Product Review: Sun Shirts

The idea of wearing long sleeve shirts in the summer makes me want to faint, but with a big trip to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro coming up I thought it would be wise to invest in some sun shirts to protect myself from mosquitoes.

We’ve had a miserable heat wave the last week, so I took mercy on myself and wore sleeveless shirts, but before then I was able to test out a few different brands.

Ariat Sun Stopper Shirt

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Ariat is one of my favorite brands, so I picked up a few colors of their classic sun shirts with 1/4 zip tops. They also make several of the above colors in polo versions.

I know it totally goes against the idea of keeping you cool in the summer, but I bought the navy and red (so I can be patriotic!) and the navy geo. I like the look of the white striped one but I just don’t love wearing light colors to the barn, and I wanted to make sure that what I invested in could be used throughout the year.

The technical polyester/spandex fabric was very light and the shirt has fine mesh panels under the arms to help with airflow. Ariat’s Moisture Movement Technology is supposed to keep you cooler by pulling moisture away from the skin.

When you hold the shirt up to the light you can see through it, but it’s not too revealing. The 1/4 zip tops have a mock collar and stock tie loop, so the plain white shirt would work well for a show shirt.

I found the shirt to fit true to size and was stylish enough to wear out and to the barn. It was long enough to tuck in if needed and had flattering seams on the sides.

The fabric isn’t the softest compared to some of the other brands I tried, but it’s very light, and I felt it cooled my skin even when I sweat.

I wish they made a red and black one, then I’d be all set for those cooler cross-country days!

SmartPak EQology 1/4 Zip Long Sleeve Top

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I’ve been really impressed with SmartPak’s clothing, especially their breeches, and after trying an EQology short sleeve top I decided to try their budget sun shirt.

The tencel/bamboo material is eco-friendly and very light weight and has UV protection. I bought the turquoise first and thought it was too sheer, so I exchanged for the navy.  I don’t think it wicked moisture away as well as some of the other tops I tried.

The shirt has Raglan sleeves and thumb loops. I was not a fan of the fit of the sleeves, especially towards the bottom where they were quite baggy. I ended up rolling them up several times. They sort of felt like they’d been stretched out, but that’s just the design of the shirt. The rest of the shirt fit true to size on me.

Tuff Rider Ventilated Tech Shirt

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The Tuff Rider Ventilated Tech Shirt immediately felt heavier when I opened the package. The material also felt cheaper, but I think it’s just a different technology. It’s a thicker mesh with lighter mesh on the underside of the sleeves, and I felt a little “stuffier” when I rode. It’s not as sheer, so I think that contributes to the lower breathability factor.

It wasn’t my favorite for super hot days, but it comes in several sizes and with a good price!

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Kastel Denmark Signature Sun Shirt

Maybe it’s the $75 original price tag, but I feel so sophisticated and European wearing the Kastel Denmark Signature Sun Shirt.

They’re on sale on eBay for $25-$30 each though, so jump on it quick!

I have a zip up and 1/4 zip top one, and these are a close second favorite to the Ariat shirts. The material, which has a slightly pocked underside to aid in moisture wicking, is very soft and has a UPF 30 factor as well as anti-microbial agents to help keep the smell down.

The shirt looks very fitted in the promo photos, but I ordered my usual size and it wasn’t tight, which I prefer. The sleeves have fitted cuffs, which felt weird at first, but I much prefer that to the loose SmartPak sleeves. They also have a very fine mesh on the underside.

I think these did the best job with cooling. When I walked in my air-conditioned house after sweating through during a ride I almost immediately felt chilled! It was also very breathable during the ride.

I bought the royal blue and dark blue, and they’re thin, but not sheer thankfully!

July Thoughts: Rio’s Becoming A Reality and Still Walking

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I’ve been soldiering on through the July heat and humidity, counting down the days until I head off to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and until Oh So’s next appointment.

I worked at Great Meadow last weekend, a great local event that’s made lots of improvements in the three years since its inception.

