Learning to breathe

I have been avoiding taking a dreaded bareback lesson for basically weeks now. It’s not like I didn’t ride Lucy bareback all the time, I think it was mostly I knew it would be hard and I didn’t want to work hard. Should probably find a new hobby if that’s the case…

Last Wednesday night was cold though. (If you would like to comment in any other way than commiserating with me, DON’T. I was cold. STOP MAKING FUN OF ME.) It was only 45 when I got to the barn, the sun was going down and when C said, “bareback lesson?” I basically just didn’t have the fight in me (it was frozen). I also figured that was fewer straps for non-glove hands to do, closer to body heat and riding in the indoor meant soft footing if I decided to just bail and fall off.

Turns out, I… enjoyed it?


I mean it was hard, don’t get me wrong. My butt is sore two days later, my hips are like, “hey girl can you go back to yoga plzzzz?!” and my abs are having fun reminding me there are muscles there even if I pretend to ignore them and cover them in ice cream 87.5% of the time.

But it was also fun. We worked on using my breath and hips to change the pace of the horse – something that if you had told me before my lesson I could do, I would have said, “sure” and rolled my eyes. BUT I DID IT.

(From here, this is record for my own knowledge base so beware stream of consciousness and boring.)

Essentially we worked on the swing of my hips at the walk following in the figure 8 motion of the horse’s steps. Keeping my arms at a 90 degree angle, so I’m maintaining my own arms, not letting them be dead weight, and pulling my bellybutton to my spine without dropping my collarbone. Letting my ears drop away from my shoulders (story. of. my. life. it’s a miracle I still have a neck), and using my core to balance and follow. NOT clamping my leg down or letting it creep up and get shorter.

To increase, we added energy to breath, maintaining the same pace and rhythm (four count in through nose, four count out through mouth), making it louder and actually using it to lengthen my spine, making me lighter in the seat. It sounds ridiculous, but makes a lot of sense in context of yoga classes I’ve taken. Breath + hips added pace, all the way through to some really nice upwards trot transitions.

Downward, we quieted the breath. Still the same four/four, but this time being quieter and adding weight to my seat, sitting down. At one point, I got really nice trot-walk-halt transitions through nothing more than seat/breath. Not a single touch on my reins or a ‘whoa’ or anything. Crazy.

Sitting the trot was definitely the challenge of the lesson. It was really hard for me to sit. I would immediately go to clamp down with my legs, which made them shorter, made me actually bounce more and pissed off my horse. Go figure. By relaxing my leg (counterintuitive!) and tilting the front of my pelvis up, Doc actually (kindof) raised his back, got round, and I was able to sit it. At one point we even got a, “You look like a real dressage rider!”

Basically the best comment EVER.

I’m super sore, but have a total new appreciation for riding bareback as more than just toodling along on my horse. I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot more bareback rides in my future this winter.

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Grids and pep texts

Last weekend would end up being the last of our super nice, gorgeous fall weather lessons apparently since I promptly had to turn my heat on on Monday.My usual Saturday lesson was moved to Sunday morning, so after a ridiculously easy hack on Saturday afternoon it was apparent that Doc had been planning on having a lazy-watch-Netflix-couch-potato weekend and I was very rudely interrupting this. Nothing like having non-horse friends in town watch you look like an idiot who can’t get your horse to do… anything. Like trot. Even going out on the track and letting Doc go full out (aka where he usually runs away with me at least once because OMGSOFASTSADDLEBRED) didn’t do it.

Sunday’s lesson ended up being grids, probably further cementing thoughts of, “seriously she spends how much time riding and still looks like that?”

Above video is case in point, where I came around the corner to see everything has been moved up and went WHAT THE HELL THOSE LOOK BIG and Doc said, um I don’t think she wants to do this guys.

We haven’t done grids together before, so this was a new experience for me. Doc, per his usual self, took care of me through them. And yes, I still managed to drift left. Like, here’s an exercise where you literally don’t have to steer Holly and I still manage it. At this point it’s going to be on my headstone: Here lies Holly. Drifted left over an oxer. RIP.

