Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 in Review - REALLY Image Heavy (Sorry Not Sorry)

This year has been an outrageous rollercoaster. The whole year was completely unexpected, and sprung on me in the last month of 2014. I took all of it in stride and for once in my life just let opportunities appear and took them all as they came. It's probably mostly for me, but I feel obligated to do a year in review as my last post of 2015.

My year started off with a bang when, on January 2nd, I moved across the pond to England for six months. I had the opportunity  to work out of the London based office of my company. It ended up being one of the smartest most fun decisions I've ever made in my life. I hope opportunities like this keep popping up.

Feet in the Thames, and the Gherkin
Big Ben & Westminster
I have to admit, the beginning of this year was a big break from riding. I think I was a little burned out. I was trying to patch together the horse I was leasing (my trainer's horse, a mare named Lexy), my commute was long to the barn and work was brutal. In December, Lexy somehow managed to cut her pastern in such a way that looked like she took a knife to it. After narrowly avoiding a simple end on Christmas Eve, she was on stall rest with an uncertain future. I think I just needed a break. I didn't even think about riding until mid March and in that time I dabbled in other forms of exercise like walking all over London, visiting lots of museums, doing yoga, and drinking a LOT of hard cider.

Me at Stonehenge!
I rode for the first time since December, 2014! I fulfilled a huge item on my bucket list - going to Iceland. I got to see the northern lights, the original geyser from which all other geysers are named, and a big item for me: ride an Icelandic horse! I have to get me one of these guys. They're cute, independent, sure footed, and the tölt is the most comfortable gait I've ever ridden. This was also the month I decided to buy a horse, especially after receiving my 2014 bonus and realizing that board wasn't as far out of my reach as I initially thought.

Where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet

Me and my Icelandic horse buddy, and a geiser.


This month I started taking lessons at a local riding school that was easily commutable by bus from where I lived. British riding schools are AWESOME. They're standardized, the instructors have to be credentialed, and the riding yards are graded on a scale from acceptable to highly commendable. I got to ride a lot of different horses at this yard, and I got to ride in a group lesson which I kind of missed. I also went to Amsterdam, experienced hay fever for the first time, and got a tattoo!


May was absolutely CHOCK full of horses. I went to Scotland for four days, and then really kicked it off big by going to my first four star, Badminton. I'll eventually do a post about it because god damn it was awesome, but for now suffice it to say it was the most fun I've had (I never want to drive on the other side of the road again). I also went to a rugby tournament, and spent a week in Spain doing a point to point ride with Equitours. I fulfilled my dream of galloping on the beach in a big way and also made friends with lovely, amazing people from all over the world.

Me and my boi Cafe

Glen in Scotland

The coffin at Badminton

It was my last month in Europe. I enjoyed it fully, hitting a few last places on my list around England but mostly I just enjoyed being there. Everyone was so kind to me during my tenure abroad. I said my goodbyes (including getting bucked off my favorite horse at the riding school at my last lesson). All the friends I had made broke my heart with their farewells. I spent a lot of the month in tears which sounds bad but it just made me happy to know how much I had touched peoples lives, and they had touched mine.

I won't lie, it was a shock coming back to the US. Everything is big here. It was also hot. But I did miss normal food (the food in Britain is as bad as they say). I also missed my car like crazy! And I loved being back at my old barn. I hadn't jumped in six months so my first jump lesson back was extremely welcome. I also started horse shopping, HARD. I had seen three horses before I was even over my jetlag. And I got a new cat, a little three legged monster called Poe who was in his last hours when I went to the shelter.

THE MONTH OF RUNKLE! After looking at over fifteen horses I finally met him. Besides the purchase I was also indoctrinated into horse ownership by two vet calls in the span of a week. Three, if you include his pre purchase.

Study mode hit hard and I didn't get to go to the barn nearly as much as I liked, but I loved having the outlet for my stress at work. Runkle started learning how to jump and probably more importantly, how to steer.

