Weenie Wednesday: He’s in Charge

Conrad may be my dog, but it’s more like I am his personal assistant. He pretty much picks which direction we go when we walk in the park. He always makes it clear when I forget the “cookie” topping to his meals. He also will curl up next to me in a poofy chair and take up 2/3 of it. Under a blanket. With one paw on me so I don’t get up.

He would probably like a longer leash on some days, but he hasn’t promised not to eat baby bunnies so he doesn’t have freedom in the back yard.

He will come tell me to come sit with him after I finish eating dinner. He will also look at the stairs and back at me and back at the stairs again to tell me it’s bedtime. Sometimes he goes up on his own, but more often he whines at me until I get up and go with him.

He is a very snuggly little guy who likes his routine!

Rocking E Cowgirl 10 Questions Blog Hop

Rocking E Cowgirl is keeping it interesting with these 10 questions!

What is your earliest, clearest horse memory?
Visiting the Budweiser Clydesdales when I was 4. I tried to run up to one. My mom had to grab me and pick me up so I could pet them, while pushing my brother around in a stroller. I have never not been obsessed with horses, and I think those Clydesdales cemented my coat color preference in horses right away–blood bay with some chrome.

Describe the perfect summer day.
One with access to cold beer and air conditioning.

Are you reading anything right now? Tell me about it!
The Castle of Wolfenbach by Eliza Parsons — one of the seven “horrid novels” listed in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. I love Gothic fiction. I am also trying to read a bunch of other stuff, but this book is short and holding my attention the most right now.

Do you follow a celebrity (horsey or non) that you’re embarrassed to say fascinates you? Tell me. NOW.
Dear James Comey,
Please write a book.

What is your single most biggest horsey dream or goal?
Really just to keep doing what I’m doing for as long as possible.

If you were at Starbucks right now, what would you order?
An almond croissant.

What is your biggest equine pet peeve?
Pet peeve that horses do: cribbing
Pet peeve that people do around horses: leaving halters hooked up to the cross ties–especially annoying if it’s a rope halter, which why are you crosstie-ing a horse in a rope halter?!?!?!

With everything going on politically and in the media, tell me, do you follow it religiously? Tune it out? Or something in between?
Obsessively following. Make no mistake … That awkwardly-scripted “cabinet meeting” yesterday? That is what fascism and despotism look like. This is worse than Watergate because a hostile foreign power is implicated. The First Amendment could not be more important than it is right now.Β  I recommend EVERYONE watch the film All the President’s Men. Or read the book.

If you had to show your horse to a song, what would you choose?
I’m just really into Duran Duran’s “Rio” right now so probably that, although I am not sure how much that would go with a hunter round?

What are you most looking forward to this summer?
Cold beer and air conditioning.


“Derby” Play Day

5-12 Photography

Our regular Saturday lesson took on a different form over the weekend — the trainers set up a derby/medal style course so we could practice. They gave us one “hunter/handy/eq/medal” course (I know they are all different things but we didn’t exactly need to jump 5 or 6 courses) and one “jumper” optimum time course. I put them in quotes because depending on the job of whichever horse & rider pair, the courses would be ridden differently.

Eli and I took both courses in our current hunter mindset and used up a lot of the arena space. My trainer instructed me to take my time, do simple changes if needed, and if Eli got quick or anxious to stop and walk for a second to reorganize and start again. I also got permission to skip fence 8 on the “jumper” course because it was a skinny wall–the wall that Eli jumps with sometimes too much excitement. We can tackle that thing separately (he always jumps it, but frequently over jumps it and lands a bit lit up–not what we are going for right now).

For the most part, the courses rode really well for Eli. He is turning into a kick ride at home and nothing about either course phased him. The option jumps in the first course — a Swedish with no ground lines and a skinny wall — gave me an interesting choice: take the inside track to the Swedish with no ground lines, or take the wider track to the skinny wall that I didn’t want to jump, but it might have been a better line to fence 5. I made the line from the Swedish with no problem, though, so that answers that question. I didn’t realize this until after I rode it that this course was ALL right turns. I had an issue with the distance at fence 2 and then randomly rode rather pathetically down the line of fences 5 & 6 because I forgot to count, so I took fences 2-6 a second time, which turned out much better than the first time. Maybe one day we’ll be the pair who gets it right the first time!

