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Reindeer Horse

Blogger Gift Exchange

This past year I started Fly On Over, a personal blog dedicated to my equestrian pursuits. My goal was to chronicle my thoughts and feelings as I worked my way through the first horseless period in my life since I was 16.

What Fly On Over has become is a journey in and of itself, in which I not only document some of the most important events in my life, but also learn and grow through an entire community spread out across the country and Canada. This blog has allowed me to tap into a network of knowledgeable, generous and supportive group of horsewomen who have celebrated my success and commiserated in my shortcomings. I’ve truly made friends, something that I never expected to find from simply writing a blog.

So thank you. To each and every one of you who have read my entries, commented on my pictures and included me in your blogging circle — it really means a lot.

During this time of the year, when I am reminded to be more thankful and more generous, I celebrate all of us, together. So I’ve decided to host a little Equestrian Blogger Gift Exchange. Here’s how it will work:

I will compile a list of all interested bloggers and randomly assign you another blogger to shop for! The gift limit will be $20, so nothing too expensive. Once you receive your gift, please put up a post about what you got, and thank your fellow blogger.

gift exchange logo


STEP 1: Send an email to tbidwell614(at)gmail(dot)com with your:
• Name
• Shipping address
• Two gift ideas under $20
• Blog URL and
• Whether you’d be willing to ship TO Canada or not
all by Friday, December 6.

STEP 2: Check your email on Monday, December 9 to find out who you’ll be shopping for!

STEP 3: Send your gift out on the week of Dec. 16 (or before if you’re on the ball)

STEP 4: Receive your gift and thank your fellow blogger!

Fly On Over 5 Day Challenge

5 Day Challenge – Day 1

I’m working on something uber exciting for everyone and when it’s finished, you all will be positively thrilled! I just know the blogosphere is going to explode in fireball of a champagne and glitter… okay, that’s a it over the top. But I am really excited for my little surprise!

But in the meantime, while life continues to get in the way of my riding (or I just ride like a monkey, which is not fun to read about day in and day out) I decided to initiate a Five Day Challenge. I’m way too spastic to attempt the 30 Day Challenge, so I came up with 25 (fairly) original questions to answer, and I’m going to do them five at a time, because I can.

Sleepy Miles in the Crossties

1. Most influential person on your riding

When I first started riding I took lessons at this barn way out in Amish country. The barn owner had a string of school horses and taught the lessons herself — her name was Holly and she has been, by far, the most influential person in my riding career.
I did my very first horse show at her barn, in which I won Champion and began my slippery descent into craving horse shows, which I haven’t sufficiently sated to this day. She introduced me to 4-H, where most of my larger successes have taken place. She taught me to brush a horse, lead a trail ride and how to muck out stalls. I definitely wouldn’t be the horsewoman I am today had I never met her. She was a hardworking woman, and I really learned that from her. If I had taken lessons somewhere else, I’m not sure I would have learned all the basics and enjoyed taking care of my own horses.

2. Piece of tack you’d love to splurge on

This one is easy for me: custom CWD saddle. My currently saddle doesn’t fit Miles because it was purchased for a stupid wide horse and Miles is narrow, OF COURSE. I’m really not looking forward to the saddle hunt, but that pain would certainly be eased if I could afford a brand-spanking new custom saddle. You know, one of those CWD’s with buffalo or calf leather, a half deep seat and short flaps. And I’m drooling on keyboard. So if anyone has a spare $6k laying around that they want to send my way, I sure wouldn’t complain!
Hermès Sellier 1923

3. Top 5 riding playlist

“Started from the Bottom” – Drake
“Anywhere with You” – Jake Owen
“Summer Love” – Justin Timberlake
“The Only Way I Know” – Jason Aldean
“Applause” – Lady Gaga

4. Most important aspect of your barn?

There are a lot of things I can’t live without in a boarding barn: quality AND reliable care, ample turnout, safe facilities, indoor arena with lights, jumps and a tack room all come to mind. But there are a ton of extras that I love about my current barn: heated tack rooms, bathrooms, excellent barn manager, tons of staff, owners on premises, two indoor arenas with lights, two outdoor arenas (one with lights) and yeah, I could go on and on. I fucking love my barn.
But the best part? The atmosphere. The staff is so nice and helpful — I’ve yet to hear them say “no” to a request. And all the boarders are genuinely nice to each other. There are two hunter/jumper trainers at the barn, and we all get along. Even boarders who don’t take lessons are sweet and always ask how you’re doing. It’s nice to feel like you’re part of a bigger barn family, and I’ve definitely found that at this facility.
Gorgeous, isn’t it?

