Monday, October 31, 2016

ROLEX OMG: Let's Buy Tickets #1

It's a lifelong dream for me to go to Rolex and OMG ITS HAPPENING. ROLEX 2017 BABY.

I'm planning to be there for sure Thursday-Sunday. I want to do and see absolutely everything. I've never done this before, so I figured I'd make a blog about the hows of getting there.


As fellow blogger Pony Express pointed out, advance tickets to Rolex go on sale Tues, November 1, 2016 for the 2017 event. This year's Rolex runs April 28-May 1.

Early bird (11/1-12/8) prices are:

$75 for Ground Admission. My understanding is that this gets you in the KHP and access to XC, but does not get you seats for Dressage and Stadium. There is a price break for groups of 6 or more, but at present, I do not have a group.

I plan to be there for both days of dressage and stadium, so I also need to order those.

Now, I've never been to the Kentucky Horse Park nor have I paid that much attention to it. Here's a diagram and last year's price breakdown (I think). My prices are coming off the RK3DE site for 2017.
 My understanding is that the 200s seats are covered, which is fantastic if (when) it rains, but also the views is obscured by giant pillars, which is super dumb. I dunno. I go to lots of football games and I'd be super pissed if there was a pillar in front of me at one of them, so I dunno why it's supposed to be ok here.

Plus you can get up and move around during dressage and stadium doesn't take that long... I'm learning towards uncovered stadium seats on day 1 when it's not crowded, bleacher seats on day 2 when it is, and uncovered stadium seats for show jumping. That makes $11 Thursday, $12 Friday, and $35 Sunday, for a total of $58. Thoughts? Terrible idea? I just want to sit everywhere, ok?

There are hospitality tents and the Kentucky Patron club and all that, but let's be real: people in my income bracket do not drop $700 on tickets.

Another cool add on is commentary headsets. One day is $25, Two is $40, and three is $50. I like commentary on dressage to keep it from getting boring. I don't really see the point for show jumping--non horse people can figure that sport out. Add another $40 here.

You can pay to upgrade to premium parking, but general admission parking is included in your grounds pass. You can also pay for a tailgating package that includes 6 grounds passes, which is super cool, but since I'm not local and don't have six friends with a tent and a grill and prefer to be mobile, that will not be happening this year. There's also an option for "on site glamping", which means you and a friend pay $1800 for the weekend to sleep in a tent with no power. Sorta seems non-glamorous to me, but again, out of my price bracket.

There is a $10 service charge for placing the order, which brings my ticket total to:
$75 grounds fee
$58 individual events
$40 headset
$10 Convenience Fee
$183 in tickets

There are definitely more budget ways to do this. This would get me to all the same events but picking the cheapest options--here's what comes to mind:
$69 early bird grounds fee for group of 6 or more.
$45 individual events, always picking cheapest seats
$0 pass on headset
$10 Convenience fee
$124 in tickets

Or if you want to pass on Thursday entirely, there's the option to do this:
$57 three day grounds fee for group of 6 or more
$37 individual dressage friday and show jumping sunday
$10 convenience fee
$104 for three days of entertainment

Obviously, you can do a whole variety of these. I'm trying to make good choices. I don't want to spend money on things I won't use, but I also don't want to regret missing something on a trip like this. Weigh in, bloggy folks: what's to be done?

PS Show wrap up later!
PPS Apparently it's a holiday.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Coming Soon to an Arab Show Near You!

One thing that really stuck with me from the clinic last weekend was when I explained to the clinician how yes, Courage was going nicely at home, but no, we weren't showing because his little brain kept falling out of his chiseled head and it just wasn't worth it to me to put out $$$ for dressage shows with a guaranteed fail like that.
pretty chiseled
So she said that next year, we had to go to every single show, until he learned he had to show up and do his job. Specifically, she said "I don't care if it's a dressage show, open show, 4H show, whatever. He can go do rail classes, but he has to go."

She's not wrong and in fact the year we did all the derbies, Courage got downright reasonable at hauling places and going to work. So when it popped up on my newsfeed that the local Arab club was holding an open show, my ears sorta pricked up. Then I talked a barn buddy who actually does those sort of shows into taking one of her horses too...
uh yeah we look like this
And now Courage in entered in 7 (count 'em) english pleasure and equitation classes and one class for in hand trail this weekend.

