I don’t find that funny and I don’t think your horse does either

I admire the array of humorous equine themed hoodies. Although I try not to ride in anything I can’t take off easily without removing my helmet l have thought it would be nice to have the ”Keep calm and trot on” (or similar variants for other gaits), and as my horse and I are both “Built for comfort not speed” I’d wear that one too (even though he’s bloody fast for a native breed!)

I would never dream of wearing “My horse is ream! Bet you’re well jel.” But I have no issue with you wearing it, if it amuses you. However I’ve seen one lately that I do object to: “Ride it like you stole it.”

At first glance it’s not that offensive, but what does it mean? To my mind it means the wearer thinks it’s funny to ride a horse with no respect for anyone around them and even less for the horse itself. Who cares if someone gets injured because of you? Or if the horse is injured or miserable? Ride it like you stole it.

Perhaps people will think I’ve had a sense of humour bypass and gone off on a rant and maybe there would be some truth un that, but surely there are enough thoughtless riders already without glorifying recklessness.

Please don’t ride it like you stole it. Ride it like you love it. Sometimes it has to be tough love but please, ride it like a friend and not like a criminal.

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Thought that post wasn’t up to my usual standards? Don’t mind me, I got out of the wrong side of the bed this weekend. It started when I found out that Leonard Nimoy died by seeing a picture of a crocheted Spock with RIP written under it. Crochet blogs are a weird medium to hear news through and I’m not sure what it says about my life. Or is it because there’s a fair bit going on in my head at the moment and I might be overreacting to the little things. Hmm. I’m sure normal service will be resumed at some point.

Shopping spree

I had decided to treat myself to a few things that I didn’t actually need, but things that I wanted. Not things Drifter needed or wanted, things I wanted. This doesn’t usually happen!
So I went to the local tack shop, looking for some jodhs/breeches for everyday, some medium quality every-day gloves (black), some medium quality white gloves for dressage competitions, a pair of long leather boots and maybe a brush or two.

I came out with one brush, one plain white saddle pad and some pony treats. How disappointing. They were very short on stock and the only jodhs in my size were not in my shape. They don’t stock leather long-boots, the only white gloves they had were the super-cheap ones I already have and none of the black gloves fitted me. They apologised for the lack of stock, but it was not the “treating myself” event I’d planned.
So Mr S volunteered to take me somewhere further afield.* I got on the internet and located a bigger and better saddlery with lots of lovely pictures on its website so I knew they had lots of stock. It was about 40 min. drive away and on Saturday we headed over there.
I was a bit overwhelmed, to be honest! It was amazing. They had a good range of brands to accommodate budget shoppers or premium choices and they had everything I could think of on display.
I dallied by a black saddle pad with silver trim and embroidery, rejecting it reluctantly on the grounds that it was too much for everyday use and when else would I use it? I flirted with the diamante brow bands and the patent nose-bands of the blingy keep-it-for-best bridles, thinking I might come back to them later. I scanned the shining bits and tugged on the array of reins.

