Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Being An Adult Amateur and Loving It

This is my guest blog for Horse Junkies United, published on December 26, 2016.

It would be easy to look at my horse’s array of only blue and red ribbons from her first show season and make the incorrect assumption that I am some sort of amazing rider. But of course, the color of the ribbon only tells half the story. What you don’t know is I am a true adult amateur, competing at the tadpole level on my aged retired racehorse on her third career.

That’s right, we competed this year in Introductory level dressage tests and Pre-Elementary events. Yup, walk-trot baby dressage with 18” jumps, and I loved every moment of it. Even better, my mare is not an OTTB as you might assume when I say “racehorse”. She’s a Standardbred, not a breed one normally would associate with trotting down centerline. So while our strong ribbons are not from a high level of competition, what they represent to me means more than any blue or tricolor rosette.

After training my previous Standardbred (now retired) from never-been-sat-on through First Level, my riding aspirations are pretty tame. If I could bring along this new mare to that same level, I would be thrilled! I don’t need to move up the levels with this horse or any horse. I have taken her from a twelve year old racehorse and failed broodmare who had never been backed as of four years ago, to a fun and safe low level horse. Besides taking lessons on her, I have done all the training myself and THAT matters more to me than what level we ride at or what color ribbons we earn!

I adore dressage, but it also drives me incredibly crazy. I am not a naturally gifted dressage rider. I was taught to ride hunt seat at age six, so my body wants to be in a forward seat. It is my comfort zone. And I am a short 5-foot-nothing, so I will never look long and tall and elegant in the saddle. OK, I have moments of elegance, I suppose. But I am short and stubby and I want to ride forward like I am about to go over a fence!

While I define myself as an equestrienne, I am also a mother, wife, and full time school teacher. I have to find time to ride every afternoon between helping with homework and cooking dinner. I took last year completely off from riding (as did my mare) because I was pregnant with my second child. Regaining the strength and core muscle from that alone was more work than any dressage test or cross country course I will face!

I will always be an adult amateur, and while I do not have my sights on ever becoming a professional or riding at elite levels, I do think it is important to always learn and be the best horseman I can be. As a school teacher, I believe in education. I think I am a fairly bold rider and am willing to try new things, but I also want to be safe and have fun. Above all, it is more important to me to give my horse confidence and create success situations for her (which does not always equal success in competition – there are other types of successes!). Would I love to have a fancy, young horse to bring along? Sometimes, I admit I long for that opportunity. And perhaps someday it will happen. But for now, I am thankful I have my own horses living in my backyard, and I can carve out time to ride and compete despite life’s numerous responsibilities.

So while my Facebook friends may roll their eyes as I posted yet another show update, complete with a photo of my mare sporting another first or second place ribbon, I can assure them all that the ribbon is only half the story. The effort, sweat, tears, and sacrifice that went into earning that ribbon is what makes me proud of my horse and her accomplishments this year. I honestly would have been just as happy with a green ribbon, or even nothing at all, just for the chance to do what I love. And of course, despite a fairy tale first show season, we are planning to move up to Training level next year and I know our ribbon streak will end. But that doesn’t matter, because I know that success as a rider is about the journey and my commitment, not the color of the ribbon or the level at which I compete.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

2016 Blogger Gift Exchange

This year I was excited to stumble across a new-to-me blog, Fly On Over written by an equestrienne named Tracy.  I was even more pumped to read about her annual Blogger Gift Exchange, because Christmas and giving gifts is my favorite.  When it was time, I eagerly signed up and awaited my blogger pal's name and address.  Again, it was a new-to-me blogger, so I scoured her blog for hints and ideas of what to purchase for her.  Her gifts arrived yesterday according to the tracking number and I hope she liked them! 

I received my blogger gift yesterday and it is PERFECT!!!  Remember that super neat t-shirt I blogged about a few months ago?  Yeah, my fantastic gifter, Nadia from 3Day Adventures with Horses, bought it for me!  I couldn't believe it!  She ordered a large and sent the receipt with it, which is great because I do need to exchange it for a small.  I have already contacted the company and have it ready to send out tomorrow.  That is totally not an issue, because GUYS SHE BOUGHT THE COOL STANDARDBRED SHIRT that I would have never bothered to buy for myself!  That is the best type of present!  Nadia threw in a cute stocking of Mrs. Pasture's Cookies for the mares, too!

I didn't unfold the t-shirt for the pic because I wanted it to stay well folded for the exchange!

Thank you, Nadia!  Your thoughtfulness is much appreciated!  Happy Holidays everyone!

Friday, December 2, 2016

December Blog Hop!

