Saturday, November 25, 2017

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

The last time I wrote, I let my goal to get my bronze medal with Gavin out into the universe.  After confessing my plans here, I went out and told my riding buddy (who I think is a little bummed since she's not super into dressage), my husband, my mom, and finally my trainer.

Surely if we can cross this water without rolling in it, we can do anything... AMIRITE!?!

Here is what you need to obtain your bronze medal per the USDF website (

1.       Rider must:

a.       Have a USDF Participating Membership (PM) or Group Membership (GM) when scores are earned

b.       Horse must have a USDF Horse Identification Number or a USDF Lifetime Horse Registration at the time the scores are earned

c.       Horse shall be registered with USDF in the name of the owner under which it is exhibited

d.       Scores may be earned on one or more horses

2.       Must have six scores of 60 percent or higher:

a.       Two at First Level from two different judges and two different rides

b.       Two at Second Level from two different judges and two different rides

c.       Two at Third Level from two different judges and two different rides

Hammin' it up for cookies

Once I started looking around the USDF website, I realized that with a little extra effort and money, Gavin and I could compete for Breed Awards (Welsh Cob), USDF Year-End Adult Amateur Awards and possibly Pony Awards (waiting to get his official measurement – he’s right on the edge).  Here is what you need to be eligible to compete for these awards per the USDF website (

1.       Rider must

a.       Have a USDF Participating Membership or Business Membership (regional group membership won’t suffice) and be in good standing

b.       Confirm you are listed as an adult amateur by September 30th of the award year.

c.       Meet the USEF dressage definition of adult (22).

d.       Birth date must be on file with USDF by September 30th of the award year.

e.       Horse must have a USDF lifetime horse registration when scores are earned

f.        Specific for all-breeds awards:

                                                               i.      Must be declared for a participating organization (Welsh Pony and Cob Society of America)

                                                             ii.      Must meet all requirements of the participating organization (whatever those may be)

2.       Training, First, Second, Third, or Fourth Level awards

a.       Must have a minimum of eight scores:

                                                               i.      Four different judges

                                                             ii.      Four different USEF-licensed/USDF-recognized competitions

                                                           iii.      Including two at 60 percent or higher from the highest test of the level

                                                           iv.      Median score of 60 percent or higher to qualify

There are similar awards offered by my regional dressage club (Rocky Mountain Dressage Society) and the qualifying classes all overlap.  To qualify for RMDS championships (held at the Colorado Horse Park) per the RMDS website (

1.       Horse/owner/rider must be current RMDS members

2.       Horse/rider combination must receive two qualifying scores from RMDS recognized competitions at the level of the championship class they they wish to qualify to ride in the current RMDS show year; one of the tests must be the highest test at that level

3.       Scores must be from two different shows and two different judges

a.       Scores must be a minimum of 60% for Adult Amateur

So… what does registering for all of these *wonderful* memberships cost?

1.       USDF Lifetime Horse Registration - $95

2.       Annual USDF Participating Membership - $90

3.       Annual USEF Membership - $90

4.       Annual RMDS Membership - $90

That’s right – just to compete for these awards, I’ll be spending nearly $400 purely in membership fees.  I’ve already purchased both USDF memberships and will be buying the remaining two when I can stomach it.  I'm planning on competing at training and 1st level.
It’s exciting and nauseating all at the same time.

Bro Time

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Why not me, why not now?

Nothing makes me miss my pony more than being stuck out of town all week at a work conference, especially when we're making such awesome progress! (More on that when I have more than just an iPad to write with).  And nothing makes me go crazy about goals like a good motivational speaker.  Put the two together and you get some intense pony goals.

The speaker said something, and though it's a saying I've heard countless times, this time it struck a chord with me.  Why not me? Why not now?  

So, I'm going to put it out into the universe. I want to get my bronze medal. And I want to achieve that with my athletic, plucky, sometimes fancy, sometimes pokey little pony.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Work-to-Ride, Tailored Sportsman Mid-Rise Side Zip

I harbor a bitter resentment to slacks and most work clothes in general.  It bothers me that they're not comfortable, not particularly attractive, and not something I want to wear outside of the office.  A little over a year ago, I swore off buying slacks.  I vowed to find a different path. 

Ultimately, I decided that my goal would be to buy clothes acceptable in both the working and riding world.  For some, this might be easy (if the work environment is laid back or if you work with horses), and for others, this may be impossible (true business dress required at work). 

