Riding Guilty

Pair weddings/new job/actually-trying-to-see-friends-before-they-forget-I-exist with summer evening thunderstorms and really, I haven’t ridden much recently.


But here’s the crux- even when I know that it’s not safe, and it looks like God is getting ready to shower the earth with lightning bolts, I have to have an external discussion with someone (poor husband) justifying why even riding in a covered arena in a thunderstorm is bad news bears. Metal horse shoes, in a metal container, sounds like a bad idea to me. Plus walking the horse outside, however briefly, to get to the covered arena leaves me wringing my hands. But still, I won’t feel better until I have a slightly scared person on the other end nodding that yes, I am making the right decision, and no, my horse won’t fall to pieces if I’m not there to save him. Last night I actually needed two such persons. Yikes.

Foster loves his cuddles. And I swear my nose does not look that beaky normally.

Foster loves his cuddles. And I swear my nose does not look that beaky normally.

Pretty much, I always feel guilty if I can’t ride, even if I have a stellar excuse not to. I know it’s my responsibility to keep him fit, that we won’t move forward without practice, and basically my horse loves a good cuddle, and it makes me feel like a bad person when I don’t see him for a long time.

Am I alone here, or does anyone else out there struggle with the guilt of not riding? How do you balance those feelings with having some kind of social life? Or how about balancing those feelings with basic things like a normal sleep schedule, and eating?

Pre-Show Prep Part III: Getting Prettyfied

When you have a grey horse, or a horse that is 50% white, like, I dunno, Foster, getting ready for a show takes a little more effort than just knocking the dust off.

When you have a horse that loves to turn himself green, brown, and other sordid colors, like, I dunno, Foster (!), getting white white becomes a whole ‘nother story!

Ick, just.. ick.

Ick, just.. ick.

Luckily, friend A was a professional groom in another life, and has spent much of our shows together teaching me the fine art of not-looking-like-a-redneck-hoodlum. A.k.a, how to groom your white horse 101.

Step 1: Shave the legs
This is a step that has to happen long before the show, maybe even before the entry goes in. About 1-2 weeks out, so the hair has a bit of time to grow back and avoid lines, I clip all 4 legs, blending the hair at the knobby parts so it’s not as obvious. Foster [used to] love laying down in his stall, and so stained knees were a trademark of his. Clipped legs make these stains easier to get out, leaves less hair for dirt to cling to, and overall provides a nice, sleek silhouette that helps the overall picture.


Step 2: Pull the mane
This is kind of a ‘duh’ for anyone showing in the English disciplines. While admittedly I am super lazy in the winter and let the mane grow to John Wayne pony lengths, for shows I like the mane to be about 5-6″ long.

Step 3: Trim the face
I know it’s becoming increasingly popular for chin whiskers in the dressage ring, but I personally prefer the well-manicured look of a trimmed up profile. Nose, jawline, bridal path, and if I feel like it, ears, all get the buzz cut treatment.

Foster got his cute little nose buzzed last night

Foster got his cute little nose buzzed last night

Step 4: Wash the pony
Kind of a no-brainer here, but again, definitely required for a mostly white pony like Foster. Scrub-a-dub-dub!

Step 5: Purple the pony
This is the fun part. I fill up a small bucket with water, and pull out the handy-dandy Blue Lotion. Dab the dabber into the water until the water turns a deep purple (it doesn’t take much). Then, sponge the purple water all over the pony, until pony is as purple as a My Little Pony. Scrape off excess water, and let dry. If the tail is white as well, dunk that into the purple water as well. Ideally, we do this process the night before, and wake up to find a beautiful, sparkling white steed in the morning!

Best friend to white horses everywhere.

Best friend to white horses everywhere.

Post-purpling Foster- look at that white!

Post-purpling Foster- look at that white!

Step 6: Braid the pony
Another big ‘duh’, depending on what type of show you are going to. The fun part about braiding a paint is mixing the colors together! It does mean you need bands (or yarn, if you’re skilled- I’m not) in multiple colors though.

Step 7: Powder puff
Right before stepping out into the dusty show ground, Foster’s legs get a big puff of baby powder. Again, this helps them stay white and keeps the dust at bay. I’m not a big fan of show sheen because I hate the slippery feeling of it, but I think at a really nice show I would show sheen too at that point.

Powder puffed legs in action

Powder puffed legs in action

And there you have it!

