Most people that have a passion for horses don’t consider turning it into a career, but there are actually quite a lot of job options for people that love horses. It doesn’t just have to be a hobby that you pursue on evenings and weekends when you have a bit of spare time, you could spend all day, every day around horses! If you want to turn your passion for horses into a career, these are some of your best options:
Become a Barn Manager
Becoming a barn manager or stablehand is a great way to get into a career that involves caring for horses each and every day. While each stablehand position is unique, typical duties include managing care, feeding, turnout, mucking stalls, farm maintenance and more. While you’re working as a stablehand, you can also consider doing horse care training courses to get an official qualification or attend a university to gain a degree in Equine Science. This will open up a lot more career options for you and you will be able to apply for more senior positions around the stables once you have a certificate or degree. If you just love being around horses and taking care of them, this is one of the best options for you.
Become an Equine Vet
Becoming an equine veterinarian is a great career for people that want to care for horses, but it is a more difficult one to get into. You’ll have to study for an undergraduate degree, apply and finish veterinary school, plus get a few years of experience before you’re fully qualified. This requires a significant time and financial investment. However, being a veterinarian an incredibly rewarding career for somebody that loves horses, and if you feel that you’re willing to spend that long getting qualified and you can afford it, it’s a great career choice.
Get into Equine Journalism
If you’re very knowledgeable about horses and you spend a lot of time going to events, you should consider getting into equine journalism. There are a number of print and online publications about all things horses and you could write for them if you’re good enough. However, it’s a more competitive industry than people realize and breaking into it can be tough. Your first goal should be to get some of your writing published, even if it doesn’t relate to horses initially. Then you have a bit of a portfolio that you can use when you start approaching equine publications with your work.
Start a Blog
If you already have horses of your own and you love spending time with them, you could make it your full-time job by starting your own equestrian blog (like this one). Posting pictures and videos of your horses, writing articles about them to keep your readers updated, and giving people good horse care advice are all great ways to build a good following. You won’t be able to make a full-time living out of your blog right away, but if you’re willing to put in the time and build a good readership, it could become your main source of income eventually.
Your love of horses doesn’t have to just be a hobby, it could be a career too if you look into some of these potential jobs.
Things have been pretty quiet since the horse show. Niko got a few days off and then I hopped on for a quick flat ride to see how he felt after switching to night turnout for the summer. The verdict? Niko was FABULOUS. I guess he just needed to go horse show! He was totally back the happy, easy-going horse I remember from last summer. I got some really quality flatwork out of him and it gave me some ideas on how to better prepare myself for the under saddle at the next horse show.
Just wants to be a horse show pony, apparently
Still though, Niko has definitely grown and changed since last summer. He’s developed a bit of an ego, if you will. To me, it feels like he’s saying “I LOVE to jump. Jumping is the best!! I only ever want to jump for the rest of my life!!!!!” I love the enthusiasm, and I certainly love that he loves his job… but we can’t jump every single ride. Luckily, he’s a good boy at heart so his expression of these feelings isn’t anything nefarious. It’s actually probably pretty subtle to the outside observer, but I know this horse like the back of my hand and I can feel the difference. Usually, he expresses his displeasure by curling behind the contact and/or stretching waaaaaay down. So after a few fabulous, happy rides, I got this egotistical version of Niko.
Don’t get me wrong, I love me some stretchy trot. But I also don’t want him to carry his head way down low. This curling and stretching then gets us into a bit of a vicious cycle where I correct the behavior, but then he gets annoyed at all the corrections. Part of it is that I go to my hands too quickly (it’s a work in progress), but the other part is that Niko isn’t meeting me halfway. Or even 25% of the way. So… this is obviously not a recipe for success.
Always looking for pets and cookies
Since he seems to want to just jump, I’m fine with taking twice weekly jump lessons and then flatting only once or twice more in a week. Events since the horse show however have conspired to keep us from taking a single lesson. Honestly, I’m not worried about the lack of jumping persay — Niko doesn’t need it, he just wants to do it. And while I can use all of the practice I can get, at this point the 2’6″ hunter courses seem well within our comfort zone, so a few less lessons isn’t going to make or break us right now.
But, that still leaves this feeling of Niko being a little bit… fussy and ring sour. Still subtly, but I don’t want this to escalate between us and it’s my job to fix it. So Trainer suggested getting Niko outside of the ring. I admit, I was pretty nervous about this. I love the comfort and safety of riding in the ring, and taking my slightly spooky, green horse out and about makes me feel a tiny bit nauseous. So I thought about it for a few days, and ultimately knew I just had to buck up and DO IT.
