Wednesday, November 27, 2019

simple but effective: jumping exercise

I feel like it's really easy to get caught in a cycle of complaining about the weather haha. It's too hot. Too cold. Too wet or too dry. This summer we were as dry as we were wet last year. And, uh, idk if you forgot but the Mid Atlantic region of the US was very wet last year.

But the dry is equally problematic too, especially as it relates to our poor beloved behemoths existing full time on increasingly hard and unforgiving ground. Charlie was.... not a fan lol.

early morning means harsh lighting angles, but i'm super grateful that trainer K nabbed so much video!!
But. Actually, I'd like to take a moment to appreciate the truly pleasant fall weather we've had lately. Daytime temps are more or less around the 50s, with overnights still hovering above freezing. Plus we've had enough intermittent rain to make for pretty pleasant ground.

It's clear that the winter cold and wet are on the way, but for now I'm just gonna enjoy it haha.

simple yet effective exercise! you can basically endlessly loop through it, too
Charlie and I have been capitalizing too. Lately we've been riding a lot with our barn's resident upper level eventer, Trainer K. Loch Moy and Waredaca both ran on Saturdays, Trainer P's normal teaching day, so we had to tweak the schedule a bit. Luckily it worked out that Trainer K was available to help with the show prep rides.

Unfortunately I don't have any media at all from those rides. So they've languished growing cobwebs in the back of my head instead of germinating into fresh posts here. Sorry...

Realistically tho, this act of writing out my lessons has very real value to me. Often I can uncover new takeaways or knit a more cohesive narrative of the lesson just by writing down the details. Like taking the unstructured fleeting wisps of memory and feel, and cataloging them for future reference.

Or. Um. Something haha.

hard to tell that this is an oxer, but this is the red oxer in the bottom right side of the course map, ridden right to left according to that diagram
Anyway, tho, about halfway through our most recent lesson, trainer K whipped out her cell phone and started taking video - completely unprovoked!! Which, ya know, is awesome haha. I'm such a visual learner and it's so so so useful to connect my memory of a feel with the real time instruction and what Charlie looks like.

This was especially helpful bc it's been a few weeks since I've gotten to see real time footage of us in action. Considering the changes I've been trying to make with my hands since the Martin Douzant clinic, this was a bit overdue.

vertical going out of that same red 60' line
Anyway, onto the lesson. Specifically, that exercise trainer K set up in the above diagram. I don't recall ever doing anything exactly like or very similar to this construction of elements.... But actually I really liked it.

It's super simple, extremely symmetrical, and offers a wide variety of options depending on what you want to address with your specific horse. It doesn't require an inordinate amount of poles and/or standards. Plus, it's easy to keep just looping through over and over. And actually - if you made all the oxers square you'd have even more options.

So yea. Two thumbs up for that pattern. Would highly recommend for anyone looking for ideas.

this is the dark green single vertical according to the course diagram. we'll land and roll back to the left to jump that vertical on the right edge of the frame
For me and Charlie, the goal would be maintaining balance, rhythm and shape in our canter on a proper 12' stride.

You may recall that much of my training with Charlie has been about compressing his stride, asking him to move and jump on a shorter step. The idea is that on a short step, he's forced to sit down more, to rock back and use himself over the fences. And I'm fairly convinced that especially in the early days, this really helped Charlie unlock his longitudinal balance.

like so - vertical jumping into the blue 60' line from the diagram, again ridden right to left according to that image
Now-a-days, tho, it's kinda a different story. Charlie knows how to jump a jump now. With ever-unreliable Emma in the irons, Charlie's become quite adept at jumping from a very wide range of distances haha. Over time, we've sorta learned how to make all the mistakes.

And, for the most part, Charlie's got an answer for almost any gauntlet I throw down (intentionally or otherwise...).

out over the final oxer in the top blue 60' line per the map
However, as we all have learned the hard way at some point or another, sometimes horses are learning a slightly different lesson from what we think we're teaching.

For Charlie, this means that he's kinda figured out the secret to shortened distances. I mean, sure, he could engage his abs and step under and find that big compact basketball bouncy canter... But like, that's hard work, yo. It's MUCH easier to just slug down the line behind my leg to make the short distance work.

yellow diagonal single oxer per the map. and proof that i can still get left behind even when i hold the neck strap!
Meanwhile, because we haven't practiced as much on open distances, I lack the feel and eye for them. I'm too good at riding Charlie on a short stride backwards, but then can't keep our shit together when we start opening up.

