Monday, March 31, 2014


As beautiful and lovely and perfect as I think my mare is.  (perfection being directly relative to how many ribbons I have in my hand, how many glasses of wine I've had, or how many compliments she's received in the previous 45 minutes..) - Her tail is.... lacking.
So pretty... but a full tail would just... help balance her out.

It's long... and it grows (which is more than I can say for her forelock... eesh), but it is wispy and puny and would make Beyonce's styling team sad.

I think of Beyonce because during one particularly entertaining visit to my (then 86 year old) grandmother, I was informed that she had "discovered" a haircut that would look "dazzling" on me.

(my grandmother was notorious for clipping out magazine photos, or NYT articles and then politely passing them on as "suggestions" (not suggestions) as to how to better oneself.  Sometimes this had to do with education or career choices, other times fashion or style - but in nearly every situation, the "suggested" outcome was not so attainable. Exhibit A... Beyonce's hair)

My immediate thought was "jesus christ, this woman is (literally) in front of a wind machine, with no fewer than 6 stylists standing just outside the frame, probably 3lbs of someone else's hair fluffing up her own mane and... oh yeah.  Photoshop."

What I actually said was something more like "thanks grandma, it's really pretty."

Knowing full well that my (extremely) straight, (extremely) flat, (extremely) white-girl hair will never look like this (well, maybe with a team of stylists, wind machines, extensions and photoshop we could get close), I ditched the pic and ignored the commentary.

But, I couldn't help but notice the deja vu while reviewing Thermal pics and thinking to myself "gee dear, wouldn't everything look a little better with a bit more tail?"

So I went wig shopping (for Prair, not me - I'm a lost cause) and since I figure a nice Hunter canter is the equivalent of a wind machine, that means the mare will only be 6 stylists and one photoshop team shy of Beyonce-ness.

For anyone who's shopped for a false tail, they are hideously expensive.  Thank god I'm not on the AQHA circuit where they needs serious wigs, but the medium-full wigs for most Hunters are still a pretty penny.

They are also totally disturbing to me.  There's something inherently creepy about holding a pound of tail in your hand that's not immediately attached to a horse.

Prair's wig came from an online source that I've heard a few people use - Kathy's Tails.  She has a good sized ebay store and is super responsive to any questions you have (should you be a novice wig buyer like me).

Her tails start at a very reasonable $79, and for the longer, fuller version I ended up with for Prair, it was still $170 (for a 1.25lb tail).  They come in their own bag and with really nice, clear instructions on how to braid them in.

I'll be sure to snap a pic at the show next week of Prair in all her glory!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Ogilvy (an actual photo no less..)

Okay, okay okay.  A real, actual (although crappy) picture of the (new) Ogilvy.

As you can see, we decidedly do not  have the issue of "not enough pad" that we had with the Hunter Half Pad - so that's good.

Initially I wasn't thrilled with the color, but the Ogilvy lady was being so nice and letting me just trade my old pad in that I didn't really feel like being picky (or waiting) for my custom colors again.  Now that the pad has gotten some use, I can say that I have totally come around on the color combo.

My initial Hunter Half Pad was the "greige" color with burgundy and hunter green piping/binding.  The greige is warmer (which I like) but showed dirt a lot easier than this dark gray color.  The dark gray hides loose prairie hairs and doesn't seem to show "barn dust" very easily.  I like the white pipe for some contrast, but the black trim is subtle, clean looking and looks good on Prair.

Long story short - I wouldn't have ordered this pad (lol), but now that it's what I have, I love it.

Also, this pic shows the regular full thickness (1.25") pad with the rear risers.  It looks very pouffy when you put it on, but girthed up and with a rider, it looks normal and feels great.  Today was N's first ride in it (her saddle pictured) and she really liked it a lot.

This does begin to beg the question what we do for a show pad solution.  One other drawback of the Hunter sized half pad is that (currently) Ogilvy doesn't make rear risers to fit the smaller shape.  I need to clarify whether or not the risers would fit into their integrated fleece/foam hunter show pad.

I don't so much need the risers (especially because I'm not riding, and I better not with my new saddle...), but N probably always will since her panels aren't built up for a crazy, curvy Prairie spine.  And if we're going to justify $200+ for a designated "Show-gilvy,"  it'd be nice to have a versatile solution.  Otherwise, I'm ordering a white Jumper cover for the half pad (the Ogilvy lady said ordering extra covers was an option) and we'll just flop that on over a normal show pad when necessary.

So that is our current Ogilvy situation.

I unknowingly ordered the wrong shape pad for my saddle, excellent customer service fixed it - and in the process I learned what colors I *would* pick if I were ordering another custom one.  The show pad solution is still pending, but we'll wait and see on that.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Stirrup Cup!

All the excitement (and busy-ness) of Thermal totally overshadowed the fact that while I was gone, USHJA finally produced their long promised award for Prairie's Stirrup Cup Zone Championship from 2013.

For those who aren't familiar, the Stirrup Cup program was started to promote attendance (and point-whore-dom) at smaller B and C rated shows.  Like all the normal Year End awards for zones, it's based on your total points from the season, but doesn't count any A or AA rated shows toward the tally.  All sorts of bonus points are handed out at the Stirrup Cup Finals (which happened at Octoberfest) but even without, Prair was firmly in the lead for our zone.

If anyone is keeping track of the (rapidly growing) list of Year End Awards handed out, that means that Prair was definitely the best-Pre-Green-Hunter-who-didn't-really-spend-any-time-in-the-big-leagues.  If you look at the traditional standings, Prairie finished maybe 11th in the Zone? I forgot...

