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Miles Sept 2013

New Clothes

Here in fly over country we experienced a gorgeous fall weekend, with mostly sunny skies and temps in the upper 60’s by late afternoon. Fiancé (it’s still so exciting to call Sam that!) and I trekked out to the barn on Saturday after some early morning rain. Although I had to ride inside, we had some company and Miles was great. It was tough to get him moving at first, but he perked up and we had a really nice hack.

I focused on adjustability at the canter, using the natural shape of the ring: shorten in the turns and lengthen down the long side. We did this both directions, and Miles did great! I think the key is to use more of my entire body to ask for the shorter stride, rather than just half halting with my arms. When I slowed the rhythm of my hips and arms, Miles shortened quickly and easily; and when I swayed my hips for a bigger canter and let my arms flow with his stride, he opened right up.

We had another great ride on Sunday, where I really focused on our partnership. I am very goal-oriented and sometimes it’s hard for me to not do specific exercises to work towards a specific goal. But I realized last week that I am hindering our progress by riding this way right now. Miles and I hardly know each other, and before we launch into the very specific skills, we need to master the basics of how we communicate; we have to walk before we can run.

So I did some ground poles, but once we got good spots and even striding, I called it quits on that topic. No arguing over adjustability over poles! Then we worked on transitions to the canter, from both the walk and trot. At the beginning of our ride, they were very rough. But of course as soon as I asked Sam to watch, they were all perfect. So we ended on that fabulous note.

But the big project of the weekend was new clothes! As I previously mentioned, I ordered some blankets from SmartPak to try, so Mr. Miles was subjected to standing in the crossties while I played dress-up.

Blanket #1: SmartPak Deluxe High Neck Turnout Blanket (Heavy)

I loved the fit of this blanket on Miles. The length was just right, front to back and floor to ceiling (so to speak). The front closure made it easy to adjust to his narrow chest and small neck; plus he looks very stylish in hunter green, if I do say so myself.

Sam appeasing Miles so I can take more photos.
Why am I wearing this stupid blanket?! It’s 65 degrees out!!

Verdict: I’m definitely keeping this one!

Blanket #2: SmartPak Ultimate Turnout Blanket (Light)

I was excited about the 10-year guarantee, so I just had to try it. I ordered a 78 since that’s what I measured the pony at. And while I love the sheet itself, and several of the features, I don’t love the fit on Miles. What do you guys think? (Sorry in advance for terrible cell phone pictures!)

I love the front closure!
Front to back length looks good.
But it looks a little long?? What do you think?
Of course, these blankets come in 3″ increments, so the next size down is a 75, and I just don’t think it will be long enough front to back. Plus they are currently out of stock. So what do you guys think? Too long, or does it fit okay?
Miles Walk Sept 2013


Miles and I had our customary Thursday lesson last night, and it ended up being a crowd! Four of us total in the lesson, with some extra spectators who came to meet Mr. Miles. Our resident jumper riders set a huge, beautiful course for us with jumps everywhere. I laughed at their triple combination, but they were nice enough to give us hunters a diagonal single, outside line and diagonal line.

During this time of our relationship, I really want to focus on the basics for both myself and Miles and concentrate on growing our partnership. As I’ve confessed before, I am easily over-faced and generally not very brave rider; I’m going to need time to trust Miles and gain confidence on him.

So with that in mind, we started off slow with some flatting and ground poles. I struggled with the ground poles a bit, but it’s all part of the process. I want to have a slower canter rhythm and Miles just wants to just canter down the line without much interference. He knows how to be adjustable, is easy to step up and respects my half halts… he just doesn’t like them; compressing his body and stride is difficult. I’m not going to push the issue at this point: as long as he listens, the finer point of him giving and accepting my half halts more gracefully will come in time.

We then moved on to a small outside line: trotting in to a crossrail and cantering out over a small vertical (a riveting 18″ for our audience). We were able to fit in six strides, and I was proud of myself for sticking with my plan, committing to my half halts and making it work. But when we opened up for the five, Miles was much happier. I must remember that Miles is not Vinnie who can take a half-step at the base of the fence, but also not Diamond who will launch for the long spot.

