Michelle Wadley
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Michelle Wadley

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About Michelle Wadley

I am a married, horse crazy, 50 year old (OMG!) eventer with a 6 year old son! I have lived all over the US, but my riding career has mostly been in Area V, where I graduated from high school. I have lived in Little Rock, Arkansas for almost 20 years. Someone someday will write the great love story between my phenomenal Thoro-shire Il Sogno (Syd) and me. I named him Il Sogno, which is Italian for “the dream” because I am a total opera geek, and the song “Sogno” by Andreas Bocelli is one of my favorites. In the early 2000’s before Syd, I had a bad riding accident that required major surgery on what my husband now calls my bionic right arm. I thought I would never jump, much less event, again. Syd changed all that. In 2010, unable to even walk horseback across an open field, I declared that I would qualify for the AEC’s. In 2011 Syd and I finished 17th in the Beginner Novice Senior Division at the AEC’s, our crowning achievement thus far. I took a couple of years off riding because I quite unexpectedly got pregnant and had my son, who is the greatest thing I have ever done. Adjusting to being a mom and trying to ride and compete is probably the hardest. Between and accident and a pregnancy I learned the importance of volunteering, which I did a LOT of, including adding Rolex jump judge to my resume. I have degrees in journalism and English, and I’m a total nerd. Besides horses, I love comics and superheroes, and I seriously could eat pizza and ice cream everyday. I guess that’s a good thing considering the food served at horse shows. I was a flight attendant right out of college, so I have been to every state except Iowa. I LOVE music and movies, and I used to own a tack store (!) Writing for Eventing Nation has been a dream come true. I love eventers, horses, and writing. A combination of the three? What more could I ask for?!

Eventing Background

USEA Rider Profile Click to view profile
Area Area V
Highest Level Competed Novice
Trainer Cindy Thaxton, Mary D'Arcy, Kelley Krablin

Latest Articles Written

Product Review: Kerrits Ice Fil Tech Tights

I’m not much of a model, but I LOVE my Kerrits Ice Fil Tech Tights! PC: My 8 year old son Nate Wadley

Kerrits are my jam. There. I said it. No matter how many other pairs of tights or breeches I try, and may even actually like, I always go back to Kerrits. I just don’t think you can beat their apparel for fit, comfort, price, features and even their color coordination. (Did I mention I love them?) These super comfortable Ice Fil Tech Tights are no different, and they are my new go to schooling tights.

First and foremost: pockets. And not just one, TWO pockets. And not just two pockets, but two LARGE pockets that both easily accommodate my cellphone. I ride alone a lot, and I’m a mom, and having my cellphone with me is a must, especially if I’m out in the field. Having a large pocket that I can easily slide my phone into is a huge bonus. And…OK…treats. The Syd (my fire-breathing dragon) eats a lot spearmints. They’re HIS jam. I must have a pocket for spearmints. This is nonnegotiable. These tights make my life so much easier! One pocket for my cellphone, one pocket for my spoiled rotten beast, er, spearmints.

OK, but how do they fit? Well, I am a true medium. All the way around. Medium pants, medium shirt, medium boots, helmet…I wear a 30 regular/size 8 to 10 in numbered sizes, so according to Kerrits’ size chart, I’m a medium in these Ice Fil tights. They run true to size and are even the right length for me. Again, I am a medium-sized adult, 5 foot 5 inches in height. Sometimes tights are a smidge too long for me, which I am actually okay with, but these tights are just the right length. I don’t ride in anything but full seat, and these do not feel like full seat tights. With the cutest little anti-slip Kerrits Sticks to give you grip, they are still very stretchy and breathable.

So let’s talk comfort. Oh my gosh!!! These tights are SO soft!!! And SO comfortable!!! I live in the very hot and humid South, Arkansas to be exact. I own several pairs of breeches and tights that I would not dare to even attempt to put on, let alone wear, this time of year. I start to sweat the second I exit my truck and by the time the Syd is tacked up, it’s running down my face, and other unmentionable areas. There is no glisten here, just sweat. Even at 6:00 in the morning.

According to the Kerrits website, the “Ice Fil fabric converts sweat to refrigerant to keep you cool and comfortable.” I have no idea what the science is behind it, but all I know is that it works! They are super comfortable and cool, and according to Kerrits, they also offer “UPF 50+ sun protection,” which I’m sure is great for keeping my pasty white riders legs, well, pasty. (Okay maybe that’s not a plus. But at least my legs aren’t sunburned, and I still love these tights.) Bottom line: They are quite literally the most comfortable tights I have ever worn. I have even been tempted to go running in them. They’re just that comfortable.

Me in my Kerrits Ice Fils and my “non-riding” son. If you look closely, you can see the pocket full of spearmints. PC: Haleigh Holom

So we’ve established that I love these full seat tights. I’m sure at this point you’re wondering how much they will set you back. So, I’m an adult amateur bartending mom on a budget. I am forever looking for a deal, and I hardly ever pay over $125 for any pair of breeches or tights, even my fancy show pairs, and then I have to REALLY love them. At full price Kerrits Ice Fil Tech Tights retail for $94.

Having said that, Kerrits is great about putting things on sale. They function like a normal women’s apparel fashion house in the sense that they change their color scheme each season. This is great for bargain hunters like me because they frequently offer last season’s colors at closeout prices. So unless you want the standard black, tan or white or the current season’s colors, chances are you can get a pair at a lower price. The tights I’m wearing in these photos is actually a close out color, and I did get them on sale. In fact, if you go to the Kerrits website right now, they are offering a couple of colors at $70 a pair. But get there quick! They go fast! Just be sure you save a pair of mediums for me.

Go eventing!

In Defense of the Lower Levels

Syd and I aren’t normally this brave…Syd maybe…me? Not so much. Photo: Lisa Phillips

The other day after I finished hosing my pony off after a particularly sweaty ride, I had an interesting conversation with the woman who owns the barn where I board my horse. We were discussing the current state of eventing and going to shows and wearing masks…you know, the usual eventing conversation. The topic turned to adult amateurs and competing at the lower levels, particularly how much more technical and demanding the Novice division cross country courses have become over the past few years.

Now. Anyone who knows me at all would probably say that I am a big weenie. I’m a blogger. I love to write (and ride). So it has been well documented. And yes, admittedly I can be a bit of a weenie. When the fences start moving upward, the pterodactyls in my stomach and the wimpiness in my always over-analyzing adult ammy brain tend to take over just a bit. OK, sometimes more than a bit. And in my defense I do have a pretty nasty accident in my past that left me with what my husband likes to call my bionic right arm, but that accident was well in my past. And it has absolutely nothing to do with my current, fabulous, superstar of a pony Syd who almost never takes a wrong step and always takes care of me even when I am all but closing my eyes and saying a Hail Mary over a fence.

Syd free jumping a few (cough cough) years back. Photo by Michelle Wadley.

And here’s where I have to take a moment to sing the praises of my heart horse; I promise this is a relevant digression. Syd could literally have gone anywhere and done anything. On more than one occasion I have been offered quite a lot of money to sell him. And in my mind he’s perfect and worth every penny I’ve been offered. He’s also my horse of a lifetime best friend, and I wouldn’t sell him for all the money in the world.

But I do wonder sometimes what he could have accomplished if he had not have been stuck with lower level adult amateur me. That’s a question that will never be answered, and as the years have passed, I have finally begun to be okay with that. And here’s why: As super talented as Syd is, he is also quite literally the perfect match for me. We trail ride; we hack out; we face fears together; he isn’t spooky; he saves my arse! I never have to wonder about whether or not he is going to refuse a fence he’s never seen. His attitude is always, “Hang on Mom! I’ve got this!” Do I still have to ride? Yes! Do I still have to work at dressage? Absolutely! BUT his trustworthy, kind, big-hearted spirit is exactly what this fifty-something mom needs. HE gives me confidence. HE makes it okay, and I adore him for it.

So what does this have to do with defending the lower levels? Well, I’ll tell ya. Buckle up, buttercup, and get ready for a rant. We as eventers are an adrenaline fueled group. Bigger, faster, further, higher! Dressage be damned! We’re in this for the guts and glory of cross country day! Huzzah! And yes. We are. But as I have gotten older and become a mom, I have also begun to face the very stark reality of my own mortality.

I have responsibilities! I have a child! I don’t bounce! (Let’s be real. I didn’t ever bounce.) What happens if I get seriously injured? To my family? To my job? To my horse? And again, let’s be real, this sport is dangerous. It is! Folks get hurt walking a horse down a barn aisle! Even if you are the safest of the safe riding the Guinness Book of World Record holding most bomb proof mount, you are STILL dealing with another creature who has his own brain and could accidentally hurt you.

Another rare occasion when I ate my Wheaties. Photo: Annie Fike

Please don’t misunderstand me. I LOVE my sport. I defend it regularly to all sorts of folks. I have been volunteering at the Kentucky Three Day Event for over 10 years. I am by no means trying to degrade or call into question anyone who rides at the upper levels. That is absolutely not my intent. What I am simply trying to do is defend those of us who don’t want to. Ride at the upper levels, that is. Because I think that sometimes we lower level folks are looked down upon because we DON’T go bigger, faster, higher, further.

Sometimes, I think the perception is that we CANNOT jump higher, or even worse, that because we are not, we lack knowledge or expertise in what we do. And sure, sometimes that is true. But let me give you this example: I turned 52 this summer. I hold two college degrees, and almost a Master’s. I have been riding since I was FIVE. I’m a writer and a researcher by nature who has owned a tack shop. I LOVE horses, eventing and everything to do with them, and because I love to read and study and audit, I am constantly learning. I enjoy educating myself on all things horse because I love what I do. But as an adult I have not competed above Beginner Novice. I have done that quite successfully; and I have schooled fences that are at the Novice and even Training level, but that’s it.

If you looked at me on paper alone you would wonder what in the heck was wrong with me. What’s wrong with my horse? NOTHING! (See the paragraph above) The knowledge in my brain far exceeds the level I have competed. Does that make me incompetent? Absolutely not. And it irks me that sometimes I am perceived that way. Because here is the bottom line for me and so many others like me: I CHOOSE to ride at the lower levels. Why? Because that’s where I am comfortable and that’s where I enjoy myself. Both Syd and I could absolutely school and compete at a much higher level than we do, but I choose not to.

Don’t get me wrong; I am super competitive. My family loves to talk about the famous domino throwing incident at Christmas one year when I got mad because I lost to my sister. I love to compete! I also love to take lessons and school (I ride 4 to 5 times a week). For me, it’s simply that I want to live to ride another day. I love what I do, and I want to continue doing it. All of it. But that’s just me! If you want to contest Land Rover, good on you! Go for it! But remember some of us just want to work on our horsemanship, love on our ponies, and become better riders.