I think it's pretty cool the USHJA came up with an award program that recognizes the weekend warriors who don't necessarily have the time or resources to have their horse (or themselves) on the road at 10-15 week long shows a season.  There was lots of overlap with the A circuit horses for sure (the horse that took reserve to us, was a top 5 Pre-Greener in the zone.  So the competition isn't necessarily slouchy, it just definitely targets a different competitor, and ends up rewarding a lot more amateurs.

Since about half of our shows last year were B or C (we hit three A and AA shows) It was neat to have a viable award opportunity for our (then) budget and (former) commitment level.  (note, last year I still joined the USDF anticipating some rated Dressage shows, and somehow never joined our State H/J Association...oops)

So, ta-da! a pretty ribbon and a nice pewter julep cup to celebrate our season.  I, of course wanted to immediately fill said cup with a delicious fancy cocktail, but alas, the baby said no.

The cup is the first piece of "silver" (cough cough) that I've ever won as a prize with a horse, so that's kinda cool.

Currently both ribbon and cup have a place of honor in our living room in my designated "horsey corner"
The big painting on the wall is of Star, my first pony and is one of my prized possessions.  When I was still living in NYC one of my roommates at the time put it together for me and it's been hung in every home I've lived in since.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Almost Showtime! (again)

Holy smokes where does the time go... feels like I'm still processing Thermal and here we are already packing up for our next show series...

This time its our relatively local "season opener" for a couple weeks at the fairgrounds.  It's potentially my least favorite place to show, but at least it has a big indoor and lots of places to hide from the rain - which is more than necessary around here.

All of Prair's classes will be in the big indoor, which she's done... okay in before.  It's the same venue where we attended the Equitation Finals last fall.. so I know it's spooky for her, but hopefully she's show up with her big girl panties.  Also, we use earplugs now, which should help mitigate the drama of crinkling chip bags and the inevitable water bottle rolling down the grandstands...
ground crew.
Prair is currently scheduled to go in the 3' Pre-Greens with N, and the 3' AA's with her half-lease-lady.  Not sure if we'll end up adding the Large's or anything else as a warm-up or if we'll just rock and roll with the two Hunter divisions.

I was thinking about it, and I don't really have any goals for this show.. I guess I should think of some, but it feels weird to set goals when I'm not actually riding....

What would even be appropriate?  "eat at least one greasy breakfast sandwich?"

Or maybe, "Watch my horse win a class?"

Just seems odd.

I guess more realistically it should be something along the lines of - figure out how to have fun/stay busy as a non-riding owner.  These shows are still expensive, so if I'm not having fun and staying engaged I should rethink our schedule for the summer.

I've learned how to enjoy watching my horse be worked by a trainer, and I definitely enjoy watching her go in her open divisions - but as this baby gets bigger and bigger (which it's doing) the fun-factor of helping out with baths, or grooming or even meandering around large show grounds for hours is probably going to decrease rapidly... So that'll be neat.  (eesh).

Anyway, Prair was looking good last weekend when I saw her go.  She's definitely starting to pack on some muscle (woo!) and her gross fungus under the saddle is almost entirely cleared up (double woo).  I really want that stuff gone (obviously, it's fungus) because I know it hurts her and it's hard to separate what's sore because of fungus, and what might be sore because of kissing spine/saddle fit/etc... confounding factors are not helpful.

We played around with pads and it seems like Half-Lease-Lady's Butet fits okay with the Ogilvy (along with its shims).  One does feel a little ridiculous with the full thickness Ogilvy and shims... but it compresses so much when you girth up, the absurdity (mostly) goes away.  Not sure what we'll do for her to show in.  Maybe the Mattes half pad makes an appearance? who knows.  If I end up loving my Ogilvy I'm going to look into getting either another half pad case (in white), or biting the bullet and getting a shaped fleece show pad from them.

It was nice to see Prair's half-lease-lady have a good ride - and also nice to see her struggle with some of the same issues I do.  I think they are going to make a wonderful pair for the season and both give each other some good experience!  I'm definitely feeling more comfortable with the notion of being a spectator than I was a couple weeks ago...

It was reassuring to just spend an afternoon at the barn chatting with folks, petting noses and still getting my fix, even without getting in the saddle.

Tomorrow I'm hoping to go see Gus (and maybe squeeze in a trail ride if the weather cooperates), then I'll watch Prair school over fences on Friday before horses load up on Monday!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Thermal By Some (very different) Numbers

The Thermal Satin took a place of honor at the front of the garage by our Tri-Colors
Even I'm getting sick of talking about Thermal, but given that I'm not riding - I'm scrounging for whatever material I can get.  Therefore expect to get re-hashed posts on anything I can remotely justify. :)  (this is one of those posts)

Since we spent so long dissecting the numerical cost of a show like Thermal, I figure it's just a fair to switch mindsets and look at the numbers game from a slightly different perspective.

(in no particular order)

TEN (omfg, 10) Tri-Colors:

     1 Grand Circuit Championship - heck yes! in only three weeks Prair amassed enough points to secure her circuit crown in the Pre-Adult Hunter, no thanks to my piloting week IV...