Honestly, I was in a hole of books. I did go to a local horseshow that had tons of my barn friends competing at and I took my camera out for the first time in probably two months. So yeah, not as much horse stuff or traveling  but I guess you can say it was nice to get back into the rhythm of things. If you want.

My friend and her baby horsie
Lesson number one: don't buy a horse at the beginning of exam season. I felt like November was really the first month I owned Runkle freely. I could spend as much time as I wanted at the barn. I could ride as many days a week as I want. Yeah it was getting dark at like 3PM but whatever I could stay at the barn until ten if I wanted! Plus Runkle and I got to go to our first show, which went better than expected! Ish.

A rare moment of calm in warmup
And now we're here. Considering what a year I've had I find myself looking more forwards than backwards. Mostly because I'm so curious about what will happen next. At this point in my life I have so many options I have no idea where I'll be in one year let alone five. But Runkle will be in it for sure, and it'll be fun. And I hope it's also fun to read about!

Lots of love, and best wishes for a happy new year. Bring it, 2016. It's on.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Manly Browband Search

When I was a teenager I don't remember there being so many 'customizing' options for horses. Things typically came in one of five colors: blue, hunter green, red, black and white. I tried to get as much purple as I could but there just wasn't the market for it back then, I think. Plus internet shopping wasn't a thing. I just got the horse shopping Bible a few times a year (State Line Tack, before it became the crap it is today). I would pour over the catalog and circle everything I wanted which was pretty much every item on every page.

GPAs became popular in my later high school years and I bought a striping kit and striped the helmet myself. Most people had our barn's colors but I had two shades of purple (you know, to mix it up). I had an obnoxious neon purple helmet cover before that, something that was a piece of contention at my very conservative barn.

But now Smartpak exists, and Dover, and Etsy, and there's a new obsession people are delving into.

Blingy browbands.

I love the amount of options and the creativity of both the buyers and the sellers involved in these. You can get all your fancy colors with little cross or skull charms, or wings, and they're classy enough to wear in the little white box but so cute you have to use them schooling as well.

I know everything I own is purple, but I don't really want to emasculate Runkle with a sparkly princess browband (you're welcome, bud). I feel like the purple is one thing but how can any self respecting gelding do horsey prancey dancing wearing this?

Let's be real, that's a tiara.
That doesn't mean I don't think they're gorgeous, I do, I just don't want to do that to him.

For dressage he has this awesome rolled leather bridle that I'm in love with. The browband is rolled leather and I'm perfectly fine with him keeping that. This might come as something of a shock but I am very particular about my equipment and I don't think there is room in the dressage arena for fancy colors or other shenanigans (yes, I said shenanigans).

Pimp My Bridle: coming soon to a 'music channel' near you.
That still leaves my jumping bridle though. Right now I just have the plain browband that came with the bridle and that's fine, but I'd love to have something cute and ours. So I've been on the hunt, and I have some contenders to Pimp Runkle's Bridle. No Xzibit included. Meet the contenders.

The Standby

Classic eventer status.
Tried and tested, the brass clincher browband. I discovered brass polish last summer and let me tell you, shiny brass is FREAKIN' AWESOME. It adds just enough je ne sais quois without being stupidly over the top. It's also pretty much eventing canon to have one of these on your horse. I think back when the serfs of England weren't harvesting peat in 1066 they had brass clincher browbands on their event horses. You can't really go wrong with the classics.

The 'Little Something Extra'

Simple Irish-chic (that's a thing)
I forget how I found this browband, but I think it's really cute. It's really unique but nowhere near over the top. Plus it's Celtic which I'm all about. I love how the white stitching looks on the brown leather, and I almost wish my bridle was black because the black one looks even better! I do worry that I'd totally wreck it with conditioner though, because how do you condition that thing without getting it into ALL the stitches and rotting it?

