Over the past few days, I have read quite a few blog posts answering the question “What have I learned?”, which was first started by Sara. Reading all of these wonderful and inspiring posts from fellow bloggers really got me thinking about what I have learned in the past few months that have had the biggest impact on my riding.
The theme of the past few months for me riding wise has been “it’s all in the details”. Diesel’s inexperience has really made me take a step back and work on fine-tuning my riding all over again. It has also taught me some things that I guess I never really thought much into before now:
Creating and maintaining a good quality canter is more important than trying to “find” a distance.
Continuing to work Diesel through bad behavior is more effective than stopping the exercise to regroup.
Your outside aids are just as important as your inside aids.
Working your horse on the bit does not mean you have to have strong rein contact. You can be soft and still maintain contact.
Softening your hand while working your horse in contact is a more effective reward for good behavior than just dropping the contact altogether.
Ride every step. You have to be the driver – not the passenger.
While all of these things are great, I have saved the most important thing I have learned, and am still learning, for last. It is best summarized in this quote:
“Riding, like life, doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.” – unknown
I have been a perfectionist for my entire life. One of the hardest but most important things that I have learned and am still learning every day is that it is okay not to be perfect all the time. Messing up and making mistakes is part of the learning process, and you shouldn’t be ashamed of that. The most important thing is enjoying the ride.
Now that the leaves are falling and the air is getting cooler, it is time to break out all of the lovely things that are reserved for the cooler weather! I haven’t been doing much shopping here lately, but I have accumulated some things over the past few months that I just can’t wait to share with you.
I am in love with this sheet! I purchased the burgundy sheet and neck combo from Smartpak, and let me just say, it is gorgeous! Burgundy is definitely Dies’s color! Since Dies is known as the destroyer of blankets, I reserve it for shows and supervised grazing only. I can’t stand the thought of it getting a rip lol. I ordered a 78″ sheet, but I will say that it definitely runs on the larger side – especially in the chest area. I think Dies could have gone for the 75″, but the 78″ is fine since his older brother will be using it as well. Diablo could not have squeezed his chunky butt in the 75″. Other than the larger fit, the sheet fits and works great! I definitely notice a difference in relaxation and suppleness when using the sheet on cold mornings and nights.
I finally bit the bullet and bought a new set of Equifits as the XL pair I have loved for years ended up just being too big for Diesel. He really needs a large for them to fit correctly and not slide down. Instead of buying a pair of plain black ones, I opted for the D-Teq boots featuring a brown binding. Let’s just say they are GORGEOUS! I love them so, so much.
We all know how irritating it is to stumble across fungus when grooming your horse. No matter how well you take care of them, it always seems to make an appearance – especially when the wet months set in. After fighting a losing battle against cannon bone crude for what seems like forever, I stumbled across a super product called Fungus Amungus shampoo. Washing my guys’ legs with this after every ride has completely eradicated the cannon crud. It also has a pleasant smell and lathers nicely, resulting in a squeaky clean and fungus-free pony.
While I like to trick myself into thinking I actually like full coverage makeup, I’m not a huge makeup person when it comes time to actually putting it on. Glossier caught my eye as their makeup is designed to be quick and easy to apply. You can achieve a healthier, more put together look without the time commitment of applying full coverage makeup. That is definitely a huge plus when you’re a busy college student and equestrian. Who’s got the time for a full face of makeup between a schedule full of lessons and classes?
If you’re looking for a sheer, all-natural makeup look, Glossier products are just the thing for you! I currently own the skin tint, concealer, boy brow, haloscope (highlighter), cloud paint (blush), wowder, and lidstar (eyeshadow). All of their products feel wonderful on the skin, and you can achieve a full look in around 10 minutes! How great is that?
Let’s just say that I spend an ungodly amount of time browsing through Etsy. I have a real weakness for personalized, hand-made products. When I stumbled upon Grey Horse Candles on Etsy, I just couldn’t say no. Candles that are horse themed? Yes, please!
