Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Slight Change of Plans

Well, this week was supposed to be all about tuning me up from the last show and getting ready for the prettiest, splashiest local show of the season. 

Instead I finally got the persistent pain in my side checked out by my doctor and they found a big mass on an ovary.

Good news is that they are 99% sure it's nothing to worry about, bad news is that my surgery is scheduled for next Wednesday.. Right in the middle of our big fun show. 

In a funny twist of fate, my doc is also a HJ rider and she will be at the show competing in the 3'6" A/O's next week.  She empathized with not wanting to give up such a highlight of the show season and even offered the option to defer my procedure but deferring it doesn't actually resolve the pain issue and we both agreed that jumping on pain killers is never a good idea (regardless of whether it's the horse or rider under the influence...).

Soooo WAH.  Big fat, whiny wah.  I should probably be more concerned about the surgery, but really I'm just miffed about not showing.  I decided I'm still sending Prair, but since her Pre-Green's run on Wednesday and Thursday, the odds are slim that I'll even get to see her go.  S thinks that we might (might!) enter the Derby on Friday night (the National, not the International..) but since the footing is grass we're playing that by ear. 

My family was decidedly not subtle about their preference for my procedure to happen sooner rather than later, but I'm still grieving the loss of the entry.  I know it will still be good miles for Prair and I really hope things go well so I'm able to get out there and at least cheer people on...

There are worse things than missing horse shows, I know that.  I guess I just also hate letting medical issues dictate my schedule as opposed to fitting in around what I find important (my husband, family, horses, etc).

Monday, July 29, 2013

WEC - Tack review

The last show was also the first time the saddle and boots saw some heavy lifting.  That plus our style choice with the half pad warrants a discussion on tack in general.  So I give you a review of Prairie's full show outfit.


I'm thrilled.  The balance is in a great place, the seat is starting to break in and realistically I"m happy with how the leather is looking after a couple oilings and rides.  Also, I'm just happy to have the saddle back.  The adjustments that they made were well worth the wait... I guess that's worth something!

The Pad

We ended up going with the fleeceworks half pad (clearly) and I liked it more than expected.  For one thing, I love how my leg feels on the mare with it and how much closer everything seems. From an aesthetics standpoint I think it looks sharper than the full fleecey pads we were making work.

The rolled fleece showed evenly both in front and behind my saddle, but the quilted middle part of the pad certainly stayed out of sight, which to me meant we had an ok fit.

I did see other horses with half pads where the pads were distracting from the overall picture.  I don't *think* that was the case with Prair..  I'm sure there are differing opinions, but I think it looked understated on the big mare.  To me, this pad was less distracting than the poorly fitting full pads that I was constantly tugging around like a not-quite-large-enough-fitted-sheet.

The Boots!

The boots passed their first test with flying colors.  I had an insane shine on them the first day (clean boot with water, no soap! Then apply a thin layer of polish, blow dry aggressively (or use a heat gun), then buff.  Repeat 3-5 times, finish buffing with a pair of pantyhose).  They are still not as high as I would order custom boots, but they are higher (and tighter) than my Konigs.  The footbed was comfy to walk around in all day and I really like the overall silhouette.  Also, I was able to touch up my polish easily and restore the nice shine.  So far the Treadstep Da Vinci's get two thumbs up from me.

The Bridle & Martingale

I also really can't say enough as to how pleased I am with the Aramas bridle and matching martingale.  It's not the cheapest bridle on the market, but it still comes in under $300 and has broken in beautifully.  While I was holding Prair at the back gate at some point I realized that my reins have that lovely, heavy, supple, totally rich feeling of really nice leather that has softened with use.  The wide crank noseband is perfect for Prairie's giant face, and the color and hardware are rich but simple.  I'm thrilled with the purchase.  The matching martingale which we recently acquired is the same great leather and I expect will hold up similarly. 

Also worth noting is the FITS show shirt that I snapped up with my winnings from our May show.  I wasn't really shopping for it when we bought it (shocking, I know), but it's already my favorite shirt to wear.  It's light, it looks good, I can wash it at home and no wrinkles... and it has vents under the arms.  Plus I think it looks good!
This hair has *not* been in a helmet.
All in all, great equipment! I think Prair and I are playing "by the rules" for our turnout while still keeping the tack 'ho in me fully entertained. :)

Thursday, July 25, 2013


One of the things that's cool about showing at the facility we were at last week is that I have such fond memories of running events and participating in PC rallies, ratings and camps there when I was younger. 

As a kid this places was baby-eventer heaven.  The huge facility had a gorgeous indoor, massive fields and a separate area that had TBs training for the track.  One of my favorite camp memories is from an early morning when I was hand grazing the pony and hearing the thundering strides of the race horses on the track before they came into view out of the morning fog. 

