Thursday, January 30, 2014


Of course with the purchase of a new saddle and copious saving happening to fund next year's show season, I've been trying to save money however I can. So, this month I made it my goal to clean out my tack boxes and finally sell all the things I've collected over the years and no longer use/need. Turns out, there's a lot of it.

I've photographed most of it, and have that listed below. More is coming, however, so I've made a page at the top of my blog where you can easily access my sale items. I'll keep that page current, adding things as I find them and cleaning things out that are sold. Enjoy!

I bring you... THE SALE LIST!
All prices are flexible. Feel free to make offers. You can contact me at

County Competitor Dressage Saddle | Extra Wide | 17.5 | 2005 manufacture
• Fantastic show-ready condition.
• Black, with some fading at wear points.
• Wither gussets allow it to fit a wider variety of horses.
• Supremely comfortable, with nicely sized thigh blocks that do not restrict.
$1,500 OBO

HDR 5-Point Breastplate | Full Sized | "Australian Nut" (Havana with reddish brown padding)
• 5 point attachment with elastic and running martingale attachment
• Fleece padding at stress points for added comfort and protection
• Almost new condition, only used a handful of times and well-maintained.
$80 OBO

No-Name Bridle | Full Sized | Havana 
• Plain Snaffle Bridle, with regular caveson
• Well broken in and maintained, though not great quality leather.
• Comes with nicely broken in laced reins.
$30 OBO

Camelot Rubberized Web Reins with Stops | Horse Size | Brown
• In great shape, barely used.
• Already broken in and conditioned!
• Comes with rubber rein stops for use with a running martingale.
$20 OBO

Standing Martingale | Horse Size | Red-Brown
• Pretty, show-quality leather.
• Barely used, really just broken in and conditioned!
• Complete with rubber stopper, ready to use!
$50 OBO

Bates Calfskin Covered Stirrup Leathers | 54" | Brown
• GORGEOUS leather
• Barely used, really just broken in and conditioned. So, no ugly crease spots from long use!
• These are them:
$80 OBO

The Elite Show Coat | Size 12 | Hunter Green
• In great shape
• Dry-cleaned and ready to go!
$65 OBO

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A New Toy (A long post loaded with photos!)

Surprise! I bought a saddle this month! 

As you guys might remember, my trainer has been hounding me to glue some thigh blocks to my old-as-dirt county saddle. Well, the thought of hotgluing anything to leather was giving me the shivers and I wasn't able to do it. So, I took a hard look at my savings and started seriously browsing sale ads. As luck would have it, an amazing deal popped up, and I jumped on it.

Check out my new (to me) Barnsby AVG! It's a 17.5 medium tree, with HUUUUUGE thigh blocks (to me).

Sale photo ... 
I was a little excited for it's arrival ... 
Seriously. Packing peanuts. Whyyyyy??
In fact, it was pretty hard to sit at work all day and think about the shiny saddle waiting to be tried on and ridden in. I even made it out to the barn that night despite the 4*F temperature. Brrr. The things we do...

What followed that night was an example of how horses can bring us up so high, and bash us down so low. I tried on the saddle, and it appeared to have amazing wither coverage and be the perfect fit. Then I girthed it up, and that amazing wither coverage shrank. 

Guys, it shrank a lot.

I screwed up my courage and decided to take it for a test spin just to see...

... nope. The saddle ended up settling more after some trotwork, and it was rubbing slightly at the top of Pig's withers. I was crushed. The drive home was hard, as I thought about all the money I have tied up in saddles (this saddle makes 4 .. FOUR saddles I own. That's $3,500 tied up in leather, guys. For a girl with a husband in medical school, that is really disheartening. "Eat ramen for the next year" disheartening.). When I got home I drank a lot of wine. 

The next day things started looking up. I emailed Barnsby and they put me in contact with a fitter in the Chicago area. Then I started thinking about the possibility of padding it up, and about the fact that it was so cold that I may have accidentally placed the saddle too far forward. The Barnsby fitter asked me to send her photos of the saddle on Guinness. 

Fast forward to Saturday ...  

