Bit Fitting Clinic

Last week we adventured to Duluth for a bit-fitting clinic. I was on the fence about doing this…the weather wasn’t great for traveling, it required my husband taking the day off work to stay home with Pehr, and it was expensive.

But, I have been riding in the same bit since I started down the dressage path, and I’m pretty sure it’s not ideal for Clay (I bought it because it’s what everyone uses, not based off of any knowledge.) I know nothing about how to pick a bit or fit one correctly. It was info I really wanted to have in my arsenal.

So we made the 1.5 hr trek to the beautiful Spring Hill Farm to see what we could learn. I went with a tiny bit of intel under my belt already, having had the chance to try a couple different Neue Schule bits during my lessons recently.

I felt an incredible difference in Clay when I tried the Neue Schule Turtle Top bit. My half-halts felt super clear and therefore could be more subtle, and he wasn’t getting offended by them like he normally does (which he shows by stiffening his neck or coming above the bit for a second). His shoulders felt more lifted, and the bottom of his neck soft (two things we typically struggle with). So I knew I wanted to try that one at the clinic for sure.

When it was our turn, we warmed up in our old bit and then the clinician, Kim Gentry, asked me some questions about what we’re working on and what some of our struggles are. We then dove into trying different bits. The first couple we tried made Clay stiffen his neck and jaw, especially to the right. With one of them I had no right half-halt.

Clay looks THRILLED to be doing this.

On to the next. The Turtle Top. Right away it was like butt-ah…Clay was so soft and accessible, and his canter had hop to it. He felt relaxed, steady and comfortable. We swapped it out for the Tactio version just to see how he liked that, and I felt like he was back to being offended by my half-halts with that one. We swapped it for a bit by a different brand that is similar to the regular Turtle Top but with a little more tongue pressure….NOPE. He doesn’t fancy tongue pressure.

The Turtle Top was the clear winner. Kim measured Clay…All this time, I thought he was a medium (5-5.5) but he is between a L and an XL (5 3/4)! Whaaaaat! Turns out his tongue is large and his mouth is fleshy, which is why he is likely happiest in a bit that gives lots of tongue room and doesn’t put pressure on his soft tissue. I bought the Turtle Top in XL, in the bradoon ring size so that I can use it with the double bridle when the time comes.

Kim also said his Cob sized bridle was too small for him and he needs something cut back more around the ears. I guess I have been stuffing him into too-small everything. Sheesh! I was planning on finding a used double bridle on eBay this winter but now it looks like I need to budget for a bigger snaffle bridle too…

Now it was time to find a curb bit that complimented the snaffle. Knowing he likes lots of tongue freedom, Kim nailed it on the second try this time, with a Bemelmans (it has a wiiiiide channel for the tongue).

OMG OMG look how handsome in his big boy bridle!!!! I am dead.

It was Clay’s very first time in a double, so I didn’t ask for much right off the bat…we just walked and trotted around a bit with a slightly longer neck, so he could get used to all that metal in his mouth. He was super steady and relaxed, with a soft lower neck. I was thrilled!

After a few mins I started taking up the contact more and asking him to go forward into the bridle. He felt lovely and comfortable. I sat the trot, tried a little lateral work, a couple transitions from collected trot to medium and back, and cantered a little. Wow. It all felt amazing. Kim said it looked great, so we called it good at that.

Clay seemed really comfy in the bridle she let us try, but I can’t afford two bits AND a brand-new bridle right now, so I didn’t order the curb bit or the bridle yet. I’ll be making that purchase later this winter when we actually start doing double bridle work. Either way, it’s a relief to know which curb bit to get when the time comes, and also that it works well together with the Turtle Top.

Overall, this experience was an expensive one (a top-of-the-line bit, the fee for the clinic, and my own travel time/expenses definitely added up quick…), but the clinic saved me SO much time that would have been spent messing around with buying and returning random bits.

Anything that makes my horse more comfortable in his work and my aids more effective and quiet is a worthwhile investment.

Thanks to Spring Hill Farm for hosting, and to the wonderful Erin and Heather who spent lots of time organizing this opportunity!

What We’re Working On: Straightness, Balance & Feeling Right from Wrong

We had a great lesson with Kate Phillips this month. The primary focus was straightness, and maintaining better balance in our canter work.

The videos above are cell-phone quality (sorry), but if you’re interested in watching, you can see the exercises Kate had us do, and you can watch us struggle our way through them. I always cringe when I share videos…I am critical of my riding. No one likes to air their imperfections, right? But I have learned so much from watching myself and others in lessons, so (gulp) here you go.

