My trainer has been working with Wex once a week for two months now. He’s been doing a lot of groundwork on the lunge, and has benefited a lot from learning how to move forward, and respond to verbal queues. He’s learning contact, which is a big change for him.
We’ve transitioned to riding him more frequently. He’s in work 4 days a week now. He’s not the same horse every day of the week, for sure. We’re starting to figure out his patterns and behavior. My rides have been… eventful. I was beginning to think we were years away from ever jumping anything, let alone making our way around an entire course by October.
So, the logical choice was to take a lesson. I’m so glad I did. The horse I had on Saturday was a different horse than I’ve had before. He went forward. He only had a couple of explosions. I felt like this was a horse that might be able to jump this spring.
My key takeaways from this lesson:
It’s all in the hips. We are starting Wex in dressage. In dressage, your hips and seat are SO important. On Wex, I get especially rigid, as a defense mechanism. As soon as I unlocked my hips, Wex moved forward, and even offered some trot.
I need to keep this horse thinking. When he’s not thinking, he’s misbehaving. For him, it could be as simple as talking to him to keep his attention. If he’s paying attention to me, he isn’t thinking about exploding.
Transitions are our friend! For Wex, we struggle with getting him to go forward. He needs to learn that a walk isn’t a quit. He still needs to be listening, and “set up” to move into a trot at all times. This is what I’m going to be working on until my next lesson.
I was thrilled with this lesson. My ride the next day did not go quite as well, but it was still better than the week before. I’ll be taking more lessons soon, because the first was so successful. We may have hope after all!
I have confession. I am a tack addict. Not just one particular type of tack. I’m talking about horse products in general. For most of my horse-owning life, I have owned only one horse. I happen to like tack shopping (especially during a sale!), but when you own only one horse for so long, eventually, you have everything you need. When you have everything you need, you start to get extra things. (For clarity, I mean “extra” like embellished, not “extra” like back up or too many—too many is not a thing that can happen.) I don’t have a saddle pad this color. These polo wraps match my new saddle pad. This bridle has pretty stitching. That’s a new leather conditioner! I mean, is it ever a matter of needing something? It is a slippery slope, but here we are, 37 saddle pads and 10 bridles later.
I have basically the equivalent of a tack room in my basement. (I wish it were in my barn, but that’s a different story.)
This post will be the first of my monthly product reviews. Each month, I’ll review one product. For this initial post, however, I’ll be talking about a handful of my favorite things around the barn. These are little items that make my life easier. So many times, people gush about a special saddle, pad, bit, or bridle that is a game changer, but sometimes it’s a the little things that make all the difference.
Up first, is a spray bottle holder. My stall has one hook on the front, and it’s job is to hold Wex’s halter. It’s always difficult to figure out what to do with the fly spray bottle. We have long winters in Michigan, but we also have some pretty intense summers. On top of that, our barn has a creek running through the length of it, so we have all those fun water-dwellers, on top of the normal obnoxious flies. A good fly spray is a must, and it has to be in a convenient location so the staff can put it on daily. Out of sight, out of mind. This holder makes it easy to keep it right next to Wex’s halter. It’s a simple concept, but super useful.
The next product is admittedly, a bit of a luxury item. If you’re not familiar, let me introduce you to the miracle of bit wipes. Sure, you could always use the old standby method of dunking your bit in a bucket, or running it under the tap. But there’s the tangle of leather to risk getting wet. These bit wipes are peppermint flavored. I’ve never had a horse who wouldn’t accept a bit, so I can’t tell you if it helps with bit acceptance. They just make cleaning your bits so much easier. If there’s green or foamy gunk left, it takes it right off. They are single use, which is not terribly environmentally or economically friendly, so I only use them about once a week. I use them on my spurs, stirrup irons, and any other metal pieces of tack. They just do a better job than dunking, or a damp rag. Nothing like a sparkly bit!
People, this moisturizer is what’s up. Healthy Hair Care moisturizer. I’ve used this product for probably 15 years. It smells so light and pretty. Can a moisturizer smell pretty? This one does. Almost like roses. It comes concentrated, and you mix it with water in a spray bottle. I spray it all over, and then use my finishing brush to work it into the coat. Like any product, it won’t replace good nutrition. (Healthy horses start from the inside out!) This adds that extra little bit of shine and softness to a healthy coat. Did I mention it smells delightful?
The last item I want to talk about today is this round bridle tag. I’m sure it’s great as a bridle tag, but that’s not what I use it for. I use this tag on all of my blankets. You can engrave on both sides. On one side, I put my horse’s name, and my cell phone number. On the other side, I put the weight of the blanket (sheet, midweight, heavy, etc.) and the temperature range for use. They stay on, even when I send my blankets out for cleaning. They’re super durable, and good looking too. Even though BooBoo and Wex are the same blanket size, Wex *may* have acquired some of his own blankets, and he also needs some tags with his own name.
Do you use any of these products? What are you favorites?
Real talk: Social media is a double-edged sword. I have always been active on social media. I had a Xanga and a MySpace. I anxiously waited for my university to be added to Facebook in the mid-2000s. I am not terribly active on Twitter, but I have multiple pages on Facebook, and multiple Instagram accounts. (Check out Wex on Facebook and Instagram.) But social media shows one side of the coin.
