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Hunter Fashion, Part I

Despite the fact that winter continues to rage here in Fly Over Country (and foil my plans to ride my horse!) all I can think about is spring and summer… and you guessed it, horse shows! So since I’m still stuck inside, I’m giving in to my addiction by stalking photos of HITS and WEF online, which has led to an unhealthy amount of online shopping. But unfortunately I’m semi-broke (thank you brand-new Prestige saddle) and I’m cheap, so really I’m just window shopping online.

Last year I spent an exorbitant amount of time window shopping for expensive, fancy amateur hunter horses because I didn’t have one of my own. But I love Miles and I’m really looking forward to showing him this summer, thus my daily visits to HunterJumperExchange.com have drastically reduced. Instead, I’m shopping for myself… specifically for show outfits. Here’s my current get-up:

  1. On Course Ashby Ladies Hunt Coat in Navy – $71.95 (I paid $25)
  2. Ariat Heritage Tall Boots – $265.95 (I paid $165)
  3. Essex Classic Solid Color Diagonal Twill Show Shirt in Yellow – $63.50 (I paid $25)
  4. RJ Classics Essential Ladies Wrap Collar Show Shirt in White w/ Pink – $58 (I paid 37.95)
  5. Ariat Heritage Knee Patch Side Zip in Tan – $90.20
  6. Ariat Heritage Knee Patch Side Zip in Khaki – $86.95
  7. IRH ATH SSV Helmet – $235.55 (I paid $145.30)
  8. Tory Stitched Spur Belt – $36
  9. Heritage Premier Show Gloves – $26.55

TOTAL COST: $934.65 (I paid $637.95)

For the most part, I really like my show outfit. I enjoy having two shirts and two breeches because I always go to two-day shows and variety is the spice of life. The two things I would most like to upgrade are my tall boots (I want Spanish style tops with a swagger tab SO BAD) and my helmet (I wear the same one for schooling so it’s getting a bit… grungy).

But only upgrading two pieces of your wardrobe is no fun, especially when you’re window shopping. So here’s what I came up with for a completely upgraded look:

  1. RJ Classics Soft Shell Hunt Coat in Navy – $218
  2. Ariat Heritage Contour Tall Boots – $265.95
  3. Essex Classics Wrap Collar Ladies Show Shirt in Yellow – $61.25
  4. Essex Classics Coolmax Performance Collection Ladies Show Shirt in Lavendar – $54.08
  5. Leather Nameplate Bracelet in Brass – $23.70
  6. Tailored Sportsman Trophy Hunter Low-Rise in Tan – $179.95
  7. Tailored Sportsman Trophy Hunter Low-Rise in Green Beige – $179.95
  8. IRH Elite Xtreme Helmet – $237.45
  9. Ariat Regal Reversible Belt – $49.95
  10. Roeckl Chester Glove – $49.95

TOTAL COST: $1,320.23

What I like about this outfit is that it basically just upgrades my current outfit. I love wrap collar show shirts, so I’d love to upgrade my yellow one, and add another color. Same with the breeches — I’d love to move my Ariats to just schooling breeches and show in Tailored Sportsmans. Also, a new show coat that isn’t 100% wool sounds wonderfully… cool.

And really, the cost difference between the two isn’t that much, only $385 retail. Plus, there’s a few things I already have or could do without. I already have a bracelet for Visa, so that knocks off $25. And I don’t mind my belt or gloves, so I could forego those as well (minus another $100). Finally, while the lavendar shirt should be nice, I’m not sure how much I would wear it (to take off another $60).

Of course I couldn’t stop myself here. I decided that just like looking at really, really expensive horses, shopping for outrageously expensive outfits would be fun too. So if I won the lottery, or had a wealthy benefactor or even a trust fund, here’s what I would buy:

  1. Grand Prix Quinn Show Coat – $449
  2. 1/2 Karat Diamond Round Cut Earrings – $479.99
  3. Infinity Pendant Necklace with Double Strand Chain – $19.95
  4. Michael Kors Women’s Stainless Steel, Quartz and Pearl Watch – $137.50
  5. Tailored Sportsman Premier Convertible Collar Show Shirt in Daisy Dukes – $109.99
  6. Tailored Sportsman Premier Convertible Collar Show Shirt in Aquatic – $109.99
  7. Tailored Sportsman Trophy Hunter Low-Rise in Tan – $179.95
  8. Tailored Sportsman Trophy Hunter Low-Rise in Green Beige – $179.95
  9. GPA Speed Air Evolution Helmet – $589.99
  10. Leather Nameplate Bracelet in Brass – $23.70
  11. Tailored Sportsman Quilted “C” Belt in Black – $107.95
  12. Roeckl Chester Glove – $49.95
  13. Parlanti Passion Miami Tall Boots – $635.52

TOTAL COST: $3073.43

Yeah, I really went all out. Of course, I could save a boatload with cheaper earrings… but still the outfit is just plain extravagant. Definitely not a bad way to spend $3k if it felt like pocket change! Alas, that will never be me. But it was fun pretending!