The day dawned bright, and warm (finally). I was feeling a lot more optimistic about the saddle, and prepared with options if it didn't fit. I was also confident in my ability to resell the saddle if everything failed.
Gratuitous adorable puppy shot from Saturday. It really was a beautiful day here.
Armed with confidence, I set off taking photos of saddle fit for the Barnsby rep. First, girthed up without a pad. Things were looking good. I had about 3 fingers of clearance between the narrowest point and the withers.
Fit prior to riding. I actually think I have the saddle too far forward still in this photo. Sigh. #horseswithshoulders
Gullet fit on back. Looks pretty good to me, no? Much wider than my County, and cleanly clearing the spine.
Just to see, I tried the saddle with a riser pad. While the wither clearance was improved greatly, I didn't like the way the rest of the saddle fit. I felt the pad changed the way it sat, and created possible pressure points. Veto on the riser pad.
Wither clearance with front riser pad.

See how the saddle tilts backwards with the riser pad? I do not like this, Sam I Am.
After removing the riser pad, I went ahead and jumped in the saddle. Stirrupless and all. And? I went on to ride for 45 minutes. I checked the clearance on the saddle obsessively throughout the ride, but it never again rubbed the withers. I would still describe the clearance as "a little close for comfort", but I can comfortably ride with one finger stuck between the lowest point and the wither without pinching. 
Without front riser pad. 
Wither clearance after riding for 45 minutes.  Plus? Oh my god, thighblocks. I didn't know how much I loved you.
I'm cautiously calling this a success. After the 45 minute ride (which was nothing if not intense, I really pushed it), the hair on Pig's back was undisturbed where the saddle fit. There were no signs on the pad of pressure points or pinching. He moved out happily enough under the saddle, and didn't react to my prodding his back post ride. (He's pretty stoic about saddle fit, though. Nothing but truly awful fit seems to phase him.) 

The great thing? The saddle is an amazing fit for me. The thigh blocks are truly a revelation. They remind me to ride from the hip, instead of cuing from the leg. And, they keep me from riding in a chair seat. It's pretty much impossible in this saddle. And, the true black color is so pretty compared to the faded havana of my old County. I love it.

As of now I haven't heard back from the Barnsby fitter about her thoughts. I told her about the change in fit, and hope she has some ideas on how to improve it. The saddle could use a good flocking, and that just might be what it needs to fit Guinness perfectly. I'll keep you posted as things develop.

What do you guys think?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Sunday Double Days

My Sundays in January have been long days. In an effort to hit my goals, I've been trying to add in extra conditioning for Guinness without adding an extra day of driving to the barn on frighteningly icy roads or frigid temperatures. (Yeah, yeah ... in case you hadn't noticed. All of us up here in the Northlands are freaking freezing this winter!)

So, Sundays have been pony triathlons of a sort. I get the barn early, and do a 30-45 minute dressage school on Guinness in the indoor. I try not to make this ride super strenuous, but we don't laze out either. It's certainly work for both of us.
I've got those Dressage Skillz ... 
After dressaging time, I throw Guinness in a stall with his blanket on and a manger full of alfalfa to keep him busy.
Pig: "Om, nom nom nom. Alfalfa!"
Dogs: "Run? Cat?! OMG!!"
A quick change of clothes has me ready for my own workout, and I take my dogs out on a 3-4 mile run around the country roads. Brrrr!
We solemnly swear we are up to no good ... 
Finally back at the barn, I throw my riding clothes back on (often on top of my running clothes ... LAYER UP!). Guinness gets tacked back up, and the whole menagerie goes for a 4+ mile walking hack around the area. We try to hit lots of hills, stay off the ice (hahahaha, is this possible?!), and keep a nice pushing walk going. This is usually an hour or so of extra exercise, and I think the whole crew appreciates the slow pace and change of scenery.
Sigh. Yesssss ... 
It's a nice (though exhausting!) way to end a weekend. Plus, I get to lounge around the house all evening with zero guilt about my laziness. Success!

Friday, January 10, 2014

January Goals

... yeah, I'm giving this another try. You wanna fight about it?

While riding this month, I will ...

  1. Keep up with my Day One riding journals.
  2. Bring GP back to pre-break fitness with a LOT of long slow miles.
  3. Improve my transitions from bent to straight and back again.
  4. Practice getting a soft, forward halt until I go blue in the face.
  5. Add flexion to my shoulder-in without wiggling off the rail.
Five goals seems like a lot, but they are all pretty simple "back to basics" goals that should be easily conquered this month. 
More of this ... 

