his blog originally chronicled my adventures with my horse Carlos, and has since gone on to include other horses I ride as well as retain the memories of those horses, the goals I once wished for and many other things I hope to attain in the future. Enjoy!
Tuesday: I flatted Dante in the pelham and it went really well. I was able to collect a lot when I needed to without grabbing and hanging on him. It requires though a lot more leg in that he now wants to get too low and too curled. I think for the show we will jump in the pelham and flat in a regular snaffle.
Wednesday: Trainer M had me flat Dante in a loose ring french link that was pretty fat. It gave me some of the same feel of the pelham except he laid on it a bit more, but it wasn't as bad as a regular snaffle which gave me this great idea to push for the trot extension. It was the best trial of the extension we've had since he really stretched instead of hurrying (and no breaking into the canter!) Trainer M had me pop him over a couple small fences and I didn't care for the way he rode in that bit.
Thursday: Carey and Cosmo joined Dante and I on the trail! Everything was going pretty good until he threw a giant tantrum over not being able to just canter up and down hills. This resulted in him snapping my old breastplate at the buckle. Time to buy a new breastplate I guess.
He got a major mane pull.
After Losing His Shoe
Dante enjoyed a lot of turnout in Carlos' bell boots which were tiny on Dante but they still covered his heel bulbs. Time to buy some bell boots I guess.
My saddle enjoyed a lot of oiling.
Tuesday: Barn was officially open for the week (sorry I view the week as M-Su) and Dante had gotten his new set of kicks. Aluminum up front for the horse show and steel behind. I flatted him in the pelham while one of the other Trainers at the barn was giving a mock-horse show lesson) - I opted to execute what she called out in a delayed fashion to put Dante through his paces. Sitting trot was great, but his extended trot was the Pièce de résistance. Seriously he is starting to really open up and use himself. Surprisingly the Equisense thinks Dante is much sounder in aluminums than steel.
Wednesday: Flatted in the snaffle, it was a short and sweet ride where I mostly played with the trot, compressing and pushing for that lovely extension. When I went to leave the ring a man who was watching the lesson in the ring commented that Dante was a "magnificent mover" and it pretty much made my week.
“If it’s darkness we’re having, let it be extravagant.”- Jane Kenyo
When the Samshield helmet came out several years ago now I thought they looked pretty nice. Not only did I enjoy the overall shape the helmet has but I really liked the idea of the removable liners. I've never had an issue with mold or fungus in my helmets like some other bloggers but I do seem to quickly smoosh down the padding inside helmets meaning they have a looser fit than when originally purchased. As we know that means that technically the helmet won't effectively do its job as well as when brand new and perfectly fitted.
Did I really need another helmet? No - I currently have 3 Charles Owens (AYR8, JR8, and a Fiat in brown which I still need to review) but I had extra income, the brown helmets for my brown boots, and now I was contemplating getting something non-standard to go with my vinyl top boots. (Channeling my inner Stacie!) On top of that I was able to get both the Fiat and now the Samshield at a ridiculously good price (both over 50% off) and this would be my last opportunity in the foreseeable future to get a new helmet at such a deal.
I have an oval head so I've been a Charles Owen wearer since about 2009 so I wasn't sure - I went into my local tack store and got professionally fitted. They didn't think the Samshield would work for me based on my head shape but it fit surprisingly well (hence why you should really have someone knowledgeable fit you!) Originally I was just going to get the plain Shadowmatt, I was going to get the black chrome but otherwise was not going to rock the boot. But then I thought about the above mentioned helmet collection and how conforming it is so went crazy. I added the flower pattern leather stripe and the 5 swarovski crystals because I personally can't stand too much bling but I can do a little bit of bling. I also bought the polo visor because I don't really like the Soless Visor I have and really don't like how flimsy it is when the wind picks up.
Then I promptly forgot I ordered and paid for the darn thing until the tack store called me right before Christmas and I was able to pick it up.
It would still be a couple weeks before I rode in the damn thing though thanks to all the rain (and I didn't really want to get it wet with the leather stripe). But since the weather has gotten better I've added the Samshield firmly into the rotation.
And all honesty: It's a lovely helmet!
