Amy Nelson
Articles Written 51
Article Views 76,981

Amy Nelson

Achievements

Become an Eventing Nation Blogger

About Amy Nelson

Amy Nelson is a professional Event rider based in Rochester, IL. Owner and trainer of Hummingbird Stables, she has been riding Hunter/Jumper and Eventers for the past 25 years. She trains horses for competition, is a regional expert in OTTB retraining, and leads an active show team in Area IV. She has been a "pony person" and exercise rider at the racetrack, and competed in the RRP Thoroughbred Makeover for several years. When not Eventing, she enjoys training flat shod gaited horses, playing with her dogs, and spending time trail riding with her husband. Follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amynelsoneventer/

Latest Articles Written

Friday Fashion Forecast: Voler Caliber Vellum Rain Jacket

It seems like most areas of eventing in 2019 are turning into a rain forest. The deluge we have experienced so far the season has been breaking records all over, and canceling countless shows, cross country phases, and schooling days. The rare rides we do manage to get are amidst endless moisture.  Be prepared to get rained on, with the Voler Caliber Vellum rain jacket.

View this post on Instagram

#eventer #eventing #eventerproblems #rain

A post shared by Amy Nelson Eventer Official (@amynelsoneventer) on

This week’s Friday Fashion Forecast is a necessary and exciting item, fashionable and fun, but unfortunately if we talk about it, we are admitting that it will in fact rain while we ride. I have been hesitant to write this review, not because the product isn’t fantastic (which it IS, and comes highly recommended) … but by talking about the need for rain gear I am actually saying you will need rain gear for eventing. Because it keeps raining. A lot. During an event. During practice. During schooling. My theory of ignoring the elephant in the room has not made the rain go away. So here it is.

Amy Nelson in the Voler Caliber Vellum rain jacket.

Voler has an amazing water-resistant rain jacket — the Caliber Vellum Jacket — that comes in three colors for women and men: bright Orange to cheer up the gloomiest cross country rounds, with classic Black or elegant White for dressage and show jumping when formal attire is waived in lieu of rain gear. The rain jacket is made of waterproof material with vents so that you do not roast during hot summer competitions.

(Un)fortunately I have been able to test this in all types of conditions and I can absolutely say it is by far my favorite rain jacket of all time! I have tested it in big fat rain, stinging pelleted rain, sideways rain, and rain that seems to come up from the ground. Cold rain, hot rain, and everything in between. At a recent show in Kansas City, it was unseasonably cold. It poured with temps in the 50s, and I was pleasantly surprised that I could layer every warm clothing item under the Voler Caliber rain jacket and still be able to move.

Amy Nelson in the Voler Caliber Vellum rain jacket at MCPC H.T. in Kansas City, coaching student Dena on Hummingbird’s First Commander.

The fit is absolute perfection. Compared to some other rain gear that I have use in the past, the Voler rain jacket is made of a soft, stretchy material that moves with you. It is perfect for performance sports because it was originally designed for cyclists, who coincidentally ride in the same positions as equestrians. The race fit makes you look like a polished competitor, not like the Gorton’s Fisherman. It is longer in the back, so you don’t have rain dripping down the rear of your breeches, yet not so long that you sit on it in the saddle. Seriously — you have enough to worry about when it’s pouring rain without the uncomfortable feeling of rain running down your “regions.”

Even if your ride is not rainy, the Voler Vellum jacket is an excellent wind breaker as well. And the design allows your colors or show attire to peak through.

Voler Caliber Vellum rain jacket in white.

The reflective elements on the back of the jacket are perfect for hacking around busy areas where you might encounter traffic in lower light — how often have you mounted for warm up when it’s barely daylight? Thanks to its sleek design you can easily roll it up to keep handy in your ringside bag as a “just in case,” or ditch it before your ride if by some miracle the rain actually stops!

I absolutely recommend the Voler Caliber Vellum rain jacket … and if you use the code HORSE you get 15% off (discount will show up on the final page at checkout)! Like Voler Apparel? Check out their other products! Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Really we need to all get one — because you know it is inevitable, if everyone orders a rain jacket it will not rain the rest of the year! This is science, people. So do your part for the eventing community and order one today so that this ridiculous over-abundance can stop and we can get back to enjoying the sport we love!

Voler Caliber Vellum rain jacket. pc: Voler.com

Here is the best part: order ANYTHING from Voler.com and use the code “HORSE” at checkout for 15% off your entire order!

Final Review – out of 4 STARS

Cost: $$ – $$$
Excitement: *** 3 Stars
Durability: *** 3 Stars
Variety: *** 3 Stars

Voler Caliber Vellum rain jacket. Photo courtesy of Voler.com.

Winning the ‘Chicken Strides’

Have you ever played a game of “chicken?” Hopefully not … but maybe you have seen this madness in a movie, wherein two drivers in 1950s cars drive as fast as they can towards each other, head on, and whoever jerks the wheel and chickens out first is the “loser” (kids, don’t try this at home).

The game is incredibly stupid. As a hyperactive 10 year old I hate to admit this, but I played this game with my sister on our 10 speed bicycles. One of us pedaled as fast as she could UP the hill towards our driveway, and the other pedaled as fast as she could DOWN the hill, to see who could get to the driveway first! I think we both actually lost the game that day, although I did chicken out first and jerked the handlebars to avoid crashing into my older sister April, only to smash face first into a row of mailboxes.

But what does this have to do with riding? And why is winning a game of chicken imperative to successful jumping?

Amy Nelson and Hummingbird’s River. Photo by Vic’s Pics.

At a recent horse trial with my enthusiastic grey OTTB River, I had an epiphany. The last three strides before any fence is just like this game of chicken. You are playing the game with your horse! If you chicken out first by creeping forward with your shoulders, or throwing yourself in a two-point before the jump: you lose! This creeping allows the horse to suck back, stop, or run out right or left. It could also cause them to go long and flat, and simply have a poor jump effort, which leads to knocked rails. If you keep your shoulders back and the horse in front of your leg, ride all to the way to the base up the jump, wait for him to start to leave the ground and then you two point, you won that game of chicken!

Amy Nelson and Hummingbird’s River.

It is so much easier to tell if they are sucking back when you sit back. It is so much easier to avoid a run out if you block the exits to the right and left by sitting up and maintaining rein contact. I will forever call the final three strides before a fence: “the chicken strides.” (Perhaps I should trademark this?)

This magical realization came as a combination of years’ worth of lessons and experience, from Chrissy Hall of Texas showing me how to get deeper to an cross country fence on my spooky horse at the time, Dom Schramm putting my horse River in “trot fence bootcamp,” and Buck Davidson making me sit an entire jump course. And the final moment where it all made sense was at this particular show, after a horrific dressage round, where I went into stadium with a renewed gumption to take on my horse and not back down.

Amy Nelson & Hummingbird’s River
pc: Vic’s Pics

The last three strides before a fence always go as follows:

(3…) River: “Give me my face let me run at it. I MUST RUN.”

Me: “I will not. You have to have contact, and I have to sit back. You’re athletic. You can do this.”

(2…)River: “Then I will just canter in place and throw my head up in the air. I hate you. This is hard. I want to steeplechase.”

Me: “We aren’t steeplechasers. We are eventers. I’m NOT giving in. Jump or crash!”

(1…)River: “I’ll do it … I’ll crash! Let me run! This is hard!”

Me: “I’m not giving in! Jump or crash!!! I’ll ride you THROUGH this fence. JUMP. OR CRASH.

(base of fence) River: jumps beautifully with the best bascule and roundness he has ever had in his life.

(in air) Me: thinking, or possible cursing in front of this nice audience, I can’t be sure, Holy $#@!

Next fence … same thing.

We obviously need to get this worked out before our next show, but the lightbulb moment was worth the entry fees. Next time you jump a fence, ask yourself: who won that game of chicken? Did I win (I kept connection, shoulders back, leg on, until the base?) Did my horse win (I crept forward with my shoulders, took my leg off on 3 … 2 … 1 … strides, and allowed a run out or poor jumping effort)?

This is IMPERATIVE cross country. Ride every jump with the mindset of “over it or through it.” “Jump or crash.” Because I’m betting your horse would much rather choose jump. And if they do pick the wrong one, they will learn from this. Ride your “chicken strides.” Win the game.

Amy Nelson and Hummingbird’s Mendacium. Photo by Vic’s Pics.

A recommended exercise for this would be a start with a simple pole on the ground. Start at the trot, sit your chicken strides … then two-point only over the pole. Slowly build this up to a crossrail at the trot, then a low Swedish oxer, then an oxer. Sitting the trot during your chicken strides makes it obvious if you won. Did you are horse just trot really big or did they actually jump? Did you give up at the last stride and throw yourself into a two-point?

You can then work your way up to cantering a low oxer. Eventually build it up to a course. To play the game of chicken, my students had to shout out after every jump who won that game  — was it them or the horse? This made them very self aware of what their shoulders were doing, and if their position was correct.

The greatest joy in this exercise is to go around a course and shout out “I won! I won!” after every jump. Ride the chicken strides. I may not win a show just yet, but dang it, I’ll win those chicken strides. It really starts to make you feel great by the end.

Why is this so important? It’s vital to win the chicken strides because in cross country, or even stadium, you’re less likely to have a run out or a stop. Riding this way helps eliminate your horse’s poor jumping effort, such as long and flat jumps, which will drop rails. If you win the “chicken strides,” your horse will more likely get to the base and go up-and-over, with a beautiful bascule.

Play chicken with your horse. And win.

3… (I’m not giving up) … 2 … (not gonna do it) … 1 … (seriously I’ll win) … have a great jump.

Amy Nelson and Hummingbird’s Mendacium. Photo by Vic’s Pics.

Earth Day Equestrian: Doing Your Part All Season

Bridlespur Hunt Club. Photo by Amy Nelson.

Earth Day is April 22, 2019! The human impact on the environment has been known for decades, but lately it has become an epidemic. From garbage in the oceans to mountains of plastic bottles and water shortages, we are reaching a crisis. As the millions of equestrians around the world, we can have a huge impact on our planet! Can you imagine the global effect this will have if every single one of us makes small changes?

1. Carpool. Carpool to the barn, or ride share to a show or trail. Not only will this save gas and emissions, this will also save you tons of money! Obviously we can’t haul trailers in environmentally friendly vehicles, but we can do our part to ride share to events. Many regions have social media pages where you can see if someone has an open slot in their trailer. Especially in areas where you are going long distances, I always find this is a great time for camaraderie and fun with fellow horse people when we all ride together!

2. Reusable water bottles. It’s important to stay hydrated at an event, and even though plastic bottles are convenient, it only takes a couple extra seconds to fill a reusable water bottle. Many events now have places where you can fill them up at the show. If not, stock up at home and fill down from your tap — you can even get bottles in your team colors/logo to show how your stable cares about the earth! This can be a money saver in the long run, but knowing that you have put fewer plastic bottles in the world should make you feel good. Maybe contact your show and see if they would offer water filling stations.

Amy Nelson & Hummingbird’s Mendacium. Photo by Vic’s Pics.

3. Do electronic entries. It will save on envelopes, checks, and paper! Can you imagine how much paper would be saved throughout the year, if ALL of us did not have stacks of printed entries? Even though many times there is a convenience fee, it is only a couple of dollars, and it will also ensure your entry is in immediately. If you must print, contact your organizer and ask that they recycle entries after they are no longer needed on file.

4. Recycle! Recycling is unfortunately not available in every area, but do your part where you can, by recycling boxes and packaging from online orders of horse supplies, extra showbills, catalogs and more. Maybe start a recycle bin at your barn with your Pony Club or Show Team, and take a team trip to drop off these items. Or reuse them for starting a cozy fire in the off season!

5.  Reduce Your Water Use. Don’t waste water for your horse. Obviously we use water to wash them, give them drinks, etc., but don’t let the hose just run down the drain. Get them wet, turn it off, scrub, and then rinse. Use buckets to see just how much you use, and to save gallons at a time! Also, when offering your horse a drink of water in their buckets on the road or at an event, if they don’t drink it all, don’t just dump it down the drain. One of my students showed my an ingenious way to save this waste when we offered a drink to our horses in the trailer at a gas station — she watered the potted flowers at the truck stop with the leftover water! You could also give a drink to the plants or grass at the event. It sounds silly but that way it’s not just running down the drain for no reason. If you know you are leaving the event soon, don’t fill your horse’s bucket to the top. Give them a half bucket to start. You can always add more if they are still thirsty. But imagine how much you won’t waste!

