It’s January and it’s time to sit down and collect our goals for the year. Most equestrians only have to focus on their personal goals and what they’d like their year to look like. In the case of being 1/2 of an equestrian couple, it’s a team effort.

Decisions such as what classes are we doing this year are broken down into “which ones can one person enter and which ones can the other?” Is one of us ready to move up a division and the other one stay in the same or are we both moving up? And it varies by show series. Some show series have certain classes while others don’t. Will I be the one to take Jim into the in hand classes or will my husband? Will he take him into Western Halter while I take him into English Halter? It goes on and on.

That’s on top of our usual personal goals and where we would like to see our riding this year. Luckily, him and I see very eye to eye on one thing with Jim: dressage. He tried dressage with Jim last year after I was ranting and raving about loving it. Now he’s just as hooked. Having dressage (both traditional and western) as one of our goals actually makes life easier since we can perform different tests. The trick is not performing more than allowed since some show series have rules on how many tests one horse can do at a single show.

Beside dressage this year, we set our eyes on one thing: our first overnight show. We took our budget from smaller shows last year and compiled it to focus on one, big September show – the New England Pinto Horse Association show in September. It will be the first time we have gone to a multi-day show where we don’t have to show off of our trailer. We set aside our vacation days from work for before and after so the horse show hangover won’t be so bad! And with it being in September, we have plenty of time to perfect our rides and train for it. Luckily we have trainers with us who support us in this goal and are ready to help us get there!

The show season begins early for us this year with a dressage show kick off in March (and maybe even a show before that!) I know we are ready and going to have so much fun this year because I can’t imagine anything more fun in the world than showing alongside my best friend and my horse.

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A friend shared an old George Morris quote recently about how kids these days don’t learn enough about the work behind horses. They may learn to ride or the mechanics, but they don’t get the down and dirty work that actually goes into taking care of your horse.

My experience growing up with horses was very different than many who had the funds. My parents paid for every other week lessons for me. (So 2 a month) But for a horse crazy middle schooler, that wasn’t enough. The barn I was at allowed me to work to get extra free rides and work I did.

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(12-year-old Kaitlyn with a lesson horse who taught me a LOT.)

My parents would drop me off at the barn early in the morning on Saturdays – or really any day I could wiggle out of them. Reporting in to our barn owner, me and any other girls doing the same thing would get a list of chores to complete. We did everything from turning the horses out in the morning (many of which were show-level Arabians that REALLY wanted out!) to shoveling pile after pile of shavings from the shavings pile into our wheelbarrows and then to the stalls.

Since we were kids, we would get the jobs no one else wanted. We got to de-ice and clean buckets in the middle of winter (when you then had to decide if it was worth wearing wet gloves or being cold.) We would lug the hoses out to the fields to fill the water buckets (and remember to take them in!) We would clean tack, groom horses, and really anything that our small selves could do.

It wasn’t just the lesson barn either. For about a year in high school, I volunteered at a therapeutic riding center. Did I ride? Once. Did I do a lot of mucking out the paddock, grooming horses, side walking and leading horses for lessons? Yes. Did I love every minute and every smile and change over each rider that would come through? 100% yes.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I now realize how important that experience was for me as an equestrian. I knew the hard work behind the horses. I had to – or else I couldn’t ride. I had to earn that one little half hour that I could walk/trot/canter around on my own. My ride was the reward of putting the hard work into taking care of these beautiful creatures.

Even now, I’m still a barn rat. On the weekends, I do chores with my husband to help pay the bills. On Fridays, on my day off from work, I’m frequently found at the barn. My duties may have changed now that I have my own horse, but I’ll still be found holding horses for the chiropractor because my barn owner was needed with another horse or helping our barn manager toss hay at mealtimes. I’ll still be in the lounge cleaning my tack. And I still enjoy every moment. I cherish every second of taking care of the horses. I know the work behind the reward.

