Staying Cool When It’s God Awful Outside

It’s averaging about 107°F in my town right now and we’re expecting a major heat wave this weekend. There are no words to describe this type of heat, except for unbearably crazy. The are a couple good things about the weather, though.

  1. It gave me inspiration for this post, and
  2. I have a new appreciation for air conditioning

But for those days that you can’t spend 12 hours inside an air controlled building, I thought it would be a good idea to bring up some ways to beat the final days of drastic heat before it is fall and then we have to worry about how we will ride in 29°F weather!

First things first, invest in a huge, durable water bottle. I have a Nalgene and a Hydroflask, but my Hydroflask is smaller and I have to refill it about 5 times a day. If you’re going to be outside for long periods of time, the bigger the water bottle, the better. I’ve noticed that after awhile, water will taste good when you’re hot and sweaty no matter the temperature. If you want to spend $50 on a water bottle, get a 40 oz. Yeti or Hydroflask. If you want to spend $12, get a Nalgene. The most important thing about riding in the heat is to stay hydrated!

Another thing that helps with the heat are the long sleeve, UV protecting, sun shirts that you can buy at almost any horse supply store. Ariat, Kerrits, Noble Outfitters, Goode Rider, Kastel, Tuff Rider, and the list goes on, all make these shirts so there is no trouble finding what you need. It seems counterintuitive to wear a long sleeve shirt outside when its triple-digit heat, but these shirts are life savers. They’re made with cooling fabric and have a couple vents in them, so it feels like you’re riding with a tank top on. They also eliminate the need for sunscreen on your arms! I personally love riding in these shirts no matter the temperature.

On the subject of clothing, investing in some riding tights or breeches made of cooling fabric is never a bad choice. Actually, just buy everything in technical fabric. The magic moisture-wicking ways of these garments are by far the most amazing thing of the 21st century. You can buy socks, underwear, breeches, boots, bandanas, almost anything under the sun containing this awesome fabric.

There are also cooling vests, bandanas, headbands, and neck coolers that you can buy if you’re riding for long periods of time in crazy heat. You can soak these in cold water for a little bit and they will stay cool for hours! These are great investments if you’ll be spending the whole day riding outside.

Aside from cool clothing, there are a couple other things I swear by when I’m riding in the heat. First, never, ever, ever, take the heat as an excuse to not wear your helmet. The heat can bring on exhaustion faster than anything else, so you don’t want to be fainting on your horse with no head protection. Also, if you don’t feel well, don’t ride. Simple as that. Your horse is probably warm as well and can handle another day off.

If you do ride in the heat, try to choose the coolest hours of the day. Aka, the early morning or late evening. It’s also a good idea to properly cool yourself and your horse down. Obviously hosing them off is a good choice, but take extra care to walk them out as well. When it’s really hot outside, administering electrolytes to your horse (and you!) will help them combat any heat stress they have.

These are just a couple of thoughts for combatting the heat and still riding! If you want some more thoughts, let me know! Remember to just take your exercise one stride at a time, and stop if you or your horse doesn’t feel normal!

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Discovering Other Disciplines

I am beginning another segment on my blog because I feel like it and it’s fun so here we go yay! It’s called latte horse talk. My attempt is to make it similar to coffee talk, where you just discuss interesting topics and see what happens. Today, I want to talk about different disciplines.

I started out my riding career as an event rider. I swore I thought I was so good at riding. When I started competing, I was 10 and I knew that I had a long way to go and a lot to learn before I was riding some serious fences, but I figured that staying with event trainers would land me there quickly. Boy, I REALLY had a long way to go, but it seemed completely doable. Honestly, it would have worked out. Staying in one discipline usually works just fine, but I had a bit of a different path.

Instead, I tried different things. Most of this happened when I went away to college. Not only did I experiment with jumpers, hunters, and dressage, but I also took classes about conformation, judging, and beginning western riding! I also took a halter breaking class (which I talk about in this blog post) and I learned a lot about horse behavior. Each class/experience I had gave me a bit to take into my own riding. I’d like to think I became a better rider because of it.

Even if you don’t want to step out of your comfort zone and do another discipline, try taking a lesson with another trainer! Sometimes they give you a solution to a problem you’ve been having forever. One of the first times I rode with a different trainer, I asked why my horse kept doing running after the fence over and over again and I felt like I was falling forward whenever I would try to half halt. I swear it seems like the simplest solution now, but she casually said try keeping your leg on. I know, I know, it’s like the easiest thing to do and for years I didn’t have it in my head to do it. But now, I will never forget that and my half halts are so darn good it’s insane!

