Amy Nelson
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Amy Nelson

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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: 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

 

 

#DropFaceChallenge & Other Highlights from the WD&CTA William Fox-Pitt Eventing Symposium

William Fox-Pitt was in Madison for the Wisconsin Dressage & Combined Training Association’s Eventing Symposium over the weekend, November 4-5, 2017. Eventing Nation’s Amy Nelson was there to recap highlights from the symposium, and she seized the opportunity to sit down and chat with him about cross country questions, horse show nerves, and why eventing is still a thrill.

Photo by Amy Nelson.

Throughout the symposium William answered audience questions between groups of eager riders, and this was extremely educational. A few talking-point takeaways …

Winter Is Coming

Since the symposium was in Area IV, where we face a long winter as eventers, the topic of how to deal with the off-season came up. In England, they have winter. Not like in the Midwest, William laughed, but still. He described his training routine over the colder months, including six weeks of “holiday” for his horses. It’s a fact. It takes six weeks for a horse to recover from strenuous work. Why not give them six weeks off? He explained that during the winter they let the horses get wooly and just be horses. Because, after all, a horse is an animal. Let their brains rest.

In answering one audience member’s question of, “How is eventing in the UK different from the U.S.,” William mentioned our extreme weather here. I never really thought about it, although in Illinois we can go from -10 actual temperature in the winter to 115 degrees in the summer. And I know we are not the most extreme state in the country! He also talked about how every show is so far, and you spend so much money in fuel and time to get there.

Training Outside the Box

“Not everyone has access to beautiful jumps like these,” he said as he gestured to the Jump4Joy stadium and indoor cross country fences in the Alliant Energy Center. You jump what you have available. Jump a dust bin or something weird. Jump chairs or whatever in the field. Jump without the fancy flags so when you have flags it’s just a bonus. I loved this.

He described how loads of his training is done outside, on hills, and in fields. As trainer with a small farm, I found this amazingly refreshing. Sometimes it’s easy to focus on what you don’t have, but this four-star rider provided a wonderful reminder that it doesn’t have to be fancy to be effective. Lead changes should be taught outside in field. There’s less pressure on the horse than in a 20m by 40m arena. Use hills, tons of walking and long hacks to train your event horse.

Photo courtesy of WDCTA.

Winning the Warm-up

William explained the key to a successful warm up at an event as well. He admitted that warm-up arenas can be utter chaos, but advised, Forget all the parents and trainers. Just think about yourself and “get on with it.” This became one of his favorite phrases throughout the weekend. He suggested that riders jump a couple jumps, and one at speed, then go in the ring.

He also said if you have a horse that gets too spun up in the warm up ring, before cross country, that you should warm up earlier in the day and simply go straight to the start box from the stables when it’s your time. Time it out. But your horse will be more rideable.

And the key to success is have a plan and stick to it. Don’t change your plan at the last second just because you’re nervous.

One-on-One With EN

William sat down for a one-on-one with Eventing Nation’s Amy Nelson, during which he discussed why he keeps going after all his successes and struggles in the sport, what is his least favorite cross country question, what advice he would give to up-and-coming eventers, and he even participated in the #DropFaceChallenge. Take a look:

Interview with William Fox-Pitt for Eventing Nation.Amy Nelson for Eventing Nation.Madison, WI 11/5/17#dropfacechallenge #eventer #williamfoxpitt #wfpinwi

Posted by Amy Nelson Eventer – Official on Sunday, November 5, 2017

Eventing Nation challenges you! Post a photo or video of you doing a face that you would make over a drop using the #dropfacechallenge. Because we all get nervous, so let’s laugh at each other. Clearly Amy Nelson of EN is much more concerned over a drop (Prelim) than William Fox-Pitt is (four-star).