The 'Let's Rep Our XC Colors Without Gemstones'


Etsy to the rescue, once more (by BlackMareDesigns). This one is really simple but I like the versatility of it and also care would be a cinch. It uses that vinyl gimp rope (you know, the one you used to make shitty keychains out of at camp) to create a woven pattern on a plain browband. She has both an event and dressage horse modeling it, and I like it on both. Plus to clean it you just wipe it off because it's plastic. They're priced extremely reasonably, and you can get your cross country colors all up on that. What's not to love?

Pony model is cute and stylish!

The Dragon

Is this too over the top? It might be too over the top. Then again, who cares. It's a freakin' dragon. How could you not feel badass coming out of the start box with that decorating your horse's brow?? By Uisce Saddlery.

So what do you think? Which is the Runkliest? What kind of browband does your horse wear? Do you think I spend too much time worrying about one of the tiniest tack details? If your answer is yes, shut up I do not this is very important the browband holds the whole bridle together YOU BUTT.

Or I'll just get him this and say screw it.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Clinic Report: Sally Cousins, 12/13/2015

I was pumped for last week because I had an easy slam dunk post topic planned out a week in advance. I was slated to take part in a clinic with Sally Cousins at my home farm because what's better than clinicians coming to me. And it's not that I don't absolutely love my trainer, but the opportunity to ride with other people is something I don't think you should ever pass up.

Sally at the head of the lake, taken from her website

It's a pity I didn't get off my biscuit and take any pictures. There were lots of people trailering in, which is always fun. I know most of the clients Sally works with at Bit O Woods, but there were some new faces (horsey and equine) that I hadn't seen before. Including the cutest little gray mare with a tail that made me so jealous. Lots of great riders were getting ready for the winter homework season, as I like to refer to it.

Some people don't like winter because there aren't any competitions but I actually love that about it. In the summer I am always focused on the next event. At the lower levels in my area, that might be a week or two away. There's no time to really take things apart and fix them when you have two weeks until you're going out of the start box again. You patch together what you have, make small adjustments here and there, and go out and kick butt.

Sally teaching on a 70* December day. Photo by Foxy Photography
But in the winter I love that I actually have the time to say "Okay, we're going to do walk/trot transitions, and jump tiny two foot verticals, and there's no rush and it doesn't matter because I don't even know when our next event is." I love that freedom. I hate feeling rushed and worried and the winter stretches out before me in endless days wrapped in fleece and Rambo blankets. Even though it's dark way too soon and colder than I'd like I love riding outside and quietly getting to work in the far too early sunset.

We've been blessed with bizarrely warm weather though, and even though Runkle was out of commission for the week I still got to ride. I teamed up with my prior best friend and partner Lexy, the angry redheaded mare who gave me the confidence to even get a baby. We went for a hack and I worked a bit out in the field since the arenas were tied up.

This is actually from last year, but it's where we hacked.
I think it was more essential to Runkle's training than I thought it would be when I first threw my leg over her back. I had been riding a green horse for so long I forgot what a trained one felt like. I remembered how it felt to ask for a change in direction by turning my head and changing my diagonal. I also forgot how stiff a horse can be, since I've been spoiled by Runkle (who is so flexible he can bend himself in half).

I also realized that some of the mistakes I thought were green baby mistakes on his part were really mine. I had been struggling with getting the correct canter lead of late, and having somewhat.. um.. explosive transitions that resulted in the wrong lead. I knew something was up because he was nowhere near like that when I got him but I figured it was him being green or something like that. However Lexy very politely told me that it was me by promptly taking off on the wrong lead when I asked for the canter.

So no, the clinic wasn't this boon of information and knowledge I was hoping to get from a four star rider. However I still managed to learn a lot that day, and further Runkle and I's journey despite him being turned out with a ductape boot on.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Twenty Minutes

Twenty minutes is a popular number for horse treatment. It's how long you make your war horse eventer stand in a bucket after a hard jump school. It's the amount of time your horse has to soak in epsom salts when you do battle with an abscess. Runkle recently hurt himself in a way that will require this twenty minute soak, probably playing baby racehorse outside with the geriatric horses in his field who never want to join in.

