Thursday, February 26, 2009

I was selected for a NEDA Flextime Lesson! YAY!

I was contacted the other night via email because I was selected for a NEDA Flextime Lesson! YAY! Click HERE for more info on what I am talking about....

Basically, Flextime is a program through the New England Dressage Association for junior and adult amateur members. It gives you an opportunity to take a lesson from an instructor you may not otherwise get to have......at a very discounted price. The instructors who agree to do this are basically donating their time. You have to fill out an application and mail it with a $45 check. You must choose your top three choices of instructors (there were 34 different listed to choose from this year) and then you are selected based on application and postmark.

My first choice was Lendon Gray. I would have crapped my pants if I had gotten that lesson! I emailed Ms. Gray before I applied to ask her about stabling and such. Basically, had I received her as an instructor, I would have trucked to her NY farm for a long weekend, taken my Flextime lesson on Sat, and then paid for a full price lesson on Sunday. She was very gracious and told me that my plan would work out fine for her.

I ended up getting my second choice, Gwyneth McPherson, the trainer and manager at Pineland Farm in New Gloucester, ME. Obviously, a 45 minute trailer ride is MUCH different than a 5 hour ride......so I am pretty sure that was the factor as to why I was not selected for riding with Lendon. The application made it pretty clear that they would consider distance and feasibility of the lesson. I am now kicking myself that I did not make a note on my application that I had already spoken to Ms. Gray and she was supportive of me coming for a long weekend from Maine.

Oh well. I am still super pleased with being able to take a lesson with Gwyneth M. And it will be cheaper to truck to Pineland! LOL! But I would love to figure out a way to now get my butt to Gleneden for the weekend. I want to ride with Lendon! :)

Maybe I can convince a parental unit that sponsoring some of the cost of the trip to/lessons at Lendon's NY farm this summer would be a FANTASTIC 30th birthday present.........hey Mom, you reading this??? :D

Dreamy's STB Head Toss

Dreamy has a signature head toss. I have only ever seen other Standardbreds do this...specifically Volo who I wrote about here.

Anyway, on Monday night this week, I took the camera out with me when I did night chores. Of course, after a few pics the camera ran out of battery (typical), so I was unable to get her head toss filmed. Ah well....here are the pics I was able to take. She totally does this as her way of flipping me off. She does it when I dare to be late when feeding her. She does it in the winter when she is bored and not ridden enough. She does it in the evening when she is waiting for her treat. Both mares have me trained so that I give them a treat after they finish their grain. (They each get carrot chunks IN their grain....but then they get a cookie afterward...LOL!)

Interestingly, she only does the middle finger head toss for me. :p

So Dreamy finishes her grain first and proceeds to flip me off. I wait until both mares are done before I distribute a cookie to each of them. And because Sparky is a slower eater AND gets more grain, she has to wait.....hence the head flipping.

Funny story....when I was at EA in 2007 for five days....S took care of the mares. On the first night he told me something was wrong with Sparky. My heart dropped. He said that she finished her grain and then stood there staring at him. She was not rude, did not kick the door, but would not eat her hay while he stood there. He figured it was not colic, since she ate her grain, so he went out to do a few things in the yard and went back. She had eventually gone to her hay, but when she spotted him in the barn again, she went back to the staring thing.

Well, I was laughing by the time he finished telling me this.

"Did you give them each a cookie after their grain?" I asked him.

"Um........no. Was I supposed to? That was not in the directions," he replied hesitantly.

"Well, Sparky was waiting for her cookie. That's all."

Oh, too funny. Apparently Dreamy did not flip Shawn off when he forgot the cookies. She just saves that for me. :D

THE WIND-UP:


THE TOSS (you can sort of make out the way she does it.....it is a very specialized figure eight toss....again I have only observed this in STBs.)


ANOTHER WIND-UP:


AND THE EVIL EYED TOSS:

So attractive, Dreamy!

Here is a pic of Sparky.....would have taken more but my camera died.

