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?

Sob?

Wait, that’s not an appropriate answer?

I’ll try again…

Hibernate.

Still no?

Whatever.

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

HOWEVER.

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!!!!

Takeaways?

  • 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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The other guy

Ironically for a blog named for mares, there’s another important guy in my life (sorry mom, he has four legs too). Finn (formally Finnmark or Yellowfin) is my Jack Russell Terrier/Corgi mix – colloquially known as a ‘Cojack,’ which I think sounds like something that plugs into a television. And today is Finn’s 7th birthday!

We had a photo shoot and I’m shameless

He came to me January of 2017 (literally on New Year’s Day) from the Carolina’s Russell Rescue. He had been surrendered by a family who said he was, “aggressive because he barked at and chased squirrels and rabbits.” Yeah.

Sleeping in always encouraged

I took one look at his giant, oversized ears and fell in love. I call them his radar ears. He’s almost perfectly half-JRT, half-Corgi – colored like a Jack, body/tail/ears of a Corgi. Personality swings wildly between the two.

Literally so much attitude

He’s the best snuggler, the worst co-worker (I work from home, he sleeps on the couch), and yeah, we love to chase squirrels. Who doesn’t? Finn’s interests include: destroying stuffed toys, eating a variety of vegetables (carrots, squash, plain lettuce, spinach, green beans), stalking squirrels, rolling around in the grass, lounging in his swimming pool, playing with his Doberman best friend and going to Starbucks. Basically the bougiest dog of all time, right?

In his swimming pool

For a dog who should be the dream horse person dog, he despises them and does not get to go to the barn or any horse shows. Fine by me. Less fine when at my parents’ house and he is forced to see Lucy and Sancho the Mini Donkey.

Loves to fly on airplanes though

Finn is the world’s biggest wimp and in our time together has overcome fears of the broom, the pantry door, my purse, the kitchen timer, the bathroom and most brilliantly, the hardwood floor. Yes, the floor. We are still working on all types of weather events and precipitation.

He has more coats and jackets than I do, courtesy of the clearance room at Farmhouse Tack.

Wearing his rain jacket at the park

If we’re being honest, it’s Finn’s world and I’m just living in it. Happy birthday buddy!

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Making adjustments

Last weekend’s dressage ride was one where we had multiple disagreements about things like, “Why can’t only 3/4 of the circle be round and the last 1/4 be a dive straight across?” and “I decided I’m done working so I am exiting the arena.” Super awesome.

I couldn’t. Doc couldn’t. Finally, I trotted a halfway nice 20m circle and called it a day. No point in staying on just to argue if we weren’t going to get anywhere.

Someone is super thrilled about wearing his BOT boots pre-ride

The next day, C took Doc camping with her family and some friends, meaning my next ride was my lesson last night. I was anticipating something better than the week before, but not entirely sure exactly what I was going to get. I probably should have ridden in dressage tack (God knows we need the help), but I also needed my 2ptober baseline beforehand, so jump tack it was.

Turns out, I did not need to be worried because apparently a few days in the woods (including a nice long booty workout the first day) had given me this very pleasant, fun to ride horse back. We did our warm-up and 2pt time out on the track (so much easier to 2pt when you don’t have to steer!) and then met C in the arena for our lesson. Doc was totally game to work, which was so fun. He just immediately settled into this great trot, really reaching and moving along so nicely. It was a huge relief, but also so much fun. I’m not sure we’ve had a ride yet where we didn’t have to work-work-work to get there, but just came out immediately there before last night.

After working on my own position for a bit (I’m seriously incapable of keeping my leg out far enough forward) and some solid flatwork figures, she set two ground poles for 4 strides. First time through, do it in four. Then five. Then three. Change direction. Repeat. Change direction. Five, three, four.

This should not be so difficult. For anyone who can feel a decent pace, it probably isn’t. Spoiler alert: that’s not me.

Getting four was manageable. The three we really had to push, but we got it. Five? Oh five.

Video shot not from last night

We’d get the right pace, then go to turn a corner to go down the line and we’d pull a lovely drop-the-inside-shoulder, dive on to the forehand and lose all pace move. Back to four. Not even a pretty four.

Finally, C had me think about keeping my body still – occupying a “smaller part of my saddle,” with my movement being more up/down than back/front, to get the stride compact, but lifted. That made a world of difference in getting it established (plus, you know, shorter reins, cause my life). For the corner, focusing on holding with my upper inside leg, keeping my hands up, and pushing him around that corner (making it almost a square corner) to prevent the dive-accelerate move. We finally got the five both ways a few times and called it a night.

I’ve definitely got some work to do on stride adjustment this winter. Doc doesn’t actually have a huge stride, but he’s really, really good at pulling you forward so he can accelerate off his forehand, and I’m already weak at holding myself up and prone to getting pulled forward. It’s definitely a weak spot for us right now, making sure I stay up and balanced, so I can adjust and hold better. I know we can get over all the jumps at this level, it’s getting everything right in between them that is the challenge.

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Winter is coming

Contrary to what the title of this may lead you to believe, I am not a Game of Thrones watcher (is that a word?). I’m just a displaced Southerner freaking out of her ever loving mind about the fact that it is going to get cold even though it’s currently 92 degrees.

