Saddles for Shrimps

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Not these shrimp.
(Yes, that is Paula Deen riding a shrimp. The internet is a wonderful place.)

I think we can all agree that saddle shopping is just maddening on a good day. Add in the fact that I’ve tried NINE (yes, 9) dressage saddles so far and haven’t found one… I’m losing it.

Doc has a perfectly well-fit lovely dressage saddle. But… it fits his owner. Who has about 7″ on me, I’m pretty sure all in her legs. It’s basically impossible for me to use my leg in it. What the neverending carousel of horrors saddles has taught me is that I need a short flap. Like, 14.5″ or 15″ short. I sat in a barnmate’s and I swear angels sang because I learned I have LEGS! They exist.

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Sitting in a short flap dressage saddle for the first time

Unfortunately, when you add in short flap + not-a-kids-size-seat and toss in a side of princess and the pea pony – large wither, big sloping set back shoulders, curvy back and LOTS OF OPINIONZ, suddenly you find yourself being quotes $6000 for a custom saddle and you kind of just slither away to cry.

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Getting that quote…

Doing BN dressage in a jump saddle surely isn’t the end of the world, but… it’s also not my favorite. And now that I’ve experienced the magical short flap dressage saddle, it’s all I think about. And dream about.

So, uh, if you know of a magical 17.5-18″ MW or W short flap dressage saddle with half/short blocks to fit a curvy back that won’t mean selling organs on the black market, hit a girl up?

Or, if you know anyone looking to buy a kidney, that might work too.

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Event Camp 2019, Day One: Amateur Brain is Real

As soon as event camp was over this year, budget season started at work and free time became a concept of a past life, meaning actually doing more than talking to work friends about it until their eyes glazed over was not happening. But, it’s a Thursday afternoon, things are… creepy quiet around here and I’m taking full advantage.

Just like last year, camp was my favorite week of the year. Ponies and horse friends all for a week straight? Best summer camp ever.

An entirely unrelated photo of my mini donkey Sancho wearing a sombrero

Day 1 started with a dressage lesson with Sharon White and one other BN rider. I knew I wanted to work on transitions and our canter, because… well the struggle has been real this year. She had us warm up on our own to get a feel for the horses and then jumped right in, having me focus on keeping my hands in line to the bit and pushing Doc up and into the bridle. I took notes after my lesson and… have no idea where they ended up, of course.

We focused on getting him equally supple to both sides – using my inside rein forward and out instead of back while holding the outside rein and shoulder, getting him to bend around my leg. As we kept riding, she really focused in on the expectation that he should not take all my leg to keep going and he should respond to a “whisper” vs needing to shout. All things we’ve obviously heard (many times) before… but how easy is it to forget that I’m not his engine and don’t need to be “pedaling the bike” every step. By the end of the lesson, he was going as well as he ever has with me and it felt amazing.

The afternoon brought a stadium lesson with Tim Bourke. I loved riding with Tim last year, although apparently as he informed me this year, I “scared the shit out of him” when I casually revealed I’d broken my back and been on my horse for a week mid-lesson. Oops? I assured him I had no surprises to drop on him this year and off to work we went.

We started with a grid of trot poles – five if I remember correctly. Trotted through, then started building them up into jumps, eventually becoming a full grid of one strides. We had an outside line set for 6 we did in 5, 6 and 7 strides, focusing in on adjustability and eventually added a full course – grid to a single oxer, down the outside line in 7, back up the grid the other way, single vertical, rollback, outside line in 5 coming down – needless to say, the only way I remember that is because I texted it to someone that afternoon. I was also nearly dead when I finished, but talk about worth it when you hear Tim Bourke tell you that it was “nearly perfect” and the best stadium round he’s ever seen you ride. Um, air punch celebration much?

Also unrelated, but pretty

It definitely wasn’t perfect – I botched a distance coming into the grid spectacularly for instance, but when I said as much he brushed it off with a great lesson – things won’t always go right (in fact, never), so what makes it perfect was how you react to it and keep riding. Which, for one of the first times, I was able to on a stadium course.

And that’s a “nearly perfect” way to end Day 1.

