Monday, December 30, 2013

Tack Review: Harwich Bridle

I want to be someone who has a huge collection of bridles. At the moment, I have but a small collection of bridles. Mostly I have really old bridles from my old horses, and they're gathering dust in my Mom's tack room in Virginia. I have a couple spares in my tack trunk, but they're nothing to write home about. Maybe someday Lex will earn a figure-8 bridle, but she's a long way from doing the jumpers.

When I first got her, I snagged an Intec by M. Tolouse bridle online used for pretty cheap. That particular bridle isn't made anymore. I liked it - raised, fancy-stitched, fit her well.

Old bridle.
Then, a tragic thing happened: I took it to the tack store to have the nameplate put on the crown piece, as you do, and the idiot who does leather repair put it in the BROW BAND. I almost died. I stood there holding this bridle and got real, real sad. They said they'd replace it, and they did eventually, but it took months. I actually just got the bridle they gave me and now I am, in theory, selling it to Sprinkler Bandit if she still wants it next month.

In the meantime, I needed a new bridle for the horse. The old crappy ones I had lying around didn't quite fit her right, and I don't think she's that hard to fit. She has a normal cob-size head. So I read a million reviews of bridles, considered my low budget, and decided that Harwich was worth trying.

Retail Price: $159.95
What I paid: $143.96 (Thanks, SmartPerks!)

Why I Chose This Bridle
As I said above, it seemed like a good buy for the money, and I knew I could return it right away if I didn't like it. I like the padded crown - I've never had a padded crown bridle before, because I'm a hundred and ten years old and so are my bridles. I also like that it came with raised fancy-stitch laced reins. I have the Harwich raised fancy stitch rubber reins, which are what I use regularly, but when it's time to go into the hunter ring, I'll break out the laced reins. I knew I wanted a raised fancy-stitch bridle because I think they're beautiful and they'd look good on the mare. I'm not really into bling - you're unlikely to see me in a brow band with clinchers - but I think fancy stitch is pretty. I also wanted something hunter-ring appropriate, since we'll be there for awhile before we hit the jumper ring, and there's no reason this bridle won't work for the jumpers, too.

She managed to keep her tongue in her mouth for once.
Leather Quality, Hardware, and Stitching
I really like the leather quality of this bridle. It's soft, which I know some people don't like because it doesn't hold up forever, but there is essentially no break-in time. A couple coats of oil did help with that new-leather stiffness, but it was pliable and nice right away. I put my Harwich rubber reins on it instead of using the laced reins that were included, but I like the rubber reins just fine and expect to like the laced ones as well. If not, I'll surely let you know. The stitching all looked great: even, tight, and pretty. The hardware is also just fine. I'm not one to be blown away by bridle buckles, but they're sturdy enough and I'm not worried about any trouble there. I mean, I'm sure that if I had an Antares to compare it to, I'd be less impressed, but compared to my girlfriend's Crosby and Bobby's bridles, I really like it a lot.

Cuter than the model horse above, I think.

Lex has a cob-size head that might juuuuuust be able to sneak into some horse-size stuff. She's wide through the forehead and has a delicate little muzzle, but overall, her head is nicely proportioned and not especially hard to fit. I got her the cob size with pretty good confidence that it would fit and knowing it would be easy to exchange if not. It fits her exactly right. I also think it suits her head. She'd probably look good in a flat field hunter-style bridle, too. Her head is a lot more refined than the model horse's and I think it works on both of them. I wouldn't go for any more padding or flash than this, though. It would be too much for her.


I love this bridle. It's exactly what I wanted for the price I could afford. It happens to match my saddle well, and that's always a nice thing. She's a pretty horse, she'll look good in most things. If you're looking for a bridle like this, I highly recommend it. I really don't have anything bad to say about it at all.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Virginia Equines

I miss Lex like crazy, but I'll see her on Sunday. The Girl came up to Virginia and Vermont with me and then flew home to spend Christmas day with her family, but not before stopping to see the horses. Lex was thrilled because she got to hand graze. Reportedly, the hives have cleared up quite a bit and now she just has some scabby stuff on her neck.

In the meantime, I'm getting to spend some time with my old friends. The Girl took these pictures before she went back south. I love these horses.