5-12 Photography

The second course gave us both left and right turns, haha. I had a chippy situation at fence 4, but everything else rode really well. Because of the chip, after fence 4 I asked for a simple change and Eli had no problem getting right back up to pace before the line. I asked to work on fence 4 alone after the course. I chipped it again! ARG! My trainer walked me through what was happening and I finally got it right.

5-12 Photography

I also apparently can’t keep from dropping my left shoulder without twisting to the right into a cronut.

I iced Eli’s legs after and he got SO MANY carrots. We had such a fun day! Nobody spooked at the flocked Christmas tree, either. Special thanks to 5-12 Photography for documenting the day!


What does it take to stick with horses? Anyone reading this already knows how unforgiving, tragic, and even ruthless riding horses can be. Horses are, for one thing, expensive. They come with no guarantees. Too many times, riders end up with unsuitable horses, for reasons ranging from the horse’s soundness to the rider’s skill level to the pair’s suitability for a chosen discipline. The first obstacle to get across is very often a rider’s own ego. Get the right horse for the job!

This post assumes you already have the right horse for the job, so that rules out a lot of people to which this post would even apply. But let’s say you’ve got the horse and you’ve got the desire and horse and rider are well-matched. Success should follow, right? Nope, it’s not automatic. It takes commitment. What does it mean to be committed to horses?

1. Love
If you don’t love horses, and love riding horses, why in the world would you do this? Perhaps another word to use for this feeling is passion. (Or possibly obsession?) You have to love horses to commit to horses. You have to love the horse sport, whichever discipline, to commit to the sport. You have to gain emotional energy from being around horses. Maybe you have a day every so often that horses drain you instead of buoy you, but on balance do horses lift your mood and your spirit? Even if things aren’t going your way? If you find yourself blaming everything on the horse, I personally cannot characterize that as love. I don’t know what to call it, but it’s toxic. Passion means putting the horse and the horse’s welfare first and drawing strength from elevating the horse above the rider’s circumstances.

2. Dedication
Do you really want to do this? Are there days you think about quitting, only to resolve to come back the next day with a fresh mind and body? Do you think of yourself as crazy for spending so much money and expending so much emotional energy on an animal that just wants food, shelter, and amusement? An animal that is capable of very creatively injuring itself, sometimes catastrophically? An animal that can get sick with all kinds of things and may or may not recover? If you lost the right horse, would you lose interest in the sport or would you search for the next right horse? In the face of all this, do you remain determined to wake up every morning and ride?

3. Self-preservation
Even on the right horse, running yourself into the ground will be more detrimental than helpful. First off, don’t practice so much that the horse starts to hate his job, or worse, starts going lame from overuse. You need to stick around to take care of the horse, so you had better take care of yourself, putting yourself in a position to take care of the horse to the best of your abilities. Don’t forgo safety precautions. Learn the proper way of doing things because very often it’s proper because it’s the safest way of doing things around horses, for both horse and the handlers.

4. Ambition
George Morris often talks about how important ambition is in a horse sport. I used to think it didn’t apply to me, because I had no immediate goals of competing, moving up a level, or making a living out of horses. I have since come to realize ambition is much simpler than all of that, and does apply to me. Ambition is the desire to improve and the desire to do the things it takes to improve. The second part of that is key. You can’t just say, “I want to get better,” and proceed to do nothing different from the day before. And if you don’t want to do the things it takes to get better, you will not get better.

5. Work
Attempting to stick to a rigid schedule in the equestrian world more often than not comes off as a joke. That doesn’t mean you can’t fit in the work. The days you can ride, ride. Practice what you need to practice, from serpentines to holding a two point to cavaletti and everything else you could possibly work on while riding. Be smart about it, and reward the horse for success. If Eli gets something right once or twice, I reward him and very often end on a high note such as that. If you can’t ride, there are plenty of other things you can do. Maybe your horse threw a shoe? Practice wrapping up a hoof. Maybe it’s raining? No doubt your tack could use a thorough cleaning. Maybe you’re out of town? Plenty of books about horses available, take a few with you and look them over during downtime.