Amy Nelson and Lyndsey Humpal at Sangchris Lake State Park.

6. Don’t use straws. Even my 17 year old stepson who is a diehard straw user recently purchased a reusable metal straw from his high school. Even he can figure out how to wash and reuse this item. If you must stop for snacks while on the road, bring your reusable straw with you. If you’re honest with yourself, chances are you have drank from the hose on a hot day, so a reusable straw is not going to kill you!

7.  Pick up trash. I ride my event horse down the road and on trails, and the saddest thing I see is trash everywhere. What are we doing as equestrians to help our environment? Pick up trash that may have blown out of a trash can, or that someone left on the road. Use it as a desensitizing tool — can you trail ride with a trash bag and pick up as you go? I guarantee you a Pony Club games champion could probably grab trash off the ground while still mounted, all at the gallop. Make it fun!

8.  For the love of all that’s holy — don’t litter. I can’t imagine that any self-respecting horse person with do such a thing. But you can also do your part if you see a piece of trash that has flown out of a trash bin — don’t just turn a blind eye. Pick up and know that you are doing your part to keep things beautiful for the next rider.

Earth Day is April 22, 2019, but we should do our part all year long. What other ideas do you have to help out the environment as horse people?

Amy Nelson and Hummingbird’s River. Photo courtesy of Amy Nelson.

Clinic Report: A Wake-Up Call Courtesy of Buck Davidson

It’s a hard pill to swallow when a clinician tells you what you NEED to hear … not what you want to hear. After day 1 of the Buck Davidson clinic in Kansas City earlier this month, I considered chickening out, packing up and driving home. Self-doubt crept in: “Should I even bother with day 2?” I FAILED on day 1. I plotted how we could just load up after everyone left, and drive home.

But I didn’t. I stayed. I dusted myself off and checked my ego at the door. Why? I came to the clinic to ride with Buck Davidson because I don’t have all the answers. So it would be foolish to leave after he gave me answers, simply because I didn’t like them. “Your horse is doing exactly what you’re telling him. He’s running because of YOU; he’s stalling at the jumps because of YOU.” It was like I had been stabbed in the heart. Surely this internationally known, successful team rider was wrong. Surely it’s not my fault.

Riding with Buck Davidson.

The clinic started like most others I’ve attended — George Morris, Dom and Jimmie Schramm, Leslie Law, Peter Trappmann — you introduce yourself and your horse, say a little bit about what you are working on and where you want to go. I tend to be overly honest at this stage. When others tell of their placings and accolades, I declare our “Hotmess Express” title with the hopes of finally improving. I have several horses on which I compete in eventing, and I have trained dozens of horses from track/rescue/unbroke to successful event horse. I have ribbons and championships in jumpers and eventing to my credit, including invitations with several horses to the American Eventing Championships up to Training Level. None of that mattered, so I bit my tongue.

I was here because I desperately needed help with my $1,000 Craigslist find, a spirited, complicated, grey OTTB named Hummingbird’s River. This grey dinosaur has been hands down THE most challenging horse to train and compete in my 26 years of riding. I was eager for Buck to take a look and help us. HELP. US.

I compare it to a car — your car makes a thumping noise when you drive, so you take it to a mechanic. It stops thumping. They can’t help you because they can’t find the problem, so the problem persists. Lucky for me (sarcasm dripping here), our problems were so apparent that by the end of day 1 I actually discussed with my husband the option of packing up and leave, that I couldn’t cut it, and that I should not participate in day 2. That maybe River would be better suited as a trail horse? Maybe third flight fox hunter?

I have never come so close to legitimately crying in the middle of a clinic in all my life (I generally save my tears for River’s stall, where they belong). Wasn’t it great that our problems were blatantly obvious on day 1 so Buck could help?

Amy Nelson & Hummingbird’s River.

Chapter 1: The Truth Hurts

Buck repeated several times that the whole point of clinics and lessons are so you could “FEEL” the concept. He stressed that you could read books and tips all day long, but until you felt it, you could never master it. It was in this nugget of wisdom that he had me change out the bit I was using. A stronger bit had been suggested to me by a trainer who has seen River in action, we have used it for several rides and I figured I would use it in the clinic. A after 10 minutes of watching us struggle over fences, Buck made me switch to a snaffle.

I was skeptical (OK scared) at first, as this is a horse who has jumped up a 5-foot embankment into trees and bushes after a crossrail when I was trying to stop on a straight line. This is a horse who bolted in dressage last summer and got us the “E” when he jumped out of the dressage ring! But I didn’t pay to be in a clinic with a rider of Buck’s caliber to let my pride get in the way of learning. So … in went the snaffle.

Then, horror upon horrors, Buck singled me out in front of the entire Midwest Eventing Community (or what felt like it) and explained that my psycho grey and I needed connection. He told everyone, including me, that a short rein is a must to keep such connection. He essentially had us two-point, feel the horse’s mouth, and touch our elbows in front of our bodies (chest area). THAT is how long your reins should be, he explained.

The biggest thing in riding is for the horse to trust your hand. If they are not on the bit, they are just as disobedient as a horse running off (I perked up at this part). River has run off loads of times! The horse needs to accept your hand and leg, and really, horses don’t rush the fences — people do.

Amy Nelson & Hummingbird’s River.

Chapter 2: Baby Steps

The remainder of day 1 seemed to be a constant reminder of how everything we did as a team was my fault, and how I needed to make huge changes to fix everything. As a trainer, I had very mixed emotions on this. River and I have four years of tumultuous history together. I got him straight off the track from an ad on Craigslist, and to say he has issues an understatement. We did the Thoroughbred Makeover in 2015 where judges described him (yes, I rode him in a snaffle then) as VERY VERY BOLD and A LITTLE TOO KEEN. We finished mid-pack.

But in the midst of the struggle-bus that day 1 presented, I compared it to one of those extreme weight loss TV shows. Let’s say we started out 600 pounds. We lost 200 pounds — wow amazing — we are so thin! But to the world we are still 400 pounds, which is NOT thin. I was starting to see Buck Davidson’s point of view. We have come so far … but certainly have not arrived. The end of the session brought baby steps of improvement with microscopic victories. We had ounces of connection and a glimmer of hope when he didn’t actually run face-first into the viewing area window a fifth time (the previous four times led to viewers behind the plexiglass diving out of the way).

But really, should I even show up on the second day? Were we ready as a team to simply stay in the same clinic group? Would they quietly ask me to move down a level?

Amy Nelson & Hummingbird’s River

Chapter 3:  I Put on My Big Girl Panties and SHOWED UP

I’ll be honest, I went to bed that night not knowing if I was actually going to ride the second day. Self-doubt, fear, and overwhelming emotions kept me up most of the night. But by morning, I had a new determination. I went through my pages of notes I had taken throughout day one of the clinic while auditing the other groups. Several fell off. Several were almost in tears. Several needed major help and improvement. I was not alone with my struggles, and the whole point of going was NOT to have Buck tell me how amazing I am and lie to my face. The point was to get help. I tacked up, put in a snaffle, chin up, here we go.

Amy Nelson & Hummingbird’s River with Buck Davidson

Chapter 4:  Something Changed

Day 2 was hands down the best experience of my riding career. River and I were starting to be a TEAM — not a well-oiled machine, but pieces and parts were coming together. I noticed Buck seemed to have a new attitude towards me as well. Simply by showing up in a snaffle, prepared to learn, asking questions and doing what he said in spite of how scary it was (he literally had me SIT an entire sizable jump course — no two point allowed) proved to him I could be instructed. I could take direction. I wanted to improve. And he was right about his statement from the first day — I FELT SOMETHING.

In sitting our entire course, I felt the base of the jump with my horse in my hand. I felt that connection. We were starting to leave every single fence UP! We did the Circle of Death almost easily, with my legs on and a short rein, turning in the air to our next fence.

We were starting to have pace! The first day he announced that to have a good jump you need three things: pace, balance and distance — and if you have two of the three, your third will be there. River and I never have pace. We dabble somewhere between fighting in place (picture a snarling, rabid wolverine with a death-grip on its face) and “his tail is on fire and we are all out running to the nearest hydrant.” Buck kept yelling, “Gallop him! Go on! Faster!” Excuse me, what? I have literally never heard this before with this horse. Now that we were working in together, we were cantering softly, and too slow!

Photo courtesy of Amy Nelson.

Conclusion: Be Humble

The Buck Davidson clinic at West End Farm in Kansas City, put on by Twin Pony Productions, was absolutely the most challenging, most rewarding, most frustrating, most eye-opening educational experience of my career. Do the clinic. FEEL. Don’t give up — but put on your big girl panties. Everyone assumes George Morris is tough, but Buck tells it like it is and makes George look like a sweet kitten. Buck hit me where it hurt the most: the truth about flaws in my riding.

Buckisms – Nuggets of Wisdom:

  • Be CLEAR in your direction.
  • Be ENCOURAGING in all your training.
  • Horses aren’t that smart but they have a great memory. Do it even if it’s not perfect the first time, because it only gets harder from there (i.e. don’t go around the jump by accident, make them stay straight, stop on a straight line, etc.).
  • Keep your reins short — maintain connection.
  • The key to riding is to have something so engrained in them that it’s repeatable.
  • Your shoulders should be parallel to their shoulders.
  • Your nose should always line up with their mane. Don’t lean.
  • In dressage — Get a good score on the first movement down the centerline. Judges are human. If you are getting 6s and they miss a movement, you get a 6 because they think that’s what you probably did.
  • Show jumping is just dressage over jumps.
  • If you fail to prepare you prepare to fail.
  • Get your horse going! 
  • What’s the definition of insanity? Repeating the same thing and expecting a different result.
  • Use the jump as a second set of reins.
  • If you have a good seat you shouldn’t need to touch your reins. You don’t slow a horse down with your reins, you slow them down with your core. If you can’t do that, you need more core.
  • In practice — “find the line.” The line of what you’re good at, how tight they can turn, how fast they can gallop without going psycho. Then you know where the line is BEFORE you go to the show. At the show, remember where the line is. Go right up to it, but don’t cross it.

Ride in clinics. Feel. Don’t be afraid to fail in front of your peers. It will only make you better.

3 … 2 … 1 … have an educational ride.

Friday Fashion Forecast: Hauke Schmidt Show Gloves

As eventing season gets underway for 2019, depending on your region you may experience cooler temperatures as you enter at A, halt and salute at X. On those cool morning as you make your way to the jumper ring or the startbox, full of anticipation, imagine if you could bury your hands in soft warmth of your favorite barn puppy’s fluff. That’s the feeling comfort you’ll get from Hauke Schmidt Fine Riding Gloves.

You know when you try on a quality pair of field boots and the leather is soft and supple right out of the box? These gloves are just that. The pair I tried was insulated for springtime showing, and my hands stayed deliciously warm without overheating. But they have a whole range of colors and styles, from traditional class, to a hint of bling!

According to their website: “Hauke Schmidt Finest Gloves is a family business based in Germany with a fine pedigree in equine competition. Hauke’s father was a very successful, international show jumper with over 200 wins to his name. All products are produced under the personal supervision of Franz, our glove maker.” Many of the best products I’ve discovered are designed by equestrians, because they know what it takes to bring quality to the table. These gloves are just that.

Amy Nelson with Hauke Schmidt Nordic Dream Riding Gloves.

I tried the Nordic Dream Gloves with Thinsulate, and they are perfect for early spring showing. The leather is soft and warm, and the gloves provide excellent grip. As for sizing, the gloves I tried were a size 7.5. They were just a bit long in the fingers on me, so a size smaller would likely fi t… well … like a glove. I’m a petite 5’4″ with smallish hands, but as my sister says, “muscular, man hands that run a farm.” My hands are not very long, but sometimes when I get a perfect length, my fingers are too “meaty” to squeeze all the way in. These gloves have the perfect amount of stretch and give to allow an excellent fit. The nice thing is on their website they have a measuring chart for “Ladies & Gents,” so you can be sure you get the correct size for your exact hands! (I’ll be honest, I did not measure my hands — this would be a better idea in the future!)

Hauke Schmidt Gloves. Photo courtesy of HaukeSchmidtUK.com.

The Haute Schmidt gloves come in a range of colors and options, including black/white/navy/mocha and even “A Touch of Magic Patches” (read: super classy bling for a hint of style!) Some are designed for cooler weather in spring and fall, others expertly ventilated for the heat of the summer. They even have bright pink/orange gloves for kids and adults when you’re schooling or on cross country! The Touch of Magic are my absolute favorite. I adore bits of sparkle on my helmet, hints of style on my custom spur straps, so of course I want a touch of bling on my show gloves! See all the options here.