I have so many fun memories of course walks, setting up "cafeterias" in one of the covered roundpens and readying for formal inspections at the crack of dawn.  I also have exceptionally fond memories of the water complex which was the first one I ever successfully cajoled my pony into (from a bank) at a competition.  After that we were aces for the rest of our time together...

Supermom (on P's mama) at the Water back in 2000
The TB's have long since left, their barn seems mostly empty now, I think maybe it's overflow for show stabling? Some of the large fields have been converted into extra outdoor rings (where we show now) and another big indoor has sprung up.  There is still a very active dressage program (and breeding program) on site, but the cross country course (and track) seem to have gone by the wayside. 

While taking the dogs for a walk in the infield, Supermom ventured past the far rail to peek at the other parts of the course and we both got a little sad at the state of it.  It's turned into a cow pasture (I'm quite certain livestock is more lucrative than running events), but it was heartbreaking to see all the old jumps that I used to sit by and gawk as the older girls ran the higher divisions now just sitting in tall grass, slowly rotting away.

I have similar feelings when I drive by new housing developments where old farms once were, but it was just odd to feel such a sense of "loss" when the property is still such a great and functional equine facility.  The focus has just turned away from Horse Trials I guess.

Makes me want to clean it all up and go run that course again...
It also made it clear that someday, (at my dream farm) regardless of whether or not I'm eventing something myself, I'd love to have a cross country field and have it open for schooling or smaller events... I mean, it's just too much fun to watch horses enjoying themselves out there.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

WEC - Pre-Adults

By the time I started showing on Sat, Prair was doing wonderfully and I was a wee bit exhausted from scrambling around all week.  I suppose the extra days of baths and grooming and cheering and gossiping (duh) also did wonders to reduce my own show nerves, but they certainly also left my tanks a bit drained.

Regardless I was super excited to get on the beast myself and see if we could top our performance at Swiftwater.  My first warmup on Prair felt amaze-balls.  She was soft, carrying herself and totally amazing.  We headed to the ring after only about 10 minutes ready to rock.

wellllllll turns out I was a bit optimistic and our first two rounds were pretty reminiscent of a motorcycle race.  I got immediately frustrated and took the beast back to warm up to work the kinks out and when we came back for two more rounds - we were greatly improved.

Our first round was a warmup and per S's instructions I used it to school (in a not not so subtle fashion).  If Prair was going to land and drag me into the corners I was supposed to sit her on her butt and WHOA.  (so I did).  The last half of the course was significantly better than the first and I was glad for the opportunity to school.

My second course was for my Eq division.  Very straightforward with one basic rollback.  I actually felt pretty good about the whole thing except that as I was nailing my rollback and seeing the perfect distance, we accidentally broke to the trot.  Pretty sure you aren't supposed to break gait so we got dinged heavily and ended up last.

After our second warm up we came back and put in two lovely rounds.  Dare I say our best to date.  I don't think they were perfect by any means, but Prair felt the most manageable she ever has and we didn't blow any distances.  I thought our first Hunter round was best, but the second hunter round actually got us a blue.

Sunday we came back for our flat classes.  Eq was first, followed by Hunter U/S.  They loaded the class into the ring, then we waited (no joke) 15 minutes for a missing competitor.  I was moderately shocked that the judge didn't close the gate and run the class but I think the extra walking around the ring was good for Miss Prair.  I was decidedly less entertained by the delay when I heard the late competitor explain herself to the judge saying "sorry, but our groom was down at another arena. I got ready as fast as I could..."

uhhhhhh tack up your own horse?

anyway.  The class went well.  They are boring.  We did nothing remarkable.  I placed second behind a lady from our sister barn who was on a gorgeous/perfect horse.  She has nice Eq though and I wasn't surprised she beat me, especially when I saw how long my reins were. Whoops!

Under Saddle was also boring (yawn), but Prair was good.  Our judge came out of his Judge Box and actually stood in the middle of the arena which made it much easier for me to see when I could give Prair a bigger correction without being "seen."  I liked that.  I thought we'd go 1st/2nd with our Eq friend again but some weird Chestnut placed above us both (I was confused) so we ended up 3rd.

Then we moved onto our last Eq course, last Hunter round and the Hunter Classic.  The Eq course was good (no trotting this time!) but we still placed last.  I think because my hands were in my lap and also I really fought Prair on her leads.  She was refusing to balance back after an outside line and swap to the right.  We struggled with it in every round on sunday (the courses were essentially the same) but I finally got her listening by our last ride....

(if you only want to watch one boring hunter round, then watch the third video, we look best there :) )

 The Hunter Round was decent (for Prair) and we got a Second.  Frankly it felt the same as our Eq in terms of her pulling on me.  I still missed the change to the right after our outside line...

