Sunday, June 25, 2017

Handy husbands are nice to have around

Between my husband's cattle and my horses, there seems to always be something to build, improve, or repair around the farm.  The other day I randomly remarked that we ought to have a hitching post of sorts, a place where my husband can yoke his cattle and I can bathe my horses.  He usually ties his cattle to the side of the trailer or the dump trailer, which is fine, and I always just hose off or bathe my horses while holding their leads.  They are both well trained enough to stand and not move (Snappy still isn't fond of water, but she stands fairly still because she knows I expect it).  But an actually hitching post would be nice.

So the first night he digs the holes and cements in the posts.  The second night he notches in the rail across the top and we decide to add the small pressure treated 2x4 since we decided we didn't want his calves to think about going UNDER the railing.  

I will use the middle tie ring with a safety release knot in the lead rope, but my husband fashioned his own cable/snap things for his cattle.  Sometimes cattlemen just don't do the same things as we horse girls would do, and I have just learned to accept that!  😆

Saturday, June 24, 2017

What's in YOUR tack room? Showing Edition

I have no problem admitting I am a tack whore.  I love tack shops, browsing online for tack, and checking out used tack for sale online.  Also, I personally love reading what other people use for tack, especially for showing.  Because I have recently changed up many of the items I use for showing because they have either fallen apart or simply needed replacing for other random reasons (including the just because I need it reason), I have been considering doing a series of posts about what I use and what I love.  

So here is the showing edition!  I will break this down into the three phases...

For dressage, I use a DK Freedom dressage saddle.  This is new-to-me, having just bought it mid June and I had it fitted to Snappy on June 23!  So far, I love it and it is super comfortable.  After using saddle pads for years that looked like my horses were wearing a blanket, I finally got smart and ordered a PRI pony sized saddle pad from Just for Ponies.  It is just a little bit shorter than a regular pad and looks a lot more put together.  I have always used the Ovation Airform dressage girth because it is one of the only dressage girths I can find in an 18".  It is perfect for schooling and looks nice enough for showing (I have two so the show girth stays looking awesome) and it is a great price point.

For her bridle, I have a Bobby's Tack bridle with a regular caveson, which was SUPER hard to find!  I don't use a flash yet it seems that EVERY dressage bridle out there comes with a flash.  It was frustrating but I am glad I took the chance on the bridle sight unseen because for the price point, it is very well made and decent leather.  I am not a huge leather snob but I want things that are going to last, seeing as my last dressage bridle for showing lasted me twenty years LOL!  Snappy is happiest in a baucher bit, so she wears this one from Stubben.  While I would choose a loose ring or eggbutt French link, she very clearly dislikes both of those so I had to do a ton of experimenting to find the most stable bit possible.  (I tried a Micklem bridle thinking she would like the subtle stabilizing affect but she hated it with a passion.)  And of course, we have a gorgeous custom browband from Dark Jewel Designs because no self respecting dressage queen rides without a blingy browband nowadays!  ;-)

For me, I wear a Romfh dressage coat that I love for its easy care and lightweight fabric, but this year I splurged on an Annie's Equestrian coat because THAT TEAL!  😍  I have coveted it since I first saw it, so I finally gave in.  I have a Kerrits short sleeved white shirt and a handmade pretied stock tie and pin made by a talented friend.  For years I used a classic untied stock tie but the thing fell apart last year so I had to replace it.  I purchased the pin from her years back when she had her business going, but she stopped creating last year and I scooped up the tie for a good price when she cleared her inventory.  I have a few pairs of different white breeches, in various stages of wear.  For example, one pair is brand new with just two rides on them while one is an ancient pair I only use when I have to show in the pouring rain LOL!  I believe two of them are Ariats and one is a Tuff Rider.  I have such a hard time finding full seats that I like, that fit me, and have a decent material.  I wear Ariat Heritage field boots, because they seem to be the only tall boots that really fit me well.  I am short but I have a WIDE calf and I don't feel like going with a custom pair of boots.  The field boots seem to fit best around my ankle despite having a huge calf.  Five different repairs and new zippers later, I know I will need a new pair within the next few years, as they are just getting worn out but I dread it.  The new ones will probably never fit the same, never mind the exciting journey of breaking in new boots.  Right now, my lucky socks are a pair of blue and white stripe Horseware socks, like the ones in the middle here, because despite the fact I own 29 pairs of riding socks, these are the ones I use for showing (yes, I do wash them LOL).  I feel like I need a pair to match the coat's teal, but for now I have refrained haha.  I like the thickness and support of them unlike the nylon like thinness of other riding socks.  I bought a new belt this year to match the Annie's teal coat (obviously) and finally succumbed to the Mango Bay buzz.  It is super cute and well made!  And I LOVE my SSG gloves, which are fabulous in that I can literally throw them in the washer and dryer and they come out looking amazing.  Great price and the only place they wear out is underneath my rings, but that is to be expected.  My helmet is an IRH, which is super comfortable and looks good for showing.
The most recent turnout
Her browband in her first year of showing was also by Dark Jewel Design, but was maroon and gold, a nod to her racing colors.
Saddle pad was WAY too big, hence the reason I switched to the pony size!

