Friday, January 30, 2015

The Konigs - One month in

Once my brain engages Tack-Ho-Mode, it's hard to get out.  But rather than allow myself to hunt down the next item on my list (ohhh such a long list) I'm going to attempt to satisfy it with an update on The Konigs.

Short Version - I LOVE THEM. 

Slightly Longer Version - More than any other boot I've owned (strong words).

Tack Ho Version:

We all know my tall boot drama/addiction.  It runs deep, it's compulsive, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

The decision to order the Konigs was a bit random, but when the delivery date coincided (sorta) with both Christmas and my third anniversary (the "leather" anniversary, I kid you not) it seemed more than justifiable.

Because I've had previously good experiences with Konigs (both in Dressage and Jumpy land) I was rather confident about the overall quality of the boot I would be getting, but I remained guarded about both fit, durability and eventually - my choice to go with a calfskin hide.

The boots arrived Dec 10 (I think) which means I've been using them (every ride) for approximately six and a half weeks. Usually I would expect to be deep in the boot-break-in-hatred phase, but I am fully in the "love my beautiful boots" phase.

I think due mostly to the hide choice.

Because I wanted something I would show in, I sadly, did not get to consider any of the fun color/piping options.  I got to choose from black, black, and black.  But, since I'm a Tack Ho at heart even considering the differences among those was exciting.

This particular calfskin is a new offering for Konig, and one I was reluctant to order since I have generally bad feelings about calf on boots.  Given that I don't get to order 3 pairs a year, I really, really despise boots over $100 that will wear out in 6 months. (ridic).

My Boot Dude (official title) assured me that he was obsessed with the new hide, was assured it would wear like iron, and that I'd be pleased with it.  Whether drunk on leather fumes, or just trying to be agreeable, I took his suggestion and went for the thinner, softer hide.

Well, it did not disappoint.  It is certainly softer and thinner, which has been fabulous for break in (like, really, really fabulous, no soaking boots in a bathtub here..) and also gives a really nice feel of your horse. 

Where it differs from other calfskin boots I've seen is in the finish, which resembles and feels more like a traditional top grain leather.  It lacks the tacky grip of "calf" which increases my confidence that it won't wear out immediately with minimal use. 

So far there are no rub or wear marks, which sets it above both my Konig pull-ons and the Treadstep DaVincis after a similar period of use.

In terms of styling, I am quite pleased with the fit and details.  The snaps are sturdy, the zipper feels good and the sole is thinner and more refined than it's peers.  Some people prefer a big this lug sole.  I do not.  A bigger sole might be more practical if you are in your boots for 12 hours a day/hiking through the mud in the back 40, but right now I do neither of those things so I appreciate the more refined look.
Konig's thinner sole on the right.  Treadstep DaVinci on the left
 I do have two (small-ish) complaints though, which is probably a good thing, because if I had truly found a perfect boot I'd never be allowed to buy another!

The first issue is that the swagger tab is stitched to the boot only at the bottom, allowing it to gape a bit, which looks a tad unfinished to me.  Boot Dude has assured me he'll gladly stitch it down for me, I just haven't taken them in.  (in contrast, the Treadsteps have a fully stitched swagger tab.

trying to exaggerate the gap
The TS stitched down version

The second complaint is that the zipper guard at the heel isn't *perfectly* tailored to the boot.  I don't think anyone else can see it, but when I'm riding and glance down my leg I see a corner of the zipper guard sticking out.  Again, not a functional issue, but an aesthetic one - and one that should be relatively easy to control. 

I had to try *really* hard for a crappy photo

From a polish perspective, they take a decent shine already (better than the Tredsteps did initially, not as good as my Dressage boots did..), so I'm hoping that in another year the patina will be flawless. 

Because of the thinner hide I'm trying to be extra neurotic about keeping a protective layer of shine on them.  So far, so good.

All in all, I'd have to give the D5000 two huge, boot-nerd thumbs up.  The custom order fits my leg wonderfully, looks clean and tailored, and the leather is scrumptious.  I'm confident they will be both pretty and comfortable for long days at Thermal, and I love that they are a slightly less-expected boot than a Parlanti or Der Dau in that crowd. 

