Vesper = Michael Jung’s Sam

It’s been a while! All has been extraordinarily quiet on the front because Vesper has been off work for the last 3 weeks due to another bout of lameness – this time, things were more of a mystery.

If only she could actually tell me what el problemo is

After successfully rehabbing her right hind fetlock strain back a couple of months, I was paranoid that it was cropping up again, however this time around​ she was quite sore in the front end – but still showing signs of soreness in the hind end, too (????). Of course I wasn’t able to pinpoint which leg was giving her problems (because that would be too easy), and of course it wasn’t consistent between the arena and the hogsfuel track, so she got 2 weeks rest and some bute. This turned out to not be the solution as I hoped, and so I decided it was time for a visit to the lameness specialist who comes highly recommended. If rest isn’t helping, there’s something deeper going on and not knowing what the issue is was driving me mental.

For me, not the horse
“This isn’t my stall.”

The lameness vet was a great experience – he was friendly, helpful and explained everything in a way that was easy to understand and did not make me feel like I was in his way. Their clinic uses a “Lameness Locator” which, using sensors on the poll, pastern and SI joint, collects and reports data about the horse’s movement to pinpoint lameness. Some info from their website:

The “Lameness Locator” objectively detects and quantifies body movement asymmetry in a horse using small, body-mounted inertial sensors and a hand-held tablet PC. […] Data collection is in real time and veterinarians are free to perform their usual lameness evaluation routine without distraction.

The proprietary Lameness Locator analysis uses the motion data transmitted by the sensors and algorithms developed during 18 years of gait analysis of sound and lame horse movement at the University of Missouri E. Paige Laurie Equine Lameness Program. That research used treadmills and high speed cameras to mathematically characterize normal and impaired gait.

[…]This unique set of data analysis algorithms helps to determine the affected limb or limbs, the severity of lameness within each limb and the timing of peak lameness pain within the stride cycle of each limb.

Results are then presented to the veterinarian in an intuitive graphical interface that is easy to interpret and report to clients.

“It’s a crown, not a derpy hat, peasant.”

This was super helpful for me as I still couldn’t tell where Vesper was sore; the initial finding was that she was displaying minor push-off lameness in the right hind (our previous issue from a couple of months ago), but as we delved a bit deeper, it was determined that the RH issue was compensatory for a sore right front. She was

  • mildly lame jogged on concrete in a line
  • sound on sand in a line and on a circle
  • and very lame on compacted gravel in a circle.

The data kept coming back as the right front being the issue, so we pursued that a little further. A nerve block into the foot changed nothing (the same result as our spring vet check up. This RF issue has been lurking for a while, but *only* shows up at vet checks when jogged on concrete – it’s a non-issue on softer footing), so we took x-rays.

Arthritic changes are circled in red

Vesper has arthritis (or ringbone, what a terrifying word) in her RF pastern, which I have suspected since I bought her; with a long eventing career behind her, I’m very confident that she has arthritis in many places. After discussing our history, it was determined that the very hard, compacted footing in our arena is the cause of this lameness issue. Vesper has been comfortable at every other barn in full work, but the footing at our current barn is just too firm for her. It’s been hovering in the back of my mind since we moved there, but I hoped that she might just acclimatize to it over time.

The excellent news is that the vet (who is also an eventer, super comforting) gave her a great prognosis, saying she can go back into full work right away (on softer footing) and for as long as she is comfortable. He even said that he doesn’t see why we couldn’t do our horse trial the first weekend of September! That won’t actually be happening, because now we’re both so out of shape and I have a theatre production running this month which is keeping me absurdly busy…

I know that ringbone can be career ending if it is bad, but the vet said that Vesper’s case is minor and she’ll let me know when she’s ready to ease back. She’s getting Previcox now and we’re only working on the hogsfuel track, with the occasional trailer ride to the nearby park which has a huge hogsfuel arena. She’s totally sound on the softer footing, which leads me into the awful news: which is that we have to find yet another barn to board at. Sigh. This one is almost as perfect as you can get in our area, but the footing in the arena is just too firm.

I had written off the rest of the show season as I didn’t think we’d get back into shape fast enough, but it turns out there’s one last horse trial in October which I’m going to aim for instead of the September one. It should also be a lot cooler by then (or just more miserable if we get our usual rainy October), and it gives us enough time to get back into shape and prepped.

I was really nervous about the outcome of this vet appointment, wondering if Vesper would have to retire to a dressage or trail-only horse, but now that I know what’s going on, and have the green light from a lameness specialist, I’m feeling huge amounts of relief.

I also found out today that Michael Jung’s horse La Biosthetique Sam FBW – who is one of the top event horses in the world – is the same age as Vesper and still killing it, and that just made me so darned happy.

