A quick life update

While browsing through the site the other day, I realized it’s been awhile since I gave an update on life with my husband and Jim. I have to say things have been going well.

Recently I discovered a new fun thing to do: virtual dressage shows. I compete through Dressage Show Online. They post open shows and you video your ride and enter it. They have USEF and WDAA carded judges who then view the video, score it and place you. Jim and I recently took High Point Adult Amateur Western Dressage in this year’s August Championship show! We won both of our classes in WDAA Intro 3 AA and WDAA Intro 4 AA.

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This year, Jim, my husband and I have been taking a step back from showing at every open show. On a tight budget (yup, adulting is terrible sometimes), we have been focusing on certain shows – particularly my dressage shows. Luckily my husband isn’t as competitive as I am and although he did a few traditional dressage tests, he isn’t really pushing to do many more. He would rather jump – I say he’s crazy.

Our show year is quickly coming to a close. With one schooling show and one dressage show left to compete in, my scores for AWSSR year-end awards are already in. I’m a bit sad to see this year end, but I am very happy with how far Jim and I have come.

Settling into western dressage as our discipline was the best decision I have made. Both my husband and I are back to working on Jim’s canter. (He gets a bit excited.) He’s very responsive and he has been working through his body and balancing much better than he did this time last year.

This year has definitely called for my husband and my teamwork to shine through as a married couple. We have made sacrifices because of budget reasons and we have come to those decisions together. One of the benefits of both being riders is that when tough decisions come up, we can make informed decisions. It’s not just “Your horse costs too much. It’s “OUR horse is costing us a lot!” I am thankful every day that I have a significant other who understands how important Jim is in my life and can work things out.

But now, it’s time to break out our fall and winter muck boots, get ready for weekend chores in the cold and start bundling Jim up in his wardrobe. Goodbye summer and hello fall!

 

Don’t go the trail alone – get involved!

Even when you board your horse, it can get lonely. Whether you board with one other person, 20 other people, or have your horse in your backyard, it is good to find a community to get involved with. As much as we love our alone time with our equines, it’s good to reach out and find other like-minded individuals to socialize with. There are a number of ways to get involved, even if you don’t own your own horse.

Do you show? Is your horse registered? There are a number of breed associations that you can become a part of. AQHA, APHA, American Warmblood Society and Sporthorse Registry, the Arabian circuit, Morgans, the list goes on and on. There’s a group for everyone and at all levels of competition. Many of the organizations welcome their members to get involved with the regional club – as a board member or a show volunteer, to help with social media or sponsors. All you have to do is call them up or shoot them an email. Go on their national websites and locate your local regional club and subsection of the national organization. You’ll find people all over the world just waiting to welcome you with open arms.

Is the open circuit more your style? Do you find yourself going to all barrel racing shows or do you do cowboy mounted shooting? Or are you just looking for an organization that welcomes everyone? They’re out there! Make a post on Facebook or ask around at your local tack shop. You’ll find a group to get involved in there.

Would you rather be in the woods or at the beach with your horse? All over the nation there are trail riding associations and clubs to join. These clubs plan meet ups and host big trail rides and camping sites so you can all enjoy the outdoors and your horses in a relaxed, fun manner. They can also teach you some neat tricks of the trail about what to pack and be prepared for!

Do you not have a horse? Your local horse rescues are always looking for volunteers. Or maybe you do own your own but have some free time? Almost all rescues have open barn hours or days where they accept volunteers. There’s always hay to be brought in, a barn to be painted, a horse groomed or a fence to mend. These horses and organizations appreciate any time – however short or long – you can provide!

Do you enjoy the show or expo atmosphere, but don’t know how to get involved? Many shows or expos accept volunteers. It’s a great way to meet people and lend a hand! Equine Affaire is coming up in Massachusetts in November and they’re always looking for volunteers! And for a bonus, you get into the expo for free!

No matter what way you get involved, it’s so good for your horse and for your soul to get out and about. Meet other equestrians that love horses just as much as you do. You won’t regret it!

 

A winter of work

It’s been a long, dreary winter. In New England, we have had the strangest few months – with small storms bringing freezing cold and ice amid mild temperatures. I think I have become a pro on the “penguin walk” across sheets of ice both at home and at the barn. We haven’t had tons of snow this year, mostly just ice and freezing rain. Where we board Jim we very fortunately have an indoor arena. I know a lot of equestrians are not blessed with an indoor, but it is definitely worth it when it comes to New England weather.

At the start of the winter back in November, we placed Jim in training 2 days a week with our barn owner. We had a few specific short-term goals along with some long-term goals for our 2019 show season and beyond. Our short-term goals included a complete rework of how we lunge Jim. A year ago, our lunging consisted of a horse who liked to tear around like an idiot, burst out from you when you sent him out, and a horse that tried to break away from you when you went to change the chain set up while changing directions.

