Monday, December 26, 2011

2011, A Year in Review

Now that Christmas has come and gone, I find myself in a period of reflection. 2011 was a year of changes for Sam and I, some better than others.

One of the major worries was moving Sam from Knoxville, TN to Alpharetta, GA to be closer to me while I'm in law school. Having always kept my horses at home on a large acreage in the country, I really had no idea what I was getting into before I started looking for suitable boarding facilities. The facilities closest to my apartment were beautiful, but most didn't offer a pasture board option and were anywhere between $800-1200 a month... not exactly suitable for a horse who hates stalls and a rider on a full-time student's budget. The most affordable barns were usually lacking in amenities and would require a good 50+ mile commute. Instantly, I knew that finding "home sweet home" for Sam was going to be a nightmare.

When I got the call that a friend would be able to bring Sam down when she hit up a hunter-jumper show at Wills Park, I was elated. Unfortunately, that only gave me a week's time to find a place for him to go. Although the hastily selected barn-of-choice seemed quaint and charming during my farm tour, I quickly discovered that was quite far from the truth. Many of my grooming supplies went missing, tack got used without permission, and Sam didn't get fed on a few occasions, but the real kicker came when the barn manager went out of town for summer vacation and the pastured horses weren't given any hay for nearly two weeks. On a nearly barren pasture? Unacceptable. (Oh, and being accused of stealing feed for which I had purchase receipts on file wasn't very endearing, either.)

Triple S Eventing at Lakeview Farm
After some searching and more thorough investigation of several barns, I found myself boarding with Triple S Eventing at Lakeview Farm.We immediately set to work putting on the weight and muscle that Sam lost in the month he spent at the other barn, doing a little work with the chiropractor and massage therapist to get him feeling tip-top, and slowly began incorporating weekly dressage lessons as he showed improvement.

Before I knew it, we had our eyes set on a schooling show in September hosted by Bigtime Eventing at Wilson Farms. Since it was my first dressage show ever and Sam's first in several years, we opted to play it safe and ride only Intro Test A. I had very simple goals set for myself: 1) keep Sam forward, but calm; 2) don't get nervous; and 3) for the love of God, don't forget the test! We managed to meet all three goals and took home a 4th place finish with a score of 56%. Not bad, considering the first place score was 60% (awarded to a barnmate, no less!). The judge was positive about Sam, but suggested that he might need a little "encouragement" to keep him coming through and focused on me.

Sam and I, coming across the diagonal from K to M.

After the show, I incorporated a teensy 1/8th inch Prince of Wales spur into my riding gear and immediately noticed a major difference in his willingness to respond to the leg. Although I hardly ever need to touch Sam with the spur, he definitely knows the difference when I wear them and when I don't. Goofy boy!

The fall saw a great deal of progress in what we like to call the "stretchy walk" and "stretchy trot," in which Sam is asked to reach down into a long, low frame to build the muscles along his topline. For a horse who naturally likes to carry himself in a more collected frame, finding the contact on a loose rein has proven to be somewhat challenging. That will probably be the focus of most of my work this winter.

All in all, I think Sam and I had a good year. I'll have to think about my plans for the 2012 show season, where I would like to be in our lessons at home, and my personal fitness goals. When I do, you can bet you'll be the first to know!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

So, about that Christmas pony...

I was browsing Pinterest during my lunch break today and found this video of a very young rider and his horrendously naughty pony, Ed. What a little stinker! Suddenly, I'm not terribly offended by the fact that I never got a pony for Christmas.

Of course, there's something to be said for the innate pluckiness of naughty ponies. Anyone who can ride through all that at such a young age and get back on to try again has definitely learned the meaning of courage, tenacity, and perseverance. As any pony rider knows, there's much to be learned from every difficult situation.

Have you ever ridden a particularly difficult horse or pony? How did you learn from that experience?

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Best of Dover Saddlery's Holiday Sale

Christmas Day is swiftly approaching, but there is still time to squeeze in a gift or two from Dover Saddlery. As always, Dover's holiday sale features a smattering of best-selling items for the horse and rider. I've selected some of my favorite items from the sale to create a holiday "cheat sheet" for the rider who wants the best bang for her buck this holiday season. (Yes, that means I've tried ALL of the items featured in today's post!)