The candles from this shop are very well made – they always burn evenly and produce a great scent payoff. You can really tell that the owner put a lot of work and love into each candle. Also, the scents are just amazing! My favorite scent by far is Morning Hack, which really reminds me of just that, a morning hack. It has a very fresh, woodsy smell that is so relaxing. I also love Sweet Feed and High End Tack! They smell just like the real things!
As a college student who is shopping for one, buying ingredients and cooking meals is always such a pain. I always seem to end up with too many ingredients that take up way too much space in my refrigerator and pantry and I struggle to find good, healthy recipes that don’t require 40 pieces of cookware. Not to mention, I’m not the best cook.
I just recently started receiving weekly meal-kits from Hello Fresh, and all I can say is wow! Each kit comes with all the ingredients you need (minus salt, pepper, and olive oil) and detailed step-by-step instructions on how to prepare your chosen meals all for around $40 a week. While it may seem kind of expensive, if you compare the cost of eating out and factor in that the kits give you four meals, it is actually really reasonable. It also doesn’t hurt that the meals are delicious and easy to make! Even I, the worst cook in America, can whip up a tasty meal. That’s really saying something.
Boy, it’s been a while since I was last able to sit down and get my thoughts together on here! Life has been pretty hectic in the last month between moving, starting the new semester, and horses. However, now that the first two weeks of the new semester are over, I feel like I can actually take a quick breather and get back to doing what I love: blogging!
Last Monday marked the beginning of my third year here at good ‘ole UGA and my second year as an Animal Science major. This semester’s classes feature organic chemistry, physics, animal reproduction, and equine undergraduate research. Whew! It’s going to be a tough semester, but hopefully, I will make it through in one piece. Either way, I am ready to step up to the plate and give it my best shot!
Even though I am currently living and going to school in Athens, I have decided to keep both of the ponies at my trainer’s farm. Both of them are at the best place they could possibly be, so it definitely wasn’t a hard decision to make even though they are an hour away from me. I just have to make a little extra time and effort if I want to continue to ride and lesson as much as I have been. Let’s just say that in order to get a lesson in during the week, sunrise lessons have become a thing. 😊
While getting up early is not my forte, I am actually loving being in the saddle right when the sun comes up. I actually look forward to my sunrise lesson each week, which if you know me, is probably a little surprising! 😂
Our lessons recently have been going extremely well with both he and I learning a lot each time out. I feel as though I am finally starting to figure him out rather than just going along with the motions, which has been a huge confidence booster for me. My trainer has also been pushing me a little out of my comfort zone each lesson by slowly inching up the jumps. Yes, that’s right, I said jumps! We are actually doing some courses now!
Jumping a “bigger” cross rail in our lesson two weeks ago!
A little trotting!
The video below is from my lesson two weeks ago. Unfortunately, the video of my lesson from last week wouldn’t load. 🙃 The main goal of our last few lessons has been to work on relaxation and pace on course. I sometimes let my anxiety creep its way into my riding resulting in me leaning and rushing at jumps. Thankfully, that habit is slowly disappearing each ride as I continue to gain confidence in both Dies and myself.
There are definitely a lot of things that I need to work on, but overall, I am really proud of our progress so far! I am also really proud of how far I have come both mentally and physically in the last few months. I am finally starting to feel at home in the saddle and like my old self again, and it is all thanks to my amazing trainer and my wonderful baby horse!
I know, I know. I’m a little late to the game posting this, but between prepping for the upcoming semester and work, I just haven’t quite had the time to sit down and get to writing. That is going to change, however, as I have a few exciting new posts in the works that will be published within the next few days! For now, let’s just start with a recap of our last show!
The weekend started off with me making a last minute decision to load Diablo up on the trailer with his little bro and take him to school in the horse park’s oh-so-wonderful Olympic stadium. I mean, if you’re already taking one horse, you might as well take the other too! 😊
It has been quite a while since I have taken Diablo to school off-property since his semi-retirement. However, like the good boy he is, he jumped right off the trailer and was ready to go – no prep required. I jumped right on, rode him down to the stadium, and had an absolutely fabulous ride! We even managed to sneak in a jump over the tiny trainer’s medal log. It definitely wasn’t anything close to beautiful, but for an old man that hasn’t jumped anything in over a year, it wasn’t half bad!