Choosing to be an adult amateur rider is simply that: my choice; just as vying for the Olympics might be yours. Lower level adult amateur riders make up the largest demographic in the USEF, and we spend a lot of our hard-earned income to be a part of the horse community. There are quite a lot of us out there supporting and cheering on those who ride at levels we choose not to.

Happiness at a dressage clinic. PC: My long suffering horse husband Tim Wadley

One final thought: A few years back at a horse trial, someone asked me at what level I was competing. I replied, “Just beginner novice.” An older lady sitting nearby whipped her head around and quickly corrected me, “NEVER say ‘just.’ You are out there taking a chance and getting it done. Some folks never even throw their leg over the saddle. You are brave and courageous just to be here. There’s no ‘JUST’ to it.”

Wise words.

Go eventing.

A Return to Volunteering

 

I don’t know if you can tell or not, but that’s a social distancing shower curtain behind me in the judge’s box. Photo by Michelle Wadley.

When the powers that be first announced a return to showing, my emotions were all over the place. Part of me was thrilled. Before the virus hit, my horse and I were FINALLY on target to have a great show season. It was a huge blow to my ever fragile adult amateur self to have my plans dashed yet again. (And please don’t anyone misunderstand that statement. I am in no way making light of the pandemic or the need to contain it. I was just disappointed on a personal level.)

After months of waiting and wondering, I was excited to finally be able to get out there and do something. But then folks started talking about the requirements. The mask wearing. The social distancing. The limits to spectators and horse husbands, and suddenly I wasn’t so sure. I am an overworked, adult amateur mom on a serious budget. As much as I wanted to get back out there, I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend my hard earned duckets on an event without much social. Because let’s be real, I love to compete, but I love to hang out with my eventing peeps just as much, especially the ones I don’t get see EXCEPT at shows. I was torn. In the end, I decided to wait and see.

I am an Area V eventer. Summers here are HOT. And humid. And don’t even get me started on the mosquitoes. Even in a normal year, our area pretty much shuts down from the middle of June to the middle of August. By the time the restrictions for showing were eased, there were only two events left on our calendar: Feather Creek in Oklahoma and Texas Rose last weekend (Father’s Day).

It was hard NOT to go to Feather Creek. I love that show, but between my uncertainty and my job, I just couldn’t swing it. Only Texas Rose remained. For those of you who don’t follow me or read my blogs, I am a bit of a volunteer queen. I LOVE to volunteer, and feel VERY strongly about giving back to our eventing community. I also love the folks at Texas Rose Horse Park; I’ve been volunteering there for years, so when they contacted me wanting to know if I was coming … well, I was torn.

It was well past the closing date, so I knew I wasn’t riding, but volunteering??? Sigh. Now, I have been known to get up BEFORE the crack of dawn, drive to Texas (I live in Arkansas), volunteer all day and drive home. But did I want to do that this time? In a pandemic? I wasn’t sure. Then an opportunity came up to go visit some of my family who live in a nearby town, and since it was Father’s Day weekend … well, volunteering became part of a vacation, and I was in!

And I am SO GLAD I made the decision to go! Did we have to wear masks? Yes, but they did make exceptions for the Texas heat. Was it a little weird? Yes, but it was SO GOOD to be back out there! And yes, it was strange not having the large number of spectators and people milling around that we usually do … And yes, it was VERY strange to hear the announcer repeatedly remind everyone NOT to congregate in the barn aisles. (We eventers LOVE to congregate in barn aisles!) And it was a little unusual to be separated from your dressage judge in the judge’s booth by a shower curtain masquerading as Plexiglas (I scribed all day on Saturday).

But mostly it was just really great to be back at an event. And I don’t know how the other shows running last weekend went because I wasn’t there. But I WAS at the Texas Rose Horse Trials and I must give major props to the organizers and everyone who competed, volunteered, and supported. It was so well run! And everyone was so well behaved! We Area V eventers were just happy to be back at it. From my perspective, folks happily complied and happily competed. We were even treated to a brief respite from the heat Saturday morning, which is ALWAYS a good thing in Texas in June.

So it might not be the easiest transition to make, and parts of it may seem unusual and strange, but in the end, it was really just good. Good to see friends I hadn’t seen in too long of a while. Good to see pretty ponies and happy faces. Good to see trainers and parents hugging competitors, and good to see people trying to (gasp) relax for a moment. It was all just … Good. And I’m so glad I went! And when our calendar opens back up in August, I won’t just be volunteering.

Stay safe, and go eventing!

 

Product Review: Horze Equestrian’s Equitation Tights

Photo via Horze Equestrian.

I’m picky. There. I said it. I like what I like, and once I find something I like, I tend to stick with it until it’s been discontinued or is unavailable anymore. Food, boots, breeches, music … name it. Once I find something I like, I hang onto it like a pitbull. Well, meet my new favorite tights: Horze Equestrian Equitation Full Seat Tights. And look at the color! Oh my goodness, I think I’m in heaven!

The fun colors (blue, green, orange and pink) are just one of the many things to love about these tights. While I’ll admit I was a little unsure about having this amount of brightness plastered across my size 30, 51-year-old butt, once I ordered them and started wearing these tights, that fear went right out the window.

So while we’re on the subject of size, these tights do run true. I am almost always a size 30/medium in breeches and tights. That’s what I ordered here, and they are perfect. Comfort? Holy moly! They feel and fit like yoga pants. The waistline is a little above the belly button, which my mom bod loves, and they are snug enough to hold in said mom bod (cough, cough, C-section belly) without being uncomfortable or restricting.

And while we’re talking yoga pants, the Equitation tight is thick enough and strong enough to be a riding tight, not light and thin like athletic pants. Because I live in the very hot and humid South, I really prefer tights in the summer, especially for everyday schooling, but I need durability and breath-ability. I have only worn them a few times, but so far they are holding up well to both wash and wear, and I have been able to check off every box I’ve thrown at them.

Photo via Horze Equestrian.

So back to the colors, which is originally what drew me to these tights. They come in these amazing combinations: Dark Blue/Blue, Dark Blue/Green, Dark Blue/Orange, and Dark Blue/Rose Pink. The second color listed in each combination is made of “a funky, brightly colored full seat silicone,” according to the Horze website, and each pair of tights has stitching to match, so they are trendy and have extra grip. I never buy anything but full seat tights and breeches because I prefer that stick-ability, and these tights definitely provide that.

Having said that, these are TIGHTS, not breeches, so they are pull on, not zip up, so if you prefer a zipper, these are not the pants for you. What they do have is not one, but TWO zip up pockets. Pockets are another must have for me because I am always armed with spearmints (Syd the wonder pony prefers, and let’s be honest, demands them.) and it’s nice to have an extra spot for my phone if I need one.

In short, the Horze Equitation tights are my new favorite schooling tight. So much so that I bought two pairs, one in Dark Blue/Blue and one in Dark Blue/Green (Of course! I love green!!!) The normal retail price is listed at $99.99, but they are almost always on sale and Horze frequently offers discounts and coupons. At the time of this article they were on sale for $69.99! Perfect for an adult amateur mom on a budget! So go get yourself a pair, or two … and Go Eventing!

When Your Child Doesn’t Ride …

My son, my saint of a pony and me on a warm spring day last year. Photo by my ever patient husband Tim Wadley.

“It’s time to go pony shopping!”

I can’t tell you how many times I heard those words, or some variation of them, when I was pregnant with my son. And whether I ever really admitted it out loud or not, I SO wanted that to be the case. A part of me really did want to go pony shopping. A part of me really hoped we would. But (there’s always got to be a “but”) … another bigger part of me always suspected there might not be a pony. And I had to be okay with that.

When you’ve had a lifelong romance with horses, as I have had, or you love the smell of horse poop, as I do, or you are lucky enough to be a horse professional, I think you always hope your children (if you are blessed to have them) will ride. I did. Of course I did. I think most people hope their kids will love the things that they love. I love horses, so ….

My husband and I were late to the having kids game. We got married in our 30s and once we decided we were ready, well, it just did not work out the way we wanted. By the time I hit 40, and after trying for quite awhile, we came to the conclusion that we were probably not ever gonna have children. Long story short, I quite unexpectedly found myself pregnant at 43! I literally had friends with children in high school and college, so I had watched the ones with daughters that rode, compete and do the horse thing together. Watching them cheer each other on and the camaraderie they shared was touching and infectious. I wanted that too, so there was part of me that hoped for a horse girl. The rest of me was just so thrilled to be pregnant that I really was just thrilled to be pregnant.

If you noticed the photo accompanying this blog, you have probably already figured out what gender my baby was. “Boy mom” became the order of the day, and my husband and I were over the moon. We were blessed with a healthy, intelligent, handsome, rowdy, too smart for his own good, all boy, son. He is the greatest joy and blessing and gift of my life. So what about that pony? Well … Nate will be eight in July, and so far, no pony.

But here’s the thing: It’s OK. Do I wish he wanted to ride? Sure! Sometimes. And while he does on occasion (RARE occasion) decide he wants to hop on my trusty steed Syd and take a couple of laps around the arena, for the most part, he would MUCH rather be catching lizards and snakes or riding bicycles with his friends. And I’m OK with that. Really!

Nate doing what he loves: catching critters. Photo by Tim Wadley.

Because here’s the thing: I LOVE being a boy mom. I DO! I’m good at it. I grew up a tomboy. I mean, c’mon! I was a nerdy barn rat who was addicted to horses, and I had one Barbie whose sole purpose was to ride my Breyer horses. I love catching crawdads and hiking through the woods and cheering my son Nate on at his martial arts tournaments. I love superheroes and science fiction and action flicks (all things we enjoy together) and Nate loves to help me cook. I’m an eventer. I’m good with getting muddy and rolling with the punches, which is the order of the day with boys.

Do I miss having a child that rides with me? Sometimes. Do I miss having a child who competes with me? Sometimes. But here’s the thing: I HAVE always and WILL always want Nate to be Nate. I want him to find the thing in his heart that HE is passionate about, NOT what I want him to love. If he loves horses, well, FABULOUS! We’ll go get that pony! But if he loves Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or soccer or reptiles or cars or math (well, maybe not math) whatever it is, I want it to be HIS. And I will support him in that one million percent.

And you know what? He supports me! He loves to go to horse shows so he can cheer me on from the sidelines. He wears my cross country colors (lime green!) and just hearing that little voice screaming “Go Mama!” from the arena fence is enough to make me feel like I could tackle Kentucky! Regardless, he supports me and I support him. And let’s be real. Sometimes, it’s good to have your own thing. Because sometimes, as a mom, I NEED my barn time to decompress, so that I can be the supportive, loving mom I need to be. ESPECIALLY when there’s a snake (“Look Mama! Isn’t he cool?!”) in my kitchen.

Stay safe everyone! Hang in there!

Go eventing!

Nate and I at a mother/son dance at his school. Photo by another boy mom who was kind enough to take this photo.

