Posts Tagged ‘Hunter’

I Love Horses

My name is Tara and I love horses. Supposedly that is the first step to recovery, right?! I can’t imagine my life without these divine creatures playing a major role and am so grateful I have the means and the support of Boot City to have them. People often compare the hobby of horseback riding to playing sports or golfing or other “similar” activities, but there is one glaring difference. If you own or lease a horse you are responsible for the care and well being of an 800+ pound animal 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 52 weeks per year. It is kind of like marriage; you take a vow to care for them in sickness and in health.

So far 2017 has had it’s fair share of “sickness”, mostly in the form of injuries. Right, Sterling?

We like to selfie while on stall rest. Again.

Simon tried to pull his hoof off of his leg this spring, but miraculously was never lame. The injury looked really bad and made me kind of nervous so I haven’t been riding him. I want to let the hoof grow out more and he is really just a baby so the time off is fine.

Simon trying on a hunt bridle to prepare for what we hope will be his future career!

Jaguar is kicking it retirement-style. His hurt leg is noticeably off, but he’s happy as a clam out in his pasture with his buddies. He even trots and canters sometimes! I thought he’d be annoyed at being retired, but he’s taken to it pretty well. He still bosses everyone around, including the neighbor horses.

The handsomest 24 year old, grandson of Doc Bar, past AQHYA World Championship qualifying reiner, retired fox hunter, there ever was!

Coco (so far) is one of my “in health” horses currently. She has had PLENTY of “in sickness” over the past few years so she deserves it! We will make our way to a few more horse shows this summer as Sterling convalesces. Miles, miles and more miles are my goals for Coco this year.

Hanging out in her giant stall at the horse show. My favorite thing about Texas Rose Horse Park are the huge permanent stalls. It is so nice for the bigger hunter/jumper horses to not be stuck is some tiny 10×10 or even 12×12.

Last, but certainly not least, Casey has been the VERY best step-in hunt/whipper-in horse I could have asked for! He was a perfect gentleman all hunt season, enjoyed a few trail rides and now is FOR SALE! The plan had been to take him back to Montana, but Mom thinks it would be best for him to stay in Texas and have a busier job with someone who will appreciate him. Casey is one of those horses that you can truly grab out of the pasture, jump on and go and there is no drama. I know because we did just that 2 weekends ago. He hadn’t been ridden since March and I hopped on (with no lunge) and he trotted and cantered around like he was ridden yesterday. And he’s only FIVE! He’s got SO MANY great years ahead of him! So, you should buy him, or at least tell your friends to buy him. For reals.

Poor Casey’s biological clock stayed on Montana seasons so he didn’t start shedding his winter coat until JUNE! When he would get hot and it was wet, well, he would roll in the mud to cool off.

No, horses are not just a “hobby”. I can’t put them in a closet and forget about them until the next time I want to “play”. They are my lifestyle and I love every second!

Coco Chanel Goes to a Horse Show

I have very little media documenting the momentous occasion, but Coco went to her first horse show last weekend and she was SO good! We Horsepooled with my horsey bestie so got to the show grounds (Texas Rose Horse Park near Tyler, Texas) around noon on Friday. We weren’t showing until Saturday, so it was nice to have plenty of time to see what kind of horse I had on my hands.

The impetus for this occasion was Sterling’s quarter crack lameness after I had already committed to my barn that I was going to the horse show. I texted Trainer and asked what she thought about taking Coco. Coco is by no means ready to jump a course, but it would be great to get her out and about and see how she is amidst the chaos of a horse show. Trainer loved the idea and was excited to finally lay eyes on Coco.

The horses settled in easily and Coco’s eyes were huge taking in all the sights and sounds.

Getting to know the neighbor horses. There was little to no squealing.

After settling in her stall for a couple hours I walked her around the show grounds and in the ring where we would show. She was a bit bug eyed, but not crazy and not spooky. We tacked up and headed to our show ring for a hack and she was super star! The only thing she kind of spooked at was a rail on the ground and some of the fill from the jumps that were taken apart. Trainer was very pleased with her temperament and optimistic about her future. I was, of course, elated.