This, you may have observed, explains in part why our show jumping courses in competition kinda start falling apart by the end. Like at our last two shows, where it seemed like we only kiiiiinda just barely made it over the last fence by the skin of our teeth haha. Like if we had to go right back in for a second course immediately after, it'd possibly be a bit of a shit show.

charles smashies!!
So this lesson was really helpful bc you can see in the video (plus obvi hear Trainer K commentary) how I tend to chase Charlie a bit. My calibration is totally off. In my head, I think I need to make a big difference in the canter from what I'm used to on the more compressed step.

In reality, tho, when I think I'm dialing up from 11 to 12, Charlie's hearing me go from 10 to 15 haha. Because, shocker, Charlie has a HUGE stride and needs very little invitation to stretch out. Quite a few times we only barely fit in the 4th stride down those lines.... The 14' stride for Charlie is literally right.there.

charles goes LONG!
I do *not* need to fight for it. Rather, it's got to be much more subtle. The sliiightest adjustment to our rhythm.

And what I'm looking for is an almost comfortable feeling. Not flat, not reaching out front. But a steady comfortable push from back to front. Ya know. If only it were that easy haha!

go with him, emma!!
Actually, this was why trainer K set the fences up a bit more than I've seen in.... a while haha. Obviously we don't want to train such that the only way I can get Charlie to respect a fence is to make it giant. But... Also I've got to learn how to make these mistakes on a forward distance and it's gonna take something more than 2'6 to keep Charlie from plowing through the fence.

To this end, we set the lines at ~3' from the start, then bumped them up to around 3'3 to finish. So mostly proper Training height, tho the oxer widths weren't fully up to spec.

same yellow oxer from the other side
A big part of helping me get the right feel for our pace had to do with getting my own position and balance dialed in. Again, you'll hear it in the video, but trainer K talked a lot about the relative position of my spinal column from head down through seat.

I'm still mostly holding the neck strap to help keep my hands committed (tho I'm happy to report that the muscle memory IS happening!! Yay!!!) but it turns out that there's still more to it than that. Trainer K observed that I tend to freeze a bit in my position. As in, if I'm very upright, or if I'm a bit tipped forward, wherever I am, I just kinda stay there.

will land eventually then roll back to the right
Which in some ways is nice that I'm not really moving around a whole lot in the saddle or shifting my center of gravity every other step. This is probably why I always feel "secure." But it means that if I'm going to stay in one spot, it better be a good spot lol.

Specifically, K wants to see me bring my shoulders a bit more back. In the video she uses the description of bringing my head back, tho I'm not quite sure that's the right trigger for me ("sternum" might be what I recommend). Basically, as I understand it, when she tells me to bring my shoulders back, my hands inadvertently follow too. Which... they should not haha.

the harsh angles of the sun for this early morning ride made the whole blue side of the map tricky to video... but i kinda dig the silhouette effect! good boy, charlie <3
You can see it in the video a few times to that yellow oxer in particular, and also the red oxer. My shoulders coming back are ok -- but the rest of me kinda wants to follow, and it's like the second I get my upper body behind the motion I can't see a forward distance any more.

Mostly this is a symptom of not having independent hands (**siiigh**), and is also the reason why Martin told me to use a neck strap lol. Which, yes, is helping. This lesson, and specifically the pattern of single-turn-line off each lead, looping again and again, really helped me dial into the right feelings.

Also, a bit unrelated to the feelings from the ride, I was kinda happy about the progression too. Charlie's a clever horse, ya know? He will very often give a pretty good answer right off the bat, with the expectation that "If I give you the answer, you won't ask the same question twice!"

But ya know. These lessons are for me as much as they're for him so we *do* repeat exercises. Often, this means that we start on kinda a high note but end up devolving a bit from there.

Which was... the case in this lesson. We'd already done the exercise a few times pretty smoothly before Trainer K pulled out the camera. Maybe seeing that she was videoing made me change my ride or whatever, but you'll see our first few passes in the video had some blips.

Naturally in my mind I immediately started feeling like "Oh boy, here we go, it's all gonna fall apart now!" But... actually, it didn't.

pic unrelated: my new crop has kinda this chunky handle that it turns out makes my hand cramp a bit. i still like the crop.... but maybe if you're crop shopping make sure you're comfortable with the, ahem, girth of your new weapon
If anything, having those few blips forced me to work even harder at internalizing that feel trainer K was trying to convey: The consistency in balance, rhythm, pace in a more forward (but not chasing!) canter throughout the whole exercise. And, go figure, we were able to end on some really solid jumps. Yessss!