Yes, at an Arab show.
need all the help we can get

So uh. Wish us luck?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Magna Wave Meets Reactivity Personified: A Magna Wave Maxx Review

I'm skeptical about alternative therapy for horses. I think new technology is super cool and I love living in the future, but I also think it's dumb to spend money on untested tech that may or may not do anything.
this pic is never not appropriate

Good news: my bodywork lady totally gets that.

(Aside: people like to ask what bodywork is. It's some combination of massage and chiro and I can't 100% tell you what she does, but when she works on C, we go from not going forward and not turning right to going forward and turning right, so it's worth the $ to me.)
our specialty

Bodywork lady also runs an equine rehab center and she usually lets us play with the new toys when they come in to see if it's something we're interested in doing on our horses. Courage has gotten laser treatment and ultrasound stuff, I gave Alyssa  Courage's turn on a Theraplate to see what happens (answer: made her nauseous), and I think we've done a couple other things. To this point, I haven't noticed that anything outside of the usual hands-on body manipulation was doing anything for Courage.
getting started

And then bodywork lady shows up with a thing called a "magna wave". It looked like a glorified hose lasso attached to a suitcase or tiny R2D2 droid and it popped like an electric fence. It has little wheels on the body so it's easy to move and it plugs into a normal outlet, so pretty straightforward. (research tells me this is the Maxx model).

Given Courage's extreme reactions to ropes/hoses (DO NOT LIKE) and hearty respect for electric fence (won't step over a single strand 1' off the ground), I figured this would be another failed experiment where I might get some good NOPE pictures but would achieve nothing useful.

Bodywork lady walked into his stall with the weird heavy popping droid suitcase hose thingy. I was SHOCKED that Courage gave it minor side eye, then was 100% ok without even moving his feet.

And then I was completely floored.

Not only did he like the treatment (I'd already tried it on myself--feels weird, doesn't hurt, did feel good after), he literally dropped his head below his poll and completely relaxed his entire body. Apparently, the machine/hose combo uses electro-magnetic pulses to essentially give a deep tissue massage. I don't know how I feel about any of those words in particular, but the change in Courage was remarkable.

This is the horse who leaps around, rears, paws the air, bolts away, and generally has a meltdown in his overreactions to pain when we do bodywork. He relaxes afterwards when he feels better, but it's borderline dangerous (at best) for myself or our practitioner and I never feel comfortable asking someone to hold him for me.

After a nice long session with the Magna Wave, Courage stood there like a sleepy old school horse, eyes closed, ears floppy, poll below his withers, and was completely passive and cooperative for the entire length of the adjustment.
and gave big releases

Which was less than a third the normal amount of time because there were no flying hooves to dodge or trooping around the barn trying to catch him after yet another escapade. (Yeah he possibly has a reputation...)

Um. Sign. Me. Up.

Courage is a special snowflake for sure and I try to do anything I can to keep people around him safe and happy. This was worth it for the increase in personal safety for myself and our bodyworker alone. I mean, we both kept repeating "I don't even recognize him" and "do you think we killed him"? I also asked her if I could get my own, and she said sure but pointed out they cost a tidy 20k so yeah, not happening here.

Per our bodywork lady, you can actually get on and ride immediately vs the usual 24-48 hours off after stuff like this, but I had somewhere to be so I didn't get to see the after-effects until I pulled him out the next day.

I threw him on the lunge line and then scraped my jaw off the floor--dayum.
don't even know this horse

Homeboy floated around like I've never seen him move. I ended up not riding, because he also felt super good, which entailed grunting oddly every few strides and periodically leaving the ground ways I just didn't care to ride.
eh no thanks

He wasn't naughty or bolting or any number of previous lunge line shenanigans. He just looked like he felt amazing and he was expressing himself. Nothing was sustained or idiotic.

Even without the after pictures though, I'm a believer. The change in him was mind blowing for me and regardless of how well it holds long term, the sheer fact that he was able to let us work on him without the big reactions makes it worthwhile to me at this point. I will say I watched our lady use it on several horses and there were a variety of responses, but for Courage and one of his girlfriends, this nifty tool could be a game changer.

10/10 will use again. Definitely recommend.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Lessons Galore

I somehow went from  the "lessons once a quarter or so" schedule to the "four lessons in six days" schedule.

I am ok with that.

