Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2016 Resolutions

I've definitely got a lot of room for improvement in most aspects of my life- here's a list to hold myself accountable.

Horse Goals in 2016:
  • Reach goal: School 1.10 m jumpers comfortably
  • Show 1.0 m jumpers comfortably
Personal Goals in 2016:
  • Reach goal: crush the mini-mester matching or a better GPA than my first year GPA
  • Get an internship
  • Get in shape
  • Stick to or stay under my budget
Blog Goals in 2016:

  • Reach goal: blog 2x a week
  • Blog consistently
  • Reach out to the equestrian blogging community more

There aren't many; the next year is going to be tumultuous with clinics, internship applications, and my final 1.5 months of lectures. I had to make them vague to make them something I can do without going insane, but hopefully I can achieve them this year!

- K & C & L

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you a merry (and dry!) Christmas!

From K and all the critters (Wilbur, Lila, Candy, and Lexie).

Friday, December 18, 2015

Doug Payne Clinic Recap: Day 2

While I may have been underprepared the first day, I came ready to jump the second! Again, focus was on collection, finding a good canter, and steering. Once again, we struggled with steering, but found our canter, and re-learned collection! Lexie got a bit tired and flat towards the end, and I really struggled with the skinny jumps throughout the entire day.

First round of fences.

Four minutes of a hot mess over skinny jumps, and cute Lexie over bigger fences.

Overall though, I saw a major improvement in my ride. I definitely "clicked" with Lexie, and felt incredibly comfortable over the 2'9, 3'0 jumps at the end of the day. So while I wasn't perfect (and was far from it), I felt more confident and capable riding Lexie than I before the clinic. Even as a hunter-jumper, I felt like the exercises were helpful and beneficial across all English jumping disciplines. Doug was so patient, kind, and professional; even though I spent 99% of the clinic screwing up one way or another, he made me feel very comfortable asking questions.  If you ever get a chance to ride with Doug Payne- I highly recommend it.

Merry Christmas!

- K & C & L

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Doug Payne Clinic Recap: Day 1

Day 1 of the Doug Payne clinic got off to a... less than ideal... start. I managed to successfully leave boots, spurs, and gloves at home, but luckily A brought them to me.

Walked over to the ring, and what I had thought was strictly a dressage day had become a "flatwork over poles and small fences" according to the barn's Facebook page that I neglected to look at. Whoops- maybe an e-mail would have been nice so I didn't show up with freight train mare in a loose ring snaffle? But regardless of these bumps, my weenie self was determined to make the best out of the clinic, and I am so happy I went!

We started with a great exercise that involved a large circle (roughly 20 m over the center of the poles), and a small circle (roughly 10 m over the center of the poles). Enjoy my lovely attempt at Paint to show you:
Black poles= 20 m circle, red poles= 10 m circle
Goals were collection and accuracy. I definitely struggled with both those goals; I'm not sure if it was the bit, or the fact that my shoulder has gotten substantially worse, but I really struggled to collect  and steer due to my fitness, Lexie's fitness, and I'm sure the "gentle" bit didn't help matters.

We started at a trot aiming for the center of the poles, spiraling in to the middle, and back out to repeat at a canter but as the videos show.... it was easier said than done. In fact, Lexie was feelin' herself so much, that I expressed a little anxiety to Doug about jumping her in a snaffle. So Doug RODE HER, and like any mare, she threw a little sass his way as well.

I figured you all might like the good and the bad, rather than editing for the good. Sorry for the chatter from the peanut gallery- what can ya do?


Huge difference! She was so good, and I am so proud of ourselves for making it around a small course in a snaffle. Especially in the last video- you can see where I'm not as in shape as I'd like, and I've just started physical therapy for my shoulder. Still so proud, regardless!

- K & C & L

Monday, December 7, 2015

Coming Up Roses

Life seems to be on the upswing. Finals are coming to a close (1 surgery, 1 final to go), there is a light at the end of the tunnel- clinics in 3 months!, and my horse life has been on the upswing.

It's no secret this semester took the wind out of me; I'm struggling academically (won't know the results until the 9th), in my relationship, and in the riding ring. Unfortunately, it's been a small disaster in every aspect of my life, and one of the reasons I've been so lackluster about blogging lately. I don't handle stress well, and it's gotten the best of me this semester.

However, I am so excited to announce that starting January 1st- I will be leasing a new horse! Obviously- it will come as no surprise, I'll be leasing my lesson horse, Lexie. She's a 14 year old, 16.1 Westphalian cross. Lucky for me, she literally fits into every single piece of tack I own. I'm so excited to be back in the saddle on a regular basis.

I'm also so excited to attend a Doug Payne clinic this weekend. I've signed up for the BN/N category; I'm a little worried Novice is a little ambitious, but I'm still excited for a good learning experience.

Lastly- I'm hoping to increase my blogging output; I've got a couple reviews planned (thank you Black Friday), going to try to do lesson recaps regularly, and a few other miscellaneous things I want to write about.

I'm hoping this upward trend continues- I really need a little sunshine in my life.

- K & C

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Practicing Thankfulness

I've decided recently to try to focus on the positives in my life and remember how blessed I am in every day life.