Obviously there's still a lot of work to be done (particularly on the back side of lines) but we got a lot of good mileage in this ride. Here's hoping the weather will cooperate a little longer into the season ;)

Friday, November 22, 2019

methods of learning

Each fall, Waredaca hosts a long format Classic 3 Day Event for Novice, Training and Preliminary, run over championship courses. It's intended to be both a test and celebration of the sport, the riders, and their amazing horses, and includes all manner of educational opportunities for qualified participants.

Not least of which are introductions to (and mini-clinics on) riding steeplechase and roads and tracks. Instruction is provided by world class professionals who are on hand all weekend for questions, encouragement, and insight. This year the clinics and course walks were led by European, World, and Olympic team rider Eric Smiley, and Olympian and Burghley winner Stephen Bradley. (Notably, Stephen Bradley is the last American to have won at Burghley.)

partying at the Waredaca Classic 3DE after finishing cross country day. +100 for having a brewery on site!!
My friend Rachael qualified again this year, after an extremely poorly timed hot nail ruined their weekend last year. So I and a few other friends got to spend the weekend playing support crew, while conveniently also being on hand to soak up some of the learnings ourselves haha.

And. Ya know, per my usual habits, I wanted to share with y'all my impressions from all that haha.

Truth be told, this should probably be like 3 different posts bc there are a few distinct aspects that had an impact on me... But I didn't want to put off writing any longer, so here we go with this.

excerpt from Eric Smiley's book. emphasis mine... hint: this passage is a theme
My first step down the rabbit hole began when I tagged along for the T3DE course walk with Eric Smiley. During which I (obviously) took copious notes haha. But I also peeled off a few times to take a closer look at the N3DE course while Eric talked technicalities of riding the T.

Bc let's be real. I've spent all season walking T courses, schooling T questions, working/yearning for that eventual move up. But we're still just plain old not there, and I had already concluded that we'd finish the year with more positive N outings. So, why not get a closer look at an N championship course, right?

T3DE course walk with Eric Smiley, wherein he tried to explain that this up bank - down bank (with hedge) - to wedge (not pictured) combination isn't actually bonkers 
Plus, I didn't write about it at the time, but I volunteered at the Morven Area II Novice Championships a few weeks back too - and also walked that course. It looked flipping fantastic, with all manner of interesting terrain and variations of style of fence. Particularly, the first few elements looked like a proper test and I LOVED the first water: a slightly-less-than-straight line through a small pond then direct up a steep mound with a log on top.

HOWEVER. What really struck me from Morven's Area II Novice Championship course was.... there was neither a ditch nor a bank on course for N. Certainly there were combinations for both on T and the levels above... but nada for N. Hrm.

hint: is confirmed to be bonkers
So yea. It was at that point that I started wondering what sort of courses an N rider had to tackle to make the next step to T seem more realistic. Thus my curiosity to study Waredaca's N3DE course, also billed as a championship course.

But anyway. More on that in a few. Back to my notes from Eric Smiley's colorful commentary on the T3DE course particularly, and cross country more generally.

this was the 3DE Training question that i was pleased to see repeated in Novice form on my recent waredaca course, tho you can sorta see there are flags on the other side of the mound for another (equally inviting) T fence, whereas our N combo just had the first fence and mound. still tho, it's a clear visual progression from one course to the next!
He got us started by declaring that fences ARE related on cross country. For instance, you may have an angle early on course, then a corner later. Or a skinny early and then another even skinnier skinny later.

The well designed course should be a progression, and you'll see if it you're looking for it. Generally speaking, the courses are testing your stage of schooling.

looking at the first water complex on course. there are lines for P, M, T3DE, T and N3DE here. notably, my starter N from a couple weeks later did not touch this water
Furthermore, Eric expounded on how you "warm up" for this progression by describing how he runs his clinics: First thing he has riders do in a clinic on jumping day is canter a pole 3 times. Question is: "What has your horse told you?" Has he said which way he drifts? Whether he has made a plan? Whether he’s on deck?