Before that, I got to meet Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen in person, which was really cool. I’ve spoken over the phone with Clark over the last two years, and he’s always been very honest and open about the highs and lows of his partnership with Glen, so it was nice to meet him and Glen in person.

The event was brutally hot for dressage day, but cross-country was much cooler thankfully. It was a good day of sport and Clark and Glen easily got the win.

It was also fun to see the U.S. team off to Rio. They had about 15,000 spectators over the three days, which gave the event a big atmosphere, something that’s great for them, but not for the girl with the 300mm fixed lens!

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The new arena at the Great Meadow International.

At this point, the reality of Rio has finally hit. I’ve got my credentials, my vaccinations (six in one day!), I’ve stocked up on sun shirts (reviews to come), now all I need are the little things–bug spray, money belt, call the bank and get a phone plan.

I think I’ve downplayed the Olympics in my mind. I’m of the opinion that horse sports will be fine without the Olympics, and I don’t love the fact that the FEI is trying to change them, and eventing in particular, to suit the masses who will just never care. I’ve just never thought of them as the pinnacle of horse sport, but I’m coming to realize they’re still a big deal! The Pan Ams felt like just a puffed up horse show, but I think the Olympics are going to be a whole different ball game.

While it’s been a lot of work, I’ve enjoyed working on the eventing roster for our Olympic Preview issue because I’ve been Googling people from the smaller countries to find out who’s officially on their teams, fun facts and hometowns.

I’d love to know more about CCI*** events in Moscow or how the girl from Belarus ended up eventing. Hopefully I’ll be able to meet some people from smaller countries once we get there. One of my favorite parts of the Pan Ams was learning about riders from smaller countries who were so proud to bring attention to equestrian sports in their countries. I guess that’s why the Olympics could still be good for equestrian sports, but not at the expense of changing the heart of them.

I’m nervous and excited for my first trip to South America.

I’m always nervous to leave my horses, and this will be the longest I’ve ever been gone.

I know nothing about the language, but I’ve downloaded a phrase book, and I’m also going to find a book on the culture to read before I go (better late than never!). I’ve also got to read up on the food so I’ll know what to order since I’m kind of picky.

I’d love to do some sightseeing, but I have no idea if that will be possible. My hope is we can find a large group to go with at some point. I just want to see Christ the Redeemer, and I’ll be set!

This will be my bigger test as a journalist, and I’m excited to tackle it. We’re going to have some nice rented equipment from Nikon which will be amazing.

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Rocky and Lucky have a chat.

Everyone keeps asking me about Oh So, and I keep telling them, we’re still walking! We’re bored to death, and we’re doing a short bit of trotting each day so he doesn’t totally fall apart, but I am really struggling. A couple of nice friends have offered for me to ride their horses, but only on occasion, so I still feel very unfit, as if I’m wasting away just like Oh So.

I put a call out on Facebook to see if anyone had a horse to ride or half-lease, and no replies unfortunately, so I can only hope that Oh So’s appointment next month brings good news.

This horse has been my life for the last 9 years, for better or worse. When I’m not able to do what I love, what I work hard for and work hard at, I feel helpless and adrift, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever get back to it, at least with him.

It’s been really hard to get a grip on not doing the thing that I live for, the thing I’ve been doing for the last 20 years of my life.

I won’t be making any decisions until his next appointment, but I’ve certainly had enough to ponder on our long walks each day.

 

Product Review: Favorite Bathing Essentials

I’ve been trying out a few new products this summer from Pony Tails Products and Equifuse after liking what I tried for a recent issue of Untacked. Next on my list will be some more Ecolicious products, but for now, here are my thoughts!

Pony Tails Bubbles and Bucks Conditioning Shampoo

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After trying Pony Tails’ conditioning shine spray, I decided to try a few more products from the brand. Bubbles and Bucks conditioning shampoo is a lightly soap-scented milky product that definitely has the consistency of a conditioner.

Oh So doesn’t get dry skin, but I think this would be a good choice for a horse that does.

Pony Tails Foam and Frolic Soap-Infused Sponge

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When I first saw this soap-infused sponge, I thought, “Why?” But now that I’ve used it, I can definitely see how it could be useful.

