Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Medal Up! PVDA Spring, Day 1

All thoroughbred. All awesome.
The Saturday of PVDA Spring was a reminder of how difficult being a competitive adult amateur can be. I woke early, not to get to the show grounds, but to pick up nine cardboard containers of Dunkin' Donuts coffee for a work event... yeah, I had to work an event the same day as my show.
That's a lotta coffee! Also pictured: A lotta rain...
Thankfully the show manager had been able to work with my schedule, and place my single 3-1 ride at the end of the day. Also thankfully, I survived my work speech and made it out of the meeting just in time. I pulled into Morven with just enough time to change, braid, and tack up. Though, the show volunteers did get a bit of a laugh when I stopped to check in while wearing office-wear...
White breeches ≠ white skirt
Once I was changed and Pig braided, we went for a quick jog around the section of cross country by the barns... in-hand... as has become our usual warm up. I've found the in-hand jog to be be very helpful in loosening Pig out of his stall stiffness, without putting any pressure on him. This is also a great way for me to get my brain focused on the job ahead.
Relaxation, thy name is jogging.
Unfortunately, the rain from earlier hadn't quit. As anyone who watched the Preakness (only an hour and a half from the show facility) would know, it was a horribly sloppy day out there.
The Preakness and my dressage show were battling the same awful weather.
Screencap via YouTube
I was thankful, as I tacked up, that Pig is good in adverse weather conditions. I may have joked with my fellow competitors that I seem to be very good at bringing terrible weather with me to Morven. Last time it was sideways snow, this time sideways rain. Some people asked what my next scheduled show was, in order to avoid whatever awful precipitation I would bring with me! That said, Saturday's rain ended up being the lightest of the whole weekend.

Of course, whether it was raining or not was besides the point. As I mentioned the other day, the footing was already a completely sloppy mess. The base was stable, but there were inches of rain in spots, making all horses nervous. While good in adverse conditions, Pig isn't great in overly sloppy footing. His sensitive thoroughbred skin takes offense to splashes of mud and grit, which leads to some wild leaping and bouncier steps.
"Dis footing be gross" -- Pig
In the warm up, I focused getting Pig forward despite the muck. I also tried to establish enough relaxation to keep his rhythm clear enough. We've been struggling with canter rhythm at home. Though I've managed to get it cleaned up pretty well, with the slop the rhythm was totally off. Pig was catching legs in the muck and breaking behind (not normal), or breaking his three beats into four (our normal issue).

The ring was running ahead, so when I felt I had him fairly relaxed, in rhythm, and on my aids, we headed in. Watching the test now, I feel that an additional 10 minutes of warm up could have made for a better test. Still, I made the best decision I felt I could.
Back still a little tight, but trotting through the puddles with minimal drama.

The test came back scored almost entirely with 6s, and that's about how I felt about it too...
The first centerline was a little wiggly. Guinness had been a little uncertain about the judge, and a little backed off the contact. That made a good centerline really tough to ride. That wiggly-ness would pervade the rest of the ride.

I felt the left shoulder in was better than the right, as Pig was more on my aids. To the right he wanted to fall out with his shoulder, and so I had to really ride the snot out of him to keep him near the rail. Both half passes were just okay. The half passes in 3-1 are incredibly shallow. That makes them really tough for me to ride. With a horse that struggles with half pass, I bet they are great. For us, I have to keep riding straight to make the whole length. It's harder for me to keep Pig engaged in the movement. He wants to step under too much at my aid and rocket us to to the wall. I can't get too much collection here, for accuracy sake. That lead to comments about crossing and bend being unclear, which I completely agree with.
I thought our medium trot was better than it has been, though the transition felt a little stiff to me. Pig was too backed off the bridle and weirded out by the footing maintain his roundness into the downward.
The judge liked our medium walk more than anything else (the only 7) in the test, though I would have called it a bit tense. I thought our turns on the haunches were fairly submissive, but needed a bit more sit. They were wider than normal, but still good enough for 6s. The second TOH was a bit stickier than the first.
Open up them shoulders, Pig.
The free walk felt fantastic, but for a few tense steps in the middle when I tried to ask for even more overstep. That slight jig knocked down our score to a 6.5, dammit. Still, hard to be upset with a walk nice enough to feel the back sway.
An extended walk to make Marilyn Monroe jealous. #datass #muchswing #mygooglesearchanalytics
I flubbed the right lead canter depart, and we ended up with a sloppy transition through the trot. The footing made my mistake stand out even more. That tension followed us through the puddles along the side of the ring, making the medium canter hilariously dramatic in the hind end. Pig's tension also caused me to lose hold on the tempo. Our canter was a bit four-beat in places, and the transitions were a bit awkward because of that tension too.
"Mom has me convinced there are alligators in these puddles!"
The other direction, we lost our footing by C and had a few steps of trot behind. The extended canter was even more "bouncy" than the medium, though it felt a little more through. Plus, the downward transition was a little more prompt. Again, I lost the canter behind for a step on the 10m circle. I don't really know there was anything else I could have done to maintain it, though. I was dancing a pretty narrow line between submission and complete mental throw down, due to the footing. I tried to just be supportive, without putting on too much pressure.