     1 Grand Circuit Reserve Championship - In my Eq! Who would have thought.  go me.

     2 Second Half Circuit Championships - Pre-Adult Hunter and Eq

     1 Second Half Circuit Reserve Championship - Thermal Adult Hunter

     4 Division Championships (two Pre-Adult, one Thermal Adult, one Eq)

     1 Division Reserve Championship (Eq)

14 Days of Actual Showing

52 Ribbons, including 15 blues.. (9 over fences, 5 Under Saddle and 1 Eq on the Flat)

40 Courses Ridden (by me)

3 Torturous Eq on the Flat Classes (including week VI's never ending marathon

1 Legitimate Spook (damn coyote)

ZERO Illegal Drugs (I readily admit to using Regumate and some Perfect Prep on this trip)

3 Saddle Fittings

1 New Bridle

2 Bits used (KK D and Rubber Pelham)

1 box of assorted band-aids (blisters... damn boots and huge show ground!)

4 Coolers (maybe 5? I don't know what you get for a circuit championship...)

12 Decaf Soy Lattes consumed (some pregnancy rules I follow...)

2 glasses of champagne (...some I don't)

1 hour spent Pool Side (I stopped even packing my swimsuit by the last week..)

24 Bottles of Gatorade

Weeks 19, 20 and 21 of pregnancy.

14.5 Hours on a Plane

2 good Professional pictures (several more courtesy of friends)

1 seriously fun horse show to start/finish my season.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Gus & P's Big Day Out

Prair has been hogging the bloggy spotlight for a while, so I thought it might be nice to shift our attention to the other two beasts and give their cute beaks the attention they deserve.

Gus and P went for a big trail ride last week and after polite requests pleading for photos... D obliged and sent me lots of snaps from their ride.  They both behaved wonderfully (ish), although when they got to a puddle/pond of doom, both turned into wimpies and refused to lead.

Gus was deemed suitable for D's not-very-horsey SO, and I was glad to hear that he lived up to his "husband safe" label.  That horse, man - so stinkin cute.  Though P's little red ears are pretty adorable too :)


Gus looking distinctly less interested in this adventure than P
Gus and D's guy looking like a handsome pair

Headed into the woods

scary bridge of doom

scarier water

a very good P

Gus Ears

What good beasts they are.  Gus had another trail adventure with some of D's friends later in the week and if the weather holds (and the mud stops sliding all over the place) I'm going to head up for some low-key prenatal "trail riding."

Friday, March 21, 2014

Happy Friday! (and a TOTD suggestion)

Happy Friday!  The sun is (shockingly) out in Seattle today, and it really feels like spring (yay!).

I'm looking forward to my first weekend home in seven (7!) weeks, which sounds absolutely blissful at this point.

But what does one do when contemplating a lazy, relaxed weekend with no horse showing or other commitments?

Think about what you could possible need for future horse showing or other commitments... obviously.

I'm a sporadic TOTD checker, and often miss great deals on stuff I could actually use...  Today however, I saw that on the TOTD too section, the FITS Claire Show Shirt is available for $60.  It's usually somewhere between $120 and $140, so $60 is a steal and one I highly recommend anyone who needs a new (or extra) show shirt takes advantage of.

I bought one early last season with some of the gift certificates that Prairie won at a show, and it was instantly my favorite shirt to compete in.  It washes easily, it has vents, the fabric is lightweight, stretchy and looks nice on... they are amazing.

So amazing in fact that every week in HITS I made a point of washing my FITS shirt in the hotel sink and hanging it up to dry (it dries quickly) so that I could wear it multiple times per weekend... If I were planning a regular show season, I would have easily justified a second Claire shirt at full price.  But since I'm not... I hadn't pulled the trigger on one... TILL TODAY.

At $60, it's worth stashing away until next year when we're back in the show ring.  I can attest to the blue and pink colors being gorgeous.  Haven't seen the gray... but that didn't stop me from ordering one! (ha!)

If it ends up looking strange with my coats, it can always be a comfy shirt for clinics and schooling days...


Hope everyone enjoys their weekend! Tomorrow I'm headed to the barn to watch weekend lessons, including Prair and her nice half-lease-lady.  Maybe I'll sneak some video... :)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Saddle Saga - final fitting

Ooookie dokie.  Back to saddle woes.  So.  For those of you just joining us I'll give an extremely quick recap.

Last year I started riding in a borrowed CWD which I loved.  I decided to order a replica of said CWD which looked entirely different when it actually showed up (sad face).  CWD promptly shipped the thing to their shop in California and it was returned (mostly promptly) but not very different from how I sent it down.

I continued to ride and show in the saddle for the last half of the season, but needed shims in order to make my balance ok, and nothing I did fixed the small amount of bridging going on in relation to Prair's back.

CWD got a new rep in our area who took a look at my saddle in January and quickly told me to take it to the guys at the booth at Thermal.  I did.  They shimmed it up and made the fit better for Prair (but not me).  Several CWD's in our barn (ordered last year) are also... not quite right... so after a slight tantrum was thrown CWD bent over backwards to make it All. Right.  (all of it).

At the show it was determined that I was in entirely the wrong saddle (well.. not entirely... the color was fine).  But seriously.  Wrong seat, wrong flap, wrong panel for Prair. wrong wrong wrong.  So I started a series of fittings to try and determine what the correct saddle would be so they could replace (free of charge) my current sad-saddle-situation.

Flash forward to yesterday, when our (new) rep came out and made everything ok.  (whew).

We started by looking at how my saddle fits on Prair (decently, now) and how we would order new panels to make that even better.  I felt like she took a good amount of time to show me several different panels and how we would adjust them for Prairie's special back.  She totally understood that my biggest priority was getting/keeping Prairie comfortable in her tack.

