Help! ISO Stuffs

OK folks. We had a nice chat about indulging ourselves the other day, and I got SO MANY awesome suggestions for ways to ball on a budget- thank you!

I’m going to take this a step further and mobilize the collective ability of blogland to help me equip the Tank. You see, I’m a big fan of indulging (clearly). But I just bought a horse. And paid my trainer a commission for finding him and making all arrangements (worth every penny, but that’s quite a few pennies). And paid the vet for a full vetting complete with some x-rays. And paid the farrier. And bought a bunch of gear. And OHMYGODTHISISSCARYIHAVENOMONEY.

But despite my growing terror every time I look at my bank account, there are a couple things that I have for Frankie that I need to replace for various reasons. So I’m going to post my shopping list here and hope that one of you may be selling what I’m looking for, or know someone selling, or know of a coupon code, or know of a kindly billionaire looking for cash-strapped ammies to support.

Open front boots, size large

I grabbed the Horze open front boots for Frankie and HATE them. The overall quality is decent, but they do NOT fit him well at all. It’s not that they’re too big or small, they just don’t conform to his legs correctly and squeeze in weird places and gap in others. I’m looking for some Eskadrons or comparable- the Eskadrons I borrowed from a friend fit his legs well. I prefer black, but honestly I just want to get some decent protection on him.

Girth, size 50

I’m actually using one of Addy’s right now. The one I ordered is super not breathable and very meh. Looking for pretty much whatever- fleecey, leather, whatever, as long as it’s decent quality and the right size.

Side note: I know it seems weird that my 17hh warmbloodX has a size 50 girth, but my saddle has crazy long billet straps!

Saddle Pads, all of them

I have 3 saddle pads, and one of them has “Addy” embroidered on it. Clearly this is a situation I need to remedy, and fast. I’ve heard fantastic things about BobbiGee’s and am leaning that way, but would love any other opinions!

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Everything else is fine for now, but these are my semi-urgent needs. Please let me know if you have any of these items looking for a new home, or come across them on some corner of the internet!

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But you just sit there!

Fellow riders, we’ve ALL run into those people who tell us, “How hard can riding really be, you just sit there and the horse does all the work!”

And we’ve all struggled to control that fiery ball of rage in our chest and politely say, “there’s actually a lot more to it than that,” instead of bursting out like we want to and screeching, “LISTEN BUDDY YOU HAVE NO IDEA.”

So to help you out, feel free to print multiple copies of this guide to hand to anyone who just doesn’t get it.

backwards

All the Things Going Through My Mind All at the Same Time at Any Given Moment During My Ride

  • Heels down
  • Toes forward
  • Not like that, your ankle looks broken when you do it like that
  • Keep the inside of your calf in contact with his side
  • Well don’t just pop your knee off the saddle
  • But soften your knee
  • Push your knee down
  • Why are you struggling so much with your knee
  • Relax your seat
  • Shouldn’t you be engaging your seat more?
  • Sit deeper
  • Lighten your seat
  • Get up out of your saddle
  • Get in the back seat and DRIVE him forward
  • Flat back
  • Don’t arch it though
  • Shoulders down and back
  • Why is JUST your left shoulder hunched? That’s super weird
  • Keep your shoulders even
  • Like your shoulders are headlights and you want them pointing straight ahead to illuminate the road
  • But still look around your turn
  • Don’t look down at the jump, you’re not trying to go to the jump. You’re trying to go OVER the jump.
  • Seriously stop looking down. There’s nothing for you there.
  • LOOK THROUGH YOUR TURN
  • Relax your jaw, you’re getting a tension headache
  • More outside aids to help him around the turn
  • Keep your weight even in the saddle
  • Your hips are to the inside and your shoulders are to the outside. That is SO not even.
  • Close your fingers
  • Keep your thumbs on top, it looks like you’re playing the piano Mr. Bojangles
  • Get your hands up out of your lap
  • Get your hands below the level of your collarbone
  • Get your hands out of his mane
  • Go ahead and grab mane
  • Get your hands…I don’t know, just move them somewhere else because this clearly isn’t right
  • Soften your elbows
  • You look like you’re churning butter with your arms
  • Elastic contact on that outside rein
  • Play with that inside rein a little to get him to soften
  • DON’T JUST JIGGLE THE REINS THAT’S NOT WHAT I MEANT TO DO
  • Keep your leg at the girth
  • Except sometimes move it just behind the girth
  • But not right now, you fool
  • Use your inside leg to push him into that outside rein
  • NO STOP YOU’RE OVERBENDING STRAIGHTEN HIM OUT
  • OK now do all that but sit up straighter
  • Close your hip angle a little
  • NOT THAT MUCH YOU LOOK FETAL
  • Let him jump up to you
  • Your leg shouldn’t be that far back
  • Stop bracing your leg forward
  • Don’t pinch with your knee
  • What are you doing with your knee why are we on knees again
  • Don’t get left behind the motion
  • STOP JUMPING AHEAD OF THE MOTION
  • Elbows on top of the mane when you crest release
  • But maybe this time try an automatic release
  • Reach towards his mouth
  • Not that much, it looks like you’re making out with his mane
  • Hands too high
  • No, now they’re too low
  • Why is “towards his mouth” so hard to figure out?
  • You need to do soooooo many sit-ups so you don’t collapse on his neck when you land
  • Bend him around your inside leg through the turns
  • Except this turn, you should counter-bend through this turn
  • Gallop up to the base!
  • Hold a little to the base, why are you just running him at it?!
  • Remember your course of 13 jumps with crazy turns, if you go off course that’s $50 just to get disqualified
  • He gets slow away from the in-gate, and that line is on a bit of a hill, and Mercury is in retrograde, so make sure to consider that while on course
  • Slow down this isn’t a race!
  • Well I didn’t mean that you should trot every jump
  • I don’t care if you “don’t like flower boxes,” your job is to jump over flower boxes bucko
  • Count your strides in that line and so help me god if you leave one out
  • But that doesn’t mean you should add
  • Someday we’ll make the standard striding like A NORMAL HORSE YA DINGUS
  • Throw out “pretty” and get the job done
  • Don’t throw it out that much, you look heinous
  • Don’t be nervous, the worst that can happen is you fall and get terribly injured and your horse will never walk again!
  • Pass left shoulder to left shoulder
  • Unless you’re that girl apparently. She gets to pass however she wants. Apparently.
  • Be aware of all other horses in the warmup ring BUT KEEP YOUR FOCUS
  • Pleasedon’tspookpleasedon’tspookpleasedon’tspookDAMMIT
  • Don’t look so terrified, you do this for fun