Is this Michael Jung or Em Wheeler? Who knows. We both have epic bay event horses so we’re practically the same person

I love my old lady. I’m 28 and I have arthritis too, so she and I will just continue to enjoy ourselves doing what we love while popping our NSAIDs. 


Show recap

Show recap: Derby day (2 of 2)

Success! Our 2 jumper shows for the year are complete, and we will be shelving show season until our horse trial in September. I didn’t mean to end up with 2 shows on back to back weekends, but due to her recent fetlock strain I wanted to start with a really light weight show, give her a week to rest and then try something a little more difficult to allow her time to let me know if anything was off. She had hind shoes applied this past week too, which has made her a lot more comfortable on our hard, dry footing.

If you want to see last show’s review, check it out here.

I was infinitely delighted that husband promised to help me this week, and the venue was only a 15 minute drive, so I was expecting a bit of an easy day. I received my approximate start times a few days in advance and was stoked that I could sleep in. I always pack the trailer the night before so that I reduce my show day stress level by about 300%. However, we had a killer heat wave blast through the day before, and temperatures were expected to be up in the low 30s (that’s Celsius, folks) on show day. Our summers rarely hit 30°C and when it happens, we mostly just lock ourselves indoors with the A/C on high. Not crazy little me! Nope, I’m going to a horse show!

The team

I brought an extra water bucket to serve as the “dunk bucket” – hats, bandanas, shirts, fly sheet, fly bonnet all got dunked many times throughout the day, and I didn’t give a hoot how gross I may have looked with water running down my whole face. It was a wonderful way to keep V cool(er) though, as she was stuck in the sun at the trailer. I just re-soaked her Kool Coat every time it dried out, and kept her drinking water filled and cold. She got 2 squirts of cough medicine through the day as she has mild COPD and the heat/humidity makes it harder for her to come down after intense physical exertion.

Surrounded by lush grass and she’s face deep in the dried out stuff

We arranged the coolers and chairs in the horse part of the trailer to stay out of the sun (poor husband is fair and burns way too easily – he’s not even a ginger), and my mom showed up bearing the most delicious San Pellegrinos I’ve ever tasted. I may not have eaten between 9:30am and 5:30pm (too many nerves and adrenaline to eat), but I drank 2 SPs and about a lake-ful of water.

Extra chair was added when my mom arrived. I just sat on the cooler

Now, once we had settled in, I went over to check in and check out the course. They were running a bit ahead of schedule, which was wonderful, but I still had an almost 2 hours gap between my Entry (2’9) class and my Pre Training (3′) warm up class. After that it would be a very short time until my Pre Training timed class and my Training (3’3) warm up class.

Now, I peeked at the arena itself and it looked both beautiful and intimidating. It was a derby show, which means about half of the fences are cross country fences mixed in with the stadium jumps. There’s also no jump off in a derby class, which I deeply appreciate. Memorizing one course round is enough for me, thanks. Vesper is a beast in XC, but I wasn’t 100% sure how she would feel about them condensed into an arena instead of out on the big field. My casual attitude started to break down a bit at this point.

THEN I checked out my first course on paper and the rest of my confidence melted in the hot sun. I do not exaggerate when I say: every single jump that was not part of a combination (of which there were 2) was part of a roll back. That’s 9 roll backs.

I wish I had a photo of my course, but instead here’s a photo of my confidence deteriorating quickly

Guess what I’ve been telling myself to practice but somehow never do. Roll backs. Guess what we are really weak at because Vesper banks like an airplane and my outside aids aren’t great. Roll backs. Oye.

I had never ridden such a technical course before – they had a 2 stride bending line, that was practically a roll back, from a XC fence to another XC fence! – and I developed this weird pain in my abdomen that I was semi sure was me having a heart attack. I went from feeling pretty confident like last week, to feeling the most nervous I ever have for a show, which includes the 1 dressage test I’ve ridden. But we’re here, we’ve paid, and it’s got to be done!

“We have to jump WHAT?!”

Warm up was about 2 laps of trot, 1 flying change and 3 jumps – Vesper knocked down the entire first one, what an encouraging start. Good thing I know my horse really well – because it was disgustingly hot and she just knows her job so well. I check our brakes, steering and aids, and that’s about all that’s necessary.
I went in pretty quickly to my Entry class, which is awesome because I can’t sit and stew while others jump – my anxiety can’t take it. I’ll happily go first or second so I don’t have to wait too long.

I carried a whip for the first time since I bought her as I wasn’t sure what to expect with some of those XC fences. She’s never once given me a refusal, but she has bobbled in the past at jumps that look really weird. However, my perfect mare didn’t hesitate once – at the fences that looked funky, she simply backed herself off a bit so she could get a better idea of the obstacle and how to manage it. Gosh this horse is worth more than her weight in gold. We managed a lovely forward round with only a couple of not-so-pretty distances, which is a huge improvement from me chipping us in to every fence like in the past. Take a watch below on YouTube:

Entry timed class

We came away with a 4th place in this, which was pretty great as I never expect us to place in our jumper shows – usually we’re competing against ponies that blitz around like demons, or those crazy riders who take every short turn and make it look easy. I like our rounds to be effective and clean, so speed isn’t my preference. I’m perfectly happy with that! So getting a ribbon (and a fun pair of socks!) was a neat little bonus.


