Why Horse People and Pagent People Should be Friends…

Last night while watching Miss America (don’t ask) I realized that beauty pageants are a lot like horse shows.

1) Normal people would not be caught dead in our show/pageant clothes. I mean, would anyone out there wear a full on ball gown or a full riding habit in their life if they didn’t have to?

2) Normal people would NEVER pay as much for a hobby as we do. Horse people spend insane amounts of money on tack, I myself have dropped over $1,000 just fixing my saddle and Pageant people spend thousands on a single gown.

3) Normal people do not pay lots of money to have other people yell at them and tell them what they are doing wrong.

4) Normal people do not spend hundreds on entry fees to try and win a prize that is worth only a few dollars.

5) Normal people do not practice the same pattern over and over again.

6) Normal people can not tell the difference between two tests (or walks) but if you put a horse or pageant person in there they could go on for days about how one was better than the other.

7) Normal people think that wearing a bikini and heels inside in January or a wool jacket in August outside is nuts.

8) Normal people think it is weird to stay up all night getting ready for a competition that only lasts a few minutes.

9) Normal people do not have other’s judge their hobbies as cruel. (PETA thinks riding horses is abusive and lots of people think beauty pageants are mistreatment as well).

10) Normal people don’t know how much fun it is for all of us to get away for the weekend to be with other people who understand our crazy hobby!


Of all the times to go without a saddle…

January to February in my area when you don’t have an indoor is really not a bad time at all. Phoenix and I have been working on in hand work (which is going poorly) and lunging (which is going much better) since a week after my dressage saddle left. I used my hunt saddle for a week, but it was clearly hurting Phoenix and becoming more and more painful each day so after I had a lesson with my trainer sat me down for a nice talk about training a horse in all areas and that even though I love to ride, Phoenix and I have a lot of issues that need some ground time to be fixed. So we have been getting some ground work done when the weather is nice. This weekend though the weather is not so nice. The high all weekend is going to be in the 20s. Since Phoenix and I do not have an indoor that means that the foot is going to be frozen, and since I don’t want to kill my baby horses legs that means that saddle or not Phoenix would have had off this weekend. I should be getting my saddle back sometime around Valentine’s Day. Of all the times of the year to go without though this was not a bad one. This weekend is out, and next weekend is not looking good either. Normally that would frustrate me, but without a saddle it means that I have tons of time to things like re-organize my tack trunk and clean the pile of tack that has been waiting for me.

I know what I will be doing the first 2 weeks in August…

So even though I am still not a 100% sure about showing recognized, me being me, I already had to look and see what USDF shows are going to be offered in my area. I noticed that there are going to be much fewer recognized shows in my area in 2010 vs. 2009 and one of the reasons is because a show ground not too far away is not being used this year. Or at least not being used by the likes of Phoenix or myself. The United States Equestrian Team headquarters (USET for short) is going to be hosting the 2010 WEG selection trials! It was just officially announced yesterday, but I had heard a while ago that is why USET was out of commission this year. In preparation for the big event they are re-doing the footing, which means that many lesser shows (such as USDF recognized ones) have been canceled. I don’t mind though because at least I get the treat of seeing the best Grand Prix horse and rider combos in the U.S. compete not only for national championships, but a chance to be on our 2010 WEG team.

Now, I am a little put off by the fact that it is being held over 2 weeks. Normally, the national championships are only a week in length (which is why it was such a big deal last year that one day was a wash because of rain) so I am looking forward to seeing the schedule when it comes out to see what extra stuff is going to be happening. I am also a little weirded out by the fact that the US selection committee thought it was a good idea to hold a qualifying show in that area in August. Have they never had the joy of being at a horse show when it is 98 degrees with 100% humidity? As if it is not bad enough that we have to wear jackets in colder temperatures! Does anyone out there in cyber world know why they chose this timing for the event? Normally nationals are in June.

Regardless of how hot it gets, I am sure it is still going to be an amazing competition. I know several riders are down in Florida already trying to qualify. I was in a bitchy mood about this weekend because I have more than 2 weeks to go until I get my saddle back , Phoenix’s ground work is not going well, and Gen is starting to look like a homeless pony turning yellow and shaggy with no hope of a bath for months, but getting the reminder about the WEG selection trials totally turned my mood around. I am so excited to see some great dressage! August will be here before I know it. I hope that some of my favorites qualify for the selection trials!

So am I going out USDF/USEF?