An ego? This one? Nahhhhh
So I hopped on for a very short hack outside the ring. We just walked, and didn’t venture beyond the farm area — we walked down the pastures and back, and then past the barns, up to a front field by the road. I was on for probably about 15 minutes total, and while a few times Niko was a bit nervous, he was a very good boy and didn’t set a hoof wrong. So check that off the list — I’m now riding my baby warmblood outside the ring!
Niko and I headed to our first horse show of the year last week. It had been almost 8 months since our last horse show and with all of the issues we’d had at home lately, I was a little bit worried about how everything would go. But I had the vet out prior to the horse show and he gave us the all-clear to attend. In the vet’s words, Niko is most likely going through a phase and the best medicine will be continued training. So with that in mind, we loaded up and headed to the horse show at Brave Horse Ohio.
My trainer hauled Niko up Wednesday afternoon and he settled in right away. He was quiet on his hand walk, which I was surprised about (I thought he’d be a little bit up and looky since he hasn’t been off the farm in so long). We lunged for about 30 minutes after our walk to get out any sillies, but he only bucked once and then was a perfect gentleman. After putting in his new ear pomms and sporting a “soundproof” fly bonnet, we headed up to the ring.
It sounds kind of silly, but I was most concerned about the walk from the barns to the rings. So… I pulled my amateur card and hand walked up there and mounted at the ring. For me, it just took a big element of uneasiness out of the equation. Niko has been most spooky while walking or standing and I just didn’t want to deal with that before we even started jumping. Once at the ring, I put Niko to work right away and he was fabulous. He listened well while flatting and was great at all the jumps. We went around everything once and I was a little bit slow, adding an extra stride into the lines. To finish up, trainer had me pick up a gallop and ride an outside 5-stride line one last time to get the correct strides. We nailed it, and it felt great! We were done in 20 minutes and heading back to the barns.
Overall, I was THRILLED with how Niko settled in at the show and how excellent he was schooling. I rode pretty well too, and overall didn’t let my nerves get to me nearly as much as they did last year.
Thursday Show Day 1
Thursday dawned with pouring rain and a thunderstorm — which made me NOT HAPPY that morning. I won’t show in the rain, so I was nervous that I’d end up having to scratch. In between storms I was able to get in a short hand walk and a quick lunge before settling in to wait for our division (and to see what the weather would do). I’d entered the 2’6″ Non-Professional Hunters, plus a warm-up class and by the time it was my turn (in the mid-afternoon), the sun was out! So I happily mounted up and away we went.
Our warm-up round was a little rough. I added a stride into one of the lines because I got close to the first jump and let Niko wiggle sideways in between… but I made a conscious decision and stuck to it, which I was happy about. Plus, that’s exactly why I do a warm-up class — to get in my groove and see how the ring rides that day for us. I opted to stay in the ring for our first judged trip, figuring the momentum and focus would help both Niko and I. Our first judge trip was really nice and I missed the distance to just one jump (the in of the very last diagonal line), but rode well out of it to get the correct strides and finish nicely over the oxer. We ended up placing 4th in this class.
I took a short break before our final trip of the day to discuss with Trainer. Honestly, she only had really good feedback and the only thing we wanted to change was to ride more boldly out of the corner to the first jump in the lines. Because Niko is a little bit smaller, getting a slightly longer distance to the first jump in a line is more ideal because then we can just keep our canter and cruise down the line, instead of chipping into the first jump and having to gallop out. So I went in with a plan… and NAILED IT. I saw every single distance, kept a great pace throughout the course and finished with a HUGE grin on my face! One of the best trips I’ve ever had and I was so, so thrilled!! And the cherry on top was that we WON the class!!
We finished the day with the under saddle, which we mostly did for experience and because there weren’t very many entries in the division (only 6-8, I think). Niko was super well behaved, but we’re just not relaxed enough to do well (especially against the larger horses). We pinned 5th of 8, which is just fine. Niko just isn’t built to win the hack (he’s too small and carries himself too uphill in front), but those are two specific reasons that I bought him — I wanted a smaller, very uphill horse so I don’t want to change that. If that means we don’t do very well in the under saddle, I’m okay with that!