The trot work we began with REALLY prepped Clay well for the canter work we did. He was so off the seat and right under me by the time we got to the canter, thanks to all the lateral stuff we did at the trot.

I have probably mentioned this before, but Clay is a surprisingly really wiggly dude. It’s surprising because he is very square-built and compact, and typically horses built this way are very easy to keep straight…Collection and straightness tend to be their strong-points. Clay, however, almost always tries to “cheat” true straightness and collection.

If you’re thinking about his hind legs tracking evenly and taking more weight, he’s almost surely pushing out through his ribs or dropping a shoulder. If you’re thinking about lifting his shoulders, he’ll almost always swing his hind-end one way or the other to evade the collection. Keeping him all together is much harder than it seems.

In fact, an “S” Judge trainer once yelled at me during a clinic because I was trying to explain what I was feeling (that he was wiggle-ing all over), and she thought that was totally impossible because “this type of horse just doesn’t do that.” Ha! I would have liked her to get on him….It’s OK–the trainers who have ridden him and know him well know exactly what I am feeling and dealing with.

Because he is talented and gives a really nice feel (he stretches into the contact and stays soft and round in the bridle, and he is nice and forward) it can be really hard to feel whether he is actually correct or not-quite. Learning to feel the difference between correct and not-quite-correct has been a long process for me, but I feel like I am finally consistently getting it.

Now that I am riding with correct feel more often, Clay is strengthening in the right ways and trying to cheat less. It’s actually amazing how quickly he gave up some of his favorite evasions as soon as I “closed that door”. This is a huuuuuge key to our progress.

The Big Breech Round-Up

I farmed ya’ll for intel a while back, to see if anyone knew of a great pair of breeches for $100 or less. You were all super helpful, and I tried a bunch of different brands and styles–some that were suggested and some that I just randomly stumbled upon. The verdict, after all that testing, was yes and no…

I say yes, because decent breeches do exist at that price point. I found a couple pairs that I really like, and I will elaborate more on them in a sec.

I say no, because most of the breeches I tried at that price point got returned. And ultimately, my favorite pair of breeches–the ones I reach for every time unless of course they’re in the wash–cost more than $100. More on those in a sec too.

First, a couple pairs that were around/under $100 that I did NOT like:

  1. Dover Saddlery Riding Sport Tights  $59
    These were made of very cheap-looking fabric that I could tell was going to stretch out and lose its shape in one or two rides/washes. I liked where the seams were–they looked like workout leggings and were flattering and comfy, but there was no way they were going to last a year.
  2. Horze Grand Prix Full Seat Breeches  $119 (or two pairs for $99)
    A lot of people love these–they got recommended to me a lot–but I personally didn’t like the wintec-y fabric. And the sizing was just off for me…the fit was baggy in some places and tight in others, and just unflattering overall. I do see the pros of this type of fabric–it repels stains and hair/dirt doesn’t stick to it, but it just felt weird and uncomfortable to me.

A couple under $100 that I do like:

  1. Smartpak Piper Full-Seat Silicon Breeches $80

Pros:
–Very sticky silicon seat (might be too sticky for some peoples’ liking, but I like having one pair of breeches with extra stick in my arsenal for when I need em).
–The fit is nice, the rise hits me in just the right place, and I like the classy styling with no gaudy logo or piping or embellishments anywhere. They look nice with a belt and are clinic/show quality.
–The “classic” version with a suede seat is on Clearance right now.
–Can serve as a year-round breech because the stretchy fabric allows for adding a base layer underneath for cold-weather riding. They’re a little on the thick side for the hottest part of summer, but I have other breeches I wear when it’s really hot. I like that they’re thick enough that I can tuck a shirt into them without it showing through.

Cons:
–The cotton-blend fabric attracts every piece of lint or hair in a 5 mile radius, and I have to make sure to select Extra Rinse on my machine when I wash them or they come out with every last piece of laundry fuzz stuck to them in gross streaks.
–The crotch seam is not sewn flat. It sticks up. So it took some (ahem) getting used to. It was downright painful to ride in these until…I guess I toughened up?? Yikes. I dunno. But they’re fine now, a dozen rides in.