It started last Thursday--that's usually a trainer ride day, but I'd missed my usual lesson Tuesday and our trainer was able to squeeze us in, so a lesson it was. 
it was also gameday #winning #movingup
I was thrilled with C. Thrilled. Omg. It was like sitting on a dressage horse. He was loose and forward and OMG rideable and I actually got to work on me. Guess what? When he lets me ride, my position actually doesn't suck that bad. 

So that's super cool. 

We had about 90% of a REALLY good ride and then we went to do right lead canter and Courage had kind of a giant existential crisis about how hard it was mentally which resulted in a giant flail and the only thing between me and a concussion-while-mounted was my beloved standing martingale.
only regret: phone ran out of space so no flail media

We finished with a nice little relaxed trot on a loose rein and I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. I had a peek at the sort of horse Courage is capable of being and omg it's going to be fun. Someday. Haha.

We had a nice toodle on Friday, found out about a last minute dressage clinic with our favorite clinician from last year, and slipped in for Sat/Sun rides.
such class!

There isn't really any media from Saturday beyond my proof-of-outfit shot. We worked on a persistent head twist that Courage has. It's usually subtle, but it always stymies me. Our trainer was able to get rid of it on ride #1, but it kind of comes and goes for me and I'd like to stop getting test comments like "every time he twists his head, a puppy dies" from dressage judges. 

The clinician called it out as an imbalance and gave me a bunch of tools to work through it with. The biggest problem was that I had to address like 7 things at once and my brain wasn't thinking that fast. I also warned her that we could be explosive when cantering, so she had us canter both ways and HOT DAMN C-Rage kept his brain in his head and was lovely. 

I think my best takeaway from this day was simply that when Courage is with me mentally and rideable, I need to actually ride him. Whether or not he is rideable can be hit and miss, but I need to take advantage of the good days.

Then came day two!! Not only did my trainer take (extensive) video for me, but Alyssa came out and nabbed some great pictures. That is no easy task when you're basically trotting 20m circles over and over, so full credit to her.
turquoise day!
We took all the concepts I learned on day one in terms of getting Courage to rebalance without the head tilt and put them together at speed. And by speed, I mean slow trotting. It's hard, ok?

I had to ask Courage to keep his neck low and long. The neck is a counter balance, so I'd take the neck one way in order to tip the body the other way. If he was stuck, we had to go on a small (5-10m) circle to diagnose what was holding while riding forward and engaging the hind end. Oh and if I did all the right things and he still didn't release, that meant I was holding in my body. So. Apparently I do that a lot.
all tip top except that twist

I can't seem to make it sound as hard as it was in the moment. Rest assured, it was super hard. Courage was also super good and stayed with me the whole time.

At this point you're probably like "where is lesson #4" and "wtf you said there was video of clinic day #2" to which I say "lesson #4 is tomorrow I think" and "it's not edited yet ok".

In a lot of ways, this whole year has felt pointless and stagnant to me--we didn't really get out and show, we didn't make a lot of measurable progress, and no one thing makes me go "wow yeah look at that accomplishment". I mean, yeah, objectively, we didn't really get that far.


This is the year Courage needed. To this point, he has more or less gone through the motions, but now he's starting to really understand them. The rides I've had the past few days are rides I could not have had last year, last month, or even last week. He's mentally with me and he's ready to go on.

And as much as I love satin, I love this feeling more.

PS hopefully satin next year. finger crossed.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


Courage has been in my life for more than three years now. I blogged before about how that's the longest I've ever had a horse and he and I are definitely still sorting out our relationship. But if you've read this blog, I venture that you've picked up on the rather-dramatic quality our partnership has entailed. 
bridle shot
Just in the last six months, something has finally clicked for us. He's finally become the one my dreams are made on and the one I can't wait to see.

And now, something weird has started happening to me.
I rarely dream at night and if I do, I don't remember it. The only real exception was with Cuna, the horse who had a profound and ongoing impact on my adult life. After I had to put my old man down, I had vivid nightmares for weeks about him. Horrible things. They're still in my head years later. 

But lately, things with Courage have been good. Almost magical. He and I are in this comfortable place where we know what to expect one another and we trust each other.
It's not the relationship I had with Cuna because Courage isn't Cuna, but it's a new and beautiful thing. I've always said that Cuna brought Courage to me, and I've meant it on multiple levels, some cornier than others. I'm in a rough patch in life right now, but Courage is my constant. My steady eddy, as weird as that sounds. 

