Wednesday, December 31, 2014

December's 10 Questions & Happy New Year!

Bohemian & I wish you a happy and safe New Year's celebration!

And because there's no minute like the last minute, 

1. What size horse do you prefer to ride? I love them all shapes and sizes. I guess I prefer the ones that are naturally couch-like, for obvious reasons.

2. Do you school in tall boots or half chaps and paddock boots? Tall boots.

3. What do you do with your ribbons after shows? Most go into a plastic tupperware box in the garage. The ones that have special meaning to me get hung up in my horsey storage area. I also have some in a tall vase as decoration in the house. 

4. Do you ride/board at a large show barn or a small private barn?  Its a large barn, but not a show barn. Multiple trainers are based out of the facility, and some of them regularly show while many don't. The facility does not host shows or other events.

5. Have you ever seen a horse give birth? Not in real life. But I've seen foals that are just a few hours old. Pretty special.

6. What is your favorite breed? Saddlebreds and Thoroughbreds. Maybe I'll buy or breed an ASBxTB cross one day. Thoughts? Not sure if it would be hot enough...  ;]

7. Favorite tack brand? I'm not enough of a tack ho to really differentiate based on personal experience, but I'll go with Stubben since I love my saddle by them, like their fancy bits, and have heard excellent things about their other tack.

8. Would you ever buy used tack? Yes, 99% of everything I have is used.

9. Ever been on a carriage ride? Yes! Lots of fun!

10. How often do you go to the tack store? A few times a year. Luckily my friend and barn-mate works there, so she kindly brings me my purchases so I rarely have to drive there.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones! 

Thanks for following our adventure.

Sarah & Bohemian

Monday, December 22, 2014

In Remembrance of Levi

Thank you for being my dog. My friend.
I miss you so much. 
I love you forever. I'll see you at Rainbow Bridge.

Jet Skis and Family

Inspired by a recent post at She Moved To Texas, allow me to share a funny story also involving jet skis.

I was at a family reunion some years back, on the coast of Georgia. We had rented some boats for water-skiing and hanging out. When it was my turn to try the water-skiing, it was a major fail.

I could not get out of the water. After numerous attempts which included a number of belly flops and other awkward, painful flailing maneuvers, my turn was over so others could have a chance.  I was very embarrassed and disappointed. I had been really looking forward to water skiing, and I was exhausted and emotionally let down by the whole experience.

Enter a wonderful older cousin, who asked if I wanted to go jet-skiing with him. I'd never been jet-skiing before, so I said I'd be interested if we could go doubles and have him drive. We got out on the water and he was careful to go slow at first and make sure I was okay. After a few minutes of cruising, I told him he could go faster. He hit the gas and we zoomed around. I felt safe and secure, even when we made some hairpin turns and were catching air!  It was exhilarating!

Later that evening, the whole family gathered for dinner and conversation. Each person shared a little bit about their day. When it was my older cousin's turn, he said he had a great day with the exception of the 2 bruises he'd gotten on his hips...

...from me holding onto him with my crazy horseriding thighs of doom.

Cue most awkward silence ever and my eyes bugging out of my head in shock and embarrassment.

He laughed off the silence, saying at least he didn't have to worry that I'd fallen off the back like some of the other cousins. Meanwhile  I secretly vowed never to ride doubles anything ever again.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Let's Talk Tack: Merry Christmas to Pony

This month I'm asking about a seasonal shopping habit - do you buy your horse a Christmas present?

Do you usually buy your horse a holiday gift? free polls

If so, what? If not, why? Please feel free to share in the comments! And thank you very much for voting in the poll!

I do not buy Hemie a holiday present. I usually pick up some supplies with seasonal deals and coupons, and there's plenty of tack and riding gear on my Christmas wish-list. But I've always considered those to be gifts to myself, not to him. To celebrate the holiday with Hemie, usually I'll just make or buy some cookies, and hope the weather allows us to have an extra hack to relax and be together.