Friday Show Day 2
Friday I got to show by noon, which I was pumped about. I was already dragging a little bit and I know waiting around to show until late afternoon would have been hard for me. My goal was to ride well and make good choices on course. Typically day two of a show is hard for me — I fade physically and mentally so I wanted to get my game face ON and ride well. Again we had a warm-up class and two judged trips to complete the 2’6″ Non-Professional Hunter division. Niko was feeling himself on day 2 — he marched right into the ring and said “HELL YAS MAHM, MOAR JOMPIES!” We thought heading into the warm-up that I might have a horse that was a little bit tired and maybe the smaller, add pace would show up. But that was definitely not Niko’s plan! I chipped into the first diagonal line and then had kind of a launcher over the last jump (a single oxer on the judge’s line). Overall, a good start to the day and I was thinking throughout the course, communicating and making decisions, so I was very happy about that.
Our first judged trip was really nice. I again found a bit of a long spot to the single oxer, but it wasn’t quite as long as the warm-up and I flowed with it much better. Unfortunately, I missed the in of the last line and Niko chipped it, but he was happy to gallop out and had a beautiful jump over the oxer. Again, I was really happy with this trip — I only missed one distance and looking back, I just wasn’t bold enough out of that corner to the jump. Live and learn — Niko saved my butt and didn’t care that I had a floppy ammy moment! We finished 4th for this trip, out of 8.
By the last trip I was getting tired, but determined to keep my shit together. By this time, Niko was really ON IT. He picked up a rolling canter right away and I actually had to soften to jump 1. Overall, the course was pretty good. I still missed the in of the “wagon wheel” line and the single oxer, so we didn’t place very well (6th of 8), BUT that’s better than I normally ride on day 2. I didn’t fuck up any lines and only missed two distances. For his part, Niko was an absolute star, hunting the jumps and not caring what distance we took. I left the ring really, really happy with his performance and fairly pleased with my riding.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect from Niko or myself going into this horse show. We had some issues leading up to it, we hadn’t competed in nearly eight months and I tend to get pretty nervous and shutdown (especially at the first show of the year). But man, was I just BLOWN AWAY by how amazing Niko was the entire time. He’s really grown up in the last year and handled himself like a total professional (including saving my adult amateur butt more than once). This horse clearly loves his job, loves to jump and loves to horse show. As for my part, I’m actually very happy with my riding and horse management. I stayed present, made decisions and didn’t let my nerves get to me. I certainly wasn’t perfect and there’s lots to improve… but for me, this was a really good horse show!
The last update I shared about Niko was less than stellar. To be fair, I was in the middle of the “oh shit things are going really wrong” storm and, in typical me fashion, I was over-analyzing and worrying about the worst possible scenario. Since then, I’ve had the vet out to determine if there were any physical factors contributing to his paranoia or spookiness, as well as very closely managed Niko’s entire life (tack, turnout, riding, etc.) All of this has combined to help us move forward in a positive way — so much so, that we’re still attending our first show of the season this week!
Wait, are you talking about me?! – Niko, probably
A week ago the vet came out to take a look at Niko. He checked his teeth, poll and back, as well as his eye sight to determine if anything was bothering him. The resounding answer was NO. The horse is in perfect condition, doesn’t react to any pressure points and has great range of motion throughout his jaw and poll. I specifically asked the vet about ulcers, but at this time he didn’t think that was the cause as Niko shows absolutely no other symptoms. The verdict? It’s just a phase Niko is going through.
The vet recommended trying a calming supplement and gave me a 10-day trial of Zylkene, which we’ll start after we return from the horse show. I’d never heard of this particular supplement before, so if you’ve used it, I’d love to hear your experience in the comments!
Definitely hoping this is just a phase, because this is not cute
After the vet appointment, Trainer and I brainstormed and made some adjustments to Niko’s tack. We switched out his bit for the nicest one we could find, a Herm Sprenger Duo d-ring, which Niko has gone well in before. We also added ear plugs and a noise-cancelling fly bonnet to try to dampen some of the noises that seem to be bothering him. And finally we changed the balance of my saddle ever so slightly with rear shims — Trainer felt like I was “in the back seat” a little bit before, so we’re trying this to see if it helps.
We’ve since changed bits again to a M Toulouse Sanft Lozenge d-ring, which I’m hoping is the perfect combination of soft, yet gives me enough “whoa” while jumping. It may be a case of flatting in the Duo and jumping in the Sanft — we haven’t quite decided yet. But the Duo did the initial job of getting Niko and I back on the same page through my arms and his bit. He accepted the pressure more readily and I remembered not to hold quite so much.