Whether we work or toodle or lunge or just hang out, he brings a sense of peace to my life. More days than I'm ok with, I just look at his picture on my phone and don't even make it to the barn. 
kinda like what this pic did for me years ago
Then it happened once. Then again.

The Cuna dreams are back, but in a whole different way. Each time it happens, my old man is still alive and living at my favorite barn. I see him, I ride him bareback, and things are as they always were. He's just waiting for me. 

I know it's not real, but I wake up with a strangely serendipitous feeling that everything is alright. 

That which was meant to be, is. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Tack Hos Gone Wild

Hellooooooo internet... It's been a while. I'd say I've missed you, but sort been mid-crisis on a lot of things lately, so not so much on the internetting, much less the missing thereof.

Let's just say it's been an expensive few weeks.

Here's why:

One of my awesome browband ladies (I have two. Because ho.) contacted me a while back and offered to ship me a second that she'd made and disliked but didn't want to disassemble. Obviously, I said "yes".
topline leather goodies!!

Or something less professional and with more hearts and sparkles.

The only catch was that it was on brown leather and Courage only sort of has a brown bridle (and the browband on that bridle was purchased from my other browband lady for very specific reasons and I don't fancy taking it apart). Thus, I pressured Lindsey into helping me on the brown bridle 2.0 search well before the browband arrived.
Courage somewhat-compliantly modeled several different brown bridles for me, then we threw on Lindsey's cool new dressage bridle for giggles.
less compliant
By the time we were done, my phone looked like this:
only one of many screens
And we'd definitely established that none of the bridles were quite right.
the pretties!
Then the beautiful browband showed up (love.) and I tried it on the brown bridle I do have. It's supposed to be a Nunn Finer figure eight, but I frankened it out long ago. Sadly, as much as I love my blue noseband with my blue and orange browband, it was uh... less than stunning with pink. 
That started a flurry of searching for the perfect brown bridle at the perfect price, which netted me these things:
ebay steal: smartpak cavesson for $20
ETT-special plaited reins to match otto (wasn't looking, but hey)
invictus half pad because reasons and a coupon
Of those options, the one on top MIGHT solve my problem but apparently it was shipped by mule train. And then the mules went lame. And died. Or cannibalized each other. Probably all those options. Regardless, it's not here yet. 

I tried riding with the figure eight but due to some genius decision making that I'm going to blame on stress, I forgot to bring my running martingale out with it and let's just say that bolty OTTBs in the fall do not go without martingales. Particularly not when they aren't being ridden regularly and a storm is blowing in. See, I sometimes make good decisions, just usually not until a string of bad ones already happened.
Which is to say. I barely saw my horse last week. I have a metric ton (actual figure) of fancy shit for him to play with. I've barely touched any of it. And basically every day is Christmas at my house until all this stuff shows up! 

Because once I got all pumped about bridle searching, I ran across a decent looking knock off of the modern Otto Schumacher bridle I've been drooling on since forever and then I ordered that too!
never had patent before
It obviously won't match the new browband, but I have a bonus black browband at the moment plus it comes with it's own and yeah, really can't explain this one other than to say I deserved it after the week I had. It's also not here yet, but given I ordered through a British tack shop in the wee hours of Sunday morning, I don't expect it til next week anyways.

I guess y'all can just be glad that I didn't also purchase this amazing critter from the hospital gift shop.
so stylish! such personality!
Trust me, I considered it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

(definitely) Not Meant To Be

I got Courage three years ago with the idea that he would be my jumper. Maybe hunter. We could do hunter derbies if I was REALLY lucky.


In a move that surprises no one familiar with my luck (I have none, ever), that plan didn't pan out. Courage has firmly opted out of any sort of career over obstacles on many occasions. He's a dressage horse now and I'm like oh, 80ish% fine with that. Except every once in a while I either go "OMG MISS JUMPING WAH MUST JUMP" or "OMFG DRESSAGE TOO HARD WILL QUIT AND BE JUMPERS".

That has happened three times this year. The first time was a massive shit show that's best described as "if you want to do something really stupid, at least remember to put your freaking martingale on, dumbass" and the second time was actually pretty great.

The third time was last week. It's possible that I had sort of convinced myself that now we were doing reasonably ok-ish dressage that everything would MAGICALLY click into place and C would be completely perfect and we'd be like "lulz y u waste time on dressazzz when could be world's most perfect hunter move over brunello".
ahahaha or something

I mean, I won't swear that's how it was in my head, but you know. It may have been rattling around back there. Because obviously a little first level dressage is all it takes to turn an anti-jumping OTTB into a six-figure warmblood with 1.5 decades of top level training. Obviously.

