Monday, March 31, 2014

Day at the Races

This weekend I went to Santa Anita Park with some girlfriends - my first time going to a horse race as an adult! It was a blast.

I did some homework beforehand so I could play the ponies and not look like an idiot.  The best web guide on how to bet on horse races was from Art of Manliness blog. I bet on 4 races, and won a payout on 1 of them using a highly sophisticated betting method of  best horse's name + pretty jockey silks + horse's face expression, LOL.

Coming down the home stretch!

S.E., J.H., and myself

Its nice to feel a little more connected to my horse's past career. Though looking at those TINY jockey saddles makes me wonder why Hemie had a hard time being ridden bareback...

Friday, March 28, 2014

Q1 Review & Q2 Goals

As part of my 2014 goals I decided to try out quarterly goals to help me stay on track by regularly checking in on progress, and breaking down big-picture things into smaller steps. So here's a review of my 1st Quarter goals:

Q1 Horsey Goals:
  1. Work on improving our free walk. It counts for double in our dressage tests!  Success. Still needs work, but overall we've really improved on this.
  2. Focus on hind end engagement/tracking hind legs up.  Success. Again still needs further improvement, but we we are getting it sooner and and for longer periods and combining it with stretching neck and lifting back.
  3. Work on making canter cue more subtle (more body and seat, less leg).  Success. Hemie caught on pretty quick - I just need to make sure I ask with as much finesse as possible.

"I'm watching you"

In terms of overall accomplishment of our 2014 goals, we are making good progress and need to keep it up. We've attended 2 clinics (goal of 4), schooled at 1 new location (goal of 2), showed at 1 new location (goal of 2), and have definite improvement on our dressage scores - though with plenty of room for improvement.

Q1 Non-Horsey Goals:

1. Put a good dent in garage organizing. Success, with photos to prove it. I've still got plenty of more work to do, but I'm off to a great start.

December 2013
March 25, 2014

2. Start including weight training regularly in my workouts. Uh....whoops? Did not do this at all really. However, I have lost just over 1/4 of the weight I'm aiming to drop in 2014, so that's progress.

3. When eating out, take half the food home (ie, reduce portion size). I did so-so on this. Overall I've been much more mindful of portions when at restaurants.

4. Check in on horsey spending at least once per month. So-so again. I'm checking in, but really could be more organized about it.

5. Prepare birthday cards at the beginning of each month and make sure all birthdays are on my master calendar. Overall I did good, with one or two hiccups.

Q2 Goals

Horsey Goals:
  1. Work on my lower leg stability while jumping.
  2. Work on better upper body posture for dressage (stop leaning forward!).
  3. Focus on Hemie's flexibility and bending the whole body.
  4. Add more lateral exercises to rides (shoulder-in, haunches-in, etc).
  5. Continue working on steadier connection and hind-end engagement.

Can you tell he likes his shavings?

Non-Horsey goals:
  1. Continue garage organizing - focusing on my crazy horse pile.
  2. Create a more efficient workout schedule and stick to it!
  3. Buy or make birthday cards so I always have a ready supply.
  4. Track all horse show expenses in my show binder.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

DIY: Halter Repair

True blogger confession: I love all those crafty, creative do-it-yourself projects on Pinterest and such.... but I just do not have an artistic eye. Or any style-sense whatsoever, actually. 

Plus I tend to cut corners when it comes to buying all the tools and materials or whatnot (what can I say? I'm cheap), so projects turn out harder and more frustrating than they really should be...

So. With that said. You can imagine my extreme pride and sense of personal accomplishment to present...

That's right, yours truly was able to do some basic leatherwork and thus extend the usable life of a halter. It's a big day.

So the halter broke at the show at 2 places: where a cheek-piece attaches to the nose band, and at one of the crown-piece buckles.  Apparently this latter piece is where most halters break because you can find replacement "breakaway" pieces online for ~ $4. 

But the cheek-piece? I couldn't find any type of replacement online or in the tack store. The tack store quoted me at $20 to $30 for halter repair, which sounded steep to me. Online tack repair was cheaper...but not once you factored in shipping. 

So I decided I would just do it myself. At the end of the day it cost me $16 for all the supplies, with lots and lots of leftovers for future leatherwork projects:
  • 1 Leather hole punch ($8, though I could have looked for one at the barn).
  • Chicago screws (I bought 2 bags of different sizes, each for $4).
  • Old stirrup leather.
  • Heavy duty scissor (I used an old cooking shear).