For example, on my personal Instagram account, I follow a lot of interior design accounts. We’re talking Chip and JoAnna Gaines style, immaculately decorated houses that look like they belong in a magazine (and some of them are). There is not a toy in sight. There is not a stray dog hair. The couches don’t look like they’ve ever seen a butt, let alone a marker, a spilled beer, dripped ice cream, jumping children, or dog drool. I recognize that just out of the shot is a Lego masterpiece in progress, a broom and dustpan that have collected the dog hair, and a stack of mail that may never be completely sorted. With this in mind, I try hard not to fall victim to the social media “filter” that we put on our lives.
Similarly, the equine accounts on social media would have us believe that everyone has perfectly groomed horses, never misses a spot, and has a clean round every time. And who are these people who have great lighting in a barn? The reality is, no one is going to post a video of the terrible chip, or poop stained gray horse, or the round with 6 rails. We filter our lives on social media to show only the best side of ourselves. This is just human nature. As consumers of social media, we have to be cognizant of the filters.
Let’s take the Thoroughbred Makeover, for example. These horses have 15 or fewer post-track rides prior to December 1st. At most, they have 3 months of training in. There are people sharing their 2019 Makeover horse’s first shows. They’re out doing solo trail rides. They’re schooling cross country. It’s entirely possible that some people are way ahead of the game, but what we’re not seeing is all the “out takes”. The blooper reel, so-to-speak.
So let’s talk about real life. Real life is that not all horses are the same. Not all thoroughbreds are going to be easy to restart. Some may have had 30 days with a professional already. I don’t anticipate Wex seeing a jump (on purpose!) until late spring. When Wex has a moody day, I get this kind of ride. (Full disclaimer, I edited out all the good moments—and there were many. I just wanted to show a real life 4-year-old ex-racehorse.)
I shared this because I want people to know that not everyone is already showing their Makeover horses. Not everyone is jumping around courses. Even if social media leads you to believe that, there’s at least one horse who has a long way to go. I also shared because I know many people plan to sell their Makeover horses, and showing something like this may damage sale potential. I don’t plan to sell Wex, and I really value the process, even if it can be discouraging.
But we’re still making progress. I’m still working with a trainer. I’m constantly consulting with my vet and chiropractor. I had a saddle fitter out once, and will have her out again as he adds muscle. This week, I successfully trotted without having someone on the ground. I call that success for us.
The Retired Racehorse Project. Thoroughbred Makeover. If you are a thoroughbred fan, it’s likely you’ve heard these names. I first learned about the Retired Racehorse Project (RRP) a few years ago. The organization started in 2010 with the intention of increasing demand for thoroughbreds when their racing days are over. Thoroughbred racing has provided me with nearly every horse I have ever loved. I have ridden more horses than I can count in my lifetime, and a great many of them have been retired thoroughbreds.
As soon as I learned that RRP had a Thoroughbred Makeover, I was intrigued. I have followed RRP and the Thoroughbred Makeover for many years now. If you don’t know, the very high level idea is to take horses who are newly off the track, and retrain them over the course of not more than 10 months, to compete in one of 10 disciplines. The Thoroughbred Makeover has been held at the Kentucky Horse Park (KHP) for the last several years, and has grown to an enormous event.
Let’s pause for a moment. I have a confession: I have lived within less than a day’s drive of KHP for almost 10 years. Last year’s Thoroughbred Makeover was my first trip to KHP. And it lived up to the hype.
Okay, play. I casually and quietly decided I would make it my goal to compete at this event one day. Unfortunately, I’m a one-horse woman. I mean, do you know how expensive it is to keep two human children alive? They grow out of clothes every 5 minutes. They are always wanting to eat and be entertained. And daycare and preschool! $$$$$ Each kid costs the equivalent of about 2 horses. And I’d really like to pay off my student loans before they go to college.
So I can “afford” one horse. You’ve read about my dreamboat heart horse, BooBoo. As a senior horse, who had retired some 20 years ago, he wasn’t eligible for the Thoroughbred Makeover. He was such a constant in my life. My first tall, dark, and handsome. Mr. Reliable. No matter where I moved, I could drag him along, and he was up to whatever I threw at him. Always there. No matter what. Until he wasn’t. And then I was horseless for the first time in nearly 2 decades. (Side note: how can I be that old?) You’ve probably read about Wex, too, and how I came to own BooBoo’s cousin.
I was casually reminded by my bestie that Wex was 2019 Makeover eligible.
While we stew on that fact, let’s revisit my current situation. I hadn’t ridden in 6 months. Prior to that, I was sharing my semi-retired senior horse with my kids. My training days were long behind me. I hadn’t even ridden a horse that wasn’t BooBoo with any regularity in more than 8 years. Plus, I have a full time job, a long commute, and 2 incredibly busy kids. In all honesty, I really had no business with a 3-year-old colt.
So obviously, I applied to be a trainer for the Thoroughbred Makeover 2019. I cobbled together an entry with a highlight reel of my past life. I begged and borrowed rides from friends so I could get some more recent videos of my skills (can I just mention how far digital video has come in 10 years?!). I wrote a narrative about the thoroughbreds that have graced my life. And then I waited. Two long weeks.
And I got in.
You guys. Wex and I are going to compete at the Kentucky Horse Park in October. We have 8 months to be able to successfully complete a hunter round. For the record, I can trot about 6 steps at a time right now, so I guess you could say we’ve got this thing in the bag.