The Foam and Frolic sponge is hard in the package, but once you get it wet it lathers up quite nicely. It’s meant to last about 3 washes, and that’s what I got out of it before it started to lack lather.

It got Oh So clean enough, but I don’t think it would replace my normal shampoo. I felt a little weird putting a wet and soapy sponge away in my bucket to dry again. I think it would be easy to use for away shows when you want a quick clean up or to use after cross-country as you’re cooling your horse out.

Pony Tails Mane Stay Styling Spray

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I was on the hunt for a new braiding aid after years of using QuicBraid. To be honest, the scent of QuicBraid holds a lot of memories for me, mostly of braiding Oh So at 4 in the morning before one of our prelim events, sick to my stomach with nerves! It’s amazing how much the scent affects me!

I also found QuicBraid a little sticky, but I think I’ve found my new replacement with Pony Tails’ Mane Stay.

It’s got a pleasant scent and gave me enough grip to braid without leaving my fingers feeling gross.

My hair’s not long enough to do much braiding, but this can also be used as a styling spray for humans.

The bottle is not super-convenient for hanging on my braiding belt, but that’s just a small nitpick!

Pony Tails Show Pony Shine High Gloss Serum

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I’ve been a die-hard Cowboy Magic Detangler user for the cost and quality, but I really liked Pony Tails gloss serum. It’s a little pricier than Cowboy Magic, but I liked how light it was. Most serums contain silicones that can make the mane and tail greasy, especially if you put in too much, but it was hard to go overboard with this. It contains natural oils that help detangle and give a soft shine without the slickness.

Equifuse Coolout

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Ever wanted a dry shampoo for your horse? I love dry shampoo for my fine hair as a mid-day volumizer and refresher, so I figured I’d try it for my horse to absorb excess oil and sweat. Equifuse’s Coolout is a light, airy white powder that you sprinkle on sweaty spots after you ride. After letting it sit for a couple of minutes, you brush and curry the spots, and voila! No more saddle marks.

An anti-bacterial agent is meant to help stave off any skin conditions. I’ll be curious to try this when mud season comes around again.

This is perfect for those cooler summer days when just a hack or light ride means you don’t need a full rinse–a plus when repeated daily baths can destroy feet in the dry months. A light touch is needed or your horse will be white!

Equifuse CFS Concentrate + Paste Horse Shampoo and Equifuse Rehydrinse 1-Step Coat Protector + Conditioner

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After trying Equifuse’s Shine Spray for Untacked, I decided to try a couple more of their bathing products. They’re a little pricey, so I went for the 1lb version of their paste shampoo and a new kind of product for me, the rehydrinse, which is basically a leave-in conditioner.

I’ve never actually used a paste shampoo, so it’s a new concept for me. The product was jelly-like in the container with no discernible scent. The brand recommends using 1 oz for a bath and states that the 1lb container can give you 60 washes, which comes out to .28 cents per wash.

It made Oh So pretty clean with the amount recommended, but I kind of guessed for his tail, and I think less is more! I was rinsing suds out for awhile.

The Rehydrinse is meant to be mixed in a bucket with a gallon of water and is supposed to condition the coat as a post-bath rinse. Wheat protein and almond oil help reduce static and grooming time.

Oh So’s coat felt pretty soft, but I think it also helped bring some residue I missed during his bath to the surface once it dried.

For those in a hurry, a spray on coat conditioner is probably easier than mixing up another bath and sweat scraping, but if your horse has dry skin I think this could be very useful.

Highs And Lows

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As with most things in life, horses are full of ups and downs. I’ve been on a slow and gradual downhill slide with Oh So since his original injury in 2013 as we’ve dealt with  little injuries here and there stemming from his age and recovery.

After a really amazing event at Seneca last weekend, we’ve unfortunately hit another bump on the way down.