William Fox-Pitt and EN’s Amy Nelson. #dropfacechallenge

Confidence = Success

William wrapped up the weekend explaining where to find your confidence in the sport. Confidence comes from doing things well, he stated. And doing things well comes when you ride just below your limit. He told the audience that if you go out and ride at the upper limit of what you and your horse CAN do, neither one of you will be fully confident.

We’ve Got This!

I went away from the WDCTA William Fox-Pitt Symposium with a new energy about winter and training. If someone who competes at the four-star level, who has been to the Olympics multiple times, who is recognized around the world for his successful program, has wooly horses in a field that get fit with long hacks and riding up and down hills in the winter months … it gives us all hope that we can keep chipping away at a dream. Because as William said, this is what keeps him going: “I enjoy horses, and what they give us is very exciting and a great thrill.”

3 … 2 … 1 … Have a great winter.

Friday Fashion Forecast: Rockfish Wellies from Shires USA

Shires USA - Rockfish Wellington Magenta Gloss
pc: Amy Nelson Shires USA - Rockfish Wellington Magenta Gloss pc: Amy Nelson

As autumn is in full swing in many regions of eventing, we are faced with changing temperatures & precipitation. Depending on your area, rain, sleet, or (dare I say it?) snow could be in the forecast this fall. But that doesn’t stop you from trudging out to the pasture, catching your pony, and prepping for the next event/clinic/colorful hack. What does stop you? HOLES.

It appears my clothing choices as an “equestrian hobo” are full of holes. Holes in my socks. Holes in my pants (embarrassing ones at that I discovered this week) … and (gasp) … holes in my muck boots. There’s no worse feeling than slopping through a wet, gooey pasture, only to find holes in your boots. Soaked muddy socks, then stuffed into your expensive field boots, make for freezing feet and grumpy riding. The solution?  Shires USA!

Shires USA – Rockfish Wellington Dragonfly Matte
pc: Shires USA.

Take a look at one option at Shires … the super cute Rockfish Wellington Boots! They come in fun colors — gloss or matte — and are adjustable on the top. This type of top is fantastic … if you’ve ever led a horse that likes to shuffle their feet, they somehow kick up rocks and even poo, up and over into your boots? EW! This top keeps unwanted debris, and even rain, out.  Shires USA even carries neoprene lined Wellies for those of us in eventing areas that suffer from WINTER!

The difference is in the rubber. Rockfish hand makes theirs with a specific formula to resist cracks. That way for the cost of say three other pairs of muck boots, you can purchase ONE pair of Rockfish Wellies.  That means fewer wet feet and fewer old boots in landfills.  Plus, they use more than 90% sustainable materials in every pair.

As a trainer of a small show stable in Illinois, I turn out all our client horses myself. I clean all our stalls myself. I ride 5-7 horses each day and teach dozens of lessons each week. The key to my sanity is dry, comfortable feet this time of year. These boots are super comfortable, look great, and Shires USA is easy to navigate. I do most of my shopping in a haze over coffee … so that’s super important!

Check them out on Instagram @shiresusa
Facebook.com/ShiresEquestrianUSA

 

Final Review

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

Friday Fashion Forecast: Foot Huggies Equestrian Boot Socks

Foot Huggies Equestrian Boot Socks Foot Huggies Equestrian Boot Socks

“What’s in your boot?” That’s the question Foot Huggies asks riders. For me, I’m always on the lookout for cute boot socks. I love bright colors, fun patterns, and something that shows my personality. Because, let’s be honest, at a show or around the barn, the majority of the time I’m wearing tennis shoes or boots. Field boots and dress boots are expensive, so I don’t want to put unnecessary wear on them by walking a two-mile cross country course or mucking stalls in them between rides. So fun socks are a must!

Foot Huggies – EVENTER
Photo Credit: Instagram

The problem is, most of my cute socks were never meant to last. My toes and heels poke through the flimsy fabric like some sort of equestrian hobo. My feet ache because of the utter lack of support. So I find myself shopping in the baseball sock section of the local sporting goods store, for tall socks with better strength and support. But these only come in plain black, or worse: dorky stripes like we wore in high school softball. Those were great for softball, but I politely refuse to wear them now as an adult equestrian.