Horse showing may be about riding, but being an equestrian and a horsewoman is about taking care of them too.

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It’s not hard to find the matches to your riding socks in your drawer with the Dreamer & Schemers riding socks. I have fallen head over tail in love with these socks!

(Screecher decided he wanted to be in the photo.)

I bought my first pair of Dreamer & Schemers a few months ago after I had followed their Instagram for a contest. Their vibrant colors and trendy designs caught me immediately. The designs were totally me and they had something for everyone – whether you like unicorns, jumper designs, avocados, sushi, etc. The list went on and on. I have even gotten my friends hooked on them!

Along with being very fun designs with a personality of their own, the D&S socks feel great. They have a nice black sock bottom that’s smooth and comfortable in your boots. At the top is a stretchy black band that helps keep your socks up. They’re quality.

(Doesn’t the black horse look like Jim?)

The socks fit up to a 16″ calf. I run about a 16″ and although they do get a bit snug over breeches, they do fit. I tend to be that weird short person who hates ankle bunching with the bottom of my breeches so I tend to wear my socks under my breeches with my half chaps. (P.S.- If anyone has a solution to this, PLEASE hit me up on my contact info on the blog or comment below!)

The socks usually run about $17 although she runs sales pretty consistently. Right now they’re $15 with a buy 3, get 1 free deal. She also works with companies to do custom socks so if you go by the View Halloo site or some of your friendly tack shops or bloggers, you might find some limited editions!

The socks are stylish, comfortable and a good buy for the price. I’ve already gotten a few friends hooked on them! (And some of them don’t even ride English!)

(Disclaimer: I bought these socks myself!)

There’s one thing in horse ownership that you come to learn and appreciate more than ever: your farrier. Finding a good farrier is like finding that one perfect foundation for your skin tone – almost impossible. When you find them, you hold on tight.

A horse’s hooves are their foundations. Think: horses spend almost their entire 24 hours a day on their feet minus a few hours laying down to sleep. Those hooves carry 1,000+ pounds a day on capsules of tissue, blood and bone. Keeping their feet balanced and correct is a true art and one not enough equestrians appreciate.

I’m sorry backyard owners, I will never pick up a rasp and try and trim my horse’s feet myself. Nope, never ever. I value his feet and everything that goes into them. There is too much at stake and it’s worth the money every 6 to 8 weeks.

I have become very good at recognizing trouble signs. I know the basic signs of thrush, white line disease, flares, chips and abscesses. I know a nail in the foot is an immediate call to the farrier and the vet! I know enough of when to call my farrier and say “come save me.”

Think of all of the diseases that are potentially life threatening – or at least career ending – that show signs of trouble in the hoof; laminitis, navicular, broken coffin bones and many more. An incorrect balance on the feet can also affect the horse’s entire body. You don’t mess with that alone.

It comes down to the fact that I’m ok that my horse has a love affair with my farrier. He should because in the end, it’s better for everyone. It’s worth the money to have a qualified farrier who knows what he’s doing taking care of my horse’s feet. He’s not just some guy who decided there’s money in blacksmithing and wants to run around and call himself a farrier.

When looking for a new farrier, don’t be afraid to shop around. Ask other horse owners who they use. Ask who they won’t use. Gather as much information about the blacksmith as you can. And if your farrier isn’t cutting it, don’t be afraid to find a new one. You can find the right fit for you and your horse, but don’t be surprised if he/she isn’t the cheapest on the block. A good farrier is worth it.

I stumbled upon the View Halloo Equestrian Competition Journal by chance. View Halloo was a featured Instagram account in a giveaway I had entered. It was one of those like a bunch of accounts and be entered contests. At first I thought nothing of it until View Halloo’s journal came by my feed.

Anyone that knows me knows there’s two things I love; paper products and planning. I love being organized. I love gathering information and putting it all together with one little bow. I had to get my hands on this journal.