OMG JUMP! – Niko, definitely
The biggest change we made was to Niko’s riding schedule. I backed off to riding just two days a week, in private lessons only. I really felt like I had lost confidence in Niko, and he had lost confidence in me, which meant I needed to take responsibility in fixing our relationship. Two of my strengths as an equestrian (and as a person) are being self-aware and following instruction well. I knew I was part of the problem, that I wasn’t 100% sure how to fix it, but that I can pretty reliably do what my Trainer tells me. So we went to the equestrian version of couples therapy and it’s worked really, really well.
The last few lessons have gone great. If I remember to be an active rider (especially with my elbows and arms), Niko responds by going around wonderfully. I have to work hard to keep Niko engaged mentally, but when he has a job, he’s focused and on it. Which is to say, jumping is great and flatwork is more fast-paced and ridden with a “get it done” attitude. Standing around and waiting is not something we do right now.
Private Lesson on Niko - YouTube
Heading to the Show
So after a go-ahead from the vet and some good lessons under our belt, Niko and I are headed to our first horse show of the season today at Brave Horse Ohio (if you’ll be there, stop by and say hi or follow along on Instagram — I’ll be posting updates throughout the week there). We’re planning on settling in and schooling today, and then showing on Thursday and Friday (possibly Saturday as well). As always, we’re just going to take it one step at a time and do what’s best for both Niko and I. Personally, I think a change of scenery with more going on will help Niko. But if all we do is handwalk the showgrounds, then that’s what we’ll do.
This rough patch has reminded me that I really like this horse. I love riding him, and while it’s been mentally super difficult for me (that’s a whole ‘nother post), I’m not giving up. I’m committed to doing whatever we need to do to continue to educate myself and Niko. I want to keep developing this young horse, even though it’s hard.
This is not quite the place I had hoped to be two weeks out from our first horse show of the year… but that’s horses. Don’t worry, everybody is pretty much okay and there’s no disaster to report, but Niko and I are struggling a bit. I always endeavor to be honest on this blog and riding is not all sunshine and rainbows, even when you own the most fabulous baby hunter on the planet. Lately, our rides have been tense — Niko isn’t relaxing and in fact has been getting hotter and more… paranoid? Is that a thing??
⬑ Niko’s face lately. As a cat GIF… because everything is better with cat GIFs. ⬏
At first, I chalked it up to spring time sillies or lack of turnout. But it hasn’t gotten better. In fact, it’s gotten worse. Despite a “come to Jesus” lesson where my trainer basically had to re-insert my brain back into my skull so I could ride the horse and not sit there like a giant sack of tense potatoes. That lesson went great. The next lesson was a complete fail — I fell off before the lesson even started because Niko spooked so hard… while we were standing still. Watching another horse jump. *facepalm*
⬑ Reenactment of my fall last week. I made that same face at end too #truestory ⬏
And despite some excellent riding by my BFF (because I was too emotional to ride my own horse at that point with ALL THE FEELINGS), Niko never really seemed to settle. He got better, but that feeling of riding a ticking time bomb didn’t stop. After that, Niko got a few days off and I placed a call to the vet to ensure there’s nothing physical going on. Of course, I’m over here in a spiral of tooth abscess, kissing spine, ulcers, omg my horse is going blind. But it’s fine. I’m totally fine. And I’m probably overreacting, but we’ll pay the nice vet several hundred dollars to tell me. Do vets get training in psychology? They should.
⬑ Cat therapy might be effective too… Bring 5 kittens to the barn, STAT! ⬏
So we’re getting the vet involved (he comes Monday), we’ve changed bits and I made Niko wear his “soundproof” fly bonnet in our next ride (pomms are on order from Amazon already!). And we had a great private flat lesson where Niko behaved wonderfully. He still felt a little bit tense, but that could have just been me. It’s hard to tell sometimes. At this point, I’ve already sent my entry to the show, so unless something crazy happens we’ll plan to attend, even if that means I have to scratch all my classes and pay a non-showing fee. Maybe the horse just needs to get off the property? That’s another theory.