Though I expected lower scores due to the tempo issues, the canter work was solid 6s, except for the changes. Both changes were a fraction late behind for a 5.
Lolz. Late changes.
I was happy with the first change. Though late, it was quiet and on the aid.
Actually pretty quiet and obedient here...
The second change was quite a bit more stilted, with Pig nearly coming to a stop before launching into the last bit of it.
We pulled our lives together to do the final extended trot which must have looked better than the initial medium trot, as it got the same score. I thought it felt a little more connected, though the downward was a bit tough to get. I seemed to have forgotten to sit on my horse for the transition, turns out that's an important part of the downward aid.
Are we starting to really get the extended trot?!
Our last centerline felt straighter, but I couldn't hold Pig's attention in the halt. What started fairly square fell apart as he lost his balance and craned his head to stare off towards the road. That was frustrating, but overall not a huge concern for me. We are capable of good halts, but they are not somewhere to put pressure on.

I was quite pleased with the collective scores, especially the 7s for gaits and rider position. I agreed with the judge that Pig and I weren't communicating the best in this test. He wasn't confident in the footing, so I wasn't sitting the best. Plus he was backed off the contact. I don't think the footing was allowing him to be forward enough for the double to be useful. I really never felt that I needed to use the curb. If I'd had another test on Saturday, I'd have tried the snaffle to see if we had better results.

Jan assured me that the test didn't look as bad as it felt, and she was sure we had gotten our last needed 60% for my bronze medal. Turns out, Jan is a pretty good score predictor. We ended up scoring a 60.455%, which did finish out my bronze medal! As everyone else in our class scratched, we ended up with a lovely blue ribbon and our pick of the prizes. Our score was right along those in the 3-1 Open class, so I didn't feel the "win" was completely undeserved. Plus, the satin and prizes felt like a good celebration for finishing up my Bronze.
True story. I chose this plate over the others because I was pretty damn sure it would hold the most cheese. #priorities
As I'd decided prior, I asked the office about switching one of my 3rd level rides to 2nd on Sunday. After reviewing the tests, I decided 2-2 or 2-1 would be the best options, as those tests had the least opportunities for us to have counter canter failure. Unfortunately, 2-2 was full, but a scratch in 2-1 left me a slot to try to finish up my Rider Performance Award at second level on Sunday.

I bedded in Pig for the night and shared a glass of celebratory wine., Then, I headed home, happy in the knowledge that I had accomplished my intended goals against the odds on a long stressful day. Does anything help you sleep better?

Day 2 adventures coming tomorrow!

Friday, May 27, 2016

5 Years, 2 Bad Joints, 1 Long Journey

I've been working on a post about our show last weekend for awhile. As per usual, all of the life I put on hold to prepare for the show has come crashing down on me in the week after. I promise I'll have the write up soon, and it's a seriously great one, so check back soon. In the meantime, I want to reflect for a minute.

This morning Facebook reminded me that 5 years ago today I was crying uncontrollably in my car, holding a set of horrible fetlock x-rays.
Guinness' Right Front Fetlock.
May 2011
My vet had described what we had found as "significantly advanced degenerative joint disease of the fetlock," on top of other scarred tissues, possible bone chips, and other old injuries.

I was devastated.
Guinness' Left front fetlock.
May 2011
It was clear that Pig would never jump again. Our eventing career was over before it ever truly began. We weren't sure how sound he would be for flatwork. The vet cautioned me with a phrase that has echoed through my head ever since...
Guinness' right front fetlock.
May 2011
"This horse will do anything for you. It's obvious how much he enjoys working for you. Keep riding him. Don't let him sit. If he wants to do it for you, let him. He'll tell you what he can and can't do. It's your job to make sure he keeps moving, so he doesn't lose what little mobility he has left."