  • I am thankful to have a family that supports me in all my endeavors (no matter how misguided). Between helping me out with the horses, being a shoulder to cry on, and being there for me during the joys of life, I am incredibly lucky to have a family that loves and supports me throughout my entire life. I wouldn't be able to ride, wouldn't be able to attend vet school, and wouldn't be able to life as comfortably as I do if it weren't for them.
  • New and old friends. They've been my life line and kept me sane throughout vet school, undergrad, and high school. They're present for the highs and the lows, the difficult decisions, and provide the best decision sounding boards for when I struggle (and I struggle a lot!).
  • Trainers new and old and their bottomless patience. I'm not an easy student, but I am so blessed to have had as many trainers who believed in me and my horses; without them, I would not have made it as far in the saddle as I have.
  • Two lil guinea pigs. They've been my cuddle buddies and made studying tolerable, if not a little stinky.
  • My wonderful boyfriend. Not only is he a horse show boyfriend, he's been a shoulder to cry on, and just an incredible supporter throughout this tumultuous journey.
And finally...
  • Horses new and old. I am so lucky to be riding my current lesson horse, Lexie, who has reminded me to sit deep and tall, and keep my heels down. I am so grateful to have my old man, healthy and happy in retirement, who taught me more lessons than I can count as we moved up the ranks. I am so fortunate and so lucky to have both of my fat-bottomed horses in my life.
Not sure my sister would appreciate her face broadcasted to the world, but I'm thankful for her too!
Just a small sampling of the ladies who make vet school fun!

"Breaks are important for treats!"

Happy Thanksgiving!

-K & C

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Final Horse Show of the Season: Recap and Resolutions

This past weekend marked my last horse show of 2015. I've come a long, long way since I started showing again last fall. I've moved back into the Jumper ring, and moved up 2 classes: from the 0.60s (2' Schooling Hunters) to the 0.80s, and finished out my last show at the highest I've shown in the last 3 years.

Friday afternoon, I came out after my disaster of a final (academics- not my thing anymore) for a lesson. I had originally planned on skipping the year-end barn show, and heading home early, but somehow H talked me into hacking Lexie, and coming back in a few hours to show Lexie in the Jumper ring. When I was hacking Lexie, there was a lot of focus on using my seat to lengthen and shorten her stride and keeping my weight in my heels in preparation for that evening.

We showed in the 2'6" jumpers, and 2'9" jumpers against one other rider, and WON both rounds by a healthy 5-10 second lead! It's not much, but it was definitely a high moment to end my showing season on. Not only had I moved up, switched rings, and ridden a difficult horse, the 2'6 ride was the best ride Lexie and I have had as a team.

I made an attempt to show Saturday, but developed a migraine with aura right before my first course; I jumped one fence and asked to be excused. I ended up scratching my other 3 courses. I can't beat myself up too much; I had finished 3 finals, barely slept, and shown the night before; I think my body was just screaming, "I'm done! Let me sleep!".

I need to figure out a new plan of attack for riding + showing, and my mini-mester coming up in the winter. I forgot this semester academics come first, and my grades unfortunately reflect it. I need to refocus so I can hit the ground running in January.

Goals for the upcoming show season:

  • First in a 2'9/0.85m Jumper class against actual competition (more than 1 horse)
  • Overcome my show nerves
  • Quit. WHINING.
  • Lighten up and have fun. I put so much pressure on myself to be perfect and win every time- it's not a realistic goal at this point in my life. I need to be grateful to be riding and competing at all throughout vet school.
- K & C

Monday, November 16, 2015

Off Topic Talk: Mental Health and the Veterinary Profession

Recently, my vet school posted an article announcing the employment of a new psychologist available to counsel veterinary students free of charge. For those who are unfamiliar with the statistics, substance abuse, depression, and suicide are rampant problems within the veterinary medicine community. 1 in 6 veterinarians have considered suicide. This is a high pressure profession where we are tasked with not only treating a variety of species, but also pleasing their owners; it is sometimes a tight rope to walk between saving a patient and maintaining a happy client. You would think counseling would be an obvious first line of defense, but instead students were told to "suck it up", "keep the faith", and one alumni put it quite bluntly:  "Yet another example of babying these students and shielding them from the real world. If they can't handle vet school find another profession. We don't want you. I sure wouldn't ever hire you.". The stigma around mental illnesses, and even more so, the stigma of seeking help, has to end. We have lost too many veterinary students and veterinarians to suicide in the last year. Mental illness is no more a choice than developing arthritis or cancer; it is a chronic, insidious disease, that, without help, can sneak up and overtake you.

The pressure cooker environment begins in pre-veterinary programs in undergraduate schools: GPAs of over 3.6 and 1000s of veterinary volunteer hours are considered "competitive" in a profession where 1 out of 1000 applicants are admitted into 1 of 23 schools in the United States. From there, these incredibly bright individuals, who may have never seen a C in their lives, are placed into the classroom up to 40 hours a week, and are expected to study 2-3 hours for every hour spent in class, in addition to maintaining a semblance of a functioning personal life. Friends outside school seem to carry on with their lives: getting engaged, married, buying homes, earning promotions, while we sit in the classroom so that we can chase our dream. Many students, including myself, find ourselves questioning whether we made the right choice, whether we are meant to be here, and if there is any meaning in what we are trying to accomplish. And at times,the light at the end of the tunnel is incredibly dim. The average vet students graduates 6 figures in debt; starting (and future) salaries are generally 1/3 of our peers who graduate from human medical school with similar training.