To give you background on what I do and where I work - I work as a senior accountant in an environment that is firmly business casual, which lends itself to a degree of wardrobe leniency.  I do meet with higher-ups and sit on committees with directors, but my day-in/day-out is pretty much just interacting with Finance peeps

I thought it might be beneficial to other office ladies to review some of my picks and how they've worked out as work-to-ride.

Without further ado - let the first review begin!

Brand: Tailored Sportsman
Model: Mid-Rise Side Zip
Color: Charcoal
Size: 28R
Price: $189.99
Least attractive photo available
Pockets and belt loops
Side zip (notice slight wearing at the bottom.. hmmm)

Made in the USA! 
Hook closures so you don't bust outta the zipper

Workability: I'd give these an 8/10 on the wear-to-work scale.  There are several factors that work to their advantage for presenting themselves well in the work environment.  They're a dark color and the knee patches blend in (very helpful in passing them off as professional).  I wasn't sure how I'd feel about the side zip, and generally I'd say it's a bit of a pain in the ass (compared to a regular, centered zipper), but for work purposes I actually like it.  It makes the pants seem like a modern pair of fitted slacks.  The Velcro ankle closure is subtle enough to not be noticeable when wearing with slacks, but they aren't as "finished" looking as the ankle closures on the Le Fash breeches.

Velcro closure ankle, inside
Velcro closure ankle, outside

I tend to pair these with flats (either in tan or black).  Believe me, I've considered buying a pair of brown tall boots and just breaking them in for a couple of years at the office, but I think that may be pushing it a bit too far.  We'll see.  Sweaters work well with these breeches, as would a button-up.

Rideability: I'd give these an 8/10 on the wear-to-ride scale.  They're comfortable to ride in with a good amount of stretch, while still retaining some structure so you can't see every lump and bump under the breeches (a problem I have with the Sarafina breeches).  The dark color helps at the barn for minimizing any stains while grooming/riding/doing other dirty horse stuff.  The side zip still annoys me, but since the front zip Tailoreds sometimes catch my stomach with their clip/hook closures, I actually prefer these.  Velcro isn't super fun under boots, but there isn't a ton of extra fabric on these, and I've had no problem zipping up my boots.  I would wear these for everyday rides, lessons, and clinics (not that I have any money to do the latter).

Summary: I would definitely recommend these breeches as an option if you're trying to go incognito equestrian at work.  These breeches are easy to take care of (machine wash, and either hang to dry or tumble dry low) and seem to last forever with very little wear and tear.  They also come in a huge range of colors, some of which I definitely have my eye on for work-to-ride (Boysenberry, black, maaaaybe the moody blue).

Friday, November 10, 2017

Pony Punch

I trailered Gav for another lesson this afternoon.

No new pics of Gavin, so pics of puppy boy instead!


1) Gavin can get hurt by the trailer in ways I never dreamed.  In today's example, he hurt himself by excitedly punching his nose in the air to get hay loose from his net and accidently punched the side of the trailer... hard.  He clipped himself pretty good and got a little cut.  Poor guy looked about how one might feel if they just managed to punch themselves in the face.  Lots of confusion and hurt feelings.  He forgave the trailer after about 5 seconds and went back to eating.

2) He seems to be getting this whole tug the tail to back up thing.  What a good boy!

3) There's actually a pull-through at my new barn so I don't have to back it into it's spot.  How did I miss this the last two times I've trailered?!?! (great example of book smart v. street smart)

4) I might be the slowest truck/trailer driver in Colorado.  All the annoyed people behind me can suck it.
Was mega sick earlier this week.  Soup, blanket, and puggy boy helped get me better for my lesson.

Trainer's thoughts:

1) He tries all of his pony tricks to not have to lift his shoulders up, but once you free them up he becomes much suppler laterally as well as longitudely (maybe a word I just made up).

2) He's not strong enough to keep the shoulders lifted for long, so get some good work and then reward with a break

3) He's figured out that when I ask him to bend, it's easier for him to just bend his neck.  And I've totally fallen for it.  Must. Not. Fall. For. It.

4) If I ask for bend with inside leg and what I get in response is him pushing into that leg - give him three quick bops to say noooo - that means get away from my leg.


1) Walk shoulder-in on a circle - Inside rein is to be open away from neck, outside rein against the neck (no using indirect rein for bend).  Inside leg bump him, outside leg back to guard for swinging haunches.  Use whip behind leg if he doesn't get it.