Then I found Foot Huggies Equestrian Boot Socks! When I first discovered these I was instantly drawn to them — as an eventer I’m constantly spreading the word about our sport, and always trying to convince my hunter/jumper friends to “come to the dark side.” I adore the fact that you can wear your discipline with pride, right on your socks!

The best part about Foot Huggies is they do exactly what they promise — they hug your foot. They have wonderful support and cushion for walking your cross country course twice, but they are lean enough to fit in your boots without additional bulk.  They come in fun colors too!  Foot Huggies were designed by a fellow equestrian, Jeffi Girgenti, who is a manicurist by day, and jumper rider by passion.  She was on the hunt for a perfect boot sock, so she figured she might as well design one herself!  And all of the Foot Huggies are made right here in the USA.

Have a barn logo, equestrian shop, or team?  You can even have your own custom logo socks!  This is a cool process — they don’t print your logo on the socks.  They KNIT your logo into the sock itself.

Foot Huggies – DRESSAGE
pc: foothuggies.com

These socks definitely hold up to my abuse.  Walking miles a day, back and forth from pasture to pasture, pacing while teaching lessons, and riding 5-7 horses, I can certainly say these are coziest socks ever!

The best part?  Use the code “eventer2017” for 20% off your order at FootHuggies.com!

Want to WIN A FREE PAIR of Foot Huggies?? Post a comment below, and share this article. One winner will be randomly drawn on 11/3/17 of all the entries.  You will get to choose your color/design and size (Eventer, Jumper, Dressage, etc).  Entries close at 11:59pm CST 11/2/17.

Follow them on Facebook @foothuggies and Instagram @foothuggies_ridingboot_socks

Final Review

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

My Quest to Be Average at Hagyard Midsouth

Amy Nelson & Hummingbird's River - Dunnabeck Horse Trials 2017 Amy Nelson & Hummingbird's River - Dunnabeck Horse Trials 2017

There are moments in eventing that makes it all worthwhile. Where the stars align, the clouds part, and something amazing happens.  After the early mornings and late nights, the hot summers and frigid winters, when you keep chipping away at the dream. Through stitches and broken toes, time faults and rails, forgotten movements and baby horse moments.

Amy Nelson and Hummingbird’s River.

This weekend at Hagyard Midsouth, my young OTTB, River, was awarded the most precious gift: a 36.1 in dressage. To most eventers a 36.1 in dressage would be disappointing. It’s pretty average. But for me, I started to ugly cry down the center line because this young event horse finally got it together. No rearing or spooking … no off-track-giraffe-a-saurus … no frowny face and apology from the dressage judge on your test sheet. You stayed IN the ring, performed ALL of the movements, and some of them even looked like you knew what you were doing! You were fantastically mediocre.

Amy Nelson & Hummingbird’s River (Hagyard Midsouth 2017)

To put it all in perspective, a 36.1 is not terrible like 60.61 we got when he lurched down the centerline sideways as a car drove by at Lamplight — and yes,  that was eventing dressage!! (Judge’s comment: “Horse looks very athletic, but unfortunately does not want to play today.”) Not horrid like the 52.9 we got at Dunnabeck Horse Trials when he spooked at the VIP tent and kicked out during the canter transition, where judge actually apologized to ME at the end for the score she was forced to write (although she was quite kind, “haunches left of center … 2.0”).

Amy Nelson & Hummingbird’s River (Hagyard Midsouth 2017)

The most frustrating part is I know in my heart he can do the movements, but will he?  My dressage trainer once said in a lesson, “Oh wow!  He’s ACTUALLY a nice mover! I never would have known.”  That’s because in my first lesson we spent the entire hour trying to trot down from A to C, and NEVER made it. Apparently the mirrors in the arena were terrifying, and the other horse in the ring was a total annoyance to my big grey dinosaur. Between rearing, kicking out, and bolting, we didn’t actually do any “dressage-ing” that lesson. I was comforted slightly when my vet, who also takes lessons from the same trainer, told me that she got bucked off and then trampled by her green horse in that very same arena.