I, myself, never expected to get this far; I am 1 in 6, but thankfully, with a strong support network, horses, counseling, and medication, I am now the closest to being "mentally sound" as I have ever been. I say this because I am a survivor, and I am stronger for it; I have found my passion and my professional calling and that drives me through the rough, dark days. Students need to be educated about their options now, and learn to develop coping tools before their first euthanasia, their first mistake in practice, before they decide pills or alcohol are their only relief.

The work of a veterinarian is difficult, taxing, and at times, thankless. We are there at the highest points of your animal's life, and we are there to usher them into their next life; we care for all their ailments and aches in between. In order to provide optimal care for your animals, we need to provide care for ourselves. I am so incredibly proud my school has made a step in the right direction- by normalizing seeking out counseling in times of mental distress. What chance does our profession stand if we are not supportive of each other?

- K&C

Monday, November 9, 2015

In Which I Bring Dishonor to My Barn

I am the penultimate nervous adult amateur and a whiny pissbaby.

My trainer signed me up to the year-end AHJA Hunter/Jumper show; I was either going to show possible baby horse (peace out, kid) in poles, or favorite lesson horse, Lexie, in the 0.6m jumpers.

I lessoned on Lexie Thursday at the 0.60m level, and it was wonderful! Controlled canter (this is going to be ironic later), nailed every distance, and relatively chill ride, despite horses schooling around me, and the hustle and bustle of pre-show schooling.

Friday, I hacked her around the property just to continue to let her see the hustle and bustle, and again, she was a little lazy and a total trooper, so naturally, like the bird brained, vain person I am, I texted my trainer like an asshole, and asked if I could move up a level since showing the 0.60s is embarrassing (my words), and shoot for 2'9 in the spring.

She ok'd it, and instead of bumping me up once, decided to put me in the 0.70m jumpers (2'3", okay, chill), AND SURPRISE, bump me up again 0.80m jumpers (2'7"- a little nerve-wracking, but fine, I love a challenge and used to school 3'6" on Candy). So we got to school; Lexie is lazy, and I give her a couple lousy distances, making her refuse the warmup jumps. I get a crop and spurs; I have never, up until this point, jumped her in spurs or with a crop, but that's fine, cool, no stops. Warm-up goes well after I convince her, "Yes, you will go over, because I promise I will hold you to the base, and not give you a terrible distance."

We go into the ring for 0.70s. Plan is to ride like an eq course for power, go all out for speed. After the first jump, I realize- I cannot rate her speed. At all. We have no brakes and all I can do is steer, point, and keep my leg on because Lord knows, I have zero say in distances. And as I'm doing this, hands are inching higher, her head is inching higher. I am on a semi-runaway, pissed off mare, and all I can do is hold on, steer, and pray that Lexie will continue to be a MACHINE. It was a mildly terrifying, very fun round. And we get 3rd out of 9.

Trainer tells me I "need to keep my hands below my boobs this time, but [I'm] clear to do the 0.80s." Woah- hold on what? "You said you wanted to go bigger, and you're going bigger. Also give me the crop- she doesn't need it." I meant NEXT SPRING, BUT OK.

So I am shaking in my boots, man the fuck up, and go in for our next "bat out of hell" jumper ride. I stupidly continue to think I might have some say in our speed, but keep my hands low this time. Mare is a little happier, but still bookin' it around the course. And then the incident. We came off a jump for an immediate rollback, I turned too tight, overshot the jump, and I feel one stirrup come loose, one leg start to swing over, and I say "No way, Jose.", right myself in the saddle, pull Lexie to a halt, and ask to be excused. Trainer yells at me "You do not get to be excused. Finish the course!". So I shorten my reins, pull on my big girl panties, and bang out the 2 prettiest rollbacks of my life. Obviously, we did not place.

So, not only was I a whiny pissbaby about jumping too small, I was also a whiny pissbaby about jumping too high and almost falling off because I forgot how to ride. I really need to just man up and ride. For me, riding is 75% mental; I get inside my head and freak myself out. My muscle memory and abilities are there, I just believe I'm incompetent.

So to my trainer: I am so sorry I am a pissbaby. To Lexie: I am so sorry I rode like a monkey, but I'm glad you had fun. Thanks for not dumping me. To myself: you got what you asked for, stop being ungrateful. To my readers: I'm sorry for the lack of pictures; I wish you could have seen my face and Lexie's face.

Here's to starting to shed my nervous adult amateur cocoon, and hoping I blossom this winter, into a badass adult amateur butterfly who can keep her weight in her heels and keep her hands low.

- K & C

FYI- I will be on hiatus from now until Dec. 9th-ish for Final Exam Month!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Don't Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch

Since this seems to be the general trend of my blog, please join K in her Pity Party Corner.

Trend: K gets excited about something going well, something happens, and K is horseless.

Well, here we are again, unfortunately. I was hoping to announce I had purchased a new horse, but he failed his pre-purchase with flying colors (3 out of 4 legs flexed unsound) after being sound the entire week-long trial period.

So I have to pick myself up by my bootstraps and carry on!

Hopefully, I will have good news eventually. :)

- K & C

Monday, October 26, 2015

I Am A Breeches Goldilocks

I love a good pair of breeches; my bank account and body structure, however, do not.

My favorite pair pre-vet school were the SmartPak Bradley breeches. While a disaster for many, they fit me perfectly.