2.   Ovation AeroWick Full Seat Tights  $53

Pros:
–Nice fit, comfy to ride in, and has belt-loops even though they’re a “riding tight”.
–Perfect amount of grip (not too much) in the silicon fullseat version.
–I have had them for a year and although they’re starting to look worn, they have not stretched out or lost their nice compression-like fit.
–Perfect weight for summer–thin but still supportive.
–I got them in an olive color that I love (not a fan of the new colors for spring)

Cons:
–The fabric has started to degrade in quality over time with many washes. I guess for the (amazing) price I guess I did get a lot of use out of them. They’re still useable, just not “clinic quality” anymore. The fabric looks a little worn out, the silicon has started to rub off the seat, and there is some fraying of the seams. I know we’re not long off from actual holes forming.
–They’re definitely not a year-round breech…Way too thin and tight to add a base layer underneath.

All-Time Favorite (over $100 but worth it):

1.  ProRidingGear Silicon Full Seat Tights €150 (about $170 US)

Pros:
–Amazing fit, super flattering. The wide waist band is comfortable and hits in just the right place (mid to high rise). They hug you but don’t restrict your movement. The seams are in all the right places…no rubbing/chafing.
–High quality fabric that retains its shape, is sturdy and holds up to wear but is thin enough to be comfortable in hot weather (seems to wick sweat, too.) They repel dirt and hair, so I don’t need to wash them often. And when I do, they wash up great (I air dry them just to be safe) and look brand new again. No fading or visible wear so far.
–The silicon gives the perfect amount of “stick”.
–Great pockets in the right places…I especially love the zipper pocket on the back of the waistband–it’s perfect for putting the battery pack for the mic/headset if your trainer uses a system like that.
–The inseam is the perfect length for me. Hallelujah! Finally a breech that isn’t way too long. I am 5’1″ and ordered a Small. Keep that in mind if you’re taller than me…
–The color options are all beautiful. I chose the army green ones, but I want them in every color!

Cons:
–The price. I really wanted to stay under/at $100 because I needed to be able to afford several pairs of new breeches to replace my old ones that were falling apart (I ended up getting three new pairs total…the Ovations, the Pipers, and these.) At $170, these are edging into another price-tier where it’s maybe not even fair to compare them to <$100 breeches…but, they’re definitely higher quality than the other pairs I bought, and it’s nice to have one higher-end option in my rotation.
–PRG is based in the Netherlands, so international shipping charges apply unless you wait for one of their free international shipping promos to come around (which is what I did). They announce sales and promos on their Instagram account, so keep an eye out there.
–While they’re mega comfy, riding tights are a little less versatile than breeches. They don’t have belt-loops and look a little more casual. It looks better to leave your shirt un-tucked with most tights. However, these PRG ones look so nice that I have ridden in them at clinics and received compliments on them. If PRG comes out with a breech next, I’ll be all over it.

So, as with most things, you get what you pay for with breeches/tights. I am grateful for the brands who are pulling off a decent product for <$100, because it means I can own more than one pair of breeches…But I also don’t mind spending a little more for something that looks amazing, feels like they were made for me and will last forever.

What are you riding in and loving these days?

New Barn Who Dis

Hey! Did ya forget about us? It’s been a minute. We’ve been busy getting all settled in at our winter home…the beautiful Big Rock Ranch.

Clay loves it there, and I love that I can lesson with great trainers regularly; in-house trainer Brittany Davis, and visiting clinician Kate Phillips who comes monthly.

As I’ve mentioned before, I pretty much made it through the past year without any lessons. We did our best on our own, and I am proud of myself for eeking out as much progress as I did–and made it through two successful shows with no coach–but there is no doubt that we could have advanced more quickly and in a more linear fashion if we could have had more lessons.

Now, in just one month of weekly lessons, many of my bad habits are being corrected, and Clay feels amazing. It is so priceless to have educated eyes on the ground.

Majestic, isn’t he?

Looking ahead to 2019, I am pressing pause on making any horse show plans or goals, and am instead spending my show budget on as many learning opportunities as I can swing.

We’re signed up to clinic with Martin Kuhn again this winter, and I hope to make it to a Paul Belasik clinic in the spring, too. We’re also heading to a bit-fitting clinic in a couple weeks, to get Clay a new snaffle and hopefully set up with a double as well.

Flying changes will hopefully begin this winter. We’re knocking on the door of Third level, and I’d ideally like to be solidly Third level before we show again. If that isn’t possible next summer then we will wait until 2020.

Enjoying a trail ride with our new barn mates, back before the snow!

Another big change to update you all on…I decided to offer my student Abby a partial lease on Clay this winter. She does chores at Big Rock, so she is there all the time anyway, and her lease on Piper was up in September so she was horseless. It has been awesome for everyone involved…Clay gets more exercise than what I can offer him by myself, and Abby is learning a lot and really enjoying him.