 

Breaking the Monotony

Syd is only concerned about the availability of the spring grass. Photo by Michelle Wadley.

Today I got some bad news. Okay. Wait. Everyone take a deep breath. I don’t have the virus. All my people and my horse are fine. Not that kind of bad news. Thank goodness!!! No. Today I had a job interview. It seemed like the perfect fit for the perfect job. And it probably was. There was only one problem. I had to move. To another state. And … I can’t do that. (Deep sigh.) Game over.

In normal, pre-coronapocalypse times, the above scenario would not have affected me so much, but a good amount of time has passed since my interview, and I still feel like bawling. WHY?! I’m not a big crier. In fact, I cry more when I’m angry or at a sad animal movie (why do they ALWAYS have to be sad? Why do they always involve death?) than I do when I am actually the sad one. Well, the reason is simple. After weeks of being shut off from normal human contact and interactions, my emotions have had enough. More than enough. Breaking points are imminent, and today I think I must have reached mine.

I tend to be a “glass half full” kind of a gal. (Again with the “not a big crier thing…) I have weathered a lot of storms in my 51 years. I’m like a weeble; I might wobble, but I will get back up. (Oh C’mon! Please tell me I’m not the only one that remembers that toy!) And I think most eventers (and really most horse people) tend to have that kind of outlook. The harsh reality is we’re kinda used to hard knocks. Hard knocks go hand in hand with horses. But this coronavirus thing … It is truly a horse of a different color.

My son searches for crawdads. Photo by Michelle Wadley.

Yesterday afternoon my husband, my seven year old son and I took a walk through our neighborhood. In a very welcome break from a particularly wet month or so, we were treated to a glorious, cloudless blue sky and temperatures in the upper 70s. (It was so warm that my child thought it would be big fun to “swim” in the creek that runs through said neighborhood and catch crawdads. I have the next Steve Irwin on my hands.) What was heart wrenching about the experience were the people we chanced upon. Controlling the spread is not just about touching or social distancing anymore. It’s becoming more and more about total isolation. And not just the physical kind. It’s so sad! People are afraid to even make EYE CONTACT with each other. And the shock that registers when you smile at them…it’s as though you shot a bullet their way.

In my last blog, I talked about the need to stay grateful in the current climate. And I am grateful. I am very blessed that my family has stayed healthy. I can still go to the barn to see my pony and ride, which in these days of homeschooling and closures is probably the only thing keeping me sane. And I realize that a lot of folks are not so lucky. Hospitals are still treating people for things other than COVID-19, barns are closing, and more lockdowns are happening everyday.

In a world that feels increasingly like that old Bruce Willis movie “Surrogates,” we CANNOT become used to not interacting with each other, whether through a smile, a nod, a wave or a simple “Hi!” We must find ways to break the monotony of our isolation. Facetime, Zoom, TikTok, Boomerang, YouTube … whatever ya got. Babies are still being born; kids are still catching toads and riding bikes; books (and blogs) are still being written; my horse is still a spearmint hog (he prefers the green mints;) my cat still wants to eat my guinea pig; and the sun is still shining (sometimes.)

Take this crisis seriously, yes. But also, remember that we are all still human. I hope. (I might have watched too much science fiction lately.) We are all feeling the pressure of being stuck at home or stuck alone or stuck at home alone. And don’t forget those of us fighting this thing from the frontlines: the healthcare professionals and firefighters and policemen, even our military. ALL of us could use a little grace and a little caring and a little humanity. And for sure we could use a little laughter. So post those funny memes and videos. Laughter is the very best way to break the monotony. And hopefully, very soon we will all be able to get back to doing what we love. Maybe we’ll even find new things we love, which is one more way to break the monotony.

Stay safe, try to laugh, and hopefully soon we can…
Go eventing.

Grateful In the Midst of Crisis

“In this crazy world, THIS is where I find my peace.” Photo courtesy of Michelle Wadley.

In one fell swoop and in less time than it takes my pony to scarf down his breakfast, I became unemployed and a homeschool mom. Such are the crazy times in which we live. Businesses and schools are closing indefinitely, toilet paper is worth more than my jumping saddle, and suddenly giving someone a hug could potentially kill them. Phrases like “the new normal” are becoming a reality. Well, I’m a horse person, an eventer and a server/bartender who is in her fifties with a seven-year-old son. “Normal” has never really applied to me.

What does apply to me, and to all of us, really, is learning to navigate the craziness while still keeping our wits about us. Never in a million years did I ever imagine I would be filling out unemployment forms, as I did this morning.  Never in a million years did I think Land Rover would be cancelled (Dang it! That’s my vacation destination each year!). And never in a million years did I think I would not only be educating my second grader, but also trying to find activities that can run out some of his energy (Self lunging is rapidly becoming an option).

Yes, it’s a new world, and yes, it can be frustrating. And while I am by no means trying to make light of the fact that this virus should be taken seriously because it can be lethal (I have parents in their 70s who are immunocompromised), I also think that we have to discover new ways to be kind to each other.

We have to continue to laugh at ourselves and our situation because laughter really is the best medicine, especially when you’re stuck at home with a vibrating child (Who ever thought he’d be tired of watching a screen?!). And most importantly, we need to find a way to be grateful for what we do have — make some lemonade from that huge lemon life handed us all.

I have read repeatedly that starting each day thinking of five things you are grateful for can change your overall attitude and help drive away depression. I need that even when I’m NOT facing the coronapocalypse! So here are five things I am thankful for in the midst of this crisis:

  1. Time

  2. Time

  3. Time

  4. Time

  5. And finally, TIME!

Seriously, though. The one thing that this incredible situation has given us more of is time. Suddenly I have more free time than I ever believed possible. And isn’t it amazing how quickly it disappears! I told my mom on the phone yesterday that the more free time I have, the less I have. Seems silly but it’s true.

In spite of that weird fact, I had time yesterday to have that rather lengthy phone conversation with my mom. I have also had time to work on the  neverending “Honey D0” list hanging on my fridge (Just please don’t ask me to actually CLEAN my house. Now my tack…that’s another story). And exercise! I live in a large, family-oriented neighborhood. It has been nothing short of amazing how many people are out walking and riding their bikes. And the dogs are definitely winning. So many people are walking their dogs.

I’m reconnecting with my family, my husband and my son. Which is the single most important thing I’m grateful for. And with so many restaurants closed, I have probably cooked dinner more this past week than I have all year!

I’m actually reading actual books again, and naps are a reality I NEVER thought I’d see again. All because I have been given the blessing of time.

Finally, as a horse person, and an eventer, I am SO grateful for time with my horse. Lots of time. Time to just enjoy him…hand grazing and grooming, lots of grooming (it IS shedding season after all) And yes, time to train. To work on those things I sometimes put off because there isn’t enough time. Well, now there is…and with more and more shows being cancelled each day, and the spring season coming to a screeching halt, even more time to fix those nagging little issues and simply just enjoy my horse.

So I am learning to be grateful in the midst of the crisis. A habit I hope to continue even after things return to their original version of normal. And if they don’t, and we’re faced with yet another new normal, I hope I’ll still find time to be grateful. Because gratitude is a good thing, and don’t we all need more of those?

Stay safe.

Stay grateful.

Go eventing.

Be an American Eventing Hero: Volunteer at The 2019 AEC

USEA CEO Rob Burk, a frequent eventing volunteer himself, stops to thank jump judges at the 2017 AEC in Tryon. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Yay! It’s August! I am so happy! And relieved. July was a disaster. So was June … and May … and well … yeah ….

Moving on … August brings so many cool things: end of the season sales (!), school starts for a lot of kids (this might not be cool for the kids, but it can definitely be cool for the parents), and the coolest of all, the American Eventing Championships, which this year are being held at the very cool Kentucky Horse Park Aug. 27 through Sept. 1.

Hopefully, there are a bunch of you cool eventing kids out there (of all ages) that have qualified for the AEC and are making the trek to Kentucky for a chance to pretend you’re running Land Rover (because that’s what I would do!). I unfortunately am not qualified. Boo. However, I am still going to head east to one of my very favorite places on the planet and do something almost as cool.

I am going to volunteer!

I am also going to cheer some cool qualified friends on as well, but that’s not what this blog is about. This blog is about volunteering! Which is really cool! And necessary! And essential! And fun! And did I say absolutely essential? Because it totally, and completely is. Events run on volunteers. Pure and simple. The Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event needs over 3,000 volunteers to handle the tens of thousands of spectators and competitors that come to shop, compete and be a part of the greatest weekend all year. While the AEC may not require that many volunteers, they still need some. More than some. In fact, A LOT, to make this very exciting event, which is kind of like the Olympics for the lower levels, happen.

“But I’ve never volunteered!”

It’s never too late to start! If you’re going to support a friend or a family member or you’re competing yourself, why not start now?

“But I don’t ride!”

It doesn’t matter! They need everything from greeters and parking attendants to dressage test runners and course decorators, none of which require any prior knowledge of eventing or horses. And trust me; I can scribe a dressage test or watch horses go over a jump all day, but you do NOT want me trying to place pretty flowers on a cross country fence.

“But my time is very limited.”

No big deal! Not everyone drives three states to volunteer for a couple of days like I do. (I’m just nutso like that.) A lot of the folks volunteering only have an hour or two to give. The cool thing is just like there are lots of types of positions, there are volunteer shifts of all time lengths. Just pick one that best suits you. I promise the volunteer coordinators are very happy to have each and every person no matter what position they choose to fill or how long they choose to serve. It takes a lot of manpower to pull this event off. And truly, doesn’t everyone have an hour or two to spare?

Another cool reason to volunteer: swag! Most events (especially the big ones, like Land Rover and the AEC) provide their volunteers with free stuff for giving up a little of their time, everything from lunch and t-shirts to towels and lip balm. And who doesn’t love free stuff?! Plus, eventers (and their peeps) are truly the coolest folks in the world. When you volunteer you get to meet and hang out with super cool folks and make new friends, all while watching pretty ponies and cool riders compete. Heck you might even learn something! It’s a win/win all the way around.

So go to www.eventingvolunteers.com and sign up for a shift (or two.) I guarantee you’ll be glad you did!

I hope to see you there!

Go Eventing.

 

Just Keep Swimming

Photo credit: A great horse show dad named Boyd Mercer.

I look normal, right? I mean, as normal as any horse-crazed eventer can be Well, it’s been anything BUT a normal summer. Or really a normal past few months. In fact, I’m starting to doubt the actual existence of that word.  Webster defines normal as “the usual, typical, average state or condition.” Hmmm… Maybe my “normal” is everyone else’s crazy or stressful or dramatic. Melodramatic really, almost like I’m living in a reality show NOT of my choosing. Sigh. But I digress.