The elder statesman.
Ink (Indigo Ink) has been in my life for 24 years. We acquired him when he and I were both nine years old, out of someone's back yard. He was barely broke, and for a quarter horse x who knows what, he was kind of hot. But he never did anything bad, and my mom brought him along with the help of our trainer. On days he behaved well, I was allowed to ride him, and then he was given to me for my tenth birthday. Mom actually kept riding him for awhile, and I got a pony named Pickles in the meantime. I'll have to scan in some pictures of Pickles - he was a cute little Welsh cob and I was rightfully obsessed with him. But Ink was always in my heart and there he shall remain.

He always has a look of kind intelligence, and I love his pointy ears.
He evented at the Novice and Training level with my mom and then with me. He also took one of my high school best friends through her C-1 in Pony Club and packed her around Beginner Novice and Novice for awhile after Mom and I got horses we could move up on. He didn't have the scope or the fitness ability for Prelim, but he definitely had the desire. He never said no to a jump in his whole career until he started going lame from navicular and every other form of unsoundness. He retired in his late teens, and Mom's had him on Cosequin for probably almost 20 years. I'm always aware that any given winter could be his last, but he looks great. He loves to snuggle and be groomed, and especially enjoys having his belly curried.

We've had Grayson forever, too. Mom bought him when she wanted a horse to move up on. He's an OTTB, but unfortunately he fulfills many of the negative stereotypes of OTTBs. He's hot, nervous, unpredictable, and aloof. Mom sent him to a wonderful professional in the area, and she did the best she could with him, but determined that he's afraid of jumping. I'm guessing he was introduced to it poorly before we got him, or that he had a bad crash that ruined his nerve. It's rare to find a thoroughbred who can't figure it out, but he just really hated it. He doesn't have the movement or carriage for dressage, and ultimately, Mom wanted to event. She wound up getting another thoroughbred named Tucker (again, I'll have to go searching for pictures - he died several years ago).
Doing the typical grey horse "look how gross I can get!" thing.

He looks sweeter here than he is.
 Grayson retired sound at a pretty young age, and thanks to my mom's inability to sell a horse, has lived in the pasture for the better part of a decade with nothing to do but be a horse. When he gets injured or something, he likes attention, but otherwise he's not that into people or being groomed or anything. We love him anyway. He's 22 years old now. He's had melanomas - he's a grey, this is what happens - which Mom has treated, but she's decided not to treat them anymore. They recur, and it's incredibly expensive to treat, and he's old. But he looks very healthy to me and is in good weight, so I have a feeling the old man will keep eating hay for many years to come.

"Wanna go play shuffleboard?"
 About six months ago, TJ attacked Grayson and ran him under a fence. It took the vet six hours to stitch him up, and then he had to stay on stall rest for two weeks. Ink voluntarily stayed in the barn with him, whickering at him and being adorable. When Grayson could go back out, he was afraid of all the other horses except Ink, so now they go out together in the Old Man Paddock.

 TJ (or Teddy, as my mom calls him, but I started calling him TJ and can't stop) is a relatively new member of the herd - we've only had him a little over a year. He's kind of a weird horse. He has a gorgeous head and neck and is otherwise a conformational train wreck.
World's greatest mane?

Supermodel of the world.

TJ is a Kentucky Mountain Horse, and he's also about 17hh, which is unusual. He's gaited - something new to me. His running walk is pretty comfortable, but his balance is terrible and he's like riding two people in a horse costume. He's not very sure-footed, and he's quite spooky, which isn't a great combination. His saving grace is his winning personality. He really is the world's sweetest horse. He's kind of useless as a sport horse and very nervous for a trail horse. TJ is also not the easiest horse to handle on the ground, given his size and nerves. I worked very hard on that when I had him in Florida, but if he isn't handled daily he just goes right back to his old ways. Since my mom works all the time, he's kind of become a pasture ornament, but at least he's adorable. 

Then, of course, there's the adorable Rocket, about whom y'all know pretty much everything already.
A lady on the move.
So that's the crew! My parents have their hands full. I'll take Rocket away in a couple of years when she's ready to start, but I'll replace her with a pony for my nephew. I'm also hoping to find my mom a nice non-gaited, non-spooky horse she can start riding again and take lessons on and stuff. I know she misses it, and she will definitely want to ride with my nephew and whoever else is riding the pony.