So, to anyone who has ever brought a young horse through the levels, a 36.1 in Training level at the Kentucky Horse Park is like winning at Rolex. It’s by no means good. It’s average. Mediocre. Sufficient. This weekend, I was filled with joy, when we finally became average. We were all of a sudden invisible; no longer “that psycho grey.” There weren’t any whispers as left the ring, as I sheepishly would smile and explain to the gasping onlookers “he’s young.” Or “When he’s older he’s going to be amazing.” We were just another horse and rider combination that performed the movements with relative class but nothing spectacular.

Amy Nelson & Hummingbird’s River (Hagyard Midsouth at Kentucky Horse Park 2017). PC: Xpress Foto

My quest to be average continued throughout the weekend at Midsouth.  Our cross country round was clear with a little bit of time…nothing spectacular as we held on to a solid 15th place in a field of 23. We were in the top 2/3 of entries and completed the round with tremendous acceptability.

Instinctually, on Sunday I was preparing an apology to the crowd before we went into stadium. This is where my young event horse will either excel, or become completely unhinged.

Earlier in the year at Catalpa Horse Trials, he dropped every single rail, the standards, and flower pots, facing the VIP tent, but left every rail up going away from it. He even at one point crashed through a jump, then jumped the pile of poles on the ground in front of him. The crowd generally exclaims helpful things like, “ohhhh,” and “eeeeeeek” as we make our way around the course.  What type of round would we have today?

Amy Nelson & Hummingbird’s River (Hagyard Midsouth 2017)

As it turns out we met the minimal standards of jumping.  He was rideable, listening, and dropped three rails.  Many other riders had the same 12 faults, and River was within the time allowed.  No crowd gasping.  The jump crew didn’t have to rebuild an entire triple combination while I waited with a jigging giraffe.  We stayed average and rocked that 15th place position with a totally mediocre score.

As you bring along a young horse in eventing, don’t be embarrassed to celebrate the simple victories. Ugly cry as you trot down the center line, halt and salute, and hug your “psycho grey.”

Because average is the 1st step to astronomical.

3…2…1…have an average ride.

Friday Fashion Forecast – Go Buckwild with Breeches!

“Tan or white breeches, belt, shirt of conservative color…” We all know the rules.  But when schooling, riding with friends, or hanging at the barn, why shouldn’t breeches be FUN?  Introducing Buckwild Breeches!  The brains behind Buckwild Breeches are riders too, and were not only tired of ill-fitting breeches, but also wanted materials and prints that showed some personality!  These are by far my favorite breech … here’s why you’ll love them:

PC: Buckwild Breeches Preorders Available for “Skulls & Roses.”

You love expressing your own style.  You have certain colors and matchy matchy saddle pads, wraps, and accessories for your horse.  Maybe you love bright colors, luxurious tones, or fun patterns. Here’s a way to show your personality in a beige world!

You hate being “pinched” by breeches. I personally have a pair of breeches I absolutely hate.  They poke me in the side with the side clasp, and bruise me after a full day of riding. Others are so long that as a short rider, I have to fold the Velcro at my ankle, causing more bruises in my boots. Why do I torture myself with a horrible fit?  Buckwild Breeches are built to fit ALL body types — I’m built like a short, dry piece of spaghetti. The bottom of the breech has a silky “sock” portion, which folds neatly in my tightest boots with absolutely no pain whatsoever for short riders. But it’s long enough for the tallest riders. The stretchy material fits like a glove gives the illusion of feminine curves in my square body. If you’re built like me and you’ve ever had breeches that are too big where they sag in the booty, the “diaper effect” is super embarrassing. Buckwild fits great. They also have a “curvy mare” section, for those riders with voluptuous body types and excellent stretch.