Hauke Schmidt Touch of Magic. Photo courtesy HaukeSchmidtUK.com.

The pricing is comparable to other quality show gloves, but these offer a greater range of options for every personality. And the patches are interchangeable so you can pick a different look for each phase! You can be sure I’ll be wearing Hauke Schmidt gloves in the upcoming Buck Davidson Clinic in March in Kansas City, and my first event of the season at the Kentucky Horse Park in April (not THAT event … I wish!)

Find Hauke Schmidt on Facebook & Instagram (UK Insta here).

Amy Nelson & Hummingbird’s River
photo by Beauty of Nature Photography

And be sure to follow Frantisi on Facebook and Instagram – they are the reason we have access to these gorgeous gloves from Hauke Schmidt and loads of other equestrian products in North America!

Final Review (Out of 4 Stars)

Cost: $$
Excitement: **** 4 Stars
Durability: *** 3 Stars
Variety: *** 3 Stars

Friday Fashion Forecast: GPA Jock Up Three Helmet

While many eventers are fresh off the excitement of their first Horse Trial of 2019, others are stuck in arenas or on snowy trails, dreaming of spring and the start of cross country. What better way to jumpstart the season (or cure the winter blues) than with a new helmet by GPA?

Amy Nelson & Hummingbird’s River with GPA Jock Up Three (with a helmet cover)

GPA helmets are made in France and known throughout the world, with top riders in a variety of sports choosing them for protection while on course. Thanks to Frantisi, North Americans can now join the trend!

Introducing the GPA Jock Up Three. An ultra low-profile helmet specifically designed for eventing, racing, and combined driving. I’ve used other helmets on cross country in past, and what struck me immediately about the Jock Up Three is how lightweight and sleek this helmet is. As a very petite rider, I always feel a bit like a bobblehead doll marching off to cross country. Not with this GPA helmet! It uses technology to make it extremely safe without extra bulk.

According to the GPA website: “Front reinforcement in Textium (aluminum coated fiber glass)…” “Outer shell is a polymer resin with a protective grain textured black paint finish to ensure easy maintenance of the helmet. Inner shell provides shock absorption.” “Helmets sizes are scaled to minimize outer shell volume.” So basically it’s a strong helmet without extra bulk, and the smooth helmet makes it easy to wipe off on the muddiest of cross country days.

The GPA line of eventing style helmets look extremely slick — you could wear them without a helmet cover! But they also carry a cover expertly for you to be all matchy-matchy.

What about comfort? The GPA Jock Up Three has loads of ventilation, which is an obvious necessity mid-summer where temps tip the scale from “mildly uncomfortable” to “sweat-pouring-down-my-face-is-that-a-green-14-or-black-12-on-cross-country.” This helmet is so well ventilated that you will no longer have the excuse of overheating when explaining to your trainer how you managed to jump the wrong question (allegedly).

The GPA website explains that the helmet contains “a wide ventilation opening in the upper section, allowing maximum ventilation. Rear vents aid in the ventilation process and reduce the temperature inside the helmet.” And also, “Additional anti sweat lining and padding is added for optimal comfort.” Even though I was testing the GPA Jock Up Three in the winter, I can attest to this. In our arena, while practicing cross country questions with my Prelim horse Hummingbird’s River, I sweat. Even when it’s 20 degrees F I rarely wear a jacket when I ride. So at 35 degrees F, I can already see the benefits of airflow to my brain.

GPA Jock Up Three — Amy Nelson & Hummingbird’s River soar over brush at 4’9″.

GPA has a few designs as well including the Jock Up One, One 4s, the Jock Up Three 4s, Global Concept Jock Up, and Jock Up Arc. You can see all of these designs in their Racing Collection. I would recommend trying on a GPA helmet at your local tack shop for sizing before you order to ensure a perfect fit, as fit is paramount for proper safety and aesthetic. The nice thing is your local shop does not have to carry the exact helmet style for the fit to be correct — I went to the Tack Trunk in St Louis, MO, to try on a GPA helmet while at a hunter/jumper show at the National Equestrian Center, and fitted a helmet from their Classic Collection. The sizing appears to be uniform across their lines.

GPA Jock Up Three — Amy Nelson & Hummingbird’s Mendacium.

The Jock Up Three absolutely stays in place, and you won’t have to worry about it slipping on cross country. My OTTB is quite scopey and enthusiastic, so one of the jumps during my helmet test I was left behind. I had no one to blame but myself, but I was impressed that the GPA helmet didn’t budge. I could recover quickly and made my turn to the next jump without wasting valuable seconds fixing my helmet. At no point do you want your helmet to obscure your view while on course!

GPA Jock Up Three — Amy Nelson is left behind on Hummingbird’s River but the helmet stayed in place!

I tried out the Jock Up Three with, and without a cover. I am so used to having a helmet cover that I prefer wearing it with one on. But the design looks great on its own as well. I can’t wait to properly get out on course this March at the Buck Davidson Jr. Clinic in Kansas City to try it out! I will have to order a more professional looking helmet cover soon though, as the only non-branded cover I own is neon pink with a blingy skull & crossbones on the front and I would rather Mr. Davidson remember me for my riding rather than my flashy attire. Who makes your favorite matchy matchy helmet cover?? This helmet is so comfortable, and sleek … I would highly recommend GPA helmets!

Take a look at the video of this helmet, and my “cross country” riding in the snow on my warmblood mare Hummingbird’s Mendacium:

Follow Frantisi on Instagram and Facebook.

Final Review – Out of 4 Stars

Cost: $$$-$$$$
Excitement: *** 3 Stars
Durability: **** 4 Stars
Variety: *** 3 Stars

Friday Fashion Forecast: Acavallo Sensitive Bit — WHAT Does it Do??

Acavallo Sensitive Bit. Photo via Acavallo.com. Acavallo Sensitive Bit. Photo via Acavallo.com.

What in the world does the Acavallo Sensitive Bit do, and why is this schooling bit a game-changer for a young/green/worried horse?

When training for events you do loads of practice at home that is not performed at a show. Gridwork, poles and cavalletti are just a few examples. These help a horse achieve proper balance and build muscle memory for use in portions of the event. Why not use a training bit that can do the same? Take a look at the Acavallo Sensitive Bit.

Amy Nelson with her prelim event horse in the Acavallo Sensitive Bit.

According to the Acavallo website, the design is a “slightly arched and flattened mouthpiece (that) ensures that pressure on tongue, yaws and mouth corners, if applicable, is distributed evenly. The one-piece design of mouthpiece and rings prevents a one-sided squeezing or pinching of tongue or yaws, as well as painful irritations of the palate (no ‘nutcracker effect’).” I tried this bit on a few different horses at my farm. One that is an anxious fellow, my prelim gelding, who stresses about collection and dressage. The other was a young OTTB who came off the track recently, and is learning how to relax and carry himself properly for a future career in fox hunting.

For the future fox hunter, I normally ride him in a 5-inch full cheek snaffle. The full cheek helps with steering on a green OTTB, so most often this would be my go-to bit for horses coming off the track. Aside from creating relaxation, in my experience Acavallo Sensitive bit helped stabilize the unnecessary lateral movement in a young horse. Those that tend to be wiggly as they are learning to work through their entire body, I always use a running martingale. Aside from teaching them to not get above the bit, it also works like stabilizer bars on a bumper pull trailer. This bit seemed to work in a similar manner, allowing the horses to work through their bodies from poll to tail without the typical bulging of young horse. I combined the Acavallo Sensitive bit with a running martingale to help teach them to drive from their hind end. It also seems to work well for straightness even without a martingale.

Amy Nelson with Future Fox Hunter OTTB in the Acavallo Sensitive Bit.

In the bit there are two slots where you can put your reins. The middle slot works with less leverage, and the bottom slot gives you a bit more.  For my prelim event horse I used the bottom slot to school dressage. The difference from his normal French link was astounding. He was relaxed and soft, and was able to properly accept the contact while schooling poles and cavalletti. This is a horse we nicknamed the “grey dinosaur.” I always ride him in a 5.25 inch bit, and most tend to rub and irritate the corners of his mouth without guards. His jaw is mildly asymmetrical, so generally I see rubbing on one side. The Acavallo Sensitive Bit comes in only one size, with the claim that it fits the majority of any horse or pony.  I thought for sure it would rub. I was blown away when it fit comfortably! No pinching, rubbing, or bald patches of facial hair after using this bit, unlike many others that I have tried.

My only complaint is that because of the small openings in the side of the bit, it is impossible to lunge a horse using a standard lunge line clip. I always lunge my young horses fully tacked before getting on, so this presented a challenge. I like to see how they are going to move with all of the equipment including saddle and bridle, and for proper communication I always run the lunge line through the bit, up over their poll and connect to the other side. This bit does not allow for that. The opening is just too small. One option would be to use a lunging cavesson instead.

I was skeptical at first, but absolutely see a time and a place for the Acavallo Sensitive Bit. It is a great training tool for young, anxious horses.  According to the website, “It enhances confidence of the horse in the rider’s hand because of its quiet and comfortable positioning in the mouth, helping the horse to find its own balance. Due to its integrated, flexible steel cable reinforcement, this bit provides for a soft, yet very secure control of the horse. An ideal choice especially for the schooling of young and the correction of difficult horses.”

I would definitely recommend using this as a substitution for your dressage bit in your training regimen, also for starting young horses, and correcting self-carriage. Due to the weather — massive temperature swings in Illinois brought frigid temps and then weeks of mud — I was unable to test the Sensitive Bit in an open field. More research is needed on the “secure control” portion of the claims. However, in an arena setting, my feisty prelim event horse was able to focus and stop when asked.

According to Acavallo, the Sensitive Bit is made of an “innovative, anti-allergic plastic material instead of a heavy and/or cold metal or metal allloy.” I made a video before my first day of several weeks of testing, and that day temps had dropped into the teens. You can see how this bit is still flexible in spite of the frigid temps.

So many people contacted when I posted this video earlier in the week! One woman has a fox hunter who needs a little more leverage out in the field, but still wants softness in her horse’s mouth. She has tried loads of other bits. One woman is  a friend of mine who runs a horse rescue that works with at-risk youth in our area. Through working with animals, the kids learn valuable skills like patience and confidence. She told me they have a young horse who is very fussy with every bit, and she wondered if the sensitive bit might be the solution.

The truth is, I don’t have all the answers. But what I told them was, I saw a huge difference in the horses while using it. One horse, took to it right away, while took two rides to see a difference. In my opinion, this bit will be the answer for quite a few horses, but certainly not all of them.  Surely you don’t ride all of your horses in the same bit, because every horse is unique.

But for the price of the bit (about $55), it’s about the same as you would spend on one riding lesson in many regions. My advice would be order this bit to try it on your particular horse, in your particular situation. I was sold. If you have a youngster who is anxious and sensitive in the mouth, or your horse struggles to find balance and stay relaxed, this will be another great training tool in your arsenal.

Amy Nelson with the future fox hunter in the Acavallo Training Bit.

Keep in mind, this bit is not competition legal. It is designed for schooling at home. You school poles and cavalletti and grids at home. Perhaps try the Acavallo Sensitive Bit as well! If you have questions about trying it out, feel free to contact me on Facebook or Instagram!

Follow Frantisi on Facebook and Instagram – they are the reason we have excellent training tools from Acavallo in North America!

Final Review (Out of 4 Stars)

Cost: $$
Excitement: *** 3 Stars
Durability: **** 4 Stars
Variety: ** 2 Stars (this is one of many training bits from Acavallo)

Friday Fashion Forecast: Warm Ears and Audio with TooksHats!

How do you keep your ears warm under your helmet while you ride in the winter? Normal winter hats don’t fit properly and render your helmet unsafe. What if you want to listen to music while you ride … but earbuds keep falling out? Introducing Tooks — hats you hear!

Tooks Hats come in a variety of styles including the Sportec Scully, made of dryfit material, which is absolutely perfect for riders! It is stretchy and warm, specifically designed to fit under a helmet for winter sports. It not only keeps you warm under your helmet for winter riding, but also contains headphones that you can position for a custom fit to your ears!

If you have trouble with earbuds like I do (for some reason ear buds just refuse to stay in, so I waste more time adjusting them than actually riding) then you need to try Tooks. The headphones slide into the Hat through a reinforced opening in the back of the hat. It allows you to place the headphones securely inside of the fabric itself, exactly where you want them, and they stay in place with small pieces of Velcro on the earphones. They are removable for easy washing of your hat, or for storage when you don’t care to listen to music while you ride.

