Friday, July 21, 2017

Das Boots: Part 2

I got new boots.

Awhile ago I was seen complaining about how no one makes boots in my size. But instead of getting mad I got even - I shelled out for custom bad boys. And not just any custom bad boys. I got Dehners.

I tried on every stock boot in the store first, just to convince the sales woman that I really had tried everything. Once we exhausted all of my options (including Ariats that were so tight in the calf my foot went numb) she acquiesced that my leg was not a stock boot size. I really appreciate her trying, though!

The measuring process was very thorough. She measured everything from my instep to my calf just below my knee and of course, everything in between. She also traced my foot. Then we went through the book over every single option. And there are a lot of options. But here are a few of my more major selections and why.

My name is in them. They are mine. Forever.
Black Calf Leather
Going in I wasn't going to get the calf leather. I wanted something durable (and cheaper). The Voyager leather Dehner has is considerably less than the calf and I was going to go with that until I saw it. It is fine, serviceable leather but it ends there. The calf leather is gorgeous. It's sturdy, shines beautifully and feels like silk to the touch. I'm a big, big fan. It was totally worth the price. Be honest - if you're going to spend a couple hundred dollars on a pair of custom boots why not go the whole hog and get gorgeous leather to go with it??

Klingfast Lined
From Dehner's webpage:

"Another compromise. In this case the boot is fully lined and an oval piece is removed from the inside of the leg only. This allows for a full lined appearance on the outside of the leg while giving close contact with the horse on the inside."

Sort of seen here, the oval cutout inside.
I really hate wrinkles in my boots, especially up the shaft of the boot. I like a clean, shiny, smooth appearance. I also want these boots to last forever, and the best (albeit most painful way) to do that is to have them lined as much as possible. Unlined boots are soft but they will die. Quickly. They'll break in fast and fail even faster. So while I'm still limping around trying to break these in (oh god, so much pain) I know for every week that they're ouchy I have a solid year of use when they'll be comfortable and perfectly molded to my leg.

No Zippers
Probably one of the more controversial decisions about the boots. But this decision was made well before I even went and got measured.

Something is missing.... ah yes, it's anxiety.

You know what I hate?
-When your zipper gets caught on your pants when you're trying to get ready for a lesson.
-When your zipper breaks and you don't have time to get it repaired before a clinic/show/the next time you ride
-When a hole busts out at the seam where the elastic meets the boot because it's a structural weak point, and your Hulk-esque calf rage punches through it.
-When your calf is huge and you get that really sexy pucker of the zipper that makes your calves look EVEN BIGGER.
-When you're out on cross country and there is a cool breeze on your leg and think "wow, that feels nice" only to look down and realize that, four jumps into your first BN on your baby horse, your boot is pretty much totally undone. The zipper keepers really did f all to help you.

At Badminton this year, just a week after I ordered my old school pull on boots, I saw a rider on cross country galloping around one of the biggest tracks in the world with his freakin' boot flapping around, completely unzipped!!

And just a few weeks ago this picture surfaced of Jennie Brannigan:

Zipping up her boot between jumps on cross country.

No thanks. Like, a hard no.

So here's some boot porn. And if you want really nice, traditional tall boots that will last forever, look gorgeous and fit you like a glove, I cannot recommend Dehner's or Bucks County Saddlery more. BCS was so helpful and worked so hard to ensure the boots fit flawlessly, even stretching the ankle slightly for free. Thanks again, ladies!!

Spur rest

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Why Do I Love Horses So Much?

I've been doing a lot of thinking about what I want to write about. And what this blog should be now.

Runkle was an excellent catalyst for a blog.

He was always doing something. Our relationship together was chaotic. He made me cry more times than I'd care to admit. He made me feel worry, love, hate, excitement, fear. One day in our partnership could run the gamut of emotions from proud to scared. A few months felt like lifetimes. We went through so much and a lot of it was a struggle. It made the successes feel sharper and more pronounced.

I stopped thinking about the future. Even as I brought him back into work after Splintzilla I couldn't think past a few weeks. Talking about goals I used words like 'maybe' and 'hope'. The more that went wrong the more I shut down my future goals to save myself from the sting of disappointment that I'd never get there. I only proved myself right when we didn't.

My relationship with Runkle is reminiscent to me of a first love. It's heady and larger than life. The feelings are more acute and explosive than anything I had felt before. It's not a love that's built on itself though, but one that gallops in advance of fear. It's a fuse burning up, sparking faster as the line gets shorter.

To try and find a reason and a direction, I'm asking myself why.