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Underwater XC and the HT that wasn’t

Indiana is underwater – seriously, it feels like it has rained damn near every day for the last… month? Two months? Seventeen years? I don’t even know at this point, except I wouldn’t be surprised to see Doc grow gills and people kayaking to work.

This meant that our HT last weekend became a CT because the ground was way too wet to safely run XC. We were able to run a derby course on Saturday before the worst of the rain, so the weekend wasn’t without any xc jumps, but not quite what we were expecting.

Saturday’s derby course saw some of the same problems we had last month – namely, ducking out to the right. If you remember, we’ve had a left drift FOR-EV-ER so this “fun” trick is.. new. It was still a much better course than we had last month (in which the summary is I rode backwards to everything, my horse refused to help me and we hated each other by the end of the day). This time, I overbent him in a bending line that wasn’t as uh, bendy, as I walked it and then he opted to not go up the bank because my right leg was hanging uselessly, my crop was in my left hand and Doc will always take the option with less energy required.

Needless to say, I could have done without the XC jump penalties, but it’s always a learning process and this is what schooling shows are all about. Plus, it meant I had a great idea of what/how to ride the next day.

I’m not giving the next day’s HT it’s own post because honestly, I have 0 media and it ended up running as a CT.

Our dressage test honestly felt like one of our better ones, right up until the end (USEA BN B) – I was finishing my walk work and going back to trot LITERALLY AT C IN FRONT OF THE JUDGE when my left thigh got this awful cramp out of nowhere and I nearly came out of my skin and off my horse. Dressage, the sport of elegance. I managed to grit my teeth and ride through the last trot and centerline, but my left leg was essentially useless. Still, I figured, everything went pretty well until those last 3 movements.

Well, once again our dressage is our downfall. I’d like to say I wasn’t disappointed to see a 42 when I picked up my test… but I was. Our dressage feels so much better than it did last season, yet we can’t seem to put down a decent score in the sandbox. The highlight was our highest marks on the canter work we’ve ever had (7.5) which reflects the breakthrough I’ve had in the canter in the last month. (Also the reason I’m shopping for a dressage saddle HAH do you hear that sobbing it’s my bank account)

Yes, I am aware this is flagged backwards – it was set for the next day already

I had a few hours to kill before jumping so I watched some of the Training rides go before heading back out. Where, in the warm up, Doc decided that the crossrail and vertical were fine, but the oxer was way too much work and much easier to go around. Trainer C wasn’t at this show with me, I was working with K (who worked with us at the HT last fall) and she buckled me down. Swapped my crop for her longer jockey bat and told me to hold that rein and make him go over. No ifs, ands or buts. Sure enough, those two things had him cruising over the oxer and off to the ring we went.

Our dressage may have felt great, but not scored great, but our jumping round felt great, scored great and (apparently) looked great. Double clear and I can confidently say it was one of the best (if not the best) rounds I’ve ever ridden. It was a crazy course with two (tight) rollbacks, a two stride and the same bending line as the day before. Add to that a horse who was definitely making me ride for every jump and let’s just say the smile on my face at the end was pretty damn big.

So, maybe not a perfect weekend, but good enough that come Monday this week I sent in our entries to run our first recognized BN in July!

Oops?

And promptly went on a shopping spree, because duh.

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Chaos and Oxygen

We have been doing a lot of cheering for Auburn!

Long time gone around here, still alive though, promises. Turns out things like uh, buying a house and moving into said house, trying to keep breathing and working insane hours put blogging into the back seat.

Long story short, riding has been iffy. My allergies decided to actually attempt to kill me this year and two inhalers later and a few doctor appointments, I think I’m finally at a point where maintaining O2 sats isn’t questionable. I took a week off of everything – work, riding, all of it, to move into the new house. Helpful, but it’s still 75% chaos and I need another 3 days in the week to get it all done. It’s getting there though! Mostly unpacked (minus my office hahahhahah don’t open that door), fence for Finn the Dog goes in this weekend, and things are locateable for the most part.

Inspired by a handful of other bloggers, I joined a local CrossFit gym that I love. I’ve been going consistently and having a blast right up until my lungs revolted. Per doctor’s orders I’m not allowed back until we get my breathing situation figured out, which I would protest, but like… air. I like it.