Tooks Sportec Skully. Photo from TooksHats.com.

Despite the size of these headphones they actually have extremely good sound quality! In addition to riding professionally for all these years, I have spent 19 years working as a radio DJ.  I know good sound when I hear it. These headphones have superior sound quality, with great definition of bass, and you can even get them in a wireless option. You can thump your dance music while jumping through grids, rock your heavy metal while cleaning stalls, and secretly listen to rock opera while perfecting your dressage.

 

 

 

 

Amy Nelson with the Tooks Sportec Skully under a winter hat.

Tooks Hats come in several colors to express your individuality. They also have winter style hats for when you aren’t riding, to listen to music perhaps while finishing farm chores. I tested the Sportec Scully with wired headphones and the wire easily tucked through my jacket to my phone for my dance mixes. It never seemed to get in the way of my riding position at all. And I actually put a winter hat over it while I was doing chores, listening to an audiobook in the frozen tundra. It provided extra warmth and was already on my head to quickly switch out for a helmet when I was ready to ride.  Tooks offers a variety of hats and styles, including a Tooks Sportband in dryfit material. This fits over a baseball cap nicely, while still fitting perfectly under your helmet.

Tooks Sportec Skully under Amy Nelson’s helmet.

Take a look at my video showing how the Tooks Hats work! These are super affordable (use code MISTLETOE at checkout for 10% off through the holidays!), so you can grab one in every color — even Pink! Absolutely a perfect stocking stuffer for the rider on your gift list.

Cost: $
Excitement: *** 3 Stars
Durability: *** 3 Stars
Variety: *** 3 Stars

An Eventer’s Guide to Winter Survival

Hummingbird Stables Riding Club “Ugly Orange Party Trail Ride.” Photo by Amy Nelson.

Winter is a state of mind. The state I’m in is Illinois, and cold and snow are rampant this time of year. Our eventing season is short — it only runs from May until October in Area IV. Winter brings blowing snow, frigid temperatures, and ice, as in many regions of the world. Can’t go to a warmer region for the season? Just how do you survive? Hating winter doesn’t make it snow any less, nor does it make the temperature any warmer. The way to survive winter, if you can’t change your state, is to change your state of mind.

Step 1: Preparedness. We were lucky in Illinois that this year we had what I call a “dress rehearsal” for winter. Temperatures dipped down into the teens for a couple of days, but then rose back up, so I could see the flaws in my winter preparedness. I found the leaky lightweight hoses, last year’s tank heaters that no longer worked, and extension cords needing replaced, before we got into the thick of things. Do yourself a favor: spend the money. Get the lightweight hoses so you can pack them up in a tub after every use and store them in a heated tack room or in the house. Get the tank heaters, the insulated winter clothing, and the boots that will keep your feet warm and dry. You can’t put a price on winter sanity. As the ultimate Penny Pincher, if it means I have to skip one show to keep myself sane for the four or five months of winter, it is well worth it.

Amy Nelson & TWH Hummingbird’s Mystic Mojito.

Step 2. Stop complaining. Everywhere you look on social media people are whining and complaining about how dark it is, how cold it is, and how snowy it is. Don’t fall into that trap! It will start to bring you down. You will focus on the negative and it will be a long long winter. Whining won’t make it stop, but it will make you miserable. If you have to, block those types of posts. Stay off social media. Or better yet, follow hashtags like #winterwonderland or our own — #ENinWinter. Help us flood social media with FUN winter activities with your horse!

Step 3. Make plans. In our region and there are a host of winter hunter/jumper shows, inside and heated. These are a great way to have something to look forward to and keep yourself and your horse busy!  You’ll have fun in the offseason, whether it’s jumpers with your upper level mount or taking a green horse to a fun show to see the sights. We recently took a couple of young OTTBs to a fun show where they had everything from English and western to gaited and even speed classes. It was a great way for these horses to be exposed to lots of commotion before their eventing careers start.

Our Hummingbird Stables Riding Club has winter trail rides at a local State Park — we just had our “Ugly Orange Party” trail ride (everyone got decked out in hunter’s orange and neon yellow for a winter trail ride!). Go fox hunting with friends. Third flight is generally walk/trot, behind the hounds, like a fast paced trail ride on terrain. Join the “Polar Bear Club” — at my barn this is if you ride bareback when it’s under 20 degrees! The bonus you steal the horses body heat while you ride. Coming up, our Riding Club has a WEG Watching Party — like a Superbowl party– only we recorded the eventing portion of the World Equestrian Games and have a get-together by the fireplace with wine and snacks in the coldest month of the year.

Amy Nelson & young OTTB Hummingbird’s THE Meatloaf at an indoor fun show. Photo by James McPherson.

Step 4. Find the Positive. I started this mental exercise a few years ago because running a farm in frigid Illinois took some getting used to. My goal each day of winter is to find one thing I enjoyed about the season. Enjoy the beauty of a cardinal sitting on a snowy branch, the sun sparkling on the morning frost, or the magic of spotting a Sundog. Maybe lay by the fireplace and read your favorite horse book. What put this in perspective for me is following National Geographic on Instagram. They post a lot of photos of different groups of people from around the world and their daily struggles. Looking at a child walking miles for a drink of water makes me feel absolutely ridiculous for complaining about a 4:45 p.m. sunset, or the fact that my toes got cold when I rode my horse in the indoor arena! Enjoy the season. There are absolutely no bugs. Laugh at the pile of barn kitties snuggled up in a patch of sunshine. Use a lesson horse to pull your stepson down a hill on a sled (THIS idea was so fantastic, for the record).

Ruckus the beagle enjoys a fireside nap.
Photo by Amy Nelson

Don’t just survive winter. ENJOY the season. Now put on those warm socks, bundle up, and have a great ride!

Reader poll: What’s your favorite thing to do in the winter with your horse? Post a photo of you enjoying the cold season!

Friday Fashion Forecast: Acavallo Respira Air Release Gel Pad

Acavallo Respira Air Release Gel Pad. Photo courtesy of Acavallo

I’m pretty sure I have about 8 million half pads, wither-relief pads and assorted other accoutrement in my collection. But I recently had the opportunity to try the Acavallo Respira Air Release Gel Pad, which has me wondering why I haven’t tried it sooner! It is a low profile, discreet half “pad” that provides airflow to your horse’s back, extra cushion and saddle grip.

I tested it on my fussy Prelim OTTB and he seems to really enjoy the comfort. It definitely kept my saddle in place extremely well, which allowed me to sit quietly in position while working on dressage. In jumping and cross country rounds, this type of cushion and security would be a game-changer. Your horse’s comfort over fences plays a huge role in her performance. Every detail matters.

Amy Nelson & Hummingbird’s River with the Acavallo Respira Air Release Gel Pad. Photo by Amy Nelson

Aside from the practical use, the look was one of my favorite features. This sleek gel pad is much more low-profile than many of the other half pads that I have in my arsenal. To me, a portion of the game is looking the part. When it comes down to it, that last little half of point in dressage is your turn out. When everything looks clean and tucked in where it belongs (including your “secret weapon,” the Acavallo Respira Air Release Gel Pad) you present a professional picture. Your competitors may take notice of this has-it-all-together-look, and shake in their boots just a little as you enter the ring for stadium.

Also, as a permanently filthy individual I greatly appreciate the fact that this type of pad can be hosed off outside and hung on my fence to dry. This way I don’t have to wait until my husband goes out of town to wash all of my saddle pads in our washer! That being said, because of the material, I would definitely keep this stored in a somewhat climate-controlled environment. As we are heading into winter I have not had the opportunity to leave it in the tack room of hot trailer in a scorching truck … but I would imagine it would be better off riding in front with you in the AC. More research is needed on this, but my guess would be you should not leave it in a hot vehicle during a 110 F degree day.

Take a look at my demo video here — including my ride on my horse Hummingbird’s River using the Acavallo gel pad!

It’s so squishy. I just want to squish it. Acavallo’s website explains the science behind it, but this squishy squishy could double as a “stress ball” at a difficult show. They explain, “a multitude of little bulges with lateral holes permitting an even more effective, horizontally directed air circulation and increased shock absorption. Besides creating a cushion effect every time they are compressed, the bulges generate a flow of refreshing air that keeps the back of the horse perfectly dry. Moreover, the new open bulge structure will enable us to use less material, resulting in a substantial decrease of the gel pad weight (almost 20% less compared to previous Air Release pads).” I can attest to this — it is very lightweight and cushioning.

The neat thing about this product is that Acavallo has a variety of air-release gel pads, therapeutic pads, riser pads, massaging pads, and even those with sheepskin trim. You can find these in North America at your favorite tack retailer thanks to Frantisi (Facebook & Instagram), and all over Europe and many other regions as well. If you need help finding what you’re looking for, just message them!

Final Review

Cost: $$
Excitement: *** 3 Stars
Durability: *** 3 Stars
Variety: *** 3 Stars

Acavallo Respira Air Release Gel Pad. Photo courtesy of Amy Nelson.

Friday Fashion Forecast: Eskadron FlexiSoft Cross Country Boots

Eskadron FlexiSoft Cross Country Boots, front and hind. Photos courtesy of Eskadron.

How many times has your trainer told you to have soft arms? To be flexible, yet strong? “Don’t be so rigid!” she says. “Don’t brace against your horse, you want him to be soft and supple.” Why then would you use a cross-country boot that is rigid and stiff? It’s time to try Eskadron FlexiSoft Cross Country Boots!

They are everything your riding should be — strong, yet flexible, and able to follow your horse’s movement without constricting it. You are galloping through a wide variety of terrain with a huge range of motion for your horse. Jumps, drops, banks and a ground-covering gallop. To have your horse perform his best, he needs a full range of motion in every stride.

Eskadron FlexiSoft Cross Country Boots allow your horse to do just that. They also offer great protection and strength. These boots eliminate any rub spots you may have seen in the past with other designs. They stay perfectly in place through water without getting water logged. Even in muddy conditions they don’t slip down.

Eskadron FlexiSoft Cross Country Boots — Amy Nelson with her warmblood mare. Photo by JMcPherson.

I tested these boots on two of my horses over the last few weeks, including in a clinic with Dom Schramm at my farm Hummingbird Stables in Illinois. We rode inside and out, on my 16.1 hand warmblood mare and 16.3 hand OTTB gelding. These boots were very adjustable and fit both horses perfectly!  The Thoroughbred we nicknamed the “grey dinosaur,” as his jumping movements tend to be quite clunky and he does not care how many solid cross country jumps he bangs against. The mare is careful to a fault, as she tends to over-jump every question by at least two feet. The conditions outside were quite muddy in spots as we had gotten a bunch of rain leading up to the clinic. The sleek design is easy to clean up even after riding in the muddiest of conditions, so a quick wipe down and they were ready for my next ride.

Neither horse had any sore spots from the boots and they protected both horses perfectly. What I really like is the flexibility of the fit. They are much more adjustable than other cross country-type boots which is great! I compete multiple horses, but they have very different body styles and bone structures. The boots have elastic and Velcro to make each boot a custom fit, and then an extra snap closure to ensure it all stays in place. They are much more adjustable than other cross country boots I have used in the past.

In spite of being the ultimate penny-pinching Scrooge, there are a few things I will never skimp on. One thing is protecting my horses’ legs. As you know: no legs, no horse. I have had a horse stud himself from an up bank out of water, where it could have torn his tendon if not for the protection of cross country boots. You spend countless dollars on horse trials and clinics, so invest in safety and comfort of your horse!

But let’s talk about the real cost of these cross country boots. I watch those clothing makeover shows, and they talk about “cost per wear” on an item. They explain that if you invest $120 on a dress, but wear it 12 times a year, it’s really only $10 per wear! I love this logic. With some of the other cross country boots I have tried, because of the design, I need a specific set of boots for each horse. So I have to buy two or three sets of boots. But the Eskadron FlexiSoft Cross Country Boots are adjustable for the perfect fit on all of my horses. So, one set of boots will fit them all. The cost of the boots is divided by two or three (when the baby OTTB Hummingbird’s THE Meatloaf goes eventing in the future, these boots fit him too!). Therefore, “cost per horse” is actually less than other cross country boots. If you have one horse, you can be sure the fit is exact, and your horse will not have any sore spots at the end of your rounds.