It’s been a summer of learning how to just keep swimming, to persevere, to roll with the punches and simply not quit. Not just in my riding, but in life in general. Let me preface this by saying that my husband and I both work in the service industry. He’s a hairdresser, and I’m a server/bartender at a high-volume restaurant, both of which bring with them their own amount of drama. It’s just the nature of the industries we work in. I usually find my peace and my recharge at the barn. My stalwart, tried and true, best friend of a gelding has been with me for 13 years (he’s 17 now) and I literally trust him with my life. We have one of those partnerships that can easily be taken for granted. Syd is truly my heart horse.

Enter Mother Nature. This past spring in Area V (where I live) has been a mess of rain, wetness and storms. (Ironically, we’re in the throes of hurricane Barry as I write this.) At least two events in Area V were canceled with others continuing in the deluge. My home state of Arkansas had one of the wettest  seasons on record, and my hometown of Little Rock had hundred-year floods and federal disasters. Ride time became a premium. Mud and rain rot a staple. And don’t even get me started on the mosquitos! My happy place was hard to find right when I needed it the most.

Back when the rain was really getting started, the rental house my family was living in became its own disaster area, and we decided it was time to find a new place to live. Rental property in Little Rock pretty much falls into two categories, undesirable or too expensive. Factor in the fact that we have three Great Pyrenees dogs and a second grader that needs a good school and well, it’s been tough to find a place to live. In an effort to save money and keep looking on our own terms, my husband and I decided that this would be the summer of endless camping. We parked our camper on my brother-in-law’s property, and moved in. As with any life-altering decision, there have been pros and there have been cons. The pros: it’s like living in a tiny house, so I don’t have a lot to clean (!), and we are saving money. The cons: it’s like living in a tiny house with three humans and three human-sized dogs. And have I mentioned that I’m a bit OCD about clutter and cleanliness? Um. Yeah, do the math. It’s been months of really needing my ride time, but not getting much of it.

Photo credit: Lisa Phillips of Roland Eventing.

In spite of all the craziness, somehow my “endlessly stuck at Beginner Novice” self found the hutzpah to pick itself up by the boot straps and really get down to business with the jumping. I am very blessed to board at a private farm that has an awesome arena and even more awesome cross country schooling. When it wasn’t too wet, Syd and I actually started successfully schooling some big stuff (Training level, which is big to me; Syd’s  ready to hit Land Rover.) and really making progress in our quest to end our run at BN (totally all my issue, not his!) A switch within me finally got flipped, and the whole eventing world changed colors.

Then the theory of convergence took over, and it happened. I was schooling cross country with a friend when Syd refused a small, very friendly roll top that we’d jumped with no issues in the past. What the heck?! It took me three tries to get him over a jump he could have walked over! My adult amateur mind immediately defaulted to its “happy” place and began to overanalyze. Is he sore? Does he need to be shod? Is he overdue for hock injections? Did I send him “refuse” vibes? Is it a full moon? Did I not hold my face right? What?!

I decided to give him the day off and try jumping in the arena when I rode again. At first, he was fine and then it happened again. He refused. This time just a normal, not scary stadium fence. Syd has refused probably less than 15 times in all the time he’s been jumping. It just isn’t like him. At all. In fact, when I told my trainer her response was, “WHAT?!” This time I was in tears. The dam broke, and it was as if all the frustrations of the past few months came flooding out at that moment. And in that moment, I had two choices: give up or get it done. The Beginner Novice me wanted to call it a day, get in my truck and continue the cry fest. The schooling Training level me said, “Find a way to get him over the fence and then figure out why this is happening.”

Eventers are a persistent, hard-headed, wonderful, get it done group of folks. I am very proud to be one. That day, I lowered the fence and jumped it. Then I raised it a tad and jumped it again. THEN I quit for the day.

As it turns out, Syd was a little foot sore from all the wetness and had a bit of thrush. After some time off and new shoes, he’s fine. And so am I.

I’m still camping, but I’m still swimming (no pun intended.) And after a little mental schooling for me on the power of persistence, I will continue to swim my way to my first Novice this fall. 

Go eventing, and just keep swimming.

 

 

 

 

Never Say Never

 

Photo courtesy of Michelle Wadley.

What is it about the word “never?” There have been songs penned about it, books written about it, movies entitled it, and birds cawing it (well, sort of…) Maybe it has to do with the finality of the word “never” and its sense of absoluteness. Maybe it’s because we as humans aren’t good with that. We don’t tend to like never’s irrevocability. (And yes, I did have my thesaurus out for this post.)

Sure, sometimes saying never can be a good thing. The sense of closure it invokes can be positive. For instance, closure at the end of a bad relationship is always good. Just ask Taylor Swift. But sometimes saying, “Never, never, never, ever…” is not the right approach. Sometimes it means you’re giving up, acquiescing, relinquishing, not trying hard enough. Sometimes it is simply of matter of asking yourself, “Is this truly what I want?” or “How bad do I want it?” BEFORE you say, “Never.”

My involvement in the sport of eventing is an excellent example my own improper use of this familiar adverb. After a well-blogged about jumping accident over 10 years ago, I very firmly and emphatically announced to the world that I was DONE eventing. I would NEVER jump again. Never, ever, EVER. Uh huh.

Just in the off chance the blatantly obvious escaped you, I am writing this article for EVENTING Nation. Now before you get out your “jump to conclusions” mat (“Office Space” reference, anyone?) I did take an extended break from performing dressage over obstacles to simply ride dressage. It was great for me and for my horse, who at the time was a young, couldn’t find his feet, or his legs or his balance, draft cross.

However, while it was hard for me to admit, mostly because I didn’t want to own up to making a mistake, I was bored. I missed the cross country adrenaline. I missed being a part of the best sport and the best group of riders in the world. In my heart of hearts, I am, and always have been, an eventer. It’s in my DNA. And while I had major fear issues to deal with and conquer, and while the road back was anything but easy (still isn’t!) I finally had to admit to making a bad decision. And here’s the thing about bad decisions: If you make one, simply make another decision to correct it, which is exactly what I did.

The day I announced to my husband that I really wanted to jump the cross-rails that were set up in the jumping arena, and he wisely simply said, “OK,” is firmly etched into my brain. It was a turning point to be sure. Yes, my pride and my stubbornness took hits, but that one change in mindset put me back on the path where I belonged. It took a big eraser to the chalkboard where I’d written, “never.” I am eternally grateful it did.

Fast forward to the present. 2018 was a not good year. At least not for me and my never-ending horse dreams. It was the year where I felt like I just couldn’t connect the dots. No matter what dots I tried to link. It wasn’t about horrible accidents, or health issues or any other major catastrophe, I just couldn’t seem to make anything work. It was also the year that I turned 50. And that whole midlife crisis thing? Yeah. That.

Again, it wasn’t so much that I woke up and wanted to run off and join the circus on a Harley and get 50 new tattoos. I just felt this “never”ending feeling of discontent and disillusionment. Like my horse when he was four, I couldn’t seem to find my feet. I desperately wanted to wake up one morning and to be shiny and happy and settled and content and on and on. It was almost like the harder I tried, the more it all eluded me.

In September I quit my job waiting tables (one I’d held for three and a half years, which is a lifetime in the restaurant business) thinking that I would finally find and get my dream job and finally start my dream career doing something I love in the horse world. (Did I mention I’m 50?) When December rolled around and I was still unemployed, reality set in and with it, two words: “Settle down.” And then, “You need to get a grip and stop living in absolutes.”

I am a pretty rational, logical person, most of the time. I had allowed the insanity of my mid-century birthday to cloud my judgement and muddle my thinking. Once I really stopped and looked at all the jobs I had applied for (ironically not a single equestrian gig in the group) versus the monetary and scheduling needs I had, a stark statement slapped me in the face. I needed to go back to serving. Wait. What?! I can’t! I said, “I’ll NEVER wait tables again!” Uh huh.

In this instance the means were definitely justified. While waiting tables is definitely not my dream job or dream career, I’m good at it! My schedule is flexible (events are on my calendar!) and the money pays for my horse dreams (events are on my calendar!) Is it perfect? NO! But, really, is anything?

I had to admit that once again I had said, “Never,” when I shouldn’t have. What I should have said was that I would NEVER give up fighting for my eventing dreams. Never.

Go eventing.

 

 

Grateful: A Message of Thanksgiving on Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happiest of New Years from the Syd and me! Photo by my husband Tim.

All right. I know. The title of this blog looks a little more like a Thanksgiving title, not a Christmas title. But bear with me. In all actuality, for me, it’s more like a “Let’s find things about 2018 we’re thankful for, say, ‘Buh-Bye!’ and move on to 2019” title. I have a lot to be grateful for. I do. I truly do. For all the moaning and groaning I sometimes do about the things I wish I had in my life or the way I wish my life was, I do truly have a lot to be thankful for: I have a great husband who loves and supports me in and in spite of all my horse craziness; I have an amazing six year old son who is the biggest blessing of my life; I have a roof over my head, a truck to drive, great friends, a wonderful church, three happy dogs, all the usual. I am truly grateful for all those things. So why does it sound like I’m trying to convince myself?

Because sometimes life doesn’t go as planned. Not just sometimes. Most of the times. Sometimes it’s hard not to let those times get to you. Get you down. For me, 2018 was another one of those years where I made plans. Lots of plans, and had goals, lots of goals. And … well … life happened. Again. (It has a habit of doing that.) I didn’t complete at a single event. Or ride in a single clinic. It has been one of those years. My job fell apart and ended and my husband’s has been a struggle. We had to adult. The hard way. Yeah. It’s been a year. Again. And it’s easy to dwell on all those hard, bad things. It’s easy to attend the pity party and crawl in self-centered hole. Very easy. The holidays can make it worse. And if you struggle with depression, well, the light at the end of the tunnel can be very hard to find indeed.

When it all gets to be too much, I go see my therapist. My four-legged therapist. Let’s be real, I go see him anyway, but especially when I need to find my smile again. Syd never disappoints. These are the days when he’s at the fence waiting for me before I’m even out of my truck. These are the days when walking him in, he’s hugging and nudging me the entire time. These are the days when he gently nuzzles me as I’m digging for brushes in my tack trunk. These are the days I remember how grateful I am for Syd. We have been together for 12 years now (I got him when he was four.) and my husband has said from the very beginning that Syd and I were made for each other. He has always been MY horse. In the midst of my frustration at another year gone by, I have to remind myself of how very blessed I am to have him to take care of me.

And it’s the little things … the little things that I will have to remind myself that I took for granted when that day comes and I find myself with another young horse. Things like, Syd ground ties, and follows me without a halter. He rarely spooks. Even when we’re riding in the pasture and the other horses are galloping around us acting the fool, he focuses on his job. I can ride Syd bareback with a halter, no big deal. He isn’t girthy; he stands still (well, mostly) when I mount; he will gently take a carrot or a sugar cube from you even if you forget (as my son sometimes does) to hold your had flat. He’s a saint. He always has been. And I am so blessed to have him!