Orders placed by December 21 are guaranteed for Christmas delivery via FedEx 3-day delivery at prices as low as $9.95. Hurry, though, because these prices are only good through December 31!

For the Rider
Ariat's Westchester Lace Paddock Boot creates a nearly custom fit thanks to the the traditional lace-up front, elastic gussets, and rear zipper. I've owned mine for nearly three years and I couldn't be more pleased with the fit and durability of these boots, even in icky winter weather. Available in Chocolate, ladies' sizes 6 and 6.5, or Black, ladies' sizes 5.5-11. (Also available in a front-zip style.)  Closeout Price: $69.99.

Horseware of Ireland's Newmarket Fleece Vest is exceptionally warm and ideal for layering. The notched cut at the front of this vest makes it comfortable for use in the saddle, and the deep, zippered pockets offer plenty of room to store chapstick, riding gloves, treats, and other barn necessities without having to worry about everything falling out when you bend over to pick hooves. I've washed all of my Horseware fleece several times and there has never been any stretching or pilling, so everything looks just as nice as it did the day I brought it home. Available in Chocolate, ladies' sizes XS-L, or Black, ladies' sizes XS-XL. Closeout Price: $24.90.

Mountain Horse's Richmond High Rider Ladies' Field Boot is, hands down, my favorite tall boot of all time. The Wide version of these boots are a godsend for anyone like me who has a thicker calf than many of the other boot makers are willing to accomodate, and the regular calf versions are just as nice! I purchased my Richmond boots in the fall of 2006, broke them in within two days, and used them throughout college for twice-weekly lessons and extensive showing on the intercollegiate circuit. Over five years later, they're just as buttery soft and supple as ever without any signs of wear or tear, even along the zipper and elastic gusset. I cannot possibly say enough good things about these boots! Available in Ladies' regular calf (6-11), wide calf (6-10), short regular (6-10), or long regular (7-11). Sale Price: $299.90.

The same pair of SSG Work'n Horse Lined Riding Gloves has been keeping my hands toasty warm every winter since 2007. They feature genuine leather with a thin fleece lining that is extremely effective in providing warmth without being awkward or bulky like most winter gloves. Available in tan or dark brown, sizes 6-11. Sale Price: $18.70.

The Original Mountain Horse Winter Jacket is the jacket of choice for members of the US Equestrian Team while training during those chilly New England winters, and has become a favorite of riders for over 17 years. The 200 denier Kammat outer shell and 600 denier Duralon yoke create a virtually impermeable guard against the rain, wind, and snow, while 220gm of pillow quilted polyester lines the coat to keep the chill away. There are tons of bells and whistles on this coat, but my favorites are the snap-closure back vents and two-way front zipper for comfort and coverage in the saddle, and the underarm zip vents for temperature regulation. Available in Hunter/Tan, Black/Indigo, or Navy/Silver in Unisex sizes XS-L. Sale Price: $167.80.

For the Horse and Pony
I love the Circuit Overlay Girth because it is one of the few reasonably-priced leather girths that features fancy stitching, stainless steel roller buckles, and triple-stitched elastic on both ends. Having groomed many a teensy pony and gigantic warmblood for A/AA hunter shows, I especially appreciate the wide range of sizes and contour fit for the comfort of most every horse. Available in Oakbark, sizes 40" and 44"-56", or Dark Brown 42"-56". Sale Price: $69.99.

Vespucci's Square Raised Pony Flash Bridle is an incredible deal for the pony jumper or eventer. Admittedly, I've only dealt with Vespucci's horse sized products, but I'm sure you can expect the same quality leather and stainless steel fittings in the pony versions. I particularly enjoy the padding on the browband, caveson, jaw, and the single-crown design. Reins not included. Closeout Price: $79.99

Dover's Honeycomb Chill Chaser Sheet has many of the features of an Irish knit anti-sweat sheet without the hefty price. I use this 100% cotton, waffle weave sheet as a cooler on my gelding, Sam, after every ride during the cooler months, in the horse trailer, and as a cover-up at shows. The construction is sturdy with a fleece wither pad, nylon shoulder lining, bias surcingles, and hidden D-rings for the addition of leg straps for use as a blanket liner or stable sheet. I only wish that the buckle closure came with velcro to keep things tidy, but that's nothing a few minutes and a sewing machine can't fix. Available in Lilac/Lilac, Light Blue/Navy, Navy/Hunter (pictured), Hunter/Navy, Green/Burgundy, Burgundy/Navy, Black/Green, or Navy/Light Blue. Sizes 72"-84". Sale Price: $34.90, or two for $29.90 each!