Eskadron FlexiSoft Cross Country Boots — easy wipe down after a muddy ride. Photo courtesy of Amy Nelson.

Don’t forget — the reason we have cool products like those from Eskadron in North America is because of a great company called Frantisi. It’s not just Europe that gets all the amazing tack anymore! You can order Eskadron FlexiSoft Cross Country Boots at your favorite tack shop.

Check out all of Frantisi’s products on Facebook and Instagram. They have great contests on there too where you can win super eventing gear!

Amy Nelson and her OTTB gelding. Photo by Clayton & Rebecca Mason

Final Review

Cost: $$$
Excitement: *** 3 Stars
Durability: *** 3 Stars
Variety: ** 2 Stars

 

 

Friday Fashion Forecast: What’s Under THERE? UnderWEAR by TomboyX

TomboyX - Penguins. Photo courtesy of 
TomboyX.com. TomboyX - Penguins. Photo courtesy of TomboyX.com.

It’s time to mention the “unmentionables.” There are days when it’s over a hundred degrees when you ride. You might walk anywhere between 4 and 8 miles at any given horse trial, between your course walk, and back and forth between the competition areas. Perhaps you ride several horses in a day for hours at a time at home.  Of course your horses like to play in the farthest reaches of the back 40, so you bet you’re going to hike back there to get them. Let’s talk about how the comfort of your “vital areas” are, well, vital.

TomboyX 9″ Boxer Briefs — Kiwi Birds

I know, I know … no one actually wants to have this conversation. However I have found that it’s time we stopped suffering so that we can concentrate on what’s really important, like our performance in the ring! Introducing TomboyX!

TomboyX offers a range of “incredibly luxurious, silky soft, and feather-light” gender-neutral under-items in a MicroModal fabric that “are made to hug any body, including yours,” according to their website. I tested the 4.5 inch Zodiac trunks, the 6 inch boxer briefs, and 9 inch Nude boxer briefs. Right off the bat I was blown away the super-soft fabric. A breathable stretch that they claim “never rides up,” TomboyX is right. I rode 7 horses, walked to multiple pastures dozens of times, and cleaned stalls. I paced back and forth while teaching lessons and even sat my No-Stirrup November trot. I was amazed. At no point, EVER, did I reach to rescue my regions from the ride up.

Amy Nelson with TomboyX “Zodiac” 4.5″ Trunks

Without going into the gory details, sometimes things can get rather warm. Perhaps salty. Anyone who has taken a dressage lesson with a Grand Prix trainer in Florida knows that when you finally make to the shower at the end of the day, you allegedly weep when the water touches your skin because of what feels like rope burns. Perhaps there is friction in certain areas thanks to your saddle or excessive riding. In the search for comfort, you don’t want to have a frumpy booty that looks like you are wearing ill-fitting under-items. The terms “munch butt” and “VPL” are never things you want whispered as you walk by at a three-day event. TomboyX trunks are designed to hug “every body” from XS to 4X, and have been fit-tested, according to their site. I believe this to be true; when you follow them on Facebook or Instagram you constantly see different body types modeling their products.

But why the trunks? To me there are certain skimpy skivvies that some people wear while riding that may eliminate the bunching and VPL issues, but to be honest by the end of a long day I feel that I am being split in two. Traditional brief-y underthings often have an effect that over time and miles that will actually cut your inner thighs, and also lead to a diaper-looking disaster of your derriere. Remember that one time you lunged your event horse without gloves? It feels like that, only it’s down there. TomboyX has trunks without seams or elastic in those spots. So dare I say it? NO chafing.

For everyday riding and darker breeches, TomboyX has a whole host of adorable colors and patterns! Just because they are comfy doesn’t mean they have to be basic — boring! They have a pattern for every style, like penguins, flamingos, octopus, bewitched, trick or treat, purple camo, catnap, dog days, rainbow pride, and even holiday prints! Who doesn’t love snow-shoveling, candy-cane-carrying flamingos?

TomboyX – 4.5″ trunks
Flamingo Bells

For competition days, they offer a range of nude shades for every body from the palest pale (me) to luxuriously chocolate, and discreetly keep you comfortable at the most stressful shows. No ride up. No tug. No rub. The 9″ Nude Boxer Briefs were extremely form fitting and flattering without strangling my innards. They fit like a lighter version of exercise shorts. I found these drawers are second to none with their softness and they are perfect for protecting vital areas during a hot show. Because of their design they do not produce lines or wrinkles in unflattering ways. I’ve tried other flesh-tone shorts-style items from the department store. Apparently the only humans who purchase these ghastly items are trying to fit in clothing that is two sizes too small, so they contain most atrocious control top where I can actually feel my liver relocating during my dressage test. TomboyX is so stretchy and soft, that I could concentrate on my movements and not on my pantaloons. I mean, I’m already sick with nerves before I enter the ring, so why would I want to be tortured by my scanties on top of that?

Amy Nelson with TomboyX Nude 9″ Boxer Briefs

Not that it really matters what you look like under your breeches … but these also got my husband’s nod of approval. At no point did he laugh, point, and exclaim, “what on earth are you wearing?!” as he has done in the past with my quest to find comfortable undergarments. He thought these were cute and flattering, as he was my photographer. And let’s be honest. Sometimes you change clothes in a stall at a horse trial. Someone might see you. These look like shorts.

TomboyX underwear are Eco-Friendly, ethically produced, and sweat-shop free.  So you can proudly put on these ‘pants’ with a clear conscience. Founders Fran and Naomi created TomboyX to fill a void — to fit regular bodies that anyone could feel comfortable, “regardless of where they fell on the size or gender spectrum.” You spend hours and dollars making sure your horse is comfortable, down to the smallest detail. But what about you? Can you honestly say you haven’t gone for a tell-tale tug, when no one is looking? I’m not ashamed to admit that I have. Can you say, like a popular toilet paper commercial says, that you feel “fresh as a shimmering mermaid?” If not, it’s time to try TomboyX.

Final Review

Cost: $$$
Excitement: **** 4 Stars
Durability: **** 4 Stars
Variety: ***** 5 Stars

Amy Nelson with TomboyX Nude 9″ Boxer Briefs

 

 

Friday Fashion Forecast: After ‘No-Stirrup November’ Shop Acavallo Stirrups

Acavallo Arena Alupro Safety Stirrup. Photo by Amy Nelson.

It may be “No-Stirrup November,” but as you work on your sitting trot with yours neatly folded over the front of your saddle, can you really say you’re happy with them? Perhaps it’s time to try Acavallo stirrups.

Aside from being quite possibly the most gorgeous stirrup irons I have ever seen, Acavallo stirrups have a unique design that make them perfect for eventers. I was hesitant at first. But I am now a believer in what these stirrups can do.

When I first read the description for the Acavallo Arena Alupro Safety Stirrups, I laughed out loud. It explained that because of the construction of “flexible polymers,” that they are perfect for the equestrian with “knee, ankle, or hip issues.” Let’s be honest. Isn’t that all of us? When I read the science jargon of the material of the stirrup, and how that made it cushioning for your joints, I was skeptical. I did not see any spring-loaded action visible that would make me believe such a claim!

But as a trainer who rides in client saddles, lesson saddles, and everything in between all day long … I absolutely felt a difference. I have no idea how this works (there is an explanation of the material here). But the Acavallo stirrups felt cushy. I know it sounds crazy. But imagine jumping up and down on a cement sidewalk. In the same boots, imagine jumping up and down on carpet. The difference is astounding.

I tried the Acavallo Arena Alupro Safety Stirrup. Why a safety stirrup? I’m a professional, and a decent rider. Yet, I took a hard fall at the Kentucky Horse Park this year. My horse and I were completely fine, but it got me thinking. What if I wasn’t so lucky?

Think of a safety stirrup like an insurance policy. You get insurance for cars, homes, horses, farms, and hope you never need it. You aren’t EXPECTING an accident. But if something happens, it’s there. And unlike insurance, this stirrup is way more fun, and looks sleek and stylish! This is NOT your child’s safety stirrup. There is a locking release mechanism, that’s spring loaded. After a fall, it pops back into place with one click.

Amy Nelson takes a spill at the Kentucky Horse Park in 2018 off Hummingbird’s River.

Now, let’s talk about the grip. It seemed that every horse trial this year was Mudfest 2018! And while you make every attempt to hop in the saddle with clean boots, that’s not always realistic. There were inches and inches of rain, hurricanes, and sloshing around in knee-deep mud this show season. Need a little more grip? These stirrups have it. My favorite part is how light they are. In my experience, a lighter stirrup follows your foot as you travel up and down over terrain, unlike a heavier stirrup which seems to follow the ground. In short, I am less likely to “lose” a lightweight stirrup than a heavier, traditional one.

“Mudfest 2018” — Acavallo stirrups are grippy even in muddy conditions.

But how strong is that lightweight stirrup? What I find amazing, is they actually post the lab results for their stirrups online. As an Eventing Rulebook junkie, I love this kind of thing. I read the USEA Cross Country Course Design Guideline PDF by the fireplace when normal people read books and magazines (nerd alert! nerd alert!). The lab results for Acavallo stirrups were fascinating. You can see how many KG of pressure it took to actually have the stirrup fail (this thing stands up to loads of pressure). So you can be at ease knowing that when you take that big flier off of 4B like I did at the Kentucky Horse Park, IF you have Buck Davidson Jr. stickability (ehem), your stirrup will be right there with you. On a side note, I get to ride in a clinic with him in Kansas City this coming March of 2019, and you can bet I’ll try to find out his secret to staying on!

Safety stirrup not your thing? Acavallo makes a wide range of stirrups to fit your taste. And here’s a tip — get to know a company called Frantisi.  They are the ones to thank for distributing amazing products like Acavallo to us in North America! It’s not just Europe that gets all the cool stuff anymore. They’ve made sure you can find these Acavallo stirrups at your favorite tack retailer.

You can also find Frantisi and all their great products on Facebook and Instagram.

Acavallo Opera Stirrup. Photo courtesy of Acavallo.com.

Final Review

Cost: $$$
Excitement: *** 3 Stars
Durability: **** 4 Stars
Variety: ** 2 Stars

Friday Fashion Forecast: Alympic Equestrian Breeches

Alympic Equestrian Breeches. Photos: Amy Nelson with Violet Columbine. Alympic Equestrian Breeches. Photos: Amy Nelson with Violet Columbine.

Alympic Equestrian Breeches. Photos: Amy Nelson with Violet Columbine.

As an eventer, you’re constantly on the go, with competitions and clinics, jump grids, dressage lessons, cross country schooling … and at the end of the day all you want to do is slip into a comfy pair of jammies! May I present to you: Alympic Equestrian breeches!

I absolutely love the fit of these breeches. To me, they feel like I’m wearing pajamas. The comfort was unmatched for a long day of riding seven horses, cleaning 15 stalls, teaching several lessons, and even unloading hay (I would not recommend unloading hay in these as they are gorgeous, but surprisingly seemed to hold up without a snag!) Generally at some point towards the evening, I’m desperate to get out of my breeches and into something more comfortable … but not with Alympic!

Amy Nelson & Hummingbird’s River in Alympic Equestrian.

According to their website, these are made to “bridge the gap between everyday and competition wear.” They stress that equestrian is a sport, so you should dress like it! I would say these breeches would make a perfect addition to your clinic wardrobe. They are flattering and comfortable, and come in fun, yet classy colors that will give you just a touch of style in a clinic setting. The “violet columbine” breech is named for the deep purple Columbine flowers that grow wild in Alympic’s home state of Colorado. They are gorgeous! The ankle area has a “sock sleeve,” which is perfect for eliminating bruising from bunchy Velcro if you are a short rider (me!!), but is long enough for the taller riders too.

Best of all? The cell phone pocket. I am notorious for dropping, breaking, stepping on, and otherwise destroying my phone. It is currently being held together by a piece of duct tape from my cross country boot kit. So to my delight, the cell phone pocket kept my now fragile phone safe and secure all day, in spite attempts by my 2-year-old OTTB “Hummingbird’s THE Meatloaf” to jar it loose (he likes to stop randomly and check the arena for snacks as if he is outside on the grass). My students make fun of my nerdy fanny pack where I normally keep my phone (I can’t afford to replace this one, AGAIN), but adored the Alympic breeches with the cell phone pocket! Even schooling cross country on my prelim horse Hummingbird’s River, it stayed in place!

Amy Nelson & Hummingbird’s THE Meatloaf in Alympic Equestrian.