My friend Aarene is hosting a Blog Hop over at Haiku Farm!  Yay for fun things to write about when nothing exciting is otherwise occurring in my horsey life!  :-)

Here's the directions:

  • Answer the questions (below) on your own blog, and leave a link to that post in the comments here.
  • In your post, invite readers to answer the questions on THEIR blogs, and link those blogs to yours AND to here.
  • Let's see how far this can travel!
  • Pictures!  Let's see lots of pictures of people and horses!

*  Introduce yourself!

*  Introduce your horse(s)!

*  What's your favorite horse sport?  Do you cross train in other activities?

*  Who else in your family rides?

*  What's your proudest equestrian accomplishment?

*  What was your lowest moment as a horse owner/rider?

*  What's the most important small thing you ever learned in a lesson?

*  Do you have any riding rituals or superstitions?

*  What are your short term goals for yourself/your horse?

*  Long term goals?

*  If time and money were no object, what is your dream equestrian vacation?

*  What kind of horse activities were you doing 10 years ago?

*  What kind of horse activities do you think you'll be doing 10 years from now?

*  What is the quirk about your horse that you like most?

Introduce yourself!
Hi!  I'm Elizabeth and I am an adult amateur dressage/event rider.  In an effort to support my horsey habit, I am a teacher. I taught high school English from 2001 until recently, as I switched positions within my district to become the gifted and talented teacher.  I am married to a GREAT guy and we have two children.

One of my most favorite photos of me with my oldest son
Introduce your horse(s)!
I own two Standardbred mares: Dreamy Starlet and Snap Dancer.  Dreamy will be 25 this coming year and has been with me since 2003.  We have done everything together, from showing all over New England, to giving demonstrations at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, to winning just about every ribbon and award possible.  She is the Very Best Mare.
Dreamy Starlet - photo taken at Popham Beach by the insanely talented Barbara Livingston
Snappy will be 17 this coming year and was honestly never supposed to become mine.  I met her in 2012 in order to get my Racing Under Saddle license and next thing I knew, her owner gave her to me haha!  We had a fun and successful first year of showing and I look forward to 2017!  You can read more about each mare here.

Snap Dancer - our first dressage test, photo taken by Elena Raymond and posted with purchase
What's your favorite horse sport?  Do you cross train in other activities?
Even though I have often wondered, am I am dressage rider who also events or an event rider who also shows in dressage, I would say my most favorite horse sport is EVENTING!  I do cross train my horses to do a little of everything and I have successful enjoyed eventing, dressage, showmanship, in-hand, equitation and pleasure classes, trail riding, western pleasure, hunter under saddle and over fences, roadster under saddle, sidesaddle, racing under saddle, foxhunting, and team penning!  I even tried saddleseat with Reva one year!

A collage of some of our disciplines I made years ago when the blog name was still "Standardbred Excellence"
Who else in your family rides?
It's just me!  My oldest son has a natural seat and balance, but really isn't interested and my grandfather raced and trained Standardbreds (but never rode them).

Six years ago on Dreamy in the snow!
What's your proudest equestrian accomplishment?
There are so many things I have accomplished with my horses that it is hard to choose just one.  Probably I would have to choose either Dreamy's USDF National Championships or our trip to the Standardbred demos at the 2010 World Equestrian Games.

One of our WEG demos
What was your lowest moment as a horse owner/rider?
I think losing my first horse, Sparky, was my lowest moment.  There is nothing like the first time you have to put down a horse, never mind the first horse you ever loved as your very own.
One of my first shows with Sparky in 1993
What's the most important small thing you ever learned in a lesson?
"Don't think of what could go wrong, think of what could go right!" is something my instructor has said to me a million times, especially in the tough days of trying to perfect Dreamy's canter.  
The best it ever got ~ summer 2014
Do you have any riding rituals or superstitions?
I own millions of riding socks (OK, maybe like 12 pairs) but for some reason if I do well early in the show season while wearing a certain pair, I can only show in those socks for the rest of the year.  WEIRD.  But I cannot help myself!  At least I wash them haha!

Uhhhh, I don't have a photo of my socks, and Aarene demanded photos, so here is my youngest at seven months old being adorable.  Because who doesn't love adorable children?!?!
What are your short term goals for yourself/your horse?
Short term goals for Dreamy are to keep her healthy and happy in her well deserved retirement.  With Snappy I hope to continue her solid dressage training, give her more cross country jumping experience, and improve her canter.