Last month I asked if you play dress up with your horse. Here's the results of the survey:

Less voting turnout on this poll as compared to others, but the results are that most of us dress up our ponies rarely to never. So thank goodness for shameless ponies such as Bobby from PoorWomanShowing, showing us the proper way to celebrate the Christmas season!


Thanks to everyone who voted!

Previous Let's Talk Tack posts:

Thursday, December 18, 2014

TOA Blog Hop: Making of the Horse

The second in Beka's series of blog hops in honor of Archie's 18th birthday!

The Owls Approve Blog Hop #2 - Making of the Horse

Last week, we talked about our babies. This week, let's talk about our greenies. 
 Who trained your horse? Is your ponykins still in the process of figuring out this whole monkey-on-my-back thing, did you send off for thirty or sixty or ninety days, or did you buy a horse with all the bells and whistles? Who has helped your horse become what he or she is today?

As we covered last hop, Bohemian was a racehorse and then a TV horse before I adopted him in late April 2012. So he came to me fully trained...just for a different job. 

Bohemian's retraining to become a sporthorse was a partnership effort between myself and my trainer Laurie, in the form of regular lessons and occasional training rides. For years my arrangement with Laurie has been twice-a-week lessons, but for the first month or so of adopting Bohemian this morphed into a more fluid arrangement: instead of 2 regular lessons a week, I'd get supervised rides/mini-lessons 3 to 4 times a week. Once Hemie and I figured each other out, we went to a normal twice-a-week lesson schedule and have been doing that ever since. 

Retraining included groundwork.

His retraining to become a sporthorse went faster and smoother than I had anticipated, and my trainer commented early on that he was a fast learner. It was heartening to see that he was enjoying learning his new job. Within the first month he was jumping, learning about contact, using his body differently, going on trail rides, and even a cross-country school!

One of our first rides.

Within 5 months of adoption (September 2012), he had learned enough that we were able to compete at a local eventing derby, getting through both a dressage test and jumping round of both stadium and cross-country elements, earning our first ribbons. This is when I consider him to be officially retrained as an eventer. Since then, we've continued to learn this sport together as a team, with our share of both successes and setbacks.

Thanks again to Beka for the blog hop! 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Fire breathing ponykins

I don't like rain. 
I try to like it, but I just don't. 
It throws off my riding schedule. It creates ridiculous traffic. Work gets more hectic.

Giant tractor sealing the ring

Hemie has been a hot tamale. Inconsistent exercise does not suit him. We squeezed in a ride last week...there were moments of good work interspersed among the mostly-hot-mess.

When Hemie has sat for a few days, he needs 1 or even 2 days of turnout or longing before he can be safely ridden. Add another ride before you can get quality work out of the session. He simply gets too hot and he has a tendency to channel that hotness into up-ness (rearing). 

Who, me?

On days the arenas are closed I've tried hand-walking him. Other horses plod along around the facility, while Hemie does his best fire-breathing-attack-giraffe impression, leaping like a Lipizzaner. I've tried taking photos, but it hasn't worked out (both hands needed on the lead and all that). 

So I'm ready for winter to be over, for the arenas to be open consistently, and for my pony to get his bucks out so we can get back to work!

Can you see my hands in the dark? Yes ma'am!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Travels & Training

Last ride before the rain

Between the arenas getting shut down due to rain, then getting sick for a few days, then recovering just in time for an extra long weekend trip - it has been quite some time since I've had some lesson progress on ponykins!

Rainy days mean cleaning boots

Beautiful hiking in Mill Valley

Tuesday night I had a lesson and Hemie was surprisingly excellent, given that he'd been standing in his stall for most of 10 days. He had a moment of spooking silliness, but settled down to work and was a hard worker for the whole ride. We are focusing on quality of connection, and asking Hemie to really engage with his hind-end and stretch with his topline. What was once so hard that we only asked for a few steps, is now so improved that we are getting excellent throughness for most of the ride. 

I was reminded that I need to be sure I'm using my body correctly - rotating my shoulders and being cognizant of the weight in my seat bones. When I add leg I need to really squeeze with my whole leg (calf, knee, and thigh) rather than wrap my heel into his body. 