5. Three winter riding goals

  1. Improve my leg strength
  2. Jump higher fences
  3. Increase Miles’ flexibility
My plan is to institute one ride a week where I solely focus on myself. I’m so lucky to have a tolerant and easy going horse who will put up with a flailing monkey on his back, so I need to take advantage of that. This means one ride where I don’t give a shit about how Miles goes around, I’m just going to worry about me: sitting up straight, shoulders back, core tight and strong legs. I need to add in some two-point work, as well as no stirrup time.
The higher fences will come into play mostly during lessons, I think. I’m going to try to make sure to ask for a higher fence or two towards the end of my lessons, so that I can begin to get the feel of how to ride a bigger jump. I also think that some more jumping outside of lessons would be good for my confidence. I want to try to do this once or twice a month this winter, since I won’t jump without someone else in the ring. I’ll start with just singles, and maybe work up to a full course — we’ll just see how it goes.
Finally, for Miles, we just need more work on figures: 20m circles, 10m circles and leg yields are all things we need to work on. I think a private lesson once a month where we can focus more on some of the flatwork would benefit us tremendously, so hopefully I can swing that financially.
How to Pick a Wedding Dress in 1 Hour

How to Pick a Wedding Dress in 1 Hour

The wedding industry is all about making every detail of your big day a big deal. Ever worried about the color of your napkins at a dinner party? Well, you will now. Did you ever give a second thought as to whether you should order special toasting glasses? Now you will obsess over the decision for at least a week. But, I will admit there are a few items for your wedding day that are a big deal, like for example, the dress.

I am not a dress person. In fact, I own three that live in the very back of my closet. The last time I wore a dress was to a year-end awards banquet last November. As in, a year ago. I am also not an easy person to fit: I’m short, but not petite, yet not quite large enough for women’s sizes… which all combine to make shopping for clothes a wonderful, fun experience. NOT.

Tip #1: I picked my entourage carefully

But I made one appointment to try on wedding dresses and picked the third one I tried on. All said and done, I was in the store for a total of 55 minutes (yeah, I timed that shit). So, for girls around the world who hate shopping for clothes, how did I manage to be in and out with a dress I love so quickly?
I have a very small wedding party, so this wasn’t too hard for me. But I did balance the personalities very carefully. My mom is a nitpicker, and sometimes she can be harsh (she’s definitely not afraid to say I look like shit in something). So I balanced that with my maid of honor who is not afraid to speak up, but is also very, very supportive – she wouldn’t let me walk down the aisle looking like the Michelin man but she’s not going to tell me I look like a fat cow, either. My sister can be a bit immature sometimes, but my future mother-in-law handles everything in stride.
All of these ladies came together and worked perfectly to help me find a dress I loved, without the theatrics that make Say Yes to the Dress so entertaining (which is probably why my footage didn’t make it to the show).

Tip #2 I went to the right place

There was no way I could have gone to Kleinfeld’s – there’s probably not a dress in the whole store that I could have afforded. So I looked for local places that had dresses priced below and above my budget, to ensure I had a range of options. I also did not want to be left to my own devices; I wanted a place that did appointments only, with a consultant. When I shop I pick out one shirt, try it on and if it doesn’t fit, I leave – not exactly a good plan for you know, actually buying a dress.
I also asked my friends for advice: where did they go, and did they like it? I also asked my venue for a recommendation: they work with brides 365 days a year; certainly they’ve seen some awesome dresses and had an idea about where to go.
wild wedding dress

Tip #3 I was open minded

It’s not terrible to know what type of dress you want (shape, fabric, color, etc.) or to even have a few specific dresses that you definitely want to try on. But don’t limit yourself to only those dresses, or those types of dresses. Trying on something different might just work perfectly.
I went in without a plan: I knew a few things I didn’t want, but no pictures, no shape, no nothing. I was like a lost puppy in an alleyway. But once I picked out a few dresses, my consultant saw a theme and was able to pull similar, but different styles for me to try on. In the end, the dress I loved on the rack was my least favorite on!
Moral of the story: be bold, and go where no bride as ever gone… well, you know what I mean. 
hunter princess blog hop logo

Blog Hop: Expand Your Inner Princess

After 10 weeks of Hunter Princess Blog Hop, I’m sad to see this series go! Thank you so much to She Moved To Texas for hosting — it’s been a lot of fun to learn more about my fellow bloggers, and I’ve even discovered a few new favorites along the way. For the last installment, Lauren asks:

What would you do/change if you had no limits on your inner princess?

I would be a combination of Dr. Betsee Parker and Becky Gochman…only younger.

Step 1: I’d quit my day job…cause I’d rather be riding anyways. 

Step 2: Buy a nice farm, hire a ton of staff and move in a BNT. 

I’d spend my days taking lessons on my string of amateur horses, watching my BNT show my beautiful professional horses and take pride in my bunch of juniors and pony riders win on my adorable ponies/horses. You know, to pay it forward and such.