All being said and done, it felt (pretty) good. It’s so comforting to have a horse who I know will get me through (even when I underpower him oops I’M SORRY I FELT LIKE I WAS GOING FAST).

Please ignore the point where I just fall over on my saintly horse’s neck

With that, entries for the last show of the season went in today. CT at 2’3″ starter and gulp… CT at BN. My reasoning being that it’s a schooling show and if I get in there and want to trot everything or just not everything, then I can do that.

Olivia also inspires much confidence. Pep talk (text?) of the century guys (there’s literally no sarcasm in that statement).

Well, Trainer C miiiiight kill me, but I also get to do two dressage tests and GOD KNOWS I need help on those. I’d just like a score less than a mid-life crisis here. I guess we’ll either end the season really high or really low. Aim for the moon, land in the stars basically = aim for BN, chicken out and jump 2’3″ right???

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Octoberfest Charity Combined Trial

The days leading up to and after last Sunday were gorgeous, which means that obviously Sunday was 100% disgusting with rain, wind and overall grey dreariness. Perfect day to go horse show!

When Doc came off the trailer, we all went, “Oh boy, we got two hour Doc.” As in, the amount of warm up he was going to need. Then he realized it was gross outside, there was a hay bag in front of him and it was not, in fact, nearly that interesting, and quickly became 15 minute Doc. I got on way ahead of my 11:15 ride time and we went over to dressage warmup. After a few laps around, I got the ‘balance dressage whip on top of wrists’ instruction because apparently jazz hands aren’t welcome in dressage tests. Rude. I finally got my stuff together more or less, we headed back to the trailer to wipe some of the mud off (a recurring theme of the day) and I changed into a show shirt. Back to the show rings we went, where I promptly realized I had managed to get filthy. This is why I can’t have nice things.

My groom extraordinaire/horse show mom, J, went back to the trailer to grab my quarter zip and I say thank yous to the world who made this a casual dress schooling show. Outfit change complete, we were ready to go show.

This was a better moment

In the ring, we turned into a giraffe. Maybe a llama. Gir-ama? And damn, did our test reflect it. Literally we had the exact. same. comment. the entire way down. “Needs to lower neck to connect through back.” She could have written it once and then drawn a line down with “ditto”. Despite that, it was still worlds better than our first test back in August. Transitions happened in the right place, circles were (mostly) round and I didn’t get lost. I mean, was our score anything to write home about? Not at all. We still have a lot of work to do. But for the second test we’ve ever done? I’m okay with it.

After a quick tack swap, we popped over some warm up jumps, hoping to get in my round before the ominous looking sky decided to stop playing nicely. Crossrail, vertical, oxer, got a, “YES, go jump the entire course like that!” So, obviously, I did not.

One and two went well, at which point I promptly couldn’t find three for a solid 10 seconds. Thankfully, it appeared and we stayed on course. Down the bending line to four, we took our favorite long spot, came around to five where I actually semi-rode, down to six, annndd pull off that patented left drift to seven!

Seriously, why am I incapable of jumping straight?! Eight on the course map shows it out in a line from seven, but when it was set, it was to the inside of seven, so you had an awkward line there, but of course Doc was like, yeah, k.

Over nine, and then past the gate to 10. Almost every horse, including mine, thought they were done after 9 as they came by the gate. I had to seriously add some major leg to convince Doc we had one more jump to actually go do.

HAHA you mean you’re not supposed to leave from the next county over?

Overall, no rails, not the prettiest, but still better than where we’ve been. On the plus side, everything looked tiny. Nothing induces confidence like that. We ended up third in the division and got a lovely pretty ribbon we have no photos with because of the nasty weather. With the gross weather, xc schooling got rained out (my luck is the worst), but we loaded up as the sky decided to open back up and got outta there. I was home by 1:30pm, which is insane to me. Ride times are miracles.