Our downward transitions and slowing of gaits are becoming much more balanced. I'm able to really squeeze into them without releasing rein or losing connection, and without giraffe-like objections from Bohemian. And our upward transitions are really coming along. Relaxed and smooth, balanced.

In-your-pocket ponykins

Something I need to practice is not allowing Hemie to curl behind the vertical when asking for stretch downward and forward. As long as his neck was down, I wasn't nit-picking. I need to start being more specific about where his nose is.

Also I need to be more proactive about connection to the left rein (I kinda avoid it). I need to ask him to connect to the left rein more often - even when tracking left.  A helpful exercise for that is to do dramatic leg yielding on a circle when first tracking right - exaggeratedly ensure that he is respectful of my right inside leg and connects to my left outside rein. Then I need to use that left rein for half-halts rather than avoid using it for fear of losing connection.

Overall a great lesson. Laurie got a kick out of my new hot pink gloves. Funny story - I went to the tack store to buy white gloves for night rides so Laurie can see my hands better in the dark. But all the white gloves were quite pricey, as they were all dressage show gloves! So I went for some Noble Equine hot pink from the bargain pile - under $20 (though they are one size too small...). 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

TOA Blog Hop: Horse History

To celebrate Archie's upcoming 18th birthday, Beka of The Owls Approve is hosting a series of blog hops!

The Owls Approve Blog Hop #1 - History of the Horse

Before you met, where was your horse? Who bred him/her? What do you know about his sire and his dam? What do you know where he came from? Tell me about the time before he had a trainer.

This is a fun one because of Bohemian's brief moment in Hollywood. But let's back up a bit first.

Hemie is by Detox, out of Country Girl. Never heard of 'em? Me neither. Both sire and dam raced, but not successfully.  As far as I can tell his breeding is lackluster.

He was bred by Mr. & Mrs. Don L. Munger of Enumclaw, Washington. Per this article, Don is a WWII vet and a racing trainer at Emerald Downs in addition to TB breeder (he's likely retired by now).  I emailed the Mungers soon after I adopted Bohemian but never heard back. Their address of record looks like a lovely place for a horse to be born.

Bohemian's owner and trainer of record was Billy Christian, who continues to be a trainer in the pacific northwest, and per this article is also a jockey's agent at Portland Meadows. 

Bohemian was not a successful racehorse. He earned a career total of $800 and never "broke his maiden" - meaning he didn't win a race by the time he was 5. He was sold (I'm sure at a very reasonable price) to...

HBO!! For their TV series "Luck!" He may not have been a good racehorse, but he sure could *pretend* to be one! 

Hemie was brought on most of the way through filming (the show was cancelled after only 1 season) and was used for the last 2 episodes.  I've grabbed some screen shots from this YouTube of race scene from Luck episode 9.  Let's re-live his brief moment in the background spotlight!

Not sure if Hemie is in this one. Perhaps the second-to-the-far-left?  My husband thinks every bay horse is Hemie. Gotta love horse husbands.

The crew said that he was used with the camera car for up-close shots like this due to his good mind. Is that him the back? I think so. Let's go with yes.

Pretty sure he's the bay on the left in this shot, given the hind markings. 

After the show was cancelled, Hemie was adopted out along with the other 40 +/- equine actors. I got him through Thoroughbred Rehab Center, Inc - a non-profit that specializes in rehabbing and re-homing ex-racehorses.

Great blog hop Beka! Join the hop here!

Friday, December 5, 2014


First - a PSA to all TB owners out there about some excellent recent posts you may be interested in:

Poor Woman Showing's Crash Course in Thoroughbreds

Fly On Over's Explanation of the Thoroughbred Incentive Program

And second, some video of Hemie while turned out, reminding me that, yes, he used to be a racehorse!

And of him rolling, because its so cute!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Equestrian Journey Blog Hop: What will you NOT do?

From Equestrian Journey:

We all like to share on our blogs what we do with our horses and what we would like to do, but I want to know what you will NOT do. For example I will not carry a bag of feed into the middle of a herd of horses, especially if I don't know some of them. I will not teach my horse to rear on purpose. I will not ride my horse into a field full of loose horses that could kick me in the leg and break it. Things like that. I look forward to hearing what you have to share!