And here is one of my crazy kittens. Too funny.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Today's Ride and a Fun Dilemma

So, after a week's vacation, it has been a week since I last rode. Pooh! The weather and temps just did not cooperate this week. Yesterday it was bright and sunny, but FREEZING with the wind howling. My mom was here (built-in babysitter!) so I was determined to ride, but it was just too cold.

So this morning, S was so thoughtful and recommended I ride in the morning instead of waiting for C's nap time at 1PM like I usually do. The forecast was calling for snow after lunch, so it did seem like a good plan. It was overcast this morning, but no wind and the temps were mid-30s. Time to ride!

Our ride was much like last Sunday. However, due to the storm this past week, there is now tons of ice in the driveway, so I had to either ride in the field or not at all. I tacked up, praying that the footing would be OK. It seemed to be to me, but I am not a 1000 pound horse with hooves.

Anyway, the footing was fine. It was a little more crunchy than it has been all winter, as we got some freezing rain (hence the ice in the driveway..), but Dreamy went around at the walk just fine. We broke a good path and she was happily in the bridle and marching forward. The sun broke out while we rode (and promptly hid again when I dismounted....weird!) so there was odd noises coming from the woods....snow dropping off the branches. It was enough to make Dreamy scoot her butt and jump a couple of times. Oh mare. She is NOT generally spooky, but she often will spend a few moments going, "WHAT IS THAT?" before she settles down again. After a few minutes of silly fluttery noises and one more tuck-butt-jump thingy, she sighed and figured life was OK again. :)

We did some trot work on the upper part of the hill where the snow was not as deep. But of course, my smart mare says, "HEY! Isn't this field where you let me CANTER??" So she was very up and sitting underneath herself, getting ready the entire time to canter. I made her trot a few times, did some walk-trot-walk transitions, and then practiced our stretchy walk. And she sighed and figured no cantering for her. It is my fault for doing our winter walk/trot work in the driveway and then only going to the field to canter. But why does she have to be so smart?

After I figured she had forgotten about cantering, I picked her up and asked. OH and what a nice mare.....right into the left lead like she was born to do dressage! We went about 8 strides and I brought her back, trot then walk....no pace (!!!!!). I almost ended right there, but it was so fun I had to do it again. LOL!

I spent some time walking her around again, as she was blowing pretty good. Cantering in the snow is lots of work! Her breathing came right back, so that was good. She might be out of shape, but at least she recovers quickly.

Then we went to the right. Not as nice. :( Her upwards transition seemed hard for her. She wanted to run from a pace (AHHHH!) into the canter in this direction. I sit up SO well and tried SO hard, but it just was not working. I tried 3 times, then just walked her out for a moment. She gets so jazzed up and I wanted to reestablish her calm mental state again.

OK. This time I decide to move her out into the deeper snow to ask for a canter. That way she would have to rock back and up to get the transition. We had made such a nice path, she was physically able to just run/plow into the canter. I know this is her weaker side, and I know she is not in good shape, but I really wanted a "decent" transition at least once.

The deep snow helped. She did exactly what I expected. She did rock back and come right up into the canter, but she also lunged her head forward. Well, we cannot have everything the way we want it, now can we? :) After a stride, I was able to get her to drop her head and the canter was so springy and balanced and calm! WOOO-HOOO! That was enough for me, so we spent some time walking and cooling out. We practiced some halts and called it a day.

I am proud of the Dream Girl and the fact that she really has not "forgotten" anything since last fall. Yes, she needs to regain her muscle tone and stamina, but that is easy to build back up. I am so pleased with her left lead canter today! Just having 7-8 strides of a decent canter is so fabulous right now. I did not have that a year ago. Hell, I did not even have a canter AT ALL a year ago! So even though I want to start lessons and I want the footing to be "normal", I cannot complain about my fabulous mare! :)

Oh, and my fun dilemma!? I would like to attend a show on April 19....but there are two different shows to attend! Which one do I do? They will end up costing about the same, though the 2-phase will cost a bit more in gas.