Video still from August 2016 as we are battling to improve that canter!
Long term goals?
I always just want my horses to be healthy, happy, and sound.  I want to enjoy taking care of them and have fun riding and showing.  Eventually, I will add a young horse to the herd (probably a Morgan), but with just two stalls that means that there will be a Sad Day before that can happen.  And right now I am not ready for any of my horses to pass away, soooooo I am hoping this is a reaaaaaallllly long term goal!  Or if a young horse is not in the cards, I can see myself leasing a schoolmaster for a season to event at Beginner Novice/Novice level. 

If time and money were no object, what is your dream equestrian vacation?
I am dying to ride in Ireland!  I also think a mule trip in the Grand Canyon would be amazing.

Pretty leaves just because.
What kind of horse activities were you doing 10 years ago?
Hmmmm, ten years ago would have been the end of 2006.  I would have spent the year showing my Morgan, Sparky, in dressage and combined driving (she was 24 that year).  It was her last year of competition and we had a blast!  I had sat on Dreamy for the first time that year (in anticipation of Sparky's retirement) and we went on to have a super successful first show season in 2007.

Sparky at Granite State Morgan
What kind of horse activities do you think you'll be doing 10 years from now?
Geez, I really hope I am still riding and showing in ten years!  I feel as though by then I will have a young Morgan that I started myself (since I am sure I can only afford a yearling haha) and am enjoying in dressage/eventing.

I'm sure I will still be doing dressage.  And being a dork.  Mostly being a dork.
What is the quirk about your horse that you like most?
Most of my horses' quirks are annoying haha, so I had to give this some thought.  I like how Snappy will let me scratch and scratch her ears after I remove the bridle after a ride (since this is a horse who WOULD.NOT.EVER let me touch her ears at first and even now just tolerates it).  But for some reason, she is itchy after we ride and trusts me enough to scratch her.  Dreamy always drops her head for her flymask to be put on and it is just the sweetest little gesture.
The day the horses came home to our new house/barn, December 1, 2015!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Ten Questions for November...

...because I am bored and riding time is short right now!  I even added links back to old posts and as many photos as I could to make it more fun!

L at Viva Carlos posted these questions and several other blogs have joined in, so I might as well.

How old is the youngest/greenest horse you’ve ridden? 
That would be the young Standardbred mare I started named Reva.  She came to me in 2009 sight-unseen (besides photos) from New Jersey as a three year old.  I showed her a bit through 2010-2012 and I ended up giving her away to a lovely local family (because no one wants to pay money for a well trained Standardbred *sigh*).  Reva was a sweet mare, she just wasn't thrilled to be a show horse.
Reva at her first show!
How old is the oldest horse you’ve ridden? 
The oldest horse I have ever ridden was my first horse, Sparky, the winter before I had to put her down at age 32.  It was a Christmas tradition to ride bareback and I am glad I never missed a year with her.  We briefly walked and trotted around the snowy field on Christmas 2013 when she was 31, and she tried to canter and buck.  It was funny then and a wonderful memory now.
Sparky the night before she had to be put down, though I did not know it at the time of the photoshoot.
Were you scared of horses when you first started riding? 
Not that I remember at all.  I don't think I would have been so incredibly horse crazy all those years ago had I been scared LOL!  Fun blog post about my horsey past here!

And so it began, at age six!
Would you say you’re a more nervous rider or a confident rider? 
I would say I am a confident rider.  My goal is to always stay calm in order to give my horse confidence.  I don't think I would have had as much success with my horses over the years if I was nervous. 

Biggest pet peeve about non-horse people around horses? 
I don't really get too worked up about non-horse people around horses.  I know horses are not for everyone and I don't really remember anything that has made me upset.  I would say that being asked "can I ride your horse?" is sort of awkward to me.

A time you’ve been scared for your life? (horse related) I don't ever really remember being scared for my life, though I will say that I had a bad tumble off Dreamy a few years back at a fox hunt.  I was not as much scared for me, but when she took off at a dead gallop as I was there on the ground, I was pretty scared for HER life.  Of course, it was called the "Die Hard Hunt" of the year, and I just had to take a spectacular fall.  

Photographic evidence of our fall during the fox hunt!

Have you ever fallen off at show? What happened?Yup, but so far only once!  LOL!  Took a tumble off Dreamy at a show in 2010.  The full story is here, but basically she tripped in the last class of the day (Command class) on one of the HUGE rocks in the ring while cantering.  She stumbled and I went off over her shoulder.  We still somehow pulled a fourth place ribbon hahaha!!!

What’s a breed of horse you’ve never ridden but would like to ride? 

I would say a Connemara, mostly because I want to own one as well!!

Describe the worst behaved horse you’ve ridden? 