He’s actually been going better than ever on the flat, as I’ve written about recently, and I was thinking of playing around at some dressage shows to do something a little more challenging than the novice tests. He’s felt sound under saddle, but I’ve noticed he’s been resting both of his front legs on the toe a little more often than usual. He’s done it at seemingly random intervals over the last year or two, but has always been sound. I decided to make an appointment with Morven Park though anyways to see if there was something else going on, and to get his back checked for kissing spine, which the chiropractor suggested at our last appointment.

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Seneca. GRC Photo.

Because he’s been going well though, Lisa and I decided to keep going with Seneca since the footing and weather was good.

We had a super early wakeup call, so maybe that’s why were both so relaxed, but we scored a 17.6 in the open novice division! It ended up being the lowest score of the whole show across any division. I have no idea why he was so relaxed, but I can count on one hand the number of times he’s been that rideable in a test. And it’s an added bonus that he’s been very relaxed in his warm ups lately so I don’t need more than about 25 mins of warmup.

The show jumping was OK. He was a little bit heavy in my hand and was tapping rails, but they all stayed up! The open course at Seneca is much better for me because it makes me ride forward.

The cross-country went well. Not much else to say about a novice course! I wish it was a little bigger, but it was well-designed and flowed nicely. We ended up winning by almost 10 points and won the TIP Award too!

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He had the Monday after Seneca off, then I did a little flatwork on Tuesday, and he felt OK-maybe a little stiff behind, but that’s normal for him.

My appointment was on Wednesday with Dr. Adams at Morven Park, who saw him about a two months ago when he needed his teeth done and was a little wonky behind (probably from being chased by a nasty horse at the old barn).

I wanted to have him check the DDFT sheath, and expected we might need to inject it to make him more comfortable, even if he wasn’t unsound, since it’s been about a year since the original DDFT sheath issue.

He flexed off on both front legs and was sore on palpation, which wasn’t surprising considering he’s been holding his legs up on occasion. Dr. Adams decided that we should inject the tendon sheath, but before we decided on that, we X-rayed his back.

Unsurprisingly, he has kissing spine and some arthritis in his back. I’m guessing he’s always had it, but in my inexperience I never thought about that and always worked on saddle fit before thinking about X-rays. He’s also been going very well, but Dr. Adams said he seems to have learned to live with it. He said we could inject his back, which I might do sometime, but that’s the least of my worries right now!

 We were about to just inject the tendon sheath on the left and be done with it, but I asked if we should have an updated ultrasound image. He said he didn’t feel it was necessary but did it anyways because I asked.

I’m now kind of sad I asked for it because he found a small core lesion near the suspensory branch on the right front, which was the leg with the original suspensory (that was located higher up).

He said it looked like fresh inflammation, but couldn’t really say for sure because he hadn’t seen the original injury. I’m having the vet who treated the original injury send him some images, but until then, he suspects it’s new. I’m also not sure how helpful they’ll be because his last ultrasound on that leg was probably mid-2014.

I doubt he did it when he was at Seneca. I think it’s just wear and tear, and while it could be nothing, the vet would prefer we’re cautious and wants me to let him have 2 months of walking and trotting then have it rechecked.😦 I might pursue shockwave too to help it along.

His overall impression was that Oh So is beginning a pattern of injury that shows he compensating for pain elsewhere.

I know the day will come one day when he will no longer be able to be ridden, but I’m not ready for that yet, and I don’t think he is either. It just doesn’t seem right that a 16-year-old horse should be retired!

While I wait to hear from the vet, I’ve been pondering what to do with a lot of people I trust, and I still just don’t have the answer. Some people think I should just keep riding him until he is lame, which may not be for a long time., but what if I make the lesion worse? He can’t go through anymore stall rest, so if it comes to that, he’ll have to be retired totally.

The problem with letting him have any kind of downtime is that other parts of his body will start to weaken, like his hind end, then we never get anywhere as we work to build it up again.

I just have to decide how many more times I want to go through with the whole letting him down and legging him back up cycle. It’s exhausting and frustrating that I (selfishly) can’t have goals or anything to look forward to. I’m kind of just living on a wing and prayer right now that he comes out sound every day.

