Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Short and Sweet

As my loyal followers (cue snarky giggle) might have noticed, the blog has been quiet for a few days. I took advantage of my long weekend to spend a lot of quality time with my family and friends. Lots of BBQing and time outside, kicking butt at washers, a little bit of sleeping in, and even a trail ride with DH!
My selfie game is pathetic, I know....
Matching even on trail rides. It's a sickness I tell you!
I had great intentions to get back on the wagon tonight, since it was the night of my first real lesson in.... well, a really, really long time. However, I underestimated how wiped out I would be (thanks Missouri humidity), and that DH would take almost 1200 pictures of me and Jacki to sort through. 
The lighting in this arena is hard to photograph in, but considering the size and the footing and all the other things going for it, I'll forgive the crummy lighting :)
Suffice to say, it was a great experience, and we actually have another lesson set for next week -- the instructor will be out of town the last following two weeks, but I think the goal is every other week lessons, and riding in my outdoor on the off weeks. So plenty of "off the farm" experiences for Ruby and Mort, and chances to ride in bigger arenas!
Right bend is hard. Soooo much work to the right.
Tomorrow Ruby has her first appointment with the chiropractor, so hopefully that will turn into an interesting post if I can snap some media of her adjustment. So things are off and running and I will actually have interesting content for you -- providing you find my rambling interesting that is!

I'll do a better lesson recap with more photos (including some of the ugly moments, 'cause God knows there were plenty of those as well) once I have a chance to go through more photos. For now, a cookie and a glass of milk and then bed is calling my name, in that order!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Arrowhead Creek Stables: Home Away From Home

Before we built an arena, I got in the habit of boarding at least one horse out for the winter. The weather in Missouri is notoriously unpredictable, and it was the only way I could guarantee that I would be ready on a reasonably fit horse when show season starts in March. The first winter I boarded out was a bit of a disaster -- my very easy keeper lost a lot of weight, rarely got any turnout, and had perpetually empty water buckets.
When you can see ribs on this horse, you know there's a problem.
So I tried again the following winter, at a different barn that had recently re-opened under new management a few miles away from our farm. It just so happened that the manager was a fellow WWU grad that I had taken a therapeutic riding class with, and I knew that she was horse-savvy and trustworthy. I moved Topaz there in the fall of 2014, and have had a horse boarded there ever since. 

To me, facilities are nice, but that takes a backseat to the care provided to my horse -- and Arrowhead Creek Stables is top-notch in the care department. The barn manager’s equine resume speaks for itself, but the shiny, happy horses living at ACS also speak volumes! 
My Time to Win (aka Carlos)
ACS boasts both an indoor and outdoor arena, indoor (heated) and outdoor wash racks, a climate-controlled tack room, and miles of trails! Feeding and turnout schedules are customized for each horse, and routine things like blanketing and stall fans are included in the monthly cost. 
Baby Ruby learning how to cross the creek.
Ground driving out on the trails!
ACS also caters to a diverse clientele -- riders and horses from all disciplines are welcome. Although I’m constantly trying to recruit dressage-minded individuals, ACS is (or has been) the home of western horses, saddleseat horses, hunters, jumpers, trail riders, and even the cutest mini horse ever (Silver, I’m looking at you!). With a location close to WWU, ACS has a large client base in the form of college students, but there is also a really great core group of ladies that stay year-round.

One of my favorite things about ACS (aside from the great care) is the atmosphere -- it’s very inviting and supportive. There is plenty of trailer-pooling and showing up to cheer each other on at horse shows, even when it’s a new or different discipline. Everyone is always willing to pitch in and lend a hand, and the “barn parties” are always a blast!
ACS bonfire!
 Half of the fun of being involved in horses is the relationships with other horse people -- and I wouldn't want to keep my horses anywhere besides ACS!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Tack Review: HighPoint Advantage Dressage Cutback Saddle Pad

