Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Gear Review: Spur Upgrade

Spoiler alert, I don't love spurs.  I grew up on hot (usually part-Arab) horses who had WAY more go-than-whoa and spent way more time thinking about what bit I needed on cross country and never really worried about what spur (none) would get the job done (none).

As I traipsed into Dressage as an adult, I put spurs on occasionally. 

REALLY long time readers will recall the six (+) months where Pia straight up didn't go forward (at all). and during my early days with Prair, a Teeny Tiny nub of a spur was helpful establishing our lateral work.

I have relatively long legs and have always been able to squeeze the tweedle out of even the laziest of the lazy without much spur.  On top of that, a large spur often results in me unintentionally taking my leg off and causing more problems than the spur solves.

With that info in mind, my spur collection consists precisely of 1) the tiniest price of wales spur ever made.  and 2) cheap plastic ball spurs.
Recently, the ball spurs have been getting a workout.  I almost always wear them on Winds now, as my leg is finally educated enough to know the difference between calf and spur.  Plus, if it's over 68 degrees that dude needs a nudge in the ribs to get going. (#metoo).

BUT, they look dorky, aren't actually very spur-like and after a really hot summer where my trainer raised her eyebrow several times and said "really? I've been using a round rowel on him" I have been casually considering an upgrade to ye ol' spur closet. 

I find a lot of comfort in my big, soft, totally mild rubber ball spurs.  I like knowing that even if I lose my balance and accidentally JAB Winds with them, he won't really care - but the downside of that comfort is that when I do actually want a gas pedal, I don't have a good option.

And as I've lamented recently (though maybe not online): 


I have all the tack, all the gear all the everything I ever (ever) dreamed of (not the least of which includes two incredible horses).  So when the horse gods showed me something that I could actually justify shopping for - I shopped.

It's hard to make spurs fun and/or interesting without going off the deep end. 

For a while I looked at Signature Spurs, mostly because I remain obsessed with the crop I ordered from them and love their service. 

But I couldn't decide *what* spur I needed exactly, and with higher end spurs cresting the $100 mark, I didn't want to order 4 new sets just so I had everything to choose from.

That meant my eye turned to some of the manufacturers making spur sets with exchangeable shanks.  I stalked them on insta, I stalked online... and eventually I opted to go with American Equus.  (due in no small part to my obsession with their stirrups).

American Equus machines their spurs out of aluminum (also true of their stirrups and horseshoes), but that is a material I had never tried as a spur.  Also, they claim that their interchangeable spurs are super easy to swap, and can even be done in the saddle without removing your spur strap.  I hadn't ever seen the spurs in person, so wasn't entirely sure how this worked, but I had a glass of wine and placed an order.

The spurs arrived promptly, and came in a lovely box with customized foam inserts that presented the spurs and extra shanks beautifully. (I forgot to take a picture).  While they offer lots of (really fun) color options, I selected a conservative Show Chrome with the idea that I would potentially wear these in the hunter ring.

The spurs are really pretty.

Show Chrome spurs with round-towel option

Nice styling, crazy light, and very shiny.

The shanks are super easy to swap (as promised) and just require a stiff tug to get them out (they are held in by a compression fit and o-ring).

1/2", 1" and 1.5" options

I swapped the rowels out for the 1/2" shanks and headed for the barn. 

My one complaint is that the spurs themselves are very narrow, and harder than stainless spurs to widen (because - aluminum).  I wrestled with them for a minute and got them to a comfortable fit at my ankle, without having them too loose at my heel.

Before I hopped on, I played around with swapping the shanks while the spur was on my foot, and as advertised - it was easy without being SO easy that I'd worry about them popping out while riding.

Once on, I was really happy with how they spurs felt.  I liked the rounded tips, and felt like they were easy to use with nuance while still giving me some go.  I am also very particular about my spurs moving around while I'm riding, and these didn't slip once even though I didn't have them positioned on my spur rests. 

All in all, these spurs are off to a good start.  I like the look, I like the feel, and I really like the idea of being able to swap out the shanks. 

Winds is a horse that typically needs more spur in warm up than he does in the ring, and being able to downsize my spurs at the back gate gives me one less thing to worry about on course.

And isn't that what I really needed.. :)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Equitation Snapshot

In the name of archival integrity, I need to get some actual evidence of how Winds and I are marching around the ring.

why do these always look so small in pictures??
All in all, I am really happy with how we handled the Equitation ring at Thunderbird both weeks of August.  While I didn't have the big open gallop that I had in the field at Milner - I felt like we were as consistent as we have ever been and able to make (mostly) good choices when necessary.