Old stirrups...not just for jump straps anymore!
Directions are pretty basic:
  • Clean, condition, and cut leather.
  • Punch the holes.
  • Use Chicago screws to secure the leather together.
The cheek-piece was very straightforward:

Repaired cheek piece

Basically, I took a short piece of leather and wrapped around the cheek-piece, through the noseband ring, and secured it back onto the cheek-piece from both sides using the screw.

The breakaway/buckle piece was slightly more challenging:

Fully functional buckle piece

Broken buckle piece

Replacement buckle piece from old stirrup leather!

An 8" long piece of leather is bent into an S shape, with one end looping around the halter's side O-ring, and the other end attached to the buckle, then bent into a full 8 shape and secured with one Chicago screw. On the right hand side of this picture, you can see I used the hole-puncher to make a gap in the middle of the leather. The buckle's tongue sticks through here so it can move open and closed.

Ready for action!

Full disclosure: following the show I immediately went to the tack store and purchased a new leather halter for everyday use. This repaired halter is now my back-up halter. Which you can bet I'll be bringing to from now on. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Blog Hop: Whats In Your Bucket/Smartpak?

Hemie gets:

3 flakes alfalfa hay plus 2 flakes of grass and/or oat hay, spread over 3 meals, each day.

Bucket (~ 4 or 5 days a week):
One large scoop of shredded beet pulp, soaked in water.
One large scoop of pelleted rice bran.
California Trace multi-mineral supplement.

Redmond rock-on-a-rope mineral salt block.
Cookies. Lots of cookies.

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Saturday, March 22, 2014


Lets get this post started with a bridle blog roll:

SprinklerBandit Bridle Series:
Part 1 - Aesthetics
Part 2 - Function
Part 3 - Extra Features
Part 4 - Brands & Quality

Not-So-Speedy Dressage:
Micklem Bridle
More Micklem Bridle
Micklem in Action

Forging Fiction: To Flash Or Not To Flash?

Please feel free to link some more in the comments! These are just the ones in my recent memory.

All of the above bridle posts plus the comments I received at the Dr. Schacht clinic have really made me look at my bridles and question if they are the right choice for Hemie.

I've had both my bridles since before Hemie came into the picture. Since they fit him fine, I've been using them from day 1 and never thought much about it.

Jump Bridle

Dressage Bridle

With blingy brow band.

Did you notice? They are the same bridle, except for the color. 

They are both stamped Americana, so with some googling it looks like they are manufactured by Harmohn Kraft Inc and sold by several major retailers. These bridles were graciously given to me by my trainer when I first started riding with her on Spirit several years ago. (As to bits, I ride in a Albacon french link eggbutt snaffle for jumping and a Korsteel french link D-ring for dressage. I bought these bits for Spirit, but they fit Hemie perfectly, so I kept using them.)

Normally I follow the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach. But I realized there are some points to consider:

#1. Open mouth.
At Dr. Schacht clinic in February

At the show on Sunday

Also from show on Sunday

Hemie will sometimes open his mouth during rides, though just for a few moments at a time, not for any significant duration. From what I understand, an open mouth is undesirable for 2 reasons. First, it can dry out their mouth, which hampers connection with the bit. Secondly, it "looks bad" from an aesthetics perspective.

#2. Cheek piece bubble.

I've noticed it at some point during some of my XC videos: an air gap between Hemie's face and the cheek piece. Presumably the bit is rising in his mouth and/or he's wiggling his jaw. I haven't heard of this issue before, but it sure doesn't look like its supposed to happen, and it's got me thinking a lot about bit stability.

At least there isn't a gap under my leg!

#3. Its good to be open minded to potentially better options.

We may not have a major bridling problem, but I'd be silly not to be open to better options out there. Ever since the clinic I've been riding with a tighter cavesson, and it doesn't seem to bother Hemie during rides. But a tight cavesson just bothers me for some reason, especially the more I've researched on the Micklem bridle.

After listening to an interview of William Micklem on the Horses In The Morning podcast as well as reading through his website and a recent Eventing Nation post about it, I decided to go ahead and purchase it.

It comes in about 2 weeks, but due to the kindness of Karen (of Not-So-Speedy Dressage fame), we have some photos of how Hemie will look in it:

So what do you think? All comments welcome!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

White Birch Dressage Show Recap (lots of photos!!)

