Category Archives: horse care

Using What I Know

Things with June continue to progress quite nicely. I have to say, under saddle, so far, she has been amazing. We’ve been riding at the trot on our own quite a bit and I am getting more and more comfortable with all of it.

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We had a wedding at the barn this weekend, which essentially just meant it was completely chaotic there. I wanted to ride June one of the three days that the wedding prep was going on, so decided I would take her out to the field and ride her in the jump school corner. I figured I would see how she was on the lunge line and take it from there.

Well, she was perfect on the lunge, even with the new footing that had been put down and the fact that all the jumps were askew around the edge of the footing. After about 15 minutes of calm lunging I decided to hop on her.

Now, keep in mind that we are about 100 yards from the barn, there isn’t a fence, and I still ride June in a side pull, so if she wants to bolt back to the barn there is really no stopping her.

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She enjoyed the view

I hopped on and we calmly walked around for about 10 minutes. She was so calm I decided to ask for the trot. And we trotted around calmly and happily, changing direction and having a grand old time. Baby horse exceeded my expectations for sure.

So, while our under saddle and ground work seem to be solid and moving in the right direction, June’s ground manners are pretty horrific. Specifically when I have her tied and am grooming or saddling her. She seems to think that any time a person comes up to her it is to give her treats, so she immediately throws her head at you. (I rarely hand feed her treats, but her owner/breeder was basically nothing more than a treat dispenser to her, and she has not forgotten that people=treats.)  I can’t groom her without her throwing her butt and/or shoulder around and pinning me between the post and her body. She can’t JUST STAND. And she’s not much better on the cross ties. She moves constantly and will move backward and forward the entire time. Ironically, she is great to bathe. Stands there perfectly, but she cannot stand still otherwise.

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The beginning of the temper tantrum

I understand she is a baby. And Sarah has even said that as she grows up she will become more patient. But yesterday she pushed me past my limit. I tied her to the rail while I cleaned up and she began pawing. Hard. And then kicking out. And throwing her body left and right. Once I was done cleaning I knew I couldn’t reward her by un-tying her, so I hung out while she had a temper tantrum. And it got worse and worse. I hid just outside the indoor arena to see if it subsided if I wasn’t in view, and it didn’t POUND, POUND, KICK, was all I could hear.

So, I came back inside, untied her and made her move her feet. Re-tied her. No difference. We did this a few more times. She was now lathered in sweat, and it had been about an hour. All she had to do was stand. But she was giving that a big fat nope.

I got her to stand quietly for 5 seconds, called it a day, did ground work the entire way back to her pen and left über frustrated.

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She and Stella did go for a nice walk together though!

And then, that night, I awoke at 2am and couldn’t fall back asleep. And that’s when it came to me- an idea to work on June’s behavior while tied.

Clicker Training.

This is not a new idea to many of you. So I won’t get into all of the theory behind it. But I will say it is a GREAT way to mark a behavior you like and get animals (and people!) to understand what you are asking. Maybe June just needs to understand what I want, as well as get rewarded for when she does something correctly. Now, my one hesitation is that I will have to hand feed her treats. But, she only gets a treat post click. She only gets treats when she does what I ask. She will soon learn (I hope!) that she doesn’t get treats just becuase she mugs me for them. I’m a bit nervous about this, but I think it’s worth a shot. I have a clicker, plenty of treats, and I think small increments of training this way may be super beneficial. And while no one would say my dogs are incredibly well behaved, I did clicker training with both of them, and it worked well. I could eventually wean them off the clicker, and treats, so maybe I can do the same for June.

I’d actually love any thoughts you have on the topic- am I setting us up for success? Or for complete disaster?

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Alone Time

If you read my blog and that of SprinklerBandits you may get the feeling we have two of the most amazing, lovely, easy as can be, young horses. And, while I actually think this is true of Zoebird, I’m going to let you in on a secret about June. She isn’t perfect.

I know, you’re shocked.