If you’re looking to get better at your riding, or looking for a fun adventure, try other disciplines. Compete in a jumper class if you’re a dressage person. Sit on a reiner and try a spin or two. Heck, just take a lesson from a different trainer. Trust me.

Because you learn amazing things along the way!

Okay cool, well I hope it works out then. Just take your learning experience one stride at a time and it will all work out!

 

 

It’s Simple.

Whenever I have a lesson, it always goes the same. I start by warming up. Raven always feels good, with some room for improvement, but that’s what a lesson is for, right? We start warming up over jumps and it’s easy to see that we only jump once a week. We’re slow to remember everything we have to do to have a good jump. My mind starts telling me to pay attention to my leg, then my seat, then my upper body, but I also need to keep Rae straight to the jump otherwise her shoulder pops out…the list goes on. Soon, I get frazzled by everything I need to do and then I just become a mindless rider because my brain is too preoccupied with what I need to do instead of what I’m actually doing.

But this probably happens for 10 minutes, and then my trainer comes to the rescue. She always says the simplest things to get me back on track. If my shoulder start slumping forward, she simply tells me to focus on my lower leg. I don’t understand how it works, but soon my whole body is doing what I want it to do as soon as I just focus on my leg. Then, she’ll mention the outside rein and voila! Raven is straight and perfect over every jump. My lesson ends perfectly with things I need to work on before next week.

I swear, this happens every time I have a lesson. And my trainer isn’t telling me things I don’t know, she’s just reminding me of things to do that I temporarily forget. But this is what I want to talk about today: simplicity.

Simplicity while riding is a life-saver. I get so bogged down trying to remember to keep my body a certain way and to keep contact like this and to make sure my toes are pointed forward at all times and to basically be a perfect rider. I have honestly struggled with this for as long as I can remember.

But recently, I’m trying something new. Each ride, I focus on only one thing and try to work only on that. Or if I’m struggling with the right lead change, or Raven’s shoulder is popping out, or I can’t get my left leg yield, I simply exhale and start from scratch. Honestly, this has helped tremendously. Focusing on one aid at a time can significantly improve your ride. This is because both you and your horse will be more relaxed, and you will become a more effective rider.

I can provide a list of examples for this. One while ago, my horse was not listening to my half halts after a jump. Whenever I needed to get her back to her collected canter, she would just ignore me for about a second too long and then our next jump would be ugly. It was so frustrating! Finally, my trainer told me to engage my core and keep my upper body back. It worked phenomenally. Not only was my horse more responsive to my half halts, but our canter was more balanced. Or last week, my horse WAS NOT listening to my leg. She wanted to go, by all means she was basically galloping, but she just wanted to go her own speed. Then, I just repositioned my leg so my toes were straighter and my heels weren’t in her side, and there was a 100% difference. These little changes ended up making a huge impact on our ride.

Let’s also look at what happens when you don’t focus on one thing. (I have a lot of examples for this, too.) We’ve all had those rides where, for the life of you, nothing is going right. Just everything you do leads to more frustration and your horse isn’t listening, and you’re just sitting there like omg Raven, just get your life together. Well, most of the time, it’s completely my fault. I’m usually leaning forward, with my spurs dug into her (accidentally!), and somehow gripping with my knees. At this point, I usually realize what’s going on and try to fix all of it at the same time. But then I’m so focused on these three things, I don’t realize that my horse is going down the side of the arena as crooked as can be and that’s why we’re not getting our extension. If I would have just changed my leg, then worried about everything else later, it’s simpler to catch your faults early on.

Raven also suffers if I try to change everything because I’m preoccupied with things I need to work on and stressed out that we’re not doing anything right. If I just focus and simplify, I can relax. Not only will she relax because I am, but she will be relaxed because there isn’t an abrupt change.

Simplicity doesn’t just affect your riding style; it can also affect your tack. I had this friend at the barn a while back that would constantly change her bit. These would be drastic changes, too, like a hackamore to a snaffle, to an elevator, to a myler. Her poor horse had no consistency and their riding immediately suffered. Her horse would throw her, toss his head, just about anything tracing back to the complexity of her tack. It was terrible to see, mostly because it was easy to tell how frustrated the both of them were! Finally, when she came to her senses, the horse calmed down.

I’ve done this, too. Raven used to flat out drag me around the cross country course. We quick jumped from a snaffle to a Pelham within a month after I got her. Around the same time, we also had a problem with her opening her mouth, so we obviously thought a flash would help. Fast forward a couple of years, and the Pelham works wonders! She’s also not opening her mouth, but she’s having a hard time relaxing while I’m riding. We could never figure it out, until I had an epiphany and decided to take the flash off. She was suddenly a different horse.