The classic was by far our most relaxed round and we actually won it! (squee!). I still look tipped up out of the saddle, but Prair was way softer and I was able to keep her butt under me quite a bit more.  I was SUPER happy with how she finished the week.

for funsies, and if you're SUPER BORED - here's a video from a show at the same facility last September. The mare looks a LOT better now, but I look the same! that's can't be good...

Anyway, I have a theory that Prair usually improves with her later courses which is why we placed better in our Hunter rounds.  At every other show the Hunter Rounds have run first, then Eq has been last which has always made our eq rounds more polished, easier, etc..  I think that explains our previously good placings in Eq and worse placings in Hunter, but maybe there's something else to it too.  (Like my Eq, lol).


WEC - Pro Rides

Blurry Video Still
 Prairie started the show with two divisions where S was riding her - 2'9" Open Hunters and 3' Pre-Green. Initially I only entered Prair in half the 2'9" division because on the first day 2'9" ran before the Pre Greens and I thought it would work for warm up, whereas the second day the 2'9" division wouldn't go until after she was done with her PG rounds.

Since getting "tired" hasn't seemed to be an issue for us, we just added the whole division and called it good miles.  I'm glad we did, since I think the more times we can get Prair in the ring for happy, relaxed rounds, the more likely she is to decide that being a Hunter isn't a scary experience.

Schooling Day was an overall success.  It was just me and S with all the horses so I played groom and helped tack/prep/tuck in all the ponies.  After the luxury of having full grooms at the Swiftwater show, it was kind of nice to get my hands back on everything.  I derive a lot of satisfaction from organizing temporary tack rooms (it must be some long lasting effect of Pony Club rallies..) so I really liked setting everything up, cleaning everyone's tack and having neat tidy hooks for each horse and all their stuff. Very pleasing.

Prair's schooling day went well.  I screwed up the timing for the jump heights in the schooling ring and Prair ended up working when all the fences were set to 3'6".  I'm not sure she "needed" it, but she looked rad, and it reaffirmed my confidence that she will make a great 3'6" horse when she grows up some day.

Thursday saw the first actual classes and Prair came ready to work. The placings were kinda smeared around, but she and S put in (I think) their best rounds at a show to date.  Two changes to Prair's routine may (or may not) have something to do with it.  First, I scaled back her alfalfa pellets a few days before the show and during the show.  Secondly, we tried Perfect Prep.  Prairie was decided not happy about the Prep and stuck her nose in her shavings and hid in the corner after we squirted it in her mouth.  She looked very disappointed in me, but such is life.

I've never used Perfect Prep, and frankly I'm skeptical of the claims most calming supplments make, but I can't argue that Prairie was a very good girl for her classes.  She was still alert and intrigued by pretty much anything that moved - but she was more patient standing at the back gate and her eyeball looked less anxious about life.  I think the Prep probably helped with that? It's hard to say.  Most horses show relatively quietly at this location, so that could be a factor as well, but who knows.

The rides themselves were lovely.  Still the same issues - lead change to the right, lifting her inside shoulder, etc.. but overall much, much better.

They placed last (lol) in both their warm up 2'9" class and the warm up 3'.  However, they snagged a first and third in the 2'9" division, and then a third and second in the Pre Greens to finish the day.

Prair got a lazy hand graze, a bath and lots of pats.  

The second day, Prair came out of her stall even more relaxed and ready to play.  She had one course left for both divisions plus her under saddles classes so it was a pretty light day.  The first class was her Pre Green Stake and she pulled off a second.  Also snagged a second in the 2'9" over fences before nailing first in both Under Saddle classes to clinch the 2'9" championship and reserve for the Pre-Greens.  She was like 2 points from Champ in the PreGreens which would have gotten a cooler ( a cooooolllllerrrr gosh darn it) - but alas, the elusive cooler remains on our bucket list...

The 2'9" Round

The Pre Green:

Super proud of both Prairie and S for their rides.  Prair is looking better and better, but I know from firsthand experience how much better she looks from the ground than she feels when you're on her.  There's plenty to work on, but feeling like we can actually close leg on her and move up to fences is such a tangible improvement I can't quite get over it.  

Monday, July 22, 2013

Washington Emerald Classic - In the books

If I am suffering from a severe horse show hangover, it is because the week was full of fabulous rides, weather and an overall wonderful week of horses and showing and hanging out with horse-showing-peeps.

Prair was a star.  She is continuing to settle and mature at every show and this one was no exception.  We opted to haul in the night before schooling day to have the horses that much more "settled" and I think it helped.  If nothing else it kept me from feeling too frazzled trying to get everything set up and unpacked while trying to get Prair calm and happy and moved into her new home for the week.