Cue 3 years into vet school, and 10-15 pounds later, I enjoy the SmartPak Pipers, but they just don't fit right. I've always been a 26 in the Pipers; pre-vet school, they were too big; in vet school, they're a lil snug.
SmartPak Pipers
These seem to be a staple for a lot of people, and my merlot pair are just the perfect color.
I've been slowly transitioning into TS Trophy Hunters, but they're just not quite right either. A little too baggy in the knees and thighs; a little too short, even in the longs. Despite being not quite right (NQR to you vet folks), I've somehow acquired 3 pairs with 1 more on the way....

Image 1
Tailored Sportsman Trophy Hunter
I'm a follower when it comes to equestrian fashion, what can I say?
Other breeches on my "I want to try" wishlist":

Houndstooth Luxe Breeches
Aztec Diamond Houndstooth Breeches
I've wanted these for a year now thanks to The $900 Facebook Pony posting them. If they're still in stock next week, well, Happy birthday to me.

Ghodho Pamela Breech
Their new burgundy breech is too die for but not available yet. I just can't decide if I'm just too ammy to wear this. They might be a bit too edgy for my classic taste (hilarious because in normal clothes, I love edgy details).
All I want is a size 27, long, nice pair of breeches less than $200/pair (or you know, under $100, but a girl can dream) that are made for the slightly fluffy, leggy Hunter-Jumper princess, because those would be just right.

-K & C

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Radio Silence

I've just finished 3 Hell Weeks, and had my last Fall Break ever! Not much to report (yet) on the K&C front, but I may have a surprise come next week! Fingers crossed!


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Wordless Wednesday

School is crazy awful, so hopefully things will settle soon. In the meantime...

- K & C

Monday, September 14, 2015

Lesson Recap 3 & Weekend Hacks!

Sorry the lull in blog posts- I have had a not so great week the last week and a half between a terminal surgery, hot mess of an exam, and struggling to mire through quizzes and assignments that come with the 3rd year of vet school. Still tentatively horse shopping; my parents are coming down the weekend after next and I need to speak with my dad before I purchase anything. I have a few prospects, nothing concrete, and nothing "perfect", but for my budget, I doubt I will find perfect.

So let's get on with the good news and recap some lessons and hacks!

Lesson 3: Thursday before last
I had tentatively signed up to go to a show in Birmingham, AL, but backed out because A.) it was a Hunters only show, B.) it was before my terminal surgery and reproductive exam, and C.) I really should be conserving money (LOL). I told my trainer, go ahead and I'll ride a hunter-style lesson, so she put me on Charlie. For those of you who don't remember, Charlie is a Warmblood who goes around the 2'6" ring like Rothchild: ears pinned, bucks in the changes, sassy, and unlike Rothchild, tongue sticking out the entire time. It kills me; I adore him. I'll try to get a video or photo of the floppy tongue because it's ridiculous. So Charlie and I would obviously emerge from the Hunter ring as winners from the get-go.

But he is very lovely and has a great step once you get him going and "down" from his "up" jumper mindset. I think we jumped roughly 2'3"-2'6" courses, so definitely the most I have jumped in a while. It went really well on Charlie's part; most of the issues I struggled with were my fault as a rider. He will drift and pop his shoulder to the left, so I kept having to find the fine line between keeping him bent around my left leg, holding him straight, and not getting frustrated and resorting to my spur. I think with practice we'll get there; each line got better and smoother. I do notice when I ride Hunter style lines, I have a tendency to collapse after jumps, and duck, but I think as my strength comes back, I'll get better and more solid over fences.
Charlie's ears- love bay Warmblood ears.
Labor Day Weekend Hacks:
Over the three day weekend, I hacked lesson horses: Silver, Charlie, and Lexie. With Silver, she was very "OTTB" that day; sensitive, somewhat hot, and tense. We spent a lot of time working on getting her to listen to me, doing a lot of walk-trot transitions to get her to stop anticipating and settle a bit, while asking her to push through her hind. She's very willing, but a sensitive ride, and that Saturday, I didn't ride her my best, so she got a little hot/uppity. I never got her to fully settle, but I did get her to relax through her poll, so it was still productive overall.

With Charlie I focused on asking him to push from behind and really work from his hind end. He has a tendency to pull with his shoulders and just go around flat, so I really asked him to bring his hind under him with circles, spirals, and serpentines. Again, solid in theory, but my strength is still lacking when it comes to riding.

Cool down on Charles. Equis In Style reposted this photo on their Instagram. How cool is that?
Lexie is an absolute blast. I think she's my favorite lesson horse I've sat on so far- she has a very similar personality to Candy (except she isn't a stopper), similar build, and as an ex-eventer, very similar buttons to Candy. Overall, she's a very familiar ride. She's still regaining strength through her back and hind end from having the summer off, so I focused on asking for a lot of stretching trot to collecting back to stretching, and added a little lateral work at the trot to get her on the bit and in contact.

Since I've had a lack of material and this is a ton of word vomit, I'll recap lesson 4 and this previous weekend's hacks later in the week!

(I know I don't have many/any readers, but those of you who do read or glance at my blog, do you want to hear about vet school? Or strictly horses? Any content you want to see?)

Candy is his usual champ; he's been getting the four star grooming treatment every weekend. He's fat, happy, and pasture sound!


