Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Daily Ride Outfit Thingy

Stephanie P over at Hand Gallop is doing a daily ride outfit blog hop, which is kind of cool. I'm a total tack junkie and I've loved reading everyone's answer, but I can't really participate. 

Not because I'm some sort of horrible hop-hating harridan (you're welcome), but because I'm screwing with our equipment CONSTANTLY and well... there isn't a normal. 

The basics are this: I jump/hack in an 18" Barnsby Diablo on a medium tree and I dressage in an 18" Ideal something or other with a M or MW tree. I have some saddle pads. I have some Ogilvies. I have some peg protection. I mainly play with bridles and bits... here's the current set up: 

so much right
4. PS of Sweden Flat Out Revolution

This bridle is amazing. It's the low end of the PS of Sweden line and it's quite utilitarian looking, but I just keep coming back to it. The clips are so easy to use. The look is very classic and simple, so it works on a lot of faces.

The leather is nice enough to use, but not so nice that you feel bad abusing it. The flash is completely removable.

It's not fancy and sometimes I try to put it away so I look like less of a tack ho at the barn, but I keep coming back to this bridle. It is the quintessential training bridle and I love it.

It's perfect for new bit trying day or hauling to shows or whenever I might need something quick and simple. 

fantastic charm not included
3. PS of Sweden High Function Revolution

SAD NEWS: This bridle isn't currently available on the internet!! I hope it isn't discontinued.

Regardless, this was my Valentine's present from hubs, and it is lovely. The padding is super soft and again, the very simple, classic design works well for a lot of faces.

It's wide enough to be visually interesting without overwhelming the face. It isn't so padded that it distracts from Courage's very tiny head. It also comes with a fully removeable flash, but Courage just isn't a flash kind of guy, so we don't use it.

It's pretty, it's classic, and I love looking at it, and of course, it's our go-to on dressage days.

another fantastic charm
2. PS of Sweden High Jump Revolution

This bridle just makes me happy. The anatomic design is brilliant. The way it fits Courage's face is lovely. I love the fact that it's visibly very "different" and...


I love it. What else can I say?

I use it to jump or hack or dressage or whatever strikes my fancy.

Franken pride
1. FRANKENBRIDLE (not available by retail)

I know, I know. I was ostensibly trying to get Courage out of the Frankenbridle but instead, I just Franken'ed it more.

This bridle is a total mishmash. It's a Nunn Finer (cob size) crown and cheeks with my Ocala Tack Shack custom race noseband and a Dark Jewel Designs browband, coupled with my favorite PS of Sweden softie grip reins.

I know it looks a bit crazy, but I love it so much. The reins mean I can use my fancy breastcollar+running martingale if need, while the plain cavesson permits a standing martingale, which we use almost every ride.

The sparkles get changed out to match any given outfit and that noseband is just plain FABULOUS.

I use it a lot. It's obviously the go-to for standing martingale days and game days and cross country and hacking and jumping and... frequently the hardest part of my ride is choosing a bridle.

In fact, the biggest complication right now is that C-rage has selected his one and only be all and end all of bits, and naturally, it is the $220 bit that I got for a song a year or so ago. I don't know why I have 4 favorite bridles if I can only ever ride in the same damn bit.

I am playing with a sprenger d that Jess loaned me to see if we could at least have something mildly cheaper+cuter next time I'm in the bit market. Fingers crossed!

And yeah, that's more or less what we ride in any given day, not including western days...

Monday, June 29, 2015

Rainbow sparkles, Kittens, and Unicorns

Arabians have best ribbons. Helps to be kick ass.
There's been a lot of overwhelming sadness going around the world lately. There have been some good things too though: You know about my rainbow sparkle prize bush and my rainbow reins.

Well, in light of the recent court ruling, C4 put their rainbow belts 50% off AND I found a rainbow sparkle hat at a friend's horse show (and also got to play with her neck ribbons). Our color is rainbow, apparently. Wear it proud.

And then. Since I'm done horse showing for a while, it was finally time for my little kitten to come home. Blog world, meet TROGDOR. The Burninator.

Because obviously.

(Our old cat is named Azuzu. +5 if you catch the reference.)

Trogdor burrito!


In keeping with mythical animal sightings, I didn't get a good picture of the unicorn... it wasn't far away and blurry, but I was too startled and too close to shoot well with my phone. All I can show you is this...