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We tried a snaffle for our first jumper show and it did. not. work.pictures1 307

So, we moved to the Pelham. (You can see that we had the flash in both cases, so we made it a simple transition.)

This doesn’t work for everyone, but it does work for about half of horses. Having a running martingale with a flash and a 3-ring with spurs might not be the best choice for your horse. Sometimes, a simple bridle, a bit, and one pair of reins is all they need.

So, just try to take a deep breath, simplify your aids, and don’t worry about being perfect. Your horse will be thankful that you try to improve and will also be more relaxed that you make tiny improvements. Simplicity also comes from focusing and relaxing. If you feel overwhelmed, half of the time you probably feel that your ride is becoming to complex. Rides are simple, just take things one stride at a time.

Why I Ride

I don’t ride my horse to be perfect at something. I ride because it’s who I am.

I was 6 years old when I decided that horses must be in my life. I had my mom, my dad, my teachers (basically a lot of people) tell me that I couldn’t do it or that I couldn’t afford it or that I wouldn’t have time for it. I had a lot of people tell me no, so why did I say, actually yes?

Honestly, I don’t really have an answer. Riding horses was always a no-brainer for me. I might not be the best at it, I might not have the money or time to quickly move up in show competitions, but I still persevere. I keep it in my life because the feeling of sitting on a horse is the most liberating feeling. You have control over a 1200 lb. animal with the ability to go anywhere and do anything.

I can also say that horses teach lots. There’s so much you learn about communication, responsibility, perseverance, discipline, and love that you can’t really learn from another sport, animal, or person. My horse taught me so much about interpersonal skills and the importance of humility. She also taught me that I need to be for her every single day, just like she is for me. She taught me that I need to take care of her, just like she takes care of me. We have created a team, and that is probably one of the best feelings ever.

So why do I ride?

I ride because it’s who I am. I feel free, I feel alive, I feel like myself.

Interested in 3-Day Eventing?

 

 

Oh my, where to start. This sport has so much to talk about!

Eventing is not for the faint of heart. While eventing is ridiculously fun, it is also takes a ton of discipline and learning. I miss it, and after you’re done reading this post, you’ll understand why everyone is addicted to it as I am.

3 day eventing incorporates 3 phases – dressage, show jumping, and cross country – over a course of 3 days with at least one phase each day. During the show, you are mentally and physically tested, and it’s the most rewarding experience. One of the best parts of eventing is that all equestrians can do it. The energy and people behind eventing is  very inclusive. This is what makes the sport truly enjoyable, the feeling that everyone is connected and spirited about the same thing.

Before I get all kumbaya on you, I wanted to briefly explain each phase.

Dressage is what I always call the building blocks of eventing. If your horse can’t respond to the simplest of commands in dressage, you will not excel in the other two phases. Here, you ride a test, depending on your level, to display the horse’s responsiveness to cues. Don’t worry about the fancy moves — worry more about suppleness, rhythm, and your geometry. The judge will score you on how accurately you do the test, but also these qualities.

Now on to stadium jumping. This was my trainer’s favorite phase, and I never understood why until now. Stadium jumping is very technical because you need all the same qualities as dressage while navigating a course. Your horse must be willing to give you their head, adjust their stride, and pick up their feet! You’re being judged on how quickly you go through the course, so purely time, but you get a better score if you don’t knock any poles or have any refusals. Your course will also have a higher quality ride if you have a responsive horse, like I mentioned, allowing you to have a faster time.

Next is my favorite, cross country. Here is where your horse’s bravery, and your’s, is tested. You are literally galloping and jumping over natural obstacles for about 10 minutes straight. If you are an adrenaline junky, this phase is for you! Anything can happen while out on this course, making it the most dangerous out of all of the phases – and the most controversial. The USEF, USEA, and other organizations are working to make this safer for horses and riders, but don’t let that interfere with your interest for this sport. If you are safe, aware, and responsible when you ride, you should love it!

All three phases make up this beautiful sport, but there is so much more to it! The eventing community is one of the nicest I have ever been a part of. This sport also exposes you to multiple disciplines, allowing you to deviate or move between different areas and try something new.

There are lots of reasons to try eventing. But the best reason of them all is that you develop one of the strongest bonds with your horse. I know Raven will have my back every time we’re on the cross country course. I know she’s going to stay collected and focused through every dressage test. And lastly, I know she’s enjoying her ride as much as I am.

If you have any questions, want to know more about the sport, or just want to talk, feel free to contact me! You can also read more about it on the USEA website, Eventing Nation, or contact some eventing trainers in your area. Now get out there and kick some butt!

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