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.
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!
I’m late to the game writing this post as I’ve been on vacation for the past week. While I’ve been away soaking up the sun in Florida, the boys have been enjoying a life of leisure with a well-deserved week off from work as my trainer has been in Tryon with a few of her other students. However, before I left for my trip, the boys got a visit from our awesome local chiropractor, Dr. Amy Mushrush, because you know, it’s just money! 🙄
I’m not new to the whole chiropractor thing. In fact, Diablo has been adjusted multiple times in the past when he was in full work, and I have even had myself done as well. I know many people are skeptical about chiropractors and the benefits of utilizing chiropractic care in horses, but let me tell you, I am a firm believer that it is a necessary part of maintaining performance horses in addition to joint supplements. Yes, it can be pricey, but I personally feel it is worth the money as I can see and feel a real difference. While I feel that it is necessary, I definitely don’t think it is necessary every month. I think the frequency should be based on the individual horse as some need it more than others.
To give you a little more insight into the process, I thought it would be a great idea to talk about both Diesel and Diablo’s adjustments separately and break them down for you all that may be interested in incorporating chiropractic care into your routine. I will make sure to include what problems we have been encountering, how the chiropractor adjusted them, and the results.
Diablo was the first to be adjusted as he is an old pro when it comes to being adjusted. However, I have to admit that I am a bad horse mom and haven’t had him adjusted in a little over a year as he is no longer in hard work. I know, I know, I’m just terrible! 😉
If you’ve never personally met Diablo, you wouldn’t know that he can generally be very tight throughout his back and is usually out of align in his pelvis. This is probably a result of both his older age and his long history with lameness issues. It is obvious to see when you trot him off as he develops an asymmetrical swing in the hind end at the trot accompanied by an asymmetrical stance and a crooked tail set when he is out of align. When under saddle, you can tell he is out of align as he tends to become stiff and reluctant to bend around the leg. I equate it to riding a stiff 2X4.
Unfortunately, he can be sort of hard to adjust as his mystery allergic reaction that runs the length of his back makes him sensitive to touch in that area during peak allergy season. Even though he is on medication for it, it can get a little ouchy if he has been rolling frequently. However, the chiropractor did a wonderful job working around it to keep him willing and comfortable throughout the entire adjustment. As you can see from his report that I have attached below, she spent the majority of his adjustment focusing on realigning his pelvis and was successful in achieving a symmetrical hind end swing and stance by the end. The result: a relaxed pony that is no longer stiff and unwilling to bend.
Unlike his brother, this was Diesel’s first time being adjusted. I haven’t really felt the need to have him adjusted before now, but now that his workload has become quite strenuous, I felt that it was time to start getting him adjusted to keep him in top shape.
Within the past month, my trainer and I noticed that his stifles had begun to give out at the trot and he was having difficulty picking up his left lead. After her pre-adjustment examination, the chiropractor determined that he was sore in his SI region and hocks, which was causing him to overcompensate with other regions of his body resulting in the reluctance to pick up the left lead and the minor stifle issue. After a few adjustments and a quick massage, he was good to go again. There will definitely be more adjustments, cold hosing of legs, and liniment baths after hard workouts in his future!
I have to brag on him a little as he was a complete angel throughout his entire adjustment. Within a couple of seconds after her first adjustment, he was licking and chewing with a soft eye. He definitely enjoyed all the attention, pats, and treats like a true attention hog. In fact, he didn’t want to go back into his stall afterward!
After I left, my trainer rode Dies once before she left and reported that there was no more falling out behind and difficulty picking up the left lead. Thank goodness! Hopefully, the adjustment and his mini vacation will do wonders for him. 😊
A huge thank you to Dr. Amy Mushrush at Mushrush Performance for doing an excellent job with both of my boys! If you are looking for an awesome chiropractor in Georgia, she is absolutely the best!
I can’t believe my first year as an animal science major and second year at UGA is already over! This past school year brought with it a lot of really cool experiences and taught me a lot both academically and personally. I got the opportunity to get down and dirty with some awesome animals at UGA’s teaching dairy, beef and sheep unit, and swine unit during my practicum class, attended a Temple Grandin seminar, started a new job at a small animal clinic, joined an absolutely amazing new barn family, and met some really great people along the way!
Despite all of all of the great things that came with this past school year, it definitely wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. I have to say, life definitely didn’t take it easy on me – especially this semester. A series of family health emergencies caused me to miss quite a few weeks of classes and left me struggling both emotionally and academically. My grades also took a hit as I struggled with my anxiety and depression throughout it all. However, with a lot of hard work, late nights, coffee, and, of course, some pony therapy, I was able to salvage my grades and make it onto the dean’s list with five As and one B!
Enough about school though – IT’S SUMMERTIME! That means there will be a lot of pony-filled days in my future. To say I am excited would be a little bit of an understatement!
In preparation for me moving back home for the summer, we moved Diablo to Southern Sky Farm to live with his little brother, Dies. He settled right in like a champ and has been as happy as a lark. I’m so happy to have my two boys back together in one place again as now I can ride both of them more often!
As usual, my trainer has been doing an absolutely amazing job with Dies while I have been away. I got a chance to watch her jump him around a couple of days ago, and oh my gosh guys, he was amazing! He has gained so much confidence over fences that he was able to jump some larger jumps without even blinking an eye! That definitely wouldn’t have been possible a few months ago. There are definitely still a lot of things we need to work on, but for his first time jumping jumps this high, he was a rockstar!
I have been able to flat him around twice since I have been back home, but sadly I didn’t get any video or pictures. However, I will be having my first lesson on him in two months tomorrow and I am hoping to get some pictures then!
I can’t wait to start lessoning regularly and get back to riding how I used to before college. As of right now, my goal is to do our first show together on June 9th! I hope that we can make that happen as I am really eager to get back to showing after a two-year hiatus! Fingers crossed!