This is one of the interesting, rare instances where I'm sure I'll be going against the grain. I have and will do things that I know other horse people choose not to.

First - what I will NOT do.

I will not ride unbroke horses. Been there, done that. At this point in my life I prefer horses with at least a modicum of foundation.

Levi's 1st ride.
I'm okay with not being the "crash test dummy!"

I will not tolerate bad ground manners. It's dangerous and simply unacceptable.

I will not buy the latest trendy horse item. I'm too stingy and I don't like fads.

I will not be closed-minded to others' suggestions or approaches. I'll listen to my gut above all else, but there's a lot to learn from others if you take the time to sift for the gold nuggets of wisdom.

I will not ride without a helmet.

Helmet? Check!

I will not mount from the ground, unless there truly is no other option.

I will not give up or bow out when I'm at a competition. With the singular exception of concern for my horse's safety, I'll press through any obstacle or bad day.

Now - what I WILL do that others don't (and why).

I will (try) to teach my horse to rear on command. I've been working on it a bit lately, in fact. I believe that training is a way to safely address and control a behavior that could be dangerous.

I have ridden horses among herds of loose horses. I have walked among herds of horses while holding feed. I am confident in my ability to be a "lead mare" and use body language to protect my space and safely be among them, whether on the ground or mounted.  In fact, one of the most exhilarating moments of my life was riding a horse and galloping with the herd at night along trails lit only by moonlight! Bareback in a halter, in fact! I felt like I was one with the herd.

Riding Miss Paint with the herd.
Her boyfriends Reno (left) and Snow (right)
liked to come with us on ocean-view trail rides.

I will mount and dismount from the wrong side occasionally. I will tack up from the wrong side. I'll pick hooves in the wrong order. I think horses need to be okay with all this.

I insist that my english horse know how to neck rein, open gates, do trail class obstacles, carry packs, etc. All these make for a well-rounded horse and a confident horse-person.

I will canter my horse when headed home on trails. I have enough confidence in my riding skills and my horse's training that I will not have a runaway horse situation.

Cantering home on trail!

I will ride through problems that others would avoid. I rode a horse that reared when passing by a tractor headed towards the arena. One person suggested that I lead the horse to the arena and mount there - but that was not addressing the issue, that was avoiding it. So with a trainer's help, we overcame that problem where it was happening.

Join the Blog Hop!  Head to Equestrian Journey and click "Add Your Link' at the bottom!

Friday, November 28, 2014


Hemie and I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday yesterday!

I have so much to be thankful for - my blessings are innumerable!

"If you're lucky enough to own a horse, you're lucky enough!"  --Unknown

Friday, November 21, 2014

Let's Talk Tack: Horsie Dress Up

Courage dressed up as a Budweiser Clydesdale to celebrate the Superbowl
complete with white feathers and bob tail!
Photo (and major creativity) credit to SprinklerBandit 

Hemie dressed up for Racing to Ride's Breast Cancer Awareness contest
Love his enthusiasm!

I love pony dress up - whether they're in costume for Halloween, or decked out to celebrate Christmas, a birthday, a contest entry, or just for fun.  Playing with different tack, colored pads and boots, hair color and hoof polish, are all great ways to rekindle the child-like joy that horses bring to us.

This month I want to know - do you play dress up with your horse?  

Do you play dress up with your horse? free polls

I dress up Hemie a few times a year. And I'll be honest - I dress him up as a princess! Sparkly hooves, sparkly browband, pink pads...he's a good sport about it all.  I've been trying to buy a Santa costume for him each year for the last 3 years but they sell out too quickly!

Last month I asked if you regularly use leg protection on your horse. Here's the results of the survey:

An interesting mix of responses! Thank you to everyone who voted!

Previous Let's Talk Tack posts:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

November 10

November's 10 Questions from Viva Carlos!

1. Have you ever owned a horse?   Yes, two.

2. What is your favorite aspect of your discipline?   I love that eventing requires both horse and rider to be well rounded. My favorite phase is cross country.