My 17-hand fire breathing dragon patiently being lead by my six year old son. Photo by Michelle Wadley.

He takes care of me. On the cross country course. In show jumping. When I’m afraid, when I’m angry. He takes care of me. “I got this Mom!” More than that, he takes care of my son, who has no idea of how big or how scary Syd could, but never would, be. To my son Nate, Syd is just Syd. And he never takes a wrong step, frequently looking back at me to say, “I got this Mom. I know. I got this.” More than anything else, for that, I am grateful.

So in the midst of my craziness, my depression, my frustrations, and my horror at a another year older and another year that didn’t go as planned. I have to remind myself of the things in my life that are good and right, and that I am blessed by so many things. I have to remind myself of how wonderful is my friend named Syd. And I am humbled, and I am …

Grateful.

Go eventing.

 

 

 

The Power of Belief

Our Elf on the Shelf Tony Stark fits right in with the rest of the family! Who knew Ironman liked ponies? Photo by Michelle Wadley.

Do you believe in Santa Claus? Or Elves on the Shelf? Or how about unicorns? Or the Tooth Fairy … or … yourself?

The holiday season is in full swing. It’s the most magical, wonderful time of the year. But it can also be the busiest, hardest, and for some, the most depressing time of the year. No matter what holiday you celebrate, it’s hard not to get caught up in all the craziness. The holidays bring with them a myriad of emotions from both ends of the spectrum, good, bad and everything in between. Your money, your job, your family, your friends, even what you eat and drink, name it, and it is in some way affected by the holidays. Each successive year adds to whatever collective thoughts and feelings we might already have about the holidays. And with each season comes a new influence on next year’s season. Sometimes even the things you believe in the most can come into question.

One year ago yesterday my husband’s father passed away. His cancer diagnosis came unexpectedly around Thanksgiving and within a couple of weeks he was gone. Everyone deals with grief in different, but still the same, ways. For my husband and his siblings it was hard to accept losing the very large, commanding personality of their dad, especially since it fell in the midst of the holiday season. This year, that loss has already begun to color our holidays and the way we celebrate. My husband misses his dad, and while he may not talk about it all the time (he is a man, after all) I sense his sorrow. But because my husband and I share a strong belief system that is grounded in our faith, it provides him with a great deal of comfort even in his loss. While he may be in pain, my husband has managed to hold onto the belief that he will one day see his dad again.

One day last week I was desperately trying to come up with a new and creative place for my son’s Elf on the Shelf to magically “reappear” before he got about of bed to get ready for school. If you don’t have kids and/or don’t know what an Elf on the Shelf is, count yourself lucky. The basic idea behind it is Santa Claus has scout elves that appear the day after Thanksgiving and hang out until Christmas. Their sole purpose is to report back to Santa about whether the children in their assigned household have been naughty or nice. Each night the elf magically leaves to return to the North Pole to tattle to Santa and returns the next morning to a different place in the house. Children are not allow to touch their elf, because it would take away his magic and put them on the naughty list. See where this is going? For the children involved, the elves are yet another magical part of Christmas. Their belief comes so easily and readily because of their innocence. Life hasn’t influenced their accepting faith yet. For the parents involved, well, it can get a bit tedious coming up with new locations, but it does do wonders in the behavior department. “Tony (our elf’s name, chosen by my son) is watching!”

So anyway, while I was trying yet again to come up with a new, creative location for Tony, a thought crossed my mind. My son is a highly intelligent six-year-old, who is almost impossible to con or manipulate. He’s an only child who has been around adults A LOT, so he clues into stuff pretty quickly. To be perfectly honest, I am amazed that he is still buying into the whole charade! But he is! He talks to Tony, worries about what Tony is going to tell Santa, looks for him first thing each morning, and has a fit if it someone accidentally touches that darned elf. He has bought into it hook, line and stinker; I mean, sinker. The point is HE BELIEVES!

Now, I’m sure by this point in the blog you’re wondering what in the heck this has to do with riding and being an eventer. Well, I do have a point, and the point is this: It can get really hard to hang onto your belief — your belief in yourself, your horse, your trainer, even your sport. When things get tough, or they aren’t going your way, it can get even harder to keep the faith and remain positive. Really, really hard. Life and circumstances are always going to color the lens through which we look at things. It can seem like you’re trapped in a kaleidoscope that is constantly shifting and being shaken up. It can affect the things we believe in, even those at the core of who we are.

I have had not just one, but several years in a row that have greatly affected my belief, belief in myself and in my horse, even in whether or not I should continue to ride. All things horse have always been my passion, my heart of hearts, but just when it seemed I might be about to get back on track with my riding, the kaleidoscope would get shaken, and I would find myself surrounded by all new shapes and all new colors, forced to start all over yet another time. But new beginnings are just part of life, and new shapes and colors might change our view, but they don’t have to change our belief. Belief is what makes us who we are. Just as my husband believes he will see his dad again, and just as my son believes Tony is headed back to the North Pole to report to Santa, I believe that my day will come. My horse is rock star through and through, and while we might not have had much chance to prove it yet, we will. That’s what I believe.

Go eventing.

And believe.

Volunteering: Just Do It!

I took this photograph of this banner at a ballpark in Benton, Louisiana. Photo by Michelle Wadley.

 We eventers are a pretty cool lot. We’re tough and hard-working, but we’re also friendly and fun-loving. And for the most part we love to give back to this insane sport we care so much about. So how come there is such a lack of volunteers?

I know what you’re thinking. “Oh no! Here comes another lecture on the importance of volunteering.” (Reader closes page.) Well, yes and no. Pretty much to the day that I started riding again as an adult, I started volunteering. I saw it as a way to get involved, get to know people, learn the ropes and hang out in the horse world until I was ready to actually compete. My motto then was, “If I can’t compete, then I will volunteer.” Sixteen years, one bad accident, one child, many moves involving job, barn and location changes, and countless crazy situations later, and it is still my motto. So much so that I just spent the weekend volunteering at the horse trials at Texas Rose Horse Park.

Unfortunately for me, this has been yet another one of those seasons where life interfered with my ability to compete. My horse and I were actually ready to get out there and git ‘er done, but some uncertain family health issues have kept me close to home. And it’s hard for me to stay home. I love events! I love the competition, the pretty ponies, hanging out with my horse girls, even staying in hotels. (I know! I’m weird!) But life is life, and family will always come first. But … right about the time family circumstances were stabilizing was right about the time the volunteer coordinator rang me up wanting to know if I was available. I heeded the call and headed down to Lindale, Texas. I’m so glad I did!

Here’s the thing about volunteering: Most shows are desperate not just for volunteers, but for volunteers who have some horse knowledge, better yet, event knowledge. They are super grateful for anyone who can help for any length of time, but they are especially grateful if they know you can handle a spot doing just about any job because you have evented. They will feed you, water you, give you t-shirts (and other swag), drive you around on golf carts, and just basically be extremely kind and forever thankful. It is so worth it!

I started out this weekend on Saturday by filling in for a scribe who couldn’t make it, shifted to being a score runner on cross country (double bonus here because I got a close up look at all the courses since I had to collect jump judge sheets from each jump) and finished up the weekend by being the warm up steward in cross country all day on Sunday. Yes. It was a bit chilly, but I almost didn’t notice. I was having too much fun catching up with trainers and riders I hadn’t seen all season while herding horses in out of the start box and screaming the occasional, “Woo Hoo! Go get ’em!” It was exactly the fuel injection I needed to keep me motivated through the winter into next season. It was so good for my little eventer soul, but here’s the deal: It wasn’t about me. The show needed me! They needed volunteers. The event may have fed my need to be a part of the community I love, but the event needed me just to help keep the show running. And that is truly what this article is all about.

Most events are desperate for volunteers. If they aren’t desperate, chances are they are still in need. It truly takes a village to run a show. They need scribes, and warm up stewards, and score runners and jump judges, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The bigger the event, the more volunteers it requires. I have volunteered since 2010 at the event formerly known as Rolex. That event quite literally requires tens of thousands of volunteers, enough to rival the population of a town in my home state of Arkansas! Stop and really think about that for a second. That’s a lot of folks!

The point is this: Get your butt out there and volunteer! It’s fun! Really! You get to be a social butterfly and an encourager. You get swag! You learn stuff! (Scribing can provide invaluable insight into the mind of a dressage judge.) You get free food! You get to meet new people! It’s fun!

In all seriousness it really can be a blast, and it’s always good for the soul to help out while feeling needed and appreciated at the same time. You don’t have to make an all-weekend commitment like I did. Most shows are so happy to have you, they’ll let you volunteer for a couple of hours, sometimes even ONE hour. They simply need volunteers.

So the next time you are about to complain about something at an event, ask yourself…

And go volunteer.

Go eventing.

 

Product Review: Noble Outfitters’ Best Dang Boot Socks & Perfect Fit Gloves

Images courtesy of Noble Outfitters.

I have terrible feet. I’m an equestrian who spends too much time in my boots, and I’m a runner. (Well. Sometimes. Off and on. Occasionally.) Anyway … I have terrible feet. Think broken toes, high arches, and ohmygosh! a bunion! So I am always on the lookout for whatever will make my feet the most comfortable (if that’s even possible!) and I am obsessed with socks.

Boot socks. I love socks with super cool patterns and really pretty colors, especially socks that match my cross country colors. However, because I have terrible feet what I am always searching for is comfortable boot socks. I found that very thing from Noble Outfitters. It’s called the Best Dang Boot Sock. And boy, they are!

Noble Outfitters raves that with all the extra features in these socks, you’ll be comfortable all day. They aren’t lying. I am now the proud owner of three pairs of these socks, and I am sold. They have a padded foot bed that runs from toe to heel, and if you haven’t ever worn padded socks before, you are missing out! It is amazing what a little bit of extra cushion can do for you feet. The top of the sock is made of a mesh panel that adds extra breathability to the already moisture-wicking fabric which is great on even the hottest days. In addition, there is a compression band that goes around the foot at the arch that is wonderful for folks with high arches (like me!) but also helps hold the socks in place.

At $9.95 a pair, you simply cannot go wrong with these socks. The one downside to what would otherwise be not just “the best dang” but the perfect sock, is the colors offered. Nothing flashy or exciting here. Just your basic black, dark navy, white and brown. But hey, nobody’s perfect, right? And they do come in medium, large, and extra large to fit almost any foot. Pretty dang good, if you ask me.

In addition to the crew sock pictured above, the socks are available in over-the-calf and ankle sock styles.

OK, so now that your feet are taken care of, what about your hands? Meet Michelle’s obsession, part two: gloves. I grew up with a trainer who would not let us ride unless we were wearing gloves. In my old age, I will occasionally venture out, get brave and ride gloveless, but not very often. Old habits die hard.