Riders International Quilted Saddle Pads with Piping were my schooling pad of choice when I rode hunter-jumper, but would look equally smart on the cross-country course. They are hard wearing, even with daily use, and come in so many fun color combinations that every rider ought to have at least a few tucked away in the tack box. Available in Pink/Green/White, Lilac/Purple/White, White/Navy/Light Blue, Navy/Light Blue/White, Light Blue/Navy/White (pictured), Hunter/Hunter/Tan, White/Hunter/Burgundy, Hunter/Navy/White, White/White/Black, Navy/Gray/Burgundy, Black/Tan/Cream, or Burgundy/Black/Gray. Horse size 22" x 38". Sale Price: $19.90, or two for $17.90 each!

Dover Pro Sport Boots with Neoprene Lining offer supurb leg protection without the constant upkeep that fleece lined boots require; just hose them off and call it a day. I bought two pair (L for the front, XL for the hind) to use on Sam on rainy days or when his fleece-lined Pro Sport boots are in the wash. Honestly, I like the way these fit his legs better and I may not purchase another fleece-lined set when his current ones wear out. Available in Black (M-XXL), Brown (M-L, XXL), or White (M-XXL). Sale Price: $29.90. 

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with Dover Saddlery and do not benefit in any way from featuring these products in my blog. All images used in this post are copyright Dover Saddlery and/or the product manufacturer.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Proper Introduction

Meet The Writer (and Rider, too!)
I love the smell of freshly baled hay, the suppleness of oiled leather, and the sight of a correctly turned out horse and rider. I believe that an unlikely horse and rider can attain greatness, so long as both are willing to put forth the time, effort, and courageous dedication to overcome all obstacles. I believe that riding is both an art and a science, and that the horse is always the best teacher. I started The Dappled Bay as an opportunity to combine my passion for writing and visual arts (both of which I studied in college) with my life-long love of riding.

Meet the Horse
Samuel Adams (also known as "Sam," "Samby," or "The Great Sambini"), is a 1998 ATA registered Trakehner gelding. Born to the sound of fireworks on the 4th of July at Rolling Oaks Farm in Elgin, IL, Sam promised to have a lot of potential as a dressage superstar thanks to his incredible breeding (Butow x Simone Too by Tannenberg). He lived up to expectations, taking to his training very quickly and displaying talent for the upper level movements with a previous owner and trainer before a change in circumstances forced him to find a new home.

When I met Sam in May 2009, I found a malnourished horse that had been allowed to take advantage of his inexperienced owner and was pushy, stubborn, and downright rude. Still, there was something admirable about the horse and, even in spite of her reservations, soon I had him for my own. The first year of our relationship was a bit rocky, requiring extensive work with my trusted veterinarian and loads of independent research to bring him back up to the ideal physical condition and even more work to "reinstall" the manners that he'd lost with his previous owner.

Once Sam was cleared to get back to work, I quickly discovered that he wasn't quite cut out to be a hunter-jumper as I originally planned. Back to the drawing board on that one. A friend suggested that I attend a dressage clinic with Sam, so I took her up on the offer and we had such a great time that I made the plunge into the world of dressage and never looked back.

What Is The Dappled Bay?

The Dappled Bay is a blog dedicated to exploring the dynamic relationship between riders and their horses, and the obsession that is "the equestrian lifestyle." Written from the perspective of a young adult amateur, The Dappled Bay includes topics such as affordable horsekeeping and showing on a shoestring budget, all with the goal of getting the most out of the horse experience without breaking the bank. Of course, there are a few highlights from the author's personal riding experiences thrown in just for good measure.