Has he told you at the practice pole whether he’s going to run out at 24? Has he told you he’s going to need help making a plan or whether he will do it himself?

closer look: T3DE and M share this center line (elements circled in red) of two stride line of logs dropping into the water.
regular horse trial T has the yellow circled line on the right -- log drop into water at A, then mound up to house at B
I actually brought this example up in a recent lesson (er, yesterday, post coming soon!) wherein my trainer noted Charlie was much straighter than last time, and I said he'd been leaning hard left all warm up so I'd been working on it. Turns out -- isn't that exactly what the warm up is for?? (hint: yes)

To the same point, Eric also said that the benefits you receive from steeplechase are enormous. The phase (which replaces any informal warm up you'd do for cross country at the standard horse trial) is there to get the horse into gear mentally and physically. And it is in this phase where you should be inventorying what the horse is telling you about their readiness.

close look at the other side - P (green) has a roll top inside the water, then a skinny out at B
and N3DE? the log that technically does not constitute "having height" so it can be at the water's edge (jumping out).
i understand the idea here, but c'mon. where's the progression? the step up is enormous from that little log on the championship N3DE course to the regular horse trial T log drop into water with house on far side, right? /rant
Once on course, Eric encouraged riders to "allow the presentation of the fence to tell the horse what’s up." Specifically, he warned: If the jump is going to re-balance a horse, don’t do it yourself.

Meaning, if the jump has some sort of intrinsic aspect that might make the horse sit back and adjust (like the ditch under a trakehner, or a giant mound behind the roll top), then you don't want to layer your own half halt on top. The risk is you'll in essence double the effect and possibly run out of petrol.

it's useful that waredaca literally has a brewery right there on the premises
Instead, Eric advised riders to keep riding the horse to/at the fence and let the horse figure it out. Keep riding forward. He called the trakehner in particular a fence style with a "natural re-balance." The ditch, clear ground line, and sloping profile do all the work for you, so that the rider can just keep coming to it.

This theme was much repeated throughout the entire course walk. Eric encouraged riders to "Sit up, Look up, Get up. Look where you want to be."

yep. totally bought the book. "Two Brains, One Aim." some chapters are more interesting to me than others but so far i'm liking it and finding it directly applicable
It sounds simplistic, but actually ... Yea. It is. And he really means it to be that way. He used Boyd Martin and Phillip Dutton as examples here - as riders who make things happen. Doesn't have to be pretty. Doesn't have to be perfect. But it has to happen, or, ya know, it doesn't happen. It really is that binary.

Eric advised riders against getting overly technical. And against getting too stuck in the details of the thing. Again, he was adamant. Make things happen. Get the job done.

final chapters. full disclosure, i haven't read them all yet
In essence, Eric's overall warning was to not overthink things. Or over analyze. Which, uhm, haha, cough cough... Well, y'all know that's a bit of a hard pill for me to swallow. I want to know it all. I want the data. The trends, the margin of error. Historical context, calibrated measurements, and predictable outcomes.

Which, according to this particular world class professional, jusssst miiiight be doing a disservice to my overall mental state and philosophical approach to this sport lol.

Fun fact: I may or may not have finished that course walk musing whether I'm emotionally pre-disposed to a philosophical mindset diametrically opposite of what's required in eventing...

Which... Ha, well if that isn't a recipe for an identity crisis, I don't know what is lol.

are we there yet??
Luckily I already sorta went through all my own tortuous mental contortions this summer about "But do I really want to??" And already determined the answer to be, "Yes." So. Nice try, Eric haha. But just because I'm overly analytical doesn't mean I'm gonna quit!!**

Obviously not his intention tho, let's be real. But it did give me a lot of food for thought. Clearly I'm not about to abandon my desire to analyze and understand and study all the things. Or (case in point) document all the things too. Bc that's just how I roll.

But maybe I need to do a better job of categorizing all that data, that information, in terms of overall "usefulness." What data is going to help me act in the moment? What will help me make things happen? And what ultimately ends up being a distraction?

In other words, do I need to know the exact distance between that hedge-topped down bank to the narrow wedge? Or, rather, do I need to know whether my horse has been drifting left or right, or has been on board and making plans along with me the whole ride?

There's probably more I want to write on this subject (and other tangents), especially as we go into the navel-gazing daze of off season haha. For now tho, let's leave it at that.