Hmmmm...my horses are mostly well behaved and I have been lucky to otherwise have ridden pretty decent school horses when in college.  Probably the worst behaved horse would be Tiffany, a Morgan mare I leased before I owed my first horse Sparky.  I was 11 and Tiffany was coming off a lengthy maternity leave.  She wasn't terribly behaved, but she pulled every stunt she could think of and made me cry a lot LOL!

Learning dressage with Tiffany about 26 years ago!
The most frustrating ride you’ve ever had?
OHHHHHHH there are too many to count!  Retraining a harness racehorse to become a dressage/event horse is one of the most frustrating yet rewarding experiences EVER.  Half of this blog is made up of frustrating ride reports, as I started my blog about Dreamy in order to have something to look back on and remember how far she had come.  There is this post, this one, and this.....and many more!  :-)

Still the best mare no matter what!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Anyone have any experience with shoe boil boots???

Snap Dancer is probably the only horse I have owned who has the strangest little problems.  My old Morgan, Sparky, liked to randomly colic and freak me out and Dreamy has COPD which I have managed in a wide variety of ways over the years.  While both of those issues are scary and potentially serious, I was always lucky to be able to easily treat them over the years.  

Snappy has had ulcers, aural plaques, weight gain problems, and now dry elbows (which if I don't treat could eventually turn into shoe boils and/or capped elbows).  They have always been slightly flaky when she wears shoes for half the year, presumably from the heel end of her shoes hitting her elbows when she lies down in her stall. Over the past several months it has gotten progressively worse.  Her elbows are not inflamed or swollen, just dry and cracked with flaky skin.  I have tried bacitracin, Bannix, a product called Dublin Dip, and Vit E capsules and bell boots at night.  Nothing made it any better.  Even though the bell boots protected the elbow from the shoe, there was still pressure.  Today my vet came out to float teeth, so of course I asked his opinions.  He prescribed a triamcinolone (corticosteroid) ointment and recommended the shoe boil boots instead of bell boots.

Now, call me crazy, but these things look super uncomfortable.  Anyone in blog land ever use them?  Are they as hard as they look?  It makes me worried she won't want to lie down with these hard plastic things on her hooves.  Maybe it will help, since it appears the boot will create a large space for her elbow (unless she just pushes the boot against her elbow...!).  I am wondering if there are any other ideas or experiences out there anyone can share!  :-)

Saturday, November 5, 2016

How to Protect Your Horse During Hunting Season

Here in Maine, we are in the beginning of deer season, which means at any given time (besides Sundays and especially on Saturdays) there will be the distant and not-so-distant sound of gunfire.  I have nothing against hunting, in fact I have my hunting license and have gone deer hunting, but it definitely makes me a bit nervous with the horses.

You might think being a dark bay and black horse would mean there would never be any confusion with a brown while tailed deer, but you'd be surprised.  While most hunters are responsible and vigilant, there are certainly plenty of yahoos in the woods right now who should not be carrying a gun.  And despite the fact the horses are fairly close to our house, I still protect them with blaze orange.

Because it does not naturally occur in nature, blaze orange is the standard safety color.  I know folks who use orange halters or blankets, but I do not turn my horses out in halters (and if I did, I would use their leather halters) and they do not need blankets.  Instead, I have been using a super cool product for over fifteen years now called Protectavest.  I first bought this product when I moved my horses home in 2001, and the woman who makes them is (fairly) local to me, just an hour away.  I picked up the vests in person, but it looks as though she does ship.  While the store owner offers a variety of blaze orange products for all manner of livestock and animals, I personally prefer the vests.  

The vests are made of a tough mesh that has withstood fifteen years of use from a variety of horses.  This is the sixteenth year and they look great, if not a slight bit faded.  I tend to only brush them off (or hose them) if they get muddy during hunting season and have only washed them once a year before I store them away for a year.

I don't remember paying $50 each (but realistically I have no idea HOW much I paid back in 2001, so there's that...), but even at that price, it is a great deal.  The peace of mind I having knowing my horses are covered in blaze orange is priceless.  Could someone still be a complete idiot and shoot my horse?  Yes, of course, but at least this way I would have a much easier time suing their ass off if I had proof that my horses were clearly identified as NOT A DEER.