What else would you add to this list?

In Defense of Treating Myself

There are two main schools of equestrians that I follow on Instagram: those with seemingly bottomless pockets who are always wearing the newest trends and have impeccable matching tack, and those who don’t give a rat’s ass about all that and pride themselves on riding well instead of relying on appearance.

I don’t think I have the necessary qualifications to join either group.

When it comes to the first group, I simply don’t have the funds to keep up. I don’t have a groom to hold my horse so my whites stay white, I can’t show at WEF for 12 weeks every winter, and I’ve never spent more than $100 on a bridle.

And when it comes to the second group, I care too much about my appearance. And not gonna lie, I don’t ride well enough to outshine any untidiness in my dress. Many people do. I am not one of them.

So I’m basically stuck in no-man’s land: vain enough to want all the pretty things, but unable to justify the expense when I have rent due at the end of the month.

I think we can all agree that buying expensive tack or riding clothes does NOT make you a better rider. Something about turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse and all that. And there are plenty of options that are budget-friendly, neat, coordinated, and are perfectly serviceable. So why do I keep lusting over the $200 pants, when a $70 pair of pants serve the purpose just as well?

We could delve into a deep analysis of my inner psyche and how society has conditioned us to seek approval and blah blah blah, but let’s not. It’s really simple: I don’t just ride because I love horses.

Of course, I love horses. That part is obvious. But there’s another reason that I love this sport so much. It’s the aesthetic. And I think this is what makes it hard for me to identify with the second group: they have a love for the sport that is based more purely on their love for riding, and that’s wonderful! I love it too! But my love for this sport has another facet, for better or for worse.

I LOVE the look. Matching leather, sleek show coats that coordinate perfectly with the horse you’re on, subtle monograms, having every hair in place. There’s a reason the equestrian look has been in style for literally centuries- it’s the perfect mix of elegant and functional, classy and sporty.

So to the person who says, “if you didn’t buy that show coat, you could show in an extra division” I say this:

You’re right. I could go for the budget-friendly options and then I’d be able to show more often and probably I’d become a better competitor and maybe even a better rider. There is no denying that.

But I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to be able to afford this sport. All willingly and eagerly made, but sacrifices nonetheless. My sense of style and delight in high-quality leather will not go on that list of sacrifices.

Someday maybe I’ll have the luxury of a budget that allows me to have it all. But in the meantime, I will continue to work my butt off to be the absolute best rider I can be and progress at home and at shows. I will sweat through everything I own, I will tromp through mud without hesitation, I will wipe horsey eye boogers on my jacket, I will rest muddy hooves on my pants.

You can bet your boots that I’m gonna feel gorgeous doing it.

What’s your favorite way to treat yourself?

Fancy Pony

Remember that part where I said that Frankie is a little lacking in polish on the flat?

I TAKE IT BACK. I TAKE IT ALL BACK.

Chapter 1: Seriously Olivia  that doesn’t count as fancy, that’s a pretty normal thing

Francis and I went for a trail ride with some buddies a few weekends ago, and it was just as fun as I anticipated. Frankie the Tankie was clearly having a blast getting to play outside, and it was cool to be on a horse that I could boot up to a gallop and then have him come right back with minimal pressure on his plain snaffle. I wasn’t really that surprised- one of his selling points in his ad was that he goes XC in a snaffle.