Dressage Show - 34 miles away (1 hour, 5 mins.) I would probably do Training 1 and 2. This is not a rated show, just a schooling show, but would give us a place to start this spring.

OR

Two-Phase - 70 miles away (1 hour, 25 mins.) I could do either the W/T test with 18" crossrails or the Mod. BN phase with 18"-2'3" jumps. I plan to do all Mod. BN this year, but I could justify the W/T as just a warm-up event.

They both open on March 6, so I have to choose soon! :)

And of course, right at about 1:30, it began to rain. I am SO GLAD I rode this AM! :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Friendship Award


A blogger friend On the Bit sent this award my way! Thanks OTB!!! I cannot wait to meet her this summer when I return to NJ to show. Actually I had debated on whether or not to invite her to the SPHO-NJ Banquet this month, but then I got thinking that she might think I was crazy, since we have never "officially" met in person yet. LOL! But anyway, I felt silly.....AND then I saw OTB's comments about the banquet and now wish I had just invited her anyway. I think we would have had a blast hanging out.

Next year OTB! You are so coming with me! :D

The award description:

These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.

So now I get to pass this award on to other bloggers. I chose:

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The 25 m. Muddy Circle Ride

Yay, I finally got to ride again! I despise winter, only getting to ride once a week if I am lucky. Blech.

Today was a pretty decent day, weather wise. It was sunny, the wind was calm, and it was in the upper 30s. The barnyard/driveway area is clear, except for one spot of ice that is easily avoidable. Of course, it is a little muddy, but not enough to cause the footing to be poor. And of course, this area is only about the size of a 25 m. circle, which makes things rather limited, but we did OK.

I wanted to go on the road and just do some LONG SLOW conditioning miles. But there was someone buzzing around the neighborhood on a four-wheeler, so I made the decision to live rather than get out onto the road and be killed by a stupid teenager illegally riding his four-wheeler. Gotta love rural Maine. *sigh*

But our muddy circle was OK. I did some walk stretching and bending followed by some short burst of trot, and then alternated a marching medium walk and a long and low stretchy walk. Dreamy has become very good at reaching for the bit in the free walk just from my leg...and she actually stretches all the way out. And then when I bring her back onto the contact she no longer is FUSSY. She did some excellent turns on the forehand and then on the haunches. She is so pleasant to ride now that she will actually accept the bit at all times. Good pony! We did some walk/trot/walk transitions too.

I had to be careful not to overdue it with bending on that tiny circle though. At times I tried to ride the area in a "square" shape, since Dreamy is not fit yet I did not want to keep her constantly on a 25 -ish m. circle the entire time. But I think I did OK with asking her to use her muscles and giving her a break.

Then we went out into the field. I was unsure what the footing would be like, so I did not know what to expect. We got some rain last week, so we lost a ton of snow. Last time I rode (2 weeks ago?) the snow was up to her belly. Today is was just about at her ankles, maybe her mid cannon bone. Also there was no ICE and while the first pass around was a bit crunchy, the snow was soft enough to actually make a pretty good base to ride on. She was being so good I decided to just try the canter. I started to the left, her better side. She picked up the correct lead but LUNGED herself into it. I was able to bring her right back to my hand and we went maybe 6-7 strides. I then brought her back and tried it again. I focused REALLY hard on sitting UP and not allowing her to pull me forward. It worked (YAY!) and I got a much better upwards transition the second time. I was impressed because she also did not get pacey (YAY again!) and it never felt like her back legs got all "tangled" up. That is exactly how it feels when she comes down from the canter sometimes. Almost as though she literally cannot figure out where to place her hooves. But none of that to the left. :)

I changed direction and again she LUNGED into the canter. OK, sit up and try again. She LUNGED again. OK, walk for a minute, regroup, SIT UP, half halt, and BOOM she did a very nice transition into the canter to the right. Dropped her head, tucked her butt, and there we go. Yippee! I worked SO HARD to sit up and ride her correctly. And again, no pace and no "tangled" back legs.