Friday, June 26, 2015

For Lauren

I'm sure you're all aware of Lauren's recent tragedy. If you're interested in joining the blogger effort to support one of our own, Tracy is setting it up HERE. Anything you can do is helpful, whether that's a monetary contribution or a kind comment.

Many thanks to Tracy for taking point on this. The blogger community really can be a wonderful place.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Challenge ACCEPTED

we are the best at toodling
Courage and I are taking some intentional down time from dressage and have been toodling and doing nothing.

The internet is a dangerous place for toodling, as you might be aware. I was reading through Eventing Nation's #EventerProblems list and I thought it was funny right up until I saw the last image on this list.

And because I am toodling (and have loony friends), I thought "we can do that" and then immediately "I bet I can make a competition out of this". So I emailed it to the obvious choice for the challenge (and not the one that would kick both our asses without even trying) and obviously, she was in.

It's all been a very hush hush project, because you don't go advertising to your competition just how you train your horse to WIN, but here's what I did on day one:

1) Get water trough.
I'll teach those DQs to leave things laying out....

2) Show it to horse in the arena.
so interesting now

3) Lunge horse over similar skinnies to remind him that he does things other than dressage.
so easy now

4) Lunge horse over it with standard(s).

4) Show it to horse under saddle and establish that he still has to go forward/straight.
forgot to take a pic of this part, so you get yesterday's shot again
5) Jump over other, similar skinnies that horse is familiar with to get him thinking about jumping. And skinnies. And straightness. Oh, and to re-tune my jumping position/aids.
Wore the same outfit, but looked better in my head


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Cycle of Rainbows

Safety first, kids!
See, I do this thing where I get really, really focused on certain goals and pursue them at the expense of everything else.

And then I get burned out and quit doing everything for a while.

That's not a particularly great character trait, but it's very consistent. Thus, in an attempt to continue adulting before the burnout phase kicks in, I am voluntarily taking a little break with Courage.

so fancy
He got Sunday after the show off. Monday we toodled in the stock saddle a little because he was still down a shoe.

And then Tuesday we toodled more and played neck reining trail horse all around the property in our cheapie mechanical hackmore that we're trying out.

yeah rainbow sparkles
I'm enjoying the little things, like busting out the rainbow sparkle brush we won at our last derby. Oh, and I maybe possibly bought myself the rainbow roping reins I've been wanting forever because obviously. Champion dressage horses need rainbow reins.

repping the OTTB
We're mostly just hacking around the property, opening gates, and walking through ditches, but I think it's so important for both of us to have some time to hang out, have fun, and not pick. At all.

We might jump tomorrow. Or we might go bareback in a halter.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hair Update

thick(er) sexy neck

Noted: I wish I had something insightful to say about Lauren's situation. She is really one of the nicest people I've met through the blogging community and my heart is with her at this time.

I know I blogged earlier last fall about how I'm trying something new with Courage's mane--letting it be a little longer and thicker just to experiment with a new aesthetic. Honestly, I've been on the fence about it. I couldn't take the thickness, so I pulled it, but I couldn't get a really pretty pull job without going too short. I was about to just say screw it and go back to a thin, short little eventer mane, but it's hot and I'm lazy.

And then we had dressage braids practice day.

 And I realized that the biggest hinderance to my pretty braids was a pulled mane.

scissored. he's really excited.
So before our last show-prep lesson, I steeled my nerves, got my scissors, and turned Courage into a dressage horse.

Not gonna lie. It physically hurt me (and not because I caught myself with the scissors) (which I didn't, for the record). I've never been a scissors girl and I've definitely made fun of dressage divas with cut manes for being too lazy/useless to pull a mane properly.

like this

That is how we make nice braids. And if we have to braid, dammit, they're going to be nice.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Series of Unfortunate Events

aka "SB and Courage try to go to a dressage show"

As a part of the "get this damn horse broke" initiative I've been participating in this year, I signed Courage up for 4 shows in three weeks: event derby, schooling show, event derby, dressage show.

I somewhat-optimistically thought that despite not cantering at any of the first three shows (except two half circles on intro C), we'd be all set for our training level dressage debut at a recognized dressage show within three weeks of our first show of the year, which was Courage's third show. Ever.

a long ways from this
So. We prepared as best we could, and with images of glory (or at least achieved goals) dancing in my head, I led Courage onto the trailer Saturday morning.

Or that is.