Then we started talking about me and what I needed.  My biggest issue has been having to climb out of  a good sized pothole every time I try to get up out of my saddle.  I *like* deeper seats (dressage... eventing... it's hard to change what feels "normal"), but I don't like feeling like I'm stuck in my tack.

Part of this issue is still the balance of my saddle (too far back) and part of it is the seat/flap combo I have.

Currently I ride in a 17.5" SE02 with a 4C flap.  For non-CWD enthusiasts the "02" means a deep(ish) seat, and the "C" means a round, forward flap (not an xc flap.. but not a straight hunter flap).  The 4 simply refers to the relative size of the flap and 4 is large-ish.. but it should be to fit my really long femur...
not my saddle, but an SE02 with a 4C flap
The first thing I sat in was an 18" 2Gs with an "L" flap.  It was.. lovely.  Granted it was sitting on top of 42 shims in order to get the balance correct - so I felt a bit like I was on top of a stack of mattresses.. .but the stack was lovely.  The L flap is straighter, and the most forward point of the flap is farther down...  It is the traditional "hunter" flap.
Also, not the saddle I sat in, but a 2Gs and an L flap
Just having the balance fixed (and a slightly less deep seat) really changed my position and how my leg fell.  I felt like I had a better feel of Prair and was definitely sitting much more toward the front of the saddle.

The 18" was a bit too big, but the L flap fit better than I remembered it fitting down at Thermal and I liked it.
I have mixed feelings about the 2G and 2Gs, but I was also pretty sure CWD wasn't offering to upgrade my saddle to that extent.. so we moved onto the next option in our stack. (for the record the plastic on the 2Gs really irritates me).

We moved to an SE01 (less deep) with an L flap.  We moved back to a 17.5" seat, which shrunk the relative size of the flaps a tad, but they were still ok.  Again.. we were on a stack of shims, but again, I really enjoyed the balance and overall feel.  I worked Prair for about 15 min and just played around asking for some baby lateral work and transitions to see what my body wanted to do in the tack.
SE01 - "L" flaps
Turns out, my body wanted to stay nice and forward and straight.

There could be an argument made that the growing bump is an effective counter weight... but I'm pretty sure it had more to do with the flatter seat and better balance.   Also the saddle I was trying was a full calfskin version.  My current saddle is a grain leather, which I have always liked and think is more durable.  Full calf is "nice" but I hate seeing people with the stitching coming out and whatnot... seems like a pain.

However, when I was riding in it I did not think it was a pain.  I was thinking it was grippy and nice.  So, I had to bear in mind that calf vs. full grain was another variable to consider (argh).

After the SE01, I ruled out the new super flat hunt seat saddle because that thing has a very narrow twist and I dislike narrow twists.  Also, I dislike super flat hunt seat saddles.

So, what we came away with was this:

17.5" seat - still ok
SE02 needs to become an SE01 - flatter seat, easier to get out of, and maybe not as bad as my ex-eventer brain thinks.
"C" flaps need to become "L" flaps - forward point of the flap matches my knee better (even if I put my stirrups up a couple holes)

With regard to the leather... I asked my rep her opinion and she seemed to think there was no discussion and I should go for the calf.  I said I didn't really want to pay any more dollars so that option is up to CWD.  I'm thinking they'll upgrade it for me at this point, but if they won't, I don't think I'll pay the difference.

We spent another several minutes going over the details of Prair's back and making sure the panels are ordered as correctly as possible.  The rep said with such a curvy back she almost always has to make a small correction upon arrival, but it shouldn't be anything major and I shouldn't have to send my saddle to Burbank ever again (unless the stitching on the calfskin comes out..doh).

So that is our update.  Saddle is on order.  Apparently they are producing really quickly so it could be here in as little as 6 weeks.  I won't get to do much of anything in it this summer, but at least Prair's Half-Lease-Lady will get to break it in and I'll know there's a saddle that fits Prair well on her back.

Fingers crossed that this is our final solution! As the CEO said in Thermal.. you don't pay for a high end custom saddle to get a mediocre fit.

Amen to that.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

More Maintenance (where's that 50,000 mile warranty!??)

Prair is all settled back in at home.  She had a few light hacks last week to stretch her out and get moving, but nothing too crazy given the stress of the show and then the ride home.

Friday our favorite vet came out to give all the Thermal horses a once over and see how the handled the stress and workload.  N and I both expressed our concerns bout Prair's back or maybe hind end and how she was jumping fairly inverted at the start of our last week showing, but seemed to work out of it by the time I was riding on the weekend...

N pulled Prair out to show the vet her movement under saddle, show some changes of lead etc.

The first thing the vet said was "wow. She really is a nice mare."

(um, duh :) I love her).

It hadn't occurred to me that the vet has only seen Prairie jogged and lunged, but never worked under saddle - and I am the first to admit that she looks like a floppy llama on the lunge.  I mean, you can see she's a big mover, but she looks like Phoebe from friends jogging... under saddle she looks, well.  Better.
oimg I actually found a gif to use.
Anyway, bolstered by the compliment, I cautiously probed for her opinion on that right hind/what she was seeing.  Always good when the response is... well, RH looks fine, I think it's the left? (damn, owner fail).

Good news was that when we pulled tack, it seemed like Prair's back was *less sore* that normal.  (note, that means she's not sore when I poke her, but still responds to the vet-palpation-of-doom.  

Most of her soreness seemed to be stemming from that stupid fungus that took hold right where her saddle goes, so we're working hard to knock that out.