Here’s where the fancy comes in: Frankie has a SUPER active walk. Like, the vet commented when we were vetting him that he’s never seen a horse with so much movement in his walk. And he’s a tall guy. So when we’re all walking along on this trail ride, he naturally pulls ahead. And when we want to stand and wait for everyone to catch up, that’s no fun BECAUSE STANDING IS BORING I DON’T WANNA DO IT MAHHHHMMMM.

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Everything the light touches is Franklin’s.

Being the mean mom that I am, I made him stand quietly. Once he gave me a few moments of stillness, I decided to reward him by giving him a job that required some use of his brain while we waited for the rest of the crew. LATERAL WORK SEEMS FUN LET’S DO THAT.

And I think my horse has a future as a reiner. Turns on the haunches, on the forehand, leg yields, he was FEELING it. All based almost entirely on leg. So now he’s just armed me with the knowledge that he can totally give me tighter turns if I balance and ask properly. Muahahaha.

Summary of Chapter 1: my horse has way better lateral buttons installed than I realized.

Chapter 2: Seriously Olivia this is so ridiculously basic how are you just getting this now

The following Monday was spent on flatwork, and I had a mission in mind to figure out that whole “working on a contact” thing. You know, that thing that I definitely should have been figuring out looong before now. Go ahead and judge me, I promise you I’m judging myself more.

But better late than never! I entered the order of Inside Leg to Outside Rein and dedicated myself to feeling the contact and putting the puzzle pieces together. Here’s what I came up with: inside leg pushing into the outside hand + balancing and softening with the inside hand and maintaining straightness with the outside leg + relaxed and swinging seat + engaged but not tense core + relaxed jaw + a sacrifice to the moon goddess + Venus aligning with Pluto = uphill, round through the back, freely moving, on the contact Franklin.

Sound familiar to LITERALLY EVERYONE???

Clearly I figured this out and now we work perfectly on a contact and I do all of those things all the time. Obviously.

HAH.

What actually happened was that I got a much better feel for how to position myself to encourage that type of movement in Frankie, and we spent roughly 30 minutes at the walk while I practiced maintaining that feel. As an overcooked baked potato of a rider, I often lost that feel. But every so often it would click into place and I could feel the Tank soften right onto the bit, step under himself, and engage his back.

frankie_fancytrot
Addy’s mom rode him for me over the weekend while I was out of town, and got some GORGEOUS work from him.

It. Was. Magical. I have a whooooole new understanding of what makes you DQs tick. Don’t get me wrong, I would go totally nuts if I couldn’t hop colorful sticks regularly, but I have a newfound appreciation for the obsession with getting every little piece into place because HOLY GUACAMOLE my horse felt fancy.

In true Olivia fashion, I texted my friend after that ride saying the following: “And every so often he would just soften and round and it was like HOLY CRAP TEACH US TO PIAFFE BECAUSE WE ARE FANCY DRESSAGE RIDERS. Canter half-passes are up next.” That is a direct transcript, caps and all.

Summary of Chapter 2: my horse has crazy fantastic flat buttons when I figure out how to press them, and I learned how to walk properly some of the time, maybe.

Chapter 3: Seriously Olivia do you want a gold star just for doing what you’re supposed to do?

I mean, yes? I would love gold stars for everything.

Right now I’m going to talk about quality of the canter and how I’ve been struggling a bit to nail that sweet spot with Francis. He has a RIDICULOUSLY comfortable canter to sit to, but a big long stride, so it can be very deceptive. I’ll be bopping along all comfortable and my trainer will be like “OLIVIA WHY ARE YOU GALLOPING ALL OVER MY RING CAN YOU PLEASE NOT” and it’s like ohhhh my bad totally didn’t realize.

frankie_fancycanter
Big ol’ gallopy stride. Complete with tiny little jockey stirrups.

But I also want to make sure I have lots of power in the stride. So what I’ve been working on is compressing his stride a bit by keeping my legs wrapped around him and shifting my seat to change the stride length, and picking my hands up out of my lap to recycle that energy back to his hind end.

STARTING TO CLICK INTO PLACE

When I do these things, I get this amazing uphill powerful canter that is SO adjustable. Like, we did the pony strides in a line, then went back and did the galloping horse strides. And they both rode smoothly because we were able to rate his stride. I’m kinda spazzing out about this because while the BeastMare has many amazing qualities, we struggled a lot with adjustability. So to have a horse that will literally give me any stride length I ask for as long as I sit up and keep my leg on? This is new. And amazing.

So now I need to remember that feeling so I can get it off the bat, not 30 minutes into our lesson. As my trainer reminded me, we don’t get one or two or three practice courses in the jumpers. We get a couple singles in the warmup ring and then it’s showtime. I need to be able to push up into that energetic elastic stride from the get-go. Frankie is broke to death- he’ll give it to me immediately if I ask. I just need to remember to ask.

Summary of Chapter 3: Sometimes I can actively ride my horse instead of galloping around with a big fat grin on my face.