Friday, August 28, 2015

Lesson Recap

To fill the gaps between Candy's retirement (who is pleased as punch his daily routine is now a 30 minute grooming session and handfuls of peppermints), and a potential new baby (who knows...), I figure I will start recapping my lessons to track progress!

My trainer, H,'s goal has been to put me on as many re-training/green/quirky/generally difficult horses as she can that fit my one caveat: no stops. I am still working on confidence over fences, and while it's definitely there and coming back, I just don't want to ride a stopper anymore. Been there, done that for 10 years, have the T-shirt, and the injuries to show for it.

So yesterday, I rode a fat, sassy mare named Lexie. She was a former eventer, now turned jumper, who just finished working at a riding therapy camp for the summer. Oddly enough, despite being totally chill at the walk, she is hot at the trot, canter, and over fences, and has a slight reputation for scaring other lesson kids because she likes to take off, speed up, and shake her head (sound familiar? I think it sounds familiar...).

I. Had. A. Blast. Yes, we had a few moments where I'm still trying to re-learn how to be soft and giving with my hands and ride strictly off my legs, but overall, it not only was a great riding experience and tune up ride for Lexie, it was an excellent tune up ride for me to stay still, forward, and confident.

We started out with 2 laps at the trot both directions, then did the same for the canter. She's out of shape, it was hot out, and I'm a wimp, so H didn't want either of us to get worn out during the warm up. I spent our brief warm up playing with her to figure out how much contact she preferred, which seat she preferred at the canter, and how to keep her bent and collected. I could tell she's very willing to work in a frame and push from behind, but not strong enough to keep it for a long time. I also spent a lot of time focusing on maintain 3 point contact, but still staying light in the saddle. I tend to prefer a half seat after riding Sawyer, but for jumpers, I will switch to a 3 point since I feel I can offer better support for turns and more "oomph" for collection. My half seat kind of "fakes" actually being light and supportive, and I get perchy instinctively, so it will just take time for my deep, light seat to come back.

Then we started on jumps. Just a small cross-rail away from the barn on the short diagonal followed by a straight halt because she tends to rush 3 strides out and take off on the other side, and I'm sometimes a useless lump of potatoes. First attempt, she was not rushing at all; very collected to the fence, a little quick on the other side, but I halted incredibly crooked and used my hands more than my half halt and seat to slow and stop the movement. The next 2 approaches were significantly better, with me focusing on keep her collected to the base of the fence, and sitting tall and still on the other side. Halts still need work, but they were there and they were better.

After we jumped the cross-rail, we added a small 18" 6 stride line; again, focusing on keeping Lexie slow and contained, and me focusing on not being a dingus, and not being over-dramatic in my 2-point. H left it up to me to do either a trot approach to every fence or keep the canter if it was nice and quiet. The line rode really nicely so we added a low 18" bending line as well. The bending line gave me a bit of trouble because Lexie had an inclination to swing her hind out on the approach, so the second time I made sure to support with my outside rein, and keep a stronger outside leg. As we went, she got increasingly frustrated that I was telling her what to do and dictating the pace, which lead to increasing amounts of head flipping and "stalling out" in corners. I remedied that by bringing her back down to the trot, circling, and, once she was settled, approaching the jump again. I'm sure it didn't help that as I got more tired, I became less supportive with my leg, used less half-halting through my abdomen, and more hand; some of my current bad habits are strength related, so I really need to up my overall workout routine. Unfortunately, on our last course, on my approach to the bending line, I changed pace after the corner and was left with a long spot or burying Lexie; I usually gun for the long spot out of habit because Candy needed that extra motivation to chip and clear the jump. Luckily, Lexie took the long spot in stride; I got left behind a little bit, and had to collect and change pace on the fly in the middle of the bending line, which lead to an especially sassy second jump.

H said I rode her well, and offered to let me hack her whenever I wanted to help get her back in shape, and remind her to behave. H also told me I definitely have a type: I am a jumper, and I love the quirky ones, and that I don't seem to have an electric seat when it comes to hot horses.

Overall, I was really pleased. My muscle memory is coming back, and I feel like rehabbing Candy has really been an exercise in patience. I'm just so grateful to be riding again that I have the patience to deal with misbehaving horses and take a joke. If I can maintain this mindset with a greenie of my own, I'm sure it will help the overall process. Right now, I'm taking weekly lessons to try to sponge up as many different tools as I can, strengthen myself, and bring back all those jumper instincts I had before I took a hiatus in Hunterland.

- K & C

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Rehab Dropout

I went into Candy's rehab process with an open mind, but I always knew it wouldn't end well. I harbored a little hope every time the vet commented how great he looked and how well he was moving, but I was very realistic. Yesterday, he was the most lame he's been in a while; still very happy to move forward, thrilled to be back in regular work, which is what really broke my heart (again) when I noticed his slight head bob at the trot. Yep- it was the left hock, the arthritic hock.

I told my parents back in May- "I'm going to try to rehab him, and go as far as I can, but if something happens: ulcers, another soft tissue injury, or his arthritis flares up, I'm done trying to get him sound." Yesterday- I went as far as we could go. There was no soft tissue swelling, no heat, so I knew his lameness was from the hock. When I called my mom, it was the first time she said, "I'm so sorry. I knew you did everything you could." and not, "Well, what else can you do? Can you keep trying?"