In terms of her hind end... we flexed everything and saw about a 1/5 on both legs evenly spread across her stifles/hocks/fetlocks.  The fact that each joint was a little sore, but nothing was really sore - led our vet to think that the problem was higher up, perhaps in her SI.  A strong poke there produced a pronounced "ouch" from the mare and we had our primary suspect.  

Vet thinks that her SI is likely sore since she's using it more (since her back is happier) and that soreness is in turn showing up in her legs as a compensating factor.  (so... she's sore from being sore, from being sore?)

The suggestion was to inject her SI (so many injections..) and see what happens.  She thought that would alleviate some of the stickiness in the lead changes and also make her stifles/hocks/fetlocks happier.

So inject we did (oh my god that's a huge needle they use..) and Prair got 5 days off.

I went down to see her today and caught her just at the end of her 30 minute Eurosizer walk (so cute, she stopped to look for treats and got smacked in the butt by the  

She looked great, though the fungus is not as healed as I would have liked - so ther eis more work to do there... 

Otherwise, tomorrow CWD comes out for (another) fitting.  and then I am officially d.o.n.e. riding Prair until this baby (It's a girl! can't remember if I said that..) hatches in July. 


That's the update. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Follow-up Thoughts on Show Costs

Thanks for all the great comments - I figured rather than reply to each one I'd just do a quick "post script" of sorts on some of my thoughts.

My first thought:

this was toally worth it.

Yes, the cost is crazy, but I had so much flipping fun I can't stand it.  I know plenty of people who can spend $5k a week on a vacation, and since this was basically a 3 week vacation (in my mind at least... The Boy might beg to differ...) it doesn't seem that out of line.

You can definitely spend way less than that on vacations, but horses are kind of like fancy spa resorts in terms of high upfront cost, high add on's and people who are crazy addicted to the process :)  They are definitely not the vacation equivalent of camping.

Certainly most of my friends would think that spending this amount of money to basically get dirty and sit around all day trying to keep shavings and manure out of your hair and sandwich while you eat a quick lunch on your lap is, well.... insane.  But it sounds like fun to me that's all that matters :)

The biggest paradigm shift of the show was definitely the option of showing up 15 minutes before you get on.  It's a total perk, although not one I totally took advantage of since I just *like* being early and part of the getting-ready process.

I still reveled in it.  Even when I showed in the first class of the day at 8am, there was literally no reason to be on site until 7am.  If I was grooming and braiding myself - I would have been there at 5:00am to feed, clean, braid and panic a little (and then try to feed and clean myself in the last 5 minutes).  Instead, I strolled in at 7.. said hi to the mare... polished up my boots... drank my latte and slowly got myself ready.  Even though it was still kinda of an early wake up call (not complaining), I found that every time I threw my leg over the mare I was calm, happy and well fed.

Previously I often scrambled on in a slight panic still buttoning my shirt up and trying to pull gloves on.... I can't imagine that helped the mare's nerves at all...

Anyway, thanks again for all the good comments - I find the business side of horses moderately fascinating, and I sort of geek out on what makes big shows (and barns) tick.  I'll try to keep this thread going this summer as we experience our first entire season with a full service barn attending a variety of shows and events.

Monday, March 17, 2014

True Cost of Big Shows Part III (the reckoning)

Okay, as a follow up to my initial estimate/painful look at what some people spend to attend large A/AA shows, I am doing one final reconciliation of our bills.  Feel free to refresh your memories of my thought process in Part I and Part II (additional costs).  

Also - I'd like to state my appreciation for folks not lambasting me about writing these checks.  This sport is so funny.  On one hand we all celebrate the beautiful fancy lifestyle that serious showing in the H/J world accompanies, but on the other no one talks about how much it actually costs.  If we do talk about costs it tends to be from a savings perspective and we celebrate the ammy's who manage to do everything on a shoestring.  Don't get my wrong - I am impressed by anyone who manages to juggle a job, family, horses and somehow still manage to show them once in a while, there's a huge victory in that.  But rarely does anyone openly discuss the non-shoestring budget.  

As someone who is relatively new to Hunters, I really had no idea what to expect in terms of financial commitment (aside from knowing it was going to be "more" than what I spent before and somewhere in the neighborhood of "lots").

Why go to a show? you can burn your money right here at home!
In case you're like me and you've both forgotten what the estimate was and you're too lazy to read old posts (boring!) here's what my initial estimate of the cost breakdown was (supposed) to be:

Equipment Transport (hay, trunk, tack, drapes, etc):  $350

Horse Vanning:                                                         $1,500
Trainer Hotel/Travel Split:                                         $1,400
Out of State Day Fee (x21):                                     $1,365
Stabling (x2 for double stall x3 weeks):                     $1,200
Braiding (4 days/week x3 weeks):                            $1,020
Entries (4 divisions/week x3 weeks):                        $1.920
Lodging for Me (4 nights/week x3):                          $2,400
Rental Car:                                                               $400

Initially I was anticipating $11,555, with a "mental buffer" up to $15,000.  

It's almost funny.  I know that in other aspects of horse life (vet bills being one) you take your realistic estimate, and basically double it.  The Boy uses the same theory for "horse time."  So if I say "it'll only take me 20 minutes to pack the trailer and get the horse loaded."  He automatically doubles that to 40 minutes and then adds another 20 minute buffer.  (for the record he is almost always correct).

There is almost always something that you didn't think of, or some office fee or whatever that you weren't counting on... and there were plenty of those items for us at Thermal.  Some stuff I was right on with, some stuff... not so much.