My girlfriend asked me why I loved horses so much. I sat there dumbly with no answer because when you've been horse crazy as long as I have (as long as we have, if you're reading this) then it becomes hard to answer. At some point the answer just becomes"what life without horses? That's hardly a life at all". And throughout history there are quotes from all over the world about man's innate love for the horse, so much so that eventually the collective gave up trying to piece out why and just called them a gift from god.

So why do I love them so much? What keeps me coming back, day after day, year after year, heartbreak after heartbreak?

There's no one answer. Because I love how they smell. I love being outside. I love watching them play when it's storming. They're so cute when they drink water and their ears twitch every time they swallow. They're beautiful and elegant. They're silly and huge but somehow still gentle. I love when they're happy, and when they think you have food. They wear their hearts on their sleeves and are always honest with you. They're powerful yet fragile, brave even when they're scared.

I can fly on them. When I'm on the back of a horse nothing about the past or future exists. It's one of the few times I feel completely present. I am free.

Maybe that is the addiction, obsession, and love for horses. It's a love for freedom in a world that has so many chains that we gladly assume, and so much weight attached to them that we must carry. But every day I get to set them down, even if only temporarily, and be free.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

My Perfect Saddle

I'm saddle shopping. I have somewhat reluctantly been saddle shopping since March. But several life collapsing events sort of led me to put it on hold although I have still been casually ISO. I did impulsively order one on trial though so fingers crossed!

While I was looking I made a list that, while not comprehensive, details pretty solidly what I'm looking for in a saddle.

1. Fits my butt as if they were made to be together.

2. Leather that is broken in but also brand new (at the same time).

3. Speaking of leather, it must be soft buttery calfskin that is also simultaneously strong and durable enough to last 20 years and be rained on, dropped, thrown around the back of my car and fall off the saddle rack in the trailer.

4. The flaps must be perfect length and shape for my abomination legs.

5. The blocks must be perfect size so as to hold my leg in a perfect position thus guaranteeing I will never fall off. The blocks must also not impede me whether I am galloping, jumping or doing flatwork.

6. The tree must perfectly fit every horse it sits on, without a half pad. Unless I feel like using a cute half pad, then it must adjust for that.

7. It can never hurt or pinch any horse's back, be it the narrowest Thoroughbred or widest Shire (same half pad contingency).

8. It must enhance the jump of all it touches.

9. It's actually found to relieve back pain. In the horse and the rider!

10. It never slides back or slips to the side, even if I forget to tighten my girth.

11. You know what? Maybe it could have like a little 'check engine' light on it to remind me to tighten my girth.

Because I always forget.
12. It will have self-rolling stirrups. By voice command.

13. Guaranteed indestructible tree.

14. If, for some reason, anything breaks or needs repair a saddle fitter can come and fix it on the spot within 24 hours of being notified of the problem.

15.  The saddle should come with a matching girth, stirrups leathers, and breastplate (even though I don't need a breastplate, see #10).

16. To pay for it I just give my old saddle as a trade in. No other cash transaction required.

No but seriously... DO YOU WANNA BUY MY SADDLE?
17. It has purple piping.

Except picture it with brown leather.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

What I Love About Baby Horses: Jumping

I didn't know anything about training a young horse when I got Runkle. I am lucky (and possibly a moocher) and spent most of my former years riding very experienced, very NICE horses that already knew everything.

this poor animal carted me around up to novice
this good samaritan took me up to 4ft
she got us through a couple training levels
It was certainly a switch to get on something that didn't know how to turn much less collect itself.

But as time has gone on and I'm now endeavoring on baby horse #2, I've realized that while my time on well trained schoolmasters was essential in making me the rider I am today I relish the small day to day victories that come with horse training.

I think my favorite is teaching them to jump.

so much legs. and so much derp.
It's so awkward helping them navigate those first crossrails, it makes me laugh. They get all wiggly and confused, and you have to be so careful with your hands and your upper body because who knows when they're going to jump. Maybe they'll stop and peek at the jump before launching over. Sometimes they'll skid to a halt and then walk over. Occasionally they'll miss the point entirely and plow through the jump in a clatter of rails leaving skuffs of paint on their hooves.

one of runkle's early 'jumping' attempts. lol.
But no matter what the effort was, they did get to the other side, so you throw them a party. Lots of squealing good boy's and pats and neck scratches. And the horses know. They get so cute 'successfully' navigating a jump and being praised after. Sometimes they buck and play and I don't get after them because I want them to feel proud of themselves. They deserve it!!