Show Recap: Novice at Carolina Horse Park

Spoiler alert- I’m about to brag on my horse.

But before that, let’s recap on the goal(s) for this show. Primarily, don’t do anything stupid. Ride every fence/movement. And then secondly, allow for the forward pace (i.e, go pony go!) and have soft elbows.

We arrived on Saturday and first thing I hopped on and schooled dressage, which turned out to be OK, but exhibiting some tension in his neck and back. So Sunday before our test I spent the first 15-20 minutes solely on stretching work. This definitely helped with the relaxation, but got him a little flat with his movement. I made the decision to sit the trot and use my seat to get him moving a little more up. So with that, we went in to do our test.

Overall, I felt like the test was pretty good. Sure, we had a bobble in our canter depart, and he ran into the fence in our walk/trot transition (at least he didn’t take it out this time!), but I was really proud of myself for riding every corner, and preparing at every diagonal and centerline. I think the judge was a little rewarding, but here’s what she thought:

5 8's! Booyah!

5 8’s! Booyah!

And here’s the video of the test.. Other than my chair seat, I know we could improve a bit with the impulsion and forward energy, but otherwise a respectable test in my book. Also- I have to call out the ‘beautiful turnout’ comment by the judge. My friend A was my eyes on the ground, coach, and groom, and every time she helps me get ready for a show we get this comment! Kudos to her!


There were a ton of professionals in my large division of 18, so my 31.3 test landed me tied for 7th headed into showjumping. Watching the showjumping go, we noticed a lot of people getting either poles or time penalties. I have faith in Foster’s handiness to get around the course, so our warm up focused on getting a good pace and keeping my elbows soft and following. I think the pace held up through the course (with again unfortunate counter cantering from 6 to 7), though we got seriously stuck heading into the 2 stride combination, and the last 3 fences are as a result… fugly. But clean and clear and onto XC!


Cross Country
After walking the course twice (I was not going to get lost this time), I felt like this was a nice, inviting course to build confidence in horse and rider, and the technical and terrain questions were really appropriate to the Novice level. Here’s a look at the jumps:

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Goofing off while looking at the jumps.. we’re not in Beginner Novice anymore!


The fences I was worried about, and planned to ride aggressively to, were 3 (the skinny), element 9A of the sunken road, and the second bank. But as I rode through the course, I don’t remembering using my bat at all! Foster locked on to every fence and I didn’t feel an ounce of hesitation- he ate it up! All the photos show his ears perked and a confident expression on his face, which makes me swell inside with happiness. We came through the finish flags with 1 second to spare!

Wrapping up

Ending on our dressage score of 31.3 earned us a fourth place ribbon. Considering the seriously stiff competition, I never imagined placing, and feel really good about future Novices this year. I am heartened by the thought that we can definitely improve on our score, and… we checked off our major goal for 2014!

  • Get a 65% or better on dressage and go double clear in show jumping and cross country.


I also need to give credit where credit is due… This weekend would not have been nearly as successful or fun without A by my side! And if you are reading this, A, thank you again!

Next horse trials, maybe this summer!

Clinic Recap: Day 2

Day 2 Cross Country

Day 2 was our second cross country lesson, and I felt really confident after the prior day’s success. Unsurprisingly, when I got Foster out on the field, he felt sluggish- the poor thing was tired! But he put his game face on and rallied (for a while). Since he felt so relaxed, I allowed myself to finally relax too, and felt a big difference in the ride. I could follow with my elbows more, and pay a bit more attention to the task at hand. Because I was feeling more confident, I asked Holly if we could push the envelope a bit, and boy did she deliver! We hopped over this rather large training oxer (right after the rollback in the video), and did a super fun bank combination. Foster particularly loved this, and launched himself off the bank with all the boldness I could ever want in an event horse!

Off the bank we go!

When that went well, Holly asked if I’d like to try the ditch/up bank combo. It’s a bit hard to see in the pic, but there is a shallow ditch behind the ground line- and I was super stoked to try it! Foster flew up it without hesitation- it was very exciting!



The themes of the day were continuing to allow him to come forward, and keep my elbows soft (though this was improved over the day before). I definitely need to add more pace to bigger fences (such as the bank above, and the training oxer in the video), and keep him straight/allow for a straighter approach to the jump. Also might try lowering my hands, as with show jumping.