I reached the gloves, and ended up choosing the same synthetic Mark Todd gloves in black and in white, thinking that although leather would be more comfortable, washing leather gloves does not seem to be something I’m good at, and it is most important that I have ones I am able to wash without destroying! Then it was on to the array of jodhs and breeches. Taking an armful to the fitting room, I found two pairs of every-day jodhs I was pleased with – one teal and navy, the other grey check. There was a canary pair I liked but they were a bit snug – I needed the size above, which they didn’t have.
And so to the boots! The wall of long boots was beautiful and alluring, but I decided the best way was to put myself in the hands of the assistant and see what she thought would fit me best. I tried Ariat, Mountain Horse and Sarm Hippique, the last of which were both the most beautiful and the best fit. It was apparent that there was no way to wear these boots over a jodhpur, so I also ended up buying my first pair of breeches and also my first white leg-wear. Yes, now I have some Mark Todd white breeches, which cost more than I think they should, but they were the only plain white breeches they had, and to do these boots justice it was time to dare to wear white. I was given some heel raises to put into the boots until the leather relaxes and the boots “drop.” In the mirror the white breeches and long black boots were one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen on my legs. The price tags meant I wouldn’t be buying a blingy bridle, but I didn’t care because these are the boots I want to treasure for years.
Boots and breeches off and on the counter waiting for me in the growing heap of my purchases (and Mr S’s new yard-boots), I headed back to the reins. My existing thin-bobbly-rubber-over-webbing reins have a small tear in the rubber from when Drifter managed to tread on them a few months ago, and also I’ve never felt they were the best reins for me, despite many riders I know raving about them. I have trouble stopping them slipping through my fingers, so I fancied something grippier or chunkier. The reins I chose are leather with a moderately chunky rubber grippy section on the side facing the horse – both grippier and chunkier than the reins I had before and they look better too, to my eye, because the rubber doesn’t show.
One final circuit around the shop, gazing at all the wonders, and it was time to pay and leave. Mr S had been very patient and it was time to let him take me home again.

The next day when I thought it would be nice to show you pictures of my purchases. I carefully took my boots out of the box and realised that there was a little part of the zip near the ankle where the stitching had broken and the zip was coming away from the leather, which I had not noticed in the shop. So I didn’t take pictures of everything because it took the gloss off it to know that my beautiful boots were going to have to go back, and I was no longer in the mood. For that price they needed to be perfect. I still love them though, so I want to exchange them for another pair exactly the same but intact!

Mr S happens to be working in that direction today so he’s going to take them back to the shop tonight on his way home. I don’t have much hope that he’ll be able to get the exchange instantly – I would be very surprised if they carry identical sizes in stock, and imagine they’ll have to order a replacement. I suppose it’s lucky that I wasn’t buying them to wear on any specific date. Hopefully the customer service will be good and I can get a replacement without too much hassle or too long a wait. It’s obvious from the condition of the soles that they’ve not been worn yet, and to be honest, even if they had been worn they ought not to quibble about it. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll keep you posted, and one day you’ll see a picture of them, once I have my replacement pair.

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*Because he knows driving to places I’ve never been before intimidates me.

Final preparation for the show

Since my last post on show shopping I have acquired some more bargains. I found some white cotton gloves for £2 and carried on keeping my eyes open for long boots without much hope. Then I found some! Not only did I find some, they were very much in the sale; reduced to £12 and then a further 10% off! They’re basic rubber long boots in an extra wide fitting. The shop was a general sports shop with a riding section, so I hadn’t expected to find anything there really. The shop only had 3 pairs left but one of them was my size. I was utterly delighted. Sometimes these things only happen after you’ve resigned yourself to not being able to get any. I was so happy that I bought a white saddle pad for the show as well, although I’d previously planned to make do with my black one.

Unlike the Easter show, the summer dressage competitions are held in the smaller of the two outdoor arenas. This is the correct width for a small dressage arena but over-long, so they divide it off at the correct length with plastic markers on the ground. So around 3 sides the limit of the arena is the fence and on the 4th side there’s just a white strip that a horse can easily step over.

They put these strips out the night before so that people could practice. So we practiced … and several times he took control of the steering and we ended up over that line and out of the arena. Oh dear.

Following the biomechanics session the previous day, I was concerned that our first dressage test might include bucking. I was pretty sure bucking wasn’t quite the thing…

So the night before the dressage test my goal was to get through the test without bucking or exiting the arena and to achieve a vaguely recognisable version of each movement.

I’d arranged to have the day of the show off work so I didn’t end up rushing there pushed for time, trying to plait in record time. With that freedom I decided to ride him in the morning to tire him out. Hopefully that would mean he’d have less energy to buck. I also decided it was time to give in and buy a flash noseband to stop him opening his mouth to evade the bit. Hopefully with the flash on I’d have more chance of keeping him in the arena. I’d buy the flash as soon as the shop opened and then go and ride him in it.