The comparison:

Equipment Transport:

This is one that stayed pretty true since we had a set "barn cost" to go off of.  Yay. still $350.

Horse Vanning:                                                        $1,500
Actual cost ended up only being $1,200!  a rare savings. (for the record, our estimate for diesel and maintenance had we hauled ourselves both ways was about $1600...)

Trainer Hotel/Travel Split:                                      $1,400
Almost dead on with an acutal cost of $1408.93

Out of State Day Fee $65 (x21):                             $1,365
plus tip for grooms (I tipped $100 total a week..) $1,665

Stabling (x2 for double stall x3 weeks):
Correct, but I forgot about trainer splits.  we had an additional $400 per week for all of the splits, which basically doubled this to $2,400.

Braiding (4 days/week x3 weeks):

haha.  Also wrong on this one! I did my math wrong and forgot that Prair was showing 5 days a week, not 4...  that meant it was $440, $440 and $360 for braids  or $1,240 total.  Lots of people chose not to braid for pro days when their horses were in unrated divisions, that would have cut my costs by 6 days.. and at $80 a day plus tip... that adds up.  I would maybe opt not to braid for Pro Day s next year if Prair was still in an unrated division.

Entries (4 divisions/week x3 weeks):

BAHAHAHA.  Oops.  I was bad at this one too.  Initially I thought Prair would be showing two divisions with N and two divisions with me every week.  In point of fact she only did one with N, but I was a princess and added every division I could.  I showed in 4 divisions myself, plus 2 warm up rounds each week and a couple of medals and a classic smeared in there.  That meant my entries (just the entries) was either $990 or $1,040 per week.  Also there's about $75 of office fees each week for a grand total of $3,295.  

This was a cost that I did not allow myself to think about as I was adding classes.  I'm glad we showed as much as we did, although if heights were to increase, the number of classes would have to go down unless I wanted a sore, tired, lame horse.

Lodging for Me (4 nights/week x3):

Lodging we got really lucky.  When The Boy and I stayed for the first full week we were lucky enough to use one of M2's timeshare weeks.  That definitely helped keep costs down during our extended stay.  The other two weeks I basically spent $800 each time because I stayed in nicer hotels (Embassy suites, Marriott) and rates were at a premium because I didn't book early and the Desert is packed right now.  Those costs could definitely be lower with a shared rental house or cheaper hotels.  but, another $1,600 to the bottom line (not considering the cost of our first week).

Rental Car:

Um, yeah. Haha.  It was $450 for each  week. The first week we rented from a cheapo company and paid the price.  I stuck with a mid size from Hertz the second two weeks and was a much happier human.  $1350.

Then there were the "Part II" costs to consider.  Part II added $1,770 to the initial estimate for some new gear, hormones and gastrogard.  I ended up not needed the RJ Classics Hunt Coat I bought to hide a possible baby belly, so I get to take $100 off that total (yay) and bring that down to $1,670

At the show there was some shopping, but I did a good job of keeping it in check.  Really the new CWD bridle was the only expense aside from swapping my Ogilvy pad out and some small things here are there.  The CWD seems separate from the show cost though so I'm not including in.  In theory I would have survived just fine without a new bridle.  

So.  New grand total?

$16,178.93 for 3 weeks of busy showing at Thermal with full grooms, braiding and all the other snazzy features. 

That's a ton of money - but there is certainly a premium to be paid to be with a well run, organized barn that allows you to arrive 15 minutes before you need to get on and worry more about feeding yourself lunch than getting your horse's braids out as soon as you finish riding for the day.  I'm used to doing a lot more on my own, but I will say that for the "vacation" aspect that this show had, I really enjoyed the extra luxuries and flexibility.

I think if you were showing on your own, (avoiding trainer splits, braiding, grooming and possibly not entering every conceivable class) you could easily spend three weeks in the sunshine with your horse for under $10,000.  That cost would drop even further if you weren't hauling across state lines or had a more affordable lodging option.  Realistically I think "local" week long shows run closer to $2,000-2,500 for the Hunters (less for Jumpers - fewer classes, no braiding..) in our area.  I'll definitely do a followup with the cost of a more "typical" show week at a home venue.   

$16,000 is not the kind of money that The Boy and I readily spend without thinking about it, so it'll be a while before I am signing up for out of state shows for weeks on end all willy nilly... but it does sort of blow my mind when I start adding up how many people opt to be at Thermal for all seven weeks (or at WEF for the full circuit..) and of those, how many are campaigning multiple horses! I know this sport isn't exactly affordable, but good lord there are a lot of checks being cut at the show grounds...  

So there you have it.  The ungodly final total of what it costs to show for three weeks at a major winter show with a high(er) end show barn.  

Now please excuse me while I go microwave some ramen and curl up in my coolers while I rely on my fireplace to heat my home for the next couple of months - as I am already refilling the coffers for the next show!  

(spoken like a true addict, right?)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Thermal Pro Pics

I got my professional pictures emailed to me, in what seems to be a relatively quick fashion - and honestly I was surprised.

In my head I sat at that photo booth flipping through mediocre photo after mediocre photo thinking "no.... nope, ew. oh god, do we look like that?.... no... no... no.... nope" for what felt like an eternity before giving up and ordering two random prints for posterity.

As with most things, suppressed expectations usual lead to general satisfaction - and I was surprised at how much I liked the pro shots when I saw them again.

I had completely forgotten that there was actually ONE photo with the mare's ears forward.  One.  Singular.