Overall thoughts: If I give Frankie clear and correct instructions, he will immediately and happily give me some gloriously gorgeous work. Turns out the only one who needs polish is me!

TRM Blog Hop: Honest Sale Ads

Yay for fun blog hops! I couldn’t help but do this for both Frankie and Addy. Here we go:

Horse #1

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For your consideration, we present Frankie, a 10yo 17hh Oldenburg x TB. Sir Francis has spent most of his career as a foxhunter, with a few weeks of eventing training- brave enough to go XC and jump anything in his path, and kinda sorta has heard of dressage if you ask properly!

This kind fellow will forgive literally anything: missed distances, crawling up his neck, jabbing him with spurs, sticking a crop in his ears, and just about any other inhumane torture you can put a horse through. Even after all this, he will come to you in the field for snuggles and smooches.

We’re not sure how high he jumps, because he refuses to actually use his body to clear fences. Has been jumped 3’6″ under saddle with no problem and we thiiiink he can probably go higher because he deer-leaped over that oxer with all 4 legs. Athletic potential out the wazoo if you can convince him to pick his feet up!

frankie_ad_oxer

Franklin is an easy keeper: good feet, healthy coat, big bushy tail, and loves turnout with his friends. He comes inside with a few new small nicks every day- an excellent opportunity to practice your first aid skills! He’s also not quite sure where his legs are- you’ll have the chance of a lifetime to learn all about the different types of protective boots on the market and WOWEE you’ll get great at polo wraps!!

Clips, loads, bathes, ties, stands, gives kisses, reciprocates back scratches, and has mastered the puppy dog eyes to beg for cookies.

Ready to step into or out of any ring. Suitable for a weenie ammy, brave ammy, junior, tall child, or anyone who knows they’re going to make stupid mistakes and wants a horse to put up with said mistakes.

Asking price: >$100k because this horse is priceless

Horse #2

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Next on the block we have Addy aka No Remorse, an 11yo 16.2hh Percheron x TB. This pretty gray mare may look like a weird collage of different horse parts (giant head, short neck, long back, short legs, etc.), but don’t let that fool you! This girl can jump!*

*When she thinks it’s a good idea

This Beastly Creature has perfect ground manners: have your four year old groom her! Let your grandma turn her out! Let your four year old lead your grandma on a bareback pony ride! Have your grandma crawl under her belly and light some Roman Candles! This solid brick of a horse will stand quietly until the sun explodes into a supernova in several billion years.

This horse would be an excellent addition to a lesson program if your goal is to scare the children- let’s be honest, kids these days deserve a little adrenaline rush now and then. She will never actually do anything bad- this horse does not have a spook, bolt, buck, or rear in her EVER- but she will convince the young ones that they cannot stop her. Any attempt to hold her mouth will result in her happily hanging on the bit and continuing on as she pleases.

A great horse to learn jumping on! Bonus: you don’t even need to set up any jumps, she will leap over any pole on the ground! Wowza what a great way to practice jumping without needing to set up those pesky jumps! You’ll also learn to get very sticky- she encourages her rider to keep leg on and a deep seat by periodically ducking out of jumps she has done  before- a helpful  horse that will contribute to your skill development. BONUS: completely auto lead changes. But only if you don’t ask for them. She is a strong independent mare.

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Suitable for…we’re not sure exactly. Some days she’s suitable for anyone and will do everything you ask without problem, others she will test the patience of a saint. She’s a bit unpredictable for your everyday-ammy, not athletic enough for a pro, and scares the children with her power and speed. Would excel at any discipline where she can take a good look at the jumps and leave strides out without penalty, with a rider who enjoys going fast and overjumping everything by 2′.

Asking price: depending on the day, either >$100k or we’ll pay you to haul her away.

Thank you Cathryn for this super entertaining blog hop!!

Our First Ride

Media time!!!! As you may have guessed, Jenn was here for a visit when I went to try Frankie, and she took some fantastic videos of the very first time I sat on him. I’ve posted screenshots and short clips to my Instagram, but here’s a treat for you guys: all the videos spliced together!

Note: any missed distances, late changes, lack of changes, or general ickiness are entirely on me. These videos are all within 10 minutes of me meeting Frankie for the first time and he was patience incarnate. I love this horse.

We’ve only gotten better together over the last few weeks as I’ve slowly started transforming from a mashed potato into an overly cooked baked potato (aka getting my hands up out of my lap, mashing him together more to fit the strides in, balancing for changes, doing ab workouts to be less jiggly, etc.). My goal is to one day not be a potato at all, but I am willing to take it one potato-step at a time.

A note from Jenn, who is the esteemed videographer and was there to witness the magic. She has finally been allowed to break her silence on what went down during her visit, and here’s what she has to say:

One of the things I was most excited about when going to visit Olivia last month was being able to see her try two horses, one of which was Frankie…and we all know how that story ends. When we got to the barn, Frankie looked pretty big in his stall, but was actually larger once they brought him out: a bay with no chrome who had the sweetest look in his eye and a stocky build, I thought he might be perfect for Olivia. We went up to the ring and we watched the working students ride Frankie and D (the other horse) first, flatting both of them around before popping over a few fences. Then Olivia hopped on Frankie, and I videoed chunks of her ride at all gaits.