Personally, this month I will ...
  1. Blog weekly. (oh dear ...)
  2. Bring myself back into shape with lots of long, slow miles. 
  3. Increase my strength training to twice a week.
  4. Practice coding  more difficult bits of script. 
  5. Finish the web designs I've been fiddling with.
Oh January, why do you already seem so short?

An Ode to the Memory of Equines

Last night, Guinness and I officially went back to work after and unprecedented 19 days off. We won't even mention the two weeks of semi-break we were on prior to the start of holiday vacation. The ride wasn't demanding, or long (only 30 minutes, that's barely a ride for us!); however, it went well. Plus, I experienced a miracle.

My horse remembers everything.

I'm completely floored. I've never taken a break this extended while in serious training, and wasn't really sure what to expect from my horse. His eagerness and cheerfully responsive manner really impressed me yesterday. You couldn't tell that 19 days had passed since our last lesson. He was light in my hand, forward to my leg, and very willing to pick up right where we left off on the shoulder-in and turn on the haunches.

Color me impressed, and eager to get back to it full time!

Happy horse is cheerful!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Snowmaggedon 2014

I certainly have not kicked off this new year by jumping into a flurry of activity. After a long holiday break full of driving (somewhere upwards of 1,735 miles total), I settled back in at home only to be hit by a snowstorm the first night back. Then just a few days later, the dreaded "Polar Vortex" descended upon my little town. Only today are folks really starting to dig out of the snowtastrophe that has covered everything, and plunged temperatures down to a low of -15F. All three local colleges have been closed for the past two days (Hurray for adult snow days!), but unfortunately the days off have not been able to be terribly productive as the roads remained nearly impassible and the temperatures frigid.
Of course the Siberians would be the only dogs at the dog park as the snow started really falling.
Needless to say, Guinness remains on an extended break. I did get out to ride him once before Snowpocalypse 2014 attempted to freeze out all life in my town, but it was a light ride. He's feeling good, and remembers his training. However, he felt stiff from the cold and lack of regular work, and I felt completely out of sync and out of shape.
How I found the horses the day before the storm. Yes, the barn dog loves to sleep in the straw with them.
No gym for me, sadly. It seems these roads and dangerous windchills have conspired to keep me out of shape for the time being!
My feeling is not surprising, as my New Year's trip (four lovely days in a rental home with many close friends (including Jen from Cobjockey!) resulted in 13 people eating 4 quarts of heavy cream, 6 lbs of butter, and an untold amount of chips, queso, popcorn and other sundry goods and absolutely no exercise. The food was truly gourmet quality, but I am feeling incredibly fluffy and sadly weak. Something must be done.

Unfortunately, the gyms have remained closed due to weather. My only recourse is working out in my home (bletch) or going for long walks with the dogs. I've chosen the later, despite the frigid temperatures. Yesterday I braved a high of -10, and walked the dogs three miles through the city. Though the snow is nearly knee high in places, it was really a pleasant walk. I realized halfway through that I am much too efficient when it comes to dressing for winter, as I had managed to layer up to the point of sweating. Even my fingers were hot. The dogs, being Siberians were complete happy nut jobs, running through huge snow drifts and generally acting like crazies. Much fun was had by all.
Apparently, it was cold...
From my outpost in snow-buried Indiana, I wish you all warm fingers, dry toes, snuggly ponies, and safe roads. It's back to the real world tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed the road to the barn is more passable than I hear it is now. I miss my Guinea Pig.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

End of Year Goal Review

It's that time again, year end goals! 

2013 Goals:

Keep Guinness sound and happy. Keep his feet rock-crunching and his arthritis as minimal as possible:
Success! Other than some unfortunate and unavoidable injuries, Guinness stayed sound and happy all year. In fact, this year was one of the best as far as his arthritis goes. He never demonstrated a need for injections, and really only exhibited stiffness a couple of times as the season changed. Whoo! His feet stayed remarkably bruise-free all year, and were easier than ever to maintain.