But we will take it! and I will print it out and put it in one of our sorta strange photo frames that we won as a first place prize.

I love the expression on her cute face in this one.

Not the "best" of either of us, but still a good memory!
Man she was a good girl at that show.  I'm so grateful we got to go, and so jealous of N and her 1/2 lease lady that they get to keep riding her!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Blog Hop - What's In Your Name?

Back in 2007 when I returned to the PNW from NYC, I found myself with all sorts of time on my hands.  I was no longer working a ga-zillion hours a week in a weird blur of finance/politics and media but instead found myself at my happy little family business which looks at you funny if you're still in the office after 5:07pm.

I could only fill so much time with Happy Hours and concerts, so it probably took me about 25 seconds to let horses back into my brain and begin percolating on how to get a regular ride again.  I stumbled onto some good horsey blogs during lunch hours (Andrea's being an early favorite) and loved getting to follow along with other people's journeys.  I quickly vowed that when I had a regular horse to ride again I would absolutely blog and enjoy the process of sharing and stewing on my own adventures.

This is actually my second blog.  The first was called "bumbling along with belle" and was named for a glass-legged tb who I leased for a while and was planning to own. (in hindsight it was probably a-ok to not get the horse who had already fractured two legs..).
Belle, she was definitely pretty and had an enviable forelock...

When things fell through with Belle I was crushed, but realized I really was ready for a horse of my own so I began a not so long, or all that arduous, search.  The Boy and I spent a couple weekends driving and looked at some really nice young-ish prospects when we found Pia.  I loved her from the moment I saw her dreamhorse ad and was pretty sure I was going to end up with her.
from my very first ride on the mare.
Apparently I was stuck in a remedial alliteration phase because when I abandoned Bumbling Along with Belle, the only (literally only) title I could come up with was "Pia's Parade."  It stuck, and we were off.  I tried to be as honest as possible in our ups and downs (oh were there plenty) and really enjoyed the process.  For the first couple years I had only a handful of followers so there wasn't much affirmation in terms of traffic or comments, but I loved the process of thinking about our days together and organizing my thoughts.

I'm not a very savvy blogger.  I don't have my own hosted URL, I don't have ads, I don't bother with any formatting that isn't immediately obvious on my "layout" tab... but I do really enjoy the act of stringing my thoughts together and feeling like I'm part of some weird horsey-blog-internet-community.

It's just plain fun.

I haven't ever changed the name to really include Prairie or Gus - and I guess like everyone else I worry I'd lose readership if I did.  But I also don't care too much. P is still what got me on this path and she's a good little red mare.  Even if she finds a new home I suppose she can still lay claim to this blog and all my other horsey ventures that ensue.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Thermal Semi-Pro Pics

I was lucky enough to have a friend from another barn take some great shots of Prair and I over our super-tiny, baby jumps during our last week.

Truth be told, I think some of them are better than the pro shots I ordered, but if I hadn't ordered them, karma would dictate that these would not have turned out.

We hardly look glamorous over 2' and 2'3" (no 2'6" in the batch), but I'm learning to own our baby-ness and frankly I can't believe she got as many decent "jumping" shots as she did.  Whenever I try to photograph such small fences it looks like awkward cantering.

Mare needs to learn how to put her ears forward!
Sometimes we even found the Hunter Gap!

More square and straight than normal
One of our Juniors on Prair in an Under Saddle
My face is wincing because we barely fit the last stride in.. lol

How cute would this be with forward ears?

Not quite as square... but pretty straight!
 Also, not to sound like a total points whore, (ribbon whore, yes.  points... less exciting to me) but I think that it's possible Prair and I might end up Second Half Circuit champs in a division, and it's maybe even possible we could get a tri-color for overall circuit championships.  I can't totally tell because the circuit standings don't seem to get updated very often, but if the points are normal ribbon points (10 for 1st, 6 for 2nd, etc...) we should be sitting pretty in a couple of our divisions.  If they are something different and actually are up to date.. well then, we probably won't.

I will say that aside from the super small unimpressive jumps in the photos - overall I'm really glad we stepped down a (couple) division(s).  I think it was exactly what we needed to get Prairie relaxed and happy and also for me to be totally comfortable in the ring.  If I was planning on a "normal" season (assuming last year was normal), I'd be feeling dialed in, and primed to step back up to 2'9" no problem at home.  I know it seems odd to spend so much time and money "warming up" for show season, but I really think that's what the winter circuits do.  They knock off the rust, let you get round, after round, after round done and send you home ready to get to business.  As it stands, especially at 20-22 weeks pregnant, I think the small divisions were the right choice for us.

Monday, March 10, 2014

And Home Again

Horse show hangover is in full swing.  Just a little tired, disorganized and... bored now that all the fun and excitement has come to an end.

The last day of showing was great, Prair was a rock star for our morning medal and Hunter Division - although when a coyote popped up out of the ditch at the end of the arena she maybe lost her marbles just a little.  I opted to circle and let her walk for a sec so that we organized ourselves for a tidy last line home (I added for control).  I patted her and told her that I am a-okay with her spooking at actual predators just so long as she doesn't spook at silly things like balloons, children or tents.

I think it's a fair arrangement.

For better or worse the coyote-round was our last go for that division so I didn't have a chance to go back in and make sure the end of the ring was safe.  Maybe it was better that we had a break before forcing the issue - because two hours later when we went back for our Under Saddle - Prair acted like she had totally forgotten about the incident (good mare).