I love beautiful things (as we know), but I especially love beautiful things that not every other person  is wearing. (reason #4,564 that even if I wanted to spend $1000 on a belt, you will never see me in the Hermes H).

More updates of my love affair with the Konig as our relationship deepens and grows with time :)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Girth Hunt

Man, I have LOTS to catch up on (mostly with Gus and adorable pictures of him with cute kids).

Also I had this post beautifully laid out and written (coherently!) but then blogger ate it.  So if there's a passive-aggressive undertone, it's because I'm shooting laser beams of hate at blogger as I retype the whole damn thing.  (hate hate hate).

But since I can't quite get my act together on Gus' Big Adventures, or my progress (if we're calling it that) with Prair, I'll move on to a more pressing matter:


I've been on a bit of an obsessive kick with trying to get Prair a new girth.  Our current model, the Dover Split End, is lovely, and wearing well, but it's been feeling a bit thin and tight recently - and given Prair's recurring tenderness on her sternum and left pec, I've been daydreaming about a bigger, wider, squishier option for her.  (I've been using the Dover girths for two years, in two different sizes and love them, I'd recommend them and note that they end upon sale fairly regularly)

Anyway, I'm not sure a new girth is going to be the difference maker for Prair, but you know me - once I'm hunting for tack... it's hard to stop until I've bought at least three options. Whee!

So, I started looking.  I'm a big fan of CWD, but I sort of hate their girths.  They feel hard and boring to me, and since I'm looking for not hard and not boring, they were out right from the start... I did a cursory search amongst the "big" saddle makers and either didn't find what I wanted, or couldn't find it for under $400....

What I was really looking for was a jumping equivalent of all those beautiful wide, heavily padded Dressage girths out there. I own a couple short girths that are lovely, but lack any similar long ones... 

Initial searches were not that fruitful.  My most important criteria was a wider than normal girth, with secondary considerations given to padding and shape.

Dover had very little that was intriguing to me.  The only real temptation there is the Tad Coffin Performance Comfort Girth, which does indeed look wide, and I'm certain is made with fabulous leather, but at $350, it's a very expensive horse belt.

Then I headed to SmartPak to see what they had.  There were a couple of good options worth perusing, covering a variety of price points.

On the lower end of the spectrum were the SmartPak brand nylon/fleece/air girths.  There are several models, all with pretty decent reviews that looked like they might fit the bill, but I personally hate cleaning fleecey girths and strongly prefer a leather girth for the show ring so I bypassed those options. 

Equifit had an interesting offering with their T-foam Shaped Girth.  I'm a big fan of their boots (mmm boots), and the width and shape seemed to be what I was looking for. 

At $270 it's not cheap, and at $270 with only negative reviews... I nixed it.  Apparently the foam padding has a tendency to split.. and one girl even reported her girth snapping in two.  (put that on the list of things I like to avoid).

The SmartPak Wellfleet Hunter Girth had promise as well.  It boasts a wider portion in the middle (though not a fully "anatomic" shape) and the reviews seemed incredibly positive in terms of quality and softness.  There were a few comments about it being nearly Edgewood-Orange out of the box, but I'm a pro at darkening so those didn't scare me.  At $160, it's not outrageously priced and in the cart it went.
The Wellfleet

The other SmartPak contender was the Arc de Triomphe Anatomic Girth for a rather pricey $240.  It looked wide, sported more shape, and had excellent reviews.  Initially I was considering a very similar looking Marcel Tolouse version, but several reviews lambasted the latter's leather and specifically said the AdT was worth the extra $50... So we went for it.  The offset buckles are not something I've tried before, but since you can return sized items to Smartpak with no hassle, I threw it in the cart.
Finally, Facebook always spams my newsfeed with posts from Total Saddle Fit, and I was curious enough to wander over to their site and see what they had for Jump options.  Their marketing tends to focus on their short girths (so much easier to find squishy short girths!!), but I've heard tell that they do actually have a long girth option so we took a peek.

The long girth looked lovely - wide, shapely, etc.. and since I've never used their products or seen one in person, I simply had to get one in the name of good "research." 

Shoulder Relief Girth by TSF
Supposedly they are magical things.  And with a price of $150, if they are magic, they are also a bargain.