Let's start with the first week:

Nothing was very equitation-y, but we rode well and overcame some of our goblins, namely staying straight on the left lead and stepping up to our distances then falling back.

Pretty great for us! We ended up 2nd out of 20.

Our second round was much the same, but they turned on the BIG sprinklers in the ring next door.  I didn't think twice about it because Winds doesn't care about such things, but toward the end as we came into the Judge's line, the wind shifted and blew the sprinkler mist over into our faces.  It was weird, and although you can't see Winds do much, he sorta fell in away from the mystery rain, and I lost his inside shoulder.  That set us up for a borderline late change and then I never really got him back up and balanced before the two stride.  We didn't chip in, but I didn't have him straight and he sorta jumped over his shoulder.  Somehow we won the class - but in watching the video, the tension isn't nearly as visible as it felt.

Week two, the course design was a tad more interesting.  Lots more singles and omg, a rollback. 
Winds was not intrigued by the jumps AT ALL and I felt like I was beating him around the ring.  This horse is so much easier to ride when he cares even just a little bit about what's in the ring, but it's hard to fabricate that the second week of a show. 

I made the mistake of enjoying my coffee while I watched some early rounds go in my ring - and managed to totally freak myself out.  Of the 8 rounds I let myself watch, 4 people fell off, two had refusals and only 2 got through clean.  Never in my life have I seen such a bloodbath at 2'9", and it did nothing to help my brain calm down as I went to get ready.  Usually I watch rounds so that my self talk is "see, it's fine. Everyone is fine, just ride the lines, it's fine. YOURE FINE.". Didn't work out that way this time, instead I saw all the nightmare scenarios I had been dreaming up come true.

Our first round was relatively uneventful (praise Jesus), I lost his shoulder in the rollback and had to add a stride.  In a perfect world if I held my track, I think there would have been one less and looked a bit better - but not tragic - we worked it out.  Even with the wonky rollback we ended up first out of 22.

The second round was FUN.  There were some end jumps that are really hard to see on the video, but we basically got to clover leaf around them which had me a touch worried given the fact that Mr. Casual was all but sleeping on the job. 

Turns out, it was exactly what we needed, and as soon as we turned up the centerline to a new fence Winds woke up, sat up and felt like a very rideable sports car. 

The difference in his interest and balance was SO tangible it's hard to discount.  This horse legit hates line/diagonal/line/diagonal.  Well, maybe hate is a strong word, but he sure doesn't care about it at all. 

We ended up 5th in this round - but fences 4,5,6 were hands down them most fun I had all week.  (that sounds sorta sad when I type it, other things were fun too..).  But as I look forward at my goals with Winds, I'm starting to shift them a bit.  I think maybe (horse gods allowing), this is the horse I take in whatever Medals I can find, and let him play in the derbies. 

I also have to note that we were 2nd on the flat both weeks - and in a division of 20 that is something I am really proud of.  I've been working a LOT on my ability to stretch and stay tall without getting stiff and I think maybe, just maybe I'm making progress.  The same girl beat me both weeks (damn teenagers), but I had her pinned as the winner even out in warm up.  Gorgeous rider, lovely look on a horse and really, really soft.  I'm totally ok riding behind someone like that.  There is no world where I beat her on the flat.

It was a great way to finish the Summer, and really a testament to how much I am starting to gel with Winds.  Love this horse.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Summer Shows, and New Baby Horse and Everything

Holy no blog.  I wish I had been inspired to write the last couple weeks because lots of fun things have been happening, plus a few cute things (LEADLINE) and one not so fun (MRI). BOOOOOO

But let's do the 60 second rundown, shall we?

Thunderbird.  Both boys went up to Tbird in August for both weeks of showing.  Windsor was a superstar.  He did one warm up class with the pro, looked bored, and then didn't come out again until the Derby, which was in a different ring and in hindsight, he was WAY TOO FRESH. 

Bored, but also fresh? V V Confusing

Whelp, lesson learned.  He overjumped everything, and while it wasn't his most fluid course ever, the 72.5 base score drew confused gasps from bystanders who aren't as biased as I am. It's the first time he hasn't made the handy... had to happen sometime!