For cross country
, I have done LOTS of colors over the years because everything looked good on a black horse haha, but I finally decided to stick with green and white last year.  Mostly because it is our farm colors and also because I just had to thin out the number of saddle pads and XC boots I own.  I sold nineteen saddle pads at an early spring tack sale this year and I STILL could sell more LOL!  

Right now, I use a Stubben Juventus jumping saddle.  Maybe eventually I can upgrade to another DK, but this saddle actually fits Snappy fairly well for now and the budget can only handle so many new saddles at once!  I have used several different XC saddle pads over the years, but I keep coming back to the Smartpak AP pad because it is easy on the wallet and holds up well.  I also like that it it thin enough to not create bulk under the saddle.  I haven't fallen into the Ogilvy fad just yet even though I do like the baby pad and because I feel as though I won't be changing my XC soon (famous last words), I could probably comfortably buy one and get use out of it LOL!  I also use a Christ Lammfelle sheepskin half pad for no other reason than that's the brand a former saddle fitter I used sold to me, but I do like it and it has worked well for years.  I have a Stubben girth that matches the saddle.

I upgraded our bridle and strap goods this year to all Lund Saddlery, so we have the snaffle bridle (with a green Dark Jewel browband, of course) and the five point breastplate.  I didn't know how I would feel about the Sedgwick leather, but so far after two events I can say it looks good and seems to be well made, so I am pleased.  I have both the web reins and laced reins, so I use the rubber reins for XC.  They are probably the best rubber reins I have ever used, because they are soft enough to not feel horribly stiff and thin enough not to create a ton of bulk in my small hands.  Previously, I used a Courbette bridle for at least twenty five years, first buying it for my mare Sparky in high school!  It was time for it to retire, seriously the "stainless steel" buckles were rusting out, hence the reason I tried Lund.  I still own and have used the Stubben breastplate as well, but while it fit Dreamy, it does rub Snappy's shoulders.  She goes in the same boucher bit as dressage, but I did order a fun rainbow bit from Evo Equine that is pretty much the same bit.  It was a custom order that I placed in February and it just arrived the middle of June!  I used Woof boots to match certain colors and had a pair of Centaur boots in black for years, but when they started to fall apart, I upgraded to the Majyk Equipe boots in black.  I have many pairs of bell boots, generally the Roma brand.  I don't boot in the back for XC, as none of my horses so far have needed it.

I have never really found a shirt I like specifically for XC, usually just wearing a polo shirt in order to get the correct color.  Generally it is hot and sweaty no matter what, so I don't necessarily buy into any of the promised cooling shirts.  Right now, I am using the sport-tek side blocked polo shirt or long sleeved shirt, both in green, from Prater Designs.  Trish did a great job creating lots of different clothing with our farm logo and so far I have liked both of the shirts I picked out for XC.  I generally wear my white breeches but sometimes change into the tan color if it is just so hot.  I also use the same boots, gloves, and helmet as dressage.  I have a Tipperary vest, in black, which made it easy to change colors though I figure if I ever move up the levels (someday!) I will invest in a better vest.  And as far as socks, I currently am using a cute white, green, and orange pair with four-leaf clovers on them (of course).  They are not technically riding socks, just fun socks from Target.  And I recently started using C4 belts and have a plain green, green pattern, and of course, clover pattern already.

The current XC turnout

As you can see, I have done lots of colors...