Since I started riding again as an adult, I’ve had expensive gloves and cheap gloves, technical gloves and simple gloves, summer gloves, winter gloves, LOTS of black gloves and pretty much “you name it” gloves. In Noble Outfitters Perfect Fit gloves, I have finally found a really good all-around glove that is affordable and durable and can go easily from schooling to show.

What the Best Dang Boot Sock was lacking in the color department, the Perfect Fit Glove makes up for. In fact, color was what initially drew me to them. I was looking for something bright and fun for everyday schooling. Noble Outfitters rotates patterns and colors each season. At the time they were offering a floral print that perfectly matched my cross country color scheme. That pattern has since expired, but it was around long enough to get me hooked on these gloves. Basic colors like black and brown are routinely offered, but if you’re looking for a something with a little or a lot of zing, you can try mint geo (pictured above) blue racing shadow horse (new for fall) or fig mosaic. Solid colors like French Provence Blue and Blackberry are also available making a total of 13 options to choose from.

According to their website, Noble Outfitters says these gloves are armed with a suregrip synthetic suede palm, a breathable jersey material, and reinforced forefinger, thumb and pinky. They are definitely durable, and even better, affordable! At $19.95 a pair you can definitely afford more than one, perhaps a black pair for stadium, a blue pair for cross country, a patterned pair for home … oops. That’s me.

Anyway, these gloves are pretty close to perfect. I have small hands (a size 6) so I really hate bulk, and these gloves are strong with double stitching, but light weight and they fit my hands, well, like a glove. I love that. Additionally, if you’re tied to your phone while riding or need access to it because you’re at the barn alone, no need to take them off to use technology. The Perfect Fit glove is equipped with touchscreen compatibility. A super cool feature to have.

So, if you’re at all like me, obsessed with comfort for your feet and colorful fit for your hands, while staying on a budget, check Noble Outfitters out. Their socks and gloves (and other great items) are available via the Noble Outfitters website and on a wide variety of horse-related websites. I think you’ll be glad you did!

Go Eventing.

 

 

Kim Severson Gives a Clinic in Razorback Country

Kim Severson watches a rider work on a dressage exercise. Photo by Ailsa Jean Photography.

It isn’t often that a rider of Kim Severson’s caliber comes to Arkansas to teach. While the natural state’s eventing community is growing, and some quality riders and horses are slowly putting us on the map, Arkansas is typically known more for its barrel racers than its eventers. However, the eventers we do have are a dedicated, hard-working group of both young and adult riders, and each pair that participated was eager to soak up the knowledge this talented Olympian was ready to impart.

Saturday was primarily dressage day. “Go FORWARD!” was definitely the theme not just for the day, but for the weekend as well. Known for her ability to ride beautiful, low-scoring dressage tests, Kim really stressed the importance of adjustability and straightness as keys to success on the flat as well as over fences. The two-day clinic was held at Maumelle Equestrian Center just outside of Little Rock at the end of September. In typical Arkansas weather fashion, the morning started out chilly and so foggy that Kim could barely see the horse and rider pairs across the outdoor arena, so clinic organizer Meagan Landreth rerouted everyone to the covered ring for the rest of the day, which guaranteed the weather got warm and sunny.

The soup was thick even in the covered arena! Photo by Ailsa Jean Photography.

Each lesson started with Kim observing each rider warming up their horse. Every trainer and upper level rider has certain types of equipment they like and don’t like, and Kim Severson is no different. She made adjustments to girths, made suggestions about bits and made changes to the types of spurs riders were using. Then each lesson got down to the nitty gritty.

Once in the covered arena, Kim focused on a small area at the end of the arena using 15-meter circles to create straightness and fluidity at the trot and canter. She paid attention to each rider’s accuracy and balance. Is the rider leaning in or leaning forward or back? Are the rider’s hands even and centered? (This was a big one!) Several of the participants were riding new or green (or both!) horses; she emphasized the importance of riding quietly, yet effectively. While she stressed going forward, Kim also condemned the habit of incessantly “scrubbing” (or kicking) the horse’s sides with your heels to keep it moving: “Give him a good Pony Club kick, and move on!”

Making some adjustments. Photo by Ailsa Jean Photography

Novice/Training group riders get ready to jump on a foggy day two of the clinic. Photo by Ailsa Jean Photography.

After a good solid basis for effective and balanced flatwork, day two was stadium jumping day. Since most of the exercises would be focused on straight and balanced turning towards fences (anyone see a theme here?) Kim began each lesson with a simple but difficult flat exercise. Taking turns, each rider would canter straight down the long side of the arena at a somewhat extended canter, then make a 10-meter circle in the corner of the arena circling in towards “X” and then halting straight and square when asked to.

The object of the exercise was to effectively collect the canter while maintaining straightness which would in turn produce a square and balanced halt. AND perform the exercise while NOT leaning and keeping your seat bones and hands square and even. Easy right?! Ummm. Yeah. After auditing the clinic, I tried it on my horse at home. WAY harder than it looked!

Area V Young Rider Georgia Dillard gets some insightful tips. Photo by Ailsa Jean Photography.

Once she was satisfied with the progress each rider made on the flat, it was finally time to get down to business and jump some fences. Once again there was a common theme. Stay straight; have a plan; don’t hover — SIT! Kim started with simple combinations of fences that were a couple of feet shy of being a perfect distance and then asked riders to get a certain number of strides between each one. She held them accountable for knowing what they got or didn’t get and why. Since the type and size of the horses in each lesson varied greatly, it was pretty interesting to see how each team handled what were seemingly simple demands.

“How many strides did you get? I’m not counting. Are you?”

As the number of fences increased, the importance of making turns correctly increased as well. By the end of the each lesson riders were jumping courses of eight to 10 fences, with very few straight lines, lots of 90 degree angles and quite a few rollbacks.

“The details are so important! If you’re not straight, you are asking for a problem. You have to stay organized. Don’t assume that just because you know where you’re going, that your horse knows where you are going. You have to tell him!”

Alex Muller and her super cute Mustang make an oxer look easy. Photo by Meagan Landreth.

Not above using whatever means were necessary to get her point across and help a rider overcome a habit, Kim made one lucky rider, who was leaning too much and too unevenly on one rein, jump with one hand behind her back for most of the Novice group lesson. (Thankfully, pro Sarah Bradley was more than up to the task and gave us all a lesson in perseverance and stamina and just simply gettin’ it done!) Kim talked about how she likes to start jumping at the trot because it makes riders want to go forward and helps them to encourage their horses to do the same. But for me the most insightful nugget Kim shared was a tip from Jan Byyny about not riding with your hands in your lap.

“Put your hands forward to the jump. Stay connected but put them in the center, forward, straight toward the jump.” She explained that this helps the horse know where to go and to go there in a forward manner. Again simple, but for me, mind-blowing. And effective!

If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend riding in a clinic taught by Kim. She is everything that you would want and expect from a rider of her caliber. An insightful instructor who brought fresh eyes and exercises to the clinic, she is not a yell-er (“I don’t like to yell!”) And while she does expect directions to be followed, she tailored her lessons to each rider’s needs and abilities, quite often taking a rider to the side to talk quietly to them about sensitive issues instead of addressing them in front of the group. Kim encourages when needed, says, “LOVE IT!” when appropriate and corrects what needs to be fixed. I didn’t ride at this clinic, but you can bet I will when she returns.

Go Eventing.

Maumelle Equestrian Center owner/trainer Sarah Bradley goes forward. Photo by Meagan Landreth.

What’s on Your Bucket List?

Photo: Public domain.

What’s on your bucket list? If you’re like me: So. Many. Things.

Some of them simple, some of them complicated. Or expensive. Or “once in a lifetime.” Or “never in a million years.” But they are still items on the list.

From the practical, like learning to speak Italian.

To the goal driven, like qualifying for the AEC’s.

To the wow, like getting to attend Burghley or Badminton (just to watch, of course. Have you seen those jumps???)

Sometimes a bucket list item is something you haven’t ever done, but should have. And could have. And would have. For whatever reason, you just haven’t accomplished it yet, but it is totally doable. That’s the kind of bucket list item I recently crossed off.

I didn’t wake up thinking, “Today I’m gonna delete bucket list item number 23.” Nope. It was just an average Friday morning that started with dropping my son off at school and then heading to the barn to ride. Except it wasn’t. I got all the way to the barn and realized I had left both my jumping bridle and my dressage bridle at my house in an effort to get them clean. Not only was my road paved with good intentions (the bridles didn’t get cleaned) but I found myself without a bridle, which meant I wasn’t going to get ride (I did NOT have time to go all the way home and come all the way back.) Or did it?

I stood by my truck contemplating my predicament. And a foreign thought began to roll around in my adult amateur, not very fearless brain: “Just ride bareback with a halter.” Yeah. That’s a good idea. Wait. What?! While I tried to over-analyze this very unfamiliar notion to the point of not having the time to even think about actually doing it, a junior high version of myself reminding me of how much fun I used to have doing just that: Riding bareback with nothing but a halter. I reminded half a century old self that I still bounced back then and was not in any shape, form or manner in touch with my own mortality when I was thirteen.

But then … I slowed my roll and thought, “Syd the wonder pony is just that. A wonder pony. We’re not talking about running the three-star cross country. It’s just a walkabout the pasture. You. Will. Be. Fine.” After telling the devil of doubt on my shoulder to “Shut up, and go away.” I got the Syd, groomed him and headed towards the water/bank complex to hop on.

Syd is over 17 hands, and I’m 5’5″ with the world’s shortest legs and longest torso. The phrase “white men can’t jump” has never been truer than when applied to me. So … whenever I ride bareback, I use the highest bank to shimmy onto Syd’s couch of a back. This particular day, he was a bit confused, wondering where his bridle was and why I had looped the lead rope through his halter and over his head. However, in typical Syd fashion, once I rewarded his patience with a spearmint, he simply shrugged and stood still while I got on.  After the initial shock of it all, and after a few yards, we both settled down and began to enjoy the ride.

And you know what? It was actually pretty great! Actually it was really great! I found my seat bones (I was kind of amazed they were still in there somewhere), and I actually remembered how to use them to steer! (What a novel idea!) I relaxed and just let the big man walk. Really walk. Freely. Without interference from me. But most importantly, I felt a connection to my horse that was different from what I normally feel. Syd and I have been partners for a long time, so we are of the same mind a lot, but this was different and very cool. I kinda didn’t want it to end. But … time marches on and other duties beckoned. Like work and husbands and kids ….

It wasn’t until I was back in my truck and headed home that it hit me. I just crossed off a bucket list item. How cool is that?! While I am quite sure I would not have done that on any other horse besides my fabulous Syd, I was super proud of myself just the same. I conquered fears; I accomplished something; I felt closer to my horse; and I even learned a thing or two! It was the best kind of time spent with my horse and the best kind of time spent in the saddle (or out of it, as it were.) I think sometimes we get so locked in to our routines of flat one day, fitness ride the next; jump tomorrow in the field, school cross country the next, that we forget that sometimes we just need to take a deep breath and enjoy our partners. And sometimes when we do, maybe we’ll even get the added bonus of crossing an item off those never-ending bucket lists in the process.