Hunter Derby Horse

We’d definitely winter in Florida, because seriously, who wants to be in the Midwest November through March anyways? Which means I’d need…

Step 3: Transport to haul the fleet down there and…

Step 4: The property to house all of us. 

Yeah… sounds pretty nice. Too bad I don’t have a handy dandy trust fund or billionaire benefactor. Ah well, guess Miles and I will just have to wait until the next lifetime.

Must Have Winter Wear

We had our first snow here in fly over country last night, which means it’s officially winter… and I am ready for Spring already! I hate winter — all the snow and ice make commuting even less fun than usual, not only because half the populous forgets how to drive in inclement weather every year (seriously people, we live in the North – get with the program!), but you also have to add extra time to clean off and warm up your car every single time you go somewhere. Moral of the story is that winter is a major suckfest.
But for adult ammy equestrians around the world, winter is a good time to get back to basics (like improving that lower leg I conveniently put off during show season) and attempt to stay fit, because let’s face it: the older you get the harder it is to get BACK in shape. And, if you’re anything like me, if I took every winter off I’d never have a prayer of ever being competitive. So I suck it up and head out to the barn in the bitter cold… which to me includes any temperature below 40 degrees.
So how do I manage it? I mean, I know plenty of people don’t consider 35 degrees to be fucking frigid, but I do. And where I live, that’s a positively toasty temperature for January. But luckily, I have secret weapons: my must-have winter wear! These four items will help keep you warm from head to toe while in the barn and riding and are absolutely essential if you plan to brave the cold and go riding:
Roeckl Chester Gloves

#4 Winter Gloves

My Recommended Brand: SSG Winter Lined Rancher ($36.95) & Roeckl Winter Chester Gloves ($58.95)
This one is pretty obvious, but the key is having two pairs: one for barn work and one for riding. Also, when and where you change your gloves is essential. I store my barn gloves in my car and put them on before I open the door, that way they are nice and warm and keep my hands toasty right from get-go. While mine are admittedly bulky, I don’t need a lot of dexterity to groom my horse or fill water buckets. Really, any brand will do, but the SSG Winter Lined Ranchers are pretty awesome.
When I’m almost ready to ride, I go into the heated tack room and put on my riding gloves. Usually I do this before I put on the bridle because I need nimble fingers to put it on (yes, I am challenged). My preferred brand are Roeckl Winter Chester Gloves because they are insulated enough to keep my fingers from falling off, but still give me enough dexterity to half halt.

#3 Grabber Toe Warmers

My Recommended Brand: Grabber Toe Warmers with Adhesive ($3.99)
I don’t have the funds to buy a second pair of tall boots just for the winter months: mine have to last me year-round, from 90 degrees to 15 degrees. While I’m lucky that I can fit an extra layer of pants on, thick socks are a no-go. I get a pair of thin, regular ankle socks plus my boot socks and that’s it. And everyone knows that once you’re toes are frozen, life sucks and so does riding. So these toe warmers are essential: they have adhesive on the bottom so that you can put them near the toe of your boot and they won’t move around while you ride. Plus the heat lasts a solid hour for me, which is just enough time for a lesson
Rambo Quarter Sheet

#2 Quarter Sheets

My Recommended Brand: Dura-Tech Polarfleece ($34.99)
When it is so cold you can barely stand to ride (but you have to because you haven’t ridden all week due to a blizzard and subarctic temperatures), slapping on a quarter sheet makes the experience bearable. I am particularly fond of the ones that go over my legs… because it’s like wearing a blanket while I ride, and who doesn’t like blankets? While they can be a bit cumbersome, they do keep you a helluva lot warmer when you need it most!
I also loved my under the saddle quarter sheet for my older horse who got so stiff in the winter. For a lighter hack, focusing more on walk and trot work, the sheet helped his back and hind-end warm up more quickly and stay that way. Plus the polar fleece fabric has some wicking properties that helped keep him drier, which minimizes the dreaded cool down time.
under armour coldgear

#1 Under Armor ColdGear Compression

My Recommended Brand: Under Armor ColdGear Compression Shirt ($49.99) and Pants ($49.99)
To stay warm, you have to layer effectively, and that starts with the base layer. I love Under Armor ColdGear: it keeps you warm while simultaneously wicking away sweat to keep you dry. The compression line is my favorite because it helps keep all my jiggles more firmly in place, plus it doesn’t add bulk — which, when you’re attempting to go over a fence, is absolutely essential! As an added bonus, I have had my pair of shirt and pants for 10 years… and they still look brand new! I throw those suckers in the washer and the dryer and they are no worse for wear.
I promise that this shirt and pants combo will be the best $100 you’ll ever spend… well, maybe not, but I would probably hibernate and Miles would get 90% of the winter off if it weren’t for these gems.