Have you ever considered breeding your mare to create your dream horse? If so, there are some important do’s and don’t that you need to follow to ensure that both your mare and foal are healthy and happy. Let’s take a look at what you should, and shouldn’t, do:
Do Seek Professional Advice
If you own a mare and want to breed her, the first thing you should do is seek professional advice. Experienced breeders and horse industry experts will be able to direct you to the most suitable stallions. Remember, different stallions have different purposes (even within a specific breed). For example, some Thoroughbreds are bred for racing, while others are bred as sport horses. The very first thing you can do for your new foal is to ensure that he or she is bred for the purpose you want to use them for. Additionally, a consult with your veterinarian about the process of breeding your mare, as well as what to expect during the pregnancy will help you plan and be prepared throughout the process.
Don’t Choose a Stallion Without a Plan
Many amateur breeders simply go and visit a stallion, eyeball it, and then decide that it’s a suitable match. But unless you have a rigorous set of standards in place, you could end up with any old beast siring your foal. Experienced breeders always have a plan for evaluating a prospective mate for their mare, including specific measurements and gauges of the animal’s condition. Talk to experienced breeders and industry experts about their process and what they look for in determining a suitable match for their mares and do the same.
Do Be Honest About the State of Your Mare
To breed successfully, your mare needs to be in good health and be without significant congenital disabilities. It doesn’t matter how great the stallion is if the mare has issues with her own health. The mare could easily transmit these problems to the foal. So take an unbiased look at your mare and ask yourself whether it is wise to breed her. Perform the same checks as you would a stallion, and consider abandoning breeding plans if you spot an issue that you can’t solve.
Don’t Breed From Just a Photo
Many stallion owners advertise their horses using pictures and video, often online. But savvy owners never breed from photos and videos alone — if possible, you should insist on seeing the stallion in person first. If not, do your own, independent research including looking up the stallion’s show record, offspring show records and contacting other breeders and owners who have worked with the owners of your chosen stallion previously.
Do Ask Yourself If You Want To Look After a Foal
Looking after a mare already takes a lot of work and time. Do you want the added responsibility of having a foal in your care too? Be honest about the commitment and whether it’s something that you want to take on.
Don’t Just Think About Breeding Classes
There’s more to breeding than having a great two- or three-year-old. If you plan to own the horse for a long time, then you want to choose stock with excellent longevity and fitness, beyond the prime years. While there is tremendous value in breeding classes (both in hand and under saddle) and you should seriously consider supporting them, your foal’s life will (hopefully) last many years beyond breeding classes.
Do Make Sure It’s All Legal
A horse lawyer can give you advice on whether your breeding contract is set up correctly. They can also help you resolve disputes if you get into an argument with another party. You should have contracts in place for every part of the breeding process: from the stallion you use to breed your mare, to any boarding or hauling services you plan to use.
I don’t ride different horses very often — and that’s on purpose. I’m at my best when I can spend (a lot of) time learning how to effectively ride one horse. I’m not quick to adapt and I’m a fairly nervous and timid rider, though I work hard to build and preserve my confidence. In fact, in college I joined IHSA — it’s a format where you show horses at different schools in your area but you don’t get to practice on those specific horses at all. You know who sucked royally at this? I DID.
That said, there’s a lot of value in riding different types of horses. Each horse teaches you new skills, emphasizes different issues and helps you problem solve in different ways. The more tools you have in your toolbox, the better equestrian you can be. So when the chance to ride my BFF’s horse came up while she was out of town last week, I took it. With caveats, haha. I know the horse in question, really well — we’ve taken lessons together and attended horse shows together for several years. And I have occasionally gotten on him before. But… he’s huge. He’s 16.3h and built like a brick shit house. He’s a 3’3″ power jumper, so he can get spicy and jumps hard. Which, is like all of the things that make me extra nervous.
But Tucker is a good boy, truly. And I knew that if I stuck to the flat and had Trainer’s eyes on me that we’d be fine. So I took a lesson on him and it was amazing. So incredibly good for my confidence to be able to get up on a horse that is definitely not my type (and kinda makes me nervous) and to have a really great, productive ride on him. We got some seriously quality flatwork accomplished and by the end I was smiling wide.
The ride made me realize that I need to be more steady through my outside aids and to not give up on contact while asking for a bend. These are skills I have, but I’ve let slide a little bit so a reminder to focus on those things was much needed.
I also learned that I am so, incredibly spoiled by Niko, who is smooth and flexible and exactly the same left to right. And while Niko requires a very thoughtful and mentally engaged ride, he’s physically not difficult. Tucker had me out of breath, with my abs screaming halfway through the trot work we did.
