The Polka Dot Periodical, brought to you by Nicku and Pongo, is holding a contest! Tell her your favorite equine-inspired products under $50, and YOU could receive her favorite product in the same price point. I love Nicku’s blog about her adventures with Pongo, her drop-dead gorgeous leopard appaloosa as they navigate dressage and eventing.
Anyways, now that you’ve enjoyed our friendly public service announcement, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. My favorite products under $50!
I am extremely picky about saddle pads. I don’t like them too thick or too thin; too big or too small. I never use those Velcro straps at the front either and often just ending up cutting them off. Plus for schooling, I don’t like boring, plain-old white or even really solid colors. I like a little something extra.
Enter the Lettia Collection. They are just the right size and thickness, plus they don’t come with those Velcro straps — just the girth strap! And of course, they come with adorable symbols that give them that little touch of unique I love.
I blame the fact that I show hunters, which in the ring offer no options for color, patterns or pizzazz in general. So I am forced to keep my flamboyant style tendencies under wraps and it just so happens that Zocks are the perfect solution! Hidden under my tall boots, I can pick any color and pattern under the sun and enjoy them without giving my trainer a heart attack. I’m currently coveting the Yellow Oriental Garden pattern!
We each came into horses in our own way, but it was always with a horse leading us. This might have been a friend’s first pony, or perhaps it was a draft horse on a farm you once visited It might have been a real-life meeting, or an imaginary one. Royal & Delilah were my introduction to horses. They were my mother’s plastic horses, well, I’m honestly not sure they were actually made out of plastic, but the point is they were toys. Before I ever even saw my first real horse, I played with plastic ones. I made a shelf in my closet into a barn and I collected Grand Champions (cheap Breyers) like other kids collected crazy bones or baseball cards.
My best friend in elementary school and I had well over 100 of these awesome horses, all with names and story lines. We stole her brother’s Star Wars figurines to be our riders and Darth Vader always cheated to get to the Olympics, but Luke Skywalker always beat him for the gold.
2. The Experimental Horse
Once you had crossed the line between “Darn, they’re big!” and “Wow! Can I try that?” you found yourself face-to-face with the horse that would suffer through your early attempts at figuring out the whole horse experience … wherever this horse came from, he probably didn’t benefit from the encounter as much as you did. After a few years of taking “lessons,” I decided to join 4-H. The first pony I took was a little buckskin named Jazz, who was an absolute saint, except for our very first show together. The barn owner decided not to turn him out the night before to make sure he had enough energy for the show, which was a horrible idea, but 10-year-old Tracy had no clue. When we got to the show, Jazz was all sorts of nuts so we walked him to a back field (away from all the other horses — again, I repeat, NO CLUE) and to my shock he RAN AWAY and I fell head first onto concrete.
When I looked up, he was gone and all I could think was OMG, I lost H’s horses. She is going to kill me. Luckily a bystander caught the pony and we went into our first class (English Showmanship) and got third. That ribbon is still hanging in my house to this day, and is one of my favorites.
3. The Connected Horse
The first horses we meet don’t really connect with us, nor do we with them. Those are experiences in survival and tests of endurance. The Connected Horse is the first horse you truly bond with. This is the horse that sounds a chord that lives so deep in you that you might never have heard it otherwise.
When I outgrew Jazz, I started riding an ancient ex-barrel racer, Chuck. He was the first horse that I really worked hard with to accomplish showing goals. We did everything, from jumping to contesting, and he was great. He was the first horse I tried to qualify for State Fair on. While we didn’t make it, he did teach me that hard work pays off, placing 8th out in an over fences class at county fair. Still have that ribbon and the picture to go along with it…although my form leaves something a lot to be desired (hence why it is not pictured here).
Chuck was also my first lesson in loss: he got sick and passed away unexpectedly and I never got to say goodbye. I cried and cried and it was horrible, but I moved on and found The Challenger.
4. The Challenger
Into each horse person’s life, a little challenge must fall. You’ll have read that one final training book, bought yourself a clicker and heading rope, and there you’ll stand, arms crossed, assessing the situation as if you actually knew what the situation was. It might be difficult to believe, as you are flying down the aisle way on the losing end of a braided cotton line, but you actually need this horse in your life.
Why I started riding Charlie, I will never know. Better yet, why my mother put up with this horse, I REALLY don’t know. He was a Morgan-cross that the barn owner adopted. He was blind in one eye, hated men and was crazy mean. Like lunge back, open his mouth and take a big ole chunk out of you at any moment mean.
I rode him for three years, the final of which I thought we would place better if I rode Saddleseat. In hindsight, this plan absolutely worked, but thank god this horse was tolerant under tack. I bought a saddle on eBay, stuck two bits in that pony’s mouth, read a book and off we went.