I remained pretty quiet while she was trying Frankie because I didn’t want to interfere with her trainer’s instruction and observation of Olivia on Frankie, but the more I watched them together, the more I thought they would be a great match. As soon as she got on and began trotting Frankie around, you could see how much she was enjoying him….that was until she started jumping him around, and I actually got goosebumps watching her because I could tell how much fun she was having. Though they had only known each other for about 20 minutes, the whole aura of the ride began to change, and I thought to myself, “I don’t know why we’re going any further, this is her horse.”

I continued to video all of the jumps (that Olivia has compiled in this video) and I was really amazed at how well Frankie and Olivia got along; it was almost like they had been a partnership for months and knew each other really well. Olivia was having a blast on Frankie, and her body language while she was jumping was infectious. Frankie is honest as the day is long, he remains unflappable about weird distances or new jumps or if he’s not sure where you’re going, and is such a good guy. He’s really athletic and amazingly scopey: he walks over 2’9″ and barely tries over 3’3″, which is great because I know one of Olivia’s goals is to do the 1.10m jumpers. Frankie really impressed me during Olivia’s test ride, and I think she was surprised at how much she liked him.

After riding him for about 20 minutes, she hopped off of Frankie and got on D. I also filmed chunks of Olivia’s ride on D, but as soon as she began trotting him around, her entire body language changed, and I think she realized at that point that Frankie was the one.  D is a wonderful citizen who tries really hard, but is a little too green (editors note: and a little too expensive- homeboy had oodles of potential, but I couldn’t spend that kind of money on potential!) for where Olivia wants to go at this point in her riding career. Frankie is just better suited for her goals, and can take her wherever/as high as she wants to go. Olivia’s trainer told her that she didn’t have to stay on D if she preferred Frankie, which I think we all knew was the case. 

When we got back to the barn, Olivia and I said goodbye to her trainer and when she and I were alone in her car I finally told her, “I don’t know why you’re looking any further; THAT is your horse. I had chills watching you, he’s your horse. I love him.”

And as they say, the rest is history. 

It was really neat to see how Olivia’s trainer tries horses (though she had ridden both horses prior to Olivia trying them), and I tried to stay quiet and out of the way as much as possible. Olivia’s trainer is super knowledgeable and knows a good match when she sees one, so I don’t think she was surprised that Olivia loved Frankie as much as she did. Every trainer has a different way of doing things when it comes to selling horses and trying sale horses out, so it was really special to be a part of that process. If nothing else, I was there to capture it all on video!

My Favorite Small Businesses

As I’ve been hard at work equipping myself and Frankie, I’ve gotten to do lots of shopping at different stores. And it’s pretty unavoidable- certain things I’ve needed to get at SmartPak/Riding Warehouse/Dover/other bigger stores. There are a lot of benefits to these bigger stores: frequent sales, easy exchanges if something doesn’t fit, good customer service, etc. But when push comes to shove, I really really love shopping at smaller businesses. I’d rather pay a little bit extra for that personal touch and I love the thought of helping to support a fellow equestrian’s business! When the products are totally fantastic and the price is right? Even better. Here are some of my favorite small businesses that I’ve shopped from recently:

Mane Jane

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PC: Mane Jane

In case you didn’t see in my recent post, I got some GORGEOUS spur straps here! For looks alone, I would give Mane Jane five stars. But it gets better- these spur straps were fully custom. I picked out the color and pattern of the leather, the metal of the buckles, and the charm. And it gets better again- ordering these felt like picking something out with a friend. Shelby (the genius behind Mane Jane) and I messaged back and forth discussing different options and we had so much fun chatting about all the combinations we could do. She kept me totally updated on the timeline of getting them shipped out, and then they showed up at my door in super cute packaging with lots of peppermints (which Frankie is VERY happy about) and a hot pink hairtie (that is currently holding my ponytail back). From start to finish, this ordering experience was an absolute pleasure and I couldn’t be happier with the product itself. If you’re in the market for some fun spur straps or a new belt, I couldn’t recommend Mane Jane more!

Hunt Club

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PC: my iPhone

I think I’ve mentioned Hunt Club in the past, but I can’t say enough good things about them. I personally only have two belts from them- which are superior to any other belt I own and I want them in every color please and thank you- but I’ve gotten lots of gifts for horsey friends here! I could honestly be happy getting one of everything from here- they have a wonderful mix of apparel for riders, as well as cute charms and saddle pads for your pony to match. Their customer service is top notch, they’re super friendly and willing to work with you to customize your order, their packaging is adorable as all get out, and I love interacting with them on social media to boot! This is another company where the ordering process is a pleasure from start to finish, and the quality of everything I’ve received/used/given from here has been fantastic.