There's so much to be gained from opportunities to discuss riding and courses and overall mentality with these seasoned professionals, and I'm extremely grateful to have had this chance. For any of you sitting on the fence about signing up for volunteer jobs at local events -- these are the sort of interactions, observations and conversations that can arise from nothing more than the luck of being there in that moment. So, ya know, go for it ;)

**Srsly tho, that was obviously not his point. He's an extremely encouraging sort and I would 100% ride / audit / drink a beer with him again in the future!

Friday, November 15, 2019

winter wine nights: boot care + ERM XC

Happy Friday, everyone. It's officially mid November. The days are getting shorter and shorter, darker and colder. The Holidays are staring us down unrelentingly lol.

And it's starting to get to be that time of year where I want nothing more than to cozy up on the sofa with the kitties, a glass of wine, some video entertainment, and possibly a mindless but satisfying task to occupy my hands. Like, ya know. Cleaning tack. OR, my tall boots.

QHP Sophia boots in action. these things take a lot of abuse!
I wrote yesterday about being head over heels (puns lol) in love with my QHP Sophia tall (or long, if you're all Euro) boots. These things are comfortable enough for all day wear, including speed walking cross country courses, and feel like a second skin when I'm riding.

In short, I want them to last forever. And ever and ever. The leather is actually pretty nice, and so far all the seams and everything are holding up admirably well. But they were still pretty inexpensive boots, and that savings had to come from somewhere, right?

Typically, at least in my experience, you see the quality sacrificed in areas like the zipper, elastic panel, and possibly the sole too.

i'm officially converted to using boot lasts to help keep zippers upright
So I've been trying to be proactive in helping safeguard those weak spots from succumbing to the rigors of the lifestyle I provide haha. Which... Yea, these boots get worn for everything. I'm not one for changing my shoes right before or right after a ride, even in nasty wet or muddy weather, or when I know I'll be bathing a horse.

Your mileage may vary there, but that's just kinda how I am. I really don't want to be thinking about my footwear while I'm doing other things. So instead I just do what I can in between wears.

Like using boot lasts. I actually asked for a new proper set of lasts for my birthday (hopefully will have an update on that soon!!) but to date had been using rolled up cardboard until I upgraded to these inflatable dealies.

The idea is that the lasts will keep the boots from folding over or collapsing too much at the ankle, which over time weakens and damages the zipper.

shoe care kit i won from year end awards! plus zipper wax i bought myself
I've also been trying to keep these boots cleaner than their predecessors. Especially in those weak spots like the zipper and where the uppers meet the soles.

Last winter I received this Shoe Keeper kit as part of my goodie bag from my local association's year end awards, and was kinda surprised to see it contained two different brushes. Brushes had never really been part of my boot kits before, but once I had them in hand it actually made a lot of sense.

this brush makes a substantially noticeable difference when trying to get a smooth zip
I keep the brushes near my door where my shoes live, and actually find myself reaching for them often. The moment I feel any resistance to pulling up a zipper on the boots, I pause to remove the boot and just brush out the zipper teeth. It's doesn't take any time at all, and actually makes a HUGE difference in getting a smooth zip.

My hope is that by routinely brushing out the zipper, keeping it clear of dirt, debris and hair, I'll be able to extend its lifespan. And fwiw I'm pretty sure any brush would do the trick - including an old toothbrush or whatever.

imo the brush works better than the wax, but i use both in hopes the wax will help prevent build up.
also plz ignore my weird finger tip. it, uh, got bit off by a surly lesson pony 10+ yrs ago lol whoops
Similarly, last time I was at Dover (to take advantage of national helmet awareness weekend!) I spotted this little wax stick in a random rack for like $1 or $2 and instantly snapped it up.

It's basically like an over-sized soft crayon, and I kinda just run it up and down the zipper teeth after they've been brushed out. To be honest I'm not sure it makes as much of a difference as the brush... Bc yea, the brush WORKS, yo, but it does seem to help.

I definitely spend a little extra time on the zipper before shows too, since we all know that on show days zippers don't zip, buttons don't button, and nothing works as it's supposed to work. Any insurance against that is just peace of mind, right?

i recently switched to using a thin towel instead of a sponge to clean and condition most of my leather. seems like more of the product gets where i want it to go!
I've watched a couple of those "Madden Method" videos on youtube recently too, and in their tack cleaning one she said she preferred using towels for applying soap and conditioner to leather. Which is something I've wondered about after feeling like so much product just kinda gets absorbed into sponges rather than transferring to my leather lol.