Not perfect, but getting better and what else can you ask for?

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Sun Safety – Important Year Round!

You didn’t think you were just going to get ponies around here with a name like Marescara, right? If you don’t care about non-four legged parts, skip on through, but let’s be real I spend way too much money on assorted beauty products not to spend time talking about them.

In an effort to keep it pertinent to horse people (hah to start), let’s talk about sunscreen. I am a sunscreen nut and will yell at you if you’re not wearing enough/not wearing it/don’t care. Don’t want my friends getting skin cancer, okay? Not so much to ask. Luckily we’re living in 2017 and there are options for everyone out there.

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Some of my current favorites?

 So a lot of these are on the higher end of the price spectrum. That’s because I have the world’s most sensitive prone to epic freakouts skin (um, see allergic to my helmet?) and these are what have worked for me. You can definitely find great options in the drugstore or Target. Personally I like the Clarins, MDSolarSciences and Coola for day to day wear, I love the Shiseido for riding and being outdoors and I keep a tube of Neutrogena in my barn backpack.
There are a few things to look out for when you’re deciding on a sunscreen:
Broad Spectrum: Traditional SPF only covered UVB rays – definitely important, but UVA rays are what are known to cause wrinkles and aging. Broad spectrum (or multispectrum) are going to cover both UVA/UVB.
SPF > 15: Most of us are fine wearing SPF 15 (obviously this isn’t medical advice – consult with your doctor if you have specific concerns!) and don’t need the crazy SPF 85 out there. For example, SPF 15 filters out 93% of UVB and SPF 30 filters out 97% – not a huge difference. SPF itself means the multiplication from when your skin would normally burn in minute – eg. if you normally burn in 10, SPF 15 should protect you for 150 minutes.
Water/Sweat Resistant: We ride horses. We sweat (or idk, maybe just me). Resistant does not mean water or sweat PROOF. It means the SPF is effective for 40 minutes in water. In other words, if you’re sweating at a horse show, trail ride or on multiple horses a day – you absolutely need to reapply!
Not just when it’s sunny: You’re like, great Holly, maybe write this in April when we’re about to spend all summer outside. Guess what? Even on the cloudiest of days, 80% of UVB rays still come through. UVB are the burn-causing ones, but both cause skin cancer. So it doesn’t matter if it’s 35 degrees and grey as all get out – put it on.
Use enough: Your face needs about a nickel-size amount alone – and 2 oz. for face and body if that’s exposed too. Don’t forget those sneaky areas – back of neck, upper arms, ears, nose, that exposed spot above your gloves.
UPF Rated Clothing: An average cotton t-shirt only provides the equivalent of 9 UPF protection. By looking for clothing with UPF ratings, you can protect your skin. Kastel provides a ‘high’ level (they don’t give a specific number), Tailored Sportsman sun shirts give 50 UPF, and Bette and Court tops have a 30+ UPF rating, to name a few. It’s an easy way for extra protection.

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October Ten Questions

Answering some fun fall-themed questions courtesy of Liz!

Brown boots are very fall festive though

Most equestrians quote fall as their favorite season to ride. Are you one of those that does? Or maybe not; what is your favorite season to ride, if so?

I like fall, don’t get me wrong… but I love spring. All things spring. Well, okay, not my allergies, but basically everything else. Fall is lovely, but it comes with this little pit at the bottom of my stomach that warns me it’s going to get dark and cold and I need to get into survival mode. Winter: surviving, not thriving.

As a kid/perpetual student, I loved the feeling that summer was almost here and classes were coming to an end. I love knowing days are getting longer and lighter and it’s warming up and I just want to be outside ALL.THE.TIME. A big reason I didn’t study abroad in college was because I refused to miss a fall football season (uhhh should have totally missed 2012), but I also refused to miss a spring semester because it’s my favorite. For riding, it gives me a burst of motivation – show season is coming, I can ride after work (in the light!), water buckets don’t have to be broken, blankets get to be put away… lots of good things.