The Smartpak order arrived first, so the Wellfleet and AdT got an initial side by side comparison.  Right out of the box, both have a nice feel to the leather and appear to be of quality construction.  even stitching, good finishing, etc.  I'd give a slight edge to the Welfleet based on its softer padding and extremely soft leather on the underside (for anyone with an uber picky pony). 
AdT on the left, Wellfleet on the right

Detailed center portions

The second thing I noticed is that the sizing was totally bonkers. 

Prair fluctuates between a 54" (when she's skinny) and a 56" (when she's plumper) which makes sizing a bit tricky.  If she's skinny a 56" runs out of holes, and if she's chubby you won't even be able to buckle a true 54". 

Bearing that in mind I ordered a 54" of the Wellfleet and a 56" of the AdT since the reviews said it ran small.

So imagine my confusion when the 54" Wellfleet was actually longer than the 56" AdT.  A tape measure confirmed that the supposed 56" AdT measured a true 53.5"  (????) and the supposedly 54" Wellfleet was actually 55".

I understand vanity/variable sizing in some things (like shoes and designer denim..) but GIRTHS.  Can they not just be the literal measurement they say they are?  I'm willing to accept a slight undersizing to allow for elastic to stretch during break-in, but this is just absurd.

Since there was no way the AdT was going to fit around Prair's stall-rest-belly, I left that one at home and took the Wellfleet to the barn for a test spin. 

I liked how the taper fit her rib cage, and it seemed to be a very traditional looking girth while still offering a better pressure distribution than our previous model, so I pulled the tags and rode in it.

My girth didn't snap and nothing bad happened, so I'm calling that a positive review.  The girth came home for a darkening and will get a few more outings to confirm it's suitability as our new show girth.

The box from Total Saddle Fit arrived over the weekend, so I haven't been able to take it to the barn yet, but I am really impressed with the girth right out of the box.  It's definitely the widest of the three options I ordered, which gets it points in my book, and also the nice people at TSF included a cute baseball hat so that gets more points. 
squishy doesn't photograph well.
Truthfully though, of the three options I ordered, it boasts the squishiest padding and is the closest thing to all those fluffy, soft dressage girths that I've been able to find.  it's consistent 4.5" width also makes it the widest of the three.  Sadly the 54" measures a true 53" so I am exchanging for a 56" that I'll be able to actually girth up. 

If all goes as planned, the TSF will become our daily driver, and the Wellfleet will be our "dress" girth - but we will have to wait for a final determination. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Torturous Lesson (ow ow ow ow)

Typing this post is going to be a serious struggle as my arms are TOTALLY effing shot from my lesson today.  And not because Prairie was pulling my arms off (which would be the expected reason..)

If you've been reading for any length of time you've heard me lament how my hands always get too low and my left wrist breaks and my right hand is always a mysterious two inches  lower than my left.

I don't know why I do what I do, but it just happens.  If you were to blindfold me and tell me to put my hands in the "perfect" position.  They would be low, twisted and uneven and I would be certain that they were even, high and straight. 

Enter the Equicube a horrid torture device my trainer picked up which I was (thankfully) pregnant and not available to be on the wrong end of the device. 

Basically it's a 4.2lb block with handles that makes you hold your hands evenly, above the wither and engage your core. 
(photo from their site)

A few (poor) souls looked at it when it first showed up at the barn and proclaimed that it "wasn't that heavy" and "it couldn't be that bad."

Well I've been in enough weird gym classes (though not in a long time let me assure you..) where the cute perky trainer handed out 2lb weights with a smile and just when I thought I was strong enough and going to ace the class my arms fell off from trying to hold the tiny, pink, mostly plastic "weights" in front of my body.

So four pounds is NO JOKE.  I did not sneer at the Cube.  In fact I figured that if I didn't look at it, maybe N would forget about it and I would never have to use it. 

Sadly not true.

I was assigned the Cube for our lesson today.  The first ten minutes involved me trying to figure out how to have a decent contact when my hands were stuck in one place (apparently I move them around a lot more than I thought).  The next 10 minutes were spent trying to figure out how to use my "abs" (such as they are) to prevent my back from hurting like a mother from the extra weight.
And the third 10 minutes had me feeling rather competent and extremely aware of my core and leg.