Even pink plaid!

I do love this color!

The helmet covers crack me up.

This was the first time Dreamy ever ran XC in 2007 and I was wearing the maroon from when I competed with Sparky!

Dreamy in 2008

For stadium
, I either wear the same as XC, since some events nowadays have you do your stadium round right after XC, or I change it up a little.  I always use the same saddle, bridle, breastplate, and boots, but I change the pad to either a square white with black trim or a fitted white fleece pad from Toklat to look more classic. I had the hardest time finding a fitted pad that would work with the shape of the Juventus, but the Toklat one seems to do the trick.  I hate when everything else on my turnout looks lovely, but the saddle pad doesn't fit the saddle correctly and looks weird.  Again, I either use my white breeches or tan, but I go back to the white shirt and stock tie and this pretty blue and super comfortable coat from Horseware.  I do own a brown tweed Devon Aire jacket (cannot even find a link for it) and an unmarked gray jacket I bought used, so sometimes I change it up for fun.  This is especially true when I have done under saddle classes, where a dark navy coat on a black horse just looked washed out.  Even though I don't show in those classes now, it is nice to have options for coats just in case.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Social Media

Besides Blogger, I use Facebook and of course, Snap Dancer has her own page as does our farm.  Starting in the fall, the school where I teach is going to begin a student enrichment group (one of many) to help "brand" our school district through Twitter and Instagram.  

Hmmmmm.  This is a good idea, however I do not use either platform.  So, in an effort to remain tech savvy and engaged with the district, I started both Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Pretty sad looking so far LOL!

I am still not totally sure how either of them work, and I definitely don't have a strong hashtag game.  I also don't totally understand how I should use each one.  Do I post the same things over and over?  How boring!  It already feels redundant when I post about a horse show to my personal Facebook, Snappy's page, and the farm page.  I am not really sure how I want to use them yet, if at all.  

Sounds like a good summer research project for this teacher!  ;-)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Hilltop Horse Trials - June 18, 2017

Our second event of the year was this past weekend at an equestrian center in New Hampshire.  It was a gorgeous summer day when the sun was behind the clouds and blazing hot when the clouds parted LOL!  Despite the heat, Snappy was quite good.  My thirteen year old agreed to come along as my photographer and he did a great job.  

We warmed up easily for dressage and put in a decent test for a 28.1, which landed us in third place out of a division of five riders.  

Cross country went well and the only fence she was pretty sure was a big no was a 2' black drainage pipe thing.  She paused at the base of the fence but I was ready and pony kicked her over it haha.  No way you are stopping on the little fences, mare, because I know you are brave deep down!  There were thirteen total fences, ranging from tiny logs (see pic below of fence #1, the smallest fence on course) to railroad ties, coops, and a little brush fence.  I think had I not been riding her forward in a brave and quiet manner, she would not have been as good as she was.  I tried to get her to canter in a few spots where we had plenty of space and decent footing, but she is still not having anything to do with the canter.  She is so unsure of herself and lacks confidence in the gait, so as much as I want to move her up, she still cannot do a Beginner Novice level dressage test.  :-(
Snappy thought it would be best to NOT go over one of these.  I convinced her she was incorrect.  ;-)

I knew the girl ahead of me in dressage fell off on the XC course (she was fine), so I figured I had moved up to second place.  I checked my XC score to be sure it was correctly listed as clear (it was), but they hadn't updated the placings on the board and I didn't think much of it.  We jumped the stadium course well and I loved how much more easily the course rode because they expanded their ring this year!  Granted, we only trotted around over itty bitty jumps but it was a good upgrade to the facility.  

Baby jumps!

 At Hilltop, they pin the divisions in the ring right after everyone does their stadium round, so I was super surprised to hear them call us as first place!  The first place horse must've had a refusal on XC or a rail in stadium (I have no idea what), but whatever it was moved us up!  Yay!  Ribbons are fun but getting out there and showing my horse is the best no matter what.  Snappy was a good horse the entire day, despite the fact she refuses to eat much and barely drank any water (so frustrating).  At least she had Ulcergard on board, but darn it mare, it is frustrating how oddly picky she is about eating!