So I've been doing that lately, and using this Ariat boot conditioner. It's definitely a different type of conditioner than I'd use for anything else leather (like a saddle or bridle) since it has that water repellent additive. But I actually really like it for the boots.

They seem to get less dirty over time the longer I use this product. Which like, ya know, that's nice haha. Tho it doesn't do much in the way of "polishing," at least not for these brown boots. But that's ok, I kinda dig the patina look on the brown anyway.

So ya know. This routine is helping me feel like I'm doing my best to help these boots last. Without really having to slave over them, ya know?

Bc yea... My preferred method for tack and boot cleaning involves a fair amount of wine and attention split between the leather and whatever happens to be on youtube. Which, recently, has included binging the Event Rider Masters Cross Country Broadcasts haha.

If you're not familiar, the ERM is a championship CCI4*-S series over in the UK and Europe with something like 7 or 8 legs spread across the season. It offers substantial prize money to riders who earn the most points over the series, and thus attracts world class talent, like:

Piggy French, Gemma Tattersall, Michael Jung, Chris Burton, Jonelle and Tim Price, Oliver Townend, Julia Krajewski, Liz Halliday Sharp, Maxime Livio, Ingrid Klimke, and and and... so many more haha.

i have to arrange my screens to prevent my cat from more... active participation 
All the broadcasts since 2017 are available on ERM's website and youtube channel, including the dressage and show jumping broadcasts, plus all the additional promotional content they produce along the way.

For me, tho, my interest is generally in watching the cross country haha. And as such, I've pulled all those specific broadcasts into one binge-worthy play list. I've already watched most of them, but honestly they're fun enough to watch that I don't mind repeating them too.

Possibly the most interesting factor in the series is that they run dressage on Day 1 (duh), then first show jumping then cross country on Day 2. And cross country, the final phase deciding the winner, is run in reverse order of merit. So the top placed riders don't go until the very end, making for a lot of exciting tension haha.

Nicole Brown's commentary is really enjoyable, plus they always have a rep from EquiRatings too (usually Diarm Byrne) who's always going agog about the stats lol. And there's usually riders in the commentary box offering their perspective on the riders, horses and courses. In particular, listening to Ludwig Svennerstal's commentary makes me feel like I'd try to audit or ride with him if he ever did a clinic in my area. Jonelle Price too.

So yea. This is exactly the type of entertaining content that is great for watching over the off season haha. And my friends and I mayyyy or may not be planning to have occasional relaxing wine nights with these videos (each about 2hrs) playing in the background haha.

Hope everyone else is looking forward to a fun weekend too -- perhaps with some virtual spectatorship and/or boot cleaning? Maybe you have some other fun horsey series or videos you like to watch online too??

Thursday, November 14, 2019

show gear inventory + new bridle

With our formal show season officially wrapped, I thought it might be fun to update our inventory on show attire and tack. Especially since... Wowza it turns out I kinda bought a lot of stuff this past year. Yikes....

charles in all his glory
Long time readers will already know that I have somewhat miserly tendencies tho haha, and a lot of my stuff is used and second hand. But I also picked up a few new items (especially attire) on pretty good discounts from show vendors.

charles, in slightly less glory. also this clip grew out in less than a month wtf
So. Shall we go down the list of what I've been using? First up, dressage stuff!!

I mentioned recently that we did the last two dressage tests in jump tack. The reality is that... I just really really love my jump saddle, and also feel like maybe my dressage saddle is a bit wrong for my geometry too small for my butt. Womp lol. (for anyone interested, said Hulsebos dressage saddle may be for sale at some point!)

basically our outfit for everything with some adjustments to bridle depending on type of adventure
Using the same saddle for everything is actually kinda nice too. It's fitted with a luscious and reliably plush black Dover sheepskin half pad (consignment), whatever saddle pad happens to be clean, and a cheap no-name black fuzzy girth I picked up from consignment for $7 that Charlie likes above all else. And we're still using the Herm Sprenger KK Ultra loose ring snaffle for dressage (and jump lessons too).

dressage outfit!!
And in addition to changing Charlie's outfit from black to brown, I've changed up my own outfit too. My two main pairs of white breeches are Montars and FITS. Both of which I honestly pretty much love. They're comfortable and flattering, and have pockets. Boom.

rj classics show coat; kerrits sleeveless show shirt; equine couture long sleeve show shirt; usg belt
I picked up a new show coat at Kentucky this year, in what was undoubtedly a bit of a splurge. It's the RJ Classics mesh coat and I lufff it. It's comfortable, flattering (it has a zipper behind the buttons OMG!!), ventilated, and cleans up well. Hopefully I can keep it nice for a long time.