3. What pet peeves do you have concerning your discipline?  Lack of consistent enforcement of the rules (at least at the shows I've volunteered and competed at).

4. Do you do barn chores?  Not many. Basically just cleaning up after myself and my horse.

5. What is your least favorite barn chore?  Mucking a muddy stall in the rain. 

6. What do you consider the worst vice in a horse?  Stall kicking is pretty annoying.

7. What saddle brand is your favorite?  I don't have a favorite.

8. Do you ride with a quarter sheet in the winter?  No.

9. Does your horse wear boots? What kind?  Generally not, though I have splint boots and brushing boots for XC.

10. Full seat or knee patch breeches?  I have mostly knee patch. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tugger X Ranch XC Schooling

On Saturday we headed over to a local facility for cross country schooling. It was a lovely day and both Hemie and I had a blast. And we have videos yay!

From our first warm-up trot around the field, Hemie felt absolutely electric. He just loves XC and was so happy to be out there.

Our first set of jumps was a rolltop to a hanging log into the water.

Next we went through the water, to an up-bank, over the rolltop, around to a table, then over another log back down into the water.

This next part is where we got into some trouble, with our only refusal of the day at a very bright chevron. After we get over it, we continue onto a rolltop, then back up the hill to a cabin.

Next we worked on some ditches, adding in some jumps.

A few more jumps with the ditches.

We ended the day by working on my bogie: down banks. Hemie has no problem with them, and at this point I'm starting to feel confident about them too.

I was impressed by the number of jumps they had, since their cross country area has been in development for only a year or so. They put in intro jumps just last week!

Overall it was a really fun day. I can't wait to go back there as there were plenty of jumps we didn't do. I'm so blessed to have 3 different cross-country schooling facilities within a 20/25 minute drive of the barn!

Be sure to check out Fly On Over's 2nd Annual Holiday Gift Exchange!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Bits and such

To catch up from a busy week!

I started October clocking 3:00 of 2-point and finished the challenge with 5:10. The month seemed to fly by, and next year I want better improvement. Congrats to the extremely impressive winners, and thanks to L. of Viva Carlos and Hillary of Equestrian at Hart for hosting the challenge!

No Stirrup November
I'm in! Every ride this month has included no-stirrup work, though I'm still leaving the leathers on the saddle.

Because someone has the fall friskies!

Playing with Bits
Ever since I got Hemie I've been riding him in an Albacon mixed metal french link eggbutt. It hasn't been a problem, but I do wonder if there isn't something he might like better. Can't know until you try, right? So I'm borrowing friends' bits to experiment. So far I've tried this one:

Stubben golden wings gag

I couldn't tell if he prefers the lozenge/bean to the link, but I did notice the gag action come into play. Next one to try will be a loose ring lozenge without wings and without gag action.

Riding in the dark
It's completely dark by the time I get to the barn after work during the week, and I've noticed my rides have gotten shorter in duration. On the plus side, I've been good about cleaning tack with the "found" time.

We're working on some new skills including trot and canter lengthens. Hemie is enjoying learning new things. Meanwhile I've been focusing on my position to ensure my weight is in the proper place (inside vs outside hip or stirrup), while still focusing on Hemie's shoulder placement to get straightness for better self carriage.

Showtime for Friends
This past weekend I hauled TK and her lovely 4-year old Levi to a local schooling dressage show. This horse hasn't gotten less than a blue ribbon in dressage to date! Judges just adore him.

The fabulous Karen and Speedy of Not-So-Speedy Dressage were also there for their 1st level debut! It was really nice to hang out with her and cheer her on. 

Speedy can really step under himself!

XC Schooling
This weekend we're heading a local facility for some cross country fun. I really hope to bring hubby along for some photos!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

2014 Dressage Scores Recap

This season we did 12 dressage tests at 7 shows. Our goals for dressage changed at each outing, and ranged from "have no shenanigans" to "get work comparable to what we get at home" to "let's really do this and do it well."