At the time, I didn't know what that would mean. I assumed that Pig's career (as little as existed) was completely over. I knew I couldn't afford a new horse, and he couldn't be rehomed until I knew how to manage him. Sobbing in my car five years ago, I made the decision to stick with him until we could figure out whether he was really done.
Puffy fetlocks and bare feet.
June 2011
Knowing the damage was already mostly done, we decided to treat him for pain only. A round of hyaluronan and corticosteroids was administered almost immediately. I started experimenting with feed through supplements containing USDF illegal herbal anti-inflammatory. Words like MSM, boswellia, and devil's claw entered my daily lexicon.
I dove into arthritis treatment research headlong, and after a while began to mine my husband's med school studies for more information on effective treatments. Still, we were on a budget. I couldn't afford to inject all the time. Adequan was out of my budget. Pig's history of ulcers meant I didn't administer bute unless he was exhibiting extreme pain, which was rare.
The most ghetto of borrowed boots on the thinnest skinned of horses.
March 2011
We kept off his shoes to keep weight stress off the fetlocks. We walked, a lot, and mostly in-hand to start. Then we walked on the roads. After a few months we moved states, and Pig moved to a lush 24/7 turnout. Things started looking up.
The vet had mentioned fetlocks sometimes fuse. He'd said it with a note of warning, though. "Sometimes fetlocks fuse in a bad way, and the horse can't move fluidly. Sometimes the fusing is painful, or not solid. Sometimes they don't fuse at all. But, fusing is your best chance of having a rideable horse someday."

After awhile, I noticed Pig's soreness was decreasing in the summers and winters. His hitchy warm-ups were starting to decrease in length, and he was playing more in the pasture.
He's always been soundest in the summers.
We started playing more seriously with training, going to shows and starting to lesson with an awesome "local" trainer. I told my new trainer that I wanted to get my Bronze Medal on this horse, if I could.

If he would last that long.
Training Level, June 2012
With my trainer, the focus was always on me not Pig. Anything I asked correctly, he was willing to do. He wasn't fancy, but we were more concerned with correct basics. I started to forget about his arthritis most days. By 2013, I had stopped his supplements and his injections. He simply didn't need them.
January 2013
Other injuries started taking precedence. When Pig would feel off, my mind started to flit to other possibilities first (abscess? bone bruise? muscle strain? riding crooked?). We had developed a feel for the arthritis, and the warm ups required to smooth things out.

We debuted at a USDF show, at first level. With no drugs in our system, and no recent injections, we trotted down the centerline. We weren't great, but it wasn't because of painful fetlocks.
It was mostly because of tension... oops.
Photo by Jen
The winter of 2013 we moved up to second level, and the work got harder. Pig didn't complain. His legs were tighter than ever. I had gotten so used to Pig's soundness, that I was taken by surprise in the spring when his fetlocks would flare up a bit. But, a few days of bute was all that was needed to get him through the tough week. We never had to go back to injections or supplements for the fetlocks. We showed, sometimes successfully too.
Second level at Heartland Schooling Show.
April 2014
Photo by Jen
We also just enjoyed relaxing. We went on madcap galloping adventures with friends.
Rustbucket and Ol' Ironsides, best friends in galloping.
January 2013
And went hacking out "alone"...
"There's a wolf in your field..."
Nov 2013
We've won fancy ribbons...
Fourth place in our GMO for Training Level!
January 2013
And miraculously survived horrifying accidents...
December 2014
And learned to do dressage changes...
May 2015
We've won ribbons at third level, though we didn't get our scores...
May 2015
We've moved across the country...
Hello Maryland!
June 2015
And moved into a palace...
January 2016
Photo by Liz
And trained with different trainers...
August 2015
This horse is amazing. He's never once said "stop". He's never told me that he is done. He's never asked to quit. I think back to what our diagnosing vet told me, and I am amazed further at the heart of this horse.
"He'll tell you what he can and can't do."
January 2016
Photo by Liz
So now I am torn. This horse has done all I have asked of him, but his aging and abused body isn't keeping up with his will and his heart. How much can I continue to ask him going forward? At the same time, is retirement really fair to him? Is it a death sentence to take regular work away from this creature, when it has saved his life thus far? Can I expect someone else to understand his limitations, forge a bond with him, and keep him moving at a level he is comfortable with? Can I let him go?
Is this comfortable?
Photo by picsofyou.com
I don't know the answers to those questions... yet. But I do know that this horse is my inspiration. He is an embodiment of the heart of the horse and determination of his breed. I am so lucky to have him in my life, and share in his joy in living and doing.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Mo' Rain, Mo' Problems: PVDA Spring Preview