I will say, before talking about all the things she needs work on, that she is actually a great baby. When she knows what is expected of her, she is happy as can be to do what I am asking. I’ve had few problems with her in work actually, most of the baby moments seem to be happening when we are just standing. This mare CANNOT just stand.

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But she’s so cute when she’s in my space!

Now, I know that’s pretty normal for young horses. I thoroughly enjoyed Amanda’s post about the Tree of Knowledge. June needs a Tree of Knowledge, or a Thinking Pole, or whatever else you want to call it, SO BADLY. Baby horse cannot stand tied, or next to me, for more than 3 seconds without beginning to paw incessantly. It used to be only when I left her alone. But yesterday, as I was talking to a woman who has worked lots and lots of baby horses, June got right in my space and then just started dancing and pawing in the 10 seconds I was speaking with this woman. Let’s just say that didn’t go over well and maybe I was called out for letting her do that. (There are very few people I will allow to question my baby horse training, this woman is one of them). June got an impromptu lesson on just standing still. And I began to hunt the farm for somewhere, anywhere, that I can high tie June.

Our other issue is that she really doesn’t like to be alone. At all. So, I’ve been forcing alone time on her. Sometimes I stick her out in the outdoor arena, where she can see other horses, but she still gallops around whinnying and has a fit. Other times she goes into the high sided roping arena, where she gallops around and has a fit. The first time I stuck her out on grass, she had a fit and missed out on enjoying her pasture time.

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Mom, please save me from this hell

She’s getting better. Which is good. But there is still a bit of a struggle every time I put her out and leave her. Which, she will have to get over, because I have plans for her this fall that involve travelling by herself.

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Also, in an exciting twist, these two have become besties, but more on that later…

I keep reassuring myself that this is just baby horse antics and ALL MOST baby horses act like they’re wearing hind boots for the first time EVERY TIME YOU PUT THEM ON FOR 1 MONTH. I have a lesson this Thursday and while I am eager to show Sarah all our skillz under saddle, I also can’t wait to ask her about 100,000 questions about certain behaviors I am working on with June and if my approach seems to make the most sense.

So there you go, June isn’t exactly perfect. But she’s still my most favorite baby horse ever.

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Habits

Since I’m not doing much riding with June just yet I’ve taken the opportunity to ride a couple of the lesson horses at our barn. Mostly I just hop on them when Sarah is out of town and they’re not being used for lessons, but could use some exercise. No matter which horse I ride, my habits are right there with me. It’s nice because I can work on them. Work on my position and try, desperately, to break my bad habits.

There’s one habit that follows me on whatever horse I ride and quite honestly, I am not willing to break it. It’s a habit I actually think has served me very well over the years.

You see, I talk to horses.

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What’s that you say? I have hay in my forelock?

When I’m on their back, I’m a talker. Like, not all the time, but a fair amount. It served me really, really, well with Georgie. For one thing, when we started going Training, and neither of us had jumped cross country at that height, I could have been up on her back, just not breathing. Instead, I made sure I was breathing by talking to her as we cruised around. There were lots of “good girl” and “woah” and sometimes me blithering on about what was next. It kept me breathing but it also kept her engaged with me. I’d see her ear flick back. As time went on, it was totally routine. When we were out on course together, I was always communicating with her. I actually think she really enjoyed it. It seemed to be what she expected and it relaxed her a bit.

Ingrid Klimke actually spoke in an interview about how she is constantly talking to her horse while she is out on cross country. And while I can’t find the interview, I remember she made fun of herself a bit, referencing the fact that she is not a quiet rider. Instead people are surprised to hear her talking as her horses fly over jumps. Her reasoning is much the same as mine.  Think about it, we’re ALWAYS talking to our horses. We’re asking them to move over, get out of the way. We cluck at them, ask them to whoa, and tell them how amazing they are. They’re used to our voices.

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One of our ridiculous barn cats

With June, so much of our relationship is based on verbal communication. She is so used to my voice. And, now that I am riding her a bit, I’m teaching her what “woah”means as well as what a “cluck” means. I assume my habit of talking to her while I am on her back isn’t going to stop as we progress in our training.