We did a CT/Derby two weeks (I think?) ago at a local farm to get out for the first time this season. We had our best dressage test we’ve had, by far (although the score was about where we averaged last season), but the wheels fell off on the jumping. I couldn’t stop riding backwards to ev-er-ey-thing. Pull, pull, pull, pull, pull. Everything felt like I was being run off with (I wasn’t), I never found a good rhythm, I couldn’t see a distance to save my life. Doc about had it with me and we had three stops on course, all my fault. It was… ugly.

We had a lesson two days later and I got on ready to just quit riding. There was more than a little bit of self-hate going on and in the span of 48 hours I’d basically convinced myself I was horrible at this, my horse didn’t deserve this and I should just quit now.

Because I’m never dramatic at all.

My trainer saw my face and said, “nope, no lesson” and took me out on the track where we just hacked out for an hour. Which ended up being pretty much exactly what I needed… along with a drink or two, a crying session and some motivational sports psychology reading.

We had our best dressage lesson last Monday and we’re entered to go to our first full HT of the season this weekend. Things seem to be finally settling down and getting back into a semi-groove. Here’s to hoping I can catch my breath (figuratively and literally) soon.

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What is daylight?

Oh look, another blog post where I talk about all the riding I’m not doing. UGH. New job is fantastic/amazing/wonderful, but to say I got tossed into the deep end and told, “SWIM” would be an understatement. No easy going orientation week here, more like 10 hour days from Day 1 and a huge project to complete. My brain and body are in a minor state of shock going from casual everyday life to wake up at 5:30am, home at 6pm, bed by 9:30pm.

That to say, riding has not happened. Barn has not happened. Anything other than work, shower, food, sleep has not happened. My bedroom light bulb is out – haven’t replaced it. Wore two different earrings to work yesterday. Ate cereal for dinner on Wednesday. Ply the dog with peanut butter. This is now my life.

Add to that 6-8″ of snow expected tomorrow and highs all weekend in the low teens and I’m pretty much just done with all of it. I’m off Monday (YES SLEEP) but it’s supposed to be like, 10 degrees, no exaggeration.

Wake me up when January ends? Until then, I’ll be over here in sweaters, not seeing daylight and up to my ears in Excel PivotTables.

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2018 Blogger Secret Santa

While I was gone for Christmas, a most fun package arrived in the midwest. And what’s more fun than coming home post-holidays to more presents, right? Yes, my Equestrian Blogger Secret Santa gift arrived courtesy Emma and Charlie!

I immediately know it was going to be good because the card featured one of Emma’s famous jumper silhouettes. Upon closer examination, I realized it’s Doc and I over a XC jump in one of my favorite photos! (#datSaddlebredtail gives it away every time) I mean, personalized card?! Amaze.

Then to open up gifts and find the most perfect zipper case from Amanda at Bel Joeor in grey and blue, complete with galloping horse and rider (um, it also totally reminds me of said-favorite galloping XC photo which is amazing). I freaking love keeping things in pouches and containers so this was perfect. It’s already become storage for hairnets and hairties in my backpack because I had a habit of tossing them into the same compartment as gloves and destroying them with velcro. Immediate life improvement.

This totally would have been gift enough, but inside the bag Emma included two gorgeous little pouches (more CONTAINERS YAY) with unicorn socks (totally becoming my new XC socks) and a hand warmer (how u know me so well thx), plus peppermints for Doc (he says thank you, need moar, ate all).

All in all, an amazing and perfect Secret Santa gift and thank you as always to Tracy for hosting!

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Back home again in Indiana

Finally home again and not dying (thanks bronchitis, you were SUPER FUN) – so far, 2019 has consisted of taking down the pony Christmas tree, watching football and half-unpacking my suitcase. And complaining I should have stayed in Florida where it was warm and not raining. I did come home to a secret santa gift (hi Emma!) so update to come soon on that.

Unrelated photo of First Mate Finn over Christmas

I’ve been musing over goals for 2019, finally ready to have a normal, consistent year. I now have a horse I’ve been riding for a year and a half, a great supportive trainer, a new job (!!) to support said pony activities, an apartment I love and (knock on wood) no broken bones or lingering injuries. Can we just say, it’s about freaking time?!