My student Dena with Buckwild Breeches.

Amy Nelson with Buckwild Breeches.

You show. You need a white competition breech that is grippy and washable, that won’t have the dreaded “I messed my pants” look when your white breeches get wet and pick up color from your saddle on cross country. The black seat with silicone grips is my absolute favorite. Or you need a tan competition breech that has more stretch than those that cost twice as much, and these don’t give you the wrinkled bunchy front when you sit in the saddle (you know exactly what I’m talking about).

You like the security of extra grip in the seat.  You’ll love “grip technology seat” as they call it … it’s like a silicone grippy seat that gives me excellent stickability on the most exciting rounds!

Can they hold up to my abuse? I’ve used the white competition breech in every show, and even took them for a swim (accidentally) in a Prelim water complex in Kansas City when my horse misjudged the water and fell.  Horse and rider were both fine, but my Buckwild Breeches were a bit mucky.  I threw them in the washer, a bit of bleach, and amazing! Good as new.

The word on the street is that Buckwild Breeches will be expanding in 2018, so be on the lookout for new products in addition to their breeches.  And, their super soft winter breeches are amazing for places in the Midwest or East Coast that have, well, winter.

Good news!  You can get 15% off your order by using this link for Buckwild Breeches!

**Keep in mind, these breeches run a little large.  Generally order one size smaller than normal will do the trick, but they do have a handy sizing chart to help.**

 

Final Review

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

Friday Fashion Forecast: GO PINK with ManeJane

October is breast cancer awareness month, and what better way to show your support than with adorable pink ribbon spur straps and a matching croc pink leather belt! Introducing ManeJane, a California-based U.S. company run by a woman named Shelby Flowers with a dream.An attorney by day, but a weekend warrior equestrian, she set out to spice up the world of rider accessories. They have hundreds of design and color combinations, so you can customize your spur straps to match your eventing theme and style. They even have a line pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness month in October!!

I’ll admit, when I first came across ManeJane, I was like a kid in a candy store. I immediately fell head over heels for the sparkles and bling, a bit rare in our sport of tradition. I adored the patent leather and colorful thread options. But could these spur straps REALLY survive me? The last time I ventured out and got a pair a sparkly spur straps they lasted a week. A WEEK! And don’t get me started on the red patent leather paddock boots I had to have (let’s just say whole chunks of shiny material was peeling off like flakes of broken dreams).

I was delighted to find that Mane Jane spur straps have held up extremely well. I only use them for shows, given how special they are I’d hate to ruin them in the muck of daily use. But with regular showing — using them on all three phases and schooling — the patent leather has not cracked at all. They look as nice as the first day they arrived! Even after a long, dirty cross country schooling day as seen in this photo.

Amy Nelson’s custom anchor with teal stitching spur straps. PC: RL Boston

I love the attention to detail with ManeJane. They were with me every step of the way in the customizing process. I have a Training level horse named River, so I wanted little anchors with teal stitching. I lost my cousin Kelly too soon to ovarian cancer, so I wanted the detail of teal her honor. They went the extra mile to make sure it matched my horse’s saddle pad and ear bonnet, along with the teal ribbon of ovarian cancer awareness.

For my Prelim horse Ace, we rock skull & crossbones … they sent several options of ideas in a mock up so I could see what the product might look like before it was made and sent out.  And everything is handmade right here in the US!

PC: ManeJane

ManeJane is not just about spur straps either. For breast cancer awareness month, they have the cutest pink belts! All the belts in their collection are reversible — you can have a fancy croc pattern on one side to go with your shadbelly, and the other matte side is great for cross country. The buckle is made of steel so even I can’t manage to break it. The best part? The buckle, shaped like a stirrup iron, won’t scratch your saddle if you have a ridiculous celebratory dismount when you cross the finish line!

