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Three Words

Earlier this week I was riding Macy and was thinking, “I wonder what 3 words I would use to describe this horse.” And then I thought, hey, this could be a fun blog hop, or at least a fun blog post. Aren’t we all looking for blog ideas in dreary February?

So, here we go. What 3 words would I use to describe Macy?

DRIVEN.

I think that most of Macy’s attitude under saddle comes from how driven she is. From when she was first started to when she retired from upper level competition, her entire life has been work work work. She hates to plod. She thinks hacks that don’t involve being on the bit are stupid. She is a testament to the Thoroughbred in that she is a work horse. She’s happiest when she has a job and a purpose. I know it’s why Sarah kept her and also why the mare is so safe and honest under saddle. (Ok, over jumps at least…). It’s probably her best attribute.

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Prelim chevrons are NBD for this mare

PARTICULAR

I struggled with which word to use here. Macy isn’t sensitive in the typical TB way. She is opinionated but not as strongly as some horses. She’s just particular  about her likes and dislikes. She hates being in an arena with any of the following: grey horses, paints, heavy footed horses and naughty horses. So, if you’re riding Macy in the arena with a light footed chestnut, you’re bound to have a nice ride. As for naughty horses, well she wants to be the naughty one in the arena. So, she gets tense and tough. Oh. And she hates when other horses canter too close to her. Walk and trot just elicit ears pinned but cantering too close elicits a bolt most days. See, she’s just particular. It’s totally normal. Or maybe not…

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She clearly was not enjoying this particular moment

BITCHY

I really really was hoping to say “angsty.” Or “insecure”. But really, as much as I have grown fond of this mare, she’s still a total bitch. The other day Sarah asked me to blanket her. I went into her paddock, said hello and began to blanket her. As I latched the chest straps she just nailed my arm, teeth bared, leaving it bloody. There was absolutely zero reason for it. Fu*king bitch. And she’s a bitch to pretty much any horse. Like, get over yourself already, mare! That she is besties with Rapid is still a mystery to me, but it’s cool. At least she has one friend. Her paddock has huge holes from where she has kicked out all the plywood that was added for when Desi was born. She likes to kick at it any time she wants someone to know she is hungry, tired, bored or just irritated by all of us.

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Bitch dumped my ass just because the standards of the jump we were trotting to fell towards her…

So there we have it. Three words I would use if someone asked me to describe Macy. Sure, she can also be a life saver, forgiving, honest and fun. (As well as terrifying, frustrating and ridiculous) but those aren’t as consistent.

So, tell me, what 3 words would you use to describe your steed?

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When You Know You Have a Unicorn

I work in animal welfare. I can tell you that 90% of people are looking for a unicorn when they come to adopt a dog. “Do you have a young,  well-trained, non shedding, no bark, great with kids, dogs, cats, men, women dog that I will have to put no training into and will be perfect 100% of the time?”

No. No we do not. Ok, maybe we DID but someone adopted that dog super fast.

They want a unicorn. Unicorns are very rare, don’t people know that?

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Not a unicorn AT ALL, but I still love her lots

This past week my family came to visit me and my brother-in-law asked if he could go riding. Having any family member show any interest in my equestrian activities is a major win, so I immediately began figuring out how we could go for a ride.

I knew he could ride Georgie, secured Rapid for myself and planned our outing. In retrospect I did two things wrong. 1) I didn’t account for how windy it would be, and still decided to go for a hack around the property and 2) brought Siri and her crazy husky friend with us.

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Lack of horse media so here is a pretty picture of our ski mountain we took while on a hike

My brother in law hadn’t ridden in a very, very long time, but I knew I could trust Georgie. We headed out to enjoy the ride. Rapid was over it pretty quickly. Between the wind blowing up her butt and the dogs wrestling next to her, she was ready to blow. It’s fun trying to help someone ride when the horse you’re riding feels like she wants to throw you into next week.

At one point, dogs came flying up behind us and Rapid lost it. She bolted forward, gave a kick and came running up behind Georgie.  Georgie responded by trotting quickly for two steps, realized her rider was put out of balance, and stopped.

She’s a unicorn guys.

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#unicorn

I can say I helped make her a unicorn with all the training and getting her out and about, but really, she was always a unicorn. The most tolerant and safe horse I have ever met. That brain. If I could only clone that brain.

I hand walked Rapid back to the barn so I could keep an eye on dogs and Georgie, but Georgie was unfazed by the craziness around her. We got back,  I threw dogs in car, and had brother in law ride in the round pen. A FAR better idea. He got to work on his rising trot and not surprisingly, Georgie was cool with him being out of rhythm trying to figure it all out.

As fun as it was to ride with my brother in law, I realize how lucky I am to have a horse like Georgie around for him to ride. I also realized that time and time again I ask things of her that I couldn’t ask of most horses.

