A Tale Of Two Shows

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve taken Oh So to two schooling dressage shows. We started with Morningside on Sept. 23, where we did First Level 2 and 3.

Unfortunately they were running behind, so I was probably on a bit too long, and it was hot! But he was OK with it and stayed quite calm. Luckily they were finished with the second ring by the time I went at the end of the day, so I was able to school in it before my test, which was really helpful for both of us.

Since I was the last ride of the day though, literally everyone was gone by the time I went in for my second test! It’s always something right? But he was extremely relaxed and rideable, so I was able to really go for it.

The judge really liked him, save for him being a bit behind the vertical at times. It’s hard for me to really feel that consistently unless I have someone on the ground or mirrors.

The judge was very impressed with how good he was despite all the horses being gone. We were literally the last trailer in the parking lot too!

Jennifer Ashley Photography photo.
Jennifer Ashley Photography photo.
Jennifer Ashley Photography photo.

This past weekend we went to a new venue for me, Compass Rose Farm in Haymarket, and rode the same two tests. They had a nice outdoor warm up ring and a Coverall ring, then a bit of a walk to the actual outdoor competition ring, so that was another good test. He tends to build if he has to stop work and get to the competition ring. There was also not a lot of space around the arena, like at Morven, so he could have gotten right with no room to make a circle and bend and keep his back soft, but he didn’t.


The ‘L’ judge was absolutely smitten with him, saying it was the best test she’d judged all day, if ever. I mean, we’re not exactly God’s gift to dressage, but I’ll take it! She said the thing she noticed the most was the harmony between us, which really meant a lot. As with many event horses, showing that harmony can be difficult at times!

Now I’m at Fair Hill for the weekend and looking towards the starter trial at Waredaca in a few weeks. We’ve had a couple of good jump and cross-country schoolings, so I’m feeling ready other than a little weak and painful in my right ankle, but that will get better with time.

I’m so excited to back in the show ring and to have some goals to work towards, and I think Oh So is too.

I had a lesson with Heidi last week before Compass Rose, and she had no complaints about any of our first level work, and I’m feeling a bit bored with it, so we’re going to push on with the second level work again now that we’re both fit enough.




Celebrating 10 Years With Oh So

This post is a little late, but here goes!

Ten years ago on Sept. 28 I drove out of Michelle and Dustin Craig’s barn with Oh So in tow. It’s been a life-changing experience to bring along my first OTTB, and he’s certainly taught me a lot about patience, being brave and most of all, living every day to the fullest, because after all, that’s how he got his name, Oh So Extreme. Everything he does is to the extreme.

He’s been there through the tough times and many life changes, and looking between his ears remains a privilege.

While he can sometimes get tense on the flat and I’ve certainly not helped him in the show jumping over the years, on cross-country he never says no, and that’s really what it’s all about in this sport. From the biggest drop I’ve ever seen to the skinniest angled brush, he relishes jumping and galloping, whether I’m ready to go or not!

While he still believes he should be jumping around prelim, Lisa and I must insist he take it easy as he gets older so he’ll stay sound and happy.

So, we’ll continue to compete as we can, even if it’s only at novice, and he’ll take it just as seriously. Like Lisa has always said, he’s a man on a mission!

Here are some of my favorite photos of us over the years.

Product Review: One Summer, Three Fly Sheets

With Oh So living out for the first time this summer and Thomas needing his own fly sheet, I’ve been researching the best kind for fit and price. Oh So has worn a Weatherbeeta fly sheet, similar to this Comfitec one for the past few years at home, but only occasionally since he lived in part of the day and because he’s black and sweated a lot.

Horseware Amigo Mio Fly Sheet

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Amigo Mio Combo Fly Sheet

I’d had an Amigo Mio Combo fly sheet for Sam that I brought with me for Oh So when I moved, and it had held up well over a few years, albeit not worn every day.

For the price, I decided to get Oh So his own when it finally kicked the bucket earlier this summer with a few tears in the attached neck and on the trim.

I bought the same model, but within a week of wearing it he’d torn the straps nearly off! I’m really disappointed because it is an affordable fly sheet and is fairly lightweight and soft, so he wasn’t sweating in it except on the hottest of days, at which point I usually don’t bother with a fly sheet anyways.

I’m not a huge fan of the attached neck since it was a little short on his absurdly long neck and I’d rather be able to pick a size, but otherwise it was easy to put on with cross belly straps and two buckles on the front, plus two velcro enclosures on the neck. The tail cover was long enough to give lots of protection.

If your horse is rough on his clothing or lives out 24/7 this might not be the best choice but on the surface it seems like a good value for the money.