Depending on the horse, it could be an excruciating twenty minutes. Most of the horses I've had the pleasure of enduring the twenty minutes with have been off the track Thoroughbreds and I'm starting to be convinced that these horses live in buckets from birth.

Lexy demonstrating the 'two legs, one bucket' method.

Sometimes they even have an internal clock and know when twenty minutes is up. The redheaded beasty above would politely step out of the muck tub at around 19:30. Until then she would quietly stand while I cleaned tack and put it away and got her food together. Which brings me to the real point.

What do you do with those twenty minutes?

Take Instagram Pictures
If you look at my Instagram, you'll see that (especially in the beginning) it's mostly pictures of Lexy standing in muck tubs with various filters applied to them. And that's nothing compared to my phone, where there are at least twelve outtakes. How do I want her to look? Happy to be in the bucket? Annoyed? Nonplussed? Do I want her half climbing out or with her nose all the way outstretched looking for food? Nothing says gimpy horse like Lo-Fi, amirite??

Play a Game
I have a ton of games on my phone, pretty much exclusively because I needed something to do while I stood near the horse during a soak or cold hose. I've got the old standbys like Solitaire or FreeCell, but I also have a collection of about thirty different brain puzzlers in one app. I have a game called 2048 which is just strategic mindless swiping and horribly addictive. Also easy to play with one hand if you have to hold your vagrant horse. A more devious favorite of mine is a game called Plague, Inc, a morbid game in which you design a disease to wipe out humanity (I never said I was normal).

Only the classics, here.

Download a Podcast
This is a more recent addiction, but there are hundreds of podcasts out there. It's more interesting than listening to music you've heard a hundred times, and most podcasts put something out once a week or so. There are horse ones if you want to compound your horse time with more horses, there are comedic ones and movie reviews, podcasts about games and podcasts about nothing at all. There's something out there for everyone not matter how weird your tastes are. Just make sure if you are listening to it you either have it on speaker or you leave one headphone out of your ears so you can hear what's going on around you. You are still in a barn, after all.

Think About Your Life
You're standing with a horse for twenty minutes while they wait in a bucket of ice or a tray of epsom salt mixture. And you're probably not even upset about it. You're enjoying spending time with your broken horse, feeding him or her treats while they stomp around in the bucket and try to flip it over and otherwise make the twenty minutes last longer. Know they do this out of love (probably).

Runkle showing us the one foot shuffle.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Yes, it's trite. And overdone. But it's topical and I'm all about keeping up and in with the kidz these days, you know? So here are three things I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving.

1. Zippers in tall boots.

It dawned on me that the teenagers that ride at my barn will not know a life without zippered tall boots. Even some people closer to my age never experienced this. They don't know that boot socks exist not to be adorable and colorful but to help grease your leg up a bit so you can stuff it in the sausage casing of a tall boot. Breaking in tall boots now is a cinch because with zippers, they don't drop nearly as much. Pre-drop, appropriately fitting tall boots were usually so tall the stiff leather was like a knife severing the tendons behind your knee.

They also won't experience the sheer ecstacy of finally taking said boots off at the end of a long day of competing. Although that didn't come without a price.

I had a pair of pull on tall boots that I got when I was fifteen and wore until I was eighteen. In that time I went through puberty, so fitting into the boots became more and more of a stretch (pun intended) until one show halfway through warm-up my right leg went completely numb. And back then that was sort of... normal. You had tall boots. If your leg swelled because it was hot and you were riding a 1200 pound animal you boot would cut the circulation off and that would kind of be that.

At the end of that show the boot jack couldn't dislodge my boot off my foot and I was contemplating cutting my own leg off it hurt so badly. At the end of the day I sat in the trunk of my dad's car, holding on to the handles in the back while my dad leaned his full body weight against the boot. It finally did come flying off, landing him in the grass.