We won a brush and all competitors got a little bag from Meader's Supply.  Cool!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Snappy Earns a New Saddle

Seven years ago, it took me forever to find the dressage right saddle for Dreamy.  I tried many different saddles and eventually settled on a Stubben Juventus which I adore!  I made it work well enough for Snappy last year with a Mattes pad and a lot of cringing, but she is built downhill and I knew the saddle really didn't work for her.  With Dreamy essentially retired, I knew it was time to get the Stubben looked at for Snappy.  Ashley Hutchinson of Whole Horse Works came out last week and evaluated the fit on both the dressage saddle and my other Juventus which is a jumping saddle.

Because of her downhill build, the dressage saddle was sitting too low in front.  However, because of her wither shape and large shoulders, there was no way we could go with a smaller width tree (it is a 31 cm, medium wide) because then it wouldn't fit.  While the back gussets work well for her shape, she really could use front gussets.  Of course, the saddle is designed so there was no more room in the front for much more wool.  She did get the lumps and bumps out and did add a smidge more wool in the front, but there was no way to add enough to make it actually fit.  I asked if she could create gussets on the front, but she felt she couldn't.  So, we used the Mattes pad with front shims to get the saddle nearly perfect, but it just isn't going to work long term.  I knew that was going to happen.  :-(

The Juventus jumping saddle was actually a better fit for her and needed the flocking adjusted.  For now, I can use it because I ride more often in the dressage saddle anyway.

So, then it became a "so, what has front gussets and will work better for this horse?" question I pose to Ashley.  She is a big proponent of DK saddles, but I had no idea about them until she suggested it.  The basic idea is that the DK saddles are built on a flexible tree that adjusts from extra narrow to extra wide; the actual tree itself is designed to be adjustable without the need of different size gullet changers.  And instead of wool, use Flair air panels.  Each of the four panels can be inflated/deflated to create a perfect fit, unlike the CAIR panels on a Bates, for example. The tree points are much longer than most saddles, and I want to say Ashley told me the ends were nine inches away from the withers, therefore eliminating the typical pressure points and atrophy on the side of the withers.  Because we know horses are asymmetrical, the DK system can help fit any horse.  

Now, I know there are several opinions out there about all different brands of saddles, and the air panels of the DK are not liked by everyone.  I personally think this is going to work well for my horse.  And best of all, because I am not going to have Snappy in my life as my main riding horse forever as I one day hope to have a young horse to train up, I can use this same saddle for a new horse.  

DK saddles sell for $6000, which is WAY out of my budget.  Like not in a million years in my budget LOL!  In searching for a used one, I was advised to purchase a 2008 or newer, as that is when DK Saddlery's owner, Danny Kroetch, changed the tree design. Because the DK's are made in Canada, Ashley recommended I try to find one there, as the exchange rate is quite favorable.  My search so far has proven to turn up nothing appropriate.  The saddle is either too old for what I want or has wool flocking (meaning a saddle fitter took out the air bladders and put wool in).  This is fine if that is what you want, but because I am looking for the adjustable air panels, I would have to pay $$ for the wool to be removed and air bladders put back in.  While Ashley can do this, it just made the saddle more expensive and the exchange rate no longer mattered.  I kept finding saddles and sending the serial number to Danny, who I spoke with for a while when I first decided to try Ashley's suggestion.  I have stumbled upon a DK Freedom that looks like it will work perfectly and is a great deal.  So hopefully as soon as it arrives from Michigan, I can have Ashley out again and we can make it work!  Fingers crossed!!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Green Acres Horse Trials - May 7, 2017

Our first outing of the 2017 season was at Green Acres this past Sunday!  EDITED TO ADD: Clearly, this outing was weeks ago.  I have been sitting on this entry as a draft since the week we went, waiting patiently for the professional photog to get her pics posted (I went alone and had no personal media).  Well, still waiting for the pics to be posted, despite contacting her nicely last week and promising I would buy whatever she got of us.  :-(  I use the term professional loosely, because while I am sure she has a nice camera and a decent enough eye, I don't think she has ever done this before and well.......I get that life happens, but don't bill yourself as the show photog and never bother to post your pics.  Sorry for the mini rant, but that is why there are no active shots LOL!