WeatherBeeta Bug Beeta Fly Sheet

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WeatherBeeta Bug Beeta Fly Sheet

I’ve had decent luck with my older WeatherBeeta fly sheet so I decided to try the Bug Beeta Detach-A-Neck fly sheet, which looked very lightweight online.

I wasn’t looking to spend a lot of money, so this one fit the bill for Thomas. The photo above is the sheet right out of the packaging. It looks a little stiff, but it’s extremely lightweight. The shoulders are lined to prevent rubbing, although after wearing it continuously for a few weeks he did end up getting rubs.

The belly band is nice since he’s been getting eaten alive on his midline. The only complaint Thomas has is that if you go to pull it forward and adjust when it’s already on, like I tend to do when I’m out visiting him in the field, his hair sticks up through the mesh and pulls forward, which is super uncomfortable. I’ve now been bitten in the side for my efforts!

He hasn’t damaged the sheet so far, but he’s the alpha in the field so I’m guessing no one’s going to try to nip at him. Since it is so lightweight I would have expected it to rip faster than the Amigo sheet, but it’s still kicking! I’m not sure I can recommend this one for horses who play rough. Try at your own risk!

Rambo Fly Buster Vamoose Fly Sheet

Of all things, I entered a contest on Equiratings’ Facebook page and won this fly sheet! Thanks Equiratings and Horseware Ireland!

This is a pretty amazing fly sheet. It’s made from an anti-rip material that’s self-healing, so if your horse gets a stick or something in it, it will mold back to form. Very cool!

The Vamoose technology means the sheet is pre-treated with permethrin to help repel flies. It’s good for 35 washings.

The sheet has an extra wide belly band with the three straps, which were a little complicated and time consuming, but it definitely keeps the gnats away.

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The neck cover was long enough for Oh So, but was a little loose, but it’s detachable and has a mane liner to prevent rubs. The tail cover was extra long and had a little loop on the underside to pull his tail through.

The front V enclosure will be familiar to those with Rambo blankets, and there are leg arches to help with movement.

Unfortunately after wearing the sheet for about a week continuously, Oh So started getting rubs. I think it’s partly due to his narrow-chested conformation, but he doesn’t get such immediate rubs wearing his Rambo blankets so I was a little surprised. Combined with the material, which seems a bit heavier than the other sheets I’ve tried, and this is an “occasional” sheet for us, despite it being my favorite.

It’s also a bit pricey, but with all the technology put into it and the durability, I think it’s well worth it as an investment.

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As much as I would love Oh So and Thomas to live in fly sheets all summer to prevent bleaching and getting bit by horse flies, I think the reality of living out 24/7 is that sometimes it’s just too hot and they’re inevitably going to get rubs! But if I had to recommend one sheet it would be the Rambo. It’s durable and covers all areas, which I think are the two priorities of a fly sheet.

Products I’m Loving Right Now

As I’ve written before, I’m a product junkie, horse and human! Here are a few items I’ve been loving this year.

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Oh So loves his Frilly Fillies bonnet.

Frilly Fillies Bonnet

I was late to the party on the custom ear bonnet trend, but I finally bought one for Oh So this spring in our cross-country colors. I can’t say it’s something I needed for showing, but it does spice up our simple black and white dressage outfit and makes us look cool on cross-country! I’m not huge of glitter, so I went with a shimmery white thread on the red trim.

I’ve used the bonnet a few times so far, and it washes easily by hand and comes nice and clean. The thread is quite soft and the ears are made of a stretchy fabric that is custom fit to your horse’s ear size.

They have every color combination imaginable, and you can get logos stitched on too. They range from $85-$110. Now the fun is picking out one for when Thomas is ready to show!


Officinalis Avocado Gel Soap

I’d never heard of this European brand before, so while ordering from EquestrianCollections.com, I added this saddle soap to my cart. It’s a liquid with a mild sweet scent. It absorbs quickly as advertised and is made from natural ingredients.

I like to wipe my boots and bridles off after riding, and this has made for a good daily cleaner. It doesn’t soap up too much, which I appreciate for a quick wipe down of my bridles. The soap retails for $11.


Officinalis Dry Shampoo

I’m always down to try another dry shampoo. I love using them on days when I’m just grooming or when my horse’s are just a little damp under the saddle.

Officinalis has several versions of their dry shampoo, including Blueberry and Blackberry for dark coated horses, Chamomile for grey horses and stains or for horses that need a skin-soothing topical, Lavender with soothing and antibacterial properties, Rose for chestnuts and bays, and Sage, another for itchy, flaky skin that can help repel insects.

I love the scents, and they leave my horses as clean as they can be without a bath! They retail for $16.


Shires Satin Anti-Rub Bib

A co-worker turned me on to this alternative for guarding against blanket rubs. Living out for the first time this winter, Oh So has a narrow chest and shoulders and Thomas has a wide chest and shoulders, and the both got blanket rubs with Weatherbeeta and Rambo blankets, and with the traditional stretchy shoulder guards.

