Engagement saddle

I’m not a big jewelry person. I like it in theory, but always feel so ridiculous wearing it that I take most of it off before leaving the house. Day to day, I wear a pair of pearl stud earrings and a stainless steel Victorinox Swiss Army watch. (I cannot say enough good things about the watch.) Every now and then, I’ll swap the watch for a simple leather or cord bracelet or add a necklace, but I am really, really not a jewelry person. For a long time, I’ve known that an engagement ring is just not for me.

Because I am a practical person, I asked Johnny for an engagement saddle instead of a ring. He was happy to comply and told me to pick one out. I’d originally thought I’d get a Passier similar to the one my dressage trainer Anne has; I love hers and it always fit my narrow, high-withered horses well. 
…Then I started working at a tack store. With lots and lots of dressage saddles on consignment.
And I found a slightly scruffy King’s Sandringham.

The saddle fits me and the horses very well; it’s in good condition with only some fading. 
Of course, I had to have some accouterments to go with my new saddle! I ended up with a saddle pad. stirrup leathers and irons, a girth, and a set of black rubber reins to replace the hideous web reins my dressage bridle came with. (I also got some Kool Lube and clipper wash, but that’s not as fun as new tack.)
The whole lot was cheaper than a new Passier. Everyone wins! I’m very excited to spend the winter working on my dressage skillz with my shiny new engagement saddle. 

Moe and Gina go to camp

Last week, Moe and Gina attended Green Country Dressage’s annual junior rider camp. I was happy to let them go; their teenage riders regularly have lessons on them, and I figure that the more dressage training the horses get, the better! (Even if it’s teenagers doing the training.)

The camp was held at gorgeous Prairie Lane Farm. There were indoor arenas, outdoor arenas, deluxe stalls with runs attached in a big, airy barn, a covered viewing area with lawn chairs! Camp started on Thursday and I stopped by on Friday to say hello to the ponies and make sure they were behaving themselves.

Gina feeling luxurious
How Moe REALLY feels about dressage.

Moe was hamming it up and reliving his Pony Club days, mugging every possible person for every possible treat, head hanging out of his stall, sticking his tongue out, tossing his head, curling his upper lip back. Gina, however, is too dignified for such behavior and promptly went back to eating her hay after accepting one treat.

The horses also did some work while they were at camp.

Their riders (and Richal) reported that Moe and Gina were extremely well behaved and that both instructors at the camp really liked them. It always makes me feel good when my horses can be useful, especially when they can help young riders learn! 

Moe loves learning! Or treats.

Gallery Farm combined test recap

I know, I know, show recap posts are really only exciting for the person who’s writing them. But I wanted to let y’all know that a) Gina didn’t kill me and b) it went pretty well.

My ride times were pretty reasonable, with dressage at 11:20 AM and XC at 2:02 PM. This meant that while I did get up at 5 AM and get to the barn by 7 AM, it could have been much, much worse. Gallery Farm is near Oklahoma City, so it’s about a 2.5 hour drive from where the ponies live. We pulled out with Gina (who kept her socks super-white overnight) and Freddie (for company and experience) around 8 AM, and after many turns (and a couple of turn arounds), we arrived and parked next to our friends Rachael and Sarah.

Freddie about fell down getting out of the trailer, but recovered gamely and spent the next six hours standing tied to the trailer, eating hay and drinking/playing in the water buckets we had tied up for them.

Freddie’s happy place.

Gina (left) and Freddie (right) are unimpressed by shows.

Both mares seemed to get along reasonably well. Fred made a couple of ugly faces at Gina and also drank all of her water (while ignoring her own bucket), but was otherwise fine. No calling, no squealing, no kicking. Freddie is a champion at standing around. Maybe she’s missed her calling as a halter horse.