Of course, after we had our fun and got his baby brother bathed and all tucked in for the night, we loaded Diablo back up on the trailer and took him back home. While I had so much fun getting to school my old guy, it was a little bittersweet for me. I can’t say that I didn’t shed a tear thinking about how we were competing in this same arena together a few years ago. It’s days like that that make me really wish I could go back in time and relive it all over again. Oh, how I miss showing my old guy!
Saturday started out a bit rough in the baby green division for Dies. While he ended up blowing away the competition in his flat class, we experienced some technical difficulties over fences. He wasn’t badly behaved per se. He just really showed his greenness by pulling my trainer down the lines and trying to convince us that he had never heard of a flying change before. Despite that, he did relatively well handling being ridden in a brand new arena and not having a lunging session that morning.
He did, however, make up for his not-so-stellar rounds in the baby green division by completely rocking the schooling hunter division later that day! He flatted beautifully pulling a first place in a competitive class and two third places out of around fourteen 2′ and 2’6 horses – earning him a champion ribbon for the division! He was stellar!
Sunday was definitely Dies’s day as he came out so relaxed and focused. My trainer put in some absolutely gorgeous rounds on him in the baby greens and for the classic! In fact, her classic round was pretty much the epitome of perfection and ended up receiving a fourth place out of 26 horses! I am so sad that I forgot to video it! Like the day before, he flatted beautifully and received a first place out of twelve horses. While his rounds were beautiful, he only came out with a third over one o/f classes as his lead changes weren’t 100%. There were a few that he had to skip-change, which definitely cost him points in the consistency department. However, I definitely believe they were some of his best rounds to date minus the changes. It did earn him a reserve champion nonetheless!
Later that day, we decided to enter the schooling hunter division again to continue to work on developing his changes on course and finesse some things we can’t do at home. His rounds were even better than the ones he put down that morning! He just kept getting better and better! Amazingly, he ended up winning both of his o/f courses out of around sixteen 2′ and 2’6 horses!
Another spur-of-the-moment decision landed me in the saddle to flat him in his schooling hunter flat. He was being so perfect for my trainer that I decided to take the leap of faith and show him again! I even managed to put my big girl pants on and trust him enough to ride him to and from the arena. That definitely wouldn’t have even been a possibility a few months ago! As you can see from the photos below, I definitely wasn’t quite prepared to show, but at least my sunshirt was white! 😂
I had an absolute blast as he was a complete saint for me! He was so soft and supple despite how packed the arena was. Even though this was my first “real” show in about two years and our second time in the show ring together, we managed to pull out a third place out of a very large and competitive class!
I just can’t put into words how happy this guy makes me! He is definitely a dream come true for me, and I can’t wait to see what the future has to hold for us!
Although the summer heat here in Georgia has been verging on almost unbearable, I have been out at the barn almost every day riding and feeding for my trainer while she has been gone on vacation. One of those rides was a big milestone for us as a team – our first real hack outside of the arena!
A few months ago, this would not have been a possibility for us as he and I were nervous wrecks. However, thanks to my awesome trainer, our confidence in each other has grown to the point where I finally felt that I could trust him enough to go outside the arena and hack around in the pasture. Not only did we walk and trot in the pasture, but we did it all while on the buckle! He was such a good boy and seemed to thoroughly enjoy his “field day”! It was definitely all smiles from me!
Since my trainer came back from her beach trip on Friday, I signed up to have a lesson today to try and keep our weekly lesson streak intact. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to ride with a friend, which was so much fun! I find myself riding alone a lot of the time due to my schedule, so when I get the chance to ride with someone, it always makes the lesson 100x better!
The main focus of our lesson today was continuing to work on riding off of my outside aids to achieve precise turns and overall straightness. I developed such a bad habit of grabbing onto my inside rein to turn like a pony kid, but let me tell you, that does not work on Dies. His response is to just drift through the turn with his outside shoulder stuck out to Texas. Meaning, we actually never turn. We just keep on drifting.