Friday, December 27, 2013

2014 Goals

I'm hesitant to write a whole lot of goals, because if there's anything 2013 taught me, it's that I need to expect the unexpected. But there are a few things I'd like to accomplish.

1. I've been having a left lead issue and I need to sort it out. I think it's because my left ankle is mostly titanium, which limits mobility, but I've gotta figure it out how to work around it.

2. Consistently be very soft after jumps. I'm usually fine on the way there and over the top, but sometimes on the landing I hold a bit too much.

3. Find a way to get a ride on a horse who's further along than Lex - preferably a horse already capable of showing in the jumpers. I rode such a horse a bit this fall, which was nice, but I expect to lose the ride on him now that I'm going to Ohio.

4. Stop letting my shoulders creep forward when I'm in half seat or two point.

5. Ride as much as I can - as many horses as often as possible. There will be times, I expect, when the numbers are few and the hours are limited, but I'll do my best.

1. Rhythm is key: This is improving, and needs to keep improving. We can both be better about it.

2. Relaxation: Are you seeing a trend yet? We'll keep picking away at the training scale from the bottom up. She's getting much better at relaxing, as shown by her tendency to stretch her nose to the ground.

3. Lateral flexion: This will come in time, but she's making some progress. Substeps are getting her to move laterally from my seat and leg aids a little more consistently and keeping her comfortable with aids in general.

4. The canter: I have no control at the canter right now. We need to get on the same page here. This will come with time.

5. Jumping: By the end of the winter, I'd like to be able to trot little courses of crossrails and stuff, and maybe canter out of some lines and into some small single fences. By the end of the year, I'm hoping we'll be cantering whole courses. How big the jumps are doesn't matter at this point. I don't think we'll be doing 4' a year from now, but I'm thinking 3'-ish is reasonable. Whatever, though, seriously. She's my horse, I'm not selling her or trying to qualify for the Olympics, so whatever happens, happens.

Bonus Goal!
Showing: If we get to a couple little schooling hunter shows, I'll be pleased as punch. If we don't, that's okay, too. Overall, I want to work on my riding and to bring along a happy, healthy horse. I'm not about to age out of the juniors (HA, I am ancient) and she's already passed her five year old year, so there's no reason to rush at all.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013 Year in Review

Y'all, this year has been nuts. If you'd asked me on this day in 2012 if I'd own a horse in 2013, I'd have said you were crazy, and then I would have cried myself to sleep because I missed having my own horse so, so much.

January- Early March
I did start out the year riding, though! I'd been riding Duchess since the previous summer.

The kindest horse I know.
And, my mom had sent TJ down for me to work with just before Thanksgiving, and he stayed until April or so.

Definitely a grooming challenge!
January, February, and early March didn't look much different from each other. I rode these two horses, occasionally trail rode, and mostly just hung out, assuming I'd have to wait to get seriously back into show jumping until I graduated from school and could afford a horse. This didn't stop me from longingly reading ads for OTTBs, though.

Then, sometime in early March, the woman who owns the farm where I was riding Duchess and keeping TJ told me that her husband (an equine surgeon) was part of a lameness study that was wrapping up, and needed to find homes for 12 young OTTBs, some of them very nice. I was like, "good luck with that, lady," and didn't think of it (much) anymore. Until one of the other women at that same farm went and got herself one of the rescue horses, and insisted that I go check them out. "It'll be a resale!" she said. "No worries at all!" she said. Mmhmmm.

So I went to the vet school and I saw this face.

And this fabulous conformation.

And then I learned that she's got two powerhouse super-athlete parents.

And it was over. I accidentally bought a horse on March 22, 2013.

I started this blog! I'd had the idea for a little while but didn't have much to say when I was just riding Duchess and TJ, but I figured chronicling Lex's training process would be fun and useful, and it could be an archive for photos and whatnot. It's been a fun ten months.

In addition to starting the blog, I proved that I rode my horse (in a 40 acre field, on a loose rein), we took a dressage lesson, and cantered a little bit. But the biggest news of the month, without a doubt, was....