Last weekend the wonderful Jan (and Penn) stopped by to pick up Pig and I for epic adventures at Morven Park!
Aren't these two the cutest? Seriously!
Unfortunately, the lovely weather of Friday ended up giving way to more rain. Horrible, soaking, driving rain, in fact.
I even bought this raincoat in hopes that the rain would stop. No dice. Coat is awesome, though.
Lucky for me, Pig is a field boarded horse. He's 100% okay with being rained on. He doesn't toss his head or get upset about precipitation.
Pasture boarded horse gives zero shits about your "heavy rain".
However, he does not enjoy slogging through wet and slippery footing, especially when he can't see where his feet are going.
Thin skinned thoroughbred gives a lot of shits about your #squicky footing.
I knew we were in for a world of problems in the warm up on Saturday, when I asked for a canter and instead received knees above eyeballs and hocks somewhere around croup height.
"Ew, ew, ew" - Pig
Of course, a little rain wasn't going to stop us. We manned up and pushed through the gross to ride all our tests, despite some theatrics...
Thankfully, we weren't the only ones doing the rain dance of the equine people out there...

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Fluffy Dutch Style Dressage Braids: The Long Awaited Braiding Tutorial

Scalloped neck perfection
For as long as I have been putting big fluffy dutch braids into Guinness' mane, people have been begging me to show them how I do it. I've shown a few people how to braid in person, Jen and my Indiana trainer included.
Two examples of distinctly "not thoroughbreds" sporting floofy braids!
(Photos via Facebook) 
I've been hoping to share the process on the blog for awhile, but lacking a good instructional video. Thanks to Emma, this lack is no more! Scroll on down to the bottom if all you want is the video. If you're looking for more in depth instructions, keep reading. I'm going to really break down this process. If all you care about is cutting out the braids, scroll down to the bottom or click here.

(Note: It's Braiding Week here in the blogging world. Jan just put together another great braiding tutorial focusing on a more structured version of button braids, as well as dealing with long manes. If you can't handle not pulling your mane, Jan's might be the style for you. If you're more about being lazy and covering up mistakes, mine may be the version for you!)

How To: Dutch (Scallop) Dressage Braids

Things You'll Need:
  1. Cheap yarn, cut into lengths around 3 feet long*. Preferably this yarn should match your horse's mane color. I suggest checking out Walmart or another box store. If you don't have a matching color, this isn't the biggest deal in the world. I braided that bay horse pictured above with bright chestnut yarn, and it didn't even show in the professional photos.
    Note: Yarn is much better than waxed thread for this type of braid. It has a looser hold. Waxed thread will pull too tight in places and may look strange. However, it will still work if it is all you have.
    *When in doubt, more yarn is always better than less. It's cheap; cut lengths liberally.
  2. Sharp Scissors. A smallish pair of pointed scissors will work best, but you can use anything sharp enough to cut through hair and yarn easily. You don't want to be sawing away at yarn while your horse gets impatient with you. Trust me.
  3. Large Blunt Knitting Type Needle. Something like this would be perfect. If you have a basic braiding kit, there's probably a large needle in there. The key is to make sure you can get your yarn ends through the eye. Another key is not dropping this into a pile of hay. That saying about needles and haystacks is not just a colloquialism.
  4. A Basic Pulling Comb. This is not just to comb out the mane, but to uniformly measure the wads of hair you are braiding. Don't worry. We aren't using it for actually pulling the mane.
  5. A Sturdy Seam Ripper. Something like this is good. The one in your cheap braiding kit is not going to be great. It will break, and you will contemplate just roaching your horse's mane when it does. Don't be left without a good seam ripper. They're $4. Just man up and buy it.
Optional (but very useful) items:
  1. Hair Clips. These help hold the unruly bits of free mane out of your way. Since we start these braids in a loose fashion, clips are very, very helpful.
  2. Quickbraid/hairspray mixture/water. Wetting your braids is going to help them stick together at the start. Again, these braids start off very loose, so this is pretty key to getting a nice look.
Step 1: Mane Prep
Dutch braids are perfect for those of you who abhor mane pulling. It's also perfect if your horse grows an absurdly thick mane that you simply cannot pull enough. I highly suggest you DO NOT PULL THE MANE. I do not pull Guinness' mane at all. He grows a rather thick mane (especially for a thoroughbred). I simply shred the ends with a bot knife to keep them fairly even. You could cut bluntly with scissors, if you're into that.