And then I died.  I just collapsed and died and my biceps and lower abs were twitching in some sort of fatigued death dance. 


But, sadly for me, I was riding much better post-Cube than pre-Cube.  Which I'm pretty sure means I'll have to deal with future Cube Sessions.

The competitor in me loves the Equicube and thinks everyone should run out and find 4lbs of plastic to cradle while they ride.  But the lazy adult ammy in me hopes that none of your trainers ever discover this thing.  I just discovered that it's of local manufacture, so perhaps awareness/marketing for this thing hasn't traveled too far yet... You can hope anyway :)

Other than the pain, things went well.  Great flat work with Prair, highlighted by really great canter work over cavaletti - which felt like a huge victory.  We finished with a 5 stride line, to a single on a diagonal to a single on the other diagonal.  Things were great.  Prair was patient and soft and when I rode like I was still holding the cube, we stayed balanced and held nice shape to/over/from our fences.

They fences are still tiny 2' things, but I am loving every second of it.  So much of the stress and anxiety (both in myself and the mare) that we used to have over fences is just gone. 

It's lovely.  Really, really, lovely.  And also painful. Really, really painful (for my arms and abs).

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Gus' Great Adventure

apologies for falling into baby-land again.... I have not been great at updating the blog as of late...eek.

First - Prair is good.  her face has a few scratches and it looks like she really bit her lip.. BUT that seems to be the worst of it, so WHEW.  I have some good rides to update on so hopefully I'll get to that shortly.

But GUS.  Oh sweet Gus. Last Friday Brookledge picked him up and he started his big journey East again.  Lucky for Gus the truck was mostly empty and he got upgraded to a Box Stall for the journey.  I spent Friday morning loving on him and trying to clean him up and shoving treats in his big beak. 
Byeeeeeeeee Gussie

One thing I enjoy about Brookledge is they are very on time and extremely courteous.  They showed up about 20 min before they said they would and happily go the van ready while I finished wrapping Gus up and getting him all ready.  They asked good questions like when I would like him blanketed as they went through cold weather and also if I had any concerns about anything or reason to suspect him getting upset or anxious.  I said he was a good boy and an easy hauler, but the driver still gave me his cell in case I wanted to call and check on him along the way.

True to Gus form he walked eagerly on the truck, stopping only to swipe a bite of hay on his way in.  he was thrilled to find a stall, deeply bedded with multiple flakes waiting for him and he set about munching happily. 

We chatted for a few more minutes before I gave him one last kiss and sent him on his way.

I knew I would be sad to say bye to Gus, but it was harder than I expected.  Mostly because this is one of the few times I've had to say bye to a horse and know that they weren't coming back.  Usually someone gets sent off on trial and in my head I'm trying not to jinx things and think that more it's more than likely that I'll see them again in a couple weeks (cough cough, Pia, cough). 

Fortunately I feel great about his new home and got the report that Gus landed safe and sound on Sunday afternoon.  I was impressed that Gus was able to basically get there in 48 hours even with all the craptastic weather crisscrossing the country.  I'll be sure to post pictures of the big guy's arrival when I get them.  But knowing that he's happy and settled and "home" is enough for now. 

"there's food in here"

Looking for one last treat

Friday, January 9, 2015


I got an email from a fellow boarder last night that Prairie got herself cast around 6pm.

She couldn't have been there more than 20minutes, but 20 minutes is definitely long enough to do some damage.

Our head groom and his brother got her up by pulling her neck and getting enough leverage to roll her away from the wall... Which makes me cringe even though I know that's one of the safest ways to scooch a big, prone, horse.

Initially it sounds like she walked it off fine and fellow-boarder says she was eating and drinking when she finally left for home - but I'm still nervous.

Having the vet out today as a precaution just to take a peek and make sure nothing is festering under the radar... Ugh.

And here I was all excited to post about our last couple of lessons, but they aren't feeling very significant at the moment.

Fingers crossed. (Again.)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, January 5, 2015

A New Home for Gus!

I haven't been broadcasting it on the blog yet, but behind the scenes we've been working on me admitting that two horses 90 min from each other is not a good accessory to baby.  (wah). 