I lunged and hacked her early Saturday morning to again see what kind of horse I had for the day. She was much the same, looking around but not crazy. We got her rinsed off and primped, ready to be a princess in the horse show. Our classes went around 10a. I made the mistake of riding her in the big hunter warmup ring before our class and she got a little jazzed by the traffic, so we went down and just walked around in the grass by our ring. Our first class had 5 entries (including us) which was a nice size. Enough horses to see how she would do in traffic, but not so many that she should get crowded or have to maneuver too much traffic. We got cut off once and she broke gait in the first class, but she got all her transitions, all her leads and couldn’t care less about the traffic. Yay! We got fifth out of five, but I still consider it a win because she did so well.

We stayed in the ring for our next hack class which only had four entries and it was much the same. We broke gait in front of the judge so I knew we weren’t going to place, but she was really really good. Happy to be there, not spooky, didn’t care about the other horses.

Pretty princess didn’t want to stand still for her photo op, so this is the proof she went to a horse show!

We were entered in a couple other hacks in the afternoon, but one had 9 entries which seemed like it would be pressing our luck and when we went to the ring to show in our final hack of the day she seemed like she was on the verge of brain fry, so we untacked and went for a lunge instead. We didn’t have any classes on Sunday so I lunged her early in the morning and took her for another hack in the Indoor. We were fortunate and no one was in there with us for about 20 minutes. After a few more horses showed up to lunge we went for a walk around the show grounds. It was stormy, thundering and had rained quite a bit, which often causes horses to act a little crazy. Coco took it all in stride easily. She marched right through the mud puddles, was unfazed by the sloppy ring and seemed to thoroughly enjoy being out and about.

The prettiest Coco Chanel.

I’m thrilled with how our weekend went and can’t wait for more horse shows with Coco! I was planning to take Sterling to show in Waco in June, but he has yet another major injury (more on this later) and will likely be out for most of the first half of the summer. With this turn of events Coco may get to go to another show to hang out and do a couple hack classes. Miles are good!

Field trip

In the nine years I’ve owned Sterling he has slowly but surely gotten much better about being ridden away from home, but he still gets quite distracted at new places. One of the best things about living in North Texas is the availability of really lovely facilities that allow outside riders, one of which is a mere 15 miles from my house. This past weekend Sterling and I made the trip out to Willow Draw to get some miles away from home.

Not many hunter/jumper barns have walls with mirrors so it usually takes Sterling a few minutes to get acclimated to the handsome grey horse that seems to do the same thing he’s doing.

It is SO nice to be able to see his frame in the mirror, though. Especially when I’m riding by myself. I can really see how my riding is affecting his frame and see the immediate change when I change something. There aren’t any jumps in the indoor so we worked on a 20 meter circle exercise we did at a lesson last week and then worked on his frame for the under saddle classes.

After 30 or so minutes in the indoor I wanted to get him out on the cross country course for a mini trail ride. As I’ve written in the past Sterling is NOT a fan of trail rides. However, I’ve only ever taken him out in large groups or with the fox hunt so thought going out by himself might go better. Willow Draw has a full cross country course, but we only ventured to one of the water hazards to see if I could get him to get his feet wet.

I didn’t take my iCellular with me when I went out in case he lost his s%&t and I got tossed into the water or something similar so I don’t have pics, but I was able to get him to get all four feet in the water! Here is a snap of the water hazard from the road. It is the one with the jumps in the distance, not the one right by the road.

I’m SO proud of him! He also had to cross a little ditch of running water and let me tell you, he cleared that 2″ of water by about 7′ both in height and the distance he jumped across. Dramatic much?!

There were some riders schooling on the cross country course and I wanted to stay out of their way as much as I didn’t want to overwhelm Sterling, so after our success at the water hazard we went back to hack a little more in the indoor.

Sterling was a very good boy and settled easily into the “new” arena. Just a couple years ago we would have had to lunge for 15-20 minutes and do plenty of hand walking before I would have DARED ride at a new place. I am SO appreciative that places like Willow Draw make it possible to use their beautiful facility.