Do you clip your horse in the fall? Or maybe you wait a little longer? 

So breed show people are weird and put their horses under lights instead of clip. I have no reasoning, so don’t ask. But it meant we never body clipped, just turned on the lights starting in August and blanketed the hell out of everything. Or in years we were done showing in August/September, we didn’t do anything. Lucy never grew enough of a coat (still doesn’t) that she’d be too sweaty. This year, I think Doc will need some type of clip, but I will be leaving that to trainer’s capable hands. I want to vote for a fancy hip mark of some sort though, just saying.

Have any costume riding events in October on/near/around Halloween? What will your horse be dressed as? What about yourself? What would you dress as if money/time were absolutely no issue?

Nope. I actually hate Halloween. I only like it for Reese’s pumpkins, which are the 2nd best shape of Reese’s (Easter eggs, pumpkins, Christmas trees). Costumes are annoying and you’re hot or you’re cold or you’re uncomfortable. I am the grinch of Halloween.

do love Dia de los Muertos though and think it’s one of the most gorgeous holidays ever. The traditions are beautiful, the colors and artwork are insane and I was lucky enough to have a school growing up that celebrated it and made sure we understood it. (So New Mexican, right?) Seriously though – check these out and tell me it’s not unbelievable.

Is your horse afraid of any autumn colors? Or maybe has a certain quirk that appears only in the autumn?

Not super excited to be limited to this space all winter, but good excuse for mirror selfies

Not afraid of anything, but definitely not fond of rain in his ears (I mean, me neither dude). It’s my first autumn with Doc, so I guess we’ll see about quirks. Lucy doesn’t particularly have any, minus her inability to grow a real winter coat. She’s also like, the most boring ever though. I love her dearly, but nobody would ever say she is full of personality. My first mare used to colic the beginning of August every year like clockwork though – barometric pressures!

Pumpkin spice. It’s everywhere right now. Find any natural pumpkin [squash] spice-esque recipes for your horse? 

Nah, although I’m sure Doc would eat anything I come up with. Hmm.. maybe we’ll experiment.

We’re getting to the end of the calendar year, any final few “big-bang” shows to look forward to?

We just did our first CT at starter and then depending on weather (…and my bank account), might get to show once more at the beginning of November. Otherwise, we’re done until spring!

Winter is coming. What are you doing to winterize your trailer/rig/car?


Wait, that’s not an appropriate answer?

I’ll try again…


Still no?


Hell no, I want to stay indoors until it’s 75 and sunny.
I did do this to my car last weekend though to load hay

Do you have any autumn traditions you/your horse follow?

I do dress Doc up for gameday. He is now a member of the Auburn family. His degree is in turf grass management.

Consume my body weight in Honeycrisp apples? Watch College Gameday every Saturday and yell at the television like the Auburn sideline can hear me? Consume a million and four Reese’s Pumpkins? Burn the Nest Pumpkin Chai candle 24/7 (and before you say a word about spending that on a candle – it’s worth every penny). I love pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread… yum. I’m also basic AF and love pumpkin spice chai and lattes and I’m not ashamed at all. I also still wear Uggs from 2006 though, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

October in many places marks the beginning of deer hunting season. Does this affect your riding at all? Do you wear blaze orange or modify your schedule to accommodate the season?

Not here, but in NC it did. We stayed in the arena more or less during that time. Even wearing blaze orange still left me a little freaked out to venture out and we still had on property small fields to ride in.

What are you most looking forward to goal-wise as the final months of the calendar year approach?

Goal: less of this

Learning how to steer? No, in all honesty, continuing to improve our dressage work as we get confined to the indoor, riding to the base of the jumps instead of taking all the flyers so I can stop sending my trainer into an early death, keeping my collarbone UP and getting stronger (leg, core, cardiac). I’m hoping having some distinct goals to work on this winter will help me survive and we can come out stronger on the other side and be ready to go compete next spring!