Hindsight is 20/20- I could have taken better care of his joints, could have been more pro-active with joint supplements and injections, could have not jumped the crap out of him as a teenager, but none of his lameness is due to negligence or lack of caring. I cared about his joints as much as my knowledge allowed me to. Arthritis is one of those insidious diseases that if you can't get ahead of it, there's no maintaining it, no mollifying it, and I never got ahead. It only gets worse- never better.

I always give Candy 100% and in return, he tries his heart out for me. I know he would continue to work through the pain, but as a horsewoman, I can't ask that of him. I'm not sure what the near future holds for Candy and I, but he has his forever home with me, and I know the distant future holds a very happy retirement for (hopefully) many years. As much as I wish he was the type of horse I could hop on once a week and trail ride, I know that's not the case. I'm probably going to keep riding him lightly until my project horse or next lease comes into my life, but there's no pressure, just enjoying his company.

You can see the short left hind just a touch.

Still my favorite view!

In the meantime, I am lessoning ; it's a frustrating process because I'm competing with horse-less teenage girls for horses to ride, and obviously, they have priority. I'm not frustrated out of jealousy/bitterness way; they need the experiences more than I do, and I have a horse of my own. It just makes lessons and showing tricky with several girls competing for 2 horses; with my schedule, I get last pick of lesson times/horses. I don't mind though- it's still time in the saddle, and I am learning and improving every lesson-which is what matters.

The future is hazy right now, but I'm optimistic- the right horse always finds me at the right time.

-K & C

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


I've been riding a difficult, sensitive, very quirky horse for the last 10 years or so, which means I've developed several interesting habits/rituals that either comfort me as a rider, or actually work. My trainers have always humored me, and I'm sure thought I was a little (a lot) crazy, but hey- I took a dirty stopper who bucked after every jump up to 1.0m fences who bucked when he was pleased with himself.

  1. The "Thinking Cap"- Candy is a head shaker; more than likely it's due to a combination of facial nerve pain and allergies than actual flies, so he goes in a fly bonnet year round. I'm sure it doesn't actually help; maybe I just ride better because I don't expect spooky tom-foolery and head-flipping everywhere. It started with a tasseled fly bonnet, which probably drove him nuts flapping against his forehead more than the itching.
    Annoying tasseled bonnet

    Obese in a custom bonnet

    Borrowed bonnet
    It may also muffle sounds enough to keep him focused, but I just use run of the mill bonnets; no ear plugs or fancy sound-proofing bonnets, because...
  2. Constant conversation- I talk to whatever horse I'm riding. A lot. It all stems from chit chatting with Candy; it keeps me breathing and calm while riding, and it's satisfying to watch Candy keep one ear on me and one ear forward. 99% of the time it's encouragement ("10 more seconds", "Give me a little more step..." "Almost done!") and "good boy!", but also sometimes contains: "I swear to God...", "Figure it out..." "Pick yourself up...", "Jesus Christ, Candy.", and when jumping, "WAIT." Other horses seem to just ignore the constant stream of chatter.

    "Put your head down... Come on."

    Talking during a dressage test. Oops.
  3. The nose boop- let it be known, I hate schooling rings. Hate schooling jumps in a busy ring. When I have the opportunity to school fences before a show, whether it's the day before or the day of, if there are more than 3 people in the ring, I don't like to jump, and of course, in jumpers, you can't school fences anyway. I read a long time ago, somewhere, a show jumper (I think Rodrigo Pessoa), used to show fences to his horse, cluck, and that was all the prep he did to school fences. I adopted that with the King of Anxiety, Candy; I march him up to the fence at a walk (sometimes he squirmed and had to be leg yielded; sometimes he was fine), and he was not allowed to move away until he touched it with his nose and thoroughly investigated it. Then he got a pat, and we repeated at the next fence (no cluck- he once jumped from a standstill with that). It became a ritual, but it was a good way to gauge which fences he would balk at. He's so used to it that when he huffs and puffs, he slowly walks himself up to scary objects, boops it, and looks at me to see my reaction.
Overall, things have been pretty stagnant on the life front: Candy is in light trot work and doing well; not to jinx things, but he is due for a chiro appointment and may be getting front shoes. School just started and I'm already dying. Still trying to squeeze in lessons. No idea what the future holds!
What are your superstitions? (Help me feel less crazy)
-K & C

Monday, July 13, 2015

Embracing Failure

Last night, for the second time this year, I fell off. I go through periods of riding where I don't fall off, and then I fall off multiple times over a short span. However, for the first time in a long time, I stood up, brushed myself off, yelled, "Candy, you little sh*t, WOAH.", and laughed.

I'm type A; I don't like to fail. I don't like second place ribbons, I don't like B+'s, I don't expect anything less than perfect, but I am a very average human being. I get B's, I get third place ribbons, and I mess up a lot. And all of that is absolutely okay.

Riding is a very humbling sport. You work hard physically, it's draining emotionally, and at times, dangerous, but it's the highs of the sport: the blues, the Joker fence, the perfect change that drive me to do better and push through the lows.

But I laughed last night. I laughed because my 21 year old, sometimes 3 legged lame, horse managed to finally buck me off after weeks of trying. The rehab process isn't perfect, and I was driving myself insane trying to be perfect: wrap exactly every 12 hours, increase his workload exactly 5 minutes every week, groom him spotless daily, handwalk or ride 7 days a week. I was crying in my car after barn trips and after work because I had this image in my head that I could work two jobs: be a perfect research assistant, a perfect technician, a perfect girlfriend, and a perfect horse owner all while maintaining a spotless apartment, car, horse, and perfect body.