The Herbal Horse

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PC: The Herbal Horse

I’ll admit, I’ve only just placed my first order here and it hasn’t even arrived yet. So I can’t comment on the quality of the products themselves. But I don’t really need to- in all my research and digging, I’ve yet to find ONE person who isn’t completely satisfied with their purchase! “But Olivia, how can you put this on the list if you haven’t tried the product itself yet?” you ask. Well, Dear Reader, it’s because this is another company that has been so pleasant to work with to get exactly what I need, while feeling like I’m chatting with a friend. I think we can all agree that great customer service is a MUST, and Helen at the Herbal Horse has this covered. This is another company that I love interacting with on social media! This may not be important to some people, but I really love feeling that personal connection.

The common thread with these businesses is that every time I place an order, I feel like I’m getting something that meets my specific needs instead of just being another customer. Add that personalized experience to some top quality products, and you have a winning combination!

What are your favorite small businesses?
I’d love some recommendations for shops that you can’t get enough of!

The Little Things

I’ve been knocked flat on my back by a killer sinus infection all week (seriously I have never experienced such excruciating sinus pressure before), so I was absolutely ITCHING to get back on my horse.

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Spent roughly three days like this: bathrobe, slippers, and snuggly pup.

I managed to join one of the lesson groups on Thursday, and we learned a lot!

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Well, I learned a lot. Frankie kinda has his end of the bargain covered.

This lesson focused a lot on polishing up the basics. In the words of my trainer: “This is easy stuff, so do it perfectly.” No pressure or anything.

But in all seriousness, this was a fantastic lesson. I’m not going to outline every stride of it (spoiler alert: we walked, trotted, cantered, and popped over some little jumps), so here were my big takeaways:

  • My stupid toes point straight out. If you’ve ever seen a picture of me jumping, you already know that this is my bad habit. I have no idea where this habit came from because it never was a problem as a junior, but unless I’m being very conscious of it, my toes point straight out and I jab my horse in the ribs with my spurs. Frankie is extremely tolerant of this, but I’d rather not test that tolerance and poke the poor guy unnecessarily. TOES MUST POINT FORWARD.
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Even though my new spur straps are SO PRETTY DO YOU EVEN SEE HOW PRETTY THEY ARE
  • Frankie loves to round over his back into the bridle at the canter. This is a new feeling for me, and it’s a good one! The only problem here is that sometimes he’ll stretch and drop his head so much that he drops right onto my hand and hangs there. This is where I need to refine my half-halt to maintain the stride while re-balancing him up off my hand. I’ve had a couple successes here so now I’m trying to internalize that feeling so we can get it every time. My instinct is to pull up with my hands and that doesn’t do anyone any good- when I half-halt from my seat and just use my hands to balance and contain the energy, we get some GORGEOUS movement.
  • I need to use more outside aids around the corners. He’s such a big guy that he needs a little extra support keeping his body together, so I need to let my hands be softer and use my legs to keep that energy flowing. I got some great homework for this: ride about 5ft in off the track so we’re not just tempted to fall out to the wall. I LOVE getting homework!
  • Don’t drop him when we walk. After cantering, I like to give him a walk break on a loose rein so he has a chance to catch his breath before we proceed. BUT. When I ask for that downwards transition, I shouldn’t just let my reins get longer and fall down into the walk. If he gets used to that, he could start rooting if I DON’T immediately give him a loose rein when we walk, and that would be killer in an eq class. My goal is to get clean downwards transitions, continue walking on the contact for a bit so that he knows we’re still working, and only THEN loosen the reins to let him stretch.
  • Auto-release is the name of the game. Frankie will jump the jump. And I can set him up for the next jump. But wouldn’t it be great if I could land ALREADY setting him up for the next one?? I’m generally pretty strong in my jumping position and Frankie is nicely adjustable, so nailing that auto-release is going to be what puts us into the next level of continuity and smoothness through our courses. My trainer has promised to call me out on this and remind me to work on this in every lesson.

We learn something new with every ride! This weekend we’re planning on doing a little trail ride and I’m SO excited to get my seasoned foxhunter outside to play around. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m in awe that I get to call this horse mine. I’m learning so much from him and above all, we’re having fun together.

Show update: our first show will likely be the Loudoun Benefit show at the Upperville showgrounds mid-June. The plan right now is to do a 0.90m class to see how we’re feeling, and then give the 1m a try. I reserve the right to change this plan at any time, but I’m feeling very determined to give the 1m a go!!

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Also: one of my trainers has assigned us a challenge. You know those 30-day challenges that you see on Pinterest where you do more squats every day or something like that? It’s like that. You can pick any 30-day plank challenge or sit up challenge, and if you don’t notice a difference in your riding at the end of 30 days, you don’t have to keep going. I will be doing a plank challenge, and would love your help in keeping me accountable!

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In case you were wondering how the DragonMare is doing, Frankie lives right across the aisle from her and I still stuff her face with treats every time I see her 🙂 Frankie is my best boy, but Addy will always be best girl.