Then it was my turn.  We did our equitation and managed to win a round and get second on the flat out of about 22.  I was thrilled. 
Turns out Pilates actually works.
Winds was awesome, and our courses were actually interesting.  We were champion.

All of my ribbons have been chewed on.
Quiz made his debut in the Baby Greens and won his first class each day and was SO TIRED in his second that some baby mistake usually came out.  But he is a DUDE.  Didn't bat an eye at anything.  No lunge, no extra rides, prep, voodoo, nothing.  He's just a solid citizen.  He peeked at the flower boxes exactly once as he hopped over and never batted an eye after that.

Best. Baby.
Week two was much the same repeat.  Quiz rocked the Baby Greens again, Windsy packed me around the Eq and the Hunters. 

We repeated our performance in the Eq - and had a nice finish to the show in our Hunters, winning one round, nabbing a ribbon in a HUGE flat class and getting our proverbial shit together in the classic to get 2nd (due to an 85 in our second round).

Also, I fell slightly in love with a Nations Cup rider, who I may have stalked a teeny tiny bit (equal interest in his horse, let's be real), bought a new show shirt, oh and d├ębuted my new Burgundy show coat from AA.  It was a good show.
(He's 20 and decidedly NOT single, but a middle aged girl can dream)
At home, Quiz has continued to be a total stud.  He learns every ride, has yet to get grumpy or say no, and even with a lot of rides by yours truly - is finding his balance and fitness.  I have yet to really fault him for something.

Winds was stepping a bit short at the end of the show, so Paranoid Polly over here had the vet out once we were home.  She confirmed that he was looking slightly off on the LF again, and that it did block out in the foot.  So we headed south for ANOTHER MRI to see what's up. 

Are things continuing to heal? Did he re-injure it? Is this the new status quo and I need adjust his management and schedule accordingly? Who knows. 

Well, Hopefully, I'll know - as soon as my vet calls.  Still waiting for the official report...

OH, and the kid did her first deadline class.  It was insanely adorable and there are so many photos that I need to do a separate post on that.  Hopefully I'll get around to that before she turns 16. 


Monday, August 7, 2017

Making it Official

Finally bit the bullet on Quiz' USEF, which was mostly delayed due to total name paralysis.  You guys had AWESOME suggestions, (and Quartermaster made the top 3, as did the Qrown ___" suggestions).

But the ultimate winner is QUOTABLE. 

I'm actually glad that I got to spend a little time with Quiz before locking in a show name.  While he is big and elegant, he has a quietness to him that made some of the bigger, bolder names seem like a poor fit.  So, Quotable it is.  There are only a couple registered with USEF making it one of the more unique options we considered, and I like the simplicity.  Also, much like Heir Apparent - I like that it hints at quality as opposed to declaring it.

Aside from the name, the first week of work has been a great one, and Quiz is exceeding expectations.

The sweetest
After a few days off to relax and get acclimated, Quiz got to work. 

He is admittedly significantly more green than I was expecting.  He lacks the strength to hold his balance for more than a few steps and his go to is to lock his poll and shove his head up into the sky, or curl waaaaaay too low. 

But, he is also significantly smarter than I was expecting, and in the short span of a week he is already steadier in the bridle, more responsive to the aids and totally willing to work.  I have to also give him credit that he appears to be totally Ammy-Proof.  He hasn't spooked once, no offered any tension in his work.  He's quiet and kind and follows you around like a puppy on the ground and tries desperately to understand under saddle.

I always thought that Windsor would be the most tolerant horse I ever had.  And while Winds is kind, he is also totally willing to let you make a mistake and act like he couldn't possibly have known better and helped you out.

Quiz seems to really want to make it perfect for you, he can't always, but his heart seems really, really impossibly good.

On the flat it's been about getting him straight and soft.  We're making progress.  He has a hard time staying organized in the trot (there is a LOT of movement), but his canter seems to be pre-made, and omg you could ride it allllll daaaaay loooong.  Love.

Tuesday he popped over a couple cross rails quite casually.  He peeked at the flower box exactly once, then jumped it with a total lack of interest every time after. 

Thursday I had my first real ride on him, and while I was exhausted from all the extra leg that he takes (Winds has made me soft), he was such a good egg.  I ended by jumping a few cross rails, and OMG he's fun.  His hind leg comes SO FAR under that you feel his stomp perfectly and the fences just show up.   My main problem seems to be that I don't have a good sense of his gas and brake pedals, so my adjustments weren't always what I was going for - but silver lining- He doesn't care! I parked him a couple times and he just lumped over the fence and looped away. 