If your horse is part friesian/clydesdale/fabio, you may find you need to pull some mane just to keep your sanity. That's fine. I would not suggest starting this process with a thin mane, however. That makes the braids rather sickly and difficult to stand up.
Prep? In a word. Don't.
Length is important, and varies depending on the thickness of the mane. With an averagely thick mane, I try to keep the length at around 5-6 inches long. That is just about equal to the length of my hand from fingertip to edge of palm. Beware. I do have absurdly small hands.

In the photo above, Pig's mane is slightly long. That's okay. There is some wiggle room here. If your mane is very thick, you can get away with a shorter mane length. If your mane has been pulled within an inch of your horse's life (or you own a half balding thing, poor dear), you will need a very long mane to have enough hair to pull this off.

Volume is key here.

Step 2: Separating the Hair
Comb out the mane thoroughly, then use the pulling comb to separate a section of hair approximately 2.5-3.5 inches wide. All manes vary in thickness as you go along (unless you pull them even, in which case you are a more patient person than me, and did not follow Step 1). I have found it is better to pull a wider section when the mane is thinner, and a thinner section when the mane is thicker. This keeps the buttons fairly even. 
Here's an example of an average width of mane I use for a single braid. Note how the sections are parted on an angle.
I do not suggest parting the sections straight across, as this create awkward spacing between the braids. If you can, try to part the mane on a bit of a diagonal. This makes the scallops look more nested together. (See top photo for example)

Once you have your section of hair, wet it thoroughly with Quickbraid, and separate it into three even chunks. 
Three even chunks, ready for braiding. Now you just have to turn them up.
Pro-tip: When you get to the thinner and shorter section near the wither, take a very wide section of mane. This will shorten your overall braid, but will allow you to have a larger button. You may have to plan for this as you braid down the neck. 

Step 3: Braiding Up
Take your separated chunks, and gently pull them up so they are coming straight away from the neck. Braid two or three rotations straight up away from the neck, keeping the braids fairly loose. 
Loose braids straight away from the neck is how you get real volume in your braid.
You do not want to crank on this part of the braid. The braid staying loose here accomplishes three things. 
  1. It allows the mane to stand up and create a fluffy scallop. 
  2. It allows the braids the ability to flex with the neck without pulling out. This makes the rather delicate braid last longer. Mine have stayed in for the entirety of a two day show, and been just as lovely on the second day. Some wear actually makes them fluffier. 
  3. It makes the horse fairly comfortable, without his mane being cranked into a tight holding braid along his topline. This also makes the braid last longer, as your horse is less likely to try to rub them out.
Step 4. Braiding Down
This is self explanatory, I think.
Once you have 2-3 rotations of loose braids pointing straight up, you're going to turn the braid so that you are braiding down. You'll do one (or two, depending on how long a section you have left) rotations facing down. At this point, you will start to pull the hair very tight. You don't want this portion of the hair to slip.

Step 5: Adding in Yarn
When you have at least one rotation of tight braiding done facing down, you are ready to braid in your yarn. You want to braid in the yarn when the outside (left) strand is ready to cross over the middle strand, this allows you to lock in your yarn instantly.

It's important to braid your yarn in while you still have a few solid rotations of braiding left.
Your braid should look like this. Note how the left strand is just ready to cross over the middle one?
 Now, grab your yarn in the middle of the strand. Add one side of the yarn into the middle strand, and one side into the right side of the strand. The middle of the strand should be tight between the two.
Like so.
Continue to tightly braid the section, starting by crossing the left side over the middle section. This locks the yarn in place, allowing you to pull tight any slack when you cross over the right side. This is the biggest key.