Best of all though, is the feeling that Tucker really knew who was riding him. He has a huge step, and I was a little bit nervous to canter him. But I asked for a teeny, tiny canter and he delivered. He loped around just for me and never offered any sass. It wasn’t a canter you could take into the jumper ring, but it was perfect for me in that moment. In fact, I got such a confidence boost from this lesson that later in the week, I hoped back on Tucker by myself! I wasn’t quite as good without Trainer there telling me how to ride every step, but I was never nervous either.
If you missed part one, we talked about how to alter a shadbelly to get the perfect fit and the differences between a Dressage and Hunter shadbelly.
You will recall from the previous post that my high maintenance darling daughter requested new points for the shadbelly. This would have been required in any event, since the existing shadbelly points were not wide enough once we reset the buttons to create more room through the coat’s bust and torso.
Prior to the actual sewing process, it was necessary to choose fabrics for the new points. Considering we are looking at a tiny scrap of color at the waist, this became quite the involved affair. After some back and forth, Tracy finally told me she wanted hunter green. I scoured the internet for suitable green fabrics and sent her a bunch of links. Our taste in design is often quite different, so I know that many of my picks were discarded in nanoseconds (is there such a thing as Tinder for fabrics?) I did have one particular favorite, although I did not tell her which one it was. I was thrilled when that became her first choice as well. Sometimes Mom is right after all!
Then my attention turned to the reverse side of the shadbelly points (since most are reversible now a days), and I figured classic canary yellow would be appropriate. The first fabric my search turned up was this Beauty and the Beast jacquard. I sent Tracy the link mostly as a joke, followed by laugh till you cry emojis, along with a couple of other choices. Beauty and the Beast was the very first movie Tracy ever saw in a theater — the wolves absolutely terrified her! But I guess she has gotten over it because that fabric was a resounding YESSSSSS! What girl doesn’t have a favorite Disney Princess somewhere inside?
Lucky for me, both fabrics were in stock at stores relatively nearby. I much prefer to view fabric in person before purchase, for true color and a sense of the feel. Plus, we only needed a small amount and online orders often have a large yardage minimum.
How to Sew Shadbelly Points
Using the existing shadbelly points and the new measurements across the front of the waist, I created a pattern for new points. I think 2 piece points are much more practical and make taking the coat on and off easier.
To add some body, lightweight fusible interfacing was added.
I am not so creative when it comes to bold new ideas, but I am very good at copying things I see. I love the internet. And google image searches. Inspired by a Charles Ancona shadbelly point design, we added trim to the green side.
Stitch the yellow and green sides together, leaving a small opening to turn right side out.
Stitch the opening closed and press.
Measure carefully for buttonhole placement. Add buttonholes. I added a new button so that each point attaches only to its respective side of the coat. The manufacturer attachment system is somewhat less user friendly.
How do you like the way we cut the yellow fabric, so Belle and the Beast are on one point and the rose is on the other?
This is a guest post by horse show mom Betty Bidwell. A lifetime of frugal living has led Betty to develop numerous crafting and sewing skills. After enabling her daughter’s horse habit for more than 15 years, she has created and altered all sorts of equestrian clothing and stable items to help her daughter look stylish in the show ring and save money.
I will begin by freely admitting that Tracy was shortchanged in the parent department, with nary a rock and roll legend or software company mogul anywhere in sight. So we landed in the same boat as many of you readers, trying to support an incredibly expensive sport on a limited budget. This requires creativity, an ability to think outside the box, and a fair amount of crafting skills. I was also cursed blessed with a daughter who has never fit off the rack clothing well. I have lost count of how many times I have altered horse show apparel, made it myself, or re-purposed thrift store finds.
More than once, Tracy has shown me a picture of an item she covets, followed by a plaintive “can you make me one of these?” request. I do rather enjoy a good challenge, and we have successfully collaborated on turning many of these projects into patterns found on The Printable Pony’s Etsy Store.
Tracy has hopes of showing hunter derbies this season, which means acquisition of the dreaded shadbelly. Thus began the hunt. It did not take long to discover that Tracy falls just outside the size range of commercially available, reasonably (???) priced shads. While I have fairly advanced sewing skills, making a complete shad from scratch is more than I am capable of.