I was skeptical that these would stay in place with just the small tab that the chest buckle goes through, but lo and behold, these things shifted less than my other should guards that attach under the chest and belly!

Oh So and Thomas already had mild shoulder rubs when I tried these halfway through winter, but the rubs definitely did not get any worse, so I think they’re a keeper!

They’re easily washable and less prone to getting soiled than the other brands. While they’re not made of a breathable fabric, I’m wondering if I might try them under my fly sheets on days it’s not deathly hot. They retail for about $13, which is also cheaper than the stretchy ones!


Kastel Denmark Sunshirts

I’ve tried a lot of sun shirts over the last couple of years, and Kastel’s Charlotte Signature shirts are my absolute favorite. While they’re quite pricey at $75 each, I’ve never paid that price because I monitor their site for summer clearance sales. They’ll also put some products on Ebay where you can get a shirt for $25-$35.

The fabric actually feels cooling, and dries quickly, and the mesh under the sleeves is great for ventilation. I’m a huge fan of color blocking too, so I love the color combinations they have. I’m waiting for the above shirt to go on sale because I’ve had a hard time finding a true red and black technical fabric shirt for cross-country!

They feature antibacterial odor reduction in the fabric, and I definitely smell less when I drive home from the barn!

I wear these on assignment and for riding as long as it’s not 90 degrees and humid. At that point, any type of long sleeve shirt is too much for me!

My only nitpick is that I purchased a short sleeve version for the first time this year, and it didn’t fit as true to size as the long sleeved ones. In fact, the cuffs on the sleeves fit me quite tight. I would recommend sizing up in the short sleeve version. I love the full zip version too, but it looks like they might be phasing those out. Sad face!



Book Review: New Track, New Life: Understanding And Retraining The Off-Track Thoroughbred

This review originally appeared in the July/August issue of the Chronicle’s Untacked.


New Track, New Life: Understanding And Retraining The Off-Track Thoroughbred

By Kimberly Godwin Clark

This book came across my desk at exactly the right moment. I’d just picked up my new off-the-track Thoroughbred and was excited to start his retraining. I’ve brought along two other OTTBs in my life—one straight from the track who was quite simple and sweet, and the second who came to me with walk, trot, canter and knowledge of basic jumping, but after reading Kimberly Godwin Clark’s book, I realized there was a lot about the breed that I didn’t know.

Clark has galloped, trained and owned Thoroughbreds for 30 years and has been promoting them for adoption since 2007, both on her own and through her non-profit, Thoroughbred Placement Resources, so she brings a wealth of detailed knowledge.

Before I bought my OTTB, the only time I’d ever been to the track was to watch a race on a summer evening, so Clark’s step-by-step description of how the track works was extremely interesting. She describes the details of everyone’s job at the track, what kind of tack your OTTB wore, and how they were ridden and trained. She then walks the reader through a first trip to the track and what to expect—researching the horse online before you go, etiquette in the barns, evaluating a horse for sale, and how to make an offer.

In the second half of the book, Clark offers advice on everything from how to start a recently retired race horse to what to feed, how to deal with turnout, behavior modifications and when things go wrong.

If you’re new to OTTBs, it’s always a good idea to get help from an experienced person. But before you embark on the journey, New Track, New Life is an educational read to help you have a positive experience with your new partner.

Product Review: Saddlebox Monthly Subscription Box

I’m always up for trying new products, so when I discovered Saddlebox, a monthly subscription box for horse lovers, I was excited to try it.

I’ve been a subscriber to A Horse Box for several months, and I enjoy getting a box of surprises in the mail each month! I’ve found a few new brands that I enjoy through my monthly boxes and have received a lot of old favorites too.

Saddlebox retails for $37.95 a month and contains around $60 worth of products. Each month subscribers will receive 6-8 products for horses and humans. A percentage of the proceeds goes towards helping “rescue abused horses,” but the portion donated and names of the charities are not listed on their website. They do have a page that suggests places to donate to though, so I’m guessing those are the organizations that will benefit.

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The Products

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Horse-Shaped Hand Soap

Each Saddlebox will contain at least one item for riders. There’s nothing special about this unscented soap, but it would look nice on a bathroom countertop!

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Kiss My Horse Sample Set

I love sample sizes for traveling and testing products. They’re especially good for sensitive horses (and humans) too so you can make sure the product doesn’t give yours an allergic reaction.

I was surprised to find out that Kiss My Horse is a brand from the makers of Mrs. Conn’s soap-filled sponges, which I’ve received twice in my A Horse Box.