2.  Eventing has ride times

If I had heard of this I may have switched over from hunter jumper land earlier. When I was a teenager and had a horseshow, I had cryptic ride times such as: 87th in the class. 10th after the break. You don't know when the class starts. You don't know when the break is. Any number of people could scratch and bump you up in the order. It's hard to know how long to give yourself to warm up. Ten rides? Five? Ten rides could be anywhere from ten minutes to forty five. If you have a horse that's picky about warmup it's hard to judge when you should even get on.

But eventing I know exactly when I'm riding. And not even the day of, the THURSDAY before I can have a tack up, mounting, and warm up plan. Which, for someone with anxiety, is amazing.

3.  The internet

I realize this is SUPER broad but I mean this with respect to horses. With the internet, you can stream clinics from your favorite big name riders. I also streamed Rolex from London this year. You can watch helmet cams of four star. Or you'll watch helmet cams of places and think holy shit I need to compete there. Like now I want to go to Rebecca Farm, and I would never think of going all the way to Montana on my own.

You can also sign up for events online. Because you know what's annoying? Using a fax machine. I used to use the one at work because I don't have a fax machine at home (WHO DOES). I always got funny looks as I struggled to dial out and get the 'fax successful' confirmation and then pray that someone picked it up out of the faxing tray. And then you had to put your check in the mail and pray it didn't get lost and watch your bank account like a hawk for the withdrawal that signified your entry was accepted.

Now I can have all my information preloaded onto Eventing Entries, including the Coggins, and pay easily with a credit card. Entry MAGIC. Plus you can watch live scores so even if you're not at the event you can see how your friends and big name riders are doing.

But for every light side, there is also a dark side. Because the internet has also exacerbated my horse spending habit. I can easily order gorgeous bridles from Britain, find the best deal or most unique bit that my local tack store doesn't stock, and don't forget about Tack of the Day. That's my favorite thing about lunch actually.

And let's not forget I found Runkle on the internet, so we would literally not be here (on this webpage) without the internet. Well, I mean we're using the internet to log onto it. Nevermind, you know what I mean.

But in all seriousness, I'm thankful for so much this year. My family for supporting me and my horse obsession hobby. My trainer for helping find the right horse. And Runkle for... being Runkle.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Bro, Do You Even Lift?

I don't want to believe cross training is important for horseback riding. I don't think anyone does, if we're all being honest with each other. You scrape together the barest amount of free time that you have to get to the barn and then collapse into bed at the end of a long day. Forget about making it to the gym. And running? You want me to run? When? At lunch? At the crack of dawn? No, no and thrice no. When I was younger I 'did' pilates. In that I laid next to my mom and flailed around while she did pilates.

And that's not even bringing up food. It's hard to eat healthy at horseshows when you're tempted by fried chicken, french fries, fried oreos, fried breakfast sandwiches. When I was lucky enough to compete at the Winter Equestrian Festival I was on a first name basis with the crêpe truck. Even if you're not at a show you tell yourself it doesn't matter what you eat, you're fit enough to ride your horse, and you went riding today so that was your exercise.

I didn't appreciate the value of cross training until this year. While I was in London I did get to go to a riding yard once a week but it was nothing compared to when I was in the States. Since I didn't have the opportunity to ride, I did other things; I got to play rugby, learn to powerlift and do a lot of yoga.

Sumo deadlift of 65kgs (about 150lbs). 
PR'ed at 85kg that day!

I planned a one week riding trip in Spain during my time abroad. It was one of the first trips I planned, when I was still in riding shape. Sure, I can control a spirited horse in open country. Of course I can handle 6-8 hours a day in the saddle. I didn't factor in that I planned the trip for the end of May, not in January while I was in riding shape.

We did the red route. NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART.

I was prepared for the trip to be a huge disaster for my body. I bought a ton of ibuprofen, icy hot patches and even a heating pad to help my dead legs and back deal with the fact that I hadn't ridden steadily in five months. I figured Spanish wine would help the rest.

