Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Review: Voltaire Hunter Bridle

Much like how I wasn't really shopping when we found Quiz, I also wasn't shopping when I ended up with a new bridle. 

It's been such a long time since I bought any new strap goods (how is that even possible!?), that I have started casually eyeballing them, but with (literally) no reason to buy, I've shown remarkable restraint in not collecting. 

This piece found it's way into my trunk in a non-traditional manner, but that's a story for another day. 

Today we discuss what I think about it.

A while back I noticed that Voltaire had added a figure-8 and a hunter bridle to their online store.  the photos were remarkably poor quality from a professional marketing standpoint, and I had never noticed one in person, so I wasn't overly tempted. 

Voltaire's Hunter bridle (w/flash attachment)

But, I've been on bridle hunts with a few other barnmates over the past year and gotten to see a variety of new Hunter bridles up close, as well as watched the process of eliminating some over others.

In terms of the "big" European brands, I have always coveted an Antares that hangs in the tack room.  It has a big, padded monocrown, but not ridiculous or overly trendy in it's size or style.  It has a normal (single buckle) throatlatch and looks very acceptable in the hunter ring.  What stands out is the weight, and quality of the leather.  It's the difference between picking up a plastic fork at a picnic, and feeling the weight of your grandmother's silver.  Sure, they mostly do the same thing, but one is just yummy in your hand.

Antares lost me with their weird new anatomical crown (they still offer the less dramatic version).  It looks like an awkward hat and I haven't seen it sit well on a single horse.  I'm sure it works wonders for someone, I'm just not sure who.

My favorite piece in the next price bracket down, is the Nunn Finer.  I've always thought their leather was of a good quality, and their styling is classic.  It takes some work to get it broken in - but once you get it - I think it rivals Edgewood for quality at a fraction the price.

Based on pictures alone, the Voltaire piece is not something I would have ordered.  Their trademark contrast stitching is ALL OVER IT.  each piece of leather has bright stitching down it's side.  Not just the noseband and browband.  Fancy stitch is EVERYWHERE.  Cheek pieces, cavesson hangar, etc. EVERYWHERE.  It's busy.  And the monocrown means that not only is there an extra buckle for the cavesson, but even the throatlatch has a double hanger - which makes for a lot of buckles.  And while the crown isn't overly padded or huge, I wasn't sure about the signature Basque stripe on the top of it.

But alas.  we got it. 

The narrower leather looks good on him I think.
(I also shouldn't have chided Voltaire for their photos, as I have NOT exceeded those standards... whoops. )

While the stitching is bold, the leather itself is rather narrow, and it fits his chiseled-pony-face quite nicely.  The contrast looks classy, and at least on a gray doesn't seem too busy.  After a few applications of conditioner and a night in a ziplock with some oil, everything is feeling appropriately soft and pliable.  The reins are still a tad stiff (and I will note a preference for the CWD laced reins...) but the quality is undeniable.  The padding is also exceptionally squishy, hopefully it is also sturdy.

Blurry, but at least his whole face is included

Still not sure I would have pulled it off the rack if I was actually shopping, but now that I have it, I like it.  And I enjoy that it looks a bit different without being obnoxious. 

What do you guys like to see in a bridle? How different is too different?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Meet Quiz! (and a naming contest)

It's been really, really, really hard not to jump the gun on this, but meet Quiz!

Picture already shared.  Need more stat.

Quiz is the aforementioned Brown Brad, a 5 year old cute gelding by Quadroneur (drool).

Much like Windsor - (while adorable) he appears to be far too chill (and slow) to really excel in Europe as a Jumper.  Fortunately for Quiz, he's cute as hell, trots like he's on a cloud, and I think will make one heck of a fancy little Hunter stateside.

I have always coveted liver chestnuts, and also the Quaterback lineage, so I'm just giddy as all get out at the prospect of finding both in Quiz. 

Quiz lacks the significant resume that Windsor had (no world championships for this guy), but he's only 5, and while he has shown, 1.10m is the extent of his experience at this point. 

What I really like about Quiz other than his color (and his daddy, and his trot..) is that he appears to have a very Windsor-esque brain.  Very chill, not in a rush to get anywhere and very unconcerned about where you pilot him to in front of a fence.  Chip in? Leave long? NBD.  We'll just lope around and figure it out later....


His classy good looks are just some really, really nice icing on a lovely liver chestnut cake. 

