, I walked in and held a steady contact with my leg on, then asked him to trot a couple strides out.

He popped over.

I even got a barnmate to video:

in case you hate videos like me
I mean, yeah, we can all sit here and pick my eq to pieces, but hello quiet, easy ride on a greenie over A SINGLE BARREL.

Damn guys. I'm impressed with us.

We hopped over it both directions, then went for a hack on the buckle because we're badass and that's what we do.

In fact, if you get really ambitious on my youtube channel, you'll even find a video of us walking through a puddle. Which is obviously riveting. Give me the Oscar now.

Someday, we'll get back in the dressage tack again and I'll try to remember how to sit up, but for now? I'm having fun. :-)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Where We're At

the scary corner
How do I say this without sounding really annoying? I'm a total vortex of stress and angst and I apologize for how annoying I must be to chat with right now.


Courage and I have been re-exploring the things we enjoy doing together to see if our differences can be resolved.

We started with hacking.

I gave him the option of going forward on a loose rein at the walk, standing to looking at scary things, or getting booted around in tiny circles.

After a somewhat protracted discussion, he reliably chose option A.

+10 for lunging over a skinny and getting a pic
Then the next day, I set up jumps. I know we're not ready to tackle a course cold right now. I set a bunch of skinnies, so the whole exercise would be about steering and listening instead of the jumping so much. (One thing: I didn't have the teeniest twinge of fear at any point. Yay Courage!)

I did lunge him over the "scary" new yellow box first just so I wouldn't have to do the green horse thing from the saddle, but he was pretty great.

He was a little sketchy to ride just because while he'd jump fine, he wanted to have an absolute MELTDOWN any time I lightly touched his face in the corners (mean, mean scary happy mouth mullen OMG).

so skinny
But hey, he was turning right reliably and we even cantered a couple of the fences and you have to admit, two jump blocks is actually pretty narrow and he NEVER once questioned going over them when I was in the saddle.

That actually felt really good.

It wasn't "fun", but it was challenging and sort of fulfilling.

Well at least, it was if you ignore the part about how he started the ride by going "AIN'T NO WAY BITCHES" and rearing and spinning because omg, a quail on the ground.

so cute
So whatever all that adds up too. We were supposed to hit a little schooling show yesterday, so I lunged the snot out of him, had a fantastic dressage ride (srsly where did good horse come from???), then hacked around. He wanted to have a meltdown about something I will grant could be legitimately scary, then got over himself (with a lot of kicking from me) and was actually quite reasonable.

But then we weren't able to go to the show for reasons completely outside of our control.

position is not too terrible for barely ever jumping lately
I'm getting really good at memorizing tests I'm not going to ride, I guess.

So that's where things stand right now. I don't know where it is. But I'm here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Small Business Awesome: Straight Shot Metal

plus bonus key chain
Y'all know how I am about stress buying. And sparkles. Here's the funny thing: as much as I love sparkles, I really can't get in to bridle charms. I mean, I have more of them than I have bridles (thanks Micaylah for helping make them!), but they don't speak to me the way a sparkle browband does.

Then I ran across Straight Shot Metal.


Love it. Need it.

Best halter tag ever
I can't explain it. I'm not a skull person. I'm not a charm person. I'm totally a custom and eye catching person and who can say no to good juju?

That's right. Within like 2 minutes of discovering the store (curated by blogland's own Beka from The Owls Approve), I had ordered my very own Good Juju Bridle Charm with custom hand stamping. Admittedly, it took me probably another half hour to pick colors and stamping options, but that's because I'm crazy indecisive and there are SO MANY FUN COLORS.

It shipped fast, even though it was fully custom, and Beka included a sweet swag keychain with color inlaid in the stamping. Yay being an early customer!

Color. Me. Impressed.

I absolutely loved the charm in person--it was the exact vibe I was going for. Quirky, fun, striking, but not screaming NOTICE ME like some sort of weird teenager thing.

And you better believe I'm milking that good juju for all it's worth.

I mean, I put it on my figure eight bridle at first, then switched it to one of my PS bridles because I couldn't stand to ride without it.

Not kidding.

Like all of my favorite things, it just makes me smile when I look at it and that's reason enough for me.

Well that and the fact that buying a custom, hand-stamped charm will set you back a whopping $7. Yeah. Like if you made minimum wage, you could still pay for this in under an hour.

So if I were you, I'd hop in on this deal before Beka jacks her prices up just because she can. (Noted: she has in no way hinted to me that she would. I just think this is a screaming deal and I'll capitalize if I were you. Or me. My next order is already on the way.) (Also noted: she has hinted to me about this: "Buddha, stars, and boots". Um. Yes. There will be another order.)

Courtesy of Straight Shot Metal etsy
If bridle charms aren't your jam (no judgement here), she also makes sweet bracelets.

That I want.

And I have no self control, so you all know where this is going.

All this to say, I am absolutely thrilled with Straight Shot Metal and you can definitely look for more pieces being featured here. Plus you should check out their etsy store, and drop by Beka's blog to see what's going on.

PS I totally should have leveraged this to see if Beka would give me free stuff, but I didn't. Because I suck at that. Rest assured, my opinions are completely unbaised by any providing of free products and I paid the same as anyone else.
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