Super flattering photo of Snappy with her vest this afternoon

Monday, October 24, 2016

RABT Farm Ultimate 2-Phase - October 23, 2016

Snappy and I wrapped up her first show season with an Ultimate 2-Phase at Rest and Be Thankful Farm in Lyman, ME.  After unseasonably warm temps the week prior and bragging about the great show weather I have had all year, it was FREEZING this past Sunday!  Haha I am such a wimp about the cold and with 20+ mph steady wind and a temperature of 42 degrees and no sun, the "real feel" was closer to 35 degrees.  I may have been born in Maine and lived here in New England all my life, but holy cow I am not a cold weather girl.  Doesn't help I have Reynaud's in my hands and feet, so once I am cold and my digits are white, I am DONE.  I had a good time riding and it was a fun way to end the season, but it was way too cold for me to actually enjoy it.  The best part was cranking the heat in the truck when we left to drive home LOL!

Snappy was super good despite being in a newish place (we did school XC here last month, so not totally new) and for the crazy fall winds and temps.  She was slightly up at the trailer while I tacked up and quite looky on the walk out to the back hay field where they had set up the dressage ring.  The trees and leaves were scary but she held it together for a respectable test.  Not our best test at 34.7 but with the cold and the fact she never really felt warmed up enough for a good swinging gait, I am happy.  We had just about fifty minutes between our dressage test and jumping round, which was fine with me.  I hurried back to the trailer in order to change her tack and change clothing.  I put her in eventing gear because an "ultimate" 2-phase's jumping round is a hybrid of XC and stadium.  I actually have never done an ultimate 2-phase, but it was fun!  There were five regular stadium jumps and four XC jumps out in the field, and Snappy jumped everything well so we went clear.  The course was basically a large figure-8 and super straightforward, which was great.  Again, like at Hilltop, she was much more comfortable in the trot, so we trotted the entire course.  Goal for next year is to canter our courses!  

I did not even snap a photo of her at the trailer or wearing her ribbon, because honestly I untacked, repacked, and left as quickly as I could.  My face was bright red from windburn and I spent an hour on the couch when I got home (after the hottest shower ever) under warm blankets.  Brrrrr I am NOT ready for sn*w and real winter temps!  
Yeah mare!  Pretty ribbon for her growing collection!  We won our tiny division of three riders.
Yes, I braided her the night beforehand and took pics.  Hahaha! Look at that winter coat coming in!  She turns so dark in the winter!
It may not look it, but her mane is a disaster from braiding all year, with thin sections, thick sections, blah blah crappy crap.  So my plan was to roach her at some point so it would all grow back in even and thick by next spring (in order to pull it for shows).  Instead, I was so cold when I got home, I roached her braids RIGHT OFF!  Hahahahaha I was dying with laughter at my ridiculousness!  :-)
Overall, could not have asked for a better first year out with Snap Dancer!  She ended up being such a good mare and trying everything I asked of her with the biggest heart and willingness to try.  I cannot believe show season is over!  It feels like it was just April and I was freaking out at the thought of taking her to a show!  :-)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Hilltop Horse Trial - October 16, 2016

On October 16, Snappy and I tried our very first full horse trial at Hilltop Equestrian Center in Somersworth, NH.  Beforehand, we had completed four two-phases and a XC jump school, so even though I was somewhat nervous to send out the entry, I knew we could do it.  I knew she was clearly capable of both a dressage test and stadium jump course, and she was prepared enough to try XC.  I have just tried to take it so slow with her in order to give her positive experiences because it hasn't be easy for her to place her trust in me.  I miss eventing now that Dreamy is retired, so I wanted to be sure Snappy had a solid foundation of confidence to become my next event horse (even if we never make it past the baby levels). But by this point in the year, even though I hemmed and hawed and almost didn't send our entry, I also knew I really did not want to wait until May of 2017 before we tried a full horse trial!

It was a gorgeous fall day, one that makes us dread the oncoming winter even more so than usual.  I have had great weather luck this year for my horse shows, which has been nice!  My dressage test was at 10AM sharp, and I was the first of six riders in my division.  Then my cross country was at 12:05 and stadium at 1:50, so it was a perfectly respectable schedule.  My plan was to walk the XC course after my dressage and walk stadium after my XC.  I figured we would be able to leave by 2:30.  

Our dressage test went well, and I was proud of her for marching into a strange indoor for the first time with no issue.  They run two dressage rings and while I had hoped to be in the outdoor, I was super proud that Snappy handled the indoor with ease.  She even trotted by the large mirrors without issue though she did eyeball the white cavalettis used to condense the end of the ring by A haha.  Do I jump these now?  Do I trot by them?  So much confused!

We ended up with a 29.69 which placed us in second in our division.  This was our best 2-phase dressage score this year, as our first 2-phase dressage score was a 39.38 (we have done the same test at each 2-phase)!  Each time out we improved our score by several points.  