With the school horses I ride, if they offer a good behavior, they’re sure to get a “good boy.” If they spook at seemingly nothing, they get a “Seriously?” But they also get lots of verbal reinforcement as we go about the ride.

It’s a habit I can’t see myself changing, and one I’m actually quite happy I’ve got. What about you? Are you verbal with your horses when riding? Or do you tend to be the silent type?

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Georgie’s New Beginning

I’ve been meaning to post about Georgie for some time now. But June has kept me busy and filled with content. So, here is the update you’ve all been waiting for. 🙂

I spent much of March riding Georgie, assessing soundness while I asked more of her and got her fitter. The hope was that she would be able to be half leased by a junior rider and she would be able to handle the increased level of work. During the month I went from questioning Georgie’s future to feeling comfortable with her going into work again. It’s amazing what some fitness work and consistency can do for a horse.

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She still refuses to pose for pictures. EVER

When Sarah returned from California the beginning of April I could confidently say I felt Georgie would enjoy getting back to work and doing 2′ to 2’3 jumping with a junior. Sarah had the perfect student in mind and, well, now they’re paired up and Georgie is being half leased.

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Obviously this is hard and weird and sad for me. But don’t worry, I put some stipulations in the lease (cause I can do that, as her caregiver, I guess) and it states in the lease that either Sarah or I can ride the mare once a week to assess soundness (or give her a tune up ride). Despite how strong and sound she was feeling in March, I still worried that the mare would have issue with being ridden regularly. But having ridden Georgie this past week, I can lay those worries to rest. She felt great. I took her for a walk/trot and then just let her gallop, because she was begging me too. It felt great to be back on her and feeling her want to gallop.

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Plus we got to ride with Tommy , who happens to be Georgie’s boyfriend

And while sure, this ride was supposed to be for Georgie, it helped me so much too. When I ride/work with June, I have to be thinking all the time. There’s never really any down time. It was the same with Macy. With Georgie I could just relax and enjoy it. Letting her gallop around the field reminded me why I love riding so much. Why a partnership with a horse is such a special thing.

I still hope June has half the heart Georgie does. I love watching her new rider love on her and I hope she appreciates just how special a horse she is. I’m so glad she is still at my barn, still in Sarah’s care, and that I’m able to watch over her and ride her as well. Oh, and as an added bonus, she is housed right next to June. She has already figured out that for every treat June gets, she gets one too.

So, here’s to a great new life for Georgie, and her teaching another rider just how special a horse she is.

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Actual Pics of Me on June

So, I realize I was all “I’m not going to ride June until she’s 4” and that is still 2 months away. But baby horse has progressed so far and well with her ground work, I was kinda like “Well, its time to hop on her.”

So one day I did just that. Sarah saw me walking her out to the round pen with my helmet in my hand and just said “Let me know when you’ve safely dismounted.” I figured the less of a deal I made about it, the less of a deal it would be.

So, I worked her in the round pen and she was her fantastic self.

I sided her up to the rail, and played around with throwing a leg over her, and putting some weight on her back. Then I removed her rope halter, put my other halter with reins attached to it  on her, and brought her back over to the rail.(I don’t have a side pull and #stellasurgery prevents me from buying ANYTHING not absolutely necessary).

I sided her up, and slid on. We stood there for a moment or two. Then we walked around the round pen a few circles, worked on turning, and called it a day.

It was the least dramatic and most exciting thing ever.

A few days later I decided to try again. This time I worked on shifting my weight a bit when we were walking and asking her to woah. She got that figured out quickly, so we did some more walking around and turning. With lots of just looking around and hanging out.

And on Kentucky 3 Day cross-country day, I decided to take a risk myself, and have her walk around the property with two other horses.

She was great! At one point, we were leading, and I asked the other two riders if they wouldn’t mind taking the lead since we don’t really know what we’re doing and they were like “But you have the best behaved horse!”

Apparently I picked the wrong two horses to go hack with.