I'll get a blow by blow up here shortly, but the ribbons speak for themselves.  Prair came home with a Championship in her Open 2'9" division, Reserve in the Pre-Greens, and Champion with me in our Pre-Adult Hunter.  You'll note a decided lack of tri-color in the Eq division.... which I'll talk about later (whoops!!!).
Pretty Bird.
Most importantly Prair was a much calmer, happier horse ringside - and in our courses I was actually able to add leg to almost all of our fences.  I think we might actually be learning! 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Show Pad Solution?

So, for some reason I have had an absurdly hard time finding a good fleecey, contour pad leaves a consistent trim around my saddles.  With the Pessoa I wasn't surprised, given the more forward flap - but I seemed to always run out of pad behind my thigh where the panel and flap meet.

I was however surprised when the same issue cropped up with S's Mom's Saddle since her CWD was a very traditional shape with a very standard flap.  But same issue - lack of fluffy fleece right at the panel-flap connection, and LOTS of fleece in front of the pommel. 

No matter how I seem to tug the pad around or try to wiggle a bit extra pad to one side or the other, after a few minutes of riding it looks wrong again.

I was hoping that my CWD would magically be different, but alas, given the same seat size and same flap shape, it's shockingly similar in the pad fit department.

I inherited a gorgeous Fleeceworks pad from Supermom that actually fit the pessoa decently, and I love the look and feel of the real fleece.  It never worked with S's Mom's Saddle, so I'm guessing it won't be ideal for my CWD, though I haven't actually tried it yet.

I have tried the Toklat and Medallion fake fleecey pads and both leave a little to be desired. 

In a humph I went to my tack shop yesterday curious if they had any other random brands hanging around I could bother trying.  They didn't, but the nice sales lady got me on another train of thought entirely.

Half Pad.

I hadn't considered the half pad look for P2 in the show ring, but given my lack of other solutions at the moment I figured what the hell and threw a Fleeceworks half pad in my baseket along with extra hairnets and bell boots.  It's quite possible that I go through hairnets and bell boots faster than any other pieces of tack/stuff. insane.

Anyway, I haven't actually laid the thing on Prair's back yet, and in my head I can't tell if it's going to look super sleek and sharp, or make Prair's barrel look even longer/more expansive.

When it works - I love the half pad (or naked!) look.  Super clean, super minimal, and it can help lengthen the appearance of the rider's leg even more..

But we shall see. It can also make proportions look super strange in which case, back in the return pile it goes!

Anyone have any other favorite show pad brands?  I'm really missing my simple square pads at the moment, Somehow correct fit was never a struggle with those guys...

Monday, July 15, 2013

Break In Part II

The good news is that I'm liking the saddle more with each ride.  Given the time and $$$ poured into the damn thing, I'm calling that a victory (woo!)

The boots are still on a "love" list, but the blisters are less than charming.  They are now not being worn until the show to allow my feetsies to recover (a little).

The saddle has been lovingly oiled and rolled and is starting to feel really good.  The boots have gotten a 2 hour polish session which included the full blow-dryer system of melting the polish and they've got a good shine going. I was going to add another couple layers of polish last night, but my shoulder is so sore from the marathon polish session that I couldn't buff them!

How sad is that?! I think I might need to hit the gym a bit more if my shoulder is going to scream from polishing my boots.  Not sexy.

I'm serious when I say it's unhappy.  I've torn my bursa and ripped my rotator cuff from volleyball and I swear I have not woken up with a screaming shoulder like this since college.  I'm also pretty sure that NCAA volleyball was way harder on my shoulder than sitting on the floor polishing boots.  Not normal, but I digress.

So to sum up.  things are breaking in.  Saddle, boots, my feet and my shoulders.

On the actually riding front Prair has been SUPER RAD.  We had an amazing jump lesson Sat in a oddly busy ring with no stress or freight-train like behavior.  If we can get half that ride at the show I'll be really thrilled with her progress from the June show.

I already remembered to pick up my hunt coat from the drycleaners (win) so tomorrow is a morning of real work (boo) before heading out to the barn for baths, and packing and fitting a shockwave session for Gussie before we load up to haul out!

looking forward to a sunny, fun week of showing - Fingers Crossed!

Friday, July 12, 2013

New Tags (you're it)

I placed an order back in June with HalterTags.comto get some bridle plates for Prair and Gus as well as some round tags to throw on martingales and girths and whatever else I can find (maybe my cat?).

The order was a tad delayed, but a quick email to them informed me they had some personal issues that slowed production but they got my order out immediately and offered a discount on a future order with them.

As annoyed as I was for the extended wait, when the plates showed up I was pretty impressed with the quality.