I call Abby my student, because that was my original relationship with her, but actually I am not teaching right now and she has been taking dressage lessons with Brittany Davis instead. It’s really fun to watch her develop her skills further with another trainer, and to watch her form a connection with Clay. I am very proud of the rider and horsewoman she is, and I think of her more as a peer than a student these days.

As an instructor, nothing is more rewarding than seeing your “kids” fly the nest, so to speak. I do miss teaching every day, but I am also grateful for this moment in time where I am free to really focus on my own education and riding. With my actual kid at an age where she is more independent from me and in daycare two days a week, AND with a heated barn to ride in now, I am looking forward to a winter of being able to train regularly for the first time in years.

And, winter it is! This week we were blessed with the first snow. Quite a bit of it, too! I am off to the barn now to switch out Clay’s turnout sheet for his winter blanket. I am not going to complain, I am not going to complain, I am not going to…But in all seriousness, I am feeling pretty grateful that snow and cold are the only down-sides of living where we do…

Our friends in CA are currently evacuating their homes due to wild-fire, and worrying over their horses’ safety. They could possibly lose their homes. What a scary reality. My heart aches for everyone affected, and I have been holding my breath waiting to hear that everyone we know is safe.

If you’re looking for ways to help, here is a list of some of the organizations supporting the relief efforts:

American Red Cross is setting up temporary shelters and food sites across the state. Donate to the efforts by going to their website or by texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. You can request your money go towards CA relief efforts.

The Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation supports the first responders fighting on the frontlines of the wildfires. They are currently requesting donations to put towards hydration backpacks for the firefighters.

The CCF Wildfire Relief Fund supports immediate recovery efforts for major California wildfires, as well as long-term preparedness efforts.

The Humane Society of Ventura County is accepting animals evacuating from the Hill and Woolsey fires. You can donate directly to the organization via their website.

Thinking of you, CA friends.

Summer’s End

Summer is winding down around these parts. The days are growing shorter, and the nights cooler. My morning barn routine now begins in the dark, and I usually need my puffy vest, or at least a light sweater.

I love my mornings at the barn…Sometimes I listen to a podcast and take my time grooming Clay, or sometimes I just relish the peaceful quietness and let my mind kind of go blank for a bit.

One of the biggest things I was surprised by when I became a parent was how your thoughts are constantly interrupted and hijacked by your child. I never realized before what a luxury it is to simply be able to think about something–anything–without distractions and interruptions.

I love, love, love being a mom. But I can only do my best parenting when I get to recharge my batteries occasionally. The barn is where I take that breather; where I get to follow a whole stream of thought through to the end, and silence the endless mental To-Do list for a couple hours.

Dew on the grass, and the morning sun lighting up the trees.
Noms for the Good Boy.

I have been keeping our rides pretty light, and mixing things up every time. Hacking in the field or down the road, playing around with riding bridle-less, bareback rides, jumping, cavalettis, etc. My goal right now is to give Clay a break from the heavy dressage work but to maintain his fitness level for when we start to “hit it hard” again this winter. It has been fun to work on some different stuff and to “cross-train” a little.

And there have been some dressage rides sprinkled in there too…I got to have a lesson with Kate Phillips last week, and that felt great and super productive. We worked on fluffing up his trot and getting more jump in the canter (more engagement, truer collection). I am learning to use my spurs more effectively to get that little butt to sit down. Clay tried so hard and we had some really nice trot steps that almost felt like Passage. He felt strong and able.

A bath for the mud-puppy, and some side-eye from him.
It has been rainy and cool this week. I am just pretending we live in Wales…

Looking ahead to fall and winter, I am planning on boarding at a different facility. I’ve moved Clay to this barn in the past, for the winter months, and it was a great experience. It is further away from my house, which is a drawback, but it has a heated indoor arena. And the trainer there is excellent and a friend of mine. AND Kate comes there to do clinics regularly. Lots of plusses.

Although I was proud of what we achieved on our own this year, I felt like our progress was limping along due to a lack of lessons (my regular trainer Gina is caring for her ill mother and sadly could not travel for lessons much this past year.) I am excited to see how much stronger and better we can be with consistent lessons and a warm indoor to ride in. It will make it so that I don’t have to basically take Jan and Feb off due to bitter-cold temps, and we won’t have such an uphill battle to get fit for shows come spring.