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They were fun to ride with and DID end up taking the lead…

June got a little tight in her back on the way home, and I could tell she was feeling a bit frisky as we made the last turn to home. So, instead of making a big issue of it, I hopped off, turned her away from home and had her walk over some ground poles and a log that were set up in the jump field. The other two horses left and she was fine with it. I then hand walked her back to the barn with no issue.

I should note that I was riding bareback in running leggings and sneakers. If things had gone sideways I would have fallen off easily. But June hasn’t been ridden in a saddle since she’s been back, and I didn’t want to introduce that the day we went out of the round pen. I have my first lesson with her Thursday so I’ll be putting a saddle on her once or twice before that lesson (I have been doing this all along) so that when I get on her for that lesson she is at least comfortable with the saddle and remembers it’s no big deal.

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So many pics of her trotting…I know

The groundwork I’ve done with her has done exactly what I wanted. I’m so confident around her on the ground and feel like I know her so well, despite only having had her in my care for 5 months. I’ve learned so much about her and am really loving the horse I have. If she understands the question, she tries her hardest. It’s when she doesn’t understand that she “acts out.” And even her acting out is short lived and quite minimal. When she acts out, my first question is always “what doesn’t she understand?” And I LOVE trying to figure it out with her. She’s been forgiving of my training flaws and seems eager to see me when I come to her paddock.

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First IG pic of me on her back

That said, she’s got a strong personality and opinions. I need to work on things like her getting in my space and being a bit more responsive, but she’s still young and I think those things will refine themselves with work and time. I’m excited to start working with her and Sarah so I can have homework and continue in the right direction.

The other day Sarah said to me “Remember, she’s only in kindergarten,” and that really struck a chord. Kindergartener’s have a short attention span, they have temper tantrums, and they can be easily scared by harsh teaching. On the other hand, they’re curious, eager and very forgiving of what life throws at them. For June, I think exposing her to new things continues to be of the utmost importance as well as “having conversations” about what is expected of her. I’m looking forward to going slow with her, letting her tell me when she is ready for the next challenge. I think this mare has lots of potential and I can’t tell you how excited I am about the partnership progressing and for her to show me what she is capable of!

 

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June’s First Week Back

I really can’t express how impressed I am with this mare since she has been back.

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So pretty!

I figured in her first week we would take it a bit easy, and on Day 2 I brought her in for grooming and she was great.  I then put her in the round pen to see what, if anything, she remembered. Mare was 100% game and not only did she remember things, she had an attitude of “ok, now what would you like?” I’d had an issue with her not wanting to be caught  from her field last summer and so Trainer Dana had me work on teaching her to come towards me when I opened my arms, with lunge whips in each hand. If she went sideways I’d keep her from going anywhere with the whip. If she squared to me, I’d slink a little, avoid eye contact and invite her to come towards me. One step forward and pressure was released, I backed up as she came forward. It worked amazingly well, despite my  not believing it would and June never had an issue with being caught again.

On this day, I thought I’d see if she remembered any of that. I only had one whip, but I opened my arms, took a step back and June walked right up to me.

I think the best decision I made was to send her to Trainer Dana prior to letting her rest all winter. Clearly she has retained that info and is ready to move forward.

Day 3 she got off because Stella had surgery and I was in Boise. I took advantage of being unable to work her and had her get her spring vaccinations.

Day 4 we did a little round pen work, a little grooming, and then I took her to the obstacle course. As always with her, if she understands the question, she is game to do her darndest. In a few instances I got in front of her shoulder, which she thinks means whoa and we had some difficulty walking over the bridge or teeter totter. But she did everything I asked, when I asked correctly, and  her favorite is still climbing on the tires.

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What’s the big deal, mom?

Day 5 it was lunging in the indoor arena. I decided to throw some trot poles down as well as the liverpool. I walked her up to the liverpool and we walked over it with zero hesitation. This was a physically demanding day for an unfit pony. Lots of trotting, walking and trotting over the liverpool on the lunge line, and figuring out where her feet are through the trot poles. I could tell she was getting tired when she stopped and looked at me. I urged her forward and she literally threw her head and squealed! Then totally trotted forward. I appreciate the sass almost as much as how quickly she acquiesced.