Achieve Bronze Medal scores at First. (Try to do it by spending a minimal amount at Recognized shows) For those unfamiliar, the USDF Bronze Medal scores must be achieved thusly: 2 scores at 60% or above in 2 separate rides by two separate judges. To complete a Bronze you must have scores at 1st, 2nd and 3rd:
Alllllllmost! While I did achieve two tests above 60% at a recognized show, they were unfortunately both under the same judge. Our attempt under a different judge was a stressed out mess, and we missed 60% narrowly. I decided not to make another attempt and work on schooling. 

Keep up with regular lessons (one monthly). Continue to become a more effective and sympathetic rider. 
Absolute yes! While I didn't have a lesson every month, I did manage a lesson most months. Plus, my riding is almost unrecognizable from the first part of the year to the last. I'm so happy with where Guinness and I are heading, and I know that we'll make it to Second. That's such an accomplishment!

Maintain regular blogging, attempting for once a week (3 times a month, minimal). 
Haha. I almost made this! October was such a rough and busy month for me, I let blogging get away from me. Luckily, I did manage to keep up for the rest of the year!

2014 Goals

  • Keep Guinness sound and happy, keeping his feet and arthritis managed well.
  • Finish my 1st Level scores for my Bronze Medal.
  • Successfully show Second Level, with an average above 62% in both schooling and recognized shows.
  • [Stretch] Get my Bronze Medal scores at Second Level
  • [Stretch] Show at the Kentucky Horse Park
Whew. It feels good to have those out there. Now, to go ride my horse before this massive blizzard rolls through!

Friday, January 3, 2014

2013 Wrap Up, Part 2

When I left off yesterday, we had just finished up June and I was slogging through First Level boot camp ...

That is one excited husky!

I try to set monthly goals on the blog (though, I end up not keeping up with them. Whoops!), and talk a little bit about the strained hip flexor I had been fighting all summer. In response to a fellow blogger's horse relationship, I talk candidly about how difficult relationships can be between riders and horses, mentioning how easy it can be to get too emotionally involved in training. At the same time, I have a lesson with Nancy where she confirms that my time in dressage boot camp is paying off. We finally start leaving the basics of contact behind and work on refinement.

Of course, all the good work seems to go to my head, and I put in some mediocre schooling rides in preparation for a schooling show. Finally, we head off to the first show post dressage boot camp. Despite some minor issues (breaking a billet strap, a huge downpour and thunderstorm, and forgetting my spurs), we manage to get some qualifying scores for IDS and have decent tests. I still see a lot to worry about for our upcoming recognized show, but I feel much more confident. I wrap up the month talking about how dressage riders use their core muscles, and figuring out a way to strengthen mine in the right ways.

Continuing my focus on dressage equitation, I talk about my strangely inflexible elbows again. Then, I tell you all a little bit about Guinness' weird bare feet and how I keep him sound on them. After emptying my bank account to enter my August show, I write about recognized horse shows and why I chose to do them this year. Nancy comes out to the barn, and we start to move our focus past First Level and gaze towards Second. First, though, I manage to fall off of him for the first time in years when he spooks in the field. After my lesson I end up taking a surprise trip across the country for a family funeral, so I write about the Thoroughbred horse in dressage. They are quirky creatures.

My return from Washington comes just before my first show, and I stress that I'm not ready. However, it's too late to do anything and we head off to the horse park. Luckily, the first day of competition turns out wonderfully. I manage to slip into that beautiful state of active awareness and we score respectably in both classes. Of course, the second day doesn't work out so well, but I'm still overjoyed the whole experience.

After a successful show weekend, I decide to give Pig a little bit of a break. I decide to take the rest of the year to finesse First Level and start working toward Second. As September passes, I start to wear Guinness out on collection. He starts throwing mini fits whenever I ask for engagement. Finally, we have a come-to-Jesus ride where I tell him he's going to have to work, then we take some time off.

I trained hard, but with work in full swing didn't find a lot of time to write about it. We do get nominated for another award, and I write about it in November.