However, I am glad to say that I am getting much better about using my outside aids thanks to all of the “square” circles, cone exercises, and off-the-rail work that we have been doing lately. Our straightness has improved exponentially, and we are actually able to turn! Crazy how that works, right? 😂
We also accomplished something huge today: cantering our first full pole course! Up until now, we have just trotted in and cantered out lines. I haven’t been quite ready to canter in yet, but today I finally put on my big girl pants and went for it!
I have to say, I was pretty proud of how well I rode and how well he behaved. I am starting to get a lot stronger and secure in the saddle, and I can really tell a difference in my riding. I have a long way to go, but I am definitely proud of the progress we have made so far!
As for the course itself, he took a wonky “baby horse” step to the first “jump” of the inside line and we got a little tight to the last of the outside line, but besides that, our pace was consistent, our turns were square and balanced, and I managed to not get in his way. I’d call that a win for us!
Overall, I was very pleased with our first full course. He just keeps on getting better and better each ride. I can’t wait until we start incorporating some jumps! We will get there!
As for what’s next, Dies has another HJ Fox show this coming weekend! I can’t wait!
Buckle your seatbelt guys, this post may get a little sappy.
Diesel and I completed a huge milestone this past weekend – our first horse show together! My trainer and I loaded up some horses early Saturday morning and trailered into a cute little farm in Monroe, GA named Serenity Creek Equestrian Center to attend one of their schooling shows. I have to say – it was one of the best-run schooling shows I have been to in a while. The staff was so nice and welcoming, the arena was well groomed, and the ribbons were super nice for such a small show!
Since it was Diesel’s first time having a non-pro ride at a show, my first show riding in three years, and our first time showing together, we decided to take it easy and set ourselves up for success by entering the adult beginner division and green horse division. I also decided to keep my goals for this show small: don’t fall off and give my horse the best ride I can possibly give him. That’s it.
Our classes actually went extremely well! We had some great moments where everything seemed to fall into place and all of the things we have been working on in lessons seemed to click for me. In those moments, the connection was there, he was relaxed and focused, and I was actually riding both sides of my horse instead of resorting to my inside rein like an idiot. Not only were there some really quality moments, but Dies also behaved like a complete gentleman! He was on his best behavior despite some of the other horses’ shenanigans ringside and some very scary speakers by the judge’s booth. I honestly just can’t put into words how proud of him I am!
Is there room for improvement? Absolutely! First and foremost, I have got to get back in shape and lose all of the extra “fluffiness” I have gained while in college. I am actually embarrassed by how chunky I have gotten. 😞 Not cool, Ashlyn. Secondly, I need to work on maintaining my connection with him throughout the entire ride to keep him focused on me rather than letting his attention wander. And lastly, I need to continue working on achieving quieter, softer transitions by timing my half halts better and supporting him with my leg and seat. However, it is all a work in progress and for our first show together, I was very pleased with how he behaved and how I rode! I felt as though I was an active rider rather than a passenger, which was a huge win for me! I couldn’t have asked for a better first time out!
Although placings weren’t even in the forefront of my mind for this show, we ended up doing extremely well for our first show together! In the adult beginner division, we ended up placing second in every class out of six earning us a reserve champion ribbon. That alone had me glowing with pride, but when we went into the green horse division and pulled out a first, second, and third, I thought I had died and gone to heaven! Two reserve champions at our first show together? No way! I was beyond thrilled!
Even though it was just a few flat classes at a small show, I came out of the arena feeling as though we had just won the $1M Grand Prix! I was that proud of my sweet boy and all that he has accomplished in the last few months! Actual tears may have been shed, and that is not an exaggeration!
Not only was he fantastic for me, but he was also perfect for my trainer in the schooling hunter division. He was such a good boy and behaved wonderfully despite the stifling summer heat. He and my trainer also ended up champion of the division with a first, second, and fourth with my trainer’s sale pony close behind in reserve. Overall, it was a fantastic show for us! I hope there will be many more shows in our future!