Ditto the Equine Couture long sleeve shirt I picked up from VTO's show tent this year. I'm not likely to wear this in very warm weather bc it's not a particularly cool material. But it's sturdy and also cleans up really nicely.

one k matte defender + bonus spider webs
The USG belt is new from Fair Hill, and I've been wearing it a lot. The colors are cute and it's flattering. Plus obvi it matches LOL.

My gloves for dressage are ancient Roeckls, and I recently replaced my helmet from a One K Defender in suede to a One K Defender in matte lol. I love how this helmet fits, and am hoping the matte finish holds up better than the suede. The suede was fine, but it started to look dingy by the end, ya know what I mean?

jompies outfit!!!
For jumping, it's not really too different. My shirt often changes depending on weather conditions. Especially in extreme heat I'm likely to stick with the lightest weight and lightest color shirt I can find. Otherwise, tho, I've gotten into the habit of wearing sunshirts like Kastel or, lately, the Equine Couture shirt.

Likewise, the breeches sometimes change too. I'm awful at laundry and want my whites to last... Tho again, when it's very hot or cold it's hard to fathom trying to peel one pair of pants off and another on haha. So the Montars and FITS have been my go-to, with my dark navy FITS pinch hitting when I feel like changing.

yep i decided to keep this black rodney powell beta 3 certified body protector
My pinny holder is from consignment, no idea what brand. Obnoxiously, tho, it's slightly too small to fit standard sized paper. It's not usually a big deal, but at Waredaca they printed rider numbers on heavier card stock so I actually had to trim them down with scissors to fit into the pinny.

My medical armband is from RoadID, won as a prize through Sara's volunteer challenge last year. And after polling the audience a few months ago, I've started wearing this black Rodney Powell body protector. I still have my navy Harry Hall (the lavender Rodney Powell sold) and find it useful to have two, but my go-to has been this black one lately. I like the front zipper so that it can come on and off even when I'm wearing my helmet.

charles owen helmet cover, with logo covered up by ebay patch for +100 badassery
Speaking of helmet, I continue to wear a One K skull cap with customized helmet cover. This helmet will presumably be replaced in the next couple years, at which point I'm going to try on a few different types since the One K skull cap fits differently from the Defender.

For now, tho, I hang on to it, and it has the mount for my Contour Roam helmet camera. Which, obvi, #priorities haha.

qhp sophia long boots
I wear the same tall boots for literally everything, and I LOVE them. These QHP Sophias are so much better than I had ever dared dream, and I am legitimately sad that I didn't buy a second pair to keep in the wings just in case. By the time I thought about it, all the browns were gone. So I got a second pair of blacks. But dumb me ordered the wrong size. Sigh.

For real, tho, these boots are wonderful and have broken in nicely. I'm trying really really hard to take care of them, including lovingly brushing out and waxing the zipper often. So far, so good, so we'll see I guess!

additional key players: leather bridle number tag; new jumping bat; $7 fuzzy girth; nunn finer neck strap
Alright. Moving on from attire, let's talk other gear. Also at Kentucky I picked up a leather bridle tag, which makes my plastic Dover version look hideous in comparison haha. Personally I think it looks much nicer than the paper bridle tags show organizers provide.

I picked up a new crop at Fair Hill that's the absolute maximum length allowable lol. The idea being, I could use it behind my leg without necessarily letting go of the reins. My one complaint is that the handle is actually kinda chunky and my hand has cramped up a bit after 5 minutes of clutching it in a death grip while on course lol.

full set of kentucky xc boots from ebay; tough 1 no-turn bell boots from consignment
Charlie's additional non-tack accessories include his boots and... That's basically it haha. I always imagined when I bought a thoroughbred that I'd finally be able to dress him or her up in all those cute bonnets. Compared to Isabel who didn't have bonnet-friendly sized head and ears. Unfortunately, tho, the reality is that any bonnet covers Charlie's big bright diamond-shaped star, and he just doesn't look like himself. So.... No bonnets. Le sigh!

same boots and bells over the final xc jump at waredaca, demonstrating that neither budged
The boots, tho. I picked up a full set of brown Kentuckys for my birthday a couple years ago after seeing some pros using them at events. I was having trouble finding boots that didn't rub Charlie, and figured they were worth a shot.