I know our hopes and dreams change as we get older, so while I might not lust after a wild black stallion anymore, a tolerant gelding who doesn't care about mistakes makes my heart pitter patter.

We ended the weeks with another great hack and Quiz already feeling more responsive and consistent in the bridle.  He is a GOOD BOY. 

I'm' hoping to take him up to Thunderbird next week for a field trip.  Not sure if he'll show, but I'm curious to see if he brings his same laissez-faire attitude to a big, busy facility like Thunderbird.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Milner - The Ammy Rides

I know the Derby round was the most exciting news to come out of Milner, and no one is ever very interested in small, slow ammy rounds.  But for me, the headline at this show was "HOLY SHIT I LOVED EVERY ROUND."

Which, may seem like a close cousin to "OMG I love my horse."  But it's not.  I loved Pia - but she tried to murder me a lot.  I hated a lot of those rides - even though I "loved my horse." 

I got closer with Prair, because - well, Prair.  But really, even at our most relaxed, it always felt like our success was tenuous at best, and I was always ready for all the proverbial shoes to drop.

I guess I could say that I thought I had already loved every round on Windsy.  But that's probably like saying I thought I loved my high school boyfriend.  True statement at the time, but possibly worth some revision in hindsight...

But back to Windsy. 

I warmed up on Thursday for my first round, with the option to have a Low round before my division started.  Our warmup was lovely.  Not brilliant, but not argumentative. I found my pace and the jumps were coming up fairly easily. 

As we walked down to the back gate I just had this feeling that the Low round was going to be a waste of jumps.  So, we scratched it, and I headed in for my first round at 2'9" cold. 

I was a little nervous about the first fence.  It wasn't your normal Hunter-quarterline-single, which was enough to have me over thinking it.  But Winds lifted his balance and showed me the slightly forward spot out of stride. 


Then he came back to me, we stayed out of the bit of muck at the end of the ring and I tried hard to keep our step through the turn.  We did.  And stepped right up to the rolltop into the judges line. 


Then it was single oxer time.  Again, winds sat back, I kept him straight, and BAM, jump. 

Up the outside line, and home in the two stride.  (we swapped into the two stride, but I so didn't care).  At every fence I literally thought "oh, there it is, let's go get it" and added some gas pedal. 

Winds jumped open and round and super duper soft.  The lines were set long, which was also great since I'm used to choking him back - it was so fluid and fun to land and continue and jump out with some push instead of pull...

When we landed after the two stride, my smile was HUGE.  I have never, ever, ever had that much fun on course.  (well, maybe on XC with the old wonder pony, but I was 12, that doesn't count).

Winds was forward, I stayed soft, everything was small adjustments and just flowed. 

Thank god I scratched the warm up, because if I had wasted that round on a Low, I probably would have tensed up and butchered the second round when it counted....

The next day was the Derby, so all I had to do was stretch Winds' legs in the morning.  But Saturday we were back at it.

I was a bit tentative getting on - mostly just nervous that I would feel some crippling soreness or stiffness that I would be able to attribute to the bigger jumps in the Derby - but nothing.  Winds felt loose and lovely.

He was a bit slow at the canter so I picked up a crop (I prefer a shoulder tap and rubber ball spurs over a sharper spur..) and he was perfect.

As we walked into the ring I realized both the crop, and spurs were probably unnecessary.

He was looking at EVERYTHING.  Flowers. Grass. Jumps. Fence posts! OMG.  I had a brief PTSD flashback of Prairie's eyeballs popping out of her head and certain death - but I shoved those thoughts aside and tried to believe that Winds would be good.

Turns out he was perfect
We had the same weird first fence, and Winds was so fluffed up it was all I could do to not grab at his face and start a tug o' war.  But gentleman that he is, he sat back, waited for the fence and there was zero drama. 

Then I cut off the end of the ring (to stay out of mud) and had to be somewhat thoughtful about my track into a bending line on the outside.  Winds was light, and straight and we stepped right up to it.  Loved that line, and it was set long so we got to continue nicely and move up to the out. 

Didn't love my ride into the diagonal, I lost the hind end and ended up adding in.  Knowing the lines were long, I gunned Winds on the landing and he popped off his lead but we got up there ok.  In hindsight I think I could have been less panicked about making it up the line  and not lost my lead by finessing it a bit more, but lesson learned.

