Friday Five

This week has gone by quickly, y’all, and I’m a little sad to see it go. It kicked off with beautiful 70+ degree temperatures, but there’s a chance of snow in the forecast this weekend. What?! Bring back the sunny weather! 
Despite the impending cold front, I’m dreaming of spring. Here’s what’s on my radar this week:
Every year, I resolve to plant a vegetable garden. We had a few raised beds, and I did plant a garden for a couple of years. Inevitably, it would get hot, I’d stop weeding, and within a week, the garden would be a jungle. When we had the pool filled in last year, our raised beds were partially destroyed by the equipment that was moving in and out. So this year, I’m starting seeds indoors and planning to do some container gardening. We’ll see how it goes- despite having a degree in soil science, I don’t have a green thumb!
Being assertive is not one of my strong points. I’m an extroverted people person. I want people to like me; I’m often afraid of offending or upsetting someone. I’m pretty laid-back, so I don’t often feel the need to protest or disagree with someone, but when I do, I really struggle with it. This year, I’ve been reading a lot of articles with tips on how to be more assertive and trying to implement them. This has been especially helpful when dealing with wedding-related conversations- whether it’s my mother suggesting something I don’t want, or expressing a preference to a vendor.
My body brush got lost in the depths of the trailer after schooling show championships. I’m a little sad- it was a great brush that I’d had since I got my first event horse, Sadie. (That brush was nearly 20 years old!) That said, I was more than happy to (finally) replace it this week with one of these super soft body brushes from German manufacturer Haas. Like, I would brush myself with this thing. (Maybe I already have.)
A friend thoughtfully gave me a bag of these for Christmas and I just finished feeding the bag this week. Both horses love them. Moe is kind of like a garbage disposal, so I wasn’t surprised when he wolfed these down. Gina’s a little more refined, but she scarfed these like there was no tomorrow. They’re very soft and chewy, and of course, my horses always enjoy a molasses overload.
Even dopey Moe knows when it’s me shouting “MOE MOE! GO RIDE?”, so I wasn’t surprised by this study’s discovery that horses can recognize the voices of familiar humans. I was surprised to learn that horses appear to form a mental picture of the speaker by matching visual and auditory cues. Horses are so cool.

What have y’all been checking out this week? Any big weekend plans?

Test Ride: Sommer Savoy FlextraEQ

My tack store has a lot of saddles, both in the store and on our mobile unit. I figure it’s part of my job to be knowledgeable about these saddles, so I periodically check them out on a 10 day trial to assess them.