Go ride bareback! I highly recommend it!

And go eventing.

 

The Definition of Easy

According to Webster, the definition of “Easy” is A) causing or involving little difficulty or discomfort; or B) requiring or indicating little effort, thought, or reflection. Well, that’s according to Webster. And WOW! That definition totally does NOT feel “easy” to me! See, that’s the thing. My definition of “easy” and your definition of “easy,” and even Webster’s definition of “easy” are probably entirely different things. For that matter, throw in your instructor’s definition and pretty much anybody on the planet’s definition and well, you get the idea.

The problem is how we “easily” we all throw that word around. “That math test was so ‘easy!'” “She makes cooking that recipe look so ‘easy.'” OR if you’re an eventer, how about “That cross country course is so ‘easy;'” or “That combination in stadium is super ‘easy;'” or even “Your horse is so ‘easy!'” Any or all of those things might be true for you, but maybe they aren’t so “easy” for me or for someone else.

My “easy” factor got tested in a major way recently. I turned 50. I know. I know. It’s just a number … it’s not how you feel, it’s how you look … 50 is the new 30 … blah, blah, blah. For all of my bravado leading up to the big day about age not mattering, when my birthday actually rolled around … um, yeah … it definitely affected me. I began to wonder what things in my life wouldn’t be “easy” anymore. Suddenly bucket lists became more real. Time seemed to be running out. And the idea that every goal I’ve ever wanted to reach had to be accomplished RIGHT NOW all became a very glaring part of my moment to moment reality. The word “harsh” doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt about my newly minted “half a century old” designation.

I’ll admit, most of time, I do not act my age. I would even be willing to bet that most people I come in contact with would never guess how old I actually am. And I’m OK with that! While I’m the designated “mom” at my job (most of the people I work with could quite literally be my children, including all four of my bosses!) and while several of my friends are having grandchildren, I have a six-year-old son who is an only child. So, yeah, I’m a little unusual. And I’m OK with that too! In my mind I am still somewhere around 27 years old in age. In my mind. My body and my driver’s license would tell you otherwise. But I truly believe that it’s my “determined to stay young” attitude that keeps me going, keeps me pushing, keeps me constantly trying to make the difficult things in life (and in eventing) easy-er.

I once made the comment that I was “just competing at Beginner Novice.” A very wise lady who overheard my comment quickly corrected me. She said, “Honey, don’t you ever say just Beginner Novice again. You’re out there running around jumping things on a big ol’ horse that most people would be afraid to even get on. There is no just to it.” You see, she understood the difference between my “easy” and someone else’s “easy.” It’s all about perspective, which can be very EASY to lose.

So the next time you hear a comment about something being “SO EASY!” before beating yourself up, think about all the things YOU do that aren’t easy for someone else. Then give yourself a pat on the back for being able to do them. That should be the easiest thing of all!

Go Eventing!

 

Dressage Schooling Shows Are Fun!

Syd hates his “football helmet” but I’d say we had a successful day. Photo by Savannah Meacham.

I know you read the title of this article, and I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “What?! Are you insane? Eventers don’t like dressage! The sandbox isn’t fun! We just tolerate it as the necessary evil that gets us to cross country.” OK. Sure. It might not be my very favorite thing in world, but I’m here to tell you that dressage can be fun! Especially in the low stress, no pressure atmosphere of a schooling show. I had my doubts. I did. But I gave it try, and I actually had FUN! Really!

The local dressage club here in Little Rock, Arkansas Dressage Society (ADS), puts on several schooling shows a year at local farms around the area. A couple of years ago they started offering classes for the USEA tests as well as the traditional dressage tests. It’s a taken a little bit for us eventers to get used to this idea (We do hate the sandbox!) However, it is fabulous, and I am so glad they did it!

I’ve been trying to get my groove back for some time now. It has almost been a year since I have done anything off the farm, including taking lessons. It’s just been that kind of year for me: adjusting to my son starting kindergarten, never-ending, ever-changing work schedules, my husband thinking about going back to school, and on and on go the excuses. It has seriously felt like I went to sleep in August and woke up and it was July! Time moves so fast! (DUH!) Anyway, I turned 50 a couple of weeks ago and woke up bound and determined to dust off the cobwebs and do something: a show, a clinic, SOMETHING! That’s when friend of mine texted me and asked if I was doing the dressage schooling show.

Huh? What? Did you say, “DRESSAGE!?” Ummmm … After hem hawing around for a bit, I decided to give it a shot. I was considering doing a combined test a week later and the possibility of riding my test at the dressage show first was a big draw. Add a covered arena and the fact that my rides would likely be at the end of the day (no spectators to watch the ugliness) and I was in!

I am so glad I did it!!! It was so good for my pony and me on so many levels!

  • Syd can be a bit of a jerk when it comes to loading. He had a trailer accident when he was young, and likes to use it as an excuse NOT to get on the trailer. ANY opportunity to get him loaded is a bonus.
  • I got to ride my eventing test TWICE! We need all the practice we can get (don’t we all!), so the opportunity to have someone score us twice was great. Really!
  • It was super inexpensive! And what a great learning tool.
  • I got to hang out with my friend and other horse peeps. I saw people I hadn’t seen in awhile. We laughed at how awful we were all gonna be. Horse friends are awesome friends, and it was FUN! Really!
  • No pressure! No braids, no jackets, no overnighting … we all put so much pressure on ourselves. The atmosphere here was geared towards NOT doing that. It was truly low stress, and did I mention that it was FUN? It really was!

Yes, I did win both my classes. I’m human, and competitive, and just like everyone else, I love that blue ribbon! (And I was completely shocked!) However, the win for me really was just getting out and practicing my least favorite part of my very favorite sport. I think it’s going to help my pony and me in our never-ending quest to get our groove back. I’m even checking the schedule to see when the next dressage schooling show takes place. I highly recommend participating! Besides, any excuse to hang out with horses and horse people of any discipline is a bonus. And it truly was FUN!

Go eventing!

Product Review: Toklat Classics III Saddle Pads

Toklat Classics III close contact pad in blue with lime green piping and blue binding. Photo by Michelle Wadley.

Saddle pads for an equestrian are like shoes for the average woman. It doesn’t matter how many you have, there is always room for one more. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one out there with a pile of saddle pads as tall as me. And I only have one horse! White dressage pads are available everywhere! (Thank goodness!) and close contact pads in the basic colors of white, black, navy, hunter and burgundy are easy to come by.

But what if you’re like me, and you have crazy cross country colors, are totally obsessed with the matchy, matchy, AND you are super picky about quality? Well, I have your answer: The Classics III saddle pad by Toklat. These pads are nothing short of fabulous! They are super durable without being bulky or overly stiff. They are made in the USA, which I love, and they are available in a variety of cuts from dressage to close contact to cross country. But the very best part about the Classics III pads? The color combinations available! It would require a degree in math to figure out exactly how many custom color combinations there are to choose from. So, if you’re like me with unusual cross country colors, or you just like to design your own pad, the Classics III is definitely the pad for you!

My favorite color is chartreuse, otherwise known as “Bien (my maiden name, pronounced bean) green.” My cross country colors are Bien green, black and royal blue. Until finding this pad line, I was hard pressed to find a pad that fit my matching criteria. Shades of chartreuse vary, so I use it as an accent color, but I still wanted to incorporate it into my cross country pad. Even when it was the hot, trendy color, Bien green was hard to come by. Enter the Toklat Classics III pad. I was able to chose my pad color and piping, which came in lime green (wahoo!), and for a little extra, I could have chosen a custom color for the binding. I chose to stick with the blue of the pad, but there are 20-plus colors to choose from.

Options are definitely the name of the game when it comes to these outstanding pads. Not only are there different styles and colors available, but also different lengths and even options like shims and extra wool padding. The price point is spot on as well. The Classics III pads start at around $60 depending upon the retailer and the style and could go as high as $100 depending on your options. The only downside to these pads is the time factor. If you need one quickly, forget it. We are talking a custom item here, so you do need to allow eight weeks for delivery. (I ordered mine from Adams Horse Supply, and I think it took six weeks.) However, for the quality, style, price and custom color, these pads are completely worth it!

Go Eventing.

 

 

Product Review: Bobby’s English Tack

Photo courtesy of Bobby’s English Tack, from their NEW website!

Love high quality, super soft leather? Hate high prices? (Duh!) Then Bobby’s English Tack is the manufacturer for you! As I’ve said before in previous product reviews (see my reviews on Kerrits GripTek Breeches and Mountain Horse Sovereign Field Boots) I am one of those people who tends to find something they like and stick with it until the product is either discontinued or the company goes out of business — God forbid! And yes, I eat the same thing at my favorite restaurant every time. I am totally one of those!

Way back when I first started riding again as an adult, and I was on even more of a budget than I am now, a friend of mine recommended Bobby’s English Tack for a high quality bridle that I could afford. Said friend was NOT on a budget, so considering her options and wise choices, I decided to give them a try. To say that I was pleased would be a vast understatement. I ordered a black dressage bridle with a flash. It was beautiful! The leather was soft and pliable, and it fit my horse perfectly. Now, granted, I am a bit of a stickler (again vast understatement) when it comes to keeping my tack clean, but I still have that original bridle. It’s now almost 15 years old and still in good shape. I realize that is in part due to my tack cleaning regimen, but good leather is good leather. Bobby’s only sells good leather.

According to their website, the family that owns and runs Bobby’s English Tack has been making high quality tack since 1880. At one point in their history, the company was even the official tack supplier for the British army. No small feat! This same quality is certainly evident today. Based in California since 1970, the one problem has been sometimes been finding a vendor who carried them. However, the search is over! Just this past week, Bobby’s English Tack launched a new streamlined website that is really beautiful and showcases their products well. The best part about it: the customer can now order directly from them! Any order over $50 (most bridles and halters) ships free, and with size charts and easy measuring instructions, why go anywhere else?

There are currently four Bobby’s bridles (two dressage and two figure eight) and one Bobby’s halter hanging in my tack room right now, including the one that is almost 15 years old. I truly cannot say enough about them. They are soft, but now too soft, the fittings are beautiful, the bridles are beautiful, and they hold up to water and wear. Bobby’s has bridles that start as low as $70 and average around $300. They sell reins, brow bands and girths as well. In addition, if you need a new part for your bridle, such as cheek pieces or a noseband, they will sell you one. The company is easy to deal with and appreciates its customers. Right now, because of their new website launch, Bobby’s is offering a free gift with the purchase of a bridle. Who doesn’t want a free gift?! So the next time you need a new bridle, halter or pair of reins, give Bobby’s English Tack a try. You won’t be sorry you did!