I realize that 6 canter strides is not very exciting, but for her to be having decent transitions into and out of the canter in FEBRUARY and in the SNOW makes me so pleased. I was (well..still am) worried about where we will be this spring when I start her back into work "for real", so I am hoping today's ride is an indication of the fact that we did not lose anything! :D Fingers crossed.

She was pretty pleased with herself and did not think we should end there. It took half the 40 m. circle in the field to get her to walk....LOL! She was bouncy and sitting down, saying OK Mom, can I canter again? I know better than to push her right now and I wanted to end on a good note anyway, so the answer was no. About 12 strides later she finally sighs and relaxes...OK Mom, if you SAY so. Silly mare.

I walked her back out to the yard to just cool her out. She was just warm enough that had I cantered again she would have been sweaty. Out of shape, huh, mare? :) I walked her around on a loose rein, then I picked her back up and did some walk/halt.walk transitions. She was fussy and the first 5 halts were rather jittery. Still a little high from that canter? LOL! Then she grew bored with me and sighed......I got a bunch of nice halts and she moved right off my leg when I asked into a marching walk. I let her relax again on a loose rein and called it a day.

I am so excited to get back into the swing of riding and taking lessons. I plan to work SO HARD this year and really see some progress in our canter. I know I can do it, and I know Dreamy can do it. I just need spring to get here! :) I really think her canters today are a sign of what is to come. Bring on the mud and bugs!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Dreamy is in the MDS omnibus....twice!

Here are two neat photos of Dreamy I came across in my newly arrived Maine Dressage Society 2009 omnibus. I was not aware that either pic would be used, so it was exciting to see them!

The first is an ad for the upcoming Linda Zang symposium. I have been checking the SMDA website nearly daily for the application. I am planning to apply to ride Dreamy with Ms. Zang, and I am crossing my fingers that I might be chosen! Of course, even if I am not chosen to ride (it costs a couple hundred bucks for a 45 minute lesson...) I will plan to audit the clinic.

Now, of course it is hard to tell if this is really my horse used as advertising. But I saw that pic, saw the white spot on the shoulder, and if this is not Dreamy, I will eat my hat. It HAS to be the two of us...and I think it was from a SMDA show in 2007, and the pic was taken by R. Cuffey.



The next photo was used in an advertisement for SPHO-Maine. Now, personally I think the ad was poorly done, since it does NOT even SAY SPHO-Maine on it! DUH........but I don't really care. I like the fact that Dreamy was displayed prominently in the upper right hand corner. Pretty cool! Not sure who did the ad, but I would imagine the aforementioned R. Cuffey would have played a part.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Very Happy Hay Day!

So, I have had about 100 bales of AWFUL hay in my barn. Reason? See this post here and here.

I finally got around to putting an ad in Uncle Henry's about the hay. I wrote something like Hay for sale, dusty but stored in the barn, first crop, $3.00/bale, you pick up. We bought it for $4/bale, but because it was so dusty from mold, I did not feel right about selling it for that much. We figured we would just take a hit on the price and chalk it up to bad luck.

Well, it finally went in last week and I got three calls. The first one was from a neighbor of mine who ended up buying 66 bales for her new donkeys. Cool. I guess donkeys are OK with a little mold.

Then I got two calls the next night and told them both that whomever showed up with the money in hand would get it, first come, first serve, no promises. One person from the neighboring town came the next night, money in hand, and bought 40 bales. Then he and his wife decided on the spot to bring that load home and come back for the rest. They came back, loaded the remaining 34 bales, and off they went. I stood in the barn, cash in hand, moldy hay GONE and did the happy dance!

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY! :D All 140 moldy gross bales of hay are gone! I am so freaking happy that the $140 we lost is just fine with me. I really figured I would be stuck with this nasty hay and would have no place to put the new stuff this year.