My second option is to let him have his two months of light work, hope he doesn’t break down elsewhere or get too bored, and pursue other horses to ride, which is sort of what I’m leaning towards. I’m just not quite ready to get another horse yet because it’s sort of an either or situation. Either he retires and I get another horse or he stays in work going through the the same cycle of frustration.

I can’t afford to board two riding horses, and I’m just not sure about leasing him to someone who’s not familiar with his issues, but I also don’t think he’s ready to sit in a field yet.

Once I’m done with the Olympics in August, we can ultrasound again and see where we’re at, then maybe pursue another horse, which I want to be my next Oh So. I don’t think I’m cut out for the business of selling. It’s just too painful.

It’s been a weird couple of months since I sold Bear. I do best when I’m busy, and two horses was just enough for me. I’ve gradually gotten used to having one (fragile) horse, which is an uncomfortable feeling, and now I’m sort of screwed. I’m a planner, and now I have no plans. I’m goal-oriented, and I have no goals for the first time in my riding career.  My horse(s) and my job are my life. I see people posting on social media about how awesome their weekends are with their horses, and I’m not sure of the next time we’ll even have a lesson.

I had a nice, quiet visit home this weekend to just spend time with Sam and the minis and my cats, which helped me think, but the decision is still cloudy in my mind. I wish it could just be made for me!

I’d love to hear in the comments if anyone has been through a similar situation. I’m just afraid of making the wrong decision.

In other news, I had a nice visit up to Bromont in Canada earlier this month. I spent a day in Montreal, which seemed like a nice city to live in, but was a little low on actual things to do. Next up is the Nations Cup at Great Meadow, then the Olympics!

Product Review: Smartpak Piper Breech With Silicone Grip Fullseat

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The minute I saw Smartpak’s new Piper Silicone Fullest breeches, I had to have them. I’m a fan of their original Pipers and have several colors. They’ve become my go-to schooling breeches, and I use a dark brown pair for cross-country at events and a black pair for dressage schooling shows.

I was intrigued by the silicone grippers on the new Pipers, and picked the black and white pair to try, but there are so many other fun colors I would love to have.

They’re very similar to the original Pipers in fit (a mid-rise on me that requires a belt to fit the best) and just a little more expensive.

I’ll admit, it was a weird feeling sitting the saddle for the first time in these. I felt like I had a little less give in my seat, and they actually squeaked a little in the leg area as I broke them in during the first few rides. Maybe it was because I tend to grip with my knees a little? I guess that’s a good reason not to!

When I got off, I noticed little squares imprinted on the seat of my saddle, but those went away after a few minutes.

I’ve found my other pairs of Pipers wear out in the crotch through the full seat material very quickly and tend to pill a little, but I wear them ALOT. These don’t have the same material in the full seat so I’ll be curious to see how they hold up.

If you’re worried about them imprinting in very soft leather, these might not be for you, but if you want a fun pop of color at a good price, these are a good buy.

Available at Smartpak.com for $99.95 or a little less with a USEF discount. Smartpak also makes a knee patch version.

Catching Up On May

It’s been a very interesting month that started with me finishing up an awesome weekend at Rolex and took a hard turn at Jersey Fresh.

A lot has already been said about the tragedies at Jersey Fresh where Philippa Humphreys died in a fall on cross-country and a horse was euthanized due to an injury, so I won’t add much else.

It was an eerie feeling to be there on Sunday morning, unlike any event I’ve ever been to. I’ve been to a few events where a horse has been euthanized, but it was just a totally different feeling in the air when a person died. It was somber and quiet for show jumping, and the event became a challenge to write about, knowing that while the winners were happy with their horses, there was still a dark cloud hanging over the weekend.

I’m proud of how the story turned out for the magazine though. I spoke with a few riders and people involved with the event, and got some interesting responses about safety in the sport and dealing with a tragedy.

Unfortunately my  co-worker and friend Kimberly was at the fence when it happened, and I can only imagine what she’s going through. As an enthusiast of the sport and someone who wants to try it, I hope it doesn’t dampen her spirit. In the end, we’re all out there knowing the risks but loving the reward. There’s no better feeling than coming off a cross-country course, knowing maybe you were a little scared before and getting it done when you thought you couldn’t, or breezing around on a young horse who’s finally “getting it.”