Our best-selling saddles are, without a doubt, Sommers. They’re German made saddles that are fully customizable- in fact, we have a saddle coming in next week that’s adorned with purple crystals at the customer’s request. We sell their dressage saddles most frequently- the Savoy and Spezial are the most popular.
Last week, I checked out a used Sommer Savoy FlextraEQ.
A little background info on the Sommer FlextraEQ: it has a straight tree, which is purportedly designed to fit on the straight-backed modern warmblood. The straight tree means less deep panels, which puts the rider in closer contact with the horse. The panels are independent of each other and are designed to spread slightly when weight is in the saddle; this means the rider’s weight is distributed more evenly over a wider area. The tree is flexible throughout- not just in the saddle’s twist- which means the saddle follows the horse’s movement more closely.
Sommer’s designed the saddle to be comfortable for the rider, too. The saddle’s tree design supposedly makes riders follow the motion instead of being put slightly behind it, as many dressage saddles seem to do. The saddle claims to open up the rider’s hip flexors, length the leg, and align the spine. The monoflap design seeks to reduce the amount of pressure from the rider’s aids.
The saddle has a very deep, wide seat and large, prominent thigh blocks. It’s very different from my dressage saddle, which is a somewhat minimalist King’s Sandringham.
Sommer Savory FlextraEQ
The leather on the saddle is very nice: it’s butter soft and supple, shows little wear, and isn’t slippery. The saddle I checked out had a medium tree which was slightly big on Gina, who is a typically built, somewhat narrow Thoroughbred. (For reference, both of my saddles- the Ainsley and the King’s- have medium trees and fit her well.) It’s surprisingly light for such a large saddle- the monoflap seems to take a lot of weight off!
The Sommer is a joy to sit in. It’s ridiculously comfortable. It felt like sitting on a pillow, it was so padded and soft. I felt as if I was really sitting on my seat bones without a lot of wiggling or adjusting. I’d taken my stirrups directly from my dressage saddle and put them on this one without shortening or lengthening them, but once in the Sommer, I found I had to lengthen them by two holes. (I probably could have lengthened them another hole or two.)
At all gaits, I felt I had a good connection with Gina and could feel her moving underneath me. At the trot, the gigantic thigh block was a nuisance; my leg was rammed into the block regardless if I was rising or sitting. I’d guess this was because my stirrups were too short- the problem was alleviated slightly when I dropped my stirrups.
The Savoy really impressed me at the canter. I have a hard time keeping my seat quiet when Gina canters. She’s a very “up” mover with a lovely canter which is a lot more comfortable in two-point! In this saddle, I felt super secure (as opposed to slithering uncomfortably all over the place), and I didn’t have to struggle to maintain my position. I didn’t have to think about it at all. Because my position was better, Gina was lighter in the bridle and more willing to really step underneath herself and use her back.
Richal riding Princess Pony
I made Richal try the Savoy, because she’s a professional dressage person. She thought it was a great saddle and commented on how much she liked the thigh blocks. She also mentioned that the stirrups felt short to her- and she’s about 3-4″ shorter than I am!
Gina didn’t appear to have any major differences in her performance with this saddle. The King’s fits her well and she’s generally easy to ride and well behaved, so I wasn’t really expecting any miracles. She’s better when I’m better, so I wasn’t surprised that when the saddle corrected some of my problems, Gina improved.
“Of course I’m better when you stop riding like a sack of potatoes.”
Overall, the Savoy is a really, really nice saddle. It’s well-constructed of high quality materials. It’s lightweight. It does most of the things it claims to do. I don’t think it will suddenly transform anyone into a Grand Prix rider (although I think some people believe that…) or cause your horse to have an epiphany regarding canter pirouettes, but it may certainly help you improve your position or make your horse more comfortable.
This particular saddle is for sale for $3200, so it will not be staying with me! But if I had the money? I’d totally get one. With purple crystals.

Wedding Wednesday: When you don’t like a vendor

Finding vendors for a wedding is easy. Johnny and I attended a wedding show in Tulsa last summer, which was filled with vendors for everything from cake to bridal boot camp. It’s a very efficient way to gather information and compare prices. We found our photographer, printer, venue, and DJ through the show, and even got a discount on a few services because of wedding show specials. 
For the most part, the vendors we’ve worked with have been great. Our photographer understands that we want many pictures of the horses and knows how to shoot them. Our venue has been absolutely accommodating and pleasant. The print shop has been enthusiastic about our ideas and easy to communicate with via email. (That’s important to us.)
The DJ, on the other hand…
When we chatted with the representatives at the wedding show, they were funny, relaxed, and seemed to understand we were looking for a company that could provide MC services and music in a low-key way. We aren’t planning to have dancing; we’re planning to have a short ceremony, a cocktail hour to watch the race, and dinner. I’m hoping to be home by 9 PM. The reps we spoke with seemed into that. 
A couple months later, we set up a meeting to go over the contract and put down a deposit. We were greeted by a man who was not someone we’d spoken with at the show. He was unprofessional and bordered on rude. He wasn’t sure of our names and asked if we were the winners of some kind of contest. He accused me of not replying to emails or answering calls, neither of which I’d received. He dropped “retarded” into the conversation more than once, which I thought was offensive and an odd choice to use with strangers. Despite all this, we signed the contract and put down a deposit anyway; we’d liked the people at the wedding show a lot and figured this idiot couldn’t possibly be representative of everyone at the company.
Yesterday, we met with the DJ company again. The meeting was at noon- when I’d contacted them about the meeting, the receptionist told me that they only set up meetings between 10 AM and 4 PM at their office, which is in a very inconvenient part of Tulsa to both Johnny and me. I took the entire day off work (which is unpaid) and Johnny took an extended lunch. I was under the impression we’d be meeting the DJ who would be performing at the wedding and going over generalities like genre of music desired for the reception, wedding time, etc. 
We met with a young woman who informed us she was not our DJ and she didn’t know who our DJ would be because she couldn’t access network files because something was wrong with her computer. She asked if we had any specific song requests for various parts of the wedding (e.g. processional, recessional, etc); we didn’t, because we weren’t informed we needed those at this point. She promised to email me an Excel form and we could fill in songs, write notes, and send it back. She explained that we’d meet with our DJ a final time approximately 2 weeks before the event to finalize everything.
Basically, the meeting accomplished nothing. It was a waste of everyone’s time. I cannot understand why they wanted to meet in person. I am annoyed that their representatives have been unprofessional and disorganized. The only productive thing that came out of this meeting is that I very firmly informed this young woman that under no circumstances did I want the man we met with last time at our wedding. (If he’s the person at the meeting before the wedding, I will tell him to GTFO.)
I am hesitant to seek out another DJ company; we’re getting fairly close to the date, and I know May is a popular time for weddings. But I also don’t want this company to do something stupid like play Michael Bublé on loop throughout the reception. Other than having one very abrasive employee and being into pointless meetings, they haven’t done anything seriously wrong; they’ve just been really annoying.
What do y’all think? Should I give these guys the benefit of the doubt? Should I start searching for another company? Did you have any terrible vendors? Is it appropriate to punch that idiot guy in the mouth next time I see him?