2) Lateral work in general

3) Encourage long and low in warmup (Trying to build the right muscles rather than allowing the wrong ones to get stronger... he luuuurves keeping that neck high and tight.  Sorry buddy.

4) An arena or two in both directions of *up* canter with half halts to keep those shoulders up.

Picture from after lesson.  I look totally insane, but I'm documenting my love for my new Horseware headband (for cold ass ears) and two year old Kerrits vest that I adore (hides all flaws while lessoning, so ya know, don't have to feel self conscious)

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Searching for the Right Barn

I recently moved Gav for a number of arenas reasons.  When I was looking at new barns, I was determined to make damn sure that my new barn met all of my requirements (I hate barn hopping and I hate the reasons behind barn hopping).  So, without further ado is my boarding barn requirement list.  Do you have any have or have-nots to add to this list?


1.       Feed at least twice a day (with choice of quality grass, mix, and alfalfa)

2.       Safe living areas for horses (no loose wires, nails, metal sheeting, etc.)

3.       Muck stalls at least once a day

4.       Relatively clean/mouse-free barn (I know no barn can be totally mouse free, but a girl can dream, can’t she?)

5.       Clean water (either by auto waterers, or daily water changes)

6.       Some system to secure the horses at night (property manager, locked gates, etc)

7.       Owner/manager with good understanding of horses

8.       Good oversight of horse/human well-being

9.       Large-ish indoor arena (I do a lot of weeknight and winter riding so a nice indoor is more important to me than an outdoor) footing that gets groomed regularly and isn’t dusty

10.   Rules that seem fair and make sense for safety of horses and humans and that others follow

11.   Designated wash rack

12.   Space for my tack (either in tack room, or in locker)

13.   Trailer parking

14.   Harsh training methods are not tolerated (I could tell you some horror stories)

15.   Regular vet/farrier work required for all horses (vaccinations, worming, trimming, etc.)

16.   Bathroom available on-site (can be portapotty)



1.       Large outdoor arena with decent footing

2.       Jumps

3.       Trail/open space access

4.       Friendly barn culture

5.       Hot/cold wash rack

6.       Barn-hosted schooling shows or clinics

7.       REAL bathroom

8.       Washer/Dryer

9.       Fly/insect management

Boarding prices in Denver can vary wildly, but I'm used to spending about $450 a month for full care stall w/ run.  The barn we landed at about a month ago is $540 a month.  This includes a stall with run, any choice of hay, grain, fodder, etc, one large indoor, one extra large outdoor, several turnout pens, two large round pens (also used a lot for turnout), access to trails/open space, trailer parking, tack room (not mouse free I'm sad to say), actual real bathroom/club house, barn-hosted summer series of shows, and jumps/barrels/poles available for use. 

It's been a month and so far I'm really digging it.  It's significantly larger than the last barn I was at, but the arenas are heavenly to ride in (not so dusty I'm spitting dirt and large enough that it's not just one constant circle) and their hay doesn't have cactus (this is the real straw that broke the boarders back and made me go crazy horse lady).

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Trailering Alone

For some of you, trailering solo is old news, but for me this last week – it was a first.  A scary first.  Typically I have my friend to help me, and her horse is coming along to keep Gav company. 

I really value how chill and agreeable Gav is day-in-day-out, but I didn’t know how he’d react to loading first, to loading on the left side, to backing out of the trailer first (and alone), and to being in a new place without his safety blanket (aka big silver gelding named Sterling).

He’s a good boy, but he has his quirks.  One of which is trying to back out of the trailer at light speed.  This bad habit has only recently started (about 6 months back) and we’ve worked on it every trailering experience since he pushed under the butt chain of the old trailer and removed all fur/skin up his spine (yep… he was able to somehow get his butt under the chain and extricate himself from that trailer.  It was horrifying to watch, but he seemed okay with the whole thing. Ponies…).  The “hold up speed racer” training involves a dressage whip (for when he starts shoving his big ole badunk against the butt bar) and a person at his head with carrots (literally the carrot/stick training method).  I knew I wouldn’t have my handy-dandy carrot-briber for this trip, so I had to be smart and patient about how to load/unload.  For anyone curious about this behavior – Gavin isn’t particularly herd-bound or buddy-bound; he isn’t trailer sour or nervous in the trailer.  I think he knows he’s supposed to back out and he just goes too far in his efforts.