This past Sunday we participated in the California Dressage Society - Ventra County Chapter's dressage schooling show at White Birch Farms, where we had our best dressage performance to date!!

We pulled in early - it was a very well participated show and finding a trailer spot was tricky, but overall the atmosphere was calm. I went to check in and get my number, returning to the trailer just in time to see my horse backing himself out of the trailer, snapping his halter in the process, and running free through the show grounds.

Luckily he came right to me when I called him. I grabbed his naked face with one arm, removing my belt with the other to act as a neck halter. Some sort of miscommunication between my barn mate and trainer as they unloaded the horses, but no big deal - Hemie was over it immediately and stood nicely to get tacked up.

Warm up was not great, but not horrible either.  Then it was time for Training Test 1:

I was very, very proud of our performance, especially our free walk. We had some really good moments. We placed 3rd out of 6.

Next was Training Test 2:

To me our test felt comparable, even a bit better, than our 1st test, though the judge didn't agree (and neither did my trainer). But I was again very proud of our performance overall. We placed 5th out of 6.

It was my first time competing against a fellow blogger friend, Karen and Sydney of Not-So-Speedy Dressage. Our bay OTTBs met and became friends, and Karen graciously lent me a spare halter.

This was our first competition where I felt our dressage work in the show ring was comparable to the work we get at home. That is an exciting milestone for us in our training, and I hope that means that progress going forward from here will present itself in the show ring and result in improvement at our horse trials!

The organizers did a great job with the show and I hope to do some more this season!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Blog Hop: What's In Your Name?

Okay, first of all, I have to admit that I completely goofed on my last Viva Carlos Blog Hop (7 Deadly Sins) and forgot to add my blog to the actual hop collection, and additionally forgot to embed the hop collection in my post. Ay yi yi!

I created Eventing in Color in January 2011. The name came from 2 main places:

Firstly, it captured and showcased the fact that I was riding a non-traditional eventing breed: a Paint horse. The term "color" abounds within the Paint breed microcosm, and Spirit is a great example as a striking grey Overo Paint.

Secondly and more importantly, it was a nod to the bold and fun cross-country colors I was seeing at the local events, which represents the excitement and childlike joyfulness I find captured in this sport. 

I came from a saddleseat background, then did ranch work and trail riding for a few years. So coming as a newbie to eventing as an adult, I found the sport to be quite colorful - figuratively and literally! 

Eventing certainly has long history and deep roots in tradition, but when I see bright colored saddlepads and electrical tape over horse boots, a little giggle sets upon my heart and I think "ah, there's a girl having fun with her horse!"  That feeling is truly what Eventing In Color means to me.

Spirit and I rockin' the hot pink!

Color and fun everywhere!

Even Hemie rocks the pink and sparkles sometimes!

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ah yes. Winter.

I'm starting to come out of my funk now I think. I've been feeling better, more in control of life, and more happy overall. Counting my blessings is feeling genuine rather than a forced exercise. Thanks to everyone who sent good vibes and supportive words of wisdom - they are greatly, greatly appreciated.

My horse life has been quite wonderful. Reading everyone's blogs has been nice - there's good positive energy in the blogosphere right now. Plus Hemie is just the best pony of all time. And I have a funny store to share.

The Rainy Day Bad Decision

~1.5 weeks ago, my area of Southern California finally got some winter. And by winter, I mean just some rain. No cold weather, no wind, just precipitation. We've been in a drought, so rain of any kind automatically becomes STORM WATCH 2014!!! with mud slides and horrific traffic predicted. I guess the news anchors were jealous of all the Snowpocalypse/Polar Vortex the rest of the country has been having.

With rain predicted, my boarding facility sealed the footing with tractors and closed (and literally padlocked) the arenas and round-pens.  ( O_o  I know, right?!)

The rains started on Thursday and continued through the weekend. Thursday and Friday evenings I couldn't get Hemie out. Between the downpour, the darkness, and the closed arenas (which have the lights), it just wasn't going to happen. For the weekend I checked the hour-by-hour weather and saw my opening: 2 hours, mid-day Saturday, of light rains only. Perfect! I knew the arenas and round-pens would still be closed, but I figured I could ride him around the gravel paths all over the facility.