I debated about designating this post as Tack Review Thursday, but I’m smart enough to know that I probably won’t be on top of things enough to do a tack review every Thursday. Knowing your flaws is half the battle, right? My first post is going to be about my favorite saddle pads ever -- which will come as no surprise to my friends who have dealt with my raving about how much I love these pads for the last year and my incessant sharing when they’re on sale. Oops? 
The official Dressage Barbie saddle pad.
At Ruby’s first show in November of 2014, one of the other competitors had a really interesting shaped pad, and I meant to try to chat her up about it. Being me, I got distracted and forgot, but I didn’t forget how much I liked the look of the saddle pad. I’m a very non-traditional Dressage Queen in the sense that I love pretty much everything except the typical English butler black and white formality of normal dressage attire. I find black and white boring. I love piping, bling, patent leather, non-traditional shapes -- if it’s weird and borderline unacceptable, it probably lives in my tack shed. I’d probably fit in much better in the eventing world, if I wasn’t piss-my-pants scared of cross country jumps. Or really jumping in general any more. But I digress....

So I spent some time trying to find a similar shaped pad for dressage and struck out. Until a few months later when a Facebook friend posted pictures schooling a horse with an identical pad. Jackpot! I asked about the brand and was rewarded with a name -- HighPoint. After a few minutes of searching, I found several sites that offered them, and even had custom piping! I didn’t really *need* a new $50-60 saddle pad when I found them, so I just bookmarked the site and made a mental note to send it to DH around my birthday with the color options clearly spelled out. 

Pictured is Ramses WAE, a 2010 PRE gelding by Fugitivo XII (Cinna's sire) out of Eneida EDA (who is by Dominante XIX, who happens to be Ruby's grandsire). Ramses is owned by Terry Waechter of Watchman PRE Horses and trained/ridden by Shaana Herlocher Risley. Photo by Audrey Maschue.
As usual, my intent to be responsible and moderate with my tack shopping went completely out the window when Tack of the Day (aka the Devil’s website) offered them for around $20. I immediately placed an order for 3 -- black, white (at the time, I was showing a grey and a bay so I thought those would work for recognized shows, if we ever get to that point....), and TEAL! Clearly, the tack gods were smiling down on me and I was meant to own these saddle pads. 

I really, really love these pads. In my opinion, the shape is so classy and flattering, and it looks good on a variety of horses. Topaz was a tank, while Ruby is much more refined, and I think it looked awesome on both of them (obviously, I am biased, but who cares?). They’re thin enough to use year-round but thick enough to hold up to some abuse. I just toss them in my regular washing machine (old top loader with an agitator) and they always come out looking great. The decorative diamond stitching did unravel a little on my first one, but you have to be really close to notice -- I doubt it could be seen from the judge’s stand, and it doesn’t have any effect on the integrity of the pad goes as far as daily use. 

When TOTD recently ran them again, in even *more* color options, clearly I succumbed again. I now own a completely excessive amount of these pads in pretty much every color they offer. While you can get the fancy versions with custom piping for $60ish (from Little Saddler or Dressage Extensions), I’ve also discovered that HorseLoverz stocks the basic ones for $24.99, which I think is an acceptable price for a fun and flattering schooling pad. I’m not sure what’s up with the price difference (unless maybe the $60 ones are a little heavier?). I’m saving my white and black (and white with black piping) to be my “recognized show pads” (a girl has to have goals!) and plan to use the rest for schooling, schooling shows, and clinics. I’ve seriously never used one on an outing and not been complimented on it. If you read my clinic recap earlier this week, one of the first things the clinician said to me was "I love that pad!" And I’ve lost track of how many people I’ve referred to websites that sell them, and when TOTD runs them on sale I typically post about it and tag tons of friends. I should probably ask HighPoint to sponsor me.... haha.  
Navy, purple, white, white w/black piping, pink, black, and teal.... twice!

Price: 5/5 stars (TOTD and HorseLoverz FTW!)
Quality/Durability: 4.5/5 stars (I wanted so badly to give them 5 stars, but the unraveled stitching does kind of suck a little)
Color Options: 5/5 (anything that comes in teal gets 5 stars from me) 
Only thing that keeps this from unanimous 5 stars

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Happy National Wine Day!