PC: ManeJane

All of ManeJane’s accessories are fashion forward with a hint of tradition to look fabulous at the big shows. I adore the subtlety of custom spur straps, so I can sneak a blingy skull into my dressage test, and still look dressed to the nines as I halt and salute. 

Here is the best part: use the code “NELSON” at ManeJane.com for 20% off your order! Find them on Instagram @manejane7 and on Facebook.

Final Review

Cost: $$ (spur straps) – $$$$ (belts)
Excitement: **** 4 Stars
Durability: **** 4 Stars
Variety: **** 4 Stars

Friday Fashion Forecast: Voler Apparel

We are less than 12 weeks away from holidays and as an active rider and eventer, you don’t want the same old lotion and mittens from your family and friends. Believe me. I have 18 bottles of lotions, bath soaps and miscellaneous personal hygiene items from well-meaning gift givers. I know I smell. I just came from the barn. I smile every year, and stuff it in the drawer with the rest of the collection. What I really want? Equestrian stuff. Welcome to the Friday Fashion Forecast.

Each week we’ll feature the latest in equestrian fashion and accessories for you and your horse. What’s more? Many will include great discounts! We will put each item through the test to see if it holds up in quality and value. I ride 5-7 horses a day. I run a small farm so I clean all 15 stalls myself, water my own arena, turn out all the horses, and work seven days a week. I wash all my laundry in ONE giant load. Can these items take a beating and still look great? We shall see.

We will kick things off with a show shirt from Voler Apparel. As an eventer on a budget I am always looking for a shirt that has multiple uses. One I can use for cross country that stands up to all weather, but at the same time looks great. And I do love fun colors to coordinate with my horse. After all, half the joy of eventing is going all matchy matchy on cross country!

For years I have shopped in the cycling section of my local sporting goods store for this very purpose. Cycling shirts come in flattering cuts, have “anti-stink” wicking material, and are longer in the back so they stay tucked in when you’re in your two-point. Most have a hidden zipper for easy changes between rounds, and a collar which is necessary in the show ring.  For many years I was also a cyclist, and noticed that a racing position is the same as a jumping position. Plus, why should cyclists have all the fun? Those shirts come in great colors and fun prints!

Voler Apparel top (left), Amy Nelson in Voler Apparel top (right)

Voler seems to understand that riding, like cycling, happens in the heat of the summer as well as cool rainy days of the fall. They have great all weather gear, and even the best raincoat I have found for eventing! It is clear so your number shows through on cross country, but keeps your vest and clothing completely dry.

Keep in mind many of the cycling tops do have pockets on the back, which are not visible when you ride with a vest. But they are also snug against the back of the top, so even if you tuck it in, they are not distracting to the overall look. Plus they come in handy for maps, water when walking your course, and possibly a cell phone (except at the sitting trot or higher jumps, you risk losing your phone!).  The pocket does not have a zipper.

Amy Nelson and Voler Apparel top

They carry men’s and women’s tops in a wide variety of sizes and cuts to fit many body types. They even have a “design studio” where your farm can design their own show shirt or team jersey with the help of experts. And all of their products are made right here in the USA. The prices are pretty close to what you’d pay for a quality show shirt, and some items on clearance are a bit less. They hold up in the washer very well, but I wouldn’t recommend throwing them in the dryer. Hanging to dry is best. Stains come out very well, and they even handle a bit of bleach. The zipper seems dainty for my abuse of clothing, but so far I have never had an issue and I break zippers on a weekly basis!

Amy Nelson with Equestrian Damask Voler Show Shirt

Recently Voler allowed me the opportunity to design a line of show shirts specifically for equestrians. I went with an elegant damask pattern, and comes in the three colors that are popular with riders. These shirts have a collar, so you can wear them in a clinic, for a schooling show,  under your vest on cross country, or even cover it with a stock tie for dressage or stadium.  This shirt does not contain back pockets.

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

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