We suited up. I put on a rain-proof saddle cover, and received several compliments from barn-mates of being "brave" and "badass" for riding in this weather. Other people were hand-walking horses around the facility, if anything. Most were just cleaning their horses and hanging out. But I replied to them that eventing is an all weather sport, so we better have practice going out in the rain. I mounted up and we ventured off.

Hemie was really, really great.

For 10 minutes.

Then he got stuck, halting and not moving forward. I encouraged him on, and he got a little light up front, but then marched on. I told him he was the best boy ever and we continued marching. A minute later, the same thing happened. We marched on again. Then, maybe 15 feet on, he gave 3 giant rears.

These were not the "oh my gosh we're about to die a horrible death flipping over sideways" rears. More like the "gee, should I try taking my feet out of the stirrups now, or just wait until he's finished" rears. He was balanced and I felt secure in my seat.

Once he was done I immediately hopped off and gave him a smack on the neck (since rears are not allowed period) but then coo'd him since, really, it's not his fault that he was hot and had tried to tell me more subtly but I just didn't take the hint. We spent the next 10 minutes trotting around in-hand, which left me drenched in sweat and Hemie not even breathing hard.

In hindsight it was a stupid decision to ride him rather than just do a super long hand-walk. My normal rule of thumb is to longe Hemie before riding when he's had 1 (or more) days off. He'd had 2 days off, plus no turn-outs (they were too muddy), no longe, and was being ridden in light rainfall on gravely footing. So at the end of the day I'm actually quite proud of him for the 10 minutes of keeping his act together. And I will certainly not make that same mistake again!

In other news, we've signed up for a dressage schooling show this Sunday at a local facility. In fact I'm competing against Karen and Sydney of Not So Speedy Dressage! What fun!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Blog Hop: 7 Deadly Sins

Viva Carlos

Seven great things/strengths in your riding life
  1. Hemie is just the best.
  2. Great trainer.
  3. Knowledgeable and friendly barn mates.
  4. Amazing boarding facility.
  5. I do my homework/practice between lessons.
  6. I'm organized and keep good records (including this blog!).
  7. Supportive horse husband.


Seven things you lack or covet for you or your horse

  1. Regular body work/chiropractor (for both of us!).
  2. Larger horse show savings account.
  3. Fancy/medicinal saddle pad.
  4. Nice tack trunk.
  5. Amazing boarding facility that's closer to home.
  6. High tech XC boots.
  7. More pony time (less work time).

Seven things that make you angry
  1. People treating their horses poorly, especially blaming the horse for their mistakes.
  2. People who skimp on medical or farrier care for their horses.
  3. Over-priced things simply because they are horse-related.
  4. "Trainers" who aren't.
  5. Vets (or any horse service providers) who are unprofessional. 
  6. The use of fear-mongering in any way, especially by equine supplement companies, trainers, etc.
  7. When show venues/organizers don't follow the rules properly

Seven things you neglect to do or cut corners on

  1. Cleaning my tack - should do it more often.
  2. Cleaning my boots - same.
  3. Dealing with the messy piles of stuff after a show. Why does it take me 2 weeks to wash saddle pads?
  4. Grooming thoroughly when I'm running behind.
  5. Filing horsey paperwork. It sits in a pile for while first.
  6. Buying things. Even for things I need, I tend to put it off as long as possible.
  7. Stretching out Hemie. I really should do that every time, not once in a blue moon.

Seven most expensive things you own for your horse/riding
Bucket! Nom nom nom! 

  1. Hemie's ongoing living expenses.
  2. Shows, especially registered events.
  3. Stubben Roxane jumping saddle. 
  4. Bates Isabell dressage saddle.
  5. Point-2 Air Vest.
  6. Hemie's post purchase exam & radiographs.
  7. Hemie's extra feed. Gosh the horse eats a lot!

Seven guilty pleasures or favorite items

  1. Giving my horse treats.
  2. Giving him his bucket after rides.
  3. Lessons. Especially the "aha!" moments.
  4. Access to great trainers to clinic with on top of my fabulous trainer.
  5. 8 arenas at my barn. Eight! All with great footing and several with lights.
  6. Serious lack of barn drama.
  7. My horse's soundness, and squeaky clean x-rays.

Seven things you love about horses and riding.

  1. Snuggling & horsie hugs
  2. Sleeping horses
  3. Galloping
  4. Bareback rides
  5. Learning new things  
  6. Developing our skills as a team
  7. That special feeling coming through the finish flags, feeling like a winner.
  8. Bonus: horsey blog-o-sphere!