Visit the website here. Go Eventing.

 

 

 

It’s Okay!

I took this photo to commemorate my rock star pony’s 16th Birthday, which I forgot. But it’s OK! Photo by Michelle Wadley. 

So I’ve been thinking a lot lately about pressure: the pressure to perform, the pressure to succeed, the pressure to be perfect, and the pressure to do it all RIGHT NOW, immediately, as soon as possible! I could make some very big, grandiose assumptions and statements about the society we live in and how technology has sped everything up, and so on and so forth.

I won’t do that. What I will say, is this: Learn to give yourself a break. I’m preaching to myself as much or more so than to anyone else. I have said for years that I don’t ever need someone else to beat me up or break me down or punish me. I can do that all on my own. And in sad reality, I am quite the master of it. On some level I believe women are better at it than men, and if you are a mom, well, ever heard the term “mom guilt?” Add the adult amateur eventer title to the list as you struggle to juggle husband, kids, dogs, job, career, etc. … and, well, it can all pile up rather quickly.

It really should not surprise anyone that suicide and depression are becoming more and more newsworthy. In this fast-paced, make it or break it (and make it or break it RIGHT NOW) world in which we live, something truly does have to give. It’s tragic and so heartbreakingly sad that sometimes people give their lives.

The week before we lost Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain to suicide, I lost a friend. I hadn’t seen him in a few years, but he was my still my friend, and it still hurt. As someone who suffers from depression myself, I have thought and thought about what the breaking point could have been. In the end there is really no way of knowing what caused any of these haunted souls to break down. In the end, I really only know what affects me. Pressure. And perfectionism. When I am living the life of the rat on the wheel, endlessly spinning and spinning in a never-ending search for perfection that yields nothing but brain crushing pressure, that is when I start to break.

As horse people, and especially as eventers, I think we put a tremendous amount of pressure on ourselves. It is at the heart of what we do and why we love it. Eventers strive to be perfect at not just one discipline, but THREE. We juggle dressage and flatwork with gallop sets and jump schools both in and out of the ring. We try to schedule dressage schooling shows and hunter jumper shows around our true goals of competing at horse trials and three day events. We ice legs and pull manes and study nutrition and sport horse maintenance. IN OUR FREE TIME AS A HOBBY! To even begin to do it correctly and “perfectly” is a full time job. But what if you already have a full time job? And a family? And a life outside of horses? Ah. See. There’s the rub. There’s where the pressure comes in. (Deep breath here.)

I’m here to tell you (and again, I am TOTALLY preaching to myself here) it’s OK.

It’s OK if you aren’t perfect. Newsflash: NO ONE IS!

It’s OK if you use a neck strap every time you ride. Newsflash: William Fox Pitt does!

It’s OK if you had to miss a show because you had a real life scheduling conflict or simply just couldn’t afford it. Newsflash: Your horse doesn’t care! And we’ve all been there!

It’s OK if you skipped a day of riding because you just really needed a break. Newsflash: We all get tired and need to rest. (I know I do! I’m writing this in my pajamas.)

It’s OK if you don’t want to move up a level because you are kind of enjoying the level you’re competing at. Newsflash: I know it can be nerve-wrecking, but you are supposed to enjoy competing! And what is the rush? I, for one, am tired of rushing, all day, everywhere. Horses take time. That’s the beauty of horses.

Which brings me to my last and final point. This sport we do? Um. Yeah. It’s supposed to be FUN. We’re supposed to enjoy it. We’re supposed to love it, have a passion for it, participate in it because we love it and our equine partners. When you are smiling and having fun and enjoying something, guess what? It’s called giving yourself a break. A break from the rigors of life and a break from the stress and a break from the wheel. And who better to help you give yourself a break than your equine best friend? Because I don’t know about you, but I simply couldn’t make it through this life without the priceless depression therapy my dream pony Syd provides.

So take a deep breath. Then take another one. Give yourself a break, and realize that sometimes, occasionally, once in awhile, it’s OK.

Go eventing.

When Your Parents Don’t Ride

I’m not going to tell you exactly how old this photo is, but my dad took it of me at one of my first horse shows. I was wearing clothes that were primarily from a women’s boutique, not a Western store, and boy, did I hate those pants. This is what happens when your parents don’t ride. I love them anyway!

“How do you make your parents understand your obsession with horses when they don’t ride?” A friend of mine recently posed this question. It’s a valid one, and a question with no easy answer. I’m not even sure you really can make a non-horseperson understand this crazy, smelly, dangerous, expensive, four-legged-centered world in which we lunatic eventers reside. It just might be one of the great mysteries of the universe, or at least one of the great chasms dividing the world as we know it into those that love the smell of horse poop and those that do not.

And don’t even get me started trying to distinguish between the two very confusing categories of true horse people versus people who just have horses. And have you ever tried to explain your sport versus barrel racing or breed shows or the Clydesdales? Sigh. It’s a twisty, turny, convoluted road with no easy answers. Trying to decipher the code clearly to those you love who think you are speaking some crazy combination of Swahili and Chinese can drive you straight to the loony bin.

I understand my friend’s frustration. She’s a twenty-something, determined to make it in the eventing world professionally, horse crazy entrepreneur who is giving it everything she’s got. Her parents are dubious. I get it. They have reason to be. Blood, sweat and tears don’t even begin to cover the expense or the hardship or the darned reality of trying to make it in the horse world. And let’s be real, those of us who live the life, whether we are professional horse folks or not, do tend to be a bit round the bend. But we can’t help it. It’s what makes us tick. What makes us who we are. It isn’t just a hobby or a diversion; it’s a lifestyle, an addiction. We couldn’t change it even if we wanted to, and Lord knows there are times I’ve wanted to!

My mom swears my first word was “horse.” I’m sure she’s exaggerating (we are Southern and do have a knack for that). But she’s making a very important point. That point is that I was born with my obsession for all things equine. (I still have the very first Breyer horse I received as a gift at the ripe old age of two. I’m now FIFTY!) And not a single other person on either side of my extended family was born with this same “gift.” Not even remotely.

My mom also has a theory about my love for horses. Whenever she is asked where I get “it” from, she replies, “There are three kinds of people in the world. 1) There are those of us who are indifferent to horses. We either don’t like them or are scared of them or simply don’t care about them at all. 2) Then there are all those little girls out there who had a ‘horse’ phase at some point in their life. They loved horses as a child, but eventually grew out of that phase. These little girls will always like horses and may ride on occasion or have horse art work in their homes, but they still don’t have ‘it.’ (My mom will always pause and take a breath before launching into this last category.) 3) Then there’s my daughter. It’s just in her blood. She loves the smell of horse poop and everything that has anything even remotely to do with a horse. God help anyone who has a child that falls into this category.”

It’s impossible to comprehend or to make sense of if “it” if you happen to have a loved one who has “it,” and you do not. The love of the horse and all the the things we do to honor that love and pursue that love can seem completely foreign to those outside of the fold. It’s a mystery to my non-horsey friends why I would rather spend my vacation days getting soaked at a cold Kentucky event rather than the beach or why a new saddle is preferable to a new car or my horse gets new shoes but I do not. Ah, the unexplainable ….

In the end what I think the situation all comes down to is love. And not just love of the horse, but of each other. I have a five-year-old son. Because of my horse saturated life, I am constantly being asked if I want him to ride, if he wants to ride, what will I do if he doesn’t ride, and so forth and so on. It has given me new perspective on what my parents must have gone through (and still do go through). My answer is this: I simply want my son to follow his heart in whatever direction his passion leads him, even if it ISN’T horses and even if it IS something I don’t like or understand (like golf or baseball. LOL!) I want him to follow his dreams just like I have followed mine.

I’m sure there will be times when I’m frustrated just like my parents were when trying to buy me a piece of tack for Christmas (Thank God for gift cards!) However, as a parent I also now understand that the frustration comes mostly from wanting your child to be happy and wanting to share in something that is completely foreign to you. That feeling is love, pure and simple.

So, to all you non-horsey moms, dads, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, and so forth. Hang in there! We love our horses, but we love and appreciate you putting up with that love even more!

Go eventing!

Product Review: Kerrits Griptek II Full Seat Breeches

The Kerrits Griptek II Fullseat Breech in white, black, tan and storm. Images courtesy of Kerrits.

I am very much a creature of habit. Ask anyone who knows me. Once I find something I like, I tend to stick with it, whether it’s my favorite pizza recipe or my favorite pair of breeches. When I do happen to venture away from my faves, I usually end up right back there. Kerrits is one of my favorite equestrian clothing companies. Their story is impressive, their name is cool, and their clothes are functional, fun and budget friendly.

My “horse” closet tends to be 80 percent Kerrits and 20% everything else. And when it comes to breeches I am strictly a fullseat girl. No knee patches for me. No sir! I am all about any extra “stick to the saddle” I can get. I love Kerrits’ fullseat options, particularly the Flex Tight II, so when the GripTek series was introduced, I was quick to put them to the test.

Specifically marketed to eventers, I originally ordered a pair of Griptek II Fullseat Breeches in Bluestone, which is a bright, royal blue. Since my cross country colors include royal blue and lime green, they fit right in with the rest of my closet. I thought I would test them out. If I liked them, I would order another pair in a more traditional color, like white or black; if I didn’t I’d have an extra pair of schooling tights.

I needn’t have worried. I love them! The color is amazing and contrasts wonderfully with the sticky black of the fullseat. They are flexible where they need to be, sticky where I want them to be, breathable where they should be, and as a bonus, they don’t show all those little unsightly (ahem!) dimples we older (cough! cough!) riders want to hide. The GripTek pants are infused with Coolmax fabric technology, which is an added bonus in the humid-filled South. However, my two favorite features are the pockets (a must have for my spearmint greedy pony) and Kerrits’ Fool Rise waistband, a feature developed by Kerrits that helps keep the junk in your trunk hidden by making the waist of the pants “taller” in the back while still being lowrise in the front.

Kerrits puts a lot of time and energy into color coordinating each season’s selections of styles so that they can easily be mixed and matched. They function like a true fashion house in that sense, discontinuing the previous season’s trending color selections for new ones, while holding onto the basics such as white, black and tan. My favorite bright blue color is currently on closeout (bummer!) This season’s hot color for GripTeks is a gray-blue hue called Storm. Retailing at $119, they are a steal for a high quality pair of full seat breeches with maximum stick. The white and the tan are “horse show” perfect for dressage, stadium or cross country, and in my world you can never have too many pairs of black breeches.

I am the proud owner of three pairs of these fabulous pants. Whether you need breeches for schooling or for show, I highly recommend them for any rider looking for high quality, fashionable fullseat pants on budget.

Check ’em out on the Kerrits website here.

Go Eventing!

 

 

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