It's clipping time for Guinness, and I take a stab at my first ever clipping design. The attempt is alright, though I mess up a little on the curves of the shape. I also talk about how I go about preparing for a clip job. I also drug Guinness for the first time to clip. As I really start working hard on Second Level, I try to eradicate my chair seat and move more forward with my horse. Just in time too, as Nancy really nails this point in my lesson. Along with my seat, Nancy and I work on finessing contact even more. She focuses on getting me not to pull, and I pass on her teaching.
As the weather starts to change, we go for long hacks and gallops in the harvested fields. I also talk a little bit about maintaining sanity, soundness, and health in the winter months. Dark evenings get me started working on new training bits of Second Level, like the rein back. Guinness gets stressed about backing, and I talk about my methods of training it. Finally, I talk about my instructor's suggestion to get bigger thigh blocks for my saddle to help me open my hips and keep my legs back. I find it interesting that saddle fit can actually have so much effect on the rider.

I start the month discussing the progress on training Guinness to reverse. The going is slow, but he's not stressed. His gaits are full of spring, and he's really seeming to thrive under the harder demands of Second Level. I'm really excited about this. But, of course, winter has to rear it's head and keep me from the barn (this is getting typical at this point!). So, I entertain you all with photos of my snow-dogs.
As December wraps up, I put in writing my thoughts on the shoulder-in. I realized it was the foundation movement for Second Level, and was really starting to get it. I start by talking about the shoulder-fore, and get around to the actual shoulder-in.

Whew! That was a long year!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013 Wrap Up, Part 1

The last year was full of little injuries and letdowns, but also included a ton of learning, improving, and showing. I am really excited to do a full year wrap up and see just how far we came in 2013! 

I watch the George Morris Horsemanship clinic and pick up some masterful tips on developing contact with a fussy horse, and I marvel at Guinness’ weight and developing dressage muscling. During some research, I learn that Pig’s mama was once owned by the Queen of England. Finally, Hannah and I play in the newly thawed outdoor arena and take fancy photos.
"Look at me. I'm fancy."
Guinness bashes his leg the day after a Nancy lesson, and I manages to ding himself hard enough for a second bone bruise. Due to the application of some inferior wound care, Pig’s leg injury develops a small amount of proud flesh. To help others avoid this issue, I write a long article on equine woundcare. After Pig is back up to work, I change his hack bit to a Pelham for winter gallops, as Pig seems to be under the illusion he might be in race-training again. Our training picks back up with a review of the USDF training manual and the haunches in.

Winter never ends, Pig doesn't mind.
Guinness and I start work on the counter canter, and things are disastrous. With a lot of patience, I feel like we are making progress, but I vow to ask Nancy about it at our upcoming lesson. Nancy teaches me the weight aids for the counter canter, and Pig and I start to really understand the movement.

Getting an ultrasound ... 
Guinness comes up lame, and palpates positively on thetendons below his right knee. I freak out and immediately assume he’s ripped a tendon. I make an appointment to drive him up to the big vet clinic for an ultrasound. In the meantime, I organize the first clinic for Nancy at my boarding barn. It’s a rousing success, and we make plans to have her come out monthly. This ends up saving me a ton of money over the year. Guinness and I make it upto Purdue and find out that he has a clean set of legs. The vet decides he probably pulled a muscle in that winter’s heavy and deep mud and will just need  a little time off. I commence a happy dance and tell everyone to go to Purdue for veterinarian needs. As the month closes, I watch the Rolex 3-Day Event dressage, and get inspired.

Gross May schooling show. Grr.
Finally my horse is sound, and I spell out our showing goals and season plans for the year.  We have a lesson with Nancy where she rips apart my shoddy contact. One bright point is her praise on the counter canter, which she says doesn't need any more work. Great news, as we leave for a schooling show at 1st level the next week. The show doesn't go as planned, and I take a pretty thorough beating to my confidence. I decide to buckle down and get better at contact before doing any more showing, and fit him in a new drop noseband. Pig immediately becomes more forgiving to my hands, and we start on our journey. I volunteer at the big spring dressage show, and get to eat lunch and fraternize with Hilda Gurney and Lilo Fore. When I get back, I urge everyone to get outand work a dressage show.

Safe things. We do them.
I wonder if my German heritage taught me too much chicken dance to be good at dressage. Volunteering at IEA wears me out, but I do pick up a better fitting bridle for Pig. Meanwhile in the barn, I start sitting the trot to improve mycommunication with Pig and finally banish the hunter hunch. Towards the end of the month, I win an award and make really safe choices. Guinness and I are having more productive rides, but some of them are still peppered with hilarious meltdowns. I catch one on video