I admit, I don't know what I was thinking when I sent my entry.  I thought spring was coming, but as always, the weather had other plans.  We haven't jumped XC since last October and this has been an incredibly wet spring in Maine, meaning my normal spring conditioning activities have been, errr, decidedly not normal.  My ring, which is really just a flat dirt section of one of the paddocks, it complete and utter mud and even the fields and trails are not really dry.  Thankfully (I guess?), I have a 1000+/- foot dirt driveway and and not-really-flat dirt barnyard area, so at least I have been riding her in long straight lines and sort-of 20 m. circles.  Maybe it has been a blessing that I haven't been able to drill ride test movements and could only really focus on transition, straightness, and lateral work. And lo and behold, we have finally accepted the outside rein.  THAT is a major accomplishment with this horse and to have control over her shoulders has been a huge breakthrough.  So perhaps the unorthodox routine has actually been beneficial!

So I sent my entry and immediately started regretting it the more and more it rained.  I never even jumped anything this spring until we warmed up for XC at Green Acres, which I don't really like admitting, but it's the truth.  Do not do this at home, kiddos.  My fields are way too wet and my driveway is way too hard (packed gravel).  NOT the way I would normally want to start the year, but honestly, after having such a confidence building first show season in 2016, I figured this would be a real test.  If we could navigate this, we could do anything LOL!  I also know Snappy has become fairly laid back and trusts me, so I felt safe making this decision. And let's face it, she can practically WALK over 18"-2' jumps.

Snappy was excellent in dressage warm up.  She knows her job in dressage and gave me all the lovely transitions and straightness we have worked on this spring.  She never got heavy in the reins, stepped well underneath herself, and acted calm and happy.  We had to do our test in the indoor, which made me slightly worried, but she marched right in and got to work.  A little girl on a pony decided to warm up during our test at the far end of the ring just as we got started, which I was kinda worried about, but Snappy seemed fine.  Thankfully, the little rider was under control and perhaps Snappy liked the company.  She did give the mirrors a bit of side-eye as we trotted into the ring to acknowledge the judge before the test started.  But she didn't dwell on it or let it affect her relaxation.  Of course, the minute we went by the judge she rang the cowbell (Snappy definitely thought about scooting when she heard THAT thing behind her LOL!), so we really only had one lap of the arena before we headed in.  

But WOW our test was much improved over anything we did last year.  We didn't overshoot centerlines (thank you, outside rein!) and we didn't have trouble correctly bending and accepting the bit in our circles (thank you, outside rein and Polyglycan!).  We did have a bobble during our first halt, where Snappy tripped and the judge marked it as "resistance" in the halt.  I laughed out loud because it was just so typical of us.  Way to trip yourself into the first dressage test of the season!  The indoor is older and I have always found the footing to be a bit uneven, so I am not surprised.  I admit I was not really too excited to ride for this particular judge, only because I think she can be a a bit stingy and gives barely any feedback. I understand using mostly all 6s feel safe to judges, but I do appreciate a judge who can use the entire scale if warranted; I once got a 4 on a canter depart (it was late and sloppy, so a deserving score) and a 9 on a centerline in the same test.  Not ideal, but certainly accurate judging!  And I think comments are super important in schooling shows, but I got barely any feedback and NOTHING written at the end of the test under collective marks or further remarks.  Oh well, not the end of the world.  I was floored to have scored all 7s with an 8 on our right trot circle (except of course, a 6 on our first centerline/halt/trip haha).  Our collective marks were all 8s (!!!!!) with a 7 on submission.  We ended up with a 27.5 and I was so pleased!  I guess Snappy really has improved, as this is 11.88 points improved over when we rode for this same judge at the same venue in July 2016!

We had two hours until XC, and then we were to go directly to stadium.  I had already walked the courses before dressage, so I had time to relax and organize my tack. Good gracious, it takes me time to get back into the groove of showing after a winter off!  I unbraided Snappy, too.  I really like not having to rush between phases. As much as I like to dress and tack up "properly" for each phase, it is kind of nice to have both jump phases back-to-back in the interest of time, especially when you are an hour and a half away from home.

Relaxing at the trailer
I tacked up a bit early before our 3:10 XC time, because I figured it would be good to have a quiet warm up with Snappy just in case.  I have also found at Green Acres that if you are ready to go early, they tend to let you go early.  We jumped the cross rail a few times and she was fine, like it hasn't been since last October since she last jumped LOL.  Of course she was fine.  :-)  I have to say, this mare is smart and once she understands something (and TRUSTS me), she has zero anxiety and is all business.  She can be stubborn though, so she has to decide on her terms, never mine.