This post will be short and sweet -- it's been a long week at work (and it's only Wednesday). I did manage to ride today, so that's a plus. It was muggy and disgusting, so we did a lot of walking and just a little trotwork, trying to focus on the tips from this weekend's clinic. I feel like we were about 70% successful, so I was impressed with us... yay, go team!

Jacki is back from her honeymoon so not only did we get to to ride together tonight, but we have our first lesson set for next Tuesday!

Aside from that I have absolutely nothing of interest to report. Except that I did go to the gym this morning, for the first time in months. I have a love/hate relationship with the gym. I hate the gym, but I love it when my clothes fit. I get in cycles where I go regularly, then I totally fall off the wagon. I was going regularly last fall, but last December I had a derailment of my personal life and I had quite a few weeks where it was an accomplishment just to get up and go to work, so I completely quit the gym. Now I'm back -- we'll see how long this cycle lasts. The only way I can tolerate it is to spend half an hour on the elliptical with my Kindle and iPod. Yes, I get that that's not balanced, and no, I absolutely do not care. It's better than nothing, which is the alternative (being a slug on my couch and snuggling with dachshunds).

I'm off to finish celebrating #NationalWineDay. The slogan for today is "Slay all day, and then rosé."

Or in my case, pink moscato (that's all I have in the fridge) that DH bought me at the dollar store. No, I'm not joking, and yes, we're kinda redneck. Oh well.
On my front porch, because I'm just that classy.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Clinic Recap: Elizabeth Wallace

While I’m sure I’ll still sprinkle in the occasional background post, I think by now you’ve got an idea of the cast of characters that will be featured in my ramblings.... errr, writings.
This is what Topaz would have to say about my ramblings...
So this post will be a day later than I wanted, but yesterday was very full with a farrier visit as well as a trip to the Mizzou vet clinic (everything is fine, I’m just overly paranoid).
Unamused Ruby is unamused.
This weekend, Ruby and I had the chance to ride in a clinic with Elizabeth Wallace. The clinic was held at a local facility, TM Stables. Because it wasn’t far from Ruby’s home base (ACS, which will be getting it’s own blog post ASAP!), I opted to trailer over both days instead of stabling at the venue. Always good practice for Ruby to trailer on short hops, and since I’m not showing as much this year, I need all the practice with the truck/trailer I can get. 
The cows next door merited LOTS of watching.
I rode back-to-back both days with one of my good friends Hanna -- I’m sure I’ll devote an entire blog post in the future to her, because not only is she awesome, but she makes very neat wither straps and D-ring savers in custom colors (and Lord knows I want everything I own to be custom colored, haha). Having her in the next trailer over was really helpful for me, as she is a much better braider than I am (hoping to hack off Ruby’s mane next month!) and she also is a much better polo wrapper than me (velcro boots FTW in 95% of situations, but I thought color coordinated polos would be classy for our clinic). 
Master level matchy matchy.
Obvs, first day’s color was teal -- teal Highpoint saddle pad, teal Centaur polo wraps (well, almost teal), teal Ralph Lauren polo, and teal Equiture browband. Second day, I toned things down a bit and just rode in a black pad, white Equilibrium Stretch and Flex wraps, same teal browband (too lazy to change it), my fun new baroque patterned ROMFH breeches, and a tank top (hot as hell Sunday). Because why are you reading this if you don’t enjoy unnecessary descriptions of my tack and clothing on my quest to #makeallthethingsteal and be the penultimate #dressagebarbie ?
I give myself 4.8 stars on the matchy scale - some shade variations....
Anyway, back to the actual riding portion. I was able to get there fairly early both days and watch a few of the rides before mine, which was incredibly helpful. Most of the rides before mine were western riders, but the basics of dressage apply to ALL disciplines, so I was still able to pick up some good tips. We warmed up outside, and Ruby was pretty chill -- perks of showing evvvvvverywhere last year is that she adapts fairly well to new places. The actual clinic was held inside. The indoor arena was fairly small, but for the purposes of this clinic, that was perfect, because it was a lot of work on the basics. 