Amy Nelson & Hummingbird’s THE Meatloaf – Alympic Equestrian

Alympic Equestrian Breeches are a must for your holiday wish list. They are the perfect breech for warm-up days at an event, or a clinic with a top event rider. They offer luxurious colors like “Violet Columbine,” “Ponderosa Pine Cone,” “Basalt,” and “Black Lava” in breeches and jods. They even carry a white competition breech, all with antimicrobial treatment, and compression for muscle support! Alympic founder Autumn Harrier is an equestrian herself, as an amateur and later a professional, who understands the needs of a rider.

It’s time to get your clinic attire on point. In my years of riding, I have found that clinicians DO take in to account your turnout when teaching. Those who show up in neat, well-fitting attire, clean tack and horse, with a classy look, tend to get the extra attention. Because if you care about the details in turnout, a clinician will assume you care about the details in riding as well. The knee patches are grippy enough for the most demanding clinician, yet the breech is comfortable enough to audit the other groups all day long.

Check out the Alympic Equestrian website and be follow the brand on Facebook and Instagram. Use the code “EventingNation” for a discount on your order through 12 midnightEST 11/11/2018. Get that holiday wish-list started today!

Final Review

Cost: $$$
Excitement: *** 3 Stars
Durability: ** 2 Stars
Variety: *** 3 Stars

Amy Nelson & Hummingbird’s River in Alympic Equestrian.

 

Friday Fashion Forecast: Anique Equestrian Show Shirts

Anique Peacock Blue Signature UV Protection Shirt. Photo courtesy of Amy Nelson.

As loads of riders are packing up to head to Aiken or Ocala for the winter, it’s time for a fresh new addition to your equestrian wardrobe! Introducing: Anique Equestrian. Like “unique,” because you’ve never been one to blend in with the crowd. As their website boasts, Anique signature ultra-light quarter zip UV Protection Shirt with “cooling smart yarn technology helps you maintain a comfortable body temperature during and after physical performance in hot weather.” It keeps you protected from the sun, while looking fantastic, and the fabric is extremely soft!

Anique Signature UV Protection Shirt – Desert Rose. PC: Aniqueequestrian.com

As an eventer who has had sun shirts in the past, I worry about their delicate fabric. I loved how luxurious the Anique shirt feels without the burden of thinking if I move just so I will tear it. This fabric stood up to even the most rigorous ride! These shirts are machine washable (a MUST for any eventer), and I can attest to this. My angry mare of a horse Hummingbird’s Mendacium gave me a perfectly timed “green goober kiss” across the sleeve of the Peacock Blue Signature UV Protection Shirt at Hagyard Midsouth this weekend! I actually had to rinse the sleeve off in the restroom while still wearing it, but surprisingly it looked good as new.

Amy Nelson – Anique Signature UV Protection Shirt

The fit is extremely flattering, and the length of the shirt was perfect for cross country, show jumping and warm up, as it would not inadvertently come untucked. You could even wear the white shirt with a stock tie under your hunt coat during a scorcher of a show. Anique comes in a variety of colors that are rulebook allowed for hot days when jackets are waved, including “black swan” and “pure white.” Stuck in the arctic tundra for the winter?? It’s OK. Your family is desperate to get you that perfect gift for the holidays.  Just send them the link to your exact color and size choice, and be sure to use the discount code: “eventer2018” for 10% off! Anique also has gift certificates available on their website. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram as well.

The best part about Anique is their values as a small company. They believe in empowering women and giving back. As such, they spearhead a program called “Kold Kids,” which as their website explains, donates multi-functional outerwear to children living in poverty in cold climates in the United States and around the globe.  So 10% of company profits go to helping kids in Detroit, New York, and around the world.  Talk about the spirit of the season!

WANT WIN the Peacock Blue Signature Shirt in your size?  Comment below where you will be spending the winter eventing season!  One winner will be randomly chosen of all entries received by 12 a.m. EST on Nov. 2, 2018.

Final Review

Cost: $$
Excitement: *** 3 Stars
Durability: *** 3 Stars
Variety: ** 2 Stars

Devoucoux Saddles: Riding on #TeamGreen

Amy Nelson and Hummingbird’s River in the Chiberta Lab.
Photo by James McPherson.

We are less than 12 weeks away from the holidays, and as your friends and family know, only eventing gear is on your wishlist. You have gone through catalogs and circled very specific items, included sizes (human and horse), tagged them on Instagram/Pinterest/Facebook items, and even shared the ever-so-popular meme that you “wear a size 250 x 150 indoor arena.”  The truth is, if you have one item on your holiday wish list, it should be a saddle from Devoucoux.

In my quarter century of riding hunter/jumpers and eventers, I’ve ridden in dozens of brands of saddles. I’ve always been a bargain hunter, a frugal penny-pinching miser like Scrooge himself. But when one of my trainers, Chrissy Hall (who was a trainer of four-star event rider Jimmie Schramm), made the comment to me one day that “you will never win a fight against a poor fitting saddle,” I knew I had to do something.

I practice hours and hours, week upon week upon week, and yet my dressage just did not seem to be improving at all. I have a massive OTTB with a huge wither, an even bigger shoulder, and an even larger stride. When I would attempt a sitting trot I felt like a 5 year old learning how to trot for the first time on that Appy lesson pony I grew up with. On cross country I never really felt secure in my jump saddle. I felt loose as the jumps and drops grew in size, and my horse became more agitated on the landing side of every fence. As I moved up the levels, it became more apparent that practice would NOT make perfect. I needed to make a change in my equipment to get where I wanted to be and my horse to be comfortable to perform at his best.

Amy Nelson & Humingbird’s River in a Devoucoux Chiberta Lab. Photo by Derith Vogt.

My regional Devoucoux rep Kristin Heinkel from Area IV was here in a flash with samples of saddles to try on my horses. It sounds silly I know, but literally my horse chose the saddle. We tried a handful of monoflap eventing saddles, but when I rode around in the Chiberta Lab, my big grey OTTB instantly relaxed. It was less than five minutes. It’s not that he had warmed up differently. It was not that all of sudden we did an easier movement or anything changed. It was like when you try on that one pair of comfortable shoes that just fits you perfectly. He was relaxed and happy.

“Which one is this, and what is the price?” I sheepishly asked.

“The most expensive one,” she replied, laughing. Of course it was. The Scrooge in me was about to say, sorry buddy, I can’t. I just can’t. But the professional in me knew how important this was. If you have ever done a cross country course walk in pair of shoes that fit just OK … for walking around the stabling area … but then you finish a two-mile course walk and your feet ache, you know what your horse is going through. You’re sore. You don’t want to walk properly, and your footfalls change as you try to protect the parts of your feet that just don’t feel right. This must be how my horse felt by the end of a dressage test, and by the last few fences of cross country. Getting this saddle had to be done.

Of course for me as the rider, the difference of riding in a Devoucoux saddle was night and day. I could actually sit my trot in the dressage saddle! On cross country when we took the flier over that huge trakehner, I never once felt like I was loose in the tack. For long fox hunting trips and trail rides it was like a three-hour ride on a pillow wrapped in a cloud. Even my working student, who rides in a high-end saddle, squealed like a little girl at Christmas when she cooled out my upper level event horse one day in my Devoucoux dressage saddle. She couldn’t believe the comfort.

Amy Nelson & Hummingbird’s Mendacium in a Devoucoux Mikala. Photo by Merrick Studios.

The best part about a Devoucoux saddle is the detail that goes into making it. Every saddle is custom. You can read all the technical jargon on their website, which is fascinating. But I can tell you when I decided to pull the trigger, my Team Green rep went to work on exact measurements and the layout of my horse’s body to ensure a great fit. As I have multiple horses competing without a trust-fund budget, we fitted to my upper level guy with his extreme body type, and then worked on a series of pads and shims to make it suitable for my greener horse as she continues to grow.

What was amazing to me was when Jean-Michel Devoucoux himself wanted to double-check the measurements.  Apparently in his words to my rep — “We have never had to make a saddle this way before.” My OTTB has “the hugest scapula I have ever seen” according to my rep, and as his rider I know how absolutely fussy he is on the landing side of a Prelim table when a saddle slips forward onto his shoulders. Mr. Devoucoux had her drive back to my farm in Central Illinois to mark my horse’s shoulders, withers and ribcage in chalk, take photos and send them to him for final approval. He agreed with her assessment, and the billets on his saddle were moved specifically to allow for additional shoulder clearance on top of the brushing already in place!

Midwest Devoucoux rep Kristin Heinkel sends chalk outline photos to Mr. Jean-Michel Devoucoux in France.
Photo by Amy Nelson.

The difference is in the details. I’ll admit, I was skeptical at first. But after going through the process, and seeing how my horse and my riding has changed, I cannot believe I didn’t do this sooner. If you have one thing on your wishlist this holiday season, make it a Devoucoux. Your rounds will never be the same.

3…2…1…have a Team Green ride.

Devoucoux via Devoucoux.com.

10 Things to Do on a Torrential Downpour Day

Thanks to Hurricane Florence, many of us on the east coast have found ourselves in a torrential downpour of late. It’s a fitting grand finale to one of the wettest summer in recent memory, which has manifested in cancelled events, flooding and bad footing that has made eventing a challenge in 2018. It’s time to turn lemons into lemonade. Here are some great ideas to keep yourself (and your horse) busy on a torrential downpour day!

1. Rain gear & puddles. Obviously you want to wait until the actual storm has cleared because there’s no need in risking getting struck by lightning. However, up and coming event horses, or even established ones, will benefit from practicing riding in the rain and through slop. This is the perfect exercise if you do not have an indoor arena!

For the young ones I will ride down our gravel driveway and introduce them to water for the first time by having them walk through the puddles all the way to our mailbox. For really green horses you can introduce them to a puddle on lunge line on a rainy day. Put on your rubber boots and hop in with them! It’s a nice easy day but gets their brain thinking about water crossings.

For the established horses find a spot that you don’t mind tearing up a little bit and practice riding in the mud. If you are feeling particularly saucy, put on your rain gear and ride in the pouring rain. All too often we skip this in training and are surprised when our horses are upset when it’s windy and rainy at a show … or they spook at the sound of rain hitting our rain jackets!

2. Grids, grids, grids. If you are fortunate enough to have an indoor arena, or an outdoor that drains quite well, grid work is the perfect exercise on a rainy day. You can practice your dressage with raised poles, set up jump grids, cavalletti, etc!

3. Ride bareback. If you don’t have an indoor arena, and the footing does not allow you to do more than walk, do a bareback ride. Again, this can be done down the gravel driveway, or dry path. Keep in mind if the footing is slick, you might want the security of a saddle! Challenge yourself to see how long you can ride in an actual good jumping position or dressage position without your saddle in the arena. You could even do this in the indoor over poles or cavaletti, or even jump depending on your experience level.

4. Clean and organize tack. It’s something we all like to avoid, but our trailers tend to look like an episode of “Hoarders” when we come back from a three-day event. Maybe take a rainy day to get everything organized in tubs and bins ,and clean what needs it, and sort out items you don’t actually need.

5. READ!! If you are unable to do any of the other exercises due to excessive storms or flooding, take the opportunity to stay inside and read your favorite Eventing Nation articles.  Most equestrians have a stack of magazines with great articles full of exercises, tips and excellent education that we always promise ourselves someday we will sit down and read. Now is the time!

6. Clean the house. Hahahahahaha just kidding. We all know that isn’t going to happen.

7. Go for a long hack. Walking is great for a horse’s body and brain. If you have a place where you can safely hack down the road, or on a trail that hasn’t washed away in the flood, let your horse have a brain break. It’s good for you, too. As competitors we tend to be so focused on skills and showing that we forget the bond we have with our horse.

8. Wash saddle pads. Take all your dirty saddle pads, horse blankets (winter will be here before you know it!) and wash them at your local laundromat … or at home when no one is looking. Drop off show coats at the dry cleaner — when was the last time you actually had that thing cleaned??

9. Suppling exercises. Stretching and softening are great exercises for your horse on a bad weather day. Practice a turn on the haunches, turn on the forehand, free walk to medium walk, or stretchy trot if the footing will allow. Again, these can be done outside at the walk if you don’t have an indoor and the footing isn’t the best.

10. Horse shopping!!! Go online and look at horses for sale, including Sport Horse Nation, Retired Racehorse Project, CANTER USA,  etc. Because you need another event horse. You NEED one.

CHIME IN! Has your local event, schooling day or show been cancelled? What did you do on the downpour day to stay busy?