As I thought, the rider before me (the first rider in our division) was not ready, so when I wandered over to the startbox, the starter asked if I wanted to go early.  Yes please!  I was slightly nervous about XC, but only because we honestly have no schooled many different types of XC fences.  She has mostly seen coops and logs.  Some of the fences on Green Acres' XC course are shared with the next higher division, so again, not teeny tiny logs we could walk over if needed.  I knew the only bad thing she might do is stop and we could probably pop over most of them if needed.  I also knew if I just rode her forward, sat up and kept my leg on her to each fence, she wouldn't hesitate.  It is all about my purposeful leadership.

My poorly drawn map so I would remember where I was going!  Imagine about thirty other jumps in that small space and you get the idea.  When I walked it, jump 4/7 was flagged with both numbers on the same side and no red flags.  Super confusing and I had to ask how to ride it to be sure.  I started to draw the other jumps and realized it was way too crazy to understand.  This is bad enough haha.
She left the start box quietly and easily took fence one, a small log.  There was a deep muddy section here before fence 2, which she decided would be safer to walk in than trot through (I don't blame her).  And, being the last division of the day, it was quite pockmarked with hooves already.  It threw off our rhythm a bit, but she locked onto fence 2 when we went through the gate between fields and it was as though her brain clicked.  Ohhhh, we are doing this jump thing now.  Got it!

The front field at Green Acres is quite full of jumps, and even more so because it was the only dry spot on the farm for XC (they closed the back field and trails) so I knew I had to be really clear in my aids.  She wasn't always sure which jump was next because there were so many in front of her, so my goal was to ride her straight and purposefully.  Fence 3 was an actual fence, not just a little log and then we went around the water jump and back up across the field.  She was looking around a bit, trying to figure out where I was aiming her (and the photographer was standing right on the edge of the field/driveway).  While she definitely looked at the person, the water jump, and the huge Training level table we had to meander through, she never sucked back, got spooky, or tried to dart to the side, which made me so happy.  There was a time this would have made her mind go into overdrive, but I am grateful she trusts me and looks to me for guidance now instead of allowing her incredibly high sense of self preservation to kick in.  Jump 4 was uphill back towards the start and then we went over Fence 2 again, but this time from the opposite direction marked as Fence 5.  

We had to go around the back side of the field for Fence 6, a coop, and at that very moment the farm's skidsteer was trying to pull out a rig that had sunk in the mud.  She wanted to look at the commotion, which was only a few feet away with an electric fence in between, and I feel as though I steered her a bit too hard to the left but I didn't have a choice if I wanted a good approach to Fence 6.  It was a skinny coop, and she almost felt like she would hesitate (because now the skidsteer mud debacle was hard to see because it was behind us), but she went forward from my leg and didn't question me.  

From there, it was through the middle of the field to Fence 7, which was really just Fence 4 in the opposite direction.  Then we had to go close to the paved road and do Fences 8, 9, and 10.  Fence 8 was a big log but with fake flowers stuck on the top.  It was honestly the only fence I felt she might be worried about, but she just went over it like a good mare.  Then we had Fence 9, a double wooden rail, and Fence 10 was just Fence 6, the skinny coop, in the opposite direction.  Fence 11 was Fence 1 in the other direction as well, and then Fence 12 was just past the start box.  So honestly, four of the fences we jumped in both directions, which was a good thing for us!  

Snappy was fantastic!  She was bold, forward without being spooky, and listened to me.  She trusted me and did what I asked without any anxiety.  I felt so proud of her!  We went directly over to stadium and put in another solid round, mostly just two big circles of nine fences.  I appreciate a straightforward course to start the year.  She definitely would have gone around the puddles in the stadium ring if she had been allowed to, but I was happy she stayed forward and plopped through them all simply because I asked.  

So majestic (thank you, All Ears Selfie app!)