There are people out there working to make the sport safer but it takes time and money. I don’t think galloping at solid fences on a 1,000lb animal will ever be totally safe, but things can get safer.

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Oh So has been feeling as good as ever on the flat. I’ve been able to have several flat lessons over the last few weeks, and we’ve been working on our walk/canter and canter/walk transitions and just really being able to stretch him down in trot and canter.

I had a chiropractor out to work on him about 2 weeks ago, and he was quite sore over his back, which he sort of always has been despite frequent saddle fits. The vet thought he might have a mild case of kissing spine, which he may have always had, but it’s hard to know when his work has been getting better under saddle.

I’ve started him on Robaxin to see if that helps him, but I think I’m going to pursue a spinal X-ray and see if injecting his back might make him more comfortable.

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I took him to Morningside for a novice CT two weekends ago, and it was pouring rain the whole time! I can’t seem to luck out there this year. Three out of the four times I’ve been it’s been miserable.

The footing was horrendous, but the base was OK, so we went ahead and competed. I hardly had much of a planned warm up since I was so worried about the footing. He was tripping a bit during the test, and we were both just trying to get through it. We scored a 27.5, but it was far from a fluid test. He just felt a bit tight and unhappy, sort of like me!

The show jumping warm up on the track was basically a giant puddle, so we jumped two fences, literally, and then waited about 15 minutes for our turn. I hate the jumper show-type schedule, but he was remarkably good for waiting around, and I didn’t screw it up too bad! I picked to fence 4, and he landed on the wrong lead,, and I brought him back to trot to get it, but other than that, it was an OK round. We ended up winning! He feels really good so I’m hoping we can try a training CT next time, at the very least for the more interesting dressage test.

On Sunday we finally got out to an event! It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since his last one at Waredaca.

Unfortunately it was just the starter trial at Loch Moy, so the fences were quite small and the course design was a bit twisty. I feel like we could have done the training, but just to be out was a gift in itself.

Our dressage of course ended up in the newer ring of five, which had the deepest footing. Neither of us liked it, so again, our test was just trying to get through. We scored a 27.8. My dad missed our test though, so no video!

Show jumping was a bit inconsistent on my part. I just need to be able to get in the ring frequently or I start freaking out and picking or taking long ones.

Cross-country was pretty good too. I had a beautiful jump out of the water and turned the wrong way…oops! I realized my mistake and had to make an awkward turn back to a random loop on course, but the rest of it was good.

Everything felt out of stride, all I had to do was lift up my chest a bit as a I came to the jumps and he rocked back and found them, just like old times!

We ended up winning and got the TIP reserve award!

On Monday I moved him to a new barn in Waterford, about 20 minutes from my place but not really on the way to work unfortunately. It’s brand new, and there’s a nice indoor, but at the moment the footing is too deep for him. I’m hoping it will settle by the winter.

The areas around the barn are under construction, as is the interior of the barn, but it will be done soon. He’s settled in seemingly well and is out with an older gelding and two mares, the first time he’s ever even touched a mare I think! So far so good though. He seems to have met his doppleganger in one of them. It’s hard to tell them apart.

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Who’s who?

I’ll miss my friends at the other barn, but I learned a lot about boarding and what I can live with and without while I was there. The main reason I started looking was because he was being beaten up by a recently gelded jerk of a horse. When a paddock finally opened up for that horse and then Bear sold, I thought it would be a good opportunity for a fresh start.

I’m happy to be at a place now where I feel comfortable about everything involving my horse’s care and have a barn owner who lives on site and treats each horse individually, so I know he’ll be in good hands.2016-06-01 17.59.05This month I’m planning on running the novice at Seneca and maybe doing a couple of first level tests at a dressage schooling show because I’m getting tired of doing the same boring novice test!

I’m also heading off to Bromont next week, which is one of my favorites!

 

Product Review: Shine Sprays

My guys were the slickest ones at the barn this spring as I tested out a bunch of shine sprays for Untacked.

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