I'll pause to let your eyes recover from the stain of that collective roll. It's ok. I could hear it from here.

Anyways. Lindsey brought her magical French saddle out and played jump crew for the day. Now that I don't try to make her ride the beastie, she's actually way more willing to do that. Interesting. It started out great--we walked and trotted over poles and I just focused on keeping his topline loose and his brain engaged. He jumped cute both ways when we put up a tiny crossrail.

Then we did a wee little vertical and again, FABULOUS. Thrilled. So easy. Life happy. Perfect hunter. Daydreams.
ok maybe not "hunter" perfect, but i'll take it

And then we changed directions. Courage sucked behind my leg and got tense. I rode a couple circles and asked for some relaxation. It seemed sort of better so we trotted up to our tiny vertical, made a gorgeous jump over it...

...and landed flailing.


Hard enough that Lindsey completely missed the video because she had serious (if unfounded) concerns for my physical safety. I apologize for the lack of fail-related media. Alas, it (like my horse) was out of my control.

And lest you think I was abusively jumping the legs off an unfit horse, we had trotted in/cantered out over a teeny crossrail and vertical about 10 times. Total.

because i dared to trot him over a pole
Rest assured, I am in no rush to run out and purchase my own magical French saddle. And I guess, I do appreciate Courage's commitment to his cause and willingness to be upfront about his life goals. He's happy as a dressage horse and he's willing to play jumpies maybe once a quarter, but he definitely didn't want me getting any ideas about an alternate career trajectory.

I even compiled a fails video to remind myself of this fact.

So yeah. We dropped everything down to ground poles and slowly worked back up to our tiny vertical and ended on a good note and I actually don't think I broke the steering or the brakes this time, so that's cool.
it keeps his head from going over mine
But when people ask me why I don't jump and why a certain bay someone always goes in a non-dressage-legal standing martingale, well, that's why.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Better Together

Phase one of professional (half) training for Courage was two rides a week with our trainer. I knew he needed an education and I don't have the knowledge base to give it to him and it's freaking impossible to try and teach something when you have no idea what you're doing.
but cute?
That was September. I was able to watch half the rides he got and he made excellent progress.


You might notice that the larger part of our problem was me and to this point, I haven't really enhanced my own education. I mean, yeah, I audit lessons and clinics and I know a lot of theory and that's nice, but riding is so much more about feel and you can't learn that from a book.
cough obviously
So this week begins phase two of pro (half) training. Courage still gets one pro ride a week, but now our other session is a lesson. We kicked it off this week and even had Alyssa on hand to document! I always love media and I'm super excited to share it with you. (As a rule, I don't share media of my trainer riding because she's not interested in being an internet star.)
will share shots of trainer on the ground
It's hard to write this lesson up in an interesting way. I mean, I don't have any crazy stories or fantastic fail pictures.

Courage kept his brain in his head and tried hard for me the entire ride. That's HUGE for us, but it's kinda normal for most people I think? Not sure. I got really excited when trainer referred to Courage as a second level horse, but of course that was in the context of "he's learning to be a second level horse now" and explaining why we had to step something up, not like "goddamn he's ready to go out at second now". Whatever. Still exciting.
right lead canter with no explosions!!
We made little changes, not big ones. She had me ask for more of everything--more bend, more softness, more forward, more relaxation. I assume this is true with most every horse, but so much of riding Courage is just plain feel. If I become electric and say HORSE GO NAOW because I want forward, he will flip his shit. If I ask him to be more soft and reach more and give when he gives, all of a sudden, I have this super amazing trot that's way, way better than anything I've ridden on him before.
i will take this.
This applies to every aspect of how I ride--give to him more, release more, get his neck longer, and ultimately, he gives me much more. It's all great, it just means relearning how to feel what "correct" is for him right now. I was already able to articulate that I wanted him deeper and lower so he wasn't stuck in a false frame, but I wasn't able to consistently get him to where I wanted him. Now I can.
I call this particular professional intervention "relationship counseling". Courage is finally in a place where he shows up to work and (mostly) says yes ma'am, but now I'm figuring out what exactly I need him to say yes to.
thinking cap on
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