We had one final division for the day which was our baby 2' Eq.  Prar bounced right back and gave me three lovely rounds, which I was more than happy to finish our time in Thermal on.  Her lead changes were back to being crisp and clean and I felt like we had a great pace in all three rounds.

The division was small (only 8) so it zipped by pretty quick and before I knew it we were back in for Eq on the flat (boooo hiissssss).  I'm always so much more confident with Prair in Under Saddle classes than I am with my own Eq on the flat.  We have quickly gotten to the point that she is consistently better at her job than I am at mine (oops) - but I have learned that when I focus on riding it like an Under Saddle class and working to get the best performance out of the mare - I ride significantly better than when I obsess about my eq and get all tense and locked up trying to look up, get my leg down, etc.

It was potentially the longest flat class of my life, which is funny since we had some flat classes with 30+ in the ring that pinned faster.  I think the judge was just making us do everything until at least two people screwed up.  Whether that meant cantering until a couple horses broke or sitting the trot until people started bouncing off to the side or posting in revolt.

Apparently we held it together because we were rewarded with a first place - something I haven't seen for Eq on the flat in a while.

The whole division went well for us actually - two firsts over fences and a second, so along with our flat win we snagged one final championship and one more cooler to shove in the trunk.

I really don't mean to sound bratty or ungrateful but I've got to come up with some good ideas for what to do with four coolers!
mare snuggles.
I had a couple of hours to kill before I needed to leave for the airport, so I perused the show photos and coughed up some $$ for two digital prints.  They aren't the best shots of me and Prair in the world, but I'd feel terrible if somehow we never made it back down in future years and I left without any great pictures of us.

I also spent some time with CWD.  Which involved both the national sales manager and CEO watching me warm up for the Eq on the flat in my tack and proclaiming that I'm totally and completely in the wrong saddle.  Wrong for Prair, wrong for me, wrong wrong wrong.


CEO man said that they were just going to order me another saddle.  I can keep mine for now to ride in, and they'd have it fixed for Prair before I left, but really I just needed another saddle.  It was moderately confusing to have the conversation as I was walking in the ring - but I promised to follow up with them at their booth after I was done.

When I did get to the booth I sat in every saddle all over again.  They are pushing me toward a flatter seat (currently I ride int he SE02), but I'm not sure I love that.  It was hard to tell since almost every saddle they had on hand was a narrow twist and I'm one of the weird people who likes a slightly wider twist.  So it was hard for me to tell what was due to the seat or flap changing and what felt weird because of the twist...

Ultimately they decided that my weird femur doesn't really fit their traditional Hunter "L" flap which is what they thought I needed initially, but the forward "C" flap (which I have) also doesn't do much for me (given the way the saddle sits on Prair).  Apparently they have a mysterious "F" flap that I have never heard of (or seen?) that they want me to sit in prior to ordering...  There wasn't one in Thermal so I have one final date with my local rep to try the F flap next week.  They did figure out what was preventing my saddle from really fitting Prair well and that seems to have been addressed, and the proper notations made for ordering the new saddle correctly to begin with.

I left feeling a bit better about the CWD solution even though I still have a bit of a funny taste in my mouth about the whole thing.  I'm not bitter per se... just... not overwhelmed with how long this has all taken and that N basically had to throw a tantrum before we saw some serious response from the CWD team.

All's well that end's well though so I'm reserving final judgement until saddle 2.0 shows up.

After that it was just closing out at the office, final thanks and tips for the super amazing grooms we had with us and I was off.

Overall I couldn't ask for more.  Prair and I dropped down a division and were really able to enjoy ourselves, while N got some good miles and I think knows what she needs to do for Prair to be ready for the Pre-Greens back at home.

I'm so grateful that my darling husband indulged me in this venture.  It took a ton of time, energy and money (final followup on that to come) and I love that he was along for the whole ride.

The horses should be home later tonight, and after a well deserved rest, it's back to the grindstone and preparing for our local season kickoff the first two weeks of April.  I won't be in the saddle, but I'll be rooting for the big mare from the sidelines. :)

loaded up and headed north...

Friday, March 7, 2014

(Eeeeeeee!!!) Three-peat!

So for all the frustration and worry I had yesterday about Prair looking less than thrilled with her job - today she came out like a rock star.

A little up and... Looky coming down from the barn - but totally steady and happy and relaxed in the show ring.

We had two early schooling rounds at 2' (oooohhh ahhhhh) which maybe was some of our best work. Prair's caber had a bit more jump and she was steady, steady, steady. We didn't pin great, but we pinned and I got my "first-round-itis" out of the way.

Our Hunter division was running way behind so the horses ended up hanging out for almost an hour before we got in the ring, but OH LORDY was the mare good.

Our changes were super crisp, our distances were even and rolling and the courses just ticked along at a great rhythm.

Our fourth round had a late change behind, but otherwise - literally NO big mistakes (by our standards).

We ended up winning our first three rounds - and still snagged a 5th for that final round.

After another hour of waiting (poor mare) we had the hack and squeaked out one final blue.

Four blues and a pink and we claimed another cooler!

Hands down these were my best rounds with the mare down here. She was just so consistent and steady and responsive - I couldn't ask for more.

I *could* ask for videos... Sadly none of those exist - but a friend with another barn got some great photos of us so hopefully we'll have those to share soon!!

Oh - and Ogilvy just handed me a new pad - no questions. I also grabbed the shims for it... Just in case I'm not as lucky with a quick solution from CWD...

One more day of showing and then this thing is in the bag!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
Related Posts with Thumbnails