So a while back I had shared with you all that I was struggling with a tough decision. I could not decide if I wanted to show recognized, or if I wanted to keep just having fun at schooling shows. I have been going back and forth about this for months and months now with no clear decision. After putzing around online I realized that there was only one thing linked to USDF that I really wanted and would have the chance to be elgible for this year. A USDF All-Breeds Award. For those of you who have never heard of such a thing, USDF created an awards program where horses are placed nationally against other horses who are members of the same breed organization.

You all know that I am a horribly shallow “stuff” person so the prospect of spending hundreds of dollars at a show to potentially come home empty handed was not very appealing to me. In addition, year end awards for USDF are national…and as much as I love my Phoenix he is not one of the 20 nicest horses in the nation at training level. At least not yet. He is only going to be 6 this summer after all. So I was leaning towards not doing USDF this summer because I would have been spending a lot of money and getting no loot, when a friend reminded me about the all All-Breed Awards.

Phoenix might not be one of the 20 best horses in the country at training level, but I do feel like he has the potential to be one of the 5 best Appaloosas. Now going for an All-Breeds award is expensive…you need to do at least 4 shows doing 2 classes a day. Plus you need to have 2 of your 8 scores at the highest test of the level and all your scores need to be above a 60%. Not easy. That being said, Phoenix is a pretty amazing horse. The more I thought about it the more I was thinking that maybe Phoenix and I did need to go recognized this year. At a barn party at Gennryal’s barn is when I was pushed over the edge. Everyone was giving me a guilt trip about getting Phoenix recognizes because “I owe it to Phoenix”. They all did the “Phoenix is such an amazing Appy with such a great story, you owe it to him” stuff complete with cooing and ego fluffing. They were all pretty sure that Phoenix and I will have a chance at an All Breeds Award. My bank account is not so convinced.

Even with finances weighing heavily on my mind, I decided that if we could try for the All-Breeds we could try and go recognized this year. So what is the problem? My rescued pony has no breeding information. Not only do I not know who his Sire or Dam are, I don’t even know what breed he really is. Clearly he has some Appy in there, but we all know that Nurse Mare Farms are not known for breeding purebreds. They generally have colored mares and just use what ever stallions are around. I mean Phoenix was bred to be a pocketbook after all, not a show pony.

So my problem is that most breed organizations tend to want their equine members to be that breed. Picky picky I know.

Lucky for me an Appy is a color AND a breed! So with a little bit of time searching the Internet I found an Appy organization based on color that was USDF approved. I sent all my paperwork off back in early January (including photos and a 4 page application!) and have yet to hear back. I hope the accept him. He is a good Appy (most of the time) I swear! So if Phoenix is accepted into the registry then recognized shows here I come! If not then I am taking it as a sign of fate that we are supposed to stay at schooling shows.

So fingers crossed that Phoenix gets accepted so I can have a breed registered pony!

My Saddle Fitting Adventure – The End

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Let me start this post by saying that one of the reasons I use Schleese to fit my saddle is because of how knowledgeable all the fitters are. I could easily get my saddle done by other fitters, and Schleese can fit other brands of saddles so it is not like I am locked in. The reason I use Schleese is because they really know what they are talking about and take the time to explain why they are doing what they are doing. Many saddle fitters just tell you that they will “fix it”. The difference from getting a saddle fit by Schleese and those from other companies is that Schleese is trying to educate their customers, a fact that I really appreciate.

So now let me explain the picture to you. Jochen Schleese drew on Phoenix’s back with chalk to show me the problems (which of course didn’t turn out in the picture), so I tried to do it in different colors in photo shop to explain my saddle fit issues to you all. The two blue lines are where my saddle sits when I first put it on Phoenix. The yellow lines are where my saddle ended up at the end of the fitting. Now normally it doesn’t get that far up, but Phoenix’s above ground escapades did not help matters. So what does that mean? That means when I start my ride I am putting a lot of pressure on Phoenix’s back on an area where the saddle should not be going because it is past the ribs. That is not only causing pain, but according to Jochen Schleese, that is also known to cause bucking behavior in horses. It makes sense because Phoenix normally bucks as soon as I get on him because I am putting pressure on an area that hurts him. The bucking is him trying to tell me that I am causing him pain. Jochen Schleese also showed me pictures of the horses skeletal system and my saddle was on the vertebra with no support underneath! It was a clear visual of how bad my saddle issue really was seeing that no ribs were supporting it.