Fast forward a few weeks and my journal came yesterday in the mail. I rushed home as fast as I could to dive into the journal. Unboxing it was the most fun I had had all week.

It came very well packaged and safe. I must say founder Rebecca thinks of everything when she was putting together this journal and she doesn’t ship it cheaply. It comes in a heavy wrapped paper envelope that’s lined and then the journal is wrapped up in a nice, orange tissue paper and sealed and taped.

Opening it up, the first thing I noticed was the beautiful cover. I got the black with silver with my name on it and it came absolutely perfect. When you pick up this journal, it screams quality. Opening up the pages, you can tell Rebecca knew what she was doing. The pages are heavy and smooth and great to write on. It’s some of the most quality paper I’ve felt in a while.

The journal is peppered with beautiful watercolor pictures and includes references to View Halloo which is a foxhunting call meaning something is worth chasing. I love this motto for goal setting!

Leafing through the journal, she thought of everything. The journal has spaces for your registration information, insurance, blanket inventory, horse care, training, goals, shows, travel schedules, etc. It’s truly built for a competing equestrian to keep everything organized.

The journal is very beefy. It’s not a small journal! You get a lot of value for your money ($75 without your name on front or $90 with.) I’ve already started going through it and filling out all of Jim’s information, some of which I had to go into my filing box for! It’s nice to have all of the information all together. I hope I don’t fill out the training pages too quickly though. I might do weekly summaries instead of daily rides since I ride Jim about 4-5x a week. That might save me some real estate!

Overall, I absolutely adore the journal and recommend it for anyone that’s like me and has a busy equestrian life. It’s great for keeping track of all of your horse’s information, show schedules, training, equipment and other important information.

Also, for my wonderful blog followers, use the code EQWIFE10 for 10% off!  

This show season has been a whirlwind ride and I’ve learned quite a lot. I started my year off with a lot of changes – mostly my horse change. We began leasing Jim in February and purchased him in May. Our shows went from end of April to our last 2 dressage shows coming up next month. Needless to say, we didn’t have a ton of time to get used to Jim and figure out his buttons before we jumped right in!

At the beginning of the season, Jim and I hadn’t quite figured each other out yet. I was becoming more confident again and he was learning the life of a show pony. We had varying levels of ribbons, mostly toward the bottom, as I figured myself out. We did have some great highlights though and started achieving, especially on our home turf. That first blue when I went third, first and first and then went on to win ground poles will forever be one of my favorite accomplishments.

The last off property show we competed in was earlier this month. While I still have a lot to work on, our turnaround was pretty fantastic. We scored first in equitation (which had been our nemesis all year and yes, this is all on me) and two seconds in pleasure and discipline. Year end scores are still being calculated, but I think we may have taken some reserve championships. (We’ll find out soon!)

Our experiences at shows changed completely. While I’m still nervous in the warm up ring, I’ve started settling down in the show ring. I’m not quite the level of anxiety I was at the beginning of the year. I’ve started trusting Jim more to take care of me and be my partner.

And while I was learning him, my husband was too. This was his first year really competing now that we had a horse he could ride too. Although he would try and disagree – he’s too hard on himself – he did amazing. He was the first one to score a blue ribbon on Jim out of the two of us and I am so proud of them. It’s been great to watch him accomplish his own goals and go so far. The funniest moment of the show season was definitely a show in July. I had to repeatedly tell him he had won first in one of his classes! He didn’t believe it! I’m very lucky to have the best show partner I could have in Tom. We are always there for one another.

Going forward into our last two shows and the winter, I know things I’ll need to work on. But I also feel incredibly lucky and accomplished. I have a lot to be thankful for, especially my amazing trainers who know just when and how to push me. Hard work, great trainers and a lot of sweat and tears are worth it. Because out of all of that work comes beauty and success.

 

 

The Search for a Saddle

It isn’t easy the day your trainer comes to you and tells you your saddle is no longer working for your body. It’s even tougher when you’re short and curvy and trying to find the perfect jump saddle for your Paint who has a somewhat weird back that also fits you.