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A lesson in which I cannot steer

Last Thursday my mom happened to be in town for my lesson, which would be my last jumping lesson before our CT last weekend. An 8am lesson unfortunately meant a 5:45am wakeup, but she was a good sport and I bribed her with Starbucks and we were off. Of course, despite all the days surrounding being gorgeous, it was misty and grey out. I’m basically the nicest daughter ever.

Quick warmup, Doc felt really good, and other than being told to get my leg forward like 4543 times per usual, everything went pretty swimmingly.

Our course was still up from the week before, so we had real jumps to go jump too! First couple warm up jumps went well and then she made up a course for me to go jump.

Fun fact: I’m terrible at remembering things told to me. If I can see it on paper, I’m good. Just hearing it? In one ear, right out the other. You can imagine how fun this makes having courses told to me during lessons. It usually involves my reciting it back about 7 times and still getting lost the first time.

This rang very true on Thursday. I got lost on my rollback (..twice?), got lost from the oxer to the yellow (um, every time?) and generally just needed additional caffeine apparently.

I also had an inability to jump the oxer straight. Left drifts are my thing I guess?

Then you get guide poles to make you jump straight

The best part of this lesson was directly influenced by said inabilities to jump straight and remember where you’re going:

Yeah, genius over here jumped crooked, got lost, couldn’t decide which way to go, decided the answer was “put all your weight in your outside stirrup and lean” and add a loose girth… No Hollys or Docs were injured in the making of this film.

We eventually got it (sortof mostly) together, but it definitely lit up some issues that carried forward into this weekend and that are on our winter to-do list. Like… jumping straight? Weird.

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Lucy’s Modeling Session

Earlier this week, Karen shared the professional photos she had done with Eli and it reminded me of one of my most prized possessions – the professional photo shoot I had done with Lucy in the summer of 2013. I was home from college the summer before my senior year and realized it would probably be the last full summer I’d have with her. On top of that, all the nice pro photos I had were show photos – we didn’t have anything that didn’t prominently feature lipstick, silver saddles and 987 bands. (On the record, I have no issue with lipstick, hence see blog name.)

By total chance (fate?) I found an up and coming professional photographer (he’s now a super in-demand wedding photographer) who was game to come try shooting a horse. The resulting images were amazing, if I say so myself.

For a little throwback Thursday, I figured I’d share them here, in part because I love any excuse to pull them out.


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Buy my breeches so I can learn to ride

Please help fund the ‘Holly needs to take more lessons so she stops falling off‘ fund. Happy to ship in the US, possibly Canada, shipping at buyer’s expense. Happy to make a deal if you want both pairs or even if you just want to make a deal. Easiest to contact via various forms of social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) or comments here.


NWT Ovation Aqua X Breeches in Aegean Blue, 30R
Tried on twice and realized I’m apparently the one person alive who just doesn’t love them. Color is more accurate in stock photo. $95

This won’t rotate, so turn your head

Yeah, ditto. Accurate color.

Aztec Diamond Equestrian Breeches in Royal Blue, size 12
Just bought these and they fit a little small. I’m a 30R in TS, 44 in Animo and I think these would fit a 28 better. They fit me, they’re just a little tighter than I’mcomfortable with and I like ice cream too much. Color accurate in size tag photo. Back pocket has a small area where it’s not attached, but you can’t tell, would be an easy fix if you cared to. $100

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I’m allergic to my helmet

I’m pretty particular about helmet fit, as I feel one should be in general. More so when I remember mine protects about $350,000 in tuition payments (silently cries and stares at framed degrees on wall, whispering that it was all worth it). I wouldn’t say I’m hard to fit, just firmly on the ’round head’ end of the spectrum. Charles Owen, you are just too oval.