(A good testament to that fact is that I'm hammering out this post while watching a slightly fussy, slightly annoyed baby squirm around in her crib.... )

So we've been quietly looking for the perfect option for Gus man, and true to blog-land fashion, this incredible little community seems to have provided the answer!

Meet Jessica.  She's a reader, mom to two (adorable) kiddos, one OTTB named Chance and a bulldog - on top of working her way toward being a vet.  

(and here I am wondering how to feed one baby, ride one horse and maybe get some laundry done....maybe.  oof)

It's Jess!
Much like myself, Jessica's horse addiction can be blamed on a grandmother who gifted well intentioned riding lessons not knowing (or maybe knowing) that years down the road some poor fool of a man would have to deal with the consequences. 

After growing up in the H/J world, Jessica stumbled back into horses as an adult when she started leasing an OOTB named Chance.  As is often the case in these lease-first-love-affairs, it wasn't long before Chance was all hers (for better or worse).

They've learned a lot together and have forged a great partnership, complete with the appropriate number of treats (and kids to dispense said treats.

Love an OTTB face
<3 td="">

Good guy that he is, Chance still isn't totally husband (or kiddo) safe, which is where Gus comes in.  Jessica's daughter has been taking lessons and starting her own horse addiction, just, without an actual horse of her own. 
(Cannot WAIT for our little girl to be holding her own lead rope, I mean CUTE)

Plus the whole family is moving to a small farm of their own in the spring (jealous) - so having a Gus to haul a husband, or a daughter (or herself!) around without a second thought is perfect.  I'm sure Chance will appreciate another old man pasture buddy too.

So that's the next adventure for Gus.  Brookledge should be picking him up sometime this week, and he should be walking off the trailer ready to surprise the kids 3 days after that.

I'm really going to miss having Mr Gus around to ride, play with and enjoy loving on - and I know M2 will miss him even more.  But knowing that he'll have kids to call his own, another old man to enjoy his pasture time with and a burgeoning vet to keep an eye on him?  well that's just better than any horse mom can hope for.  And I've learned that if you can find a better home for a horse then you can provide yourself - that there is joy in watching your horse enjoy that new home and new job (and lots and lots and lots of treats). 

We will, of course, be expecting regular updates, especially the always adorable new-horse-delivery photos.

Gus is going to be *great* at this

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Right Down the (very small) Line

Prair continues to work well, and I'm doing my best to catch up.  This week's lessons were good ones for me and confidence building for us as a pair (read: no faceplants, freakouts or general disasters).

Tuesday had us focusing on cantering some cavaletti on a circle, and later on a line in either five or six strides.  Prair was good.  I still want to brace a bit before she goes over anything (poles, jumps, leaves..) but it turns out, when I don't, she's much more responsive (who knew).

Down the line it became very obvious that adding six was easy (EASY!) to the left, but a tad trickier to the right.  She feels a bit stronger in my left rein to the right, and less.... squishy... in her back.  It's subtle, but it's there and it has my "don't-be-hurt-again" antenna up.

Saturday we cantered some cavaletti again to warm up (again, easier to the left than right..) and it became apparent that my go-to strategy of "hold, hold, hold, ADD!" is not working for us.  To the left I can feel her hind leg easier and am much more comfortable stepping up, but to the right I don't feel as connected and we end up leaving long or chipping regardless of how clever I think I'm being.

Then we moved to a (small) line trotting in and cantering out in 5.  I got a little nervous, but I shouldn't have - N told me to "trust her to make a good decision" (LOL) and believe that she'd be good, rather than prepare for potential naughtiness. I tried, and even though I felt myself really wanting to brace my knee, Prair was a star and calmly loped down the line softer than I've ever felt her between fences. 

I still asked her to halt in a straight line after each jump so we didn't even play the lead-change game or worry too much about rebalancing, so I don't want to hang too many victory banners yet but I can feel were we maybe might be someday when all this rehabbing is over. 

And I like it.

We did the line both directions, the difference between the left and right leads were nonexistent (though we were traveling straight) and then we finished with a long canter across the diagonal to a small gate (very small), again halting in a straight line after.


All in all a good week and one that makes me feel like the 18" division at Thermal is doable... who knows, we might even flirt with 2' and 2'3" again!

It is nice to feel like we're riding again and I can get back to not being so paranoid about every little step.
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