I walked on to the trailer then turned around to see my horse still on solid ground and we spent the next 20 minutes having a massive temper tantrum/meltdown about not getting on the trailer.


I know hauling safety dictates that horses should always haul in leather halters in case of an accident and I totally agree with that.

just the warmup
But we were also going like 30 minutes down the road and then he was going to have to stand tied for a couple hours, so I had him in the bad boy tying rope halter.

and I am SO GLAD I did.

Because I finally got him in. Latched the divider. Tied his rope.

And homeboy SLAMMED backwards, popped the divider out, and SAT his ass back against the rope. Bless you western folk and your nylon rope halters--my set up held. Courage never made it off the trailer, got his ass kicked back into his stall, the divider re-installed, his halter changed out through the window so I could untie the first one (with a hoof pick), and his buddy loaded behind him.

yeah bonnet for a reason
And then neither of us dared think too loud about what would happen to said buddy if shithead tried that maneuver again with her in the back of the trailer.

The trailer rocked all the way to the show, but both horses were still in their respective stalls when we arrived.

So we unloaded.

heads don't have to be symmetrical
Which is when I saw that in all his thrashing, Courage ripped the ever-loving shit out of his face and tore up his front legs and everything was already starting to swell. There was even blood in his mouth. Fan-freaking-tastic, horse. Good job.

I cold hosed his legs for a while, but there wasn't a lot to be done for his now-very-asymmetrical head. Which was sensitive to the touch. You know, right where a browband would go.

I texted Alyssa not to come, very nearly canceled on my kind friend who offered to braid, and left homeboy tied to the trailer so I could wander off and take in the sights.

Alyssa showed up anyways. My friend did a lovely job braiding and Courage was actually super quiet for her. About an hour before our ride time, I thought I should attempt to tack up and see if Courage could even handle a fly bonnet, much less a bridle. Or if he'd be sound. Or if we'd get disqualified for blood showing.

how everyone wants to spend the warm up
He didn't fuss too much about the bridle, so we headed off to warm up. About 40 minutes in to what was shaping up to be a perfectly fine warm up for a horse at his first real dressage show (and 10 minutes before our ride time), I heard: "clink. Clink. CLINK."

That doesn't take a genius. I hopped off and yeah. Courage's right front shoe was hanging on by a nail, half off his foot, and definitely still too attached to just pull off with my bare hands.

free walk
And I threw in the cosmic towel. The fact that we survived to this point was remarkable enough. Here I looked like some sort of horse abuser who barely made it on time and now we're losing shoes at the walk? It wasn't meant to be. I mean, at least I got to use my grounds fee and I only wasted half as much money as I did on the clinic we couldn't go to, right?

Alyssa and my braider friend held Courage while I scoured up someone who could pull a shoe. It was a fantastic older Austrian guy who's been around horses longer than my parents have been alive. He got the shoe off, then looked at Courage and said, "You are not hurt enough to get out of work today. You have to go back to work." 

not here yet
Ugh. Cosmic towel IN MY FACE.

I climbed back on. We trotted around the warm up. Courage actually felt slightly calmer and more relaxed than he did with four shoes, and I got independent verification that he looked sound. Worst case scenario, the judge rings the bell and is like "Do you know your horse is lame?" and I'm like "I'd honestly be shocked if he wasn't."

So in we go.

I have to say--the event derbies prepared us really well for the whole "leave the warm up crowd and go off on your own" part. Courage was a little tense, but he didn't even look at the judge's booth (tent on top of a flatbed trailer) very hard.

Our test was ok. We had decent moments and giraffe moments. He could have been more forward and relaxed, but we stayed in the ring and it was fine.

yeah pretty proud of this
I rode him back to the trailer, slid off, and declared that was enough and I wasn't going to wait an hour to ride my second test.

And then Redheadlins was like "you know, you really should" and our dressage trainer was like "I would if I were you" and somehow we'd wasted enough time that my ride was 20 minutes out. I bridled Courage back up. Ambled out to the warm up. Ambled around the warm up. Took a few deep breaths. And then heard the announcer say I was entering the arena, so we trotted to the gate and headed to the show ring.

right lead canter. down the long side.
I determined that if I was going to ride this test, I was going to do it better than the last one. I pushed my hands forward, put my leg ON, and when the judge rang the bell, we were ready. Things were shaping up pretty well until we did our medium walk across the short diagonal. Both Courage and I took a look into the field beside the ring, and OH YES, they were showing screaming spotted stallions in hand. The middle of my test seemed like a good time to start, apparently.