Screen shot 2014-04-13 at 4.56.00 PM

Unfortunately towards the end of the session, Foster had decided he had had enough, and put in a couple of naughty run outs. These were all to the left, and it’s my job to pull him right if this happens. No matter what! Things were going so well, I definitely let my guard down and he slipped out on me a couple times. I honestly think these were due to him being fully exhausted, and while that’s no excuse, I’m still proud of him for all the good work he did over the weekend. We ended on a good note, jumping over a small vertical into the water, and called it a day!

Summing it Up

All in all, this clinic was hugely helpful in re-establishing the basics and getting us back to where we need to be with our confidence. It was a nice, laid back atmosphere with fun people, and left us with a manageable amount of homework. I’m excited to hear that Holly will be hosting multiple clinics this year, and I am already looking forward to the next one!


Big [Horse-related] news

… I have decided to move Foster. It was a long-thought out, emotional decision, but one I had to make if I wanted any kind of life outside of work and horses. Since I started my new job, the commute to the barn has been much longer (50 minutes long), and has been taking a toll on me- mentally and physically.

The beautiful backdrop driveway for our current barn

The beautiful backdrop driveway for our current barn

Since I am also working later hours than I used to, it means I have been getting out to the barn close to 7 pm every night. Add in an hour and a half of ride time, basic grooming, and a 35 minute drive home and any kind of ‘down time’ doesn’t start until 9 pm. I know I should think of riding as down time, because it’s certainly not a chore, but let’s face it- everybody needs to veg out just a little bit. Not to mention my poor husband is already thinking about bed time at 9 pm, and frankly, so am I. All these reasons, plus the costs of gas meant the whole situation was less than ideal.

Another photo from our engagement shoot at the barn... oldest wood barn in NC!

Another photo from our engagement shoot at the barn… oldest wood barn in NC!

So I found a place that is closer to work – a whopping 15 minutes away, to be exact! Added bonus that it has an indoor arena, so I can ride even if it’s nasty outside. There are of course a couple compromises to be made, but I am hoping it will be a good fit for us.

Indoor arena at the new facility

Indoor arena at the new facility

I think the hardest thing about making this decision was the thought of leaving a wonderful group of fellow boarders that I have had for the past 3 years. These ladies are fun, fun, fun, and a nice down-to-earth type that I know I can rely on in a pinch. Luckily, they have all been super supportive of my decision and I desperately hope we all stay in touch after the move. It will be sad not to see their faces around the barn, but I hope I can make more barn friends at the new facility.

Fingers crossed that our big move [tomorrow] goes well!

Finally jumping again

photo 1

This weekend was unusually beautiful (aside: do you like how every post these days starts out by describing the weather?), so of course I spent as much time as possible out at the barn. On the flat we are still mostly stretching, and working up to a training level frame to get his conditioning back. Once we is warmed up we have had some really nice trot work, and I’m hoping this will carry through to the canter once he gains more fitness. I’m also working on getting his weight up a bit to help with the muscle building process, so he is getting alfalfa mush and just started on a Cocosoya supplement as well. This is the first time I have tried the latter (previously I have gone with Cool Calories, but I liked that description for the Cocosoya), so if anyone has feedback I’d love to hear it!

Rabid green foamy pony monster wants more alfalfa cubes!

Rabid green foamy pony monster wants more alfalfa cubes!

Yesterday we jumped for the first time in ages, and had oh so much fun. He was a little behind my leg (understandably), especially over the cross rails and smaller fences. There were a couple fences set up at 2’9″ and 2’11”-3′ and once he went over those he pepped up quite a bit. After doing a small course, we were talked into trying our hand at the gymnastic that was set up – a crossrail/crossrail bounce, one stride to a vertical, one stride to a 2’9″ish oxer. At first we took out the vertical, as Foster (and maybe even myself) has never done a bounce before and didn’t want to over complicate it. I had visions of him stumbling through (especially after our raised pole confusion a while back), but I was shocked to see how easily he picked up it up, even the first time. We ended up added the vertical back in, and he popped through the whole thing easy-breezy.

Doing this really reminded me how helpful gymnastics can be- I tend to be intimidated by them because I haven’t been really exposed to them, and I worry about not setting them up right and creating a disaster. Luckily, this one was set up by a fellow boarder for her coming-Prelim horse, so I knew she would have the distances right. Going through this exercise really helped us find our spots (the couple single fences I jumped afterwards were so much nicer as a result!), and I could really work on my position over the fence. Will have to start setting up more of these in the future!