TOABH: Worth 1K Words

Beka at The Owls Approve asks us to share favorite photos of our stud muffins. Get ready for a Moe-tastic post, y’all, because I have way more pictures of him than I do of Gina!
Pony Club Rally @ Kentucky Horse Park
Middle TN Pony Club Horse Trials @ Brownland Farm
Middle TN Pony Club Horse Trials @ Brownland Farm
Peeking out of his stall at PaHa Stables while we were in college.
Still happy to jump at 19 years old, and still happy to forgive my jumping flaws.
Looking for the next fence at Middle TN Pony Club Horse Trials
Clearing a fence at Middle TN Pony Club Horse Trials
Letting everyone know how he really feels about dressage.
Moe and his kiddo at junior rider camp.
Gina toting her lesson kid around at junior rider camp last fall.
Gina, the least silly of horses, making a face.
Gina looking very good last summer.
Looking like a badass cross country horse at her very first combined test.
Gina looking like a winner. Well, a worried winner.
Small log, big accomplishments at the hunter pace.

Friday Five

First of all, thank y’all for chiming in with your thoughts on this week’s Wedding Wednesday post. I really enjoyed reading the responses!
In other news, it’s the weekend, y’all! Rejoicing! I’m headed to the Oklahoma Dressage Society’s annual general meeting tomorrow, doing my taxes on Sunday, and hopefully finding time to ride. 
Here’s what’s been on my radar this week.

After reading good reviews of Aztec Diamond breeches from The $900 Facebook Pony, I decided to splurge on their leggings and socks during their after-Christmas sale. They arrived a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been rigorously wearing the leggings. They’re a good thickness- not so thin they’re see-through, and thick enough to feel supportive and slimming. I’ve used them for jogging, riding, strength training, and yoga (and lounging around my house). My only qualm is the tag, which is sewn on the back. Every now and then, it rubs something terrible. Other than that, these things are excellent.

TWO Horse Trader Tricks

Dedicated to exposing the tricks often used by horse traders to move unsound/ill/unsuitable animals, this site is full of practical advice and real-life examples. I spent at least an hour yesterday reading through the “Trader Horror Stories” section; many of the stories are heartbreaking and you can’t help but feel sad for both the people and horses. They serve as excellent cautionary tales, though- horses are an incredibly emotional subject for many of us, and this site is a good reminder to stay objective while horse shopping.

THREE Basic Physics’ Nightlife in the Northwoods

This album came out in 2011, which is when I downloaded it. I promptly forgot about it, but in my recent quest to find music for jogging, I rediscovered it. It’s 15 tracks of mashups (which I’m a sucker for) that are pretty awesome. The tempo is fairly slow, so all you hardcore runners out there might not enjoy it, but it’s perfect for me.
A few weeks ago, Amanda of Bel Joeor posted a link to the excellent Ask A Manager blog. I immediately subscribed, and I’m glad I did. The advice is spot-on and covers all kinds of situations- from how to get money an employer owes you to interview tips. This week, the blog addressed how to handle your boss thinking he’s a Mayan shaman! So helpful. And hilarious.
Dressage Today has an excellent article on exercises to help the off the track horse become a successful dressage mount. There’s advice for fresh-off-the-track horses, as well as for horses that are somewhat further along in their training. The exercises are helpful for everyone- not just dressage riders!
What are y’all checking out this week?