Step 6: Tying Off the Braid
Continue braiding the section until you can no longer braid it all together. The yarn will help you braid a little longer, but if you have bluntly cut your mane you will quickly reach a point where there is a thick tail you cannot braid.
Sometimes the tail piece is quite long. That's okay.
Because of the nature of these braids, it's alright if your tail piece is kind of long. Unlike with more tightly wound braids, you can hide this.

To tie off the end, you will want to separate the yarn from the hair. Do this by firmly grasping the end of the braided section with one hand, and the yarn with the other. Now, firmly pull the yarn away from the strand of hair.
Yarn and braid separated.
Cross the yarn over the strand.
Cross over like so...
Create a loop with the crossed over section on one side of the braid.
Now, pull the tail of the yarn underneath the braid and through the loop to create a basic knot. 
Be careful not to drop the tail of the braid before the knot is tight.
You will want to make sure you have the thick tail of the braid inside the knot as you pull the knot very tight.
The knot must be very tight to hold the ends together! If you don't start it soon enough or tie it tight enough, the braid can fall apart.
This is the only truly tight knot you will tie in the braid, so make sure it is very secure.

Step 7: Threading Through
Now, you will need your knitting needle. Take the ends of the yarn and thread them through the eye of the needle.
It often helps to trim the ends even and wet the yarn.
Lift the braided section vertically away from the neck, exposing the underside of the braid, and find where the edge of the neck lies. Thread the needle through a section of the braid.
You want to thread just above the neck, and through a section of the braid to hold it securely.
Carefully pull the yarn taunt, being sure not to pull any of the tail of the braid through the back of the section. You want the excess tail to curl up on the inside of the braided loop you just created. If you do accidentally pull the tail through, you can typically pull it back out without too much damage and try again.
Note the tail curled up?
Now, remove the yarn from the needle and separate the strands, pulling one to the left of the braid and one to the right. Loosely tie a single knot with the strands beneath the loop you created.
Don't tie this too tight, or you'll constrict the amount of fluff room you have for the button.
Finally, rejoin your yarn and rethread the needle.

Step 8: Creating the button
This is the fun part. Take the braided loop you've just tied off, and simply roll it up into position. 
Roll. It. Up.
This is actually simpler than it seems. I suggest starting to roll the section from above the neck to achieve maximum fluff level. The key here is ensuring that you roll the loose knot under the braided loop into the button so it doesn't peek out.

With the threaded needle, simply stitch through the center of the button, pulling the yarn all the way through the back of the braid. Stitch back and forth at least twice to ensure a secure button. Try to keep the stitches away from the neck to preserve the looseness of the braid and keep your horse from wanting to kill you.
I usually try to do most of my stitches towards the underside of the button, but it won't hurt to stab right into the middle.
Pull these stitches fairly tight. Usually the more stitches you put in, the more stiffly the button stands up. End your stitches with the yarn pulling out of the front of the button.
This where your yarn should be when you're done stitching.
Step 9: Fixing Issues/Tying Off
Before you tie off your button, check it for any fly-aways or crookedness. You can fix a lot of these issues by simply pulling the button around and stitching it into place. Fly-aways can be held down with stitches, too. Once the button looks good and the yarn is pulled out of the front of the button, you're ready to tie off the whole thing.

Separate your yarn strands, and tie a simple knot up against the bottom of the braid. Then, just snip off the ends of the yarn as close as you can to the braid without snipping off the knot or the mane.
Be careful not to snip off your whole button. That would be an actual disaster.
If you have any fly-aways that didn't get corralled into the button (see above), you can simply snip them off. The beauty of this process is that snipping random pieces off won't affect your thick mane or your next braid job. It's very friendly for mistakes.

Viola! You are all done!
A lovely fluffy braided neck. And a pretty dappled pony!
Note: Braiding your horse in this way will not cause him to develop dapples. You're on your own there.
Now, you may be asking why these braids are great. Well, I love lists so...
  1. You only do 6-8 of them. Goodbye 10000 hunter braids.
  2. They come out in 3 snips of the seam ripper. Boom. More time for a celebratory beer.
  3. They make thinner necks appear thicker.
  4. They balance out a thicker neck.
  5. They look really, really cool.
  6. You can be supremely lazy with your mane care, and people still think you're a genius.
Putting in your Dutch Braids

Taking Out Your Dutch Braids

What do you think? Will you be trying this style at your next dressage show?