The interesting part is that even the last bales we loaded (meaning the FIRST that came into the barn last summer) were full of white dust. Now you could not see the mold on the hay, but it was certainly covered as evidenced by the huge puffy dust clouds. And it stunk! So for my hay guy who sold it to me to tell me that it was MY fault for the hay being moldy was just downright lies. If it was my fault for having a "humid barn" then only the outside layer of bales would have been moldy NOT the inside bales! So having moved the innermost bales last night proved to me that it truly was made incorrectly (baled when wet) and that my hay guy is an ass. I am SO THANKFUL that I have a new hay guy who promised that if I am ever unsatisfied with any of the hay I buy from him I can have a FULL refund as long as I return the bales. He just won't pick them up himself. Not a problem! (My new hay guy and I went to college together so I know him and know he is a good guy....for real).

But the worst part? I warned all the callers that is was dusty. When this couple came out to look at it, I assured them if they were unsatisfied I would have NO problem with them passing on it. I opened a bale and SHOWED them the white dust. The wife liked the hay anyway (??) but wondered if her two geldings would mind the dust. I almost think she thought I meant "dirt" dust and not "mold" dust. I offered to give them one bale to try, and if the horses disliked it they could just throw it on their manure pile and be done with it.

Well they must have gone home and fed it right out, because within an hour they had called back and said they would be coming the next day to buy a load. While they were loading it, the white dust was EVERYWHERE and it stunk like mold. I mean, I personally would NEVER have bought this hay. But she was just tickled pink and was raving about how nice it was, and about how her horses would not touch the other hay she had and only would eat that one bale from me. Now, I realize that at only $3 a bale it was a bargain for her, but even for a bargain I just would not be able to bring myself to feed it to my horses. I dunno......I don't mean to judge this woman, but really, it was so bad. I felt AWFUL thinking of her horses eating this hay. And the worst part is we have the same vet! I hope her horses do not colic and I somehow find out about it. Oh well. It takes all kinds, I guess.

Anyway, nothing else is going on. I am just pretty darned excited that the only hay left in my barn is GORGEOUS and yummy and mold FREE!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

SPHO-NJ Banquet Pics

Pics of the award table...



I tell you, SPHO-NJ knows how to put on an awards banquet! The awards are gorgeous!


Some of the gift baskets from the Chinese auction....


Here is the Taurmade award Dreamy won, with presenter Helene.


Here I am with Rob winning the Training level horse award from the National show.


Here I am winning the reserve Ambassador Standardbred award.


Here I am winning the overall Combined Training award.


Here I am winning the overall Dressage award.


Here I am with ALL my awards! :D


Thanks SPHO-NJ!!!!!!!!! :D And can I just say that I LOVE Rob's shirt??????? I am dying for a Burberry purse in that pattern! ROFL!!! ;-)

Here is the ad I bought for the banquet program. Rob designed it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Slideshow

This is the slideshow I created for the SPHO-NJ banquet, held on Sunday, February 8, 2009. If anyone wants to purchase one of their own, please let me know. They cost $25 through One True Media.

SPHO-NJ and National Awards banquet 2008

I had AN. AMAZING. TIME. at the SPHO-NJ banquet this past weekend! I am so glad I was able to make the 390 mile (780 round trip) journey. It was so fun to see everyone and to just have a good time.

SPHO-NJ puts on a fabulous banquet and puts all the banquets I have attended here in Maine to shame. Not only are the awards simply fabulous, but the atmosphere, the food, and the people are just outstanding. I have never met such a dedicated and inclusive group of Standardbred owners. They have treated me like one of their own, despite the fact that I am from Maine. They have supported my competitive aspirations without thinking I am a "show off". They have never once made me feel bad for supporting the racing industry. It is a shame that I have to go all the way to NJ to get this, despite the fact that there is an SPHO chapter right here in Maine.

The dinner was so yummy. The gift basket Chinese auction was outstanding! I donated a $30tack shop gift certificate to the auction, and spent $20 in auction tickets, but alas I won nothing. That's OK though! :) Someone bought a $500 veterinarian gift certificate for $1000! HOLY COW! And the family that won the 50/50 (which was around $500) gave the money back to SPHO-NJ! That kind of stuff is just so cool! It showed me that the SPHO-NJ folks are truly working FOR the club, not for their own agendas. Again....sad that I have to travel almost 400 miles to get this.....