Anyway, dressage warm up went well- I kept Gina to a trot since it was a walk-trot test. Her gaits are plenty energetic, so I figured there was no need to canter. We stuck to figure-8s, circles, and serpentines and Princess Pony put on her best dressage face and we had a nice test. Our walk work was a little weird, as it seemed like Gina was less focused on me and more focused on what was happening outside the covered arena where the test was. All the trot work was very good and the judge was impressed by her “bold” and “forward” gaits. 
We scored a 29.3 on our test, which is something like the best score I have ever had in my adult life. (I think my best test was a 26 something when I was 12 doing walk-trot dressage.) We were in second to our friend Rachael, who scored a 25.3 on her super cute Percheron mare Venus, so I was definitely happy.
Walking the course made me feel good about my chances of getting Gina around. If you aren’t a long time reader, a little history: Gina has been a problematic jumper in the past. Occasionally, she’s excellent. Most of the time, she’s awful. Past antics have included rearing up and backing at ground poles, dirty refusals at a crossrails, and jumping 2’6 oxers fine for five minutes, then inexplicably pitching a fit.
The only jump I was mildly concerned about was a tire jump. The tires were tiny- lawnmower sized. But they were black, I’m almost certain Gina’s never jumped any tires before, and I immediately planned to keep my leg on and ride defensively.
I shouldn’t have worried. After an extremely short warm up (by which I mean we cantered both directions and jumped a crossrail twice), we headed out on course. I got Gina into a nice, forward canter; even though the jumps were tiny, I feel more comfortable jumping out of the canter and Gina’s canter is much more comfortable to 2-point than her trot. 
Rio 2016, amiright?
Gina was apparently gearing up for next year’s Rolex, because she attacked those tiny jumps. Like, rolling along at a good clip, taking good distances, not backing off anything. I could feel her lock on to each jump, which is certainly not something I’m used to feeling from her! She jumped like a champion over every single fence and cross the finish line prancing and snorting as if she’d just bounced around a 4-star.
What a fruitcake.
Draft power!
Rachael and Venus went clear too, maintaining first place, which meant Gina and I stayed in second.
Bonus pic of super cute Rambler & Sarah, who were 3rd in the Starter division.

I’m really pleased with how Gina behaved. I think she had a good time- I know I did. There’s an eventing derby in a couple of weeks- Fred is getting some time off, so maybe I’ll enter Gina. And maybe we’ll even move up a division (or two)!

Freddie goes to a show

On Saturday, Freddie and I hitched a ride to a local dressage schooling show. We didn’t compete, but I felt like I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get her out and about away from home.  It was cold over the weekend- Saturday morning was 52, overcast, and windy- and I was a little apprehensive that Freddie would be feeling exuberant and try to murder me once I climbed on.

So chilly that barn dogs needed blankets! (Deets, Joey [green], Maisy [purple])

She loaded and unloaded from the trailer like a pro, but seemed totally bewildered by her surroundings at the farm where the show was held. (Trailer parking was in the middle of a tree-filled field.) But she stood tied to the trailer pretty calmly. The stuffed hay bag in front of her probably helped.

“This isn’t the race track or home!”

Five of Richal’s students were competing on three of Richal’s horses, so we spent the morning hustling around, grooming and tacking horses.

Adorable tiny child grooming adorable pony Max.

We all headed to the warm up ring once the ponies and kids were ready; I was on foot leading Freddie, and we were accompanied by one of the students riding Training level later on Sundance. The four of us stood outside the warm up area; Sundance grazed and Freddie circled around me nervously. When the warm up ring cleared out, I walked Fred around in it. She was unimpressed for the most part, although some drainage pipes gave her a start. After her very minor spook, she settled down and took advantage of the grass.

“These Intro tests are a snooze fest; I’m hungry.”

We watched some of the kids’ tests. Freddie paid very close attention.

“So that’s what walking looks like…”

After lunch, we headed back to the trailer for some food. We tied the horses up in front of their hay bags, offered them some water, and settled down to enjoy horse show staples like granola bars and goldfish crackers. All of a sudden, there was some commotion on the other side of the trailer: a squeal, some clattering, and some thudding. Richal and I dashed over to see what caused the ruckus. Freddie was nonchalantly eating her hay, while adorable gray pony Max was staring at her, bug eyed and holding up his right hind leg a little. Freddie had nailed him right in the stifle!

Thankfully, Max walked it off just fine and went on to put in two nice Training tests for his young rider. I saddled up Freddie shortly after that; she was totally bonkers for a few minutes, bouncing and jigging and generally trying to zoom off with me. Once she got in the warm up ring, she was a good bit better. She doesn’t mind being close to other horses, or other horses getting close to her. She wasn’t frightened by any noises or sights. She walked and trotted very quietly in the ring- Richal joked that Freddie looked like she was impersonating a western pleasure horse as she shuffled along. The only bit of ugliness was when I asked Fred to canter- she let out two or three mighty bucks, but since she occasionally does that at home, I wasn’t overly concerned. (She is also a ridiculously easy bucker to sit.)
A few people complimented Richal and me on how well behaved Freddie seemed for her first time off her home property, so at least we didn’t embarrass ourselves. I was very proud of her; I guess all that hard work on walking is paying off!
Fat Paint horse Paige is a cute mover; even cuter with a tiny kid aboard.
 I’m also proud of all the kids; they rode well and one of them even brought home the high point award! 
The next schooling show is in early October- I’m hoping Freddie will be ready to do an Intro test, but if not, she’ll at least be along for the ride.