If you could splurge on one item for your show outfit, what would it be? 

horses grazing

Managing a New Horse

It’s been a really long time since I owned a new horse, and while I’m not a first-time horse owner, there’s been a lot to remember since I bought Miles in September. Some things remained second-nature during the time I leased, like grooming and riding schedules. And I definitely picked up a good habit or two, such as cleaning my tack more regularly. But some aspects of horse ownership… I almost forgot about. It sounds crazy, and a little stupid, but there is so much knowledge that one must acquire, and so many balls you have to juggle to keep everything working so you can actually go and ride.

Case in point, this winter Miles developed a really sour attitude. Of course my natural inclination is to conjure up some medical issue to become the culprit… like ulcers or arthritic hocks. But sometimes, especially when you’re dealing with a horse that you don’t know very well, it’s best to start with other options. And sometimes, all you really need is a critical look at how you’re managing your horse, and what you could change to make his life a little bit better.

Here are a few things I looked at when Miles was NQR in the head, and what ended up working for us. Sometimes it’s not a medical issue… sometimes it’s a management issue.

horses grazing

Diet

I believe that everything starts from the inside out. What is your horse being fed? Has his or her diet changed? Miles had been on the weight gain plan, and we deduced that 1 1/4 scoop of Purina Strategy might be too much for him. So I worked with my trainer and barn staff to cut Miles way back, and slowly increase to a more standard 3/4 scoop. Since then, I’ve been monitoring his weight closely to ensure he doesn’t lose any of those pounds we worked hard to gain in the first place. So far, so good!

Workout Routine

Evaluate your riding schedule, and ask yourself if anything has changed that could precipitate your problem. One thing I noticed was that I only went out to the barn to ride… I never just spent a day grooming, hand grazing or just spending time with Miles. I bought a horse to have a connection, and I needed to take a step back and start building a friendship with my horse, not just a working relationship.

Miles Trot Sept 2013

Turnout Schedule

Horses are built to be outside, not live in a stall. But of course, for many that isn’t really a feasible option. Still, it’s good to recognize how much turnout your horse is receiving and ask yourself if its being utilized. Let me explain: Miles is boarded at a fabulous facility which turns out as much as possible… but we live in the North, and during the winter the weather is just to crummy for daily turnout sometimes. But beyond that, I noticed Miles just stood in his paddock and didn’t even walk around! So I got him a buddy to keep him moving, and ever since he sleeps in the crossties because he’s playing so much in turnout!

Equipment Fit

What do you use to ride, and does it fit? Maybe your horse hates the new bit you tried, or maybe you’re like me trying to make a lanky Thoroughbred cross fit into a Halter-Bred Quarter Horse’s saddle. Either way, take a good, hard look at your tack to ensure proper fit. It doesn’t sound fun to run a mile in shoes two sizes too big in a shirt two sizes too small.

Those are the four management issues Miles and I have faced so far… small things, sure, but they all culminated in an uphappy horse who decided he no longer wanted to do his job. But who can blame the guy? The last time my office ran out of Diet Pepsi, there was almost a mutiny… and I certainly wouldn’t be able to do my job very well if my laptop had a virus.

I expect a lot out of my horse, but it’s only fair to ensure that he is as happy and healthy as he can be in return.

black jumper

First Lesson Back

I had planned to wait until Thursday for my first lesson in what feels like forever, but after great rides all weekend and watching Jess’s lesson and visiting the horse show… I just couldn’t contain myself. So I scheduled a lesson and joined in on my trainer’s usual Monday IEA lesson.

My goals for the lesson were simple:

1. Get my trainer’s opinion on the new saddle
2. Keep Miles happy and not get into any fights
3. Test out our new group lesson technique of continuous movement

Lofty goals, I know. But Miles has been on sabbatical, and even though he feels great, I don’t think it’s fair to expect too much out of him when we haven’t been working consistently. So I approached the lesson with a laid back attitude and it went great. We spent a lot of time on the flat doing some group “follow the leader” exercises, which went very well. Miles was a gentleman whether he was in the lead or at the back of the herd; he shortened his stride when I asked, and lengthened as well.