After a break for jumpers, I did a mini course, trotting into the diagonal line, cantering around the the outside line and finishing up over a diagonal gate. Everything was small, crossrails to 18″, but Miles was great. He went over everything without hesitation or even a peek at the jumps (see the small things I need to increase my confidence?). He let me hold back in the diagonal line, gallop up the outside line and chip in to the final diagonal fence (oops). We had one simple change that was snappy, and we didn’t have to do any circles to get organized or re-balance. I did this course twice and it was better the second time, without the chip to the final fence because I remembered it and asked Miles for more canter in the approaching turn (go me!).

We finished up with a final course of 18″-2′ jumps: up the diagonal gate single, down the diagonal line and up the outside line. This time we cantered the entire course, and got two flying changes, with decent distances, correct striding and no extra circles. I was beaming!

Love him!

Lots of peppermints and kisses from myself, as well as his adoring fans (during which Miles napped). Everyone commented on what a great match he is for me, and I have to agree. He’s been such a solid citizen so far, I can tell we are going to have tons of fun and learn a lot together; something I am so looking forward to!

hunter princess blog hop logo

Blog Hop: A Princess Stereotype You Break

In the latest edition of She Moved To Texas’ Hunter Princess Blog Hop, Lauren asks Is there a way that you “break the mold” of the stereotypical hunter princess?” 
While there are many physical aspects to being a hunter princess that I don’t possess, I break the mold from the inside out. When I think “hunter princess,” I not only see expensive clothes and tack aboard a six-figure warmblood, I picture her gossiping and putting down those around her. And I am none of those things, or at least, I try very hard not to be.

I can respect someone who is more fortunate than I, and can afford more expensive things. Sometimes that’s just the luck of the draw… unfortunately I was not born Jessica Springsteen. And you never know about that warmblood, maybe the rider found it in a field and worked hard to get to where they are today. But what I can’t get over is mean-spirited gossip and rude comments about others just because they don’t have what you have.

So I don’t do those things. I try very hard not to be judgmental about those around me; just because someone isn’t as good of a rider as I am or does things differently than I do doesn’t give me the right to put them down. Instead of excluding them from this sport, this passion, I want to encourage them to learn more and become more involved. No matter how incorrect or poorly ridden a round in the ring was, I always try to say something positive — whether it’s someone from my barn I ride with all the time, or it’s someone I’ve never seen before in my life.
And just because that girl isn’t wearing Tailored Sportsmen’s or a GPA doesn’t mean she’s not going to kick my ass at the show.

Miles Trot Sept 2013

Back to Basics

Now that Miles is officially mine, I wasted no time doing things the way I like to do them. Out went the size 84 fly sheet, the Beval Loose Ring Snaffle, chain lead rope, SmartPaks and Equine Senior grain. I want to get back to basics and start from the ground up; I’d rather add things back into the program (like supplements or a stronger bit) if he needs them, but I don’t want to continue to do things just because that’s how they’ve been done in the past.

My mom came down for a visit this weekend to see the rock in person and visit her new grandpony. We went out to the barn on Saturday, and started off with a short hack in a new bit (just a plain D-Ring Snaffle). Miles went around great in it, I was very happy to note. We are starting to get more of a frame, as well as some decent bend. By the end of the ride he was really moving up and under himself at the trot — it felt great!

Originally I thought that Miles might be just an easy peasy ride for me on the flat, without much challenge. And while he certainly is easy (I have every confidence that just about anyone could get on him and go around) I think he will challenge me to get the best out of him, which I am very happy about. I’m already looking forward to a private flat lesson to get more figured out, and to get some exercises to work on!

I can also already feel how Miles is making me a better rider: telling me when I am being too stiff, when I am looking down and when I am collapsing my core. Again, the more I ride him, the more I’m realizing that he’s going to be such a great fit for me!

Anyways, after our hack we did a spot-bath with some Head and Shoulders. He had a few areas with dandruff/light fungus, but it was too chilly for a full-bath, so I just focused on his face and flanks and showed off how awesome he is about getting his face rinsed (Mom was very impressed!). We took some conformation shots while he was drying for future comparison, as well as some “glamour” shots. You’ll see those later!