And I had this moment of "either we can look at that or I can ride the hell out of the freewalk on the next short diagonal".

And goddamn, we nailed a 7 on that freewalk. Makin' that coefficient my bitch.

That last salute felt so good. Also good: hacking my battered war horse in three shoes back to the trailer on a loose rein and knowing that whatever happened in the scoring, Courage and I put forth a solid effort through considerable adversity and I was proud of what we'd done that day.

now with ribbons
I took my time rinsing and unbraiding Courage, then left him with his hay net and went to get scores. We snagged a 64.1% and second place (out of two) in training 1, our first test. I played on my phone and tried to not linger awkwardly for a few minutes while I waited for training 2.

67% AND FIRST PLACE IN A CLASS OF 4!!! ERMEGERD!!!! One of our "reach goals" for this year was 65% at training level AND GUESS WHO NAILED IT WITH A REAL JUDGE AT A REAL SHOW???

And then it only took about 3 minutes to convince my champion dressage horse to get back on the trailer and go home.

And that is how we do dressage.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Dress Rehearsal

I haven't braided in years (or well, ever) or worn a show coat. I bought myself a stock tie, took the tags off my brand new, never worn coat, and did a trial run on Courage's braids. 
nothing says "take me seriously" like a bathroom selfie in a show coat

looking like a dressage horse

squint a little. they're fine.
We took one last lesson. Tests memorized, stuff assembled, tack cleaned.

Ready or not, here we go.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Show Goals

#1: look fabulous
Alright, well... this weekend is our last show of the month and it's our big move up to training level dressage. I feel like I'm basically attempting to memorize the entire lower level USDF test repertoire at this point.

But I digress. Given that it's a new venue, new level, new discipline, I'm trying to create a list of realistic goals for us to strive for.

1) Stay on the horse while in the arena.

This should be doable. It's not really my main stressor, but I wanted to cover it.

also practice braiding again
2) Stay in the arena while doing our tests.

Again, doable. Courage hasn't learned yet that dressage arenas are not to be jumped out of, but he's been perfectly happy to stay in them so far.

3) Remember (or have a reader for) both of our tests.

I refuse to fail on something so simple.

he looks so curvy
4) Be present in the moment and ride my horse.

If Courage brings his A Game, we should be competitive. If he lets his green show through, we'll be a lot less competitive. Whatever happens, I want to ride the horse under me and build another positive experience in pursuit of an overall green reduction.

I mean, I know I just wrote a whole post about not wanting to settle for second best and that holds true. However, this is our first time under a USDF judge and I have literally NO IDEA what will happen. I don't know how they compare to eventing judges.

We are going to find out.

5) Break 57%.

We're at a locally recognized show competing against professionals (no really, I checked. Apparently all the other ammies have enough money to do the recognized classes). I have no illusions of grandeur (well, I do, but not at this particular show). I just want to do more things right than wrong and have the judge agree with that. Anything more is icing on the cake.

Is this realistic? I have no idea. We've been coasting on intro (no stretchy trot and no coefficients), so I'm excited to step up to the challenge of a new level and see what happens.

PS I'm getting really motivated about goals lately. It's making me wonder if I set them too low, since I keep achieving them.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Teach Me Today: So Studly

what stallions look like
So here's a funny thing: when I first got Courage, he was the most socially awkward horse EVER. He really had no idea how to interact with anyone or what girls were or what boys were or anything. His idea of a good time was eating his buddies' tails.

And only part part of that has changed. Not the tail-eating part either.

what a sexpot
As in, he now knows what girls are. BIG TIME. There are two lovely, curvy mares at our dressage barn--one is a Friesian cross and the other is a fancy warmblood. Courage started noticing them this winter.

As in, they'd walk by with those wide, saucy, swinging hips, and he'd drop and make stallion noises.

Because that's not embarrassing.

He then spent almost our entire first dressage show hanging out annnnnnd as you might have read on Alyssa's blog, also tried to mount the indomitable Bacon at the last event derby.

only a stallion in his mind
I'm a little bit at a loss here. He was gelded at 4, sure, but that was still 6 years ago. SIX YEARS, HORSE. GIVE IT UP.

To this point, he's been perfectly manageable--I mean, he's very forward with the ladies, but he isn't aggressive to people or ignoring me or charging around or anything.