Overall, there were not many comments on the test, but I was pleased to see I FINALLY did not overshoot centerline LOL!  I don't know why I was having so much trouble with that this year, but I do know I allow her to fall out through her left shoulder in right turns and the last centerline is a right turn, hence the reason we overshoot it.  I have worked SO hard getting her properly into the left rein and it showed for this test.  I was determined to fix that!  We earned a 7 on the first centerline and an 8 on our last one (with no comments about overshooting it!)  Whooo progress!  We also earned the highest score so far on our free walk, with a 7.5.  I know we can continue to improve it; though I will be glad when we ride a test that has a true diagonal, because Intro B has a weird short one from F - E and I think we simply don't have enough time with about five steps across the arena to really stretch.  It doesn't make sense to have a short diagonal at this level IMO.  We also had our best score under collectives for submission with a 7.5.  Overall, a solid test and I could not be happier.

After our dressage test!  My husband's phone camera is sucky.
It did not take long to untack and head out to walk the XC course.  Everything looked doable for Snappy and the only jump I wondered about was the tires (but she jumped it fine!).  I felt the course was a perfect mix of easy logs and slightly tougher questions, but everything was low and inviting. There were eight jumps in the first big field, then we headed out on a wooded trail for four jumps, and ended up in the back field for the final two.  

She definitely gave each jump a good look, but was forward and bold for me over the fences without sucking back in doubt.  The only thing she worried about were the jump judges (OMG people in the woods!), because as we would come around to jump, there was a person sitting there and she wasn't sure what to make of that.  I spoke to her the entire time (Good girl, they're just people, easy mare) and I am sure the jump judges thought was crazy haha.  But it really does help relax her when I use my voice.  In the last field, she locked onto the first fence you could see coming out of the woods, which wasn't our fence at all.  It confused her a bit, as we had to swing to the left over our division's fence.  I could feel her start to get a bit wiggly, as she wasn't sure which fences we were jumping and there were probably ten fences scattered about in a small area.  I just rode her straight and kept my eyes focused on our last two jumps, which were fairly lined up with one another.  She was fantastic and we went clear; the spooking at jump judges and wigglyness about which fence in a cluttered area are just greenie moments, nothing that makes me worried about her future as a little event horse! 

Snappy didn't want to canter between fences, even when I asked, and definitely felt safe in her comfort zone of trotting.  I did not push the issue, because I know the canter will come in time and right now it is just not her place of comfort (she is a trotter, after all!).  I remember trotting around this same exact cross country course with Dreamy years ago and wondering if we would ever be able to canter a course like a real event horse (we eventually did many times and had a blast!).  So, even though trotting and posting an entire XC course is fairly tiring compared to loping along in half seat, I am completely thrilled with our first ever XC outing in a competition format!  Of course, now I cannot wait for spring events LOL!!
We had just come off XC and I had loosened her girth!  Happy moment!
I opted for black/blue as our XC colors, which is always an appropriate color for riders haha!
After XC, it became sunny and hot, so I sponged her off and we all relaxed and ate lunch.  I wandered over to the stadium course twice, but other divisions were jumping, so I had to settle for just looking at the posted course and watching other riders go.  I really dislike not being able to walk a course beforehand, especially a course like this set with lots of turns in a ring, but I had no choice.  And while I love showing here, the stadium does tend to get behind, so I took my time and headed over to jump at 1:35, just fifteen minutes before our posted start time of 1:50.  She didn't need much of a warm up, so there was no use showing up too early.

It turns out I was still too early anyway and my division did not start until 2:30, so we did a lot of walking and found about the only shade on the farm.  I love the warm sunny weather in October, but that near hour of waiting was the one time I wished it was cooler and/or overcast!  I almost went back to the trailer, but I also did not want to end up late (my trailer and the stadium ring were not close so it would have been hard to keep track).  We were still sitting in second place, and I knew it was unlikely the placings would change (unless we screwed up haha), but I mean I figured there was no way we would move up to first.  Low level eventing is won in dressage and the first place horse had been doing these events at this level all year (and looked great!).  This was about a good experience for Snappy, NOT THE RIBBON COLOR, but I admit the thought did cross my mind that we were soooo close to winning haha.  ;-)

Finally it was time for our division.  The course rode fine, but there were two fences she took as a long spot instead of waiting for me until the base of the fence, but I cannot complain.  I would rather she opted for the long spot at this point rather than refuse the fence or suck back behind my leg.  We were just a little out of sync for those two fences out of nine. The jumps were brightly colored and decorated, but she was unconcerned, which was exactly what I hoped to see.