Another goal was to teach Jim how to balance himself both while lunging and under saddle. Although very broke, he liked to throw his nose up in the air and go way above the vertical. He rode very hollow and was very heavy on the forehand. He didn’t have much of a concept of engaging his hindquarters and stepping through.

Traffic was another key that Jim needed some work. He can work very nicely around other horses, but sometimes, oh sometimes, those ears went back and the attitude came out. With show season quickly approaching again, that wasn’t going to cut it – especially when it comes to warm up arenas.

Another smaller goal was to put some showmanship and ground handling buttons on him. He actually knows quite a lot in this department, but there’s some finishing work to be done.

And we have our long-term goals which include expanding our dressage knowledge, putting a flying change on him and working on more lateral work.

It’s been four months of training. We have had our setbacks and we have had some amazing progress. I actually love watching Jim learn. He sometimes takes a week or so and has a setback, but once it’s over, comes back even stronger.

One of our main goals – lunging – has come a long way. While it’s not perfect and probably will never be since some of it is just him, we can handle him much better and lunging has turned into teaching moments and not just “go run around like an idiot.” He’s actually not allowed to canter on the lunge line. Lunging work is for paying attention and working his brain. He’s taken to the new lunging rules very well.

Another goal that is coming along nicely is Jim learning how to balance himself. He has actually started to consistently round (when I use my legs!) He’s begun to understand what we are asking of him. He has also muscled up a lot. I can’t wait to take some new conformation photos in the spring!

While we still have some goals in the works, I’m very happy about our winter progress. But the most important part is how much fun we have been having with him. He lights up our life. From letting us put gloves on his ears and take funny photos to how much enjoyment we get riding and pampering and loving him, he has become part of the family. Having fun is what our sport is all about. If you’re not having fun, your passion will die. Every time you go to the barn and every time you put a foot in the stirrup, you should enjoy what you’re doing. The confidence we have been gaining (especially me) working with Jim has been fantastic. And I have my village to thank who are there for us all along the way.

Making goals together for 2019

It’s January and it’s time to sit down and collect our goals for the year. Most equestrians only have to focus on their personal goals and what they’d like their year to look like. In the case of being 1/2 of an equestrian couple, it’s a team effort.

Decisions such as what classes are we doing this year are broken down into “which ones can one person enter and which ones can the other?” Is one of us ready to move up a division and the other one stay in the same or are we both moving up? And it varies by show series. Some show series have certain classes while others don’t. Will I be the one to take Jim into the in hand classes or will my husband? Will he take him into Western Halter while I take him into English Halter? It goes on and on.

That’s on top of our usual personal goals and where we would like to see our riding this year. Luckily, him and I see very eye to eye on one thing with Jim: dressage. He tried dressage with Jim last year after I was ranting and raving about loving it. Now he’s just as hooked. Having dressage (both traditional and western) as one of our goals actually makes life easier since we can perform different tests. The trick is not performing more than allowed since some show series have rules on how many tests one horse can do at a single show.

Beside dressage this year, we set our eyes on one thing: our first overnight show. We took our budget from smaller shows last year and compiled it to focus on one, big September show – the New England Pinto Horse Association show in September. It will be the first time we have gone to a multi-day show where we don’t have to show off of our trailer. We set aside our vacation days from work for before and after so the horse show hangover won’t be so bad! And with it being in September, we have plenty of time to perfect our rides and train for it. Luckily we have trainers with us who support us in this goal and are ready to help us get there!

The show season begins early for us this year with a dressage show kick off in March (and maybe even a show before that!) I know we are ready and going to have so much fun this year because I can’t imagine anything more fun in the world than showing alongside my best friend and my horse.

My horse’s love affair with the farrier

There’s one thing in horse ownership that you come to learn and appreciate more than ever: your farrier. Finding a good farrier is like finding that one perfect foundation for your skin tone – almost impossible. When you find them, you hold on tight.

A horse’s hooves are their foundations. Think: horses spend almost their entire 24 hours a day on their feet minus a few hours laying down to sleep. Those hooves carry 1,000+ pounds a day on capsules of tissue, blood and bone. Keeping their feet balanced and correct is a true art and one not enough equestrians appreciate.

I’m sorry backyard owners, I will never pick up a rasp and try and trim my horse’s feet myself. Nope, never ever. I value his feet and everything that goes into them. There is too much at stake and it’s worth the money every 6 to 8 weeks.

I have become very good at recognizing trouble signs. I know the basic signs of thrush, white line disease, flares, chips and abscesses. I know a nail in the foot is an immediate call to the farrier and the vet! I know enough of when to call my farrier and say “come save me.”

Think of all of the diseases that are potentially life threatening – or at least career ending – that show signs of trouble in the hoof; laminitis, navicular, broken coffin bones and many more. An incorrect balance on the feet can also affect the horse’s entire body. You don’t mess with that alone.

It comes down to the fact that I’m ok that my horse has a love affair with my farrier. He should because in the end, it’s better for everyone. It’s worth the money to have a qualified farrier who knows what he’s doing taking care of my horse’s feet. He’s not just some guy who decided there’s money in blacksmithing and wants to run around and call himself a farrier.