Simon’s Bloodlines

When I was first considering buying Simon I posted on the Chronicle of the Horse Forums in the Sport Horse Breeding section requesting information about Simon’s lineage and it’s propensity for sport horse performance. It was an enlightening exchange from some very knowledgeable people with regards to Thoroughbred bloodlines and racing. Simon’s sire is Ghostzapper. Ghostzapper currently stands for a $75,000 stud fee at Aden SpringsSimon’s in Paris, Kentucky.  He won the Breeder’s Cup in 2004, the same year he was awarded the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year. He was retired in June of 2005 and at that point had won just under $3.5 million. I did a search on the United States Equestrian Federation’s website for offspring of Ghostzapper and only found a couple. One had shown in the hunters and one in jumpers, but neither horse had much of a show history. His first foal crop was born in 2007 and according to one of the COTH posters, they have done quite well on the track so not many have likely made their way to the USEF sports. They are known to have very kind personalities, which fits Simon to a “T”!

Ghostzapper

Ghostzapper is sired by Awesome Again. AA doesn’t have a lot of babies registered with USEF, but most all of them have a show record! Many competed in the jumper ring and a couple were competitive as hunters and dressage. Only a couple did eventing. Ghostzapper looks quite a lot like his sire.

Awesome Again

Simon’s dam is Precious Brownie who is by Golden Missile. I was unable to find any photos of Precious Brownie so am going with her sire line. GM is noted to pass along nice movement to his offspring.Similar to Ghostzapper most of his USEF registered offspring competed in hunter/jumper events, but quite a few also have dressage records. Interestingly very few competed in Eventing, which tends to be more dominated by thoroughbreds than is dressage or hunter/jumper disciplines.

Golden Missile

Precious Brownie also goes back to a little known stallion who went by the name Secretariat. You may have heard of him before. Mostly it is just fun to say that he goes back to Secretariat, because even people who don’t ride are familiar with Secretariat.

Secretariat in his older man days

Another fun way to look up your thoroughbred’s pedigree is to use the photo feature on http://www.pedigreequery.com. Simon’s shows quite a list of photos of impressive thoroughbreds from many years past.

I love studying horse bloodlines. I can lose five hours on the internet before I know it has happened just researching and looking up photos! Do you follow bloodlines? Do you care about your horse’s bloodlines?

Sterling in a Classic!

After Sterling’s abominable behaviour on the recent trail ride attempt, I had to make it up to him and brag on him a bit. Just a few short days after the trail riding debacle we made our way to Waco, Texas for the Blue Ribbon Summer Festival I. I was a bit concerned that I had fried his brain by attempting to go on a trail ride, but Sterling proved pretty quickly that horse show horse he truly wants to be and is where he has the most success.

I’m not going to dissect each trip, mostly because it has been a few weeks since the show and they have all run together in my head, but I did want to mention the highlights. I don’t have a photo of Sterling with his ribbon, but I’m absolutely delighted to share that we won our first ever blue ribbon over fences at a rated USEF show! We won the Modified Child/Adult over fences trip on Thursday with a very respectable 16 entries! We also got third in our Limit over fences class and third in the Limit under saddle class, both with about 16 or 17 entries. I’m finally learning to stay out of Sterling’s face going up to jumps and not getting ahead of his momentum with my body by leaning forward. By riding more correctly we are getting much better spots to the fences so his form is more elegant and true to the hunter type. We (I) still have a lot of progress to make in keeping a consistent canter rhythm, but progress is pretty exciting, especially when rewarded with blue ribbons!

Our photo op from my sister-in-law on our blue ribbon day at the Summer Festival I in Waco

Our photo op from my sister-in-law on our blue ribbon day at the Summer Festival I in Waco

The second day my rounds in the Limit division over fences trips left a bit to be desired. A consistently inconsistent canter stride separated the men from the boys in the placings. I got a seventh in one group and no placing in the other. We made up for it, though, in the 2’6″ Hunter Classic. The course is a tiny bit longer in a Classic than in a regular round over fences and there are potentially two trips. Everyone goes around once and the top 12 scores are invited back for another round and the combined overall high score wins. Our first trip was arguably the absolute best trip we have ever had over fences and was rewarded with a very respectable score of 78 out of a possible 100. We were in the lead until the very last rider went and scored an 81, but we still had the second round to go. Our second round had a few bobbles and I never did hear our score, but we ended up 4th overall out of 20 or so entries! And we won money! I’m SO proud of Sterling and I can’t brag on him enough. The ring at Waco is known to be rather spooky and he went around nearly like he was at home.

Fourth place in the 2'6" Hunter Classic!