So, apparently unicorns do exist. I won’t let potential dog adopters know though….

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Tall Boots; I Get It

So, while I have been on the quest for a pair of half chaps, I have also been on a bit of a spending bender when it comes to tall boots.

You see, I had a pair of Mountain Horse tall boots, Firenze, I believe, and they never recovered from our adventures in Ireland. The mud. They never recovered from the mud. And when the zipper broke for the third time, I decided to retire them. BTW, it’s really weird throwing boots away. Am I wrong?

So, I was on the hunt. But, seeing as I have zero things on the horizon that would require tall boots, I decided to be REALLY picky. And by picky, I mean wait for an incredible sale.

It didn’t take long. While home for Thanksgiving I stopped by a local tack store. Sadly, it was closing shop. Not sadly (for me,anyway) everything was 50% off. There wasn’t much inventory left but they had a few  Ariat tall boots.

There was only one pair in my size. And they were brown. I’ve never had brown boots before… But I put them on and it was magical. So, in order to justify the purchase I got a navy show coat too…

They are Ariat Heritage Field boots and I love them.

Ariat-Heritage-Tall-Field-Boots-Brown

I’ve started breaking them in but am planning on using them for clinics and shows only. Cause I am like that with my boots. I love Ariat. I figure there is a solid reason they’ve been around forever. Quality products in my opinion.

But, I knew I still needed black show boots. So I would occasionally check on sales etc. And then one day I googled Tredstep Donatello. And Horse.com (a company I have never bought from) had one pair left. For $84. But there was one problem. They were a size too big.

But for $84? I decided to buy them with the thought that if they don’t fit at all, I can send them back or re-sell them.

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So, they fit. Kinda. They’re too big, but not REALLY too big. I added a heel lift and they came with a size adjuster thingy and those both helped. I’ve been riding in them regularly, and while I am still on the hunt for another pair of boots that are juuusst riiight, these will certainly do in the meantime.

Tredstep, Mountain Horse and Ariat were the three brands I was looking at, and I am excited to have found two pairs I am really happy with! So, do you have either of these boots? Love them? I hope you do!

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Fraggle Friday: Ski Joring

Ski Joring with your horse is a pretty popular sport here in Idaho. And while ski joring with our dog isn’t as well-known, it’s also a lot of fun.

Back in the day Stella was pretty amazing at it, and she won our shelter’s fund-raising ski race a couple of times. Once with me, and once with a friend when I got to the race and realized I forgot my boots.

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The look of happiness

For a dog not bred to pull, she sure could pull. As long as she got to run, she was happy. She even had a guest appearance as a sled dog and carted around some kindergarteners.

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Pseudo sled dog

Stella is by far the most athletic dog I’ve ever had. I joke that if she was a human she would have been a multi sport Olympian. And if she was a horse, she would have won multiple 4* events.

In her prime she could do it all, and do it WELL.

And even as she aged, and I didn’t ask her to pull me down a ski trail anymore, she still just loved to come and run alongside me.

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In fact, she got to run ahead of me, free and happy far more than having to pull me around. She loved running down the path, believing it was groomed just so she could run as fast as she wanted.

Skijor champion, sled dog and incredible athlete, Stella has sure shown me just how versatile and fun the Fraggle can be.

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These days she’s a champion napper

 

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Let’s Talk Half Chaps

I’m a true supporter of half chaps. I leave my tall boots for shows and clinics and love the ease of paddock boots with half chaps for everyday use.

The problem I’m having, is that while my Ariat paddock boots last forever, I cannot find a pair of mid price range half chaps that last as long as I’d like.

Most recently I purchased the Kerrits Griptek Half Chaps from Smart Pak. I love Kerrits products in general. They are my go to brand for just about all apparel, especially everyday barn stuff I want to last. Their breeches have been with me forever.

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The Kerrits half chaps. 

So, I expected the same of the half chaps. But alas, the snap at the back broke off within weeks of purchasing. But, because Smart Pak is such a great company, they offered me an exchange for a new pair at no cost.

I figured the snap was a fluke issue and I was right. The snaps on my current pair have been absolutely fine.

However the fabric at the knee patch has completely worn and its now just hanging off the side. It’s a classy look.

I purchased these half chaps for 80 bucks in July. Am I silly to think I would get a year, or more than 6 months out of them? I haven’t been happy with other half chap purchases either, but those were less expensive and I didn’t expect as much from them.

So, dear readers.. help! Give me your thoughts on all things half chaps and help me either come to grips on the longevity of these suckers or point me in the right direction!