Wow, I’m starting to realize a great theme in my equestrian life: I was a fucking moron.
Anyways, Charlie The One-Eyed Wonder Pony (honest to god, that’s the name I showed him under) was definitely my challenge: not only was he horrid on the ground, but we really worked hard to be able to do Saddleseat. I ended up qualifying for State Fair for the first time and showed against all the fancy Saddlebreds… and won 4th in Saddle Type Showmanship. And they were pissed, but I thought it was the best thing ever.
5. Your Deepest Heart –
There will come a time when you will look at yourself with a cold, appraising eye, and you’ll have to be honest about your continued ability to deal with The Challenger and other difficult horses. At that point, you’ll seek out the horse that will be your soul mate forever… You’ll have bought him the most comfortable, best fitting equipment… Maybe you’ll still go to shows and ride – brilliantly or barely – in the Alzheimer’s class. Maybe you’ll just stay home. Whatever you do, one day you’ll realize that after all the money you spent on animal communicators and trainers, you only had to stop and listen and you would have clearly heard your horse’s thoughts and desires. Visa. Without a doubt this horse will always and forever have a piece of my heart. He did anything, was capable beyond my wildest imagination and was quite simply the best horse ever. He was a 4-H rockstar, winning grand champion year-end awards all three years I was eligible, held his own at local hunter/jumper shows against the much larger and fancier Warmbloods and Thoroughbreds and tolerated anybody and everybody.
What else is there to say? There will never be another one like him and I miss him every day.
When I first (re-)started this blog, I looked at my favorites to see what they did — what tabs did they have, what posts did I like (or not like), etc. This “research first” stems directly from my job, but I just couldn’t help myself. Why reinvent the wheel?
So I borrowed the video timeline idea from Equestrian At Hart, about me from All In and my yearly goals from Viva Carlos. L. Williams also reviews her goals (quarterly) and I thought it would be a good experiment for me to try as well. I have always been goal-oriented (probably why I like to horse show so much), so putting them down on paper and holding myself to them might help me accomplish a few more — or at least that was my original thought. So, let’s see where I’m at!
Improve at each show
So far, so good! I’ve really stretched myself and I definitely had a break-through at the June Delaware. Hopefully this trend will continue through the next few shows!
Win a chair
Lesson Diamond at 2’6″
These three goals have turned out to be my “pies in the sky.” I really over-estimated how far along I was riding-wise. Vinnie and I will not being winning a chair this year, and I’m hardly even riding Diamond anymore, except for a few flat rides here and there. Honestly, these aren’t really even goals I have for myself anymore. Live and learn!
Improve my foundation, with equal weight in my legs at all times
Consistently keep my core tight
I’ve worked really hard on the first of these goals, and I’ve definitely seen improvement. The “at all times” clause might be a bit overzealous, but I still have a few more months before the end of the year. The second goal I’ve not worked on as much, as my focus has turned to the more immediate problem of my two-point over fences.
Stay on budget
I’ve done well with the budget thus far and all signs point to continued success in this arena. Hooray!
Lose 10 lbs
Find a diet that works for me
Create and stick to a workout plan
These three goals definitely all go hand in hand, and I’ve not been doing well. I started strong, but recently have fallen off track. I’m going to try to re-focus on the small things, such as eliminating snacking and increasing my mobility, even if that just means a walk.
Ugh, this is the one I’m most disappointed about. I didn’t get my act together quickly enough, so unless Sam can play hookey during the school year for a day or so, our trip to Atlanta might not happen until next year.
Work on my communication via email
I’ve really focused on this at work and have seen noticeable improvement in my ability to get the point across, as well as my tone.
Finish Visa’s corner
Well I did get a few copies of photos made and tracked down the ones from the professional photographer, but I still need to pay for those and get the frame done.
Wow. I thought I was doing much better than this list indicates. I’m not so upset about the riding and showing goals that I haven’t accomplished — most of those weren’t realistic (although I didn’t know it at the time). But the personal goals I’ve really slacked on. Time to get my butt in gear!
Social media is one of the biggest phenomenon of our generation. It has transformed communication, business and marketing and created an entirely new way of doing things, at least for those of us who have embraced it. There are so many social media channels to choose from — from blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vine, Instagram, Foursquare, Pinterest; the list can go on and on and on. Each avenue provides a different iteration with unique possibilities.