Fourth place in the 2’6″ Hunter Classic!

The icing on the cake for this horse show was that we had a pretty significant cheering section, which we have never had before! Many of Boot City’s family live in or near Waco and some even drove up from Austin to watch. It was extra fun to have them at the show and for us to do well with an audience.

Photo by Holly Ridge Photography.

Photo by Holly Ridge Photography.

Resurgence of an Addiction

It has been established on this blog that I grew up in Eastern Montana. I was an extremely fortunate child to have been born into an already horsey family so my love of the equines was developed at a very early age. Both my parents grew up with horses, both for work and for pleasure. When I was born my Mom was into barrel racing and my Dad was into team roping. Not surprisingly, I was on a horse as soon as I could hold my head up and sit up by myself. I definitely had inherited the horse gene and couldn’t get enough of them.

My first foray into organized horse events was as a barrel racer. My parents got me a saintly old Quarter Horse named Casey. I’m confident Casey carried many little girls and boys around the cloverleaf pattern before he came to our house. He wasn’t at all fast, but that was just fine. I didn’t have, and still really don’t have, much of a need for speed. He was safe and kind and put up with the shenanigans that a little girl does to her horse. I put glitter on him. I braided his hair. I brushed and brushed and brushed him. All of the signs were there that I would ultimately not end up being a barrel racer.

When I was old enough my parents signed me (and my brother) up for 4-H. 4-H is a program that teaches kids leadership, humanity, responsibility and a myriad of other life skills. Most importantly, it has a horse program. You couldn’t start the horse program until you were 10 years old and I was counting down the days! In preparation for entering the horse program, my Mom and some of the 4-H moms from our club signed up for a riding clinic conducted by the trainer at Diamond N Ranch outside of Billings, Montana. I have no idea how they found it or why they attended, but the rest is pretty much history. This was our introduction to the Quarter Horse show world and it didn’t take long for me to be hooked.

My second AQHA show horse: Hesa Black Associate

My second AQHA show horse: Hesa Black Associate

I showed Quarter Horses all through junior high and high school and even a little bit during college. I did all kinds of different show events from Showmanship to Western Pleasure to Hunter Hack and finally Reining. I loved every second of it, and now that I’m an adult and I can appreciate what my parents did (paid for!) to allow me to show.

My first real English horse (the taller one on the right) and my cousin on a horse that my parents had for a few years.

My first real English horse (the taller one on the right) and my cousin on a horse that my parents had for a few years.

As a kid I would voraciously read any and every horse book and magazine I could get my hands on. This is where my obsession with English riding was born. My Mom got me lessons when I was about 10 with a lady in my hometown who had supposedly ridden English at some point and later I did all the English flat classes and some jumping at the Quarter Horse shows. It just wasn’t the same as what I read about in Practical Horseman or Dressage Today. There wasn’t a dedicated jumping trainer anywhere near my hometown, so even though I did do some jumping I know now that I pretty much did so horribly wrong!

So, here I am as a (mostly) self-sufficient adult with the means to combine my love of horse showing with learning how to properly ride a horse over jumps. I posted about going to my first USEF “A” rated show back in February. This spring I was able to make it to four more shows in Tyler, Texas. Originally called the Tyler Four. I felt like I was home again. Granted, when I was showing I felt like a 12 year old kid learning how to do things correctly, but it was so satisfying to be back in the show pen (that was to see if Caitlin reads this, I’m supposed to call it a show ring). Sterling is turning out to be an absolutely delightful partner in the hunter ring. We didn’t clean house with blue ribbons, but we (I) steadily improved and (mostly) didn’t make the same mistakes repeatedly.

You know it's an addiction when you don't mind horse boogers ruining your perfectly nice shirt and still going in public with said horse boogers on your shirt.

You know it’s an addiction when you don’t mind horse boogers ruining your perfectly nice shirt and still going in public with said horse boogers on your shirt.

We have a few weeks off from showing now that it is about to be blazing hot in Texas, but I can hardly wait to start again. In the meantime we are doing lots of work on the flat (no more unsupervised jumping) to make him and me stronger. I even joined a horseback rider focused boot camp for 60 days to make my core and my stringy legs stronger for when we are back in the show ring. This is in addition to torturing poor Jaguar with posting without irons. No pain no gain!