I mean, yeah the first four weeks of college football season are supposed to be about trying not to get sunburned too badly in the stadium because it’s still 97 degrees and you’ve been drinking since 8am for an 8pm kickoff. Wait, maybe that was just me. But that was in Alabama, not Indiana.

Not exactly what I’m thinking

Needless to say, my wardrobe is not really prepared. This is where you come in.

I need ALL THE OPINIONS. Winter riding breeches, boots, gloves, scarves, how do you keep your ears warm, best quarter sheets, best excuses to give your trainer when it’s too cold to ride, favorite jackets, all of the things. I’m on a mission to stay warm warmish and I’m going shopping.

Likely to be me
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A donkey, giant horse and wine.

I guess my parents’ didn’t teach me super well, because while I won’t go get in a van for free candy, if you’re like, “HEY wine and ponies and puppies!” I’m like, OKAY LEMME BOOK MY PLANE TICKET. True story.

Also the story of how I basically sent Olivia a text like, “here’s my flight, THANKS!” and showed up at her doorstep. Okay, so more like outside in passenger pickup at Dulles, but basically the same thing.

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But I don’t even care if it breaks every childhood stranger danger rule because we had SO MUCH FUN. I knew we’d be great when she picked me up and was like, “Sooo… we can go home… or we can go to the barn.” Uh, duh. Barn. Where I got to meet the cutest snuggly gigantic horse ever, Frankie!

Guys, he’s giant. Like, I don’t think anyone understands this, because you see Olivia on him and it’s like okay, sure he’s big, she’s tall, k. Nope. I’m like the size of one leg. Minus some draft horses, he’s legitimately the largest horse I’ve ever met in my entire life.

She schooled the humongous horse, we snuggled him and then she fed me Thai food.

AND THEN SHE TOOK ME TO WEGMANS.

If you are not familiar with Wegmans, you are missing out.

It is the WORLD’S BEST GROCERY STORE.

And she took me to buy wine.

I mean, basically. And horses.

But wait, there’s more.

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Saturday, first we stopped and she introduced me to Wawa. WHAT. Insanity. Gas station, but like… amazing. Coffee. Breakfast carbs. Ordering via computer to reduce the amount of actual human contact I have to endure.

Then we went to Middleburg, hereby known as Heaven on Earth. Seriously, the cutest town ever. All the pony things.

I made her try on Animo breeches, but they didn’t fit her (the shame, I didn’t start an addiction to $400 breeches). I sat in approximately 90382 saddles, of which I made her get 85% down for me while referring to her as, “tall friend.” (I’m seriously so sweet and nice of a person, right?!) I fell in love with every saddle I sat in that was more than $3000, because #champagnetaste #tapwaterbudget. We didn’t buy anything.

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We drooled over properties for sale that cost more than I could dream of. I mean, it comes with 890 acres though? That’s a lot of bang for your buck.

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I even got to dabble in my not-so-secret old lady habit – antique shopping! In which I played the enabler and made her buy a gorgeous copper pitcher and bowl. They’re totally practical purchases though – you can put things like sangria in pitchers and candy or carbs in bowls.

I solo posed like the awkward human I am

 

We went to a winery. Where there was a mini-donkey just roaming loose. Uh, hello did I mention heaven on earth?

Basically we just played with the donkey for like 10 minutes and then we finally tore ourselves away to go drink wine. What a rough life we lead, right? It was also like 9839 degrees and I wore all black like the displaced Southerner genius I am. Not.

AND THEN. We went to the barn. And I got to ride Frankie.

If I didn’t mention he was giant before…

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Giant Frankie. I am not 12, I promise.

So giant. Also had to put Olivia’s stirrup leathers on the very top hole.

Other than being impressed by his size though, there’s so much to love about this horse. He’s so freaking cool guys. I ride like a very small sack of rice on a horse and he was like, “Yes, of course, I would be happy to!”

Actual photo of me riding

When I asked for fancy things, he did them. When I just wanted to toodle around on the buckle and pretend he was a western please horse, he was all about it. I made him neck rein. It’s really a miracle anyone lets me ride their horse guys. I’m a total weenie and felt entirely comfortable on him, like you could ask me to go do anything and I would have been like, SURE.

It’s so so cool to see how far Frankie has come since Olivia has gotten him and you can tell it’s been a lot of hard work, but man, he sure makes it fun. I totally would have horsenapped him, but he’s like, slightly too large to fit in a carry on bag. (I totally had him on my side though, I fed him ice cubes because I ignore rules  because I was trying to win him over)

And then we went home and ordered Chinese food and sat on the couch because we are the same person. Image result for couch gif

Sunday, Olivia had a lesson (recapped here) and my main takeaway was a) she can remember a lot of jumps in a short period of time (I take like 8 years to learn a course) b) her assistant trainer is super awesome and c) she’s seriously a fantastic rider who does not give herself enough credit. Her leg does not move when she drops her stirrups. Her upper body doesn’t do any of the bizarre things mine does. She’s great at making adjustments mid-course. No wonder they’ve done so well this year – she’s got it.

We finished out the day pampering Francis (he was less than impressed with getting his mane pulled), watching her assistant trainer perform chicken surgery (just a small leg procedure), and cleaning tack (she cleaned, I sat and watched her like the super helpful friend I am).

It was basically the greatest weekend and I can’t wait for her to come visit Doc and me in Indiana!

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