The wire has been sent, and his ticket is currently being booked.  Fingers crossed he gets here soon!!

Without further ado, some video.  Please note, this boy is in steel.  Swoon. 

The plan will be to get him out right away, (likely in August at Thunderbird) and see how he handles life as a Hunter.  Part of my agreement with The Husband is that this horse (unlike Winds) will always be for sale.  I hope I get to enjoy him for a while before someone snatches him away, but make no mistake - I have my Windsy, and while I'd love to have two - I will definitely allow another ammy to find theirs if the situation presents itself.

Anyway, the second order of business is that this thing needs a USEF name.  He is literally registered as just "Quiz," which I think is cute and will definitely keep for his barn name.  But he needs a big boy name for the show ring.

I already have a short list of favorites, but since none of them are perfection, I'm going to mine the blog-hive and see if you guys can top it.  (which, very likely).

Here are the guidelines:

1) start with a Q.
2) Sound like a regal, fancy, calm Hunter.
3) Don't be something that USEF has a ton of (Quiescence, Quintessential, Quixote, etc). 
4) I am open to creative spelling (Qredit is an example), but bear in mind ease of announcer pronunciation.
5) bonus points if it ties into Heir Apparent/Windsor.  I love a theme!

If I end up using your suggestion I will get you a $50 gift certificate to the online tack store of choice (Dover, SmartPak, RH, etc.).  If I stick with one of my picks, I get the gift cert (lol).

The "contest" is open until I actually register the beast.

Sound good? 


Monday, July 10, 2017

Windsy's Big Trip (aka, first show back)

Belated, but happy, show round up!

Have you missed us? BECUASE I HAVE.

Almost two weeks ago, Winds got loaded up and made his way back to Thunderbird for our first (!!) show of 2017.  The plan was mostly to get him out to stretch his legs (literally) and keep me from going stir crazy at home in the indoor (also, literally) - and I think we accomplished both.

Winds was reportedly quite fresh for schooling day, and in lieu of spinning on the lunge line he had two a day hacks with a decent canter set to help get the wiggles out.

I was there for the first day of showing, which saw Windsy entered in a Hi/Low 2'9" round.  His warm up looked honestly a bit stiff, but in the ring he looked loose and a bit more forward thinking than I am used to the Gray Prince being.  (you can tell because his ears are pinned forward and he's using his shoulders well... otherwise it only *feels* like a powder keg and looks like a lazy Hunter).

Canada now does red/blue rankings for their Low classes, so they don't get traditionally pinned, but a ribbon gets assigned based on how good your score is.  (Winds got a Red, which is first in Canada). I like this system as a way to handle the huge Low classes, but it sorta sucks they all show up as. "DNP" on the USEF record...

Anyway,  that was it for Wednesday.  Thursday I got early to hack Winds around the rings and loosen him up.  He felt great, and it was so, so, so, so nice to be on a horse, in a warm summer breeze taking in the bustle of a show before classes got underway.  SO nice. 

A couple hours later Winds had another Low 2'9" round.  This warm up looked a bit smoother, he was stepping under more, and using his back a bit better.  I breathed a small sigh of relief that his body seemed to feel good and watched him head for the ring.

The course looked a lot like the day before.  Totally chill and quiet from my perspective, powder keg on hooves according to the trainer.  So.... another early hack was scheduled for Friday before my magnificent return to the equitation (cough, 2'6", cough) ring. 

Friday, I had two rounds and a flat.  And it was hot.  That actually worked in my favor since Winds decided to blow a furry coat out in mid June and was a bit... well... wilted in the sunshine.

Our warm up was blissfully short as I somehow found all my fences decently so we parked at the back gate and watched a couple rounds.

I will say that for having not been in the show ring for 8 months, I feel really (really, really) good about this ride.  There are some, uh, misses.  But, overall, I like my hip angle more, I like Windsor's balance more, and in general it feels more thoughtful that our previous courses together.

I feel like it's weird to post a video of an Eq round and say "just watch the part between the fences" but that's what I'm doing, so just focus on the ride between the fences.

He looks sexy.  (I, on the other hand am in the only hunt coat that currently fits,  WHOOPS).

I actually felt ok about most of the fences, including the first one (YAY!).  But, I was particularly bummed about the single oxer - couldn't make a decision, then when Winds made one for me, I thought that not staying with him would somehow be a good idea (it wasn't). 

Then the rest worked out ok, I kept his balance up and that saved most of it until I chipped the crap out of the bending line at the end.  Lost his mouth, fought for a change, then got out ok.