The falls and the failure remind you that it's okay to mess up: it's okay to learn from a failure, or chalk it up to a fluke and move on with your life. I needed that fall. It's like someone hit the reset button. I fell, and today, I will go to the barn, attempt to squeeze in a grooming session and 45 minute handwalk in the hour between job 1 and job 2. I will try to run after work tonight at 10 pm, but if I am too tired- that's okay.

Success is what drives us to continue in this expensive, challenging sport, but it's the failures that shape us into the riders we are, and sometimes, we just need a senior citizen to dump us on our ass so we remember why we ride and why we fell in love with the sport so many years ago.

-K & C

Monday, July 6, 2015

DeNiro Review: Salento Field Boot

My holy grail tall boots: the DeNiro Salento. I've owned them for a little over 8 months, and have finally gotten them 90% broken in and used them, so I figured now is the perfect time for a review!

The DeNiro Salentos are styled very similarly to the Parlanti boots that are oh-so-popular as of right now, and coincidentally fit me perfectly. They run about $700, making them roughly $300 less than Parlantis (I also managed to snag them on sale for $640 from SmartPak). I have stupid high arches so I selected the field boot Salentos, which very closely resemble the Parlanti Miami. I also have ridiculously long legs, and the Parlantis were the only semi-custom boots I had tried that were tall enough. I took a risk and ordered a pair of extra extra tall, medium calf Salentos.

First Impressions
The leather is soft, but sturdy. One of the biggest cons of the Parlantis is how soft the leather is; as a grad student, I can't afford to replace my boots once a year and need them to last. There is a black elastic panel that runs down the back of your calf to help fit the boots to you. I love the sturdiness of the zipper. They were very snug even in a medium calf, which I found a little shocking; I wear a regular calf in Ariats and a slim in Tredstep. I do have a lil fluff, and am built "athletically" so I guess I shouldn't be shocked I no longer have the body of a Junior. They came with a little tub of DeNiro conditioning cream which took 5ever to open; it is 1 part leather conditioner: 1 part boot polish and does its job well.
Ignore scruffy winter Sawyer. These boots are the first boots I've ever owned that are almost too tall.

8 Months Later
They still haven't quite broken in fully, which I am surprised about having worn them in weekly lessons, a handful of clinics, and to several shows. The left calf always feels a little too snug. They are showing a little wear on the inside calf, but nothing extreme. Overall, they are wearing like iron. The footbed is so comfortable, even with my arches being out of control. I wear them to bathe, groom, tack up, ride, and catch horses, and they still polish up perfectly.

9/10- great variety of sizes. I did have to wait 4 months for them to arrive because they are made to order in Italy, hence the 9 out of 10, but they are well worth the wait!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Somber Topic: Euthanasia

I don't usually do serious posts, but in light of a few acquaintances who have lost horses in the past few weeks and one particular patient who passed last night during my shift, I thought I would touch on a difficult subject: euthanasia. (FWIW- Candy, Wilbur, and Lila are happy and healthy).

I work as a student worker in the ICU at my school's veterinary hospital, have worked as a technician in an equine hospital, and currently work in research. Between my jobs, and personal pets, I have, unfortunately, seen my fair share of death. An important aspect of my future career will be ushering animals on to a painless, humane death; it's a heavy burden, but falls under my duties as a veterinarian. I just wanted to write this article to bring awareness and gently touch on a topic I have experience with.

When to Euthanize
This is an incredibly personal decision. You as the owner know your animal best, and trust me, you will know when it is time. As a future veterinarian, I do not judge an owner euthanizing an animal with a chronic illness early in the course of the disease, nor do I judge you keeping the animal comfortable for an extended time. I do wish owners would understand that keeping an animal alive for the sake of keeping an animal alive is uncomfortable for me as a technician and assistant. Animals have little concept of the future, and understand, "I am hurting and suffering now.", but are not capable of understanding, "I am hurting and suffering now, but I spend more time with my owners in doing so." And when I say I am uncomfortable, I do not judge; I have been guilty of keeping a pet alive longer than he should have with the hopes that "he would turn around". I am uncomfortable because it breaks my heart to see an animal suffering and to see the owner suffering. As cliche and corny as it is, your animal will tell you when they are ready, when they are done being ill and in pain; as an owner, you just have to be ready to listen.

Should I Stay for the Euthanasia?
Again, incredibly personal. My personal preference is to stay with the animal until they pass, whether it is a lab animal or personal pet. However, when an owner gives the dog a hug, a treat, and a kiss goodbye and hands us the leash and leaves, I do not judge. Regardless of whether you stay, your animal will not pass alone and will not pass afraid. Sedation is given and the animal literally falls asleep. Then the barbituate is given as an overdose to stop the heart. Death can be ugly, and come in spasms, agonal breathing, and loss of bodily control, but the animal's spirit is already gone before the body goes. There is no suffering in euthanasia; we are trained to do it quickly and painlessly with minimal stress. Your veterinarian may have a personal preference on whether they prefer clients to stay. Certain methods of euthanasia may be more difficult to watch than others; I, myself, was prepared to not be present for my guinea pig, Doodle's, euthanasia because of the method required.