Great options for customization
Fits snugly and with a removable/replaceable liner it always should be
I use the Polo visor more than I use my Soless Visor
Downside is the Polo Visor shades less of you overall (aka Soless protects the neck more than the Polo Visor)
But the Polo visor clips on more securely and looks way less Bobo.
The harness is made out of nice material and constructed well
The matte finish doesn't show oil prints from your fingers as much as the AYR Leather Look by Charles Owen
"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt."
- Bertrand Russell
As someone known for being quite diligent at keeping their tack clean (well except for when I'm depressed apparently). I was essentially horrified a couple weeks ago when I went digging through the pile of horse stuff in the guest room with no actual place in our house my collection of tack looking for a usable leather halter to find that all my tack, every halter, girth, bridle, or strap good that I owned and diligently cleaned and put away was now covered in mold. Some items were moldier than others but everything had that fuzzy growth all over it.
Now I've always stored extra tack at home, and physically in my home because I have never had a garage (I had a closet devoted to horse stuff at my last place). But my homes have always been well insulated, verging on too cool, and dry, dry, dry. On top of that where the barn was in NorCal is always hot in the summer but bone dry. So I've never dealt with having moldy tack before. Last summer in San Diego our house was muggy more often than not, especially the guest room since I only work in there during the day and we pretty much ignore it anytime someone is not staying over.
This girth was pretty ok - but I had already started cleaning when I thought about taking pictures whoops
So I did what any equestrian might do and I immediately searched COTH forum looking for help. I dumped all my tack storage bags into the washing machine and cleaned my kitchen before dumping my moldy tack onto the kitchen table. The work was relatively short despite how unsightly everything looked. A good wash with vinegar, followed by another wipe down with castille soap. I hung everything to dry in our spare bathroom. After a day or two of air drying I conditioned everything and hung them up again.
and I threw my cleaning rag away
My tack is still hanging on the towel rack and shower curtain of our second bathroom and honestly with summer on its way my paranoid ass will keep it hanging in the open air there where I can see it several times a day. We don't shower in that one because the water pressure is set to elephant - I do store grain in that shower though haha. Sorry tack! I didn't mean to abuse you in this way.
“So, transform yourself first…Because you are young and have dreams and want to do something meaningful, that in itself, makes you our future and our hope. Keep expanding your horizon, decolonize your mind, and cross borders.” - Yuri Kochiyama
Alex and I had tentatively set up another "barn day" on Sunday - we had a lot of fun the last time not to mention getting media, Trainer M had given me a loose time to be on for my lesson so Alex and I worked backwards from there. Alex's barn is a bit more inland and can get pretty hot (kind of like where my horses lived in NorCal) so getting there early before the heat was actually a pretty good idea. We'd do her barn, then food (originally planned on lunch and ended up being brunch - which is great I love brunch!) then wander over to my barn.
Alex's barn was looking quite beautiful - all the rain meant the hills were plush and green, the trees were busting at the seams with bloom and surprisingly my allergies were unaffected since there was little to no wind. Alex hopped on and got to work - She's made a lot of progress in slowing down Scarlet's rushing both on the flat and over fences with very little resources (access to lessons etc) that she has a lot to be proud of. I set fences for her, and was a sounding board for troubleshooting. She asked me if I wanted to hop on and I declined, I knew I'd need to save up my energy for my own lesson in the afternoon.
We ended up having a surplus of time (when I originally thought we'd be scrambling) so we had a sit down breakfast at a hole in the wall diner not to far from the barn. It was delicious and cheap, my favorite combo and we discussed of course horses but also me designing a business card for Alex's upcoming writer's convention. I love when my art world and horse world collide - it doesn't happen often but I always welcome it. After paying we skidaddled to my barn where Dante got a lot of great cuddles from Alex and showed off how he likes to be a stage 5 clinger to me.
He's so mad I'm not fawning over him
I had taken Dante out only to have to put him away again by Trainer M telling me that they were going to water and drag the arena. While it did provide Alex some time to talk to the assistant trainer about maybe taking some lessons in the future, it was also pretty annoying to me - Ms Schedule Stickler. They ended up only watering and not dragging so I tacked up and got on and started flatting before the sprinklers were even fully off. This put Dante a bit on edge since he doesn't like sprinklers at all, I did get him to walk through the spray of one though - so win for me!