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I like to watch her trot…

Day 6 she got her teeth floated. And I took advantage of the drugs and trimmed her bridle path, fetlock feathers and butchered her tail a bit. Whoops!

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She’s kinda a lightweight

Day 7 I brought her into the indoor and we worked on standing politely while being groomed, she wore front shipping boots and hind xc boots and we walked around. She was not happy about the rear boots so I left them on while I saddled her and walked her around the barn with her saddle on and stirrups swinging around. She didn’t protest about any of it.

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More tires, please?

I’m pleasantly surprised by how much she grew up this winter and how great her attitude is. We’ll begin taking lessons in May, so in the meantime I plan on just de-sensitizing her to as much as possible and getting her fit enough to begin work under saddle. It’s been great having her back, she brings much needed happiness to each day.  I’m thinking this will be a fun summer together!

 

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She’s Home!

This was a week where I could use something to make me happy. And leave it to my baby horse to help me with the task.

For those of you who kindly commented on my Fraggle Friday post, Stella is doing ok, but this week will be one of decisions, I’ll keep you posted on her for sure. We’re not out of the woods by any means

But this is a horse blog, so for now, lets talk about the baby horse!

Sarah and I went and picked up Desi and June Saturday and the trip was completely uneventful. Which is exactly what you want when you are hauling young horses! They both loaded up into the trailer with no issues. Then ate all their hay for the 5 hour journey.

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So curious at the stop for fuel!

When we got home the wind was at hurricane level, but both horses unloaded calmly and June went right into her stall and began to munch even more hay. When I left her she was like “see ya mom, I got hay to eat.”

Exactly the kind of reaction I would want for a horse that just had the most stressful day she’s had in 5 months. ❤

Media is not good, and I apologize. But baby horse had been experiencing mud season and looked it. So, I let her run around prior to grooming and was hoping I could take shots from far enough away that her filth wouldn’t be as obvious.

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I trotted her around a bit and then brought her in and groomed her. Her manners were still in place, but she got bored about 20 minutes in and began pawing. Instead of making a huge fuss I just untied her, had her move her feet, re tied her and got on with it. She looks much better now and tomorrow we’ll get to some real work.

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She’s grown a little, and greyed a lot. Is that a word? You know what I mean…

I’m just over the moon to have her back, and over the moon with how sensible she was on the trailer and her first day back. I’m so excited to get started with her and see what our future holds. Be prepared for more media and lots of June spam.

I do want to take a moment and give a shout out to my good friend Haley and her horse Tommy. You may remember that I rode him last winter and learned a ton. He was such a different ride for me and I struggled, but he was such a good boy and very patient with me. Tommy had been a rock star at Prelim and Haley just moved up to Intermediate with him at Galway, last week. They rocked around like total pros. She’s an inspiration to me and I am so thrilled with how far their partnership has come. It’s fun when a friend succeeds after lots of hard work. June and I are eager to have half their accomplishments.

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Go rock stars!

Here’s to new beginnings with June and hopefully an incredibly fun season!

 

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My High School Self

I don’t particularly love who I was in high school. I wasn’t a horrible person, but I was your typical high school teen.

I had major mood swings.

I wasn’t a good communicator.

I was overly worried about what was going on around me instead of just being confident with who I was.

And while I was a good athlete and student, it didn’t come naturally to me. I had to work hard to gain All American honors in lacrosse and I worked incredibly hard to make it into AP classes. I resented those who made light work of both academics and sports.

So…

I was riding Macy the other day when it struck me. Macy is my high school self.

Lets explore this a bit further.

On the day I was riding her a lesson was going on. Macy was so preoccupied with this other horse in the arena. Every time it got near us she would pin her ears and throw her head threatening to bite the horse.

Just SLIGHTLY preoccupied with others.  Just SLIGHTLY worried about what was going on around her instead of just doing her thing.