Here is what my amazing mare accomplished in 2008, her second year of showing, through the SPHO-NJ:
  • 2008 Taurmade Memorial Dressage Training Level High Percentage Award (73.2%)
  • National Horse Show Training Level Grand Champion
  • Grand Champion Dressage division
  • Grand Champion Combined Training division
  • Reserve Champion Ambassador Standardbred of the Year
  • Third place Versatility Award
  • Third place 2-Gait Senior Horse division
  • Fourth place General division
  • Fourth place Demos, Expos, and Parades division
  • National High Point Standardbred – Fourth Place

It was very special to win the Taurmade Memorial trophy as high point Training level horse, seeing as Taurmade was a very special horse that belonged to my friend Helene from NJ. Taurmade had colic surgery in 2007 and ended up having to be put down from another bout of colic just seven short months later. He was only seven years old! :( Taurmade was a magnificent horse and was doing dressage before I even thought "Dreamy" and "dressage" in the same sentence. He did more for dressage than most horses will do in their lifetime. He was a true ambassador of the breed, impressing people and judges in demos and at shows. He even was shown by young junior riders to blue ribbon wins! Taurmade had a heart of gold and though I never had the chance to meet him, he hold a place in my heart and is a horse I admire much like Honest Appraisal "Muffin" whom I wrote about here.

Dreamy was also named the reserve Standardbred Ambassador horse of the year for SPHO-NJ. Taurmade was the winner of this award, and I felt honored to have placed second.

Having been the National High Point Standardbred of 2007, I knew it was silly to think we would repeat that title. We ended up fourth, and I am very pleased with that. My goal was do move up a level in both dressage and eventing in 2008, and I knew that moving up would mean lower scores. But despite a move up, we had a good year. We won 19 year ends for 2007 and 21 for 2008. Not too shabby. :D My overall show goals for 2008 were to be successful in our move up (which we were) and to try to be champion of both the overall dressage and combined training divisions for SPHO-NJ (which we were). So all in all, I am very pleased with our 2008 competitive performances.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Good Ride on Sunday

I was finally able to ride this past Sunday after it being so darn cold for so long that doing anything was impossible! It was just above freezing, so still not "warm", but better than below zero!!

My mare was awesome for not having worked in months. The driveway is plowed well enough to ride and there was a spot on the edge where the grass was showing so I was able to trot for about 6-7 strides! LOL! Funny how that makes me excited in the dead of winter.....trotting 6 strides! YAY! So I did a lot of walk/halt transitions to get her sensitive to my leg. Boy, she was like "HUH? Leg? But I am on vacation MOM!" It took a few minutes, but I got her right there between my leg and hand. Stopping and walking with a perfect connection to the bit. No head tossing and using her hind end! Yay! And the best part is she did it without having a hissy fit! I am hoping that is something of her past......crossing fingers.

Then I did a little bit of walk-trot-walk. Again, I rode quietly and was firm with my rein/leg and she just accepted the contact and was smooth and comfortable! I did some sitting trot and then posting the next time around, etc. Now I can finally sit to her trot when she is connected to the bit! :D It is so nice! I used to think her sitting trot was so horrible, but really is was just because we were all unconnected and messy...well not THAT bad, but certainly not like we are now (Thanks Judy the fabulous instructor!!!!). Now, granted she does NOT have the smooth trot that my Morgan does, but it is really not as bad as I used to think.

My trot goals for this spring are going to be to continue to improve our sitting trot and develop a stretchy trot circle. We played around with stretching for a few strides at the trot here and there last summer, but never for a full 20 m. circle. And that is one of the movements in Training 4. So I gotta get on that. :) Plus after all the work I did to get her to stretch and come back in the walk last year, I now need to do it in the trot. Baby steps!