Thanks in advance 🙂

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Fraggle Friday: Cold Weather Hacks

We’ve had a pretty mild winter here in Idaho this year, but I’ve learned a few things about having dogs in cold weather over the years and I thought I’d share that with you here! This list is in no way comprehensive, and it is based completely on experience, not fact.

While I think my dogs, Stella in particular, prefer cold weather to very hot weather, there are still a few things I find really help with having them stay comfortable when temps drop.

The first one is to keep them dry in cold weather! Siri is pretty hardy, but the minute she gets wet in cold weather it’s all over. She becomes a pupsicle! So, for senior Stella, I make sure she wears a coat if it’s cold and raining or snowing, it seems to keep her nice and comfy!

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It’s also adorable

This coat on Siri is nicely insulated and fits her  well. Plus it was cute so I forced her to wear it for a photo

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Another helpful hint in snowy weather is to use something called Mushers Secret on your dog’s feet in the snow. It keeps their feet from becoming snowballs and is really helpful! I’ve used cooking spray in a pinch, but this works way better

Mushers Secret All-Natural Paw Protection -- 60g

And lastly, just like when it’s really hot out, when it’s really cold it’s best to keep your four legged friends home, and not in your car. My dogs love going everywhere with me, but the inside of the car can get very cold once it’s turned off and dogs can get very cold as well! If you do leave them in the car consider an insulated crate, putting a warm coat on them and make sure they have access to water.

Any ideas you have for winter that help you get through the cold months?

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June Update

June is constantly in my thoughts, and not having her home is getting more and more difficult, but I know this break is good for her and she will be even more ready to be a unicorn when I get her back in April.

She’s living about 5 hours from me, over at least one mountain pass, so I wasn’t sure I’d be able to see her this winter. But a work trip to the town where she is living meant a super quick, but totally worth it, visit!

She’s living out on a cross country course/pasture with her mom, half brother, and three other horses. As I walked out to where all the horses were milling about, I immediately recognized her.

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Tough to get a good pic in the trees, but obvi she looks adorable

I’d like to think she remembered me, but I think she just wanted cookies.

I hung out with her for a little bit and then we took her down to the arena to play with her a little bit. For some reason there wasn’t a halter handy, so a make shift halter was made with a lariat.

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So cute!

She’s a fuzzy monster, and seems very happy kicking back with family and friends. She was willing to be put to work, but we asked very little of her. I mean, she is on vacation, and no one should work on vacation…

Missing this mare and counting down to April!

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Tools in My Toolbox

Last week I had a bout of vertigo, resulting in missing a day of work (first sick day in 3 years!) and laying in bed trying not to vomit. Vertigo is not fun, ya’ll. I had a lesson on Macy scheduled for the following day, but learning from past experiences where I ride when I don’t feel 100%, I asked Trainer Sarah if she could ride Macy in the lesson.

I was slightly apprehensive. I mean, it’s not like Sarah would be schooling my horse. She’d be schooling her horse, who I had been riding.

Sarah can get Macy to look faannnccy

I was ready for disaster. Or, not disaster. A lot of schooling Macy to get her back to “pre-Nadia riding her.” Um, is there anything more nerve-wracking than having your trainer ride her heart horse who you’ve basically ruined? I think not.

So here’s the good, the bad,  and the ugly from the ride.

The good- Sarah was really happy with how Macy felt. She felt strong and lighter than she had in the past. I’ve been riding her correctly!

The bad- Macy was a bitch for Sarah to jump at first. Sarah had to undo all the ruining I had done. It didn’t take her long, but it was definitely there. Because of yours truly.

All because of my stellar riding.

The ugly- There really wasn’t any ugly. Except that Sarah had such an easy time correcting Macy and getting her rideable. It was eye-opening to me. The mare is rideable, I just need to use my aids more effectively and have a stronger core. And 15 years of riding her might help. But I’m not sure that’s gonna happen.

So, we all have our trainer’s ride our horses. Or, in my case, their horses. But this ride was more eye-opening to me than just a regular training ride. I came out of this lesson all “I can do this! I can get this mare to be rideable for me!”

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And so, the next time I went to ride her, I was all pumped. I had all these things I wanted to work on, and was so excited to ride her well and have a fantastic ride. But when I brought Macy into the indoor arena, I was greeted with three other riders already riding.

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I can barely ride Macy with one other rider in the indoor.

But, instead of backing down, or expecting the worst, I decided to ride Macy from the moment I got on her, and committed to 30 minutes of work, mentally and physically.

To make things even more challenging, there was no rhyme or reason to what the other riders were doing, and they liked to get REALLY close to Macy. (At one point one was so close Macy turned her head and BARELY missed biting him. She’s THAT reactive. And bitchy).