We started off the season with a few shows where we put in good-for-us efforts, though the scores weren't very competitive.

Then we had a disastrous dressage in April, and proceeded to have meltdowns at home as we tried to investigate and address the issue. It was scary there for a while, with rearing, bucking, and (most horribly) unevenness in gait.

Does this count as airs above ground?


We spent the rest of the season at local shows, trying to give Hemie (and myself) positive dressage test experiences. We wanted relaxed outings with no craziness. So we completely took the pressure off at these shows. 

It worked. We did not have repeat issues at shows. Slowly over the months, we asked for more effort from Hemie (and better riding from myself) to get better performance. We added the pressure back, bit by bit.

By the end, I feel very good about our dressage, and ready to head back to a registered event.


So let's take a look at the scores, shall we?  First, a handy chart to help people understand the scoring:

Our 2014 dressage test results:

DateLocationTestEventing Score Penalty PointsDressage Score Percentage
Feb 1Galway DownsBN A40.0060.00%
March 16White BirchTraining 138.1261.88%
March 16White BirchTraining 240.7159.29%
April 26Fresno HTBN A51.1048.90%
May 31El SuenoBN A43.9056.10%
May 31El SuenoBN B39.1560.85%
July 19El SuenoBN A40.0060.00%
July 19El SuenoBN B40.0060.00%
Oct 5El SuenoBN A41.5858.42%
Oct 5El SuenoBN B38.7561.25%
Oct 11El SuenoBN A31.0568.95%
Oct 11El SuenoBN B31.0069.00%
Average Score:39.6160.37%
Median Score:40.0060.00%

As with all data, it can't stand alone - it needs to be compared to something to have meaning. So let's compare my median score (40.00 aka 60.00%) against the dressage scores in my level at registered horse trials (available from

  • Shepherd Ranch, August: it would put me 6th out of 8 after dressage.
  • Twin Rivers, September: I'd sit 14th out of 21 after dressage.
  • Fresno County HP, October: I'd sit in 6th out of 11 after dressage.

So, not dead last, but towards the bottom. 

And that's just fine. Because while I like to geek out and crunch the numbers, I acknowledge that they simply can't tell the whole story. I've always been much more focused on positive experience than I have on being competitive. I care most about competing against myself - ie, continually improving. And even when we take steps backwards, I'm able to keep it in perspective and do my best to get us moving in the right direction again. After all, this is a hobby. This is fun. Hemie is a pet first and a sport horse second. 

A highlight of dressage this year has been rooting for Karen of Not-So-Speedy Dressage. We showed together in March, and I've watched her at some other shows. She has grown tremendously as a rider and competitor this past year, on both of her lovely mounts. She is not only a great blogger, but also a kind, intelligent person. She and Speedy ended the season with tremendous back-to-back championship outings, and her journey is truly inspirational!

Karen and I at White Birch in March
Our smiles say it all.

Go checkout the contest at The Owls Approve!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

SMTT Blog Hop: Favorite Noms

Lauren from She Moved To Texas wants to know:

What is your absolute favorite comfort meal? 
 If you want to take a horse spin on things, what’s the best horse show food you've ever had?

I love food. Its hard to pick a favorite comfort meal, but I'm going to go with an In-N-Out cheeseburger with grilled onions and animal-style fries. Animal fries are covered in cheese, grilled onions, and "spread" (thousand island dressing). Pure deliciousness.

For the best horse show food I've ever had, I need to look way in the past, back to my saddleseat days. All of the eventing derbies and horse trials I've been to have been seriously lacking in the food department.  Even the ones that bring in food trucks have been overpriced and disappointing.

But I used to go to Saddlebred saddleseat shows, and a favorite was the California Futurity held at the LA County Fairgrounds in Pomona. It was the same weekend as the LA County Fair, so fair food was horse show food! There was lots to chose from, but the best I had was an absolutely epic taco salad. The best part was the deep fried taco shell, smeared with the beans and sour cream and pico de gallo juices. Words are not doing the memory justice, but oh well. I'll forever have fond memories of adorable Saddlebred yearlings and that epic taco salad.

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