Then I took her out in the field. I did not realize the snow was up to her BELLY! Holy cow! So I asked for a trot and it was SO HUGE I thought I was going to pop off. I literally had to ask her to halt/walk with my voice because she popped me almost on her neck! LOL!!!! Good thing she stopped dead in her tracks. I was laughing out loud and Dreamy was like "What's the matter?" She is so good. :) I knew if I fell off, it might be a bit cold, but it certainly would not have hurt.

So I figured what the hell and let her canter once in each direction. It was so fluffy and easy to get through. Her canter was FANTASTIC because she had to rock back on her hind end to propel herself through it. LOL! :) :) :) It was like "Cool! Is this my horse???" She was blowing so I only went around each way once...two roughly 40 m. canter circles. I figured that was plenty for my out of shape mare! I went back out to the driveway and walked her around for a while. She was not sweaty and her breathing came right back within a minute. It was so fun! I think if we broke up the snow a bit more we could ride out there just fine. But it was just above freezing, so I did not want her to use her lungs like that. My vet tells me that she can probably handle more than I think......as long as I am very careful and avoid extremely frosty mornings or frigid days that may affect Dreamy’s breathing. Of course, I am a worrywart, so I always play it safe with her anyway.

I got her a new girth (see previous post) which I used and it fit so much better than the other one. I still cannot believe she uses an 18". My billets are so freaking long! And she liked her "new" bit just fine. LOL! I knew she would not notice a difference.....seeing as it is the same exact bit. But now I am happy to not have to change bits a couple of times a week....and at each event!

Ah, I am glad I got on. :) Only 23 more days and we will be in March! I am so excited! Bring on the heat and the bugs! :D

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Good Weekend: A Trip to the Tack Shop

This past weekend was a pretty good weekend. For one thing, it did not snow! :) Yesterday I drove down to Double G Ranch tack shop. C got to spend some time with Grampa so I could have some alone time to SHOP! :)

Armed with gift certificates from Christmas, I was ready to shop. The biggest thing I wanted was a new pair of riding boots. My dad bought me my first pair of leather boots back in 1997 when I entered college. He wanted me to have new boots as I was riding in the college's riding program. It took forever to find a pair that fit, as I have small feet and wide calves. I do not even know what brand they are, but I do remember driving all the way to Wellsley, MA to the Dover store to get them (this was before Dover was in NH).

Anyway, my trusty boots have about had it. They were well worth the money spent 12 years ago, and I will still keep them of course. But it was time for a new pair, especially for showing. Dad asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and I said NEW BOOTS! Because he knew he would never find the right pair, he gave me a large gift certificate. :) Then my mom asked what I wanted so I told her a gift certificate to this same tack shop. :) I never have unlimited (well....not "unlimited", really....but it sure felt like it!) money in a tack shop. I have to save and budget for new horse stuff, so to have these gift certificates was very exciting.

I ended up with a pair of Ariats. I tried on the other brands they carry (Ovation and Saxon) but they just did not fit right. If the calf fit, then the ankle was too big, or vice versa. It was not good.

So they had two types of Ariats; basically it was a $200 pair and a $330 pair. I found that the size 6 with a wide calf and meduim height fit well. But in very general terms, the cheaper pair did not have as much support and was "floppy" around the ankle, whereas the more expensive pair had a stiff ankle, more support, and a steel shank (??). So of course, the $200 pair was more "floppy" in the ankle, so there was too much room. Eventually they would have become very scrunched up when the leather broke in and the boot "dropped".

This is so my life. Only the most expensive pair they carry actually fit me perfectly. Now $330 is MUCH cheaper than custom boots, so I suppose I should feel lucky. But MAN! I could have used that extra $100 on the gift certificate for other stuff! LOL! :) Dad's gift certificate covered the boots, which was nice. I am lucky that my dad is able to do this type of stuff for me. Because alone I could NEVER have bought these boots. And they will easily last me another 12 years. As the salesclerk said, I could have bought the cheaper brand (Saxon) and made them work. But I would have been back in a year or two for another pair. These Ariats will last for a long time.