Yay mare!  
Overall, we ended on our dressage score and earned second place.  Snappy got to do her first "victory trot" haha which is a cute touch at this venue, as they hand out the ribbons in the ring right when the division ends instead of riders picking up ribbons at the scoring booth at the conclusion of the day.  I could not have been any happier for our first ever three phase event!  My plan next year is to only do full three phase horse trials instead of 2-phases and I think she is definitely ready.

SIDE NOTE: I added photos to our last horse show post that I was tagged in on Facebook! The photographer did not ask for any compensation, just that we donate towards the mustang rescue if we wanted to use the photos!  :-)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Thank you all for your ideas and comments about Snappy's frustrating hard keeping tendencies.  I appreciate hearing what has worked for others, because while we all know each horse reacts differently to feeds and supplements, sometimes you just need ideas! 

Late afternoon autumn sun
At this point, I have started to switch her over to Triple Crown Complete (from Senior) and she will stay on the Nutrena Empower Boost (rice bran pellets).  I also added in alfalfa pellets for fiber, though she is NOT crazy about them and always leaves about 1/2 pound behind.  I will continue aloe vera juice (ulcers) and her Smartpak (SmartGut Ultra and Buteless pellets) as always and will add in Cocosoya oil as well once it arrives.  I now have her stall and pasture hay in haynets, and I am already seeing her eat more though still not as much as I'd like to see.

We have had gorgeous autumn sunsets!

Any of you who feed Cocosoya have a good resource from which to order?  I paid exactly $24.95 for a gallon with free shipping from Smartpak.  I ordered it today 10/12 and it is supposed to arrive tomorrow!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Ever After Mustang Benefit Horse Show - October 9, 2016

Another great horse show for Miss Snappy!  This mare has earned some really solid show miles this year and I am so thankful for that.  Even though I decided to focus on dressage and eventing with her, I did attend an "open show" this past weekend.  I thought it would be fun and I've attended this show many times (it was the 10th year anniversary for them!).  This was actually the same show she went to back at the end of 2014 as her "first show experience", so it was fun to return and see how she behaved.  Rereading that old blog post made me realize that she has grown, as this time around she was happy to stand in the line-up at the end of the riding classes and she was totally calm in the in-hand class.  Again, she warmed up and behaved perfectly for everything I asked of her.  

Hanging out at the trailer
Snappy earned:
1st Adult Walk/Trot Pleasure out of 4 entries
1st Adult Walk/Trot Equitation out of 3 entries
1st Open Walk/Trot Over Fences out of 2 entries
3rd Open Walk/Trot Egg & Spoon out of 3 entries
4th Fitting & Showmanship out of 7 entries
Adult High Point Champion

We also won some really great swag with our three first place ribbons!  I had a bucket, gift bag, and tote bag FULL of neat items.

So much swag!  Baseball hat, tote bag, grooming mitt, tape measure, poultice, Leather New, Bannix, three Vetraps, Absorbine samples, tack cleaning sponges, $10 gift card to a local feed store, rain poncho, small bucket, calendar, and two random choker things. 
High Point Award sweatshirt!  It's pretty big, but how fun!  :-)
We did the same classes as two years ago, except they removed the Command Class and added Egg & Spoon instead.  And I added in the over fences class this year, as she wasn't ready to jump at a show in 2014.

I was SO EXCITED to try egg & spoon because I don't think I have done that since I was a kid LOL!  But sadly, the minute they said to remove our thumbs from the egg, I dropped the damn thing hahaha!  I should have just held it normally instead of trying to use my thumb in the first place.  Between wearing riding gloves and trying to remove my thumb and move my hand back from the egg, all while trying to steer my horse with my left hand, was a bad combo apparently hahaha!  It was over before it started.  Oh well!

I wasn't planning to do the in-hand, but I did it anyway just to see how she would act.  She was great!  We had to do a 270 degree pivot, which I have never trained her to do, so I know that bumped us down.  I just asked her to turn nicely away from me, but she didn't do a perfect pivot.
We are just to the left of center!
The three classes I really cared about (pleasure, equitation, and over fences) were the ones we won, so that was super cool!  She was perfect in our riding classes, and did not react when we ended up right behind a horse who refused to trot and started misbehaving.  I saw it begin happening as soon as we switched direction, and I figured the behavior of the horse would escalate when we were asked to trot (it did), so I was prepared and took a wide berth around the misbehaving horse.  She just kept trotting like the good mare she is. 

(And again, she beat the career walk/trot horse. I think this is this horse/rider pair's seventh year in walk/trot.  I hate to constantly bring that up, but seriously?  Once this mare can canter in public, I will move her up.  And if she is never able to canter?  I certainly won't turn her into a forever walk-trotter at horse shows.  Just a pet peeve of mine!)