One thing I like about HalterTags is that most of their "smaller" products are all just a flat rate of $5.95.  It's way more affordable than ordering through the main tack suppliers and I think they look much more substantial.  The brass is thick (really thick) and the engravings are deep.  The hardware that comes with is also high quality and they even give you a choice of what sort of fasteners you want (depending on your preference and/or handiness with tools).

Installing the plate on Prair's Bridle was a little tricky given her thread-through crown, but I'm really happy with the results.  Also, now I'm confident that when Gus's tack gets used for lessons it's a bit easier to keep track of his girth and accoutrements. 

I will definitely be ordering through HalterTags again whenever the need arises!

Regular Bridle Plate
1/5" Bridle Tag (blurry)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Break In

This weekend may result in sore body parts.  In theory the CWD should be back in my hot little hands tomorrow (friday).  In theory it will arrive early enough that I can use it tomorrow when I hack.  Which means I will be trying to break in a new saddle and new boots at the same time.

FWP, right?

I'm not really whining, but I am a little apprehensive about relying on so much new gear for a show next week.  I take a certain amount of comfort in knowing my equipment inside and out and feeling comfortable/confident with it all.  There are enough variables at shows that not having to worry about basic tack is a nice thing to check off the list.

I will say I am...... underwhelmed with the customer service from CWD.  I will back that up by saying that our local rep is fabulous, lovely, courteous and responded very professionally to my saddle-crazed-texts that I bombarded her with on a regular basis.

That being said, when I'm told that my saddle will be gone for 10-12 days and it turns into 30, I get cranky.  I get especially cranky when the explanation is "we have lots of saddles to repair right now."

Yes.  I'm sure you do. It's show season. and I'm sure everyone is certain their saddle is more important and more needed back at the barn, but OMG, if you have a two week backlog, don't have people ship their saddles down immediately.  I am pretty high on the tack-princess spectrum, but I don't actually have a stack of well fitting, perfectly usable saddles to just use in the interim. 

Things I'm not doing:
  • Putting a poor fitting saddle on my sensitive backed mare.  Nope.
  • Schooling bareback.  I'm starting to trust the mare, but she still spins/scoots and I don't want to play that game.
  • Jumping in my dressage saddle.  The Hastilow does (mercifully) fit well.  But it has 18" knee blocks that make getting out of the tack near impossible.  Not schooling 3' in that.
So. we sit.  and we wait for our saddle to come home. I have managed a couple of jump schools in S's Mom's Saddle, but I know that I wouldn't love sharing a near new CWD with other people, so I'm very careful not to overuse that generosity, plus I'm pretty sure she's not thrilled with the loaning situation (which I get). Plus I'm terrified I'm going to hurt it somehow.

Frankly, 30 days in Dressage tack is a good prescription for us under most circumstances, but not necessarily when we're getting ready to leave for another A show in five days.

I am grateful for my horse's health, my health, and the fact that we (knock on wood) are having a relatively uninterrupted show season thus far.  Given those larger blessings, I'm still cranky that our saddle will (still) not be broken in by the time I have to get in the show ring with it.  Not the best time/resource management there, but oh well.

New boots. New saddle. New blisters.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Summer Fling

I'm in love with my mare.  I think maybe we need to move someplace where it's consistently about 75 degrees, because oh my lord, she is a dreamboat when it's just a tad toasty out.

We had great rides this weekend.  I had a jump lesson on Sunday that involved a three jump line set at four strides.  We played with getting 3 and even 5 or 6 between the fences as well.  Prair wasn't perfect but she was pretty darn good and I can't believe how adjustable we've gotten. (especially when pointed toward home).

Today I had a fun lesson working through a gymnastic with another Adult Ammy.  It had three crossrails (bounce, bounce) to oxer set one stride out.  Prairie was upset that there were trot poles in front of the grid so she couldn't use momentum to drag herself in with.  I was upset that I had to do a crest release and let me mare sort it out on her own.  Honestly I think it's harder for me to let go of my contact with her mouth than it is for her.  She handled it just fine...

The grid was set up on the center line so we alternated turning left or right after and the mare was awesome.  She was back to a balanced canter within 3 strides, ready for a change and rocked the 12(ish) meter rollback like a balanced normal horse.

We never set the fences up that high, maybe 2'6" for the cross rails and about 3' for the ramped oxer at the end? nothing huge, but lots of fun! Prair even sat back and lifted her shoulders through the whole thing which is a new trick that I like lots.

The only downside to my lesson today was that I got to the barn and realized I had left my "barn bag" (with boots, breeches and a sports bra) in my kitchen.  At home.  Not near the barn at all.

A fellow boarder had an extra pair of socks, so I stuffed my jeans in the new Tredsteps, tucked in my work shirt and tightened my bra as best I could.  Certainly not the classiest move I've ever done, but it worked out ok.... Although it did force a trip home to change into non-horsey clothes prior to returning to work.