Then it was a single oxer set on the outside.  I had built up this fence as my boogie fence because without a real arena fence, lots of horses were bulging, never getting straight and then really messing up the distance.  Winds was still pretty keen at this point which made my track easier and straight wasn't an issue - so we made it through ok.  (I also realized I had been holding my breath and finally started breathing again on the landing, WHOOPS).

Finally, a smooth seven stride home and we were done (with a new favorite round in the books). 

Even with the swap, somehow we won the class, which was reinforced by a win on the flat (maybe the first time that's happened?).  It was a good Saturday.

Sunday we came out for one final round, and I decided to let Winds keep his hair down, so it was a bit of a casual day ;)

fluffy hair
Warm up was our trickiest.  He was dull again, and again I picked up my crop.  I remembered to put it down before we went in the ring, but I didn't have the same, lofty, eager beast under me. 

I was reminded by a barnmate that Windsor is almost always a bit more charged and looky the day after a Derby, but quickly returns to his casually bored self after a round or two. 

I think Winds was for sure bored, but also tired, and potentially a bit sore from jumping significantly more than he had been at home.  He didn't feel stiff per se, just lacked the lifted energy that was so magical for my first two rounds. 

This round felt rough by comparison.  I didn't feel that fluid connection and it sort of felt like I was grinding the gears in the corner.  My adjustments felt clunky and jarring, and while Winds didn't seem to mind, I never got a great rhythm that I could groove into

The video looks less awkward than it felt (thankfully), but still not our finest.  Mostly what I see now is that I didn't trust my canter, so I was fussing in the corner, then pushing him just past the distance even when it was right there.  Most of the time it was fine, but I forced him over his shoulder a bit.

This was fine.
this was a little tight.

All in all, not a bad ride at all, just not quite as magic as the others, but I am proud that I still mostly made good decisions and stayed with him, instead of totally panicking and getting in a fight. 

It was a fabulous show, I adore getting to gallop around the big grass field and we definitely came away with a confidence building outing!

Oh, and a championship, and a cooler.  That's always nice too.  I love this horse show and wish we got to be here more often.

Now it's a few weeks at home getting to know the new kid and gearing up for Thunderbird!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

MIlner Downs - Derby Time!

Last year, one of my favorite parts of the show at Milner was watching the Canadian Hunter Derby.  The big grass field lends itself to a Derby course - and I enjoyed learning about the Canadian format.

Going into this year I wasn't sure if Winds would have the fitness to enter again, but he felt so good at 3' on Thursday that we opted to go for it. 

Down here, the USHJA runs derbies over two rounds.  The first round is scored like a traditional hunter round (out of 100), with the opportunity for earning up to 4 extra points if you jump all 4 high options offered.  The top 12 horse and rider combos return for a second Handy round which offers a shortened course where the judging emphasizes efficiency and brilliance.  Again the round is scored out of 100, with a possible 4 extra points for high options. Scores are added together to determine the overall winner.  

I love the drama of coming back for the Handy Round in reverse order.  It's fun, and the top competitors have an idea of how much they have to push it in order to get a winning score. 

However the downside of the USHJA format is that it takes forever and spectators can lose interest watching 50 Classic rounds, and even in smaller classes the horses have to stand by for the Handy, which is sometimes tricky, especially if you've got multiple rides.

In Canada, while the course format and build is similar, they have condensed the Derbies to only one round.  You still get a base hunter score out of 100, but then you are awarded 2 points for every high option (there are 5), and also given a score for handiness on a scale of 1-10.  This means the high options and handy score account for a possible 20 bonus points, and can swing the total score dramatically. 

The other big difference, is that where the USHJA National Derby is 3' with high options up to 3'5" and the International Derby is 3'6"-4'  with high options that are at least 4'3" - in Canada they offer two height sections, one with the base fences at 3'3" and the other with the base at 3'6", but the height sections are still judged as one class.

I like that the one round format keeps the class a bit more spectator friendly (and for the moment anyway, I like that it is fewer jumps).  Also, for horses who also go in divisions with their owner, or do a full pro division, I think it's easier to add the Derby to your schedule when it's 12 jumps, not 20. 

But I digress -  One round, we had nothing else to show that day, so Winds was entered. 

While my excitement for a Derby can never be contained, I was also a little nervous to test the beast at 3'3".  He hadn't jumped that high since Paso back in November, which meant I wasn't sure if he would be overly excited and crazy, or stiff, or come up sore afterward...