Trainer M had put the fake flowers in the flower box and had us tackle them under a cavalletto to start. Trainer M had me ride with a racing bat (oh man how I have missed riding with a racing bat - need to get one) and told me I better be prepared to use it - so I rode with it facing up. I never ended up using it on anything other than smacking myself in the face. D'oh.
Eat Sh*t At the Flowers - YouTube
In the two stride in and out I committed my #1 cardinal sin of staring down into things (maybe Dante inherited that from me) which results in a very, very ugly ride, but he answered the call of "Get us the fuck out of this" that I telegraphed to him just like any future packer should. When I sent the video to my old Trainer she was pretty complimentary even for her (she literally hates everything unless it was her idea) and said he's doing better, gave me ideas on what to improve and then laughed and said he is another packing machine in the making. Trained by an amateur to pack amateurs haha. Reviewing the video it's always amazing how fast everything feels in the saddle but how rhythmic and composed it is compartively in the video. I was sure I looked like a flying loon as I was riding around.The rest of the lesson went super well in my opinion. Dante continued to feel a lot more confident to the fences and I was able to finesse my own feel of him around course.The new bit will take some adjusting to for me (and I am slow to adjust) as well as after riding aggressively to the first couple, ratcheting down my own nonsense a lot. I was extremely proud of both of us after this lesson, while things were imperfect they continue to progress in the general direction we need to go. We've got 2 weeks until the horse show, I know I personally need to stay quieter through my body, and more centered up top. I could sit a little straighter and I can always shorten my reins. He's been swapping leads in front of the fences and it seems mostly in correlation where he thinks he is going or if he's unsure if he wants to jump the fence versus a weakness on one side of his body. Regardless it's a habit that needs to be nipped and proving that once again I should be more present/mindful up top. So I need to be a bit more diligent in keeping him very straight and/or keeping him slightly bent in the direction of whatever lead he is on.
“You must not ever stop being whimsical. And you must not ever give anyone else the responsibility for your life.”- Mary Oliver
"Don't tell me what to do." - Dante probably
Earlier last week as I cleaned tack I asked Trainer M what day would be the best to lesson on. He let me know he'd thought it would be best if I was able to lesson two days in a row or two days in close succession again. We settled on Friday and Sunday and he was generous and let me have an 11am start on Friday and a 1pm start on Sunday. Extremely sane hours. Then mid-week I started walking up to a wet windows at home - light spring storms. Everyday I went out to the barn in the afternoon though things were dry and perfect so I didn't think anything of it.
When I drove to the barn on Friday though it was raining. I had already set the time aside though and was well on my way and figured I'd handwalk and groom if it was bad, or tack walk if it was mild. By the time I was in the barn though the storm had pretty much past and there was instead a persistent mist. Trainer M said he wasn't sure if the footing was ok or not and I told him that my plan was to just tack walk if we couldn't ride in the ring. I did a couple laps of the arena in a marching walk before I ventured in and started riding him around. The footing was actually pretty good though it would need another drag after maybe 3-4 horses had gone around in there.
WTC - Dante was steller, he was hot off the leg, soft on my hands, in tune to my aids. I was excited to jump. Trainer M told me to pick any fence that was low and I opted for the gate with the black pole, that seems to be his boogey man fence or he has first fence-itis and I just keep picking the same one over and over again giving him a complex. Regardless, I sat up and rode him aggressively forward to it and it was no big deal. The whole lesson I rode very boldly, letting Dante know that I was jumping so he was jumping too. The consequence of my bold riding coupled with cool weather and rides that had mostly focused on forward through the walk and walk-trot transitions meant I had a very silly young horse under me. Like silliness to the nth level.
As the fences got bigger he in turn got bolder and then I had to dial my own ride back and start pumping on the brakes.
My only regret is the Barn Rat did not get much of his shenanigans (though we did get added commentary from Cosmo's half leasor haha).