Rocket was born on April 15, 2013. She's been an absolute joy ever since. I just wish I had her with me in Florida.

I went to Virginia to help Mom bring Rocket home from the foaling farm, and fell completely in love. 

In Lex news, we took our first lesson with Chris AND she did her first crossrail. Yay! However, the downward spiral of unsoundess started and I was baffled. I also decided to move to a new barn, where she could have a stall and there'd be something of a ring.

The night we moved to the new place, a horse bit Lex on the eyeball. She almost lost her eye and I almost lost my mind.  Most of June was spent on healing her eye, but at least she got to wear a new hat.

Her eye healed, I rode her, but it turned out, she was still unsound. June ended with the news that Lex needed surgery to remove an OCD lesion on her stifle.

She had the surgery, and it was a success. We spent the rest of the month hand grazing and dealing with Adequan shots and vet visits.

In August, we hand-walked and I got a kick to the arm that it turns out resulted in a hairline fracture for which I was never casted. Thank god.

I was so depressed in September that I barely posted at all, and not once in October. But Lex was allowed to go out overnight, and she quickly turned back into the happy, quiet mare I'd known her to be.

I got back in the tack, but Lex's behavior was a challenge for awhile. I managed to ride her through it, and she started a fabulous streak that has not yet ended, knock on ALL THE WOOD.

The good rides continued apace, and we took a flat lesson. Then, to my surprise, we took what turned out to be a wonderful jumping lesson.  After which, of course, she got hives and I left town for Christmas. And now here we are!

I'll write a separate post about goals for 2014. I hope everyone's year is wrapping up well. I'm at my parents' house and they have the world's worst internet, but I'll do my best to keep up the bloggin' over the next couple of days.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays

Eight four-legged, antlered critters would like to wish you happy holidays.

Played by Felix

Played by Lex

Played by Duchess

Played by Rocket

Playing himself

Played by Jackson

Played by Ink, who is not actually crazy

Played by Teddy

Monday, December 23, 2013

Rocket at Eight Months

One of these months, these will be posted on time. However, this month my mom didn't get around to taking Rocket's monthly pictures until The Girl and I got to town anyway, so we took advantage of having a good photographer and a real camera on hand. We groomed Rocket and fussed over her for awhile, and she loved every minute of it. We can pick her feet, comb through her considerable mane, and move her around without a problem. She stands to be groomed better than a lot of school horses I know. She's sweet and friendly and doesn't seem to spook at much. We watched Mom shovel snow out of the back of the truck and she didn't bat an eyelash. I think she's going to be a lot of fun when she's all grown up.

She's actually the easiest of all the horses at Mom's to lead.

Just picture her in a fancy show sheet.

Not bad suspension for an enormous mare.

Serving jump-off winner realness.

She's quiet and kind...

... but didn't think much of the idea that people think she should be a driving horse.

Full-force squiggle star.

She's got good ridin' ears.

My one-year-old nephew (the world's most perfect human) loves horses already.
Rocket likes him too.

This is TJ's nose, not Rocket's, but it's too cute to not post.

Rocket returns the grooming favor.

She likes to smooch.
Stay tuned for more horses-in-the-snow pictures next time I can get on the internet. Oh, and a quick Lex update: She's still got bumps, apparently, but the vet stopped by and said that she thinks the worst is over now, and that it was a contact thing and not something she ate. We're not going to give her any more medicine and just see how she does. On the one hand, I wish I was there to snuggle with her while she's not feeling her best, but on the other hand, I guess it's good that she's having this minor issue while I couldn't ride her anyway? Fortunately, she's eating and drinking and seems fine.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

30 Questions

I'm stealing these from Viva Carlos. Not sure where they came from originally.  I'm sorry to do another questions post so soon after the 5-Day Challenge, but I'm gonna be on the road a lot in the next week and there probably won't be a lot of horsey news.

1: If your horse could talk what would they say? What would they be like?

I think Lex would say that she likes carrots and hates the girth and likes stretching and hates bending. I think she'd be just like she is now - sweet but with a tough-girl edge.

2: If you were a horse, what would you look like (color, markings, etc), what discipline would you do, and what would you be like to ride?