I did not want to buy another “starter” saddle. I was committed to riding English and knew a $300 saddle just wasn’t going to cut it. My trainer, knowing this, began having me try different saddles at the barn. I think I went about four weeks not riding in the same saddle. I tried an Hermes, a Devoucoux, one of the lesson saddles, my husband’s saddle – anything that could possibly fit.

I dove onto Facebook. As any equestrian knows these days, the biggest used horse equipment market is on Facebook. Sometimes you can get lucky on eBay, but Facebook is where it’s at. However buying this way also leaves you open to scammers.

Scammers do exist. I had one girl who had an Antares listed that I was talking with – but she wouldn’t send additional photos. I thought it was odd, but it didn’t hit as a red flag until someone commented on the post that she had scammed them. Upon talking to the girl, I quickly forgot about that saddle and moved on. I kept searching.

It took awhile. It wasn’t a search that ended in a day. It wasn’t as simple as walking to the appliance store and picking out a new dishwasher.

Then I stumbled on a post by Christine of Bonjour Tack. Based in Arkansas, her website had a plethora of saddles and many were the higher end used English saddles I was looking for. Finally I hit gold. A 2000 Prestige Hippo Red Fox in great condition. Before Prestige changed their Red Fox saddles, they were calf leather and wool flocked. The saddle had a short flap and the gullet was right for Jim.

I can’t say enough good things about Christine. She allowed me to do a payment plan and if I paid in a few weeks, I could still have the week trial to make sure it fit Jim and I. When I paid it off, it was shipped that day and I was sent the tracking right away. And when it came, it came with a beautiful Prestige saddle cover and a little drawstring helmet bag as a free gift. The saddle was exactly as advertised and it was wonderful.

I was lucky that it came just two days before my horse show. It felt wonderful and I rode the best I had yet, winning equitation and taking two seconds in pleasure and discipline.

And with that, my search finally concluded. Although sometimes I’ll miss the online shopping, it was worth the search and I am in love with my new saddle.

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Recently I was one of 25 winners who got a sneak peek at a new subscription box service, Tack ‘n Treats. I was very excited to receive my box as Tack ‘n Treats go a step beyond just your normal monthly box. A portion of what you pay for each box goes to horse rescues.

I received my box quickly in the mail in a nice little branded Tack ‘n Treats box. After opening it, I first found a piece of paper detailing everything that was in my box which I found very useful.

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In my box I got a navy lead rope, a face brush, a large bag of treats, some saddle soap, an electrolyte supplement, a thing of vetwrap, and a horse sticker. The box was also scattered with peppermints!

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Probably the funniest thing about opening my box was just the other day I was thinking how I didn’t have a good small face brush. I have a few bigger soft brushes in my kit that are close, but nothing small enough. And there it was in my box!

I also enjoyed that it was a large bag of treats rather than a small sample because – let’s admit it – Jim gets a good deal of treats. I loved that the Co-Flex wrap was red, Jim’s stable color!

The only thing I probably won’t use is the supplement. I have Jim on a pretty strict diet. However I like that the supplement is not just for horses and since we have other animals at the barn, someone will enjoy it.

Overall it was a nice little box and full of fun surprises. I love getting things in the mail so it was great!

Tack ‘n Treats will begin shipping boxes Oct. 1. If you subscribe before Oct. 1, the box is $39.95 a month.

(I won this box randomly via a Facebook/Instagram contest.)

Recently my husband and I found ourselves in Las Vegas on a work trip. But during the trip we had some free time and had booked ourselves a Sunset Trail Ride with Wild West Horseback Adventures. And we are so glad we did!

If you’ve been following the blog, you know this is right up both of our alleys since our honeymoon was spent on a dude ranch in Pennsylvania. We had never been out West and definitely not on the Old Spanish Trail so this was a treat!