Winds warmed up well.  He was a bit stuck behind the leg, but that was a problem we knew would go away once he was in the ring.  To his credit he was following the rein better than he normally does and was stepping through nicely on landing (which is my major paranoia these days). 

The disadvantage of the one-and-done format is that you don't know how handy you have to be to win.  When you come back in reverse order for the USHJA class, you have a sense if you need to go big and make up points, or if you can play it safe and try to just not screw up. 

In the Canadian class, especially if you are early in the order you don't know if someone is going to post a huge score after your go - so your strategy has to shift a bit.  For this round, the high options weren't really very high.  Some of them were nearly the same height, but offered a slightly more difficult track.  The plan was to pick up bonus points on 4 of the 5 options - leaving a split rail fence that was airy and on a tough track.  Other than that, there were options for some nice inside turns, long gallops and not a single related distance. 

Winds marched straight into the ring and looked FABULOUS.  Every time this horse goes in for a derby it reinforces to me that this is where he shines.  He loves hunting the jumps, and perks up in a way that he doesn't for Hunter rounds at the same height.  It's a joy to watch.

Things that I love about this round -

Winds looks eager and interested.

He landed all his leads easily


His big open step.

His cute squishy face.

The judge also loved his trip and rewarded him with a base score of 89 (his highest derby score to date) with 8 for the high options and a 7 for Handiness for a total of 104.   I was thrilled, but tried not to get too excited about holding first place, as last year we were knocked into second by the very last horse to go.

This year however, Winds held the top spot and got to lead the victory gallop, which is always a lovely frosting on top of a great ride. 

Next up - The Ammy rounds with yours truly.....

Monday, July 24, 2017

MIlner Downs - The start of the week

Last week we ventured to Milner Downs to return to what was one of my favorite shows last year.  It's hard to beat a big, gorgeous, grass field to gallop around in all week, but on top of that the staff is crazy friendly, the hospitality is great and it ends up feeling more like a fun summer camp than a frenzied horse show.

Our plan was to step Windsor up a bit from his extra (extra) light duty at Tbird last month and see how he felt.

Tuesday he hacked out well, so I was excited to see him go Wednesday. 

Windsor, was also excited to go Wednesday (though not excited about selfies) - and the single warm up round at 2'9" turned into three, as Mister Man lacked a bit of focus and manners during his first (two) trips around.

Loose hair, don't care!
Here's the first round - not bad by any means, but if you know Winds, you can see that he's powering off the ground and tight in his back, both signs that he wants to paaaarrrrrrrty.

By the third round he was a bit less excited to be out in the big world:

It was a bit to be expected, we haven't been lunging him at all (which I like) - and even last year when Milner was our 6th week of showing, he perked up quite a bit when he got out in the big field. 

We ended the day on a good note, and opted to hack the Under Saddle just to let him explore the ring a bit more.  With all the extra classes he ended up with a very unplanned Reserve Champion in the Schooling 2'9" Hunter division.

Definitely didn't mean to take him around the ring three times, but height doesn't seem to affect his freshness (much), so I'm glad we kept it low at 2'9" and let him work out his wiggles without too much effort. 

Looking at the schedule for the rest of the week, my 2'9" Modified AA's was stretched out over Thursday, Saturday and Sunday - leaving a nice gap on Friday for Winds to maybe contest the Derby. 

Since he hadn't popped over anything over 2'9" since last November (gulp), we added one round at 3' on Thursday to see if he felt loose, or if the added height brought out any old symptoms of discomfort. 

(looks like a different beast when he is braided)

He jumped the 3' better than the 2'9" so we finalized our plan to have him do the (one round Canadian style) derby Friday, and just cart me around one round at a time the rest of the week.

Stay tuned for the DERBY, and also my triumphant (low) return to my beloved 2'9".

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Review: Voltaire Hunter Bridle

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

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

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

Today we discuss what I think about it.

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

Voltaire's Hunter bridle (w/flash attachment)

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

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

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

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

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

But alas.  we got it. 

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

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

Blurry, but at least his whole face is included

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

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

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Meet Quiz! (and a naming contest)

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

Picture already shared.  Need more stat.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the guidelines:

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

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

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

Sound good? 


Monday, July 10, 2017

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

Belated, but happy, show round up!

Have you missed us? BECUASE I HAVE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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