Oh well.

The good news is the boots are proving to be a good choice.  I'm liking how they ride (even in jeans) and the pain behind my knee/on my heels is minimal!

Also feeling very good about the show next week! Fingers crossed it stays warm and the mare keeps acting like a lover. 
It's so fun when it's fun. :)

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Boot Chronicles.

I'm pretty sure I looked like a kid on Christmas morning - splayed on the floor surrounded by tissue paper, boxes and of course - boots for the better part of the weekend.  I was busy zipping zippers, snapping snaps and comparing stitching, soles and swagger tabs.  I love being able to investigate new tack, even if it's not mine.

Anyway, I ordered three additional pairs of field boots to join the Sergio Grasso Imperias as candidates for my potential new boots.

The three new contenders were:

Tredstep Da Vinci Field boots ($489):

Middleburg Field Boots (on sale for $199, msrp $309 )

Ariat Challenger II Field Boots (on sale for $199 msrp $399)
I think this is a hideous angle
I scoured some online reviews of all three boots before I opted to ship them out and honestly, they all seem to be good performers for their respective price points.  It really does crack me up what some people complain about, especially when they've only been using a boot (or saddle, or anything) for two weeks. 

I essentially discounted any review that said the boots were too stiff or had crappy leather.  I've decided that the new norm of super soft buttery leather on field boots (and saddles) is not to my taste and also has led to a lot of people not knowing what a good quality thicker hide looks like.  I've always had thicker boots that took a while to break in correctly, but then they last for 10 years, so there you go.  I'm more suspicious of super thin (though comfy) calf leather that I've seen people literally wear through in a season.  So I ignored those comments and also any comments that spoke about the general calf fit since the number of people screaming about baggy ankles seemed about equal to the number of people complaining that the ankle was cut too slim for anyone to use...

I opted to throw the Middleburg and cheaper Ariat in because the height measurements for both boots were spot on for me and I was thinking that if I found something that "worked" for showing but didn't have to be my everyday boot - I could maybe go with a cheaper boot that I wouldn't be as hard on.

Right out of the box I was most impressed with the Tredstep Da Vinci's.  Part of this is because Tredstep actually ships a pretty nice box with boot bags and other unnecessary, but nice extras.  It makes a good impression from the get go which is followed up with some pretty nice boots for the $500 mark.  The overall shape and construction rivaled the SG's, but the lower price showed in some of the details (like the zipper guards and snaps). 

The Ariats also came out of the box well.  The leather is much thicker than their higher priced options (which I like) without seeming too cheap or plasticy.  The zipper appeared to me to be less sturdy than the more expensive options, but otherwise the stitching looked pretty good.  It was hard for me to get excited about them though since they shipped in two calf sizes larger than they other boots (a full as opposed to slim) which makes the silhouette and general fit hard to compare apples to apples..

I have zero experience with Middleburg as a brand and saw such inconsistent reviews on the boot that I wasn't too sure what to expect.  After holding them in my hot little hands though, for $199 I think they are a great buy.  They are definitely going for the same look as the Monocos and while it's obvious that the $900 level of polish isn't quite there... for 1/5th the cost, I'd say their value is exceptional.  The leather is more on the buttery side, and the narrow silhouette and high Spanish top looks on trend and totally legit.  The Middleburgs have a full length elastic gusset down the back which I assume would provide a great tailored fit for someone with actual muscle on their leg (my calf fit pretty well but wasn't stretching the gusset at all).

Okay, so onto my thoughts.

1) the Ariats didn't fit so they were right out and I lost motive to take pictures/give a shit.

2) The Tredsteps honestly offered themselves as a reasonable alternative to the Sergio Grassos in terms of quality.

3) the Middleburgs looked decent enough that I was considering them as an option.

First, the Middleburgs:

I'm a fan of these $199 boots.  The taper at the ankle is well done, and the leather is soft enough that they were immediately comfortable to walk around in.  I'm certain I'd get a blister on my heels the first day until they totally softened in the foot bed, but honestly, not bad.  The height for me was pretty good.  The back of the boot whacked into my knee at about a 60 degree angle which is as good as I get off the rack.  the shape of the foot was nice and I felt like when they were actually on, they looked respectable.  The cheapest thing on this boot is the snap at the top of the zipper.  The elastic just feels a bit cheaper than they other boots and it doesn't look like it's sewn as... stylishly as the others. 
nice high Spanish tops, good profile!
Forgive the blurry pictures.  I was impatient and also late for work (oops).

Not a bad line from the side, though I would probably spend $50 and take the calf in a touch.

From the back I think these are ok.  The snaps bug me and felt like they weren't doing much to support the zipper.  I would expect these boots to drop a bit given the softer leather and no real stiffness up the back.  Not a bad thing, but probably not a good option for me as show boots. 