The chef and driver, James, picked us up from our hotel on the Las Vegas strip around 4 p.m. and we were off! It takes about an hour plus picking up others to get out to Moapa Valley where the ranch is. The drive itself is very scenic and enjoyable and James cracks all the bad jokes you need for the month. And it’s perfect.

Arriving at the ranch, we signed the typical waivers and one of our guides, Caesar, went over all of the safety rules and made sure no one was drunk or hungover! It’s great for everyone in the group from beginners to experienced because even though my husband and I ride a lot, every horse has different buttons.

The group is really focused on making sure everyone has water which you have to out in the desert. Every saddle has a little pouch for your water bottle and your phone and you could leave other valuables locked up in the van. James stays at base camp while he cooks.

Don’t worry about mounting from the ground here! Everything is by a large platform so it’s easy for everyone of all experience levels and sizes.

And then the ride began! I don’t quite want to spoil the ride, but it’s absolutely breathtaking. Once you turn to go home, you are riding right into the sunset and it’s beautiful! I’ll post the photos, but they don’t do it justice!

We were at the front of the line and spent a lot of time chatting with the trail guide Brock. He was super nice and pointed out all of the animals and views. We even found a small lizard – with the help of the dogs – that Caesar caught and showed everyone!

After the ride which is at a steady walk and perfect for viewing the landscape, you’re treated to a steak or chicken dinner cooked by James. The best way to sum up dinner was that it was great, wholesome, good food. The steaks were a wonderful cut and very juicy!

Finally before heading back to the strip, Caesar taught a few of us how to lasso which was great for some laughs!

Some pointers if you decide to go: wear jeans and closed toe shoes and bring a wide brimmed hat! It gets hot the first half of the ride in the sun and you will get dehydrated or burnt if you don’t drink water during the ride from your pack.

I would return here in a drop of a hat. It was a great experience and James, Caesar and Brock made it very fun. Five hoofs up!

One of the most hotly debated topics in the horse industry is supplements. Do you feed them? Do you not? How do you choose between the thousands of products that are available? I will admit I’ve only been a horse owner for a short period of time. However one of the things I find most important is education. I’ve taken the time to learn, ask questions and read all I can to be a more informed horse owner and to make better decisions.

When I first started out with Jack, my barn was a SmartPak barn. Almost every boarder in the barn and many of our lesson ponies had a SmartPak bin. I feed meals to the horses frequently on the weekends and the SmartPaks were easy to use and great to have around. At the time I was giving Jack Smart Dark and Handsome and SmartDigest Ultra (with ColiCare protection). But SmartPak began getting very expensive and even though the company had great benefits like the ColiCare program and free shipping, it wasn’t very feasible anymore. Also we had several horses at the barn who would balk at different supplements and refuse to eat them.

About a year ago, my barn owner started learning about DAC products. Our barn shows on the Quarter horse circuit and DAC has become very popular in the Quarter horse world. After starting Jack and then Jim on DAC, I can see why.

I feed DAC’s CoolGut, Bloom and Oil. (The Bloom and Oil together make for great hoof and skin support!) I’ve also fed their Foundation Formula for hooves before. I must say I’ve been impressed. Not only do the products work and really show a difference in my horse, but they smell amazing to the point where even humans want to try it! We really have yet to have a horse who has refused a DAC product.

Price wise you can’t beat it. DAC works through dealers in different regions across the country and you can buy directly online as well. DAC has become so popular that SmartPak began to carry some of the products in their wells. Although I’ve considered doing that, you still cannot beat the price for the DAC tubs. The only headache is feeding them out. You are now dealing with a lot of buckets that otherwise wouldn’t have been around with SmartPak.

It’s not to say that I don’t think SmartPak is a great company. They are and I do occasionally order from them. Just for supplements, DAC fits what I’m looking for in a great product.

If anyone has any questions about DAC or supplements, comment away!

(I have in no way been paid for this review and have purchased these products myself.)