So get ready, little buddy! 😉 We have our work cut out for us, but we’re so ready for more…I can’t wait to see what this winter brings as far as learning and growth.

The barn cat, Tazz.

We’re not heading to our new digs until October, and meanwhile I plan to just soak up the remnants of summer as much as possible with trail rides and long, luxurious grooming sessions, and a smattering of dressage rides.

Happy summer’s end, everyone! Hope you’re getting out there and enjoying it.

I love this pony and am overwhelmingly grateful for every moment I get to spend with him. 

Dancing in the Rain

I got the pro photos back from the NDPC. John Borys did a great job capturing our first ride (the rainy one) from Friday. It’s too bad he didn’t photograph our Saturday ride, when the weather was perfect, but I get it…it was a HUGE show. The rain made for some cool, dramatic photos anyway, and I have a smile on my face in most of them, which accurately reflects the joy I was feeling in that moment.

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I feel like I can see in these photos how much stronger and more uphill he has gotten this summer, and it makes me so happy. He’s showing decent reach in the medium-trot photos, and some self-carriage.

The other thing I’m proud of is how much better I am sitting his medium trot since even the beginning of summer. Mediums on a pony are NOT easier to sit! There is less suspension and the steps are quicker than on a big horse, so it’s quite the seat and core challenge to make it appear smooth and floatie. I am pretty happy with my position here. My hands have gotten way more independent this year, and my legs aren’t gripping or banging against my horse.

I still need to work on not pushing my rib cage forward (leaning back) when I am trying to sit deeper. It’s counterproductive and hard on the low back. Need to shorten the front of my “box” (as the Biomechanic people like to say), and perhaps lengthen my reins to allow my elbows to come back to my sides more.

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I need to sit back in the counter-canter more (already know this…so hard to actually do, for some reason), and not allow Clay to run. We have improved upon this since the show, and as a result our simple changes out of the counter-canter are much better as well (no trot steps).

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Overall I am proud of the progress I’ve made on my own (no lessons since the Martin Kuhn clinic way back in winter 😫) this summer, and the decent shape I was able to get Clay into even with the demands of parenthood/life constantly making it a challenge to ride consistently and often.

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Now the trick will be to maintain that fitness over winter. No more slacking off in the wintertime…! Second Level and beyond requires a good fitness level year-round in order to safely progress. More on how I plan to accomplish that later…

National Dressage Pony Cup – Part Three

On Saturday, our ride was at 10:00 am, so I got to the show grounds early. I do not like to be rushed, and I wanted to have time to re-braid Clay if necessary (thanks to about a gallon of hairspray, his braids looked OK, so I just had to re-do his forelock.) I ended up having plenty of time, and even had a bite to eat at the cafe and was able to get fully caffeinated. 😀

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We took a long walk around the grounds to let Clay stretch. He seemed loose and well-rested. At 9:00 I tacked up and headed to the warm-up ring. It was a lovely morning…low 70s and overcast.

Clay felt great in our warmup…More relaxed than the day before, but still nice and forward. Our warm-up at shows usually goes like this:

  1. Stretchy walk both directions to get the back swinging and to encourage relaxation from the start. If he’s too nervous to have a long rein right off the bat (that’s unusual–he’s typically able to be trusted on the buckle basically anywhere) then I keep my reins shorter to start.
  2. Rising trot both directions for a couple mins, in a “training level” frame, just to get the heart-rate up a little before going into canter.
  3. Canter/hand-gallop (half-seat) both ways, concentrating on keeping his poll up and being forward but balanced. This really gets him working over his back and thinking forward. He feels totally different (better) after we do this–it’s the biggest key to our warmup.
  4. Short walk break in which I transition between normal walk and collected walk/half-steps and back to normal walk to get our half-halts super sharp and him listening to my seat. I usually ask for some turns on the forehand and turns on the haunches out of that collected walk as well.
  5. Sitting trot, collected and in a second level frame. Leg-yields both directions focusing on being super straight. Trot-halt and halt-trot transitions.

At this point he is fully warmed up and ready to segue into harder second level work…counter canter, canter-walk and walk-canter transitions/simple changes, shoulder-in and haunches-in, 10-meter circles, transitions between collected and medium gaits, etc.

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Warming up with a grin on my face. 

We ran through our routine as best we could, but the ring was crowded so it was difficult to do certain movements like the canter serpentines. Clay felt ready, though, so I didn’t over-do the warmup, wanting to save some gas for the actual test.