The weird part? It has a zipper all the way down the back! I was told that all boot brands do this nowadays. I am not crazy about it, but have been told I will like the zipper. I guess my boot pulls can be put away for now! And of course, these boots fit perfectly, which means they are SUPER TIGHT in the calf. They are fine after a few minutes, but MAN they are tough to get on! So I am glad I decided to get them NOW and not a week before my first show. LOL! I can wear these around the house and break them in before they ever go out to the barn. I was even thinking of wearing them at school (under a long skirt of course) for a while.....bringing other shoes of course to change into. But even just spending one class period in them would help! I just don't want blisters if I can help it! :)

So here are my new boots! They are the Ariat Challenge Field Boots. I was going to get the dress boots and embrace my inner Dressage Queen, but this same boot that fit so well as a field boot did not fit the same in the dress boot! It was too loose in the ankle! This is exactly why my 12 year old boots are field boots....for some reason they fit better in the ankle. So since I am not planning on competing at Second Level anytime soon, and I still like to event, the field boots are just fine. :) I got this pic online...this is not me.

I also got a free Ariat fleece vest with my purchase! Yay! I am addicted to polar fleece and already have 3 vests. But my other choice was a blanket or a hat. Nah. :) It is a black vest with the Ariat logo on the chest in brown.

I checked out the consignment room, but there was nothing I couldn't live without. I have found excellent deals on breeches in the consignment room (like my brand new pair of Kerrit full seat breeches in a cool blue shade for only $15!!), but there was nothing in my size yesterday which was a bummer.

So I also bought:

  • New pair of SSG black gloves for showing
  • Blade wash
  • Effervescent brush cleaner
  • 2-pack of those purple horse shavers
  • 18" Ovation Airform chafeless dressage girth for Ms. Dreamy
  • JP Korsteel eggbutt french link snaffle bit for Ms. Dreamy

My show gloves are getting pretty ratty, so I figured I would get a new pair. I ran out of blade wash when I trace clipped Dreamy a few weeks ago, so I need this. The effervescent brush cleaner is something I have been wanting to try, but at $4 a pack, I usually talk myself out of it. I figured I ought to try it, as it looks like good stuff. And if not, then at least it was only my gift certificate and not my own money. And those purple horse shavers are so necessary to my life! I had to be sure I was stocked up....I go through about 6 of them a show season!

Now, this new saddle (which I completely adore!!!!!!!!!!!) has the longest billets ever. Dreamy and Sparky each wear a size 46" with the AP saddle, so I was fine with the 26" dressage girth on the old County I used to have. Then with the new Duett this past year, I had to get a smaller girth. I got a 22" and it was STILL too big! I was stupid and cut the sewn-in size tag off, so I could not return it. I made it work by punching more holes in my billets......but seriously I was on #7 hole in the off side and #6 on the near! HOLY CRAP! So I finally decided to just get a new girth. The 18" in the store looked SO TINY! The sales girl was like, "Wait, how big is your horse?" I reply..."Ummmm......15.1 hands?" She looked at me like I was crazy. I told her that I had VERY long billets and I had this exact girth at home in a 22" and it was so big it was up to the 6th and 7th hole. She still thought I was crazy......but I tried the girth today and it is PERFECT! Hole four on each side!!!!!!! :) It looks SO MUCH better.

Also I got a new bit. Now, it is not "new" to Dreamy since it is the exact same one she uses now. LOL! Why did I get another bit that is exactly the same? Well I have been thinking of getting another one for over a year, since it is such a pain in the butt to change bits from my dressage bridle to my AP/jumping bridle all the time. It is especially stressful at a show! So I was feeling rich having a gift certificate and splurged on the $33 bit! LOL!

So overall I had a very successful shopping trip! I could have just browsed around for hours, but it is kind of a weird store. It is HUGE so they always have salesclerks all over the place, asking if you need help. But it is almost too much. If you say you are just looking, they hover just a few feet away. I always get the feeling that they are watching me. As if I would EVER steal anything from anyone! But it makes me feel like a criminal! So I spent just over an hour there, much of which was spent trying on boots.

After such a great shopping trip, I had an equally great ride today. But that is for another post...