In my experience, sometimes us equestrians are not at the forefront of embracing technology, including social media. And I will admit, I’m not necessarily the first one to jump on the bandwagon. But, horse people are inherently inquisitive and we love a good story — and we love pictures. And videos. Well, at least I do. So I thought I’d share some of my favorite equestrian-inspired social media channels. This list is sure to do two things: 1) waste a lot of time or help you procrastinate, whichever way you like to look at it and 2) let you oogle all the pretty ponies and their accouterments, which you will never be able to afford — my two favorite pastimes!
New Vocations Facebook
New Vocations is an awesome OTTB rehoming charity headquartered right here in Fly Over Country. Even though I’m not in the market for a green OTTB, I can’t help but peruse all the [very pretty] horses that get posted daily on the New Vocations Facebook page. They take the most adorable pictures, paired with equally adorable captions making it really entirely too easy to fantasize about my next horse…
Reed Kessler’s Instagram
I have a mild obsession with Reed Kessler to begin with, but she is really hard to resist when she posts such cute photos of her horses all the time on her Instagram. Cylana begging for treats? Yes please! Goose passed out in 10 feet of shavings? Adorable. Oh, and don’t forget her photos from all around the country as she travels to all the shows I dream about.
Chronicle of the Horse Forum
I’m sure everyone has been to the Chronicle of the Horse [COTH] forum at least once, but it’s just fantastic. It’s the online equestrian version of Desperate Housewives; never a dull moment and always entertaining. It can be educational informative if you remember to take everything with a grain of salt. Never-the-less, COTH never fails to provide entertainment if you’re in the mood for a bit of salacious gossip.
Equal blends of truly educational blogs from assorted vets, farriers, etc. and life events from their staff and sponsored riders, the SmartPak blog is always a good read. Of course, they have wonderful photos and engaging graphics to go along with everything… which I love. They generally recommend their own products (which I admit, can be annoying sometimes), but the information is pertinent and it’s not an overwhelming sales pitch. Plus, I have a strange fascination with the SmartPakers (I love to know what they did over the weekend!) and it’s always interesting to hear what their sponsored riders are up to.
While there are a plethora of great equine Pinterest boards, being a hunter/jumper myself, I just love BigEq’s. Three words: very fancy ponies. Everywhere. All the time. Jumping, cantering, posing. It’s AA Circuit overload and I just love to drool. Plus they always have a few artsy shots, which are pretty cool… mostly because I have no photography skills what-so-ever and would never even think to take a photo from that angle. A photo beneath the horse as it jumps so all you see are its fancy knees and belly guard? Awesome.
So I started writing my post-show recap and realized I needed to write a post about one single moment, before I get to the good stuff. I’m going to be honest and preface this post by saying: you really don’t have to read it; it might be long and boring and short on pictures — but I need to write this for myself.
We schooled Friday afternoon, and as predicted, Vinnie was uncooperative. He was up, looking at everything and not paying one ounce of attention to any request I made. Right then and there, I almost called it quits. I’m so sick of this attitude. If it’s not fun, why do it?
I remember horse shows being loads of fun, and parts of it still are. I love hanging out with friends all day, eating good food and watching pretty horses go around; and all of those things still happen and I still love it. But what I loved most about horse shows was winning. I miss being good; I miss being competitive. I know, it was just 4-H, and honestly, I’m not trying to make it sound like I won the Maclay or the Congress, but I’m a competitive person. I’m so competitive I couldn’t stand to play softball in high school because the other players didn’t try as hard as I did. And now horse shows do not fill that void for me anymore.
So where does that leave me? The thought of not showing anymore makes me kind of nauseous — I don’t really think that’s what I want. Maybe I need a break?
Let’s take stock of what is holding me back from being more competitive:
Strength: I need more strength in my thighs and core.
Endurance: Only riding twice a week isn’t enough — but part of that is my fault. I need to ride for more than 20-30 minutes during my hacks.
Hunching: I need to stretch up (and not hunch over), even when I’m half-halting with all my might.
Flowing over Fences: I need to fold my hip angle more and not perch or pose over the fence.
No lead changes: Vinnie does not, and will never, have a lead change.
All of these things are fixable (except for the last one). I can ride for longer intervals, focusing on exercises to help my strength and quit hunching. I can practice more jumps and work on flowing over each fence.
All in all, I think I need to remember that I’ve changed and that horse showing is different for me now than it was when I was 16. I no longer think I’m immortal, I’m the one that pays all the bills and I’m the one shouldering all of the responsibility. But does that mean I don’t enjoy it anymore?
What do you think? Has showing changed at all for you as you’ve gotten older?
Hi! I'm Tracy, a full-time marketing/communications professional from Central Ohio. Fly On Over follows my journey through horse ownership and as a working adult amateur trying to find success in the hunter/jumper show ring with my Thoroughbred, Miles.