The kit contains a shampoo, conditioner and detangler. I haven’t used the samples yet, but wow, they smell good enough to eat! Sort of a mix of coconut and pineapple…very appropriate for summer.

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Bridle Bites Horse Treats

Saddlebox features a different recipe of their homemade brand of treats each month. Rocky got to be the tester, and he gives them two thumbs up! They contain flour, molasses, cinnamon and frosting.

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Epona LOVE Curry Brush

This wooden brush retails for $11.99. It can be used as a mane and tail comb or a massager on the body, and it also helps loosen hair, dander and dirt. No complaints from Oh So!

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Epona Sponge

This appears to be a smaller version of Epona’s Scrubby Sponge Sack. It contains a sponge inside, which can be replaced. I’ve used the larger version before, and it’s definitely better than a regular sponge due to the textured fabric that helps work the shampoo into the coat. It’s easy to hang dry too, making it a must for bath time.

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Herbsmith Liniment (sample size)

Made with witch hazel and Chinese herbs, this natural liniment smells nice due to a small amount of menthol. I’ve tried it before from A Horse Box and liked it. It’s not too tingly for Oh So’s sensitive Thoroughbred skin.

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Spurr’s Big Fix Filly Cream Moisturizer (sample size) 

Spurr’s sells several products for horses, cattle and dogs, including a hoof spray and wound ointment. I’d never heard of this brand, but it seems a little pricey for full-size items. The all-natural moisturizer included in the boxcan be used on horses or humans and has a light citrus scent. I couldn’t find directions for use on horses, but I think it might work as a leave-in conditioner on manes and tails.

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The Horse Lovers Guide To Massage (book)

I’m not a fan of hard copy books these days, but this looked interesting enough. It’s a quick read about basic massage techniques, equine anatomy and how to find a massage professional. There’s a coupon code for 20% off any e-course, and a link to a free video series that goes along with the book. I don’t read a lot of books personally, so I don’t think I’d want to get one every month.

Overall, I think the selection of items was quite good. I think trial-sized items are good, especially if you have one horse. Things can start piling up quickly! A Horse Box sends 5 items a month for $25 in comparison. I don’t want to get a book every month, and if Saddlebox could maybe replace that with another full size item, I might be inclined to subscribe. But for now, $37.95 is a bit too pricey for me.

I do like the idea of donating proceeds to charity though, so if I could afford it, I’d probably try a few more boxes.

The company just started in May, so this is their second box, and I’m sure they’ll refine things as they go along. I like the idea of having a theme each month too. They’re offering 10% off for life for new subscribers, which brings the cost down to about $34 per month.

Disclaimer: Saddlebox contacted me and sent a box to try for free.


Product Review: Shires Stormbreaker Lite Sheet and Jersey Cooler

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Before I won a trip to the Longines Wellington Masters last year, I’d never won anything in my life!

Then one day this winter I randomly entered a contest again on Practical Horseman’s Facebook for a Shires blanket, and I won!

I’ve never tried a Shires brand blanket, having always been loyal to Weatherbeeta and Rambo’s various brands.

I was sent the Stormbreaker Lite Sheet in black/tan with a standard neck. It features 1200 denier waterproof material with shoulder gussets, adjustable chest clips, a wither relief pad, cross belly straps and cross leg straps.

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Front view of the light sheet.

I’ll admit I’ve gotten so used to the single tail strap on my Amigo blankets that cross leg straps were mildly annoying, but they’re certainly something I’m used to from Weatherbeeta blankets.

The front chest straps were a nice touch. I tend to adjust those on the buckle end to get the right fit and then only use the snaps end for quick on and off.

I only tried the blanket on Oh So, who’s a 78″, and it fit true to size. The shoulder gussets aren’t a necessity for him since he’s very narrow-chested, but they certainly didn’t hurt.

Since I got this late in the season, I was only able to test it out a few times in the pouring rain, and he was dry underneath after spending all day outside. I can’t speak to the wear and tear yet, but with about a month’s use it still looks good.

He was in need of a new sheet anyways, so we’ll see how long this one lasts! The sheet retails for $134.99 and comes in sizes 69″-84″.

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Shires Jersey Cooler

I also received a nice jersey cooler in my prize pack. I tend to use half fleece, half mesh coolers during the winter, spring and fall because Oh So runs hot, so I think Thomas will be using this the majority of the time.

It’s also came in black/tan, but is available in navy. It’s quite simple, with cross belly straps, a tail cord and a simple buckle front chest closure.

The outer jersey alter is quite smooth, so nothing stuck to it, and the underside was fleece to keep him warm. It was quite smart, and I think I’ll be using this a lot for trailering.

It comes in sixes 69″-84″ and retails for $62.99, making it a good value for a smart looking cooler.

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Front buckle of cooler