Lesson #2 with the Big Man

You know what’s a great feeling?? Every time I sit on my horse, I am more and more sure I made the right choice. Of course I already knew that- it was too much money to spend on a horse I was unsure of- but with every ride, I’m more and more certain that he was supposed to come into my life.

That’s not to say that everything is magically perfect all the time and he farts rainbows. I still make lots of mistakes, and his farts smell like normal horse farts.

But he’s FUN. And he’s SAFE. And he’s TRUSTWORTHY. Since the day he stepped on the property, he has done his job happily without any fuss. I haven’t had to worry about him at all- I can focus on my riding and know that as long as I’m holding up my end of the bargain, he’ll hold up his.

Our lesson last night was full of fun little things to test us- but we’ll get to that in just a moment. We’ll start with our warmup.

Really his flatwork is where his lack of polish becomes apparent. He’s nice and quiet and willing to work, but he clearly hasn’t been asked for much in this department. He requires a lot of support around the corners to encourage the bend, he finds collection an interesting concept, and his lateral work is a little dull. None of this is misbehavior or evasion: he simply has not been asked to any of these things with any consistency. We’ve already established better balance around the corners and I’m learning how to push him up into the bridle which gets him to soften through the ends of the ring. I’m trying to incorporate a little lateral work with every ride, and I’m also working on that a bit in-hand too. He has a very firm grasp of “leg means go, hand means stop,” and I want to refine that a bit more so that we can make that “different combinations of leg and hand mean go/stop/collect/extend/turn/move over/etc.” Any suggestions for exercises to work on these things?

Then the fun part! Last week my big bad habit was leaning with my shoulders before the jump,so I was very focused on staying straight and tall to the jump and allowing him to jump up to me. I think this definitely improved! He has a fairly flat jump which makes it easier to hold my position, so I’m able to focus on one thing at a time without getting jarred out of place.

But of course, we fix one thing and I start making another mistake. But at least it’s a new mistake and not the same one! Last night my trouble was with getting the right power to the jump. After riding Addy for a year, I’m used to trying to collect and package to the base of the jump. Basically take her big stride and make her wait to the base. And this is not how to get the best ride out of Frankie. I had a couple really weak jumps before going back and realizing that if I boot him up into my hand, we can gallop up a bit to the jump and he’ll give me a spectacular effort. He has a lovely rhythmic canter and doesn’t race at the jumps at all, so I don’t have to worry about holding him to the base, I can allow. When I did that, everything flowed up out of stride and it was great!

What were the fun little things we did?

  • A one-stride to a one-stride combination. You all know how much I love combos. That would have been fun enough in itself. But just to make it even more fun and because we ran out of flower boxes, the last vertical was super bootleg. We had one flower box, one traffic cone, the mounting block ,and Trainer’s jacket all under the rail. A couple horses peeked at it a little but Frankie couldn’t care less 🙂
  • A canter in-trot out four stride. IMPOSSIBLE. Poor Frankie had NO idea what on earth I was trying to ask for there. But seriously, put the jumps up and then try to ask for a trot jump out of a four stride line. And when you figure out how to do it, share your secrets. We got it eventually, but it was UGLY as all get out.
  • Rollback! Swedish oxer, hard right turn to big vertical. This was the combo where it helped IMMENSELY to leg up out of the turn and keep my outside aids strong. No more holdingholdingholding to get the turns, now it’s time to strengthen my legs, push my hands forward, and get moving!

I’ve also got a lovely level of soreness going on today from our no-stirrup work. I’m getting stronger at this! Luckily Frankie has a nice bouncy trot that helps me post, and a gloriously smooth canter that helps me sit. Thanks for the help, bro.

Short version? I absolutely love this horse. There are things for me to work on to encourage his best effort, but even when I clomp around doing nothing to help him, he is willing to cart my butt around. The definition of ammy-friendly. I have a feeling we’re just going to get better and better together!

And we’re officially saving up for our first show! End of June is the goal to step in the jumper ring. Honestly I’d love to go out and show this weekend, but mama’s gotta save some $$$ first.

Here’s where I need your help: Frankie does not have a show name. They just called him “Frankie” and that’s not gonna fly with me. Let me harness all your creativity to help me come up with a name for me to register him with!!

PS- pardon my lack of pictures. My officially videographer/photographer is out at drill for two weeks and I’ve been too focused on loving my boy to remember to take pics. We’ll have some soon!

How to Buy a Horse in 6 Easy Steps

I just went through the process of buying my very own unicorn, and I am now an expert.

LAWLZ nope, I told my trainer I wanted to buy a horse, we tried a couple, we failed a vetting, we tried some more, and now I have a pretty pony. It seemed to be a pretty smooth process- smoother than usual.

BUT

I do think that a big reason this process went so smoothly is because of certain steps that my trainer and I took ahead of time. So I’m going to share my experience of buying a horse, in the hopes that it may help someone wondering how this whole thing works.