No matter how awkward that attempt was, after they have their congratulations party you circle the ring and come back again and the next jump is always better.

It's a totally addicting feeling and while I sometimes get frustrated about having to start all over with a new baby horse, this is one part I feel very lucky I get to do twice.

his face is too big to selfie. I need longer arms.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Begin the World Over Again

When I lost Runkle, after climbing my way through the haze of the awful decision I was just forced to make, my first thought was: I have to go horse shopping. Again. Fuck.

Horse shopping is THE WORST. I've never sold a horse so I can't attest to which is harder but shopping is TERRIBLE. Especially when you're an ammie, to be honest. You don't have the finances for more than one horse. This one has to be the one. They have to have everything. And I can't afford to buy a horse, keep it for a little bit, realize I don't like it and then sell it to get another. My budget isn't by the grace of my parents, it's my scraped together money that I found here and there when I skipped going out to dinner or on vacation or didn't buy new work clothes.

I tentatively started asking around pretty quickly. My heart doesn't do well without a horse. And I knew it would take me awhile to find what I was looking for. The biggest difference between last time and this time was now I had a measure. I had a 'base 0': Runkle. Whatever horse I tried I had to like more than Runkle.

I wrote the typical 'girl seeks horse' ad and got a flood of horses.

Let me tell you, the internet is full of crap. And full of people who can't read. And also full of nice wonderful horses. It's sifting through the first two to get to the third that's agony.

It didn't end up surprising me when Runkle actually led me to my next horse.

As soon as I wasn't raw enough to admit I was horse shopping, Keri (who put me in touch with Runkle and for some reason lets me get run away with gallop race horses a few times a month) said she had something for me to look at. Incidentally, I remember her posting when she got the horse and I remember wishing I could have two. Cause he was skinny and needed let down time but damn was this animal gorgeous.

Note the date on that.
He was also probably a foot taller than I was looking for, but I agreed to 'just come out and see him'. Famous last words, amirite?

Our 'before' confo shot
My first thought upon seeing him was he was way too big. My first thought upon riding him was oh my god, he's way too big and his walk feels as good as it looks. And then I jumped him over some little x's, and some bigger verticals, and went out in a field and over some little logs and I was giggling.

And for twenty minutes I forgot about what a shitshow disaster my life had been and I was having fun again. I knew I couldn't walk away from that.

I don't know how I got so lucky. Again. I loved Runkle, I will always love him. He was fun and challenging and athletic, full of spitfire and silliness. Indy is completely different but also exactly my type of ride. He's gorgeous and has excellent manners and I can have fun on him. He has a heart of gold.

Grazing is hard when you're tall
What can I say? I'm a lucky girl.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Hello, Blogland

It's been a crazy month.

I moved.
I love moving.
My hair is brown???
But I am alive and well.

My car isn't.
And I have a new man in my life.

Everybody, meet Indy.

I'm going to love this horse. You know how, way back when, I got on Runkle and knew immediately he was mine? Well I got on Indy, knew immediately he was mine, but the horse knew I was his, too. He got soft through his back and his jaw. For me. How Saddle Club is that?

Runkle was my heart. I still miss him terribly almost every day. But now, on the other days when I don't miss him quite so much, it's because Indy did something so... Indy. Something so sweet and gentle that Runkle would never do. Runkle was all about pushing my comfort level, kicking down my boundaries, and teaching me a lot.

Thanks Dr. Mark & Unionville Equine - again!

Indy... makes it more about me. He is the dearest, most biddable animal I've ever worked with. He takes treats really gently and never gets mouthy. I can go on a trail ride around the back of the property and actually enjoy myself, not sit tense in the saddle waiting for a deer to jump out and kill us. He doesn't pick fights with the other horses. He doesn't get pissy in his stall or paw in the cross ties. He just stands there and lets me brush him, talk to him and kiss his nose.

I still need time to heal. But the more time that passes, the more excited I am for what I have now and what will be in the future. I couldn't be more thankful to Keri for putting us together.

I'm really proud and happy to have this horse as part of my family.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Without Runkle

I believe in making wishes. At first I think it was born of superstition, but as I got older I realized I strongly believed in putting my intent out into the world with my heart. Wishing is an acknowledgement of your dreams.

As long as I can remember I always wished for a horse. Every dried out wishbone carefully saved from Thanksgiving, fields that I combed for that elusive four leaf clover, and most of all stars. I wished on every shooting star I ever saw for a horse, from when I was about eight until... well, I never really stopped.