I'd be an average-looking chestnut and I'd be spooky. And I'd think I was smarter than my rider. No one would like me, but I'd work my ass off in the jumper ring and I'd never say no to a jump.

3: How many barns have you ridden at?

Oh god, more than I can keep track of at this point. My family moved a fair amount when I was a kid.

 4: What kind of bay do you prefer? (bright bay, blood bay, etc)

I like the kind of bay that leaves the jumps up.

5: Can you braid a horse's mane? Tail?

Ha, not well enough for shows. I don't especially enjoy doing it.

6: Do you believe that you have to fall off in order to be a good rider?

I don't see how you've ridden long enough and challenged yourself enough to be a good rider and haven't taken some falls.

7: What do you think is more important: eq or effective riding?

Effective riding, but riding is rarely effective if the rider doesn't have a solid position.
8: Are there any "horse couples" at your barn?

I'm in a horse couple! And there's another gay couple who boards there. No straight couples though, heh.

Our horses are as dorky as we are.

9: Favorite treat to feed your horse?

Miss Amy's cookies, which are only available locally, and carrots.

10: Silly quirks your horse has.

She's just kind of goofy. She likes to put things in her mouth, but not in an aggressive bitey way. It cracks me up every time. She thinks she understands what something is better if she's tasted it, I guess.

11: Strangest thing you've fed your horse.

C'mon, I don't feed her weird things. I'm the most paranoid person ever.

12: Have you ever made any horse friends through the internet?

Sure! Hi, y'all lovely people! And soon I'm gonna meet Tracy in person!

13: Would you buy horse furniture?

Probly not, but if someone gave it to me I'd use it.

14: Funniest horsey moment

Just ONE? Oh man. The time my old guy, Faust, rolled in a water jump was pretty funny.  Recently, Girlfriend and I put gloves on our horses' ears and had a friend take pictures and the horses thought it was very strange. Oh and the time my Lex took my friend Dale's hat off his head. And when Calvin tries to take Chris's cigarettes. I will keep thinking and post whole stories if I can come up with some.

15: Post a picture of your horse (or any horse) making a silly face that you got on camera!

Lex tries to show you that she can do the tongue-rolling trick from second grade.

16: What's a moment with horses that you wished you caught on camera?

Lex's first vertical the other day.

17: How old was the youngest horse you've met?

I've been present at the birth of foals.

18: How old was the oldest horse you've met?

My old man, Ink, is about to turn 33.

19: Opinion on colorful tack? (like red or blue)


20: Have you ever tried horse treats? Hay?

Nope, but Girlfriend tried a horse treat the other day and really regretted it.

21: Have you ever felt like giving up on a horse?

Yeah, we all have, I think. Not every horse suits every rider.

22: Tell the story about the horse that you first felt "click" immediately with you (and if you can't remember, most recent)

Bean, a lesson horse at my first barn. I loved him. He was sweet and kind and never wanted to dump his rider, which was important for this timid kid. I clicked with Duchess and Lex pretty much right away, too.

23: Ever ridden side-saddle? How was it?

Yes, actually! It was fun, though I wouldn't want to do it all the time.

24: Most interesting place you've ridden at.

I'm not sure. I've ridden at the Kentucky Horse Park many times, and that's beautiful. I rode in Costa Rica, all over the place - beach, mountains, rainforest. I went to Ireland for awhile and worked on a horse who was changing jobs from foxhunting to jumpers, and he was great.

25: What kind of horse do you like? (sport, stock, endurance, etc)

Sport, especially thoroughbreds, because duh.

26: Do you feel like you have more patience with horses than people?

By orders of magnitude. I have almost endless patience for horses.

27: Is the horse you ride very vocal?

Not really, no, though she's very expressive in other ways. 

28: Ever ridden in the sunset?

IN THE SUNSET?! That would take some kind of CGI animation I'm not capable of. If this means, have I ridden as the sun is setting, the answer is definitely yes.

29: How do you like a horse's mane? (roached, pulled, long, etc)

Pulled, nice and neat. 
30: What is your dream name for a horse?

I think both Rocket (Gravity's Rainbow) and Lex (Afleet Alexia) have pretty dreamy names!