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Always worried about what’s going on around her…

And while Macy is an above average athlete (and way more talented than I was in high school), dressage does not come naturally to her. She’s not built to make any of this easy. She’s downhill with this huge barrel, and she doesn’t exactly scream light on her feet. And yet, with hard work and determination, she makes it happen. It’s not easy, but she’ll be damned if any horse thinks she isn’t serious competition. And so, she refuses to make friends with the competition and instead keeps them at bay and keeps working at it, proving them all wrong.

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I mean.. it’s just not that pretty a picture. Love ya May! (most days)

Oh and the mood swings. Do we even need to go there? She is the moodiest mare there ever was. And instead of just communicating in a normal, rational way, instead she takes EVERYTHING to the max. Talk about a drama queen. It’s exhausting.

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It’s all or nothing with this horse

So, maybe Macy is stuck forever being a teenager. I feel for her, that is NOT a fun place to be. And while I want to comfort her, another part of me just wants to slap her and tell her to grow up. Being a perpetual teenager isn’t fun for any of us.

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The Tattletale

I’ll be honest. I’m feeling close to zero motivation to ride Macy these days. Maybe it’s the fact that I am riding Georgie again and she is SO easy. Or maybe it’s the fact that despite the easy winter that we are having, we’re still confined to the indoor because it’s Idaho and it’s cold. Or maybe, it’s the fact that Macy is just being a bit more ornery than she has been in the last few months.

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What easy looks like

It’s also tough for me to stay motivated to keep riding and keep working when I know I don’t have a competitive future with this horse. I’m competition focused and motivated. Riding Macy sometimes feels like a lot of work for no payoff. (Because for me the payoff will always be galloping around cross-country). I know this is incredibly narrow-minded and selfish to say (I have a horse to ride, I should be so incredibly thankful for that), but it’s how I feel and I can’t help it.

Whatever it is, I am finding it difficult to muster the motivation to get out there and ride her. We still have our weekly lessons, and for this I am grateful. With Sarah’s guidance I stay focused and we’ve had some fun jump and dressage lessons.

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wheeee

But it’s almost like Macy and Sarah have this secret communication going. Years of friendship where they can talk to each other without speaking. And Macy has decided that she’ll tolerate me riding her. But she is going to be a tattletale whenever I do anything wrong.

If I stiffen or drop my hand, Macy lets Sarah know. Not enough inside leg to outside rein. Oh, she’ll happily let Sarah know. Should I get distracted and not keep her haunches from drifting in, oh, she’ll happily toss her head, go around crooked and let Sarah see all of it. See, she tattles by showing her displeasure with my riding. She tosses her head, bolts, or gets tense. When I ride well, correctly, she is smooth sailing.

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I’m happy and she’s happy

So, I work my ass off to keep Macy from tattling on me. I work my ass off to make the ride easier on myself. Getting her straight to a fence without a lot of head tossing, is a lot easier than trying to do so when her head is straight in the air.

So, Macy continues to make me a better rider. Even if some days I would rather just take the easy way out. And in the end, I’m definitely thankful for it.

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Thanksgiving Makeover

I received this text from my Dad while travelling home for Thanksgiving.

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Nothing makes me happier than some quality horse time. Especially when I get to hang out with the original heart horse, Dublin.

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But I wasn’t quite prepared for just how bad their manes and tails really were.

Apparently it’s burr season in NY.

All I can say is thank you to whomever created Laser Sheen.

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Priscilla’s forelock was definitely the worst. I called it a burr bun. It’s a hairstyle that has not really taken off.

A good dousing of Laser Sheen, some tearing apart with fingers followed by shedding blade and the burrs actually came out quite easily.

My Dad mentioned he had cut some out earlier, which made me cringe, obviously, but I did what I could to get them beautified.

For two retired pasture ponies, whose forelocks have been chopped off, it didn’t come out half bad.

Looking forward to having to start all over tomorrow.

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Dressage On A Dime

Charley's Angel Eventing

Just a High Schooler Living for Jesus & Ponies