I have the memory span of a housefly, so I can’t give you an in-depth recap, but I got some great visual tips and tricks I can use in my daily rides to try to retrain my body to do dressage things as opposed to being an epileptic starfish and flailing uselessly. One of the best pieces of advice I took away (and I’m paraphrasing, so any mistakes are mine, not the clinicians) was that in order to achieve roundness, you need bend and impulsion -- without both of those things, you won’t be round. She also had a really great visual with a whip to show how as training progresses weight moves off the forehand and onto the haunches, but I was too busy listening to think about snapping a photo -- oops!
Some of my problem areas: actually, let’s be honest, pretty much all of me is a problem area, so we’ll start with the most basic ones -- my stirrups were a touch too long for right now, so shortening them up provided a more stable base so I wasn’t reaching for them in the trot. I wasn’t effectively using my calf for cues, so subtly changing the angle of my lower leg helped clear up the lines of communication for me. I have a tendency to tense and tighten my grip on the reins (because that’s so effective). I also needed many reminders to slow my post and to lean back -- I always feel like I’m sitting up straight, and then I see photos and I look like the hunchback of Notre Dame. 
Negative, ghost rider.
Ruby is a long horse, and one of the things we worked on this weekend was retraining my concept of bend -- when I thought she was overbent, that’s when she was finally working on a correct bend. We also worked a lot on improving her walk -- Ruby probably had the best natural walk of any of my horses, so I got very lazy about actually training it, so this weekend was a good reminder that I need to ride the walk, not just be a passenger while she ambles. 
It's easy to be lazy when the natural walk looks like this.
Starting about 6 months ago, Ruby was having occasional episodes of teeth grinding under saddle, and after her annual teeth float didn’t stop it, I played musical bits and tried changing up some things to see if I could find something she was more comfortable with. Surprise, surprise, the problem was ME (cue my unsurprised face). However, I really do like how she goes in the Verbindend, so I’m keeping it.... haha. Sorry DH! Happy to report that this weekend (after being constantly reminded to be softer with my hands), we had no teeth grinding either day.
Verbindend, I love you.
Hmmm, what else? Oh! Also learned a more effective way to switch my whip without making a huge production out of it. And I also got to watch the clinician demonstrate the technique of double lunging -- she referenced it several times and I missed her demonstration of it in the morning Sunday, so she was kind enough to have another session with it after lunch. It’s similar to what I call long-lining, but with one long line with snaps at both end instead of 2 separate lines. I do it frequently with young/green horses (or ground driving, which is also similar), but it’s something I hadn’t done with Ruby for ages -- might have to re-incorporate it into our training regimen! 
Gratuitous shot of my new show chairs. Because, teal.
Huge thanks to Elizabeth Wallace for such an educational weekend, Jessica Gifford for arranging the clinic, TM Stables for hosting, Hanna for being my partner-in-crime and trailer parking buddy (yes, yes, we all know you BACKED your trailer in), DH for showing up and grabbing some video, Jenny for all of the riding pictures featured in this post (including my personal favorite, the “ghost photo” lol), and last but not least, everyone should check out Crosswind Ranch/Spirit Riders -- this clinic was held to raise money for them and if you're reading this, head over to their website and maybe make a donation!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Cintia Memoria: A Dream Come True

Aside from Ruby, the other horse that will probably be featured prominently in this blog is Cintia Memoria MLA, also known as Cinna, the Cinnamonster, Cinnabon, etc. 

While all my horses have been dear to me, she will always hold a special place in my heart. She is the first horse that I ever bred, I foaled her out myself, and I’ve been with her every step of her life and at every major milestone. Of course, by the same token, all of her gaps in training and bad habits are also my fault, so there are two sides to that coin!