After that we moved on to some patterns, where we each went individually and did some variation of walk, trot, canter with circles and poles. While the other horses stood in the middle to wait their turn, I made Miles continuously walk around. And we did not stop walking for the entire hour.

But the trick worked! Not once did Miles get upset about having to leave the herd or go back to work. We were able to wait our turn, perform the exercise and wait again. Huzzah! Here’s a short video of one of the “patterns” with a jump at the end:

Not looking too shabby for approx. 6 rides in the last 3 weeks! After that pattern trainer put up a small line of verticals for Miles and I, with the second jump going up to about 2’3″. We went through a few times, the first time I had too much pace, and didn’t half halt early enough. The second time we drifted hard to the outside. The third time was perfect though!

And trainer even loves the saddle. She said it puts my leg a bit farther forward than ideal, but it seems to help my balance and I feel very comfortable. Plus, let’s be honest, it’s not like I’m ever going to show in the Ariat Adult Medal Finals.

Lessons & Shows

In addition to great rides on Miles this weekend, I also did some other fun horse-related activities. Saturday after my ride I went up to Eden Park Equestrian Complex to see one of my oldest friends show. I haven’t been to a show since I took Miles in October and while this is a different venue and “A” rated, it’s run by the same show management team as the summer series we attended. I’d also never been to this particular venue before, so it was fun to see it! The footing was fabulous and the large ring, was well… LARGE. I’d really love to show Miles there one day!

Anyways, my friend showed her mare in the 3′ Adult Amateur Hunters and they looked great! She’s battled some soundness issues in the past, and I hadn’t seen them go around in over a year so it was a ton of fun to watch them do their thing. After she finished up I chatted with her and her mom and loved on Princess Ava. She’s such a cuddle bug!

On my drive home I realized I cannot wait to show Miles this summer! He’s been so fabulous lately I just feel like we could step into the 2′ Limit Hunters tomorrow. Of course, that’s not my goal (I want to jump 2’6″ dammit!) but still. I definitely have been bitten by the Horse Show Bug. C’mon spring and summer — I want to horse show!!

Sunday brought about another fun horse adventure. I visited Jess and Lex from Riding Rainbow and played videographer and photographer for their lesson! I’ve met Lex a few times now, but to date it’s been just too damn cold to ride, so this weekend was the first time I’d gotten to see Lex do more than eat carrots (which she is quite good at).

And let me tell you, Lex is fucking fancy. I’m not a huge fan of mares… or Thoroughbreds (mostly because I’m not a good enough rider to ride them), but I love Lex. She has a great personality and a wonderful brain; she definitely has her green horse moments, but she just oozes potential. She is going to be one hell of a nice horse here soon.

I am the worst at photos… so just focus on how beautiful Lex is!! 

Anyways, I’m sure Jess will tell you all about the lesson (and probably include some of my terrible photos and videos… just remember to blame the person behind the camera for any ugliness! haha), but I really enjoyed auditing. I even took home a few nuggets of wisdom to try with Miles! All in all I had a really fabulous weekend.

I Love My New Saddle

This weekend was filled with ponies and riding. And it’s been a long time since I could say that! I rode three days in a row (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and Miles was awesome every time out. Friday was a short hack with friends; I got to ride with N for the first time since her hip surgery, and it felt awesome to be back riding with her. We took it easy, but I did pop over a small 2′ vertical a few times and Miles was stellar. I saw a long distance at one point, asked him to lengthen for it and BAM it was just right there.
Saturday I just flatted but did some ground poles to keep things interesting. I haven’t worked much on lateral movement with Miles since I bought him, but in this new saddle he’s totally game. See our beautiful leg yield to hit that ground pole? AWESOME!

Sunday was another short and sweet ride, but I did a few small 2′ verticals again. At the end of our ride Miles really stretched down and moved out; he felt like a million bucks! I just feel so comfortable and secure in the Prestige Meredith that no matter what we’re doing it feels great. I’m so excited to have my happy, fun hunter pony back!!

Aside from our wonderful rides, I’ve been continuing our grooming routine to try to keep Miles’s coat look somewhat respectable and clear up his blanket rubs. I’ve been using MTG with mixed success, so if anyone has a hidden secret, please share! I’ve also been working on clearing up some deep sulcus thrush Miles has, especially in his front feet. I started using some iodine soaked cotton balls which seem to be helping significantly, so stay tuned for updates on that front!

Coming up I’m going to share my other equestrian outings from this weekend, and Miles has a lesson scheduled for Thursday. Hooray!