She was SOOOO good! 
Awkward photo of us leaving the ring with our first place gift bag!
The jumping class was a bit worrisome.  I never know what to expect at little schooling shows like this (and usually my instinct that things will be less than stellar are correct - I'll never forget the time show management at a different show set a two stride at 2.5 strides and no one cared when I told them it wasn't set right...it was one of the most unsafe things I have ever seen, but I digress).  

There was no warm up fence, so I had to trust that Snappy would just go in and jump an entire course of eight fences with no prior heads up as to what I wanted.  Granted, the jumps were tiny, but I do like her to be thinking about what is going to happen before it does haha.  Also, the first three fences were set as a TRIPLE!  Holy moly!  I have never seen that LOL!  It was a one stride to a two stride triple combination, so not only did we not jump anything ahead of time, our first three fences were a combination.  LOL!  Again, they were tiny fences, but I just wanted her to have a good trip and I was worried I might be setting her up for failure on two counts.  I guess I shouldn't have worried at all, because she was willing to go over everything, even if she gave the first fence a OH WE ARE JUMPING NOW moment of hesitation.  

Overall, it was a fun day with nice weather, and I was out of there by 1pm!  Can't beat that!  :-)

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Hardkeeping Horse aka the most frustrating experience ever

Let me begin by saying that I have never owned a horse that was a hardkeeper.  My horses have always been vacuum cleaners, air ferns, roly poly things that barely needed any grain no matter their level of activity and would eat as much hay I could stuff into their faces.

When I first met Snappy in 2012, she was eating fourteen pounds of sweet feed a day and I was mortified.  But of course, I did not know her well at that point, she wasn't in my direct care, and while I would not have chosen a sweet feed, she was in heavy work (racing) and probably needed the high amount of calories.

A few months later when she suddenly became mine, I changed her feed to Triple Crown Complete.  When I treated her ulcers later that winter, I switched her to Triple Crown Senior and Nutrena Boost, which is a rice bran pellet.  I have always been happy with Triple Crown and while I cannot remember exactly how much grain she ate, I know it was MUCH less than fourteen pounds a day!  I noticed quickly that she did not eat much hay, even when I had her teeth done.  

The first year she maintained her weight fairly well, though she was always on the thin side to me. The second year she was out of work as I was pregnant, so she had no trouble maintaining her weight though she never got "fat" like Dreamy did.  This year I still feel as though she was on the thin side, but she basically refused to eat hay outside (where she is for 12 hours of her day).  Granted, she had plenty of grazing, but now the grazing is not great and she is picking at the hay I leave for her each morning.  I do feed her hay in a haynet in her stall overnight, which is not ideal to me but it does seem to help her eat more.  

So this morning I hung her outside hay in a haynet on the side of the barn.  We shall see if she eats more during turnout.  She is still on Triple Crown Senior and Nutrena Boost at the recommended level of feed, but I added in four pounds of beet pulp a day.  I fed out three 40 pound bags before I decided I did not think it was doing much for her.  And I am still not 100% sure I like the idea of feeding beet pulp anyway.   This weekend I added in alfalfa pellets in place of the beet pulp (along with her regular grain ration of TCS and Boost).  I think her weight is low not because she is not getting enough calories from her grain, but because she needs more fiber.  The first thing I have always been taught to get a horse to gain weight, you add hay before you add grain.  But man, this horse will barely eat more than three flakes (which is only 12 pounds give or take!!!) of hay a day!  She stresses me!  Of course, this was OK during the spring and summer because the grass was plentiful.  The fall grazing is not as good!  

Anyway, her teeth, her ulcers, everything is fine.  The vet is coming in a few weeks for fall teeth floating anyway, so I will check with him then as well.  She is just not a big eater and never has been.  She just never has looked more than a 4.5 on the scale, which isn't bad necessarily but it also isn't great to me.  Yes, she is fit but she doesn't have the bloom I want to see.  Side note, I do have access to a livestock scale (the perks of being married to a cattle guy) so I know that she weighed 845 before I started the beet pulp in August and she gained about 2o pounds.  But I do wish she would gain about another fifty or so.  I just want her to be a strong 5 or even a 6.  I want her to be a plumpy mare.

Uggggg, hardkeepers stress me out.  Any ideas?  Thoughts?  I know different things work for different horses, but tell me what has worked for your picky eater to gain weight!  :-)

ETA: I feed a high quality, second crop timothy/orchard grass mix, which is pretty much like horse crack, so the mare SHOULD be hoovering her hay LOL!!  ;-)