When I originally bought Tres, I kicked around the idea of breeding her. I decided I would aim for a foal in a few years after she had proven herself under saddle. Being extremely Type A, I decided to start a stallion list, just in case. I figured that would give me plenty of time to follow stallions in their riding careers as well as see a few year’s worth of offspring before I made a decision. I enlisted the help of friends and pored over websites and photos and videos, compiling a short list of stallions. My favorite stallion was Fugitivo XII, and I regularly visited his website to check for new media and follow his offspring. In January of 2011, I saw that he was being featured in the Horse Coupon Book Season of Excellence -- an essay contest to win a free breeding. As someone employed in the field of communications.... can you say, fate? 

Naturally I polished off my essay skills (a bit dusty from disuse after graduation) and wrote a killer piece, submitted it, and then prayed! The first round of the contest was decided by public votes (counted using Facebook likes on a photo you submitted with the essay underneath) -- so I galvanized my extensive social media network and hounded my friends daily to vote for me. The top 25 essays were judged by a panel -- and I made that cut! The day they announced the winner, I was a nervous wreck. I went out to dinner with DH and some friends, trying to distract myself. That plan failed miserably, as I sat glued to my phone, refreshing the page anxiously. When results were posted, my essay scored second... by 1.56 points. I think I would have been less disappointed if I hadn’t even made the top 10, but to lose by such a narrow margin was heartbreaking. I turned off my phone, and tried to focus on dinner. 

During the contest, I became friends with Fugi’s owner, and we had already made arrangements for a future breeding even if I didn’t win, so I knew I would have my Fugi foal someday -- it would just have to wait until I could save up a little more money. After dinner, I picked up my phone again, finding several congratulatory texts and Facebook posts. I was baffled -- did people not understand that coming in second got me a whole lotta nothing?
I was dejectedly scrolling through my newsfeed when a post from Fugi’s owner caught my eye -- shortly after the contest results were announced, she posted that she was so proud of my hard work and having done so well that she was going to give me a free breeding anyway. I can’t even begin to put my emotions in that moment into words. There was some jumping up and down, some wordless screaming, and then crying -- all to the amusement of the crowd in Waffle House at 1 a.m. (we stopped for a pick-me-up piece of chocolate pie). 
Pregnant and unamused.
The months after that were a whirlwind -- Tres was bred by a local clinic, and I spent the next 11 months working my way through a stack of books about foaling and coming up with Spanish names. I couldn’t have possibly had a better experience with my introduction to breeding and foaling. Everything from the pregnancy to the delivery was textbook. Everyone kept telling me I’d miss the birth, but Tres kindly waited until I was home from work then delivered at 6:15 in the evening, with her head in my lap (as my mom and I filmed and took photos). Mad props to my friend Erin, who was working as a breeding manager at the time -- and got the fun experience of fielding my frantic and frequent questions... haha.

I had several different possible names picked out (depending on gender and personality), but in the end, there was only one option. Cynthia -- the beautiful soul who sold me Tres and Topaz, who watched as Tres blossomed in a training program and surprised us all at Nationals, who let me bounce stallion ideas off her and gave me all the details of Tres’ previous pregnancy, and who was so looking forward to the birth of this foal -- lost her battle with cancer just 3 short weeks before Cinna’s birth. Cintia Memoria is Spanish for Cynthia’s memory -- and every time I look at Cinna, I think of the woman who made so many of my dreams come true, both directly, and indirectly. 

From day one, Cinna has been an opinionated sassypants character -- something I really look for in an equine partner. I might experience endless hours of aggravation, but the eventual breakthroughs and successes are that much sweeter. If I’d been more on the ball with this blog, her post could have been on her 4th birthday (May 17), but alas, I didn’t plan well enough. She was lightly started last fall and then had the winter off to continue growing. With the completion of our arena, she has been in much more regular work when the weather cooperates (which, in Missouri, is approximately 40% of the time). 

 My goal is for her to make her dressage ring debut sometime this year -- hopefully you’ll enjoy following along on our adventures!