In the interest of keeping it real around here, this about sums up 2018

2018 was uh, not, my year. To say the least. It had a few high points (event camp, new apartment, first BN) but it was definitely a low year. But I figure that means ’19 can only go up.

This feels like a good omen for the year

Keeping up here is definitely on the 2019 goals list, so stay tuned for things to come!

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2018: In Photos

We’ve already established my love of 2018, but in an attempt to end things on a positive-ish note here, I figured I’d steal Amanda’s idea and talk about some favorites – with photos!

Favorite show photo

I’m forever using this photo for everything and I don’t caaaarreeeeee

I mean, this one should speak for itself, but I’ve never seen another photo perfectly capture the absolute joy I find in riding. Having that moment of absolute pure happiness en route to finish our first BN HT is a priceless moment I will treasure forever.

Favorite non-show photo

Captured by a barn friend on a quiet fall afternoon, I love this moment she caught. This horse has been the bright spot in a dark year and while the competitions were amazing, some of the moments I’ve needed most this year were these – quiet hacks just between us.

Favorite thing you bought

My beautiful custom boots with navy metallic snakeskin accents… that didn’t fit. Yeah, I’m a little bitter. Know anyone who is an 8-8.5 wide calf who wants a killer deal on gorgeous boots? Then they too can have the best purchase of 2018…

So instead I’ll pick my Majyk Equipe half pad I still haven’t reviewed okay I’m sorry I know. It’s been awesome, still looks like the day I bought it and got Doc’s stamp of approval – no easy feat.

Favorite moment on horseback

So this was actually captured about six strides after the very first photo here and they’re both probably my favorite moment, but.. whatever. Coming through the water, over that jump and crossing the finish line at that first BN is a feeling I won’t forget for a long, long time… and is probably a Top 5 Life Moment for me.

Favorite moment out of the saddle

Is this absurd? Yes. Do I love it so much? Yes. Sharing a bag of Goldfish with my favorite red horse at event camp, surrounded by great people and having a great time – it’s a good memory to reflect on.

Favorite “between the ears” photo

This doesn’t look like anything special – boring arena, boring tack, not even an interesting saddle pad. What’s not pictured is that this was my first ride back after being cleared to ride following my back fracture. While I may still be dealing with lingering issues, not having to get rads every 4 weeks and being limited to doing nothing is much appreciated. Nothing like a bad injury to make you appreciate your health and well being. 

Favorite horse book or article

Getting to sit on my mom’s show horse

Let Your Daughters Grow Up to Be Horse Girls from Lauren Sprieser for COTH – a perfect reminder of the blood, sweat and tears that has gone into this sport, but also the passion for just being around horses.

Favorite horse ridden/groomed/cared for other than your own

#cookielady

I have a total soft spot for Doc’s neighbor in the barn, Neil. Neil’s a retired hunter who enjoys taking my things and hiding them in his stall, mugging for cookies and being generally adorable. He’s one of my favorite horses (& his mom is one of my favorites too!) and he and Doc miiiighhhttt have a brotherly war over cookies going.

Favorite funny picture of your horse

This isn’t funny of my horse per say… more like ‘why am I publicly sharing this’ – oh wait, because I’m shameless. Yes, that is me chasing my horse down who decided to exit stage left while setting poles. And yes, my friend videoed me chasing him rather than you know, help me.

Favorite fence that you successfully jumped or movement that you conquered

This jump was at event camp, during a SJ lesson where everything just… came together. Perfectly. (Well, as perfectly as anything does with horses). To have less than two weeks back on a horse, one jumping lesson (over crossrails) and to show up at camp and jump around this two days later? Yeah, definitely a favorite. (Also, I’m conceited and I think we look athletic and like real jumpers)

Favorite horse meme or funny picture

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Spoiler: I’m the Grinch?

Well, December is here… finally. I’m pretty much over 2018 at this point and ready for it to be over. What a festive spirit for the holidays, right? 

This is the kind of content you come here for

In all seriousness, my riding has been blah for a smorgasbord of reasons. Cold doesn’t motivate me to do much except hibernate in my slippers, my saddle needed adjusting, I didn’t have it in me to put the work in to do much more than just bareback walks. So, we did those. And then gradually I started actually tacking up my horse again. Rode in the dressage saddle (because really ‘my saddle needs adjusting’ is not an excuse when you have 2). Finally took a lesson. Took that momentum and had some really good rides.