To ease my own worries, I decided to create a list of steps to follow for loading, unloading and I thought I’d share.  It won’t work for everyone (since we all have different trailer/trailer set-ups), but it could be helpful, or maybe you can share another tip with me!

Moooore cookies pleeeeease
Trailering alone - loading

1.       Hook up trailer

a.       Electric

b.       Chains

c.       Emergency brake

d.       Lock in tow ball

2.       Remove chocks and put in dressing room

3.       Pull to front of barn

4.       Load trailer

a.       Saddle/girth/bridle/saddle pad/half pad

b.       Grooming supplies

c.       Tie stuffed hay net into hay bag

                                                               i.      Add carrots to top of hay to keep him interested while butt bar comes back

5.       Open trailer up

a.       Windows

b.       Emergency door on left side

c.       Ramp

d.       Lock back window doors in open position (my trailer has a ramp and two upper doors with windows in back that open before the ramp comes down – these doors lock against the trailer)

e.       Lock in divider with right butt-bar (my trailer’s divider can’t latch to the sides to stay open at an angle.  I find it best to just lock it into place ahead of loading.)

6.       Load Gavin

a.       Load in left side of trailer (he will walk into trailer alone, but I’ve had to lead him in before, and when I do this I leave via the emergency exit door)

b.       Tie and give him treats

c.       Lock butt bar (calmly, slowly)

d.       Close ramp (calmly, slowly)

e.       Close emergency door and give him treats

                                                               i.      Untie (I leave him loose in trailer w/ his halter on.  I realize some people tie, and some people leave loose.  I prefer leaving his head loose in case of an emergency and also so that he can’t get caught up in the lead.  Let me know if you disagree with this!  I’m always open to opinions on safety for trailering)

f.        Close back window doors

7.       Recheck all connections to trailer are correct. 

8.       Confirm lights are working.

Short horse, tall trailer
Trailering alone – unloading

1.       Pull up to location and park

2.       Get dressage whip/treats handy

3.       Open back windows and lock into place

4.       Open emergency door

a.       Re-tie Gavin

b.       Give him treats and check his mood

c.       Wait for him to settle before going back to ramp

5.       Lower ramp

a.       Stand and wait for him to relax

6.       Once standing calmly unhook butt bar

a.       Wait for him to settle before going back to untie him. 

b.       If he starts back, make sure to correct him.  He only backs when told it’s okay to back (typical backing cue from head)

7.       Go to his head, give him a cookie – untie him and stand calmly

8.       Cue him to back

9.       While he’s backing, walk to the back of the trailer (in theory, I’d love to teach him to back by giving him a gentle tug on the tail that way I can already be there when he’s backing)

10.   Pull hay from trailer and tie him and hay together

11.   Clean trailer

Ultimately, I needn’t have worried.  He loaded/unloaded like a total pro and we had a wonderful first solo experience, but I definitely think it was worthwhile for me to think through the process step-by-step ahead of time, and I’ll definitely be using these procedures again when trailering alone.
Tired after his lesson :)

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Goals for November

Goals for November



1.       Soft elbows (as soft as I want his jaw to be)

2.       Track length of ride with length of warm-up, intervals, down-time, etc

3.       Don’t forget to give breaks

4.       Praise more often at smaller trys

5.       2 lessons (scheduled for November 10th, November 24th)


1.       Continue growing out mane – if it continues to look like a clown fro, roach it

2.       Get session for bodywork – with new half-pad, change in footing and size of arena, Gavin is moving like a champ.  Holding off on any chiro/acupuncture.

3.       Stick Gavin to determine if he can compete as a pony in 2018 dressage classes – per new dressage trainer

4.       Weight tape Gav with Confirmation pics (do this monthly going forward) – per saddle fitter


1.       Transitions

a.       Trot to walk (a stride) to trot

                                                               i.      Be patient, focus on prompt transitions with jaw staying soft, don’t ask until ready

                                                             ii.      Post until walking

b.       Trot to canter to trot

                                                               i.      Be patient, focus on prompt transitions with jaw staying soft, don’t ask until ready for both up and down transitions

                                                             ii.      3 reps on each lead, 3 sets with breaks in between

c.       Walk to canter with no trot in the transition

2.       Walk squares

a.       Helps Gav understand turning without bulging the outside shoulder

3.       Lateral work

a.       Leg yield along wall (walk)

                                                               i.      Helps Gav understand leg yielding in general

b.       Leg yield from quarter line (trot)