What Happens After Euthanasia?
There are a variety of options: personal disposal, cremation, disposal without cremation, or cosmetic necropsy. This all comes down to personal preference. I recommend necropsies in instances where cause of death was unclear, but understand that not everyone wants to understand the reason behind a death as I do. Cremation tends to be a popular option, and an option I have selected for my smaller pets. For horses, saving a piece of mane or tail, and potentially making it into jewelry or a ceramic piece are popular options.

**Obviously all of this should be discussed with your personal vet, and these are just my opinions as a 3rd year veterinary student.

RIP to Iggy J, Tap, and the sweet girls who were euthanized during my shift last night. Gone, but not forgotten.

-K & C

Monday, June 29, 2015

Updates, Updates

Some tiny blurbs about life since not much has changed on the horse front.

  • Lessoned on Charlie Friday morning (6:30 am lesson time, ouch). He was fabulous; a little slow from not working consistently due to pulling shoes left and right, but it is so, SO fun to be on a jumper. I rode with the assistant barn manager, A, in a lesson since H had just gotten her wisdom teeth out. It was a lot of just playing around with the jumper course A had set for the schooling show that weekend. Our lesson was a lot of "So, it's supposed to be a one stride, but we'll see." and "I estimated a 4 stride bending line, but just ride it out". It was nice to have an instructor be comfortable with letting me test out distances, and I guess confident that I can ride  and find distances if shit hits the fan. Charlie has been a blast. I'll try to snag a video or picture next time I ride him so y'all can see the tongue hanging out in its full glory.
  • Candy is a giant sass-master. The last bareback ride 2 days ago was the first bareback ride he didn't try to buck me off. He gets very excited, then wants to go fast, then wants to roll, then very angry, then bucks. Or spooks. Or bolts. It's been a fun time... I'm just still on the fence about what to do with him; I'm probably going to see how far he rehabs, but not bet on him coming back into work. I think that left hind will never track up completely.
  • I've been working a TON. Like 40 hour weeks in the lab, 20 hour weeks in the ICU. Still lovin' ICU; emergency medicine- you have my heart.
  • I'm going to apply to adopt an OTTB! When Candy is back on pasture board and less intensive rehab-wise (wrapping, handwalking, etc.), I'm going to submit an application to New Vocations Thoroughbred Rescue. I've heard great things about the rescue, and have met a few "graduates" and I really think the next step in my riding career is my first (technically second... but I would never sell the Candy Man) project horse. I really like the rescue, like the horses I've met from there, and think it would be a nice fit for my budget and needs. I am a little nervous about getting a green horse, but I will be in a lesson program and have been reading about re-training OTTBs like crazy. I've ridden my fair share of greenies, and Candy was once a sassy, unpredictable greenie, but it's been a while since I've really played with a young horse (I mean, Sawyer was green, but so mellow I'm not sure I can count him). Hopefully, it will be a positive learning experience. If anything, it will put me in the saddle for the next 2 years.
Rule of thumb for selfies: make the most unstable looking face you can. "I own 50 cats and may murder your family."

Bath time. Bath time!

Shameless #rootd ft. EIS, Tailord Sportsman, a needlepoint belt, and Candy.

Finally catching up on OITNB and cuddles with the pigs

I was not drunk. But it looks like it.


Thursday, June 11, 2015


In honor of Candy being declared "baseline lame" (his lameness when I first started having issues with soundness- so not tracking up evenly left vs. right) and being cleared to do bareback walk work (poles, on the bit) for 30 minutes 3-4 times a week. He is still dragging his left hind toe slightly, and not fully tracking up through the left, but there is no hip hike at the trot like there was when I retired him a year ago!

According to the vet, "2 months ago, I would have said he would only be pasture sound. Now, I think there's a good chance you can give him a job." 

So without further ado, here's a #tbt of me and the Candy Man through the years.
A couple days old with his nurse mare.
Yearling Candy. Forever a dweeb with a tiny forelock.
First show EVER. Note my pink polo and matching boot socks in my too-short, fake leather pull on tall boots, and Troxel.

First off the property hunter show.
An off the property show where, by the grace of God, we only got eliminated 1/4 o/f classes back when I did Eq and Hunters.
Last lesson on him before starting a lease the spring before college.

First show after he became "mine" officially. Note the rolls of fat.
Candy's first 3' jump. Poetry in motion- aggressive slam poetry written by an angsty 13 year old.
First 3' jumper show- a year after refining and editing said poetry in motion. Before I discovered coat conditioning, excessive currying, and fly sheets.
When we tried to become eventers, and I discovered fly bonnets (his "thinking caps") helped his head shaking.
Novice CT. We also did a Training CT that day- the highest jumps we've ever shown and placed 2nd out of 3.
Last fence before his retirement.
This is the first time in a long time I've let myself feel optimistic about Candy's future as semi-retired (I know, I know, I keep moving him in and out of retirement, but he still feels and acts like he has miles left in him while I just want him comfortable and happy.). I'm still taking it very very slowly, and cautiously, but I'm happy that the vet sees progress and thinks he can be pushed a bit more on the flat.

-K & C

PS- Just peeked at my (tiny) follower count- with the exception of 'Fraidy Cat Eventing- it looks like it's the Bay Brigade!