But every day of the trip I was shocked (by many things, but for the purpose of this entry, my fitness). I was sore, but no more so than usual. In some aspects I was stronger than I had been before. There was lots of saddling and unsaddling, tying up saddlebags, carrying buckets of water and grain or lugging baggage up hills. None of it was an issue. Sure on the last day my butt was more sore than I can express in words, but even on the day where we spent a solid 8 hours in the saddle, galloping and climbing mountains, I felt fresh and in control.

Before lunch, halfway through our eight hour day. Still smiling!

Despite not riding, the rest of my work had paid off.

I recently started working again remotely with my old trainer in London (Kevin). We're working on diet as well as an exercise program that compliments riding. He was quick to notice the excellent strength and body control that horses have given me, and was eager to compliment it. Runkle is very fit and talented and I do no service to him by flopping around on his back or requesting breaks when it's really important that we keep going.

I don't like the term amateur. I'm proudly a Professional Unprofessional. Amateur sounds like someone who doesn't know what they're doing, who is just dabbling and isn't serious. I know there are some amateurs who are happy there, and that is fine. But for some amateurs, just because we are not 'professionals' in the legal sense doesn't mean we should take it any less seriously. We can be serious and dedicated, albeit on a smaller scale. Whether you have FEI aspirations or just want to do walk-trot dressage tests, it shouldn't make a difference in the rider's attitude. Our horses deserve the best, from tack to feed and everything in between. Why shouldn't they have the best version of their rider as well?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Baby's First Show

I've been taking things slow with Runkle. I'm not in a hurry, he's so young yet, and I want him to be restarted really correctly and not be burned out or scared. Some people might be frustrated by this, but the last horse I leased I spent 3 months just walking and trotting so I'm no stranger to patience. I find that the more patient you are the more the horse will pay you back.

I'm lucky enough to ride somewhere that has four in-house shows a year so I have the opportunity to ride in a dressage ring in front of a registered judge and practice. The last show of the season is usually the first full weekend in November so I tentatively 'aimed' Runkle at it. There's not a ton of atmosphere at these shows, but there is a warm up area and a mix of green horses and riders learning the ropes.

Runkle was very quiet and well behaved from the time I brought him in from the field until he was fully tacked. I had given myself a lot of time to warm up, figuring worst case scenario I'd just walk him around.

I'm glad I left myself that much time, because boy did I need it.

Warm up was 'busy', for a Bit O Woods show. There were four horses quietly warming up in the grassy area next to the indoor arena, at various stages of warmup. He saw the other horses, heard them cantering around, and his poor baby mind exploded. When I got on I could feel his heart pounding against my calves.

I'm not sure why, but I wasn't afraid in a situation that would've had me high tailing it back to the trailer for sure. I didn't feel the burn of shame as people ran to get out of his way when I lost steering control and veered all over the warm-up like a drunk driver trying to make it to Taco Bell before it closes.

I just kept asking him to go forward over and over and when he finally did he got lots of pats. I did have to dismount a few times; at one point he hurtled backwards towards the arena drag and my feet hit the ground before I think he even registered what was happening. And again when I heard my trainer shout at me to jump off while he casually moonwalked dangerously close to a Cadillac.

A Cadillac can't stop me because I'm a smooth criminal

I hand walked him awhile and I didn't feel frustrated so much as a little sad at the prospective loss of my entry fee. But luckily the home shows are really cheap, so really the experience was worth it even if we never made it into the ring. After fifteen minutes of handwalking and doing a little ground work he seemed to remember he was a riding horse and I was his rider, so I got back on. He was good at the walk at ten minutes until my test. I asked for a little trot probably forty five seconds before I went in the ring and he did that too.

I decided to wing it. Worst case scenario: he'd get tangled up in the chain and drag me out of the arena screaming by my feet.