Friday Fashion Forecast: Corral Your ‘Showshirt Ponies’ With a SheFit Sports Bra

Let’s be honest … my “Showshirt Ponies” are nothing larger than a Welsh cross. An 11-hand, petite equine that still needs to be contained, but marches around with a Napoleon complex wanting to feel larger than reality. It does not take a whole lot to corral this type of pony, but maybe she needs a little lift once in awhile to feel confident. Seriously. I’m curvy like a dry piece of spaghetti. I was once addressed as “Sir” at a horse event. Many times at shows people ask if I am in the youth division (I’m 37 years old), and there have been incidents where horse show management asks if I am my husband’s daughter. 

Amy riding Hummingbird’s Mendacium — this warmblood can TROT!

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I have an adult working student named Ashley who has four kids and uses barn time as ‘adult time.’ She is very feminine in her curves, and has told me that she worries about her draft-cross “Showshirt Ponies” dragging to her knees. They are large, powerful horses, and a solid corral is a must-have or her ponies will be galloping free at a horse show. We do have one thing in common — we both work long 12-hour days … so comfort is a MUST.

Ashley corrals her draft-cross “showshirt ponies”

Is there really a sports bra that can work for both body types … and not make us want to tear it off by noon?

Introducing the SheFit Ultimate Sports Bra. The first thing I noticed with the SheFit Ultimate Sports Bra is how custom the fit really is. They do come in standard sizes like small, medium, large and then a variety of “Luxe” sizes. But the difference is in the design: the straps on the shoulders and the strap around your ribcage is fastened with extra-strength Velcro so you can make it the exact size and shape of your body.  No more guessing, or having the approximate fit!

Both Ashley and I loved this. On the rare occasion that I am actually bra shopping, nothing ever fits quite right. It’s either too tight or too loose and I either look like a sad pancake, or like a teenager with spare room who needs to stuff socks in with the gals to give the illusion of even a cob-sized pony in her corral. The website touts a “Zip, Cinch, Lift™ technology,” where “the Shefit bra adapts to each individual body type to provide unmatched personalized support to women of all unique shapes and sizes.” This is absolutely true. Both Ashley and I enjoyed the perfect fit.

Photo courtesy of SheFit.com

Now when you hear ‘Velcro,’ you may assume it’s cheap construction, but SheFit is anything but. The bra is made of high-quality material and extra stitching assures that your ponies will stay in the corral even with the most energetic sitting trot in your dressage test.  I personally loved the “lift” portion of the design, as my welsh ponies stood tall and proud all day long!
What about comfort? Ashley and I could both attest to this! As a horse trainer and farm owner my days are 12 hours long everyday. The first thing I do at the end of the day is get that bra off and put pajamas on. With the SheFit Ultimate Sports Bra, at no point throughout the day did I find myself tugging, adjusting, or otherwise grumping at the fact that my ponies were still contained. Ashley reported back to me late at night, after the kids went to bed, saying ,”I love it! It’s almost midnight and I’m just now taking it off, if that tells you anything! I was pleasantly surprised at how flattering it looked when it was on. I was able to wear it to work out this morning, and then kept it on when I changed to go to a work meeting! I loved that it had so much support, and you can adjust it where you needed it to be. This is the first night my back and shoulders aren’t sore!”
Corral Your Showshirt Ponies

Amy Nelson compares the fit of a regular sports bra to the “SheFit Ultimate Sports Bra”

I really loved the part where you can change the back of it as well — it was flattering under any shirt with the ability to be an “X” design, or an “H.” Cost-wise you’re looking at spending a bit more than the average sports bra, but for a three-day event, with the ability to literally change the design yourself, it’s well worth it. They come in a variety of colors for every style, they fit EXACTLY to your body, and they are super comfortable even at the hottest of horse shows! Make the SheFit Sports Bra your go-to support for your “Showshirt Ponies!”

Final Review

Cost: $$$$
Excitement: *** 3 Stars
Durability: **** 4 Stars
Variety: ***** 5 Stars

From Rescue to Eventer in Nine Months

Three hours into trying to load our rescue mare into the trailer I had just about given up. We were trying to leave for her very first horse trials in our brand new trailer, and she was not having any of it. I had gotten her to the point where she would hop right into our old trailer, but since she did not approve of the upgrade, she was not about to get in. I thought she would love the new well-lit, spacious trailer with a super wide opening and high ceiling. I thought WRONG.

We tried everything to get Hummingbird’s Medacium (Dacey) into the trailer. Treats, a group of helpers, quietly trying to load her myself. There were tears and missing parts of fingers. She is so strong and would drag me away from the trailer like a rag doll and there was nothing I could do. After three hours of this, my husband and stepson had given up and went inside the house. We decided we would just have to scratch if she didn’t get in within the next 30 minutes. But I couldn’t let her win. Also, I had been looking forward to this moment for nine months since the day we adopted her as a future eventer — I just HAD to take to her to the show.

Dacey in June of 2017. Photo credit: Hummingbird Stables.

When she came in to our farm Hummingbird Stables in June of 2017, she could barely lead. She wouldn’t pick up her feet. She didn’t crosstie.  She wasn’t broke to ride. She was lacking any type of muscle and would hide in the corner of her stall when I would try to pet her. She’s perfect. She’ll be a great eventer. My husband and I both agreed and adopted her less than a month later. She was a foster fail.

News Article – Dacey Rescued

Between sobs, I whispered to the stubborn mule of a warmblood that she would be getting in this trailer whether we go to the show or not. “We’ll stay home,” I reasoned with Dacey. “I’ll scratch and let them have my two entries as a donation to the sport. But your next meal will be in this trailer. So, Dacey, figure it out.”

As if all of sudden she understood, or the fact that it was just us, or perhaps the hysterical weeping coming from her otherwise semi-normal human, she put her front two feet in the trailer. “GOOD GIRRRRRRRLLLLL!!!!!” I exclaimed between sputters. I was trying not to get overly excited but at this point I was hopeful. A minute and a half later she was in the trailer without complaint. We were both sweaty and exhausted and I started screaming with joy, “SHE’S IN!!!! LET’S GO WE CAN GO SHE’S INNNNNNNNNN!!”

From the back pasture up sprints one of my students, out of breath and looking panicked. She heard the screaming and commotion and thought I was hurt. “No she’s in the trailer! Woooooo!” I shouted with a grin.

My husband was not nearly as joyful as due to the late start we did not arrive to the Kentucky Horse Park Until 1 a.m. and to our campsite until 2. Back awake at 6 a.m. to prep for the day, he assured me that he would be getting a nap that afternoon. I smiled and nodded but knew that would not be the case.

Warm-up went surprisingly well at Spring Bay Horse Trials as this unflappable mare took everything in stride.  Her stubborn, strong personality was good for something as it turns out. She was not concerned with the atmosphere at the Kentucky Horse Park. She was not worried about the tractors or wash stalls or banners flapping in the breeze. I was starting to relax as I believed the worst must be over. We made it here and it seems like she is going to do great! That was until I went to walk the cross country course.

My student and I walked all over the Kentucky Horse Park admiring the course that was already set for the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event later this month. We were looking all around wondering where they would have tucked the courses for our event. Finally we stopped and asked another competitor. “Oh! The course is at Masterson Station Park! That’s down the road 15 minutes!” she exclaimed. “You have to trailer over on Sunday. It’s beautiful. You’ll love it.”

My heart sank. “WHAT?!!” we both exclaimed in unison. How could we have missed that detail on the entry? We are both professionals, yet somehow skipped over that all important detail that the cross country course was off site. How in the world would I get this fussy mare back in the trailer to be on time for her round? She definitely won’t tie to the trailer. What will I do with her during my other horse’s round? I guess we’ll take it one step at a time.

I figured I would do my dressage and show jumping the next day and give it a whirl Sunday morning. We would start loading super early so she could have plenty of time to figure it out. And if I couldn’t get her in the trailer I would just leave her in her stall until after my Training level round with my other horse Hummingbird’s River. This we’ll figure it out attitude was new for me and rather cathartic. There was nothing I could do to change what had to be done, so I was strangely calm going in to a difficult weekend.

Dressage was everything I could ask for in a super green horse, especially after a 30 degree temperature drop over night and a inch of snow! She took everything in stride and did all of the movements I had asked. She even trotted, suspiciously, but correctly, in the corner of the arena, after a terrifying puddle had formed when sun peaked out to melt the snow. Oddly enough the crazy weather turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as thanks to the purchase of a new trailer and my attempt at being a good competitor, I had forgotten my hunt coat in the laundry room at home! But they had made the announcement at the beginning of the day that winter coats would suffice. I was strangely thankful for the snow at that moment as it was going to get rather complicated borrowing my student’s coat for every phase.

Show jumping was fantastic as she only dropped one rail! Although she was not a fan of waiting her turn, and standing quietly by the in-gate was not an option. I apologized to the other wide-eyed competitors as we circled 27,000 times before our number was called, and you could hear the faint growl of an impatient mare as if she was saying, I know we need to jump the things, so let’s do this already so I can go eat. We had to get a running start to get IN the ring, but once she was going her jumps looked picture perfect.

Amy Nelson & Hummingbird’s Mendacium at Spring Bay Horse Trials 2018. Photo credit: Vics Pics

Sunday morning came sooner than I expected and it was time to load her in the trailer. My Training level run with Hummingbird’s River at 12:30 p.m., and Hummingbird’s Mendacium was at 2:30 p.m.  So we started loading at 9 a.m.

Thirty seconds later she was in the trailer happily munching her hay. We were going to be so early. She would have to stand (quietly??) in the trailer for several hours as she doesn’t yet tie. “I hate you so much,” I whispered, with a loving grin. And we were off to cross country three hours early.

Amy Nelson & Hummingbird’s Mendacium at Spring Bay Horse Trials 2018. Photo credit: Vics Pics.

Cross country was by far my favorite part of the event. The random competitor was right. We would love Masterson Station Park. I recognized many of the questions from previous events at the Kentucky Horse Park, as likely they brought those jumps over for Spring Bay Horse Trials. This formerly ribby, antisocial mare was brave and listening, and just a pleasure to ride. She brought me to the fences. She cantered off quietly after each question and was double clear by the time we reached the finish line.  She had finished in 10th place on paper, but 1st in our hearts.

Amy Nelson & Hummingbird’s Mendacium at Spring Bay Horse Trials 2018. Photo credit: Vics Pics

When we adopted her as an unbroke 7-year-old from Crosswinds Equine Rescue, we renamed her Hummingbird’s Mendacium. Mendacium is a lie, or a falsehood. Because we believed what we saw on the surface was not the truth. Under there somewhere was an athlete. A sweetheart. A horse that wanted attention and one that wanted a job. By the time we made it to the Kentucky Horse Park nine months after adopting her … we had found all that and so much more.

Prepping for Prelim: Does Size Matter?

Amy Nelson and 2015 mount “River Clam” (Hummingbird’s River). Photo by Xpress Foto.

The 2018 eventing season is upon us and perhaps you are looking to move up a level this year. But as you go up the ladder it’s not always about the height of the jump, but rather the complicated combinations and the speed at which they appear to your horse. How do you prepare your horse for such a leap? By realizing that SIZE DOESN’T MATTER.

Amy Nelson and River over a mini “log,” two strides to a small drop.

In a recent Dom Schramm clinic at my farm Hummingbird Stables, we were setting jumps for the Training/Prelim group. I was riding my horse River and asked if he wanted us to set the jumps higher. His response: “Why is everything about size with you?” I knew what he was getting at but everything in my being had to bite my tongue, when the obvious joke popped into my mind.

The giggles from the crowd proved that I was not the only one who had this thought. But he had a point. Why is everything about size?

My 7-year-old Training level OTTB has a lot of qualities. “He’s so big!” — every girl at a horse show. “He’s got a HUGE scapula.” — my Devoucoux saddle fitter. “He’s a bit enthusiastic and a little too keen.” — every trainer and clinician. But no one ever mentions his “great brain” or “what a thinker.” So how can I prep this big dumb dinosaur (bless his heart, though) for higher levels, where the ability to think quickly is imperative?
Oftentimes at  upper levels it’s not the actual size of the jump that becomes a problem. It’s the rapid combinations and the spooky looking questions. The log, two strides, drop into water, bending line to jump out of the water, and two strides to another jump. Or it’s the massive Weldon’s Wall or scary looking trakehner where you need to find the correct distance — not just run at it and hope for the best.

Amy Nelson and River over a small ditch with adjustable Weldon’s Wall.