Being a horse show horse is a LOT of work and VERY tiring.

Being a horse show horse is a LOT of work and VERY tiring.

The Case of the Lost Hunt Coat

If you follow me on social media, you may have noticed a few weeks ago that I posted about my dry cleaner losing my hunt coat. I purposefully didn’t name the business and was willing to give them a chance to make things right. So this is my story about doing business with Twin Kell Cleaners.

I dropped my hunt coat off with the cleaner early on a Tuesday morning and emphasised to the woman I left it with that it HAD to be ready to pick up by 8a on Friday morning. She was a big grumpy and seemed quite put out by my request (really, is it unusual that someone would want their clothing back in 2 1/2 days?!) but committed to have it ready after 5p on Thursday.

I left a touch earlier than usual on Friday morning to give myself plenty of time to stop at the cleaners before work. I rolled up at about 7:30a and had even kept my ticket with the bar code for them to scan and (hopefully) make it quicker and easier for them to find my coat. The nice lady takes my ticket, goes to the back and starts rolling the hangers to get to my number. After a few minutes of this I can tell something isn’t right. She smiles at me and asks the other nice lady at the desk to come back and help her look. They go item by item through at least 500 garments to no avail. They ask the washing girl if it is in with the washed items (egads!). Still no coat. By 7:50a they admit to me that they have lost the coat. I explain, as nicely as I can when starting to panic, that I HAVE to have this coat before I leave for the horse show that afternoon. They are going to continue to look and will call me before 2p.

Now this isn’t just any old hunt coat. This is a hunt coat that my Mom made for me when I was in high school. It is a lovely charcoal tropical wool with a RED pinstripe and RED silk satin lining. And it fit just perfectly.

The red pinstripe coat in action.

The red pinstripe coat in action.

Losing my hunt coat was definitely an inconvenience, but it was a huge sentimental loss, too. My Mom is an amazingly talented seamstress. She made all of my horse show clothes when I was growing up as well as all my formal gowns and all my regular clothes until I was in junior high (which is when one becomes way too cool to wear clothes that Mom made). She had always said that NOTHING was as hard to make as hunt coats. The fit has to be just perfect for the fabric to lay correctly.

The nice lady from the cleaners called around 1p and didn’t have any better news. The coat was officially lost. They suspected that they accidentally gave it to someone else, but wouldn’t know that until or unless someone returned it and there was no telling if or when that would happen. She did advise me that Twin Kell would reimburse me for a new coat if I had to buy a new coat. Well, if I was going to show I really had to have a coat. I had already texted my trainer about the debacle and she had rounded up some coats I might be able to borrow so hopefully all wasn’t lost.

I left work, picked up Sterling at home and drove as fast (and safely) as I could to Tyler in hopes of getting there in time to try on some coats at Quail Hollow Tack. If the cleaners were willing to reimburse me for a new coat I might as well get one. If they did find my coat at least I’d have a second in case something like this happened again. I got there in the nick of time to unload Sterling and run over to the trailer to try on coats. The Grand Prix Techlite in Navy fit me PERFECTLY! AND it is WASHABLE! No more worrying about any dry cleaning incidents!

I showed the next two weekends with my new coat and no word from the cleaners. I had my receipt for the new coat tucked safely in my purse, but just hadn’t been able to bring myself to go request the reimbursement. Lo and behold, two days before the last spring show in Tyler the cleaners called. Someone else had in fact picked up my coat and had returned it to Twin Kell. I was absolutely delighted. I did mention that I had to buy a new coat and that they had promised to reimburse me if I did buy one. She asked me to hold on and passed the phone to one of the owners. My heart sunk. I just knew he was going to tell me that he was sorry I had to buy a new coat, but that since they now had mine they weren’t going to cover the cost of the new coat. In fact, all he asked was how much the new coat cost and that they would have a check ready for me when I picked up the missing coat that afternoon. I told him the cost and offered to provide the receipt. He didn’t need to receipt and the check would be ready by early afternoon. I could have hugged him through the phone! What delightful customer service!

I picked up my coat that evening and sure enough there was an envelope attached to the hanger with a check in the exact amount I told him. I’m a forever Twin Kell customer now. I’ll tell anyone who will listen about how well they treated me when they truly didn’t have to treat me well if they hadn’t wanted to.