When looking for a new farrier, don’t be afraid to shop around. Ask other horse owners who they use. Ask who they won’t use. Gather as much information about the blacksmith as you can. And if your farrier isn’t cutting it, don’t be afraid to find a new one. You can find the right fit for you and your horse, but don’t be surprised if he/she isn’t the cheapest on the block. A good farrier is worth it.

Things I’ve Learned This Show Season

This show season has been a whirlwind ride and I’ve learned quite a lot. I started my year off with a lot of changes – mostly my horse change. We began leasing Jim in February and purchased him in May. Our shows went from end of April to our last 2 dressage shows coming up next month. Needless to say, we didn’t have a ton of time to get used to Jim and figure out his buttons before we jumped right in!

At the beginning of the season, Jim and I hadn’t quite figured each other out yet. I was becoming more confident again and he was learning the life of a show pony. We had varying levels of ribbons, mostly toward the bottom, as I figured myself out. We did have some great highlights though and started achieving, especially on our home turf. That first blue when I went third, first and first and then went on to win ground poles will forever be one of my favorite accomplishments.

The last off property show we competed in was earlier this month. While I still have a lot to work on, our turnaround was pretty fantastic. We scored first in equitation (which had been our nemesis all year and yes, this is all on me) and two seconds in pleasure and discipline. Year end scores are still being calculated, but I think we may have taken some reserve championships. (We’ll find out soon!)

Our experiences at shows changed completely. While I’m still nervous in the warm up ring, I’ve started settling down in the show ring. I’m not quite the level of anxiety I was at the beginning of the year. I’ve started trusting Jim more to take care of me and be my partner.

And while I was learning him, my husband was too. This was his first year really competing now that we had a horse he could ride too. Although he would try and disagree – he’s too hard on himself – he did amazing. He was the first one to score a blue ribbon on Jim out of the two of us and I am so proud of them. It’s been great to watch him accomplish his own goals and go so far. The funniest moment of the show season was definitely a show in July. I had to repeatedly tell him he had won first in one of his classes! He didn’t believe it! I’m very lucky to have the best show partner I could have in Tom. We are always there for one another.

Going forward into our last two shows and the winter, I know things I’ll need to work on. But I also feel incredibly lucky and accomplished. I have a lot to be thankful for, especially my amazing trainers who know just when and how to push me. Hard work, great trainers and a lot of sweat and tears are worth it. Because out of all of that work comes beauty and success.

 

 

Equestrian Experience: Wild West Horseback Adventures in Las Vegas

Recently my husband and I found ourselves in Las Vegas on a work trip. But during the trip we had some free time and had booked ourselves a Sunset Trail Ride with Wild West Horseback Adventures. And we are so glad we did!

If you’ve been following the blog, you know this is right up both of our alleys since our honeymoon was spent on a dude ranch in Pennsylvania. We had never been out West and definitely not on the Old Spanish Trail so this was a treat!

The chef and driver, James, picked us up from our hotel on the Las Vegas strip around 4 p.m. and we were off! It takes about an hour plus picking up others to get out to Moapa Valley where the ranch is. The drive itself is very scenic and enjoyable and James cracks all the bad jokes you need for the month. And it’s perfect.

Arriving at the ranch, we signed the typical waivers and one of our guides, Caesar, went over all of the safety rules and made sure no one was drunk or hungover! It’s great for everyone in the group from beginners to experienced because even though my husband and I ride a lot, every horse has different buttons.

The group is really focused on making sure everyone has water which you have to out in the desert. Every saddle has a little pouch for your water bottle and your phone and you could leave other valuables locked up in the van. James stays at base camp while he cooks.

Don’t worry about mounting from the ground here! Everything is by a large platform so it’s easy for everyone of all experience levels and sizes.

And then the ride began! I don’t quite want to spoil the ride, but it’s absolutely breathtaking. Once you turn to go home, you are riding right into the sunset and it’s beautiful! I’ll post the photos, but they don’t do it justice!

We were at the front of the line and spent a lot of time chatting with the trail guide Brock. He was super nice and pointed out all of the animals and views. We even found a small lizard – with the help of the dogs – that Caesar caught and showed everyone!

After the ride which is at a steady walk and perfect for viewing the landscape, you’re treated to a steak or chicken dinner cooked by James. The best way to sum up dinner was that it was great, wholesome, good food. The steaks were a wonderful cut and very juicy!

Finally before heading back to the strip, Caesar taught a few of us how to lasso which was great for some laughs!

Some pointers if you decide to go: wear jeans and closed toe shoes and bring a wide brimmed hat! It gets hot the first half of the ride in the sun and you will get dehydrated or burnt if you don’t drink water during the ride from your pack.

I would return here in a drop of a hat. It was a great experience and James, Caesar and Brock made it very fun. Five hoofs up!