The familiarity of the indoor and quietness of being alone settled him. The bell to mark the start of my test didn't bother him, nor did the chains and potted plants. I warned the judge that he was young and might not have all his mental faculties together so she wouldn't tut disapprovingly if I had to leap off.

It wasn't his best flatwork, not by a long shot, but he did each movement I asked in the order that I asked it. What impressed me the most was his ability to calm down and listen to me after becoming unglued. And even his unglued is more tame than most horses. He never tried to leave the zipcode or do improvise any airs above the ground. He just did his best Michael Jackson impression into unfortunately placed solid objects and innocent passers-by.

Excuse me I don't do dressage. I must leave.

After the test I continued riding him around the warm up area. I sat on him and watched some of the other students jump in the outdoor arena. Runkle stood calmly if not a little impatiently, watching other people jump big boy jumps and warm up in crunchy, loud fallen leaves. The show photographer got such sweet pictures of him anyway, because his face is so cute he can't take a bad picture.

In the end we got second place (out of two, but I won't tell him that). And the ribbon could've been any color but I'm glad we got one. I am so proud that both of us went in there and got it done. I'm happy he's learning to trust me and I'm proud that I can keep myself together even when my horse isn't. I have tons of ribbons from competing all over the east coast, but I feel like this little red last place ribbon is my favorite, and the first one that's really mine.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Baby's First Autumn (With Me, Anyway)

It's been a few weeks since I've updated specifically about Runkle. Mostly because what we're doing right now hardly requires weekly updates.

But when I think about our progress over the last few months I'm not just amazed at how much more he knows but how much more we know each other. Most of the horses I've ridden were someone else's baby, and I was just an add on very late in their career. What Runkle knows about his new life is purely me. I've been riding far longer than he's even been alive and watching him get to know me and his new career has made me happier than I thought it could.

For example, I've watched him become a total treat hound. This horse has learned alarmingly quickly that pockets almost always have food in them. The day I bought him I tried to give him a mint and he had no idea what to do with it. Carrots were a bit easier for him to grasp. But now he knows if I have something in my hand or my pocket it is not only probably edible, but definitely for him. He even meandered over to the garbage can while I was clipping my helmet once to inspect the not quite empty donut box sitting on top.

The patent-pending 'cookie face'

When he's in a grumpy, petulant mood he 'forgets' how to turn left. Usually I'm responsible and do some counter bending to prevent any accidents but I'll admit that on at least one occasion I've kept my leg on and been like "FINE, if you don't want to turn you'll find out yourself that there's a wall there."

Which brings me to point three, which is when I do this he usually stops at the wall and admires his own reflection in the mirror. He actually does this quite a lot. I'm not sure if he thinks it's a cool new friend or if he's just checking out how great he looks with a topline but I definitely have to keep his mind on the ball or he'll just trot around staring at himself.

I don't think scope is going to be a problem.

If I hadn't seen footage of this horse doing hurdles I would never have guessed it. He doesn't drag me around to the jumps. I can actually put an astounding amount of leg on him and even then I still have to give him a little tap with the stick to convince him to actually move out and not bounce up and down like a carousel horse. And then one day he refused a tiny two foot stone wall because I asked for a slightly long distance! "Nope," he told me politely. "I don't have to do that anymore. I get right up under the jump, thank you very much."

Still only an amateur grazer, but working on his full license.

But mostly it's just beautiful having my own horse. The other day I turned him out and after he was done getting fantastically muddy, instead of buck-farting and running off to his friends he meandered back to the gate where I stood watching him. He wanted head scratches. He stood there for ages with me, turning his head and neck every way possible so I could get all the itchiest, muddiest, places. And it made my heart swell to know that I chose him and he is mine, and he is beginning to choose me.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

In Addition to Riding, I Can Also Read!

This entry is going to be about the differences between the Thoroughbred and Saddle Club book series, detailing their strengths and weaknesses both in content and writing.

This is the reason my perception of horse ownership is completely romanticized.