Lesson 4-5-19 - YouTube
Afterwards Trainer M and I discussed buying flowers to put in front of the jumps and also swapping out bits. After my first lesson he had me switch to a rubber snaffle since when I would take a feel of his mouth Dante would toss his head in protest over my plain copper snaffle - I honestly think this was mostly a tantrum (about getting back to work after his vacay) since he never minded metal bits before (it could have also just been his teeth). Now though his big rubber bit means I have a hard time while jumping getting him to come back unless I check him hard. So I asked Trainer M if I should just swap him back for the next lesson and we'd see how it goes. Instead he suggested a Tom Thumb (short shank) pelham. I told him I had a mullen mouth with a good sized shank and Tom Thumb with a rubber single joint. He told me to bring both (glad I bought those curb reins last month!) and that for sure I'd need to wrap the curb chain. I agreed that that would be the part Dante would get offended at if anything. Note though that I've been secretly wanting to try Dante in one of my two pelhams because the mullen mouth pelham was my favorite bit that Ramone went in and Ramone's favorite bit to boot.
Now Trainer M had been mentioning buying flowers for the better part of two weeks. After inaction on his part I took Dante's jumping future into my own hands and just told Trainer M I was headed to the craft store after my lesson to go get flowers, he handed me $10 and I left. I ended up buying flowers Saturday morning after perusing the web first - lucky me Michael's was having a 50-60% off on floral. I bought a large variety and got $25 worth of flowers and let Trainer M know it was my donation to the barn.
Dante was not enthused by the flowers
I wrapped the chain of the pelham in hot pink vet wrap and took Dante for a quick spin. He felt really great! I could replicate the same forward and soft feeling of the rubber snaffle and then use the leverage to brake in a refined and quick way. Trainer M walked by the ring and told me to pop Dante over a few to make sure that I wanted to jump in it on Sunday and so I popped him over the boogey fence plus two more gates one of which he hadn't seen before and he went around like a professional gentleman. I came away from both rides grinning wide and exclaiming to anyone who'd lesson how incredibly fun Dante is.
"I want 'Elle Woods getting into Harvard Law' kinda determination."
Most of my rides last week were centered on one theme and one theme only - Move your butt Dante, and move it when I ask you to! Dante has never been the most forward thinking horse, when I first brought him to San Diego I thought he honestly had a poor work ethic (since I was comparing him to Ramone who was such a happy-go-lucky worker). In his own time, Dante has developed a bit of a work ethic and he will be forward and in front of the leg through the trot if you make him, and in the canter without prompting. It's the walk that has really plagued us. Starting off the ride or ending it, loose rein, or short - all forward momentum would die in the walk.
At first I just kind of shrugged it off "Sandro Hits have crappy walks" I would remind myself of things I read on the internet. Ramone had a forward thinking and swinging walk, Carlos walk was pretty active as well, and Dante's just plodded. "Irene would like Dante's plod better than Ramone's stroll." I'd reminiscence reminding myself of all the times Irene wanted me to shut down Ramone's walk so I wouldn't lap people in the indoor. Then I would console myself that the walk isn't judged in Hunters over fences so we'd be fine.
I worked on the walk a bit last February when all I did was walk and trot outside of lessons. That helped a bit, but I was reticent to work on the walk too much in fear of just breaking the walk. The biggest change in the walk I found out last summer and during our little break from everything - being out of the ring = a swinging active walk, being in the ring I get the dragging the feet death march plod. Obviously being outside of the sand box is more interesting for Dante's baby brain than being inside the sandbox. Again though I didn't really do much with this information other than there is a path of least resistance - sometimes it's better for me to take him on a quick ride around the property to get his motor going than fighting him in the arena to get in front of my leg at the walk.
Then one night I was reading Academic Horse Training (of which I can only really read a little bit at a time - I may have been one of the people pressuring Nicole to become a Book Mule after reading snippets from Megan's copy, I was able to purchase and abscond with said book at the Mary Clinic this year. Thanks again Nicole!) and I started on the section regarding horse confusion regarding the "Stop" and "Go" commands and realized that I have been a bad trainer and have gotten Dante confused in a couple scenarios on what "Go" really means. So using my previous knowledge I set out to make things super clear. I thought about it and even though he's rather good in the trot and walk, due to my negligence with "Go" at the walk and sometimes in-hand was this relating to some of our "Go" problems on course - you know specifically Dante's first fence-itis? Maybe.. Maybe not, but it can't hurt to just go back and rework it.