I've already told S about these as good affordable options for her students who are still growing or on a budget... Overall they get a serious passing grade from me.  I don't really know what else you can get for $200 that does this well.

The Tredstep Da Vinci's:

Since the Tredsteps were quickly shaping up to be directly compared to the SG's, I figured I'd do a more direct side by side comparison.
Like, literally side by side.
 When I took this picture I was shocked as how much "tighter" the Tredsted (on the left) looked in profile than the SG Imperia.  Then I took a shot from behind:

In which the Tredstep (still on the left) looks way chubbier and more stovpipe-y than the SG.  Also note that although the overall height is similar between the two, the SG Spanish top is much more pronounced, whereas the overall height of the TS is higher (particularly at the back of the knee). 

Other thoughts from this photo shoot:  I think the SG zipper guards (both top and bottom) are way sexier.  They are more integrated to the boot and really just seem more functional and less likely to tear off or wear out. 

The actual foot part of each boot is pretty similar in terms of styling.  The Treadstep has their signature super soft leather across the laces and top which does make them very easy to walk in from minute one, without turning the whole boot into a overly soft slipper.  The SG has a "rounder" shape which looks a little juvenile to me, but I think is still streamlined.  The TS has a squared toe that I thought I would hate but actually think looks ok.

Time to put them on.  (These pics are extra blurry but oh well)

 TS is still on the left.  SG is on the right.  I think the boots look pretty damn similar here from a style perspective.  The TS was a bit tighter on my kneecap from an extra 1/2" of overall height, which was a good thing.

Outside of the TS, inside of the SG
I like that the TS has a less crumply ankle.  (at least for now).  Still they look similar.

Reversed, showing the outside of the SG and the inside of the TS.  Still comparable...

This one is funny because at first I was like "Oh no! now I like the one on the right!" before realizing I had turned around and the TS was now on the right and the SG on the left.  I think there's some room in the calf to take in if I was being super picky, but the extra height on the TS is obvious here.

The Verdict:

I took the Tredstep Da Vinci's to the barn and schooled in them yesterday.  S gave them a thumbs up, and for the price I felt like I was getting "what I liked" about the SG's at a better price.  Another deciding factor is that (supposedly) the piping down the sides of the zippers are reinforced with a "spine" to help keep the boot from collapsing down the back.  They are pretty comfy, although I have a small blister on my left heel which makes sense since that's my slightly smaller foot. 

I accidentally forgot the damn things at the barn, so the additional question of how well they take polish is still up for debate.  Calfskin is notoriously difficult to get a patent shine one (which I covet), but we'll see.  My old Effinghams look like mary janes when I polish them up, where as my newer (softer) Konigs won't take a shine to save their life.

The real test will come this week while I school in them and next week during long days at the show.  I have high hopes...

Overall I'm very happy.  The Boy is somehow convinced we "saved" money and I had fun playing Boot Fairy.  Now I just need to pack them all up and send them back pronto...

SAGA OVER (for now). 

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Boots Have Landed

Got home from our 4th of July escape to multiple boot shaped boxes on the front porch. I can assure you that I shoved my sunburned, un-socked foot in every single one before I pet the cat, opened mail or (god forbid) unpacked my bag. 

I can say that my review will be slightly tainted by the fact that the Ariat boot showed up in the wrong calf size. It might actually be a contender in the right measurements, but we shall see...

I'll save my official opinions for when I actually try the things on with breeches, socks and a slightly leased manic evaluation of the overall design and quality, but I will say that my initial front runner was a mental underdog. 

Boots, boots, boots.... It's like Christmas in July!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Return of the Jump Tack

Today I actually pulled out the jump tack for the first time since the June show.. well, not my jump tack since the CWD is still lost in cyber-saddle-space, but Jump Tack nonetheless.

The temp was a tolerable 82 and I spent all morning hydrating and telling myself that people run marathons in about a million times worse weather so I needed to suck it up.

Turns out I felt fine about the sun, but Prairie did not get the memo.  She was pretty sure that her 2 week vacay was supposed to be the start of summer vacation and not a brief hiatus before going back to work.

In spite of her extremely grumpy mare face she looked dashingly adorable in her new purple pad.

She warmed up great.  Lazy, but great.  I opted to leave my spurs off and try to just use my leg like a real human which was made all the more challenging by Prair's feigned heatstroke.

S set a 6 stride line and we started cantering over the poles fluctuating between a going 6 or a holding 7.  Prair was pretty gosh darn adjustable.  Slightly more forward heading home, but all in all as responsive as she's ever been with a big, long outside line.