Saddle just needed to be picked up in the back, which made a world of difference for feeling like I was actually on top of my horse vs on an entirely different plane. That balance back gave me some of my bravery to actually, uh, make Doc go do something. Like, not trot like a llama maybe. 

I love this sport, I love this sport, I love…

This fall, but the beginning of all my rides was a fight. Moving into the indoor for winter didn’t exactly improve things. Smaller arena + lower ceiling = lizard brain thinks I’m going to DIE everytime my horse hops in the air.. Cool. Finally, last week I pulled out our BOT quarter sheet and happened to get to the barn early for my lesson and spent a good 20-30 minutes walking to warm up, not asking for much/anything. And then when I asked him to go forward… I got some angry ears, but no fight. No fit. No tantrum. Huh. And then we had a great lesson.

Dirty mirrors and Starbucks

So I repeated the experiment again during the week. And… magic. It worked there too. What a thought – my horse needs a longer walk to warm up before going forward? In the cold? Groundbreaking.

So naturally, as soon as I have this breakthrough and have some great rides, I get bronchitis. Because, 2018.

I’ve spent the last 5 days in bed, trying to entertain a Jack Russell while not dying. Today I rejoined the living just in time to… pack and get on an airplane. I sincerely apologize to anyone near me this week, I promise not to breathe on you. 

So here’s my Christmas tree

At this point, I’ve thrown in the towel on 2018. Here’s to a better 2019!

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Bootcamp starts here

It’s officially the off season for us, which means mac & cheese on the couch under a blanket dressage and equitation bootcamp. The dressage part should be self-explanatory. If not, uh go back about three posts and that should do it. The equitation part is a little more… interesting? Not necessarily the right word, but I’m too lazy to think about the one I want to use.

Let’s dive on in.

Background for anyone missing this piece: grew up showing western pleasure/breed show stuff. Took 4 years off for college (2010-2014). Rode casually in grad school flatting two hunters, but nothing serious and no lessons. Took a year off for fellowship. Started riding again seriously in July 2017, taking lessons, eventing, the whole nine yards. Came off and broke my back in March 2018. Back on and riding in June 2018.

K, now we’re here, October 2018. All my eq issues are definitely related to each other and Trainer C is really good at uh, fixing me, but I like recording things, thinking through things on paper and bouncing ideas off smart people (that’s you).

I really struggle to keep my leg underneath me – in fact, there’s hardly a photo out there where my leg is far enough forward. I am the opposite of chair seat.

I am told allllll the time – get your leg forward, think of pushing it forward, push from the ball of your foot, etc. I’m about 85% sure it’s mostly a hip thing – I know I have tight hips and the best I’ve come up with is my hips (?) aren’t letting my leg come forward and under me.

My leg is about six strides behind the rest of my body

The logical consequence to this would be I’d be leaning forward and balancing on the front of my pelvis. While I’m certainly not immune to leaning at jumps, I’m much more likely on the flat to get left behind the motion. I sit on my back pockets like I’m riding saddleseat.

Classic example raising my heel

Now let’s toss in the fact that I’m 5’1″, not exactly long in the leg, and not really built like an A circuit equitation star. More like… Dolly Parton. I need all the leg help I can get, but what do I do? Oh, I scrunch myself up as tight as possible. You know, making my leg even shorter. The worst of these habits is that I raise my heel to use my leg. But y tho.

This far back just at a halt

Add insult to literal injury, my lower back is now incredibly tight at the beginning of my rides. Stretching certainly helps, but I can’t help but think it has to be impacting how I ride. My saddle is fit to both of us, so that shouldn’t (isn’t) the main issue here. Posting two up, one down seems to help. Two point.. helps, but not with keeping my leg under me. It’s not like it just slips back when I start going – rather, I have to physically move it forward at a halt/walk to put it in place to begin with. No stirrups helps with leg, but hurts with scrunching, actually making that part worse.

So.

Exercises? Ideas? Thoughts? I’m dead determined to get this sorted out this winter so I’m just gonna crowdsource here.

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