Am I telling you commitment means adopting horses as a lifestyle and not simply a hobby? Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. How committed are you?


Weenie Wednesday: Scrabble

Family Scrabble night usually means Conrad gets an ottoman pulled up to the table so he can hang out with everybody and is still within petting reach. Sometimes he gets other ideas …

Yes, that is a dog on the dining room table. We’re heathens.

He’s not a bad Scrabble partner, though. When you play Scrabble, do you ever spell foreign words and wish there was a multi-lingual version of the game?

My family also gives zeros effs about looking at each other’s tiles. We often show each other our pathetic or awkward or hilarious tiles and bask in the schadenfreude of each other’s lexical misfortunes. Do your dogs get in on game nights?


Lavigne Photography

First I want to say a huge thank you to team KBF and everyone who took pictures and video of Eli–thank you, all!

There is not much lead in to the show quite frankly — work had been keeping me long hours, but fortunately the nice folks who make our laws gavelled out on Memorial Day and I got to take ALL FRIDAY off. The risk of rain remained imminent throughout the weekend, but miraculously stayed away from the horse show on June 3rd. My barn trailered over on the 2nd and our group was done schooling by early afternoon. Eli got a bath and tucked in early as other barns were just beginning to arrive. Holy crap, did that timing work out great or what!

The status quo for Eli is still “playing in hunterland” and he really shined at this show, minus some missed leads that were my fault because I got so caught up in the jump I forgot to ask. However, if I asked, Eli listened and while we are still a bit too sassy to be truly competitive in hunter classes, Eli’s jumping efforts were faultless. And we’re kinda pretty.

Lavigne Photography

Honestly, our second hunter round really made me realize that I am making no mistake by following Eli wherever he wants to go. We can do this. Most importantly, riding this horse in hunter classes is fun — I can’t say that about the three other horses I have owned. I could not be happier with Eli’s performance and demeanor throughout the day at the show. He took more than one bad joke from me and never failed to sail over every fence. I look at the pictures from the show and I see such concentration on his face. Eli’s work ethic humbles me.

low hunter II from patentlybay on Vimeo.

Plus, just look at my hunter lean in the pictures … my once-solid jumper leg has inexplicably (ha okay maybe not) slipped back and Eli willingly took every gap I rode to (I closed my eyes along with my leg).

So, the hunter ring it is for us. Whichever division, it doesn’t matter (we did the 2’9″-3′ low hunters, for anyone wondering). I am not sure about showing over the summer because of the heat, but we will for sure be in the ring again by September.

Favorite Exercises

Amanda posted yesterday about her favorite exercises both on the flat and over fences, and asked us the question: what are our favorites?


Hands down, I love working on the counter canter. Performing a correct counter canter does so much for the horse and rider — improves balance, strengthens the hind-end, heightens body awareness, and incorporates all the “natural” aids and being able to use them independently (meaning hand, seat, and leg, not necessarily a crop or spur).

I periodically work at counter canter on both leads, although not daily. When I do work on it, it’s not for very long–just long enough to make sure Eli’s hind end is working right and he’s listening AND I am telling him the right thing. Sometimes I forget to use my seat and he falls into a trot. I don’t have a problem with him swapping out during the counter canter, at least!

Over Fences

I have written about his one before: I love the tight oxer-to-oxer two-stride exercise, described in great detail in an article by Peter Pletcher, a Houston-area hunter/jumper trainer.

3’6″ peter grid 1 from patentlybay on Vimeo.

First off, it’s fun. Second, it’s simple. Third, it works.

Two oxers, 33′-34′ apart. Canter in and let the horse back himself off. I add a cross-rail in front sometimes, same distance–this makes it a little easier to get to the deeper distance you want coming into the first oxer. It is more of a challenge for me without the cross-rail, so I think doing it both with and without is a good way to help establish that elusive “feel” for it that we all chase after.

Can’t wait to read about everyone else’s favorites!