So aside from never tying him on the same side of the trailer as a mare again, anyone have some brilliant insights on how to manage a studly gelding?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

No More Moral Victories

not impressed by your atmosphere
Like anyone who picks up a stupid hard sport as a child and then spends the rest of their life busting their butt at it, I want to be a good rider. I also want to be good at horse shows.

But as anyone who shows can tell you, showing is a whole different skill set from riding at home. And just like any other skill, it must be practiced.

I can't even tell you have many times I've kicked around the idea of giving up showing entirely, because with the exception of one brilliant year with Cuna, I have always, universally, sucked at showing.

so much practice
I'm the queen of moral victories. You know, "oh well it was pretty ok for a green horse" or "maybe she has ulcers" or "it was good for where we're at, which is nowhere anyone wants to be".

But you know what?

I'm sick of moral victories.

I actually want to be good at something.

The Cuna+Courage collection
It's not even that I'm a particularly competitive person--I'm not. I'm just tired of always failing for reasons, so I'm taking those reasons away the best I can.

That's why Courage and I are hitting every local inexpensive show I can get a ride to. We're doing this and we're doing it right. He's got a lot of potential. I'm an ok rider.

I want to go to a show and know that if I ride well, he and I have a chance. I want to be calm and collected. I don't just want to lose--I want to make other people beat me. (Or you know, win.) 

Me and people who won things
I'm following Tracy's tutorial and making a ribbon jar to put up Cuna's ribbons. I don't need to dwell in the past. Courage is my man now. We're going to celebrate his achievements together and be confident that we can keep building his satin collection. 

I know there are going to be plenty of disappointments and moral victories along the way, but I want actual, quantifiable success.

With no excuses.

PS I'm under no illusions that I'll win things just for showing up or that I'll beat the pros in my dressage show this weekend. That's not what this is about. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

DERBY #2: Wherein Asses Are Kicked and Names Are Taken (mostly our own)

Courage is on the property
So that happened.

Ooph. As predicted on Friday, I am deader than a very dead smelling thing that your dog rolled in and prompted multiple baths with anti-odor shampoo. (No one else has beagles? Well, it's a thing. Trust me.)

Good news: it's (mostly) the good kind of dead.

So for reference, this was the first show where Courage basically had to step off the trailer into the dressage warm up and go. Like a show horse. That's how his dressage show next weekend is going to be also, so I figured another ground poles derby would be excellent prep.

Anywhoodle. Here's how it went: Great.

Courage hopped off, plunked around warm up, did some nice work, and in we went.

It's actually getting kind of fun--instead of being like "dear god please don't die", I ride the horse in the test. We had some good moments (ROUND circles) and some less good moments (free walk does NOT equal rooting the reins out of my hands, horse).

But hey. He's learning. I'm learning. I don't think we got anything lower than a 6 and we nailed an 8 on our final halt, so yay dressage.



grown ups
Guess who stands tied to a trailer like a grown up horse?


Super proud of that.

Anyways. I walked my "XC" course. (I'm trying not to be self deprecating, but it's hardly xc when it's poles on flat ground in a circle.) I actually didn't feel like puking too much, so that was fantastic.

yeah no
Getting to the xc course was a whole other story. We had to go through a dip of death with a ditch at the bottom WAY FAR AWAY from all the other horses. And also we were first, so there were no buddies.

We got within about ten yards of the dip and Courage started running backwards. I spun him around and stuck my spurs in him, he said yes ma'am, and wouldn't you know, the dip of death wasn't an issue at all.

And off we went! The pictures don't really capture it, because our photog is used to taking pictures of people who, well, jump. So he shot the obstacles... which aren't that impressive.

Still. At our first derby, we walked 60-80%. At this one, I brought him back to walk for his poles until he settled, and then we trotted them. Oh, AND at one point we cantered a few strides and didn't die.

All good things. In fact, by the very end, I (GET THIS PEEPS) ACTUALLY TOOK A HIGH OPTION.

Admittedly, it was a log barely bigger than a pole, but it was outside our comfort zone and we nailed it. That's big for us. Taking risks. Living dangerously. All that.

class of one. #noshame
We finished on our dressage score to win our intensely competitive division (of one). I'm pumped for the ribbon because I'm a satin ho. I'm also pumped to jump double clear and conquer some of those nasty xc demons together.

We're building positive experiences together and becoming a stronger team. It's so much fun. :-)
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