I am excited about the rest of our season!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Ten Questions for May

Taking a lead from Bel Joeor, I am going to copy her "Ten Questions for May" post.  I changed my blog URL recently to match the title change, so I have noticed my readership is low.  That's ok, since I really do this more for my own record keeping than anything else.  But because of that, I don't expect much of a true "blog hop".  ;-)

1. What are your summer horse goals?
This summer, my plan is to enjoy a few horse trials with Snappy, do some lessons/clinics/XC schools, and hopefully compete in Area I Schooling Horse Trials Championships in August.  Here is the current qualifying list, but they have not put in last fall's Hilltop scores or last week's Green Acres scores, so we are not yet on the list.  I am pretty sure we are all qualified, but I want to see it in writing for sure.  (Stay tuned for a show recap once I get pics to post!)

2. Do you have any tips or tricks for fly control?
I don't think any fly spray really works that great, but I generally use either Endure or UltraShield Green.  I started using EquiSpot when Dreamy was diagnosed with Lyme years ago and I do think it helps.  I also do the Spalding Lab fly predators around the farm.  Last year was a BAD summer for flies and I was convinced I was wasting my money until my farrier remarked how few flies I had compared to other barns he visits.  I was shocked because I thought we had it bad; turns out it would have probably been worse had I not done the predators.  And my horses do wear Cashel fly masks, which seem to fit them the best, but they don't seem to tolerate fly sheets very well.  When I ride, I use the little silly fly hats and like the ones from USG the best, generally just sticking with black (though I may or may not have just contacted If the Bonnet Fits to see about ordering a custom green one to match our XC colors...)

3. How often do you bathe your horse?
Snappy gets bathed before each show, so that is one to three times a month during show season.  I hose her off after every ride.  Dreamy, now retired, generally gets a bath a year in the spring and maybe one later in the summer especially if it has been super hot and yucky.

4. Do you have any upcoming travel plans? Equine or otherwise?
It is really hard to leave the farm overnight, so I don't have any overnight show plans right now.  A friend of mine was asking about going to Acadia National Park with the horses, which I have done several times, so that may happen this year but definitely next.  We may spend the night with the cattle for a pull that is about 3.5 hours north, but we'll see.  My oldest son remarked that he has never stayed a night in a hotel before, so maybe we will do that at some point this summer (and hotels are always better than spending the night in the horse/cattle trailer!!)  

5. What is your favorite way to beat the heat?
I love the heat, the hotter the better.  But we do have air conditioners in the bedrooms because it is much easier to sleep in comfort.  I love going swimming and spending time at the beach, so I hope to do that more with the kiddos this summer.  On hot days, I generally wait to ride at night when the sun goes down and the worst of the heat has settled down.

6. Do you do anything to prevent your horse from sun-bleaching?
Nah.  I did do the paprika based supplement Blackenall one summer with Dreamy, but I wasn't super impressed and it was also not USEF legal, so once I started showing rated, I stopped using it.  She actually stays quite black in the summer and I noticed that she more easily fades from leftover sweat than from the sun, so I always hose well after rides and even at night turn-in if they have sweated standing still during the hottest summer days.  Snappy just turns from a dark bay to a bright bay in the summer, so I am good with that LOL!

7. How hot is too hot for you to ride?
If the horses are sweating while standing still, I tend to either not ride or limit the ride to a light hack in the woods (where it is shadier).  I also will often wait until after dinner and youngest son's bedtime of 7PM before I ride, so the sun is setting.  My ring gets direct sun all day, so riding in the blazing sun is not fun for anyone!

8. How important is sun protection for you riding or just in general?
I wear a sunblock based moisturizer all summer and I am super vigilant about my kiddos wearing sunscreen.  I admit, I am not always as careful about my own skin as I should be.  I tend to put sunscreen on in the morning and never reapply on myself.  

9. Have you ever gone swimming with your horse?
Yes!  When I was a kid, we would swim the horses at a nearby lake all the time.  I trailered out to a lake a few years ago to play with my old mare Reva and I have splashed/cantered through the beach surf with all my horses.  There are not many safe places to really swim with horses, despite a large number of lakes around.  Most are not set up for horses (or parking trailers!)

10. What’s on your summer wish list?
Not much in terms of shopping, as I already bought a bunch of fun swag with a little Christmas money I was gifted.  I bought a new dressage coat, two new browbands, a BoT mesh sheet, and a new embroidered pad for XC.  My wish list is really more about having a fun summer playing with horses and spending time with my children!