Anyways, outside of the barn, life continues to be a little bit of a struggle. My poor father-in-law is still in the hospital, although moved out of the ICU there is no news of his leaving anytime soon. Elliot has a UTI, which is probably caused by stress/separation anxiety and we are now plugging in a Feliway and he is sporting a fancy purple pheromone collar to help him be chill kitty instead of clingy kitty. Here’s hoping that works!

Elliot aka Snaggletooth and his new pretty purple collar

Elliot aka Snaggletooth and his new pretty purple collar

This week looks to be a crazy-fest, with more snow/slush/wintry mix crap coming, traveling to Pittsburgh, a wedding, and a cross country schooling lesson this weekend! More updates to come!

Snow days

Well, it happened. Hell Raleigh (referring to the idom, I heart Raleigh just FYI) froze over, as is wont to happen once in a while. Just over an inch of the white fluffy stuff has sent the city into a frenzy of the “er-mer-gerd, snow!” sort, and has me camped out at home. Anyways, anybody with access to a news channel knows about the snow, so I won’t gab on about that.

So I didn’t get to go see the pony, boo. Instead a kind friend took photos of him!

Seriously, how cute is he with his snow mustache.

Seriously, how cute is he with his snow mustache.

I did, however, get to snap a few quick pics of Drake outside, with the most beautimous sunset….


Oh my goodness was he ever having fun!

fb_DSC3398But I finally got him to sit


And then I was able to get this one good one before the sun completely disappeared!

Hopefully next year I will get my act together and take proper photos, but we’ll see!

Meanwhile, since I have been stuck outside and have been feeling surprisingly domesticated, I thought I would share with you the. best. spinach. thing. ever. Seriously, it’s delicious. I have eaten 3/4 of it today, so I should know.

Yeah, I had a piece before I could take a pic. My bad.

Yeah, I had a piece before I could take a pic. My bad.

Here’s the link to this cheesy spinach-feta pie that is oh-so-easy, and skinnytaste approved! I’ve also been busy making Yorkshire pudding (part of the best and cheapest dinner EVER) and Mulled wine. Perhaps tomorrow I will post the ‘recipes’ for those if it interests anyone!

Anyways, hope everyone stays warm! Be safe y’all!


Snow (aka the wet continues)

Panoramic of the backyard in it's Carolina snow glory

Panoramic of the backyard in it’s Carolina snow glory

Normally, snow would have me excited and thinking how pretty everything is! So white! So bright! So beautiful!

Bah humbug.

Right now, snow means that it will take longer to dry out, and prolong the time between now and when I can get back in the saddle. And right now, that’s something I’m not handling very well *insert more virtual foot stamping here*. Foster lost his wrap last night and because I swear it was blizzarding (no we didn’t get much accumulation, but it was really coming down!), I didn’t go out to soak his foot (it’s 26 miles one way, don’t judge me!). Thank goodness for good barn friends that can check on him!

Foster all bundled up against the cold

Foster all bundled up against the cold

But today it will be definitely safe enough to go out and see what state the pony is in. That is, besides continuing to be grody and shaggy, and not groomed decently enough to be seen in public.

So much for that!


Foster and his most favorite friend, Baron, playing over the fence

If I could virtually stamp my foot, I would. Last week I had one ride on a sound but increasingly unfit horse, and then pouted about the weather for the next several days. Then yesterday, as I’m making plans for the next 5 gloriously sunny days, I trot off, and something’s wrong. Headbobbing, ugly, three legged wrong.

My well founded guess is that it’s another abcess, but in the other front foot. All the same symptoms- lots of wet conditions and no heat, no swelling, but head bobbing specifically on the front right- therefore I’m going to treat it as such (unfortunately the farrier is out of town). So we will be more than likely, missing our first jumper show that is next weekend, and cutting it closer than I would like in preparing for our first horse trial. In the mean time, the silver lining is that at least it will be sunny, and therefore dry up all the crud that keeps making my poor pony lame.


More soaking…

Other than that, I’m off today on an adventure to take my trailer in for a well needed service!

Please send more sound thoughts to Foster, and maybe generous thoughts to the trailer guys so I have enough money to compete in the spring after they’re done!