My beautiful hunt coat is now back in my closet, safe and sound.

My beautiful hunt coat is now back in my closet, safe and sound.

Saddle Shopping: Stage 2

So saddle #1 was a fail. We headed to another horse show in November and this time I discussed more fully with my trainer what exactly I was shopping for. We settled on looking for an Antares and a larger seat size than a 17″. They make lovely saddles in France and have a great reputation both for their customer service (even on second-hand purchased saddles) as well as for having a quality product. We ruled out a couple other brands for quality and fit issues and kept a couple as maybes. I have a tendency to get fixated on things, so I was pretty set on getting an Antares. My trainer mentioned the Antares Spooner, which is an off-the-rack saddle that Antares offers, but I mostly blew off that idea (in my head, not out loud) because it was a few hundred dollars more than what I was planning to spend. This would become laughable later.

As I previously posted that show went pretty well (we got 6th in our first ever hunter derby) and we headed home with renewed energy to shop for that new saddle. I shopped. And I shopped. And I shopped some more. THIS IS THE ONE! Wait, no, I don’t think that flap is long enough. I love it, but it is too expensive. I talked Boot City’s ear off about the whole thing. Maybe I should try this one, or maybe this one. I got so in my own head that I didn’t even try another saddle until Christmas. And what a lovely Christmas it was.

Boot City pays a lot more attention to things than I generally give him credit for. He is unbelievably supportive of my obsession with all things horsey and genuinely supports every harebrained idea I get about what I want to do with my horses. So, Christmas morning, this is what was under the tree:

An Antares Spooner trial saddle from SmartPak!

An Antares Spooner trial saddle from SmartPak!

He took it upon himself to order the Spooner trial saddle from SmartPak for me to try. Yes, the saddle that was a few hundred dollars over the budget I had set for myself he just went ahead and got for me to try. I had to sit down for a minute. I HAVE THE BEST HORSEY HUSBAND EVER. The trial saddles from SmartPak generally only come in a 17″ (as previously mentioned, this is the most popular size seat). If you like the saddle you try, you can just keep it. Having discussed the larger seat size with my trainer already I was fairly certain I was going to need a bigger saddle, but with the trial I could make sure it fit my horse and that I generally liked it so I could order the correct size.

How does the saddle need to fit the horse? I’m no expert, but I can explain the basics. You want the gullet, the channel down the middle of the underside of the seat, to be wide enough that it doesn’t put pressure on the horse’s spine. You also want plenty of clearance over the horses’s withers (the hump behind their neck and before their back), but not hitting the top of the withers. Lastly you want the underside of the saddle to touch the horse evenly. The more evenly the panels touch the horse, the more evenly the rider’s weight is spread out. If all the rider’s weight is only supported by a couple spots then the horse is going to have pain in the spots over time. Thankfully my horses are all rather easy to fit. Sterling especially.

The back view. Not the best photo ever taken, but you can see there is plenty of room down the gullet to give his spine plenty of room.

The back view. Not the best photo ever taken, but you can see there is plenty of room down the gullet to give his spine plenty of room.

In this shot you can see there are no issues with his withers being pinched or hitting the underside of the saddle. Things are looking good!

In this shot you can see there are no issues with his withers being pinched or hitting the underside of the saddle. Things are looking good!

All signs were pointing to yes to the Spooner. Yay! Now to ride in it a few times. SmartPak very specifically says to ride in it like you own it already. Often when you try new saddles you have to cover up the stirrup leathers with a sock so as not to damage the leather and you can’t do much in it because the saddle still needs to look brand new if you opt to not keep it. Not the best way to try a saddle. So we spent the five days after Christmas riding in the Spooner as much as possible and sending myriad photos to my trainer to get feedback on fit.

Day 1:

Definitely too small, but leg position is improved. Trainer says shorten the stirrups and send more pics.

Definitely too small, but leg position is improved. Trainer says shorten the stirrups and send more pics.

Day 2:

Stirrups shortened. Getting better. Trainer requests another pic with stirrups shortened again. Done and done.

Stirrups shortened. Getting better. Trainer requests another pic with stirrups shortened again. Done and done.