How to Decide if you can Alter a Commercial Shadbelly for Yourself
In a stroke of luck, Tracy’s local tack store obtained a large buyout of RJ Classics coats, very well priced. She had tried on a size 16 dressage shad, the largest available, and pronounced it just too tight to work. I convinced her to go back to the store with darling husband in tow to hold the camera, and FaceTime me from the store so I could evaluate the fit and whether I could possibly alter it (I live 130 miles away).
As I am now in the happy position of simply enabling and encouraging Tracy to spend her own money on her horse passion, I saw the fit and convinced her that we could make this shad work for a hunter (#sorrynotsorry, darling husband). Correct fit through the shoulders without needing changes was paramount, and this shad ticks that box. Stretchy tech fabric for the win! On to the alterations!!
Fit prior to alterations: you can see how through the shoulders there’s enough room, but that it’s tight across the bust and torso
As you can see, the primary issue here is not enough room through the bust and torso. The ah-ha! moment was my realization that the double breasted design of a shadbelly actually gives you a lot of extra fabric in that area to work with. Solution: Reset the buttons. This immediately added 2 inches around and made all the difference. For the perfect finishing touches, I moved the other three decorative buttons, so that they remained centered on the torso, as well as the interior button.
Next: the points. During our FaceTime chat at the store, Tracy (always high maintenance, she is) stated that she hated the fabric of the points and wanted new ones no matter what. This becomes a lengthy tale of its own, and will get a separate post. Suffice to say points were created.
Here you can see how far we moved the buttons and what a difference it makes!
The Difference Between a Dressage and Hunter Shadbelly
Final step, the tails. Dressage shadbellies have weights in the tails, which must be removed for a hunter. Who wants those things whacking your horse over every jump? Careful opening of the pocket allowed for easy removal and the opening was then stitched closed.
Other than the weights, the two types of shadbellies are actually almost identical. The buttons are a slightly different color, but on this particular model they were conservative enough for both rings.
I know I am preaching to the choir when I say how disappointing it is that manufacturers do not make much larger sized equestrian clothing. Although we did not need to explore this option, it would appear that Reed Hill in New York makes plus size shads. They have a few listed on eBay, but the price and fabric choices were less than ideal. And how have I heard of Reed Hill you ask? They primarily make saddle seat clothing, Tracy rode saddle seat for a year in 4-H, and I bought her a Reed Hill saddle suit. It was reasonably priced and well made, but OF COURSE I had to alter it to fit properly, and by the way Mom, can you add real suede knee patches too?
What item do you covet but cannot find in any store at a reasonable price?
This is a guest post by horse show mom Betty Bidwell. A lifetime of frugal living has led Betty to develop numerous crafting and sewing skills. After enabling her daughter’s horse habit for more than 15 years, she has created and altered all sorts of equestrian clothing and stable items to help her daughter look stylish in the show ring and save money.
Everyone has an opinion about the optimal horseback riding schedule.
What’s best for your horse? How many days per week are ideal? How long should you ride your horse?
If you ask 10 equestrians those questions, you’ll get at least 12 answers.
Time to face facts: there is no one size fits all riding schedule.
But I can share what I do and tell you why it works for me and my horses.
My Horseback Riding Schedule
I’m an adult amateur with a full-time job, and while I’m lucky that it’s quite flexible, I still have to put in 9-5 hours. I also have two horses: Niko, my younger competition horse, and Moiya, an older semi-retired horse.
Monday + Wednesday
I wake up around 7am to get dressed, feed the dogs and fix breakfast. I work from home, so I don’t have a commute (it’s amazing!), and that means I can log-on to my computer by 7:30am. On Wednesdays I have a standing conference call at that time, but otherwise I knock out some work before heading to the gym at 8:45am for my strength training workout. I’m back home by 10:30am, where I eat a snack, shower and then log back on to work.
I usually take a quick lunch break around 1pm to eat and walk the dogs, and then back to work until 5 or 6pm.
After work, I commute about 20 minutes to the barn. On Mondays, I usually ride Niko (my competition horse) and we work on the flat for about 20-30 minutes. Typically I work on relaxation, my position and transitions. Sometimes I’ll do work with ground poles if I have to set them up. Wednesdays are lesson days — usually I ride in a semi-private (2) or group (3-5) lesson that lasts an hour. Typically, these include jumping. We don’t usually do full courses, mostly singles and some related distances of 4-6 jumps.