Eventually the poles turned into cross rails and we worked both leads again alternating between the 6 strides and holding for 7.  I was having more issues than normal trying to keep her super straight inside the line which was a little frustrating.  I tried counter bend, I tried a deeper track, and shallower track, opening reins, everything.  Still the mare was just wiggly.  Sometimes I think her wiggles come from me holding her face and her energy having to sort of squirt out the side, but today I felt like (most of the time) I was able to soften and release nicely on both sides of the fences.

Finally we made little baby courses out of the line.  Something like, asking for 6 strides going away, then rolling back to the first X, then around the whole ring and asking for 7 strides coming home and rolling back again to the far fence.

Easy stuff, but still really made me get the mare back and focus her for each line or rollback.

Our biggest challenge was trying to hold our lead in the rollbacks and not swap before the fence.  Prair is getting so much better at her changes (so, so, so much better) that she is wanted to anticipate and as soon as she crosses a diagonal line she offers the change and even fights a counter canter.

I don't want to get after her for offering the changes, but I do want her to listen! This means if I roll back on the left lead and am holding a left bend with her haunches OUT, I do not want her to get all pogo-sticky and swap to the right lead until after the fence.

Things were better when I really sat down and clarified that I was trying to hold a lead as opposed to just hinting at it and staying up out of the tack.

By the end Prair was a little more tuned in and not trying to fight me on the issue which was good enough to quit on for me.

It was a great lesson.  I felt like the exercise was productive, Prair was... not perfect but very rideable and very trainable and the sunshine didn't melt me into a puddle.  Not much more to ask for other than that!

Sadly I'm gone for the next few days over the 4th, but it's probably good for S to get a few rides back on the mare anyway.  We'll be home in time to play some more this weekend.

Also, the results of the Boot-Shopping-Spree should be arriving by Friday as well.  Get ready for some serious tack 'ho comparisons!

Monday, July 1, 2013


oh lord.  It's over 80 degrees in Seattle which means that all the things stop. Work stops, traffic stops, brains stop, horses stop.  So. Much. Stopping.

Had we been in heavy work I would have given Prair some light hacks over the weekend and then stood under the hose with her - but since we've has so much down time I was eager to get back to work even if we both ended up with some mild heatstroke. :)

That being said, Saturday we had a great hack out in the sunshine.  I lunged her prior to getting on and was thrilled to see her Big, Beautiful, Floaty Trot back.  I missed it.  I think the combo of her new shoes and 2 weeks off gave us some seriously impressive gaits. The heat was definitely taking the edge off her freshness so I don't think the lunge session was necessary, but I was having too much fun watching her go round, and round and round and round.  (swoon).

I hopped on, and we got right to work. Lots of transitions to tune us both up, and lots of Medium to Working transitions within our gaits.  Prair felt pretty exceptional.  She was right there for me and I think happy to be getting a bit of a workout.  I threw in some shoulder in and leg yields to really make me focus on my outside aids then we finished working over a cavaletti at the canter and trying to recreate the bouncy, adjustable canter we finished the show with (two weeks ago..).

We cooled out, hosed off and called it a day.

Sunday was even hotter (ughhhh) so I chickened out and rode in the shade of the indoor.  Prair was a little more amped up, but still very rideable which allowed me to continue the work on transitions. 

It felt like we'd have this great bouncy trot that I could turn it into a canter just as easily as a nice forward halt.... but then we'd trot another 1/2 circle and the option for a nice clean halt would disappear. 

I tried to ride fairly aggressively in terms of really encouraging a quick hind end while staying mindful of when that perfect/squishy/turn-into-anything trot became a trot that I couldn't adjust.  When I felt that perfect balance slip away, we'd walk, or canter, or halt. 

Prair figured out pretty quick that tipping on her forehand meant we did something harder (halt, leg yield, etc) and she rose to the occasion.  It felt like she was working so well (and consistently) that I crossed my stirrups and tortured myself a little with lots of sitting trot work (ow).

We finished with a run through of First Level 1 and 2 which were.... accurate but a bit hectic.  Granted I rode them in a 20x40 ring, so they probably should have felt hectic, but still.  I had the feeling that I was trying to catch up to the movements rather then easing into them.

Maybe one day we'll show a dressage test again. (this was a year ago, eek!)
All in all, a great couple of first rides back. I'm grateful for the oppressive heat which is probably the only thing that kept Prairie from being a total lunatic.  Today it's 90 and muggy as all get out.  I know that's a temperate day for everyone in the rest of the country but around here no one is used to it (especially the horses).  So, Prair gets a cold hosing, I get a Popsicle and we'll return to some regularly scheduled business tomorrow with a lesson early enough to avoid cooking alive.

As of right now we're aiming for another 'A' show in two weeks.  Me in the 2'6" stuff and S in the Pre-Greens. 

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