As I’m sitting here writing this post, I am just overflowing with pride and love for Dies and gratitude for everything that my amazing trainer and parents have done for me and him throughout this journey of ours so far! My trainer has put so much hard work into both of us, and I honestly can’t thank her enough for that. And my parents, gosh, they have sacrificed so much to make owning this horse a possibility for me. I am beyond thankful!
It’s no secret that I am a saddle pad lover and hoarder. Despite my love for saddle pads, I am not a big collector of half pads. The only half pad I have ever owned up until now was a ThinLine as my custom saddle never needed any extra padding. But with Diablo getting older and not as fit as he used to be, his saddle has gotten a tad too wide for him. While I start to rebuild his topline and get him back in shape, a half pad will help fill in the gaps between him and the saddle to help it fit him better in the meantime. Plus, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to have a nice half pad for my trainer to use when she rides Diesel in her saddle. It’s a win-win situation. 😉
In my search for a good half pad, my curiosity got the best of me when I saw an Equifit half pad for sale on a Facebook group for a really good price. I just had to try it out!
I am a huge fan of Equifit’s line of protective boots. Their T-Foam EXP2 Open Front Boots have been a staple in my tack trunk for the past four years. Yes, that’s right, they have held up to weekly wear and tear for four years and are still going strong. Since I love their open front boots so much, deciding to purchase one of their half pads was a no-brainer.
Diablo in his Equifits four years ago!
Diesel wearing the same pair of Equifits!
According to Equifit, the ImpacTeq Half Pad is “designed to absorb extreme impact” and “provides the ultimate protection for both horse and rider”. They also claim that the ImpacTeq Technology allows the pad to contour to the horse’s back to provide a custom fit while “an open-cell non-newtonian foam transforms from soft to rigid upon impact”.
The half pad itself comes in a variety of colors including black/black, black/brown, black/navy, black/green, black/red, and black/black ostrich. If you want to take the pad into the hunter ring, don’t worry, Equifit makes a fleece cover for it. The pad itself retails for around $259 and the cover retails for $86. While it is pricey, I do feel that you are paying for an excellent quality product.
The first thing I noticed about my Equifit ImpacTeq Half Pad in black/black ostrich was how sleek and simple the exterior of the pad was. I am the type of person that prefers my half pad to not stand out or clash with the saddle pad I choose to put under it. The black/black ostrich combination looks sleek and sophisticated and adds a bit of flair to the pad without becoming overbearing. It looks beautiful and doesn’t distract from the horse, which I love!
Not only does it look beautiful, but it fits my horse well! My biggest pet peeve when it comes to half pads are pads that lift the saddle way off of the horse’s back and cause it to perch atop the horse. I hate it with a fiery passion. When I first received the pad and pulled it out of the box, I was a little nervous that the thickness of the pad would do just that, but to my relief, it softened and contoured to my horse’s back allowing the saddle to rest as if the pad was not there. The pad seems a little stiff at first, but once it is on the horse, the horse’s body heat warms up the pad and softens the foam allowing for a more custom fit. I found that the exact same thing happens with their protective boots as well. If you are familiar with their boots, you know exactly how that feels.
While I didn’t notice any overly dramatic changes in Diablo’s movement, I did notice that he seemed a little looser through his back and warmed up a little quicker than he usually does without using the pad. He definitely seemed a little more comfortable than normal. The same thing can be said when I put it underneath my trainer’s saddle on Diesel. I can also say that I didn’t feel perched atop of my horse while riding in the pad. I actually felt that I maintained a close contact feel throughout the whole ride.
When the ride was over and I removed the pad, neither of them was overly sweaty underneath the pad which was a huge plus. It must be pretty breathable as Diablo has a tendency to sweat like a pig! He actually seemed quite cool despite the summer heat. Once off, all I did was wipe it down with a damp towel and it was good to go for the next ride. Plus, it has held up extremely well and looks brand new despite me buying it already used from its previous owner.
Overall, I can without a doubt say that Equifit’s ImpacTeq Half Pad is worth the money! If you are in the market for a half pad that is sleek, stylish, and has superb craftsmanship, definitely give this one a try!