Day 4 the-saddle-must-be-mailed-back-tomorrow

Looks good! Trainer says to order the 18". 18"?!?!?!?! #selfimagesuffering

Looks good! Trainer says to order the 18″. 18″?!?!?!?! #selfimagesuffering

I’m a female in the United States of America in 2015. Bigger size, means big person, which is generally frowned upon in the culture that worships young and thin. I need an 18″ saddle?!?!?! So, I ask my trainer what any female student would ask, “is my butt really THAT big?” Here I get another lesson in saddle fitting. It isn’t about how big my derriere is, it is how long my legs are and how skinny my horse is. Huh? I have long legs. What?! No one has told me that since I was 17. I thought that I had somehow become average in all aspects of size as an adult, but evidently my legs did NOT get shorter upon entering adulthood. My horse has flat sides and doesn’t have a huge barrel. This combination means I need to ride with a shorter stirrup than I would on a larger barrelled horse which pushes my seat back in the saddle and results in needing a larger seat size to accommodate all this accommodation for my skinny horse. Make sense?

At this point I have a whole new level of respect for saddle fitters and for people with hard to fit body types and horses who are hard to fit. I’m just a little bit out of whack and it made getting just the right saddle that much more complicated. But, I knew now that I needed an 18″ Antares Spooner. I boxed up my beautiful test ride saddle and sent it back to SmartPak and called to order my 18″. Except that they no longer carry the Spooner in the 18″. Wait. What?! Nope. No. Can. Do. I’m quite certain I nearly cried. I guess the bright side at this point was that I knew, for the most part, what size I needed and that I needed the long flap (not the Normal or Short flap, the long one for my long legs. I was pretty excited about having long legs again).

So, next week will be the big saddle shopping finale.

The “big time”!

I remember when I was 9 or 10 years old, I had a lovely horse ready to start showing and my friends and I would tell our other 4-H friends that we were going to start going to the “big time” shows, not just the little local and 4-H horse shows. We really thought we were a big deal! Mind you, the “big time” was AQHA shows. In comparison they really were a bigger deal than the local shows, but Montana horse shows are by no means the “big time”.

I find myself having a similar experience as a 30+ year old, though. As you may recall I went to a couple horse shows last summer and fall. These shows were non-rated, regional club shows. Also, not the “big time”. My goal all along with Sterling has been for us to at some point be good enough to compete at USEF A rated shows. In my mind, these are the “big time”. After our fantastic Derby experience at the November show my trainer felt like it would be worthwhile to go to some A shows! EXCLAMATION POINT! There are many reasons why this is exciting. The first being that my minimal initial investment in an unwanted yearling Thoroughbred was actually a great investment. The second being that it means I have made it to a point as a rider that I’m not entirely embarrassing, at least not all the time. The others being that I could finally go to the big, fun shows I’ve only heard and read about for years and show with my horsey bestie.

We settled on where would be our first show back in December based on schedule and proximity. I don’t have a lot of flexibility getting away from work so it was necessary my classes be on the weekend. I also am not ready to show in classes with fences bigger than 2’6″. This gives Sterling room to save my hiney when I make bad decisions without having to get himself over a ginormous jump. The Winter Series in Katy would be our maiden A show voyage. It turned out to be the PERFECT first A show. Never mind the drama that occurred a couple days before the show when Boot City had to stay up until 2:38a fixing Sterling’s chauffeur’s major coolant leak.

The weather was perfect, 60’s-70’s and mostly sunny. There were about 600 horses at the show so it was big, but not terrifyingly huge. We had pre-entered in the Modified Adult division and our trainer added the Limit Rider to get more courses under our belt. This turned out to be a fantastic idea. Our first couple of Modified courses on Saturday morning left a lot to be desired. Counting strides is often an insurmountable task for me, as is remembering that I have legs and how to use them when riding. I also seem to really like to lean forward, real forward. Poor Sterling has to pick himself and me up before he can jump over the fences. Our Modified placings were 5th and 7th out of twelve, so respectable but nothing to write home about.

The Limit courses were MUCH better! I actually remembered to count, YAY! I also used my leg a few times. I still leaned forward too much, but I think there is some muscle memory that needs to be retrained and that is going to take some time at home. We achieved two 2nd place finishes out of 5 in the Limit. We also got 3rd of 5 in the flat. I was pretty excited to end our FIRST day at the “BIG TIME” show so well!