Once back in the barn, it was time to try on clothing. When Visa passed, I don’t think I threw a single thing out, so we had all sorts of blankets to try on. I had one stable blanket and one stable sheet, which promptly went into consignment, as I only use turnouts now. I also had a full set of StormShield New Briton blankets (light, medium and heavy) in size 80, all of which didn’t fit. They were close, but just a smidge too big, and the fit was all wrong for my lanky high-withered Appendix. But we did luck out and the size 80 medium Weatherbeeta I had fit just fine — yay for one less blanket purchase!

We also measured Miles’ height and weight: Approx. 16 hh, 490 kg.

On our way home we stopped at the tack store in hopes that we might find some nice blankets on consignment, but the only one there worth anything was a Rambo and I couldn’t justify the $225 (used) for it. I know everyone loves Rambo blankets, but they are just so expensive! So Miles got Stud Muffins and a new lead rope instead.

I ended up ordering blankets off Smartpak: SmartPak Ultimate Turnout Blanket (Light) and SmartPak Deluxe High Neck Turnout Blanket (Heavy). I’ll let you know what I think when those arrive!

Bill of Sale

Meet Miles!

I have a confession to make: I have been keeping a secret. I’ve had a horse on trial since Labor Day… which is why I conveniently left out Monday on my “Labor Day Weekend at the Barn” post. After my last trial ended on a bit of a bad note, I decided to keep this one quieter. So I’m sorry I left you out of the loop — but don’t feel too bad, because I left everyone out of the loop. Except my mom, because she has spidey sense and called me out on it.

But today, I’m finally letting you in on the secret because after 514 days, I am officially a horse owner again! And is my pleasure to finally introduce:

Milestone “Miles”
2006 Appendix Quarter Horse Gelding

The History

Miles’ history is a bit of an unknown. At some point, he was some sort of a rescue case and landed at a big hunter/jumper barn in the area. He was sold to his current owners as a Thoroughbred, but he has no tattoo and doesn’t totally look like a Thoroughbred and definitely doesn’t act like one. His old trainer, my trainer and my vet all agree that it’s unlikely he’s 100 percent Thoroughbred… and our best guess is Appendix, so that’s what I’m going with. He is, unfortunately, not able to be registered with AQHA. Miles’ age is also technically unknown, but my vet confirmed that he is about seven.

I first saw Miles in June at a horse show I attended, where he showed in the 2’6″ Intermediate Children’s Hunters and Equitation classes. I actually even tried him back then too. But I was adamant about having a trial period at my barn, and we couldn’t come to an agreement about that, so I passed… especially since he was out of my price range. But, after Trial Horse went home, my trainer got a call that he was still available, that his price had been reduced and that the owners were willing to do a trial!

The Trial

We picked Miles up on Monday and promptly had a lesson. We jumped bigger than I’ve jumped in months (I estimate some 2’3″ oxers!) and he was perfect. We got lead changes both ways, walked outside the ring and down the path in between all the empty paddocks. We even went up to the scary grass arena right next to the road and he didn’t spook once!

Throughout the week I had good flat rides, and he passed all of the mundane day-to-day tests like wash racks, grooming, etc. I had another lesson on Thursday, which I briefly mentioned in my Engagement(!!) post where I was an idiot and crashed through a jump and fell off. But Miles was a champ, and I got back on and jumped the same line and he didn’t even think twice about it!
We also had the vet check, and everything was pretty good. Miles is a little underweight, and we worried a bit about why. He’s a young horse, who has been receiving great care at his previous farm. We checked his blood work, as well as did a fecal, but all came back normal. So my vet began to worry more about a slight heart murmur she had heard, and recommended that I get an echo-cardiogram… which of course can’t be done on-site. After working out all the logistics, we were able to transport him to the Equine Hospital for the test.
And in true Miles fashion, he was fabulous. Stood around for over an hour while more than 25 vets and vet students (no joke) poked and proded his rib cage with stethoscopes and the ultrasound stick. And Miles just stood there… and eventually feel asleep — no sedation needed here! Luckily the results came back totally normal, with no lesions at all and he got the all clear to be a fabulous 2’6″ hunter horse!