That hat makes all helmets look cheap


I have a OneK and a Samshield Shadowmatte that I wear pretty interchangeably. I always say I’m going to school in the OneK and show in the Samshield, andddd then I end up wearing the Samshield. Honestly, I like them pretty equally and can’t tell once they’re on my head, but I definitely prefer the cleaner look of the Samshield.

Samshield Shadowmatte
So fresh, so clean


I am allergic to my helmet.

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Not like ‘haha, I’m allergic to cheap wine’ or ‘my horse is allergic to wood’, but straight up real life allergic. As in, the harness is causing a rash along my entire chin and sides of face. I know a lot of athletes who have dealt with helmets causing breakouts, but this isn’t even that – it’s a gross allergic reaction rash. (I’ll spare you photos.) I’m not going to lie – I’m a sweaty headed person. 9 degrees, 90 degrees, my head will sweat in my helmet. I will never be someone who can leave the barn and be in public minus a baseball cap. So my helmets obviously have to deal with this – and it’s one of the reasons I love the OneK/Samshield’s removable liners. Toss it in the cold/delicate cycle, baking soda + vinegar, hang it out to dry. I do it at least one a week. But… the harness is not washable. For those unfamiliar with the harnesses on these, the inside of them that touches you is a soft suede like material, while the outside is more of a smooth faux leather texture.

I’ve been able to (somewhat) keep this at bay by wiping down the harness with Clorox wipes after every ride and it’s helping – but not curing. Washing the entire harness in baby shampoo did help – but only for a ride or two. I may not have much of a life, but I am not washing my helmet harness by hand after every ride. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

So… help? Ideas? Advice? Not speaking to me anymore because I have weird allergic reactions?

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Always better when it’s fun

Ever have those rides where you’re like, well damn, that’s the best that’s ever been? Where you can really look at it and see improvement, know you couldn’t have done that (or at least done it as well) amount of time ago?

That was this weekend’s lesson.

It. Was. Awesome.

We don’t often get to have courses set in our arena, due to the sharing of it we do with lots of other disciplines, but leading up to our CT next weekend (!!) we get one to school over. It was a total freakin’ blast too.

Was it perfect? Oh absolutely not. Among other things, I:

  • Forgot to rollback the first time through
  • Tried to make a turn to the first jump that the laws of physics do not allow on the second time
  • Completely lost all pace down the first line at one point… like, I think we were moving backwards?
  • Put 6 in the 5, like almost every damn time, even when the 5 was RIGHT THERE and SO PRETTY and DAMNIT HOLLY RIDE
  • Am physically incapable of keeping my leg forward

But, when I think about the fact that I’ve been riding this horse since mid-July and hadn’t jumped a course in 10 years until the last few months?

Feels pretty damn perfect.

This was fun

Nothing felt big or intimidating or scary, which is a fantastic feeling. I have so much trust in this horse, more so than I’ve ever had, except with Lucy, who is basically the exception to all rules ever.

Our first CT course back in August (at crossrails lolllzz) was a little bit of a hot mess – I leaned, he ignored me, we had no half-halt and we kind of just ran around on the forehand over small bumps. We had a rail. At 18″. Due to Doc being like, “Woman. This is THE DUMBEST. NO. I AM NOT PICKING UP MY FEET OVER THAT. It does not deserve my respect.” 4 faults… at crossrails.

It’s hard when your horse is like 11 feet long guys

We r gud eventers guyz.

But this… two months later (almost to the day actually) and things were so much better. I (sort of) remembered to sit up, we had a half-halt (!), we did not careen around anywhere, I was able to have input and it really felt like, whoa, damn, I’m doing the thing.

In case you like watching starter level courses for some reason?

A good start would be um, fix your freaking equitation!!!!


  • Sit the eff up Holly. Collarbone. UP.
  • Leg. Underneath. Self. Forward.
  • Better collection/pace – get the horse underneath himself so he’s not just pulling himself over with the front. Fine at this level, but let’s fix it now.
  • If you see the freakin’ 5, get the freakin’ 5!
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