We hit the trail and as we were about to get to an interesting bit and I knew Dante's countenance would get a little long and swinging I applied pressure and he obliged with a great walk. Rinse, Wash, Repeat a couple times - sometimes coming to a full halt to have a clear delineation. Then we moved on to trotting and going up and down the hill several times to get in a booty workout.
The following day I hit the ring first and as he sucked behind my leg, I pushed him forward. It wasn't perfect, he gawked and tried to evade and I remained insistent and consistent in my pushing and finally after this conversation went on for a couple minutes he stretched forward through the walk, swinging those hind legs underneath and remaining soft in my hand. It was a great feeling.
Dante on the other hand probably felt like a villain from Scooby Doo.
"And I would have gotten away with it too if it wasn't for you damn kids and your crazy books!" - Dante, probably
“A little coffee. A little sunlight. Your troubles will get smaller.”- Richard Webbe
Yes Dante that is poop...
Dante's modus operandi at the old barn when you opened his stall door was to go straight to his feed tub in hope that you'd put something in there - which is a fair response. When he showed on the line I often flung treats into the bin so he wouldn't become mouthy being hand fed. So one day when I was gone on a trip or when I rode in the morning, I received a text from Ins T with the above image.
Ins T: "I went to go put Dante's blanket on and he was facing the door pooping into his feed pan." Me: "That's super gross." Ins T: "Yeah, and then he got excited whirled around to find the tub, put his nose down in it and looked back at me in disgust." Me: "Why are you feeding me poop!?!? - Dante, probably"
I haven't seen him poop in it again since (that I know of) but he did pee in it this week which made me want to dig up this photo. Haha. Gross baby horse.
Last week Dante was feeling not at his finest after his dental and vaccinations but that didn't mean I spent the week out of the saddle. That's because my friend M would be hitting the snow during her University's spring break and her mare Blu would need to get out and about. So Monday before she left we headed to go ride at lunch and play "Switch ponies" so I could get a feel for Blu with M there to troubleshoot for me. The mare is well trained, well schooled, and fairly uncomplicated. I did almost fall off when she suddenly stopped and threw her head down violently to scratch her leg. Absolutely caught me by surprise!
Tuesday I had my early morning lesson so I tossed Blu into turnout. Wednesday I pulled Blu out of her stall after Dante's vet appointment and took her in the big ring for a light hack. I had a couple things in mind for our rides:
I knew I wanted to ask her for lateral work since I wanted to reinstall the feel of asking a broke horse how to do it so I can try and get that feeling with Dante.
I knew I wanted to do some no stirrup work on a horse that was trustworthy
I knew I wanted to work on fixing my canter mechanic since the mare is not a giant mover like Dante
Things went really well. The mare worked off light aids and the only issue we ran into was once you canter the mare pretty much refuses to walk. She is just too hyped up, M had told me on Monday all I had to do was drop my stirrups and put her on the buckle and she'd calm down. Well the mare decided that that trick didn't work with me.
I only really forced the issue on heading back to the barn, I do not like nor do I think it's safe to go jigging on cement all the way home. But other than that the week of rides was great! I rode her Wednesday - Friday, gave her a day off Saturday (I had a migraine), but Dante back into work on Sunday and rode them both, then turned them both back out again on Monday.
A hilarious aside - one of the other Trainers (AH that moved from Horsepark before I did to open her own training business) called out to me asking me about the Blu. I trotted over to her and gave her the 411 that I knew and mentioned that the mare was great minus being a bit annoying for her hussy ways (seriously her milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.) AH misheard me and thought I mentioned that the owner was a hussy. "Posts slutty pics on IG huh?" she chuckled and I was like "oh no no, the girl who owns this horse is great.. but if this mare could post pictures yeah she definitely would lol"
The mare and I worked together better everyday. She is a total crab on the ground but she respected my space, but would just send me the dirtiest looks. I got to remember that I do in fact know how to sit down and still through the canter. I do look forward to my next time