And? I like them well enough. They don't turn or hold dirt or water. And they've held up great to my abuse. The sizing is a little funny but they work for Charlie's dimensions (a horse with shorter legs might have trouble fitting the hinds). They're not particularly modern or technical.... But again, they seem to work well for Charlie so I haven't really found a reason to replace them.

More recently I picked up a pair of soft Tough 1 no-turn bell boots. Again, finding something that wouldn't rub Charlie has been a challenge. Plus I've had pretty terrible luck with "no-turn" bells in the past. These seem to work, tho! So we're keeping them.

handsome charlie <3 <3 mark todd bridle; dark jewel designs browband; road id medical bracelet
Phew, ok. Finally, let's talk tack. So much brown tack, wow. And actually, for the first time in 'Fraidy Cat History, I actually have a complete collection of tack that's.... all pretty nice, with not a frankenbridle to be seen!

Charlie has two brown jump bridles since we compete and school xc in a different bit than we use for dressage or normal jump lessons. It's the same mouthpiece: a Herm Sprenger KK Ultra in the Aurigan alloy. But with the gag Universal cheek pieces.

After years of fussing with double reins or curb straps and chains, I've simplified to just using a single rein on the curb. And? It works. Tho I also recently replaced the original bit with a slightly longer one that I think is less likely to accidentally pinch Charlie's lips.

same bridle; closer look at leather number tag; nunn finer reins + neck strap; herm sprenger KK ultra with universal cheek pieces
The bridle is a Mark Todd in the Dy'on style from Amanda, with extra long rubber Nunn Finer reins and a Dark Jewel Designs custom snap on browband with interchangeable bead strands. Ohhhh but how I love that snap on functionality! Ooooh, and as you know by now, I've started using a neck strap again, just a simple leather strap also by Nunn Finer.

one of my first DJD browbands - had it made for my black dressage bridles but quite like it on the brown bridle too!
The snap-on browband has actually been a fairly key player bc up until very recently, it passed back and forth between my show bridle and my schooling bridle that had the plain loose ring KK.

BUT!! Drum roll, please!! I'd like to introduce you to the newest member of the leather family, my new Dobert padded leather bridle!!

brand new Dobert brown dressage bridle!!
Gosh this thing is so pretty.... I'd been eyeing it in the VTO tent all season long (since obvi I can't go to a major event and not do at least a little shopping lol), and finally at the Waredaca Classic a couple weeks ago I begged pleaded and cajoled until we could work something out.

basically in love with it <3 and, ya know, that handsome pony face underneath
It's suuuuuper padded on the crown and noseband, with crank noseband. I love the shape and style of the noseband too, and the buckle closures on the cheeks. Plus, that browband, so pretty!

I got it without reins tho bc they wouldn't have been long enough for Charlie anyway. But the cheapo rubber reins I got from Maryland Saddlery earlier this summer continue to actually feel quite nice, so it all works out. So this is the bridle Charlie wears in our jump lessons, regular schooling, and now dressage tests at shows.

possibly my third favorite material possession (behind my truck and trailer): the l'apogee monoflap jump saddle
Finally, last but not least, the butt piece. My beloved L'Apogee monoflap jump saddle. This thing.... is my everything. I recently replaced the stirrup leathers with some free cheap things a barn mate was giving away (I think DaVincis?) but one day will have nicer leathers. Also recently added an "Oh Shit" strap after encouragement from Martin at that clinic lol...

Oooh, plus, my absolute favorite stirrup irons in the whole world: The Stubben Maxi Grips I picked up from Kentucky two years ago. These things are so grippy and comfortable on my feet, I can count on one hand the number of times I've lost an iron while using them.

Plus imo they're super attractive with the brushed aluminum. They don't show any signs of wear, and I appreciate that they're still very light weight.

So.... Yea, that about sums up our kit. I didn't think we'd shopped that much this year, but actually we're almost completely changed from even our last show of 2018. Funny how that happens haha. As it is tho, I'm pretty happy with our current set of gear and feel like it's pretty tuned in to what both Charlie and I like and need. Which hopefully means no more shopping for a while LOL!

What about you -- anyone else feeling like you've got all your stuff sorted? Or maybe you're in the opposite boat, still growing or collecting your kit? Or not quite satisfied with some of the key pieces? Or, lol, maybe you're hoping Santa will tick a few items off your wish list??