On one of the many bad-weather days recently I was watching a travel show called Expedition Unknown and the host went to Turkey.  They had an attraction with mini versions of all the tourist sites of Turkey … only tiny versions, almost like a mini-golf display where you could walk around like a giant and see everything Turkey had to offer in one spot. Surely you would feel powerful and strong, marching around a tiny display of the country’s best attractions. They called it Mini-a-Turk. I was inspired!  I have goals of taking my young Training Level horse “River” to Prelim this year.  But he would benefit from seeing all the combinations of Prelim only with scaled down versions of the jumps.

As we go up the levels we need to remember that it’s not about SIZE, but about the EXER-CISE.  We can build the horse’s confidence over smaller versions of trakehners and Weldon’s walls and coffins. Using jump standards, adjust the wall or pole over your ditch to bring it up three inches at a time, until before you know it you’re jumping Prelim height. Get your horse thinking quicker over smaller versions of ABCD elements involving water. Because then when they go to the level they know how to answer the question.  This process can begin with lower level, younger horses with crossrails set up next to the water complex, teenie tiny ditches and poles, etc. By the time they are ready for upper levels, the combos are no big deal.

When you’re prepping for Prelim: size doesn’t matter.

3 … 2 … 1 … have a mini ride.

RRP Thoroughbred Makeover: You’ve Been Accepted! Now What?

Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover

On Friday, Feb. 2, 2018, the internet was on fire with celebratory posts like “I got in! I’m accepted into the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover 2018!” In fact, 794 trainers likely made such an announcement, and 231 of them declared Eventing as their primary discipline. But now that it’s Monday, the work week has begun, and the reality has set in, perhaps the question many are asking is, “Now what?”

Here’s some helpful advice for competitors doing the Makeover! As a competitor myself in 2015 and 2016, I can promise the range of emotions you will feel during the process are completely normal, and that everyone else feels the same way.

You’ll experience excitement when you realize you’re among an elite group of trainers, amateurs and youth from around North America (and the world!) who love OTTBs as much as you do.

You’ll have joy when your project trots that first ground pole, handles that first trail ride like a champ, or accepts the bit and your leg for the first time, when if you squint it almost looks like he’s thinking about a dressage frame (almost).

You’ll feel frustration when he gets the inevitable pasture injury. Or even devastation when he passes away suddenly due to colic at only 5 years old.

There’s an amazing support group of riders just like you, going through the same happiness and struggles, who are there for you. Many have experience with feeding (weight building) and care of OTTBs, dealing with injuries, and retraining a thoroughbred brain. Reach out to them.

Amy Nelson’s 2015 mount “River Clam” — Purchase Day on 10/2013 (top) to current 12/2017 (bottom).

EN spoke to Erin Harty from the Retired Racehorse Project, and we asked:

What are the top three things you want competitors to do leading up to the Makeover?

1. “Be an informed competitor. First and foremost, read the rules. Read the rules. READ THE RULES. (Seriously, can’t emphasize this enough.) Just about every question a competitor could have is covered in there. Also, read the emails RRP sends you. The competition at the Thoroughbred Makeover is not structured the same as a regular horse trial and while we go to great pains to explain everything to our competitors, we can’t help you if you don’t read the emails!”

2. “Seek out help — both in retraining your OTTB and with the specifics of the competition. It’s permitted in the rules for someone else to be the primary rider on your horse before July 30, so if you want to have a professional do the first few months of post-track training, you can. You should have an OTTB-knowledgeable professional trainer helping you, at least occasionally, regardless of your level of experience — we all need eyes on the ground! The Makeover also comes with a built-in support system of fellow trainers, many of whom have decades of experience in restarting thoroughbreds, and they’re more than happy to offer advice through our trainers-only Facebook group. The camaraderie among the trainers is one of the best aspects of the Makeover, so take advantage of it!”

3. “Market your own OTTB, and OTTBs in general. Although everyone has their own competitive goals, the primary goal of the Makeover is to increase nationwide demand for off-track Thoroughbreds, and our Makeover trainers play a huge role in doing that. The Makeover offers a great opportunity for your friends, family, barnmates, etc., to follow along as these horses start their journeys into second careers.”

“The more we talk about how talented our OTTBs are, how quickly they learn, and how versatile they can be, the more we elevate the status of OTTBs as a whole. We encourage all trainers to start a Facebook page for their own Makeover mount where they can post photos, videos and updates. For horses that are for sale, this is doubly important. The Makeover is an amazing opportunity to get your OTTB resale project in front of a huge audience of interested buyers. Invest the time in taking good photos and videos and writing a great sale listing for your horse.

“It’s also important not to get Makeover tunnel vision — this is just the start of your horse’s new career, it’s not the end goal. Put your horse first. Even if you don’t make it to the competition, you’re helping to get more of these amazing horses into new jobs.”

Amy Nelson and 2015 mount “River Clam” (Hummingbird’s River) at the Makeover Oct 2015 (left), Training Level Eventing at Hagyard Midsouth Three-Day Event Oct 2017 (right).

To me, as a previous competitor, the most important thing to remember is that it’s a JOURNEY, not a destination.  The RRP Thoroughbred Makeover will take place October 4-7, 2018 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Your eager mount will step onto the same course where four-star eventers and grand prix show jumpers have competed. They walk their course in this arena just like you will … with nervous excitement … as the world watches. But after the Makeover is done, and you head back home with your OTTB (or he goes home with a new, loving family), the real fun begins!

Amy Nelson and 2015 mount “River Clam” (Hummingbird’s River). Photo courtesy of Amy Nelson.

My 2015 mount River Clam (we show him under Hummingbird’s River) will aim to go Prelim this year, with a one-star on the horizon. It was amazing the emotions that hit me in October 2017, when on the two-year anniversary of his RRP Thoroughbred Makeover Competition, he was competing in Training Level at the Hagyard Midsouth Team Competition & Three-Day Event. Photos kept showing up on my social media history as a reminder of how far we’ve come.

This was a horse who finished in the top 2/3 of Eventers (read: 40th place out of maybe 60) … whom judges described as “very green,” “a little too keen,” and “very, VERY bold.” Don’t get me wrong, the judges were absolutely spot on. It’s taken a few years to direct this gangly grey dinosaur’s enthusiasm.

Amy Nelson and 2015 mount “River Clam” January 2015 (left), October 2017 (right).

But as you mount up this week for the first ride on your green OTTB, or even start shopping for a Makeover horse, remember: you’re not alone.  Retraining takes time. And as my trainer always told me, “Horses work on horse time. Not human time.”

3…2…1…have a great ride.

This article is dedicated to our 2016 mount Joegun (barn name Six) who was taken too soon by colic after the Makeover, and to all the others we have loved and lost.

 

 

The New Year Is Looming! 18 Transitions for a Better 2018

Amy Nelson and Hummingbird’s Mendacium practice transitions.

You survived No Stirrup November, the holidays are upon you, and you look to the New Year with excitement! You’re filling your 2018 calendar with horse trials and events, trying out brand new tack and show clothes from your wishlist, but do you have a plan? How can you be better this year than last?

Transitions, transitions, transitions.

The key to a responsive horse and a sophisticated hand and seat is doing 2,018 transitions as we move to the new year. Beginner students hear this all the time: it’s not the canter that’s difficult; it’s the transition. Advanced riders understand transitions get tougher as the dressage tests get harder. Medium to working to extended gaits, halt, rein-back … the list goes on. and on. In your stadium and cross country rounds you need transitions constantly. Your horse should go from a bold gallop to a coffin canter with ease. He should be able to do a working canter to cover some ground in stadium, and a more collected canter for a rollback or tight in-and-out.

He should listen to your seat and leg for a quiet downward transition — you should not rely on a heavy hand and stronger bit just to get the job done. It takes hours of practice to master transitions. What better time to practice 18 combinations of transitions, 2,018 times, than when you’re stuck inside, as the year changes?

Then you’ll be ready for spring, to go out confidently in all three phases knowing you’ll have smooth, consistent transitions.

In reality, there are probably more than 18 possible combinations. But let’s name 18 for 2018!

Photo courtesy of Amy Nelson.

1.  Walk to Trot
2. Trot to Canter
3. Canter to Trot
4. Trot to Walk
5. Walk to Halt
6. Trot to Halt
7. Canter to Halt
8. Medium Trot to Working Trot
9. Working Trot to Extended Trot
10.  Extended Trot to Working Trot
11. Medium Canter to Working Canter
12. Working Canter to Extended Canter
13. Medium Canter to Collected Canter
14. Medium Trot to Collected Trot
15. Gallop to Coffin Canter
16.  Coffin Canter to Gallop
17. Halt to Rein-Back
18. Halt to Dismount and Take a Nap! ;)

Go from sitting to posting to two-point. And remember: It’s not your job to hold them in the perfect pace or hold them in the halt. It’s their job to do that pace or stay still until you tell them otherwise. With young Thoroughbreds we start with counting to three at the halt. Maybe we only make it to one or two. But it’s a start. Then we remind them to stop and try again; we don’t hold them in the halt. This can cause great anxiety and a young horse and lead to rearing if they feel trapped. Make it your goal throughout the winter to count to 10 or 30 or even 60 at the halt — so by spring your halt and salute at X will be no big deal!

If you’re riding a quieter, push-ride, concentrate on the upward transitions. Getting a response when you gently ask and work on more of the extended gates. This will brighten up a dull horse.

If you are on a hot, young horse, work on the downward transitions. Use mostly seat and leg and only a little bit of rein as the final message. This will help slow them be more responsive to listening for a downward transition. If you get them to the point where you can close your leg and sit on your seatbones for a halt, then in the excitement of a show you will at least get them to come back to a decent canter when you do the same.

The year is changing, and so should your gaits. Is it as fun as galloping around cross country? Of course not. But your future 2018 self will thank you for putting in all the work.

Transitions. Transitions. Transitions.

 

Friday Fashion Forecast: Arias Whips

You zip up your vest, click into your pinny, grab your whip, and take a deep breath as you get a leg up before cross country. In the start box as the timer counts down, a million things race through your mind. Your fingers grip the reins and squeeze your whip extra tight as nerves and excitement fill your body. THIS is why you event.

But something’s different. The golden glint of your whip shimmers through the morning fog. Your name on the handle gives you confidence as if to say, “I’ve made it. I can do this.” Your team logo peeks through to remind why the early mornings and late nights … they’re counting on you.

Arias Whips

Introducing Arias Whips. I had the opportunity to try a custom Arias Whip recently and while excited, I started out a bit skeptical. How would this be different than other whips on the market? Are they really so much better than a stock whip?

The process was a bit daunting at first — you really do customize everything from the popper, to the thread, and shaft. I’ll be honest, 25 years of riding and even working at the racetrack for a couple of years, and I had no clue what a popper was! As it turns out, it’s the flicky-thing at the end of the whip. You can choose a variety of different poppers and the website explains what each of them will do. It goes on the show all the options for colors, and customization, with detailed instructions on how each item should be decided. I was like a kid in a candy store! It was extremely difficult to pick a theme, colors, and what the handle should look like. I finally decided on black handle with gold sparkle and black shaft, to keep it simple so it would look classy for years to come. I chose my name and barn logo on the handle.

It took a few weeks to arrive, as expected, because Arias Whips deals in quality, not quantity. When it finally arrived (I saw the delivery driver lumber up our gravel drive), I was so excited I ran up to meet him! “My whip is here!” I spent 10 minutes relishing the beauty of the whip, the gorgeous detailing, and the extra soft grip … before panic set in. I had just finished riding my young horse River when the package came, put him in his stall, and forgot to latch the gate! I sprinted back to the barn, whip in hand — he was just standing there in his stall, gate wide open, happily munching his hay.

There’s something magical about this quality whip. The attention to detail, the craftsmanship, the lightweight body with a soft grip. When I held it in my hand, I felt like I was holding a magic wand of eventing.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BbkdyRpFE4b/

Carlos Arias spent three decades as a jockey, and in 2007 he purchased a whip business from former jockey Orlando Garrido. Located in California near the Santa Anita Racetrack, he has elevated whip making to an art form.  They offer jumping/eventing whips, and even dressage whips for jog ups.

pc: Arias Whips

If you have one whip in your career, make it an Arias Whip.

EN readers: Use the promo code ARIAS2017 for $20 off your next jump whip purchase!

Facebook
Instagram @ariaswhips

Final Review

Cost: $$$$
Excitement: *** 3 Stars
Durability: *** 3 Stars
Variety: **** 4 Stars