PSYCH. This isn't going to be about that at all. We're adults now, I read real books about real situations, people and horses not magic super horses that win the Dubai World Cup with whiny sixteen year olds aboard (yes, seriously).

I've been collecting all kinds of horse related books since before I could read, but I've distilled my library down to the most interesting and helpful horse books. Today I'm going to talk about three of my favorites.

1. World Class Grooming

I wish I had risen through my riding ranks in Pony Club. I love how anal retentive pony clubbers are. There is a precise method for everything from braiding to stable presentation. I like that you can't just get a nice horse and ride your way to the top, you have to do ALL of the leg work associated with it as well. Am I too old for it? Can we have an adult version of pony club? I would join in a heartbeat.

Since there isn't an adult pony club (that I know of) I have this book. Every review for it is extremely good, because the book is fantastic. It has tons of pictures of beautiful horses that I've seen competing up and down the East coast. One of the grooms works for an eventer, but both writers have worked extensively in hunters, jumpers, and even Arabian breed shows. I love their wide range of experiences in all these different circles; it means they get to cross reference between people who would rarely end up trading information and cull all the rest to give you the very best tips.

My favorite tip: It's hard for me to pick a favorite tip because I loved all of it, but I most liked the part on tails. Banging, pulling, clipping, and braiding. Usually my tail regimen is very careful conditioning and brushing with a slight trim on the edge. But Cat and Emma go the extra mile (of course) and show how they get those beautiful full perfectly manicured tails. I can't wait until I can show off Runkle's tail in our first show. Yes, that's what I fantasize about.

Judge: Halt at X...emplary tail!! 11 for the halt!

My favorite part of the book: The anecdotes, particularly the mistakes they made. Even after decades in the business you can still make mistakes, sometimes with the best of intentions. It's okay. You can recover from it, just like they did.

Buy it here on Amazon. For a measely $28 you can be a groom worthy of Connaught, American Pharoah, or Valegro.

2. Zee German Books: The Principles of Riding and Advanced Techniques of Riding

I'm not joking when I say these bad boys live on my nightstand.

Back when David O'Connor was made chef d'equipe of the US Eventing team, he had a lot of opinions about how things would have to change for the US to come out on top of the podium again. I poured over the clinic notes Eventing Nation posted because as I have a day job in an office I can't bugger off to Aiken in the middle of winter for a week of upper level horse learning. A very astute friend of mine noticed he mentioned two books every eventer has to have in their library. They are The Principles of Riding and Advanced Techniques of Riding, both from the German National Equsetrian Federation. 

How to win, German-ly.

The Germans are masters of their craft, dominating in Europe and here in the US. Not to mention my current idol is Ingrid Klimke. So I poured over these books, and still do especially now that I'm starting on my own with Runkle. I have a pyramid chart hanging in my home office of the six stages of collection, with the German terms. We are currently on losgelassenheit (looseness, reaching for the bit). 

The book starts from the very basic, which my friend thought I would find boring, but I loved it. I want to mount the horse in the German way. Sit in the saddle like a German. If I could teach Runkle to poop like a German horse I would, but sadly there are no instructions for that and I'm not sure it would help our collective marks.

My Favorite Tip: It suggests at least a ten minute walk warm-up before you pick up your horse to do anything. It spends a page saying how important this is not only for the horse, but for the rider. Neither humans nor horses have a switch that you can flip on and off to be in 'riding mode'. You need the ten minutes to slough off a bad day or warm your horses muscles up if he's been stalled when it's really cold.

My favorite part of the book(s): It's hard to say what part is my favorite. I laughed where they cautioned about how difficult mares can be. I loved the ample amounts of diagrams showing how and where the horse can and should bend. There are also plenty of diagrams showing common mistakes with the rider's positions. The book also goes into extreme detail about tack and event preparation. Basically, it's awesome. Or, if you're feeling German, eindrucksvoll

If you also hope to kick ass like a German, you can pick up these books although they are hard to find. Again, Amazon is helpful.

Happy reading, and riding!