I got 5th.  And that ribbon is going ON THE WALL, because we made it to a show, made it around and all is right with the world again.

Anyway, second round.  Started with the bending line I ended with before and threw in a rollback (what is this, medal finals??? I'm old and hot and tired...). 

sorry for blurry stills, pro photos on order!
Winds was amping up a bit, but we fixed a few mistakes - namely the bending line.  Then I got tight into the diagonal, but recovered.  Into the Judge's line Winds locked on HARD and started dragging me, so I choked him back and got a little weak.  I almost couldn't pull him out of the line (whoops), but I finally got him to let go of the oxer out and pay attention to the rollback.  I actually really liked how I finished the rollback, given how we started.... 

Then, Winds was thinking this must be a jumper course and he tried to switch gears.  I over compensated and we crawled to the last line, but finished ok.

Oh, also, the video is sideways.  I have no idea how it got sideways, and even less of an idea of how to get it un-sideways, so...sorry

We got 2nd.  In a nice division of 12.  So I was pretty stoked. (plus, 2nd is blue, so... that's always a plus).

The flat was toasty and a bit brutal.  Winds was good, but apparently I looked a bit droopy (sidenote: I am a bit droopy these days).  My sitting trot is not where it should be, but all else was fine.  Winds couldn't care less about traffic and that's a great feeling when you are nose to tail and fighting for space down the quarterlines.

Somehow our 3rd place on the flat was enough for Reserve, so Winds and I managed to maintain our weird streak of getting Reserve in every division we enter at Tbird.  (it's great for the ribbon wall).

His neck is somehow 2" long in this pic.. but RIBBON
I stuck around to watch the Juniors do their thing, but then I hit the road to join the family for the 4th.  Winds enjoyed some down days and turnout (I LOVE the turnouts at Tbird. #grass).

So now we are home and gearing up for Milner Downs, which you may recall is where I got all my lovely pictures of Windsor galloping across a big grass field.  They also have a really fun Derby.  I'm not sure we'll be ready for it, but I'm not-so-secretly hoping we can enter. 

He's been feeling great at home, and I'm really hoping we hold the trend.  This horse is so incredibly fun to ride and learn on, I just want to ride him forever. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Brad's Come in Brown Too....

So, uh - I wouldn't say that I've been shopping, more like "keeping an eye out" for anything super interesting. 
Oh.  Interesting.
We've even gone so far to bop around a bit and see a few younger prospects that have popped up.  And while I've never been a good window shopper, it's amazing how much less desperately I shop when I have a great horse at home in the barn...

Of the horses we've seen, there are a few lovely ones I liked, and if I were horseless, I probably would have jumped all over them...  But for one reason or another (size, price, grumpy face...) I could easily pass while I've got a wonderful Windsor waiting for me at home. 

Anyway, I really don't think I've ever actively shopped when I haven't been horseless and willing to compromise (sometimes a lot), so this whole "be really picky" thing is new to me. 

The idea with a possible new pony would be to have something fun to ride that could get me some good mileage while keeping Winds' schedule a bit lighter.  Since I'm not sure I can actually show two horses actively, I'd want the second horse to be something that would be easily marketable in a year or so. 

I should clarify - this would not be an investment horse.  I remain skeptical that such things exist.  But it would be nice to have something that's nice, calm, and attractive enough that I'd have a shot in hell of moving it along to another happy ammy.

In my crazy dream world, I'll have Windsy for ever and ever, and possibly have a rotating second horse that I learn on, show a little, sell -  then go find something else to learn on, show a little and sell.  I have zero illusions of making money - and I'm not sure the rotating roster idea will even work - but it's helping to at least define what to maybe-possibly search for.

Anyway, the current contender is definitely the flashiest of the group we've considered thus far.  A nice liver chestnut with a cute face and a daisy cutter trot.  He's 5, hasn't done a ton, but has shown 1.10m with an amateur.  I like his balance, looks, and gaits.  His jump isn't the biggest, loftiest thing out there, but it's cute and consistent.  He seems straightforward, forgiving (and is a total push ride) - all things that are good for an increasingly chicken, ammy...

blurry - but you can imagine
There are still a few question marks that need answering, but I like him and while I know it's dangerous to name the puppy (especially before you vet it), I can't help but to start brainstorming names.....

Vetting is scheduled for Monday.  Cross your fingers, toes and hooves!
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