Now, added to that is the green pressure point under his wither. There is no pressure there when I start my ride, but as the ride goes on the the pressure goes off his back it starts to go on the pressure point below his withers causing him pain again. Poor Phoenix. There is no point in the ride when he feels able to move pain free. Jochen Schleese pointed out that my horse was trying to tell me that he was hurting. The reason it was so much worse at the fitting was because he was scared, and because I was riding him without and saddle pads so he was getting the full brunt of the pain that day. I am not saying that it was okay for Phoenix to explode and be naughty, but I am saying that my anger melted away and I was feeling very badly for my baby horse because he has been trying to tell me he was in pain for months now.

Jochen Schleese told me that my saddle was fixable! Yay! I asked him what he needed to do and he answered “redo the whole bottom of the saddle” which flashed dollar signs above my eyes. Sure enough, when I asked the price I had a mini heart attack. That being said, my other two options were to do nothing (which is not an option when you know for a fact your saddle hurts your horse) or to buy a new saddle. Not only is a new saddle a good $5,000, but my saddle fits ME perfectly, and I wasn’t willing to give that up for Phoenix. So I didn’t really have any options but to get it done. I agreed to have my saddle fixed and was already planning on what I would need to cut out of my everyday budget in order to pay for it when Jochen Schleese started to poke around my bridle.

He was just going to show my a different way to put my throat latch on when he started to feel how not well my crappy bridle was fitting Phoenix. Poor Phoenix is still wearing my $30 bridle that does not fit him over a year later. As you all know, I tried a friends bridle which didn’t work, was going to buy one at Devon, but didn’t see any that I liked, and I also came home empty handed from the Equine Affaire. When Jochen Schleese brought out a Schleese bridle just to show me how a bridle should fit comfortably…well…I blame temporary insanity because I fell in love with the bridle on the spot. It is a masterpiece of tack with such soft, high quality leather and a comfort fit that included ear cut outs and lots of padding. With a discount because I was getting a repair done the bridle was even less than I had planned to spend on a bridle. Who could say no to that? I couldn’t!! I figured that I was already spending a butt load of money, what was a little more? Plus Jochen Schleese himself fitted it to Phoenix. You can’t get that kind of service anywhere!

As I put Phoenix away I was just really grateful to have the opportunity to have a master saddle fitter look at Phoenix and I. Yes, my baby horse was a total butt head (he was still having a hard time as I put him away. He even spooked at his stall door again) but I learned a lot about myself, Phoenix, and of course saddle fit! Sometimes I forget that Phoenix is still 5. Sometimes I forget that I can still loose my nerve. The saddle fitting challenged my horse and I in ways that I never expected. As I tucked Phoenix in for the night and walked to my car admiring my new bridle I looked up at the stars and it just hit me that I am so lucky to be able to do all this. If anyone ever gets the opportunity to get a Schleese saddle fitting I say go for it! Even on bad days it is still an amazing experience.

The End (finally :P)

Blue Hors Matine’s Famous Freestyle

I am so sad about Blue Hors Matine. What a great mare. That video above is the very famous winning freestyle from the 2006 WEGs. I know that not everyone who reads this blog is into dressage, so I wanted to share this video with everyone so it becomes clear why I am so upset by the loss of this mare. This mare also reminded a lot of people of Gennyral. In fact, I didn’t know a lot about Blue Hors Matine until someone mentioned that Gen reminded them of this famous mare. The more I learned about her the more I had to agree. I have heard from many people over the years since that first mention that Gen reminds them of Blue Hors Matine. Even the woman who painted Gennyral’s portrait said it. When I ask people what about him reminds them of the famous mare, no one can give me a straight answer. I think I have figured it out. It is an attitude. Some horses just have an air about them. Blue Hors Matine was a horse that had an air. She will be missed.

Blue Hors Matine Euthanized

I found out when PO text messaged me. Seeing it on dressagedaily.com confirmed it. I am so sad right now.

Andreas Helgstrand and Blue Hors Matine
credit: Cealy Tetley

Andreas Helgstrand and Blue Hors Matine credit: Cealy Tetley

Horse and Hound has reported the Dressage mare Blue Hors Matine, whose dressage freestyle at the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen became an Internet video sensation, was euthanized today after breaking a leg in a paddock accident. The 13-year-old Danish mare was ridden by Danish rider Andreas Helgstrand. She was retired from competition following a tendon injury at the Las Vegas World Cup in 2007. Blue Hors Stud Director Esben Moller told Horse and Hound Matine broke her right forelimb at the knee while out in her pasture.