1. Took a long hard look at my budget. An honest look. I broke out my budgeting into two parts:

  • Monthly expenses: I did not want to be dipping into savings every month to pay board. I knew monthly expenses can vary widely: will I want to put my horse into full or partial training? Do they need supplements? Special shoes? Do I plan to go to shows? I talked to my barn owner about rates. For me, monthly expenses include regular board (which includes hay, grain, stall, turnout, blanketing, and a whole bunch of other things), lessons (I lesson once a week, hack 4-5 days, and get 1-2 days off), farrier, horse show expenses (including trailering, coaching fees, and entry fees), and insurance (you bet your butt The Handsome is insured). Of course these will change month-to-month, but I tried to be REALISTIC about these expenses. Here’s how I looked at it:

Monthly paycheck – necessities – fun money – savings = $ for horse stuffs

Necessities = rent, utilities, insurance, groceries, gas

Fun money = going out to eat, movies, entertainment, clothes, etc.

Savings = I know we all want to plug our ears and ignore the future, but my future self will thank me, even if  I just put away $20 a month. There are too many unknowns in life, and it is a huge comfort to know that I won’t ruin my credit trying to pay for those unknowns.

  •  Lump sum expenses: this is the stuff that came out of my savings up front: the horse itself (obviously) and all the gear I needed. If you already have most of the gear you need- great! I did not. So I did some research and figured out what I would need to purchase in order to bring home a pony. I also prioritized this list- the weather is getting warmer, so I’m not going to worry about buying a heavy blanket yet (unless there’s an awesome sale obviously). I also didn’t want to deplete my savings. What if the horse needs emergency vet care, or my car breaks down, or I need to go to the ER for something? I wanted to leave myself a generous cushion. Basically this is how I approached it

$ I currently have in savings – $ for gear – $ for cushion = $ for pony

2. Work with a trainer I trust. This trust part is huge! My trainer was my advocate in the process- it was reassuring to know they were looking out for my best interest.

  • Talk about the logistics of buying. What will my trainer be doing for me, and what am I responsible for? In my case, my trainer handled the whole process from start to finish. I sent her sale ads and she took a look at them, but ultimately she found my unicorn through her own industry connections and then arranged the trials, and also handled all the negotiations when I decided to make an offer. NOTE: any service comes with a fee. My trainer took a commission (more than fair given that she did all of that work!). I had to factor this into my budget! We also talked about other expenses that could pop up during the process: average PPE cost, partial board for a trial period, etc.
  • Once we established what all the “extras” cost, we talked budget. You may have $5,000 available in your budget, but once you factor in commission, vet exam, and all the other expenses, that may be closer to $4,000. Remember that $ for pony equation above? That really looks more like this:

$ for pony – $ for vetting – $ for commission – $ for random other stuff = ACTUAL $ for pony

  • Talk about what I wanted. Are you looking to break into the High Adult Jumpers (yes!), or do you want a trail companion (also yes!)? Are you planning on showing in the hunters (sure!), or do you want to move up the levels in dressage (why not?!)? Do you want to show (totally!)? Local or rated (all of the above!)? Are there any habits that make you nervous? What are your goals for the future? We all know plans can change, but having an idea of what I wanted to do with this horse made sure my trainer didn’t match me up with something who couldn’t take me where I want to go. I had to be realistic within my budget: I would’ve loved a 17.3 imported warmblood who could do the GPs and learn his own jumpoff course. Alas, my salary has not magically quintupled in the last few months, so we talked about what I could realistically expect to get in my price range.

3. Start trying horses! This is the fun part. My trainer hopped on every horse before I even saw them- mostly because I fall in love with every single pony I sit on because THEY’RE ALL SO PRETTY AND I LOVE THEM and she wanted to evaluate without me babbling on about how sweet and wonderful the pony was. Only after she gave the seal of approval did she even tell me about ponies to try. I went back and tried the Handsome out a second time so I could handle him on the ground a bit more to decide if we could be buddies.

Buying is a horse is a huge investment. I wanted to make sure we got along! I had my priorities- for me it was super important to find something I could have fun on. Yes, I want to compete, and yes, I want to win, but I’m not headed to the Olympics. 90% of the time we’ll just be riding at home, and I wanted something I could feel safe on and play around with.

4. Get the vet out. Check out magic pony’s health. Will he need supplements? Injections? Special shoes? Does he secretly have a broken leg he’s been hiding? Get all the facts. My vet was a great guide about how in depth to go with the vetting. With one vetting we didn’t bother with any x-rays, but we got a few x-rays for the Handsome to act as a baseline in case anything happens in the future.

5. Negotiate. Time to start figuring out what number I’d be writing on that check as I numbly signed away my life’s savings! This can be as simple as deciding on a number, or it can get a little more complicated. Is the owner willing to consider a payment plan? Maybe you’re willing to pay asking price, but only if they throw in the horse’s blankets.

6. Stuff my new unicorn’s face with cookies. I have now successfully bought the pony of my dreams.

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