The next morning came and I purchased my flash. It also occurred to me at this point that I really needed to ride in the long boots ahead of the show. It was a beautiful sunny morning and I spent a long time grooming him in the sunshine, hoping he wouldn’t get too dirty between then and the evening. I tacked him up using the new flash noseband, put my long boots on and went out to ride.

The noseband did help a great deal, although he was not too impressed with it. We were able to remain within the arena. There was no bucking either. I did find the boots much harder to ride in than my half-chaps & short boots. In order to fit me around the calf I’d had to go for a width fitting that was very loose around the ankle, making it hard to feel the horse, but I felt happy that I could ride in them that evening. I found it hard to find the “canter-button” in them, but as I was going to do a walk-trot test, canter seemed a bit beside the point.

Satisfied by a good ride, I dismounted, put him back in his stable and took all the tack home to clean before the test.

Shopping for the show

So I told you I was working towards doing a dressage test in a little show at our stables in May or June… and I told you that 99% of the riders in the last show were all dressed up … so I had to go shopping.

I had some horsey catalogues at home that include rider wear so I flicked through to see how much it was going to cost. Too much. Much too much! So it was time to see if I could do it on a budget. I went onto eBay and saw some jackets. I put some small bids on but they all finished at over £30 which I thought was too much for a second-hand jacket that might not even fit me when it arrived. I did win a cheap shirt with a stock collar, although I’ve not yet acquired a stock to wear with it. Or a stock pin.

I had to make a trip to my local tack shop for spare hoof picks, anti-fly ear-covers (for the horse’s ears, not mine – I’ll post a picture when I remember to take one) and some other little bits and pieces, so while I was there I asked the owner if there was any show wear in the sale. She managed to find me a nice jacket in my size for £30 – cheaper than the 2nd hand ones I’d looked at. She also pulled out some generously sized kids show jodhpurs which did the same job for £15 less than the adult ones even though they’re about the same size. She showed me lots of reduced long boots, but unfortunately none of them fitted, so I got a new pair of half-price half-chaps to wear with my short boots (which will need a MEGA cleaning.)

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When my husband saw the jacket and jodhpurs he offered me an old white shirt he doesn’t wear and a variety of ties he doesn’t wear, so I might wear those rather than buying a stock and stock-pin to go with my e-bay shirt. Although the shirt from my husband is not intended for riding it has plenty of space for movement. The eBay shirt hasn’t arrived yet, so I’ll see what it’s like before I make a decision.

I also got a hairnet and some plaiting bands. I’m not worried about putting his hair up – I’ve plaited to lay a mane before and although I’ve not put the plaits up into knots I’m sure I’ll be OK as long as I have a practice session first. I’ve been pulling it a bit to keep it thin and not too long, so while it could use a tidy up it won’t be a massive job. I’ve been playing with plaiting his tail for a while (must post a picture of that too one day…) and while the results are not that neat I have to accept that’s the deal if you have a hairy horse and don’t want to pull his tail.

But putting my hair up is a different story. After much, much, oh so much trial and error, youtube-ing and asking long-haired girls on the yard, I think I’ve figured a way to get my hair into a hair-nettable bun that can be worn under a helmet and will stay up despite being subject to physical activity.

Aside from the pending shirt decisions and, if needed, getting a stock and stock pin, the only thing left to worry about regarding our appearance will be giving him a bath. I’m hoping the weather will get warm enough for a hose bath. Otherwise I’ll have to find out how much it costs to hire the wash box… further undermining my attempts to do this on a budget. Or could I bucket wash him in warm water thus avoiding paying and avoiding the cold? Not sure. All advice on horse washing will gratefully accepted…

So then all we’ll have to do is get it all together on the same day and learn and ride the test!