The main thing I remember about the test was that I had fun riding it. It had a nice feeling, Clay was relaxed, and I had a smile on my face for a lot of it. It was far from perfect, but it was an enjoyable ride. 2-3 is a nice symmetrical test.

My parents took video, and when I watch it I can see a million things I want to do differently/that could be better. But I also see a reallygoodboy trying hard in a very stimulating environment. And I see myself, nervous but having the time of my life riding my favorite pony.

I got totally lost in the moment during the walk portion of the test. I was reveling in the experience–a little too much–and got a step ahead of myself (even with a reader! That’s a new one!) and started to head across the diagonal for my stretchy walk before the turns on the haunches.

I realized my mistake before the judge even rang the bell, but it still was a 2-point error. Poop. (I edited that bit out of the video because the video was long enough without watching me circle around at the walk for ages.) 😛

Oh well. You know what? I was just so tickled to be out there at this show that I have been wanting to go to for years, on this pony, in this amazing location, and nothing else really mattered to me.

But I don’t mind also saying that my geometry kind of sucked. And there was some head-wagging at the canter because he wasn’t quite collecting and I was doing my darnedest to keep things soft while also being like “damnit, bend your hind legs!”

I know we’re capable of better. But it is going to take time, and more shows, before we can ride as well in the show ring as we do at home.

In the meantime, I sure am having fun.

One of the best moments was hearing my little girl yelling happily “Mama! I’m over here!” from the stands. She was SO excited. My husband was desperately trying to keep her quiet but every time we’d ride close to them she would wiggle out of his grip and yell for me. No one gave her the memo that spectators cheer quietly at dressage shows. 😉

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Looking at my family. Relieved to be done. 🙂

We scored a 63%, despite the error. I felt it was very fair. Our free-walk got an 8, and our center-lines/halts also scored high. Our trot work was mostly 7/7.5’s. The canter, simple changes, and walk error were what brought the score down.

One little personal triumph for me this weekend was that I finally got 7’s for Rider Position & Effectiveness in the collective marks. I have been stuck at 6.5 for the whole time we’ve been at Second Level, so it felt really good to see improvement there.

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Our score put us in fifth place again–same as the day before–so we won fifth overall for our division and Clay got a fun pink neck sash.

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So happy to have my family there cheering me on!

With our ride out of the way, I had the rest of the day to pack up my trailer for the long trip home, and watch my friends lay down some AWESOME rides.

It was so inspiring to see the caliber of riding in our group of folks from up north. It’s a  beautiful thing to watch a horse and rider partnership that is harmonious and trusting. Some of the freestyles made me teary!

When you know just how hard these people work, the sacrifices that are made to make this all happen, and the endless amount of time and energy put into these horses….well, they don’t call us Crazy Horse Ladies for nothing. But it gets you right in the feels to watch it all coming together for someone in that moment, especially when they’re on a super special horse that means a lot to them.

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The whole “northlander” group…I love these peeps!

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The awards ceremony was at 6:00 PM. It was SO fun to watch all the amazing ponies galloping around with their happy riders! Several members of our group were Grand or Reserve Champions of their divisions–such a rewarding moment for them to take that victory lap with everyone hooting and hollering.

The rider banquet that evening was also super fun, and the food was great. It was extra special to watch my friends win some more cool awards at dinner. This show is not lacking in awesome awards and beautiful ribbons!

I can’t say enough what a well-run show this was, and I really hope they bring it back to Lamplight again for years to come. Top to bottom, just a wonderful show.

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Of course I had to take a picture in front of the NDPC sign! 😛

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What can I say that will sum this whole experience up?

…Good ponies are awesome, and good friends and family are even awesomer. And I have it all. ❤️

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who had a part in making this weekend happen, go smoothly, and turn out so fun. I’m full-up with gratitude and love and contentment. It was especially so helpful to be able to stay with family while we were down there, and my Aunt and Uncle were such fabulous hosts. My husband…he’s a saint, and none of this would be possible without him. My parents, always so encouraging and supportive of my crazy dreams. I could go on, but I’ll make myself cry, so…just thanks. You all rock.

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I’m so grateful we all got home safely and without incident. The traveling part was stressful for me so even though I was looking forward to this show all year, when it was all over and we were home, I took a big sigh of relief. Clay travelled extremely well, and then promptly got a few days of rest.

I only rode him once this week and it was a chill hack in the field. We are done with shows for the summer now, so I’ll just do some trail riding and stuff for a couple weeks before we go back to work in preparation for next year.

The learning never ends!