I remember the day I brought Runkle home after buying him. It's not too often you see any stars at all in New Jersey, but as I was leaving the barn with him tucked snug into his new stall I saw a shooting star and I stared at it because I had my wish. Runkle was my dream come true.

Last Wednesday morning was beautiful and sunny. I could live the rest of my life in that morning; in fact sometimes it's hard not to. In that moment I still had Runkle, and I had all our dreams for our future. I had my hopes for the weekend, and I was still riding the high of navigating my baby horse through his first beginner novice a few days before. I was warm, happy, safe. In love and loved. I had everything. Someone threw a rock through my beautiful stained glass day and on the other side of the broken shards was the real world.

Last week Runkle suffered a catastrophic injury to his stifle. I'll never know how he did it but despite all my best efforts (and those of his vets) there was no way he would ever recover comfortably. I made the right decision and let him go.

My whole life changed in the span of a few days. He was my world; everything I did revolved around him. Runkle is gone, irretrievably, and now I have to grapple with what 'moving on' means. It feels terrible. I feel terrible I want to move on to feeling better as quickly as possible but the only way out is through. Every day is sometimes a little better, sometimes a little worse, but I keep reminding myself that the way out is through.

I'm not sure what exactly is next. The future will most certainly involve blogging but for now this chapter of my life needs to be closed so I can move on. I'll see you soon. Remember everything (both good and bad) is only temporary, so hug your ponies close. Cherish them. They make the world and our lives more beautiful.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Horse Hangover

I didn't even go to Rolex this weekend and I still have a massive horse hangover today. I think my feet are swollen. Why are my feet swollen??

Sad feet aside, this weekend was full of horses and it was awesome.

Friday I caught up on the dressage tests I only had the privalege of listening to. Luckily the commentary is pretty good and I would surreptitiously flip to the stream every once in awhile, but I still wanted to watch some of the best (and worst) tests.

Chinese food and Rolex. #rk3de #eventing by @kieshorse

Saturday I slept in. I don't remember the last time I slept in. Why do horses have to do everything at ass o'clock? But I got up and watched the entire live stream and ate Chinese food. I followed up the stream with a trip to the barn to prep Runkle for his ~*first*~ beginner novice the next day. That included teaching him to wear shipping boots.

#letsgetreadytorunkle #bnorbust #ohboy #thoroughbred #ottb #eventing #eventer #exhurdler by @kieshorse

I've never been to St. Augustine before. It used to be home to the Millbrook horse trials, which my trainer and her friend were very nostalgic for. The event was very low key, with great footing. It was in the middle of some kind of breeding farm so there were foals absolutely everywhere. There was plenty of trailer parking and porta potties, you know, all the important things.

Also at packet pickup they gave out little baggies of mints (THE GOOD KIND) with notes that said "Have a good dressage test and clear courses! Good Luck - St. Augustine Pony Club" which I thought was adorable.
You know what I'm talking about.
Runkle was fantastic. There were 0 sideways moments. 0. I couldn't even believe it. NO impromptu sidepasses. He was actually so good I spent way too much time warming up for dressage and he got a little tired and stuck behind the bridle. We still netted a 33.3 for 2nd, because even on his bad days he's very cute.

Either that or it was my stock tie, which came in from Chubby Cov the day before the show and looks so good with my coat I want to wear it all the time.

Stadium went flawlessly. He was again, very very good in the warmup. I had way too much time to warm up because the course change took longer than expected so I just walked for ages. It was crowded and people were cantering very close to him but Runkle was shockingly okay with all of it. My little boy, growing up! *wipes tear*

Then came XC. I've only had him out of the startbox once, so my goals for this were to get him over all the jumps and give him a happy, positive ride. The course was really cute. The gallop through the woods to the water was really fun (and by gallop I mean trot, for us). There was a little down bank and the fences were all very well decorated. It was really a great course for green horses and riders, while at the same time not being insultingly and ridiculously soft.

Unfortunately we did have two stops that were both totally my fault. The first was early on, and I could've mitigated it by giving Runkle a little tap after our first (very sticky) jump. The second was because I totally missed a jump and instead of circling and getting straight to it I tried to just turn and jump it and he did not appreciate the surprise (sorry buddy!!).

But he didn't know or care. He had a lot of fun (maybe... way too much fun...). He positively strutted back to the trailers, little snot.

We still ended up 4th. To top off a really sweet little venue, St. Augustine has baller ribbons.

It was such a solid first BN experience for him. I'm so proud. He acted like a grown up little man, he listened to me and had fun. AND I got to wear my purple coat. What more could you want?!