I immediately got her walking and working on bend and coming over her back, trying to get her to relax. She was actually great. Then we moved onto the trot, same things, and she was a bit more tense, but I really worked on getting her to relax and did my best to avoid other riders. There was a pole in the middle of the arena and we trotted over it calmly.

Things were going well enough that I decided to push my luck and try her out at the canter. At this point, two riders were chatting in the center of the arena, and one was cantering. Macy HATES when other horses canter. But I was feeling “brave” and had a beautiful walk/canter transition and was able to keep her pretty relaxed and not all bunched up, wanting to bolt. I worked on flexing her left and right, and even worked on keeping her haunches from flying in as we tracked left. Woah. Thinking and riding? That’s weird.

I remembered that Sarah mentioned “Lateral work is a tense horse’s best friend” so we worked on leg yielding out on a circle, and some haunches in to get her more supple. By the end of the ride we were calmly cantering over the pole regardless of what was going on around us. I was even able to do some two point to sitting position in the canter, something that can make Macy squirt forward if not done well.

Was the ride perfect? No. But by using the tools in my toolbox, I was able to work through things, rather than become a hot mess. Macy stayed fairly relaxed and rideable. And do I dare say that we may be the ground pole champions of the world? Well, probably not, since we can’t do more than one at a time. But, maybe one day, one day soon, we’ll be cantering over multiple ground poles.

One can always hope.

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Fraggle Friday: Sick as a Dog

This week I suffered some vertigo, which made me dizzy, nauseous and relegated to my bed.

As someone who lives alone, when I get sick, my first thought is usually “Who is going to walk the dogs?” Fortunately I don’t get sick often, and typically can still get the dogs out. But when I can’t stand up without wanting to vomit, I can’t walk the dogs.

So, I called on a work pal to see if she could come get Siri and take her to doggie daycare. She picked her up within 30 minutes and off Siri went. I even got updates!

Stella got to spend the day with me. She is hands down the best dog to have by your side when you’re feeling sick. She laid in her bed and quietly snored away, a soothing sound which lulled me to sleep. She was fine with being let out to potty and coming back inside and to her bed. She seemed to know I wasn’t feeling great as she asked nothing of me and was as perfectly behaved as possible. I actually think she enjoyed the break from Siri…

Not sure I’ve posted this picture of Stella in her raincoat but it’s one of my favorites.

It was a less than exciting day, but I was thankful to have my best buddy by my side. And when, at 5:30, Siri returned, I was happy to see her too!

Prix Caprilli Champion of the World

Our barn runs a schooling dressage test of choice series each winter which is super fun and laid back. Last month I entered Macy in the Modified A test and Georgie in Intro B.

This time I entered both mares in the Prix Caprilli class. For those of you unfamiliar with Prix Caprilli, it is literally dressage over fences. You have a dressage test, but some directives have you hopping over fences on your way from one end of the arena to the other. It’s super duper fun.

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Georgie less thrilled at the previous show. PC: M.Graves

But, since, ya know, Macy and I are regulated to groundpoles currently, I scratched her from the show. I thought about just entering a regular dressage test, but realized that wasn’t going to be much fun either.

I was the last rider of the day, at 5:15pm.. So, I went for a run, cleaned my house and chicken coop, and did as much as could before heading to the barn, but was still there two hours early. I watched a couple of riders and then brought Georgie in to get ready.

There are two tests offered in the Prix Caprilli at our barn. One with 2′ jumps and one with 2’6 jumps. The tests are difficult. They’re not  easy to learn and you often have a jump you need to avoid in a 20m circle, so they take some thought. I was the only adult entered, for which I felt a little silly, but I got over it when I realized Georgie literally isn’t allowed to jump 2’6, and we have literally jumped 2 single jumps in the past year.

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When I jumped her once this year…

Plus, I did not prepare for the test at all. I ran through it once with Macy, sans jumps obvi, and have been asking nothing of Georgie in our rides together other than come round and move off my leg. And while she was by far the most experienced horse in the class, I was ready to have fun, and really didn’t care about anything else.

It was the sloppiest test I’ve ridden in years. I forgot to steer and Georgie almost hopped over one of the fences before I yanked her off of it. During the free walk and stretchy trot it became apparent I had not asked Georgie to do any of those things in over a year.

But none of that mattered. Mare was her usual rockstar self. She was obedient and perfect and this seemed to be her kind of dressage test. Sure she totally stumbled over the last fence (it was a cross rail keep in mind) but ya know, its ok, mare hasn’t jumped in a while.

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Has it become obvious I have no media from the show?

This was the perfect break my brain needed. It was awesome to ride Georgie again and just be able to enjoy the ride the entire time. Plus, we came out as the champions of the class. So, maybe not champions of the world, but that’s how it felt in my mind

We’ll see what her future brings, but I’m thankful she can still make me smile so much.

 

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