Sunday was a bit of a reversion back to our old and not-so-pretty ways resulting in some rather ugly courses. Sterling was a bit tired so wasn’t as into saving me from my bad decisions so he tattled on my poor choices of not using my leg and forgetting how to count. We did get it together enough to get 4th of 6 in the under saddle flat class even after one horrendous canter takeoff smack dab in front of the judge with some extremely fancy horses. We didn’t stay long enough on Sunday to show in the Limit classes, but when I checked the results of the show later in the week I found that we had gotten Reserve Champion in the Limit Division! I am so proud of us!

Overall I was very pleased with the results of our first “big time” show. We have some homework to do and poor Jaguar is going to have to participate in my getting miles trying to NOT get in front of my horse when he jumps. I’ll leave it for another post to talk about the BEST part of the weekend. 😉

Photo by Jerry Mohme Photography. Sterling looks lovely and like he wishes his rider would get off his front end!

Photo by Jerry Mohme Photography. Sterling looks lovely and like he wishes his rider would get off his front end!

Do the Derby

Sterling and I have attended a couple regional circuit shows in the past few months with our friends Caitlin and Lexi. Caitlin regularly shows in the “A” shows with her seasoned show horse, Sundance. Lexi is an off the track thoroughbred (OTTB) who needs miles at shows. The regional circuits are great for that sort of thing. You get all the trappings of any horse show, but the overall ambience is more relaxed and the jumps are much smaller. In our case Sterling and I both need the miles!

At the first show we were Reserve Champions in our Division. Woo hoo! We weren’t able to show in our Division on the second day of the show because we wanted to get home at a reasonable hour on a school night. We were facing the same issue at the second show, but came up with a solution that turned out to be one of my best show experiences to date!

Sterling and I currently show in a 2’6″ division. We could probably go higher, but until I get better at my position and finding distances in lines, the smaller jumps are better for us. At the most recent show we attended there was being held a Mini Hunter Derby and the jumps were 2’6″ and it was the first class on Sunday morning. I mentioned the idea of entering the Derby to my trainer so we could show on Sunday, but not have to stay for our regular Division. This show was HUGE, too. There was no way my Division was going to show before 3p which would have had us getting home at around 9p. WAY too late for this old lady! Our trainer agreed that it was a good idea and off I went to enter the Derby.

I kind of knew what a Derby was when I entered. I knew the course would be slightly more complicated and I knew that the rides would be scored. What I didn’t know, or at least had forgotten, was that the top few would come back to do what is called a Handy round. The Handy round is intended to be a bit more complicated and requires more quick thinking and responsiveness from the horse. The course require things that wouldn’t normally be on a hunter course like trotting to jumps and hand galloping.

Because I was one of the last entries I had to ride first. One of my most favourite things about Sterling is that he (knock on wood) never spooks at jumps. It seems to never matter how much stuff they put on the fences he just jumps over them like a champ. This combined with his uncanny ability to save my behind when I ride him to a horrendous distance make him worth his weight in gold. My goal going into the pen was to get all my distances and actually count the strides. I accomplished my first goal and counted strides for about 70% of the time. I was beyond ecstatic! I’m sure I was lit up like a Christmas tree as I rode out of the arena.

For your viewing pleasure here is the video. Caitlin and I video each other’s rides at shows so we can go back and actually see what we did. It’s pretty awesome. So thanks to Caitlin for recording this momentous occasion! Click the link below to view.

GHHJA Mini Derby Nov 2014

It’s been a little while so I don’t remember what my score was exactly, but I think it was around 73. A perfect score is a 90. I was pretty happy with my score and my ride. Then I had to hang out for another 44 rides to find out of I would be coming back for the Handy round. Going into this it truly never occurred to me that I even had a shot to make it to the Handy round. Lo and behold I made it into the top 10! The cutoff score was 72. Whew!

Our Handy round was awesome. There were no lines so I didn’t have to worry to much about counting and Sterling handled really well. The only things that really needed improvement are the kinds of things that get better with miles. Our Handy round score was a 76 and when it was all said and done we got 6th place. 6th place out of 45 entries in our very first Hunter Derby! Look out 2015 because Sterling and I are hitting the horse show trail!