I’m usually back home around 8 or 9pm to eat dinner, feed the dogs again and spend some time with my husband. I like to Netflix and chill a lot of evenings before bed to wind down from the day.
Tuesday + Thursday
I have a similar morning routine, but I don’t workout at the gym on these days so I’m able to get in some extra time with my husband in the morning and get some more work done (or hit the snooze button for an extra 15-30 minutes of sleep). I usually take a few 5-10 minute breaks throughout the day to do housework, like laundry or dishes. I still take my lunch break around 1pm (plus walk the dogs) and then back to work until 5 or 6pm.
These days are usually when I ride Moiya (my semi-retired horse) — we enjoy leisurely flat work or sometimes a short trail ride. Typically I ride Moiya for about 15-20 minutes, focusing on bending, stretching down and some lateral movements. Mostly, Moiya just enjoys some time to stretch her legs and get attention (she loves to be loved on!). Sometimes if I’m riding with friends on these days, I sit in the middle and watch a bit too.
Again, I’m usually home by 8 or 9pm for dinner and quality time with my husband.
I’m up again by 7 or 7:30am to get in my morning routine and a few hours of work before I hit the gym at 10am. I’m home again by 11:30am to shower and eat lunch before logging in some hours at work. I like to take a break around 3pm to walk the dogs, depending on the weather. Other than that, I’m pretty much solidly at my computer until 7pm or later.
I try to take Friday’s off from the barn, which allows me to spend some time with friends and catching up on housework.
Saturday + Sunday
Like most equestrians, I spend a lot of time at the barn on the weekends. I like to sleep in on Saturday, eat a delicious brunch around 9am and then do some chores around the house or catch up on work (usually writing blog posts, managing my Etsy store, etc.) until a light lunch around 12pm and then I head to the barn. On Saturdays I have a lesson, so I ride Niko again and typically do some jumping exercises. I like to take some time to really give Niko a thorough grooming and deep-clean my tack so I’m often at the barn until 3 or 4pm.
Sometimes my husband and I like to take the dogs to a park for a change of scenery on their walks, so we usually do that on Saturdays.
On Sunday, I attend church at 9am and we grab lunch on the way home (sometimes we eat out, sometimes not). I’m usually at the barn again by 12pm to ride Moiya. I also groom one or two horses for my trainer this day. I’m home by 4pm so that we can drive 30 minutes south to my in-laws for dinner and then we’re home around 7pm or so.
Taking Advantage of Flexibility
During the fall and winter, my full-time job tends to be a little bit slower and less demanding. A few times a month, I’ll usually take advantage of that and go to the barn mid-day (during a long lunch break). It helps me so much mentally to be able to ride when the sun it out and it’s the warmest part of the day! This usually means I end up working later into the evening, but it’s so worth it to me. Being able to take advantage of flexibility to create the best horseback riding schedule for me has been key to my happiness and success in recent years.
Summer vs Winter Horseback Riding Schedule
I compete and attend horse shows May through September, which means my horseback riding schedule in the summer is much more demanding. In order to maintain Niko’s fitness and mine, I spend more time in the saddle. To do this, I typically increase my ride time on Niko to 30-40 minutes per session, and I add an extra day or two per week (usually Fridays and/or Sundays). This means I ride 30-40 minutes 2-3 times per week and 60+ minutes 1-2 times per week.
I know a lot of riders spend a lot more time in the saddle. I’ve found for myself and my horses that shorter, more focused sessions work the best. I want to finish every ride having accomplished something positive and I generally avoid picking fights. Occasionally my rides do last longer if I’m having trouble accomplishing a goal, but that happens maybe once a month. Usually if something goes wrong and continues to go wrong, I’ve found it’s not going to get fixed that day. It’s best to try again later, with a different attitude and different game plan.
I’ve never found that my horses needed additional fitness either. This horseback riding schedule gets them fit enough to do what I want to do, and Niko’s fitness ramps up throughout the summer so that while in May he might be a little bit more tired after the horse show, by June he feels like he could ago another day!
Horse Show Riding Schedule
Of course when we attend horse shows, my horseback riding schedule completely changes and revolves around that. On those weeks I usually ride Moiya on Monday or Tuesday (taking the other day off to get in extra work) and then I ride Niko in a Wednesday lesson, followed by a very short 10-15 minute hack on Thursday. Friday we haul to the show where I lunge and school over the jumps, with Saturday and Sunday being horse show days. I take the following Monday to recover (and nurse my serious horse show hangover).