Then the long break between classes. I was feeling way more settled after riding a successful and strong round, so the Pre Training class wasn’t worrying me any longer. I just knew I would need to ride even more forward, and Vesper would probably need a bit more encouragement as the hot day wore on and she got bored and lazy standing around.

We hung out in the cool(ish) trailer, watched a class called Gambler’s Choice where each jump has a point value and the rider with the most points in 1 minute wins money: jumps can be ridden either direction as many times as you like. It was slightly insane but entertaining. I’m glad I didn’t enter as I have a hard enough time stressing about a set course, let alone trying to make up my own, with the added pressure of a money prize.

When it came time for my 3′ warm up round, I went in planning to really attack those jumps. A couple of them looked intimidating, but since we had jumped them all in our Entry round (albeit a.aller versions), I was feeling confident. Things went well until the second fence in the second combination, a flowery oxer, when Vesper refused for the first time since I have known her. I was planning to sit quiet and let the 2 strides happen naturally as they had in the previous class, but something threw her off and she bobbled, tried to chip in and ended up doing a sliding stop almost under the jump. I was totally shocked, but we circled around and came at it by itself and she went over it without much encouragement. I think I tapped her shoulder with the whip as I could feel she wanted to go around it. Obviously her confidence was a bit rattled. It was extraordinarily strange for my maximum-brave horse to be thrown off by a stadium oxer, even one with a few flowers. I chalk it up to us not coming in to the first fence strong enough, so she didn’t have the impulsion she needed to make the bigger fence in the 2 strides comfortably. This being a warm up class, we could do whatever we wanted so we finished up the fences I would be jumping in the timed event and nothing else fazed her.

Pre Training warm up round on YouTube

Our timed round came shortly after as I didn’t want to sit and dwell on what went wrong. I went in with a really determined plan to push for a big gallop, which only worked some of the time because old habits die hard. I fiddled too much again going into that 2 stride combo, and I could tell her confidence​ was weak, so she bobbled again, but did actually go over it this time – unfortunately we knocked the whole thing down and I lost my stirrup, but she got big praise and pats while I desperately tried to recover my balance. I reclaimed my stirrup and we rode the rest of it clean and strong, which resulted in a 6th place.

Pre Training timed class

More useful swag. Also got vetwrap but it didn’t make it home for the photo – see below

Due to the 2 issues at the same fence, I decided to scratch from our Training round. I could have gone in and just played a few of the Training jumps, since it wasn’t a judged class and was just a warm up round, but we were both knackered and I wanted to end on a strong, confident note.

A couple of freaking amazing moments

Most people had left already as the heat was brutal, and my mare gave me so much that she deserved to go home and rest. When we got back to the trailer and I was rubbing down her legs with liniment, I found this:

On both hocks

This was from when she hit the brakes and basically sat down under the jump. My poor girl, her super thick tail was hiding them or else I wouldn’t have ridden our 3′ timed round. She wasn’t at all sore, and was a great sport as I cleaned them, applied diaper rash cream (my ultimate favourite first aid item) and wrapped them to keep clean. They looked a lot less angry after being washed:

Is she telling me she wants to try reining? I say no
My 6th place prize was vetwrap, which was exactly what I needed in that moment. Bless the horse show spirits

Vesper got tucked away back home with a big hay net and dinnertime grain, and k took a shower in the wash rack under the hose held by husband. Ghetto? Probably, but I had to go straight out to theatre rehearsal from the barn and I smelled like an old gym bag full of horse hair. Ugh. It was actually very effective though, I just wore a bathing suit and flip flops and scrubbed down with shampoo. 1/1 would recommend.

It turns out that I also won braiding pearls (hoooo my inner dressage queen is squeeing!) and a hoof pick from a “name the stuffed pony” draw they were doing. Except for the one teensy problem that my horse has a roached mane and may never get to wear braids again if her mane doesn’t grow back*cue loud sobbing*.

So that’s that until Sept 1-3 when we compete in my first horse trial at Pre Training. These past 2 weekends really boosted my confidence and trust in my horse, and showed me what we need to work on between now and then. I rode with no fear in any of my classes, which is the greatest accomplishment for my riding goals, and I am going to really drill my distances as that’s something I need to fine-tune. I had so much fun, and left wanting more, which is exactly how I want to feel after every show!

Show recap, Uncategorized

Show recap: 1 of 2

Jumper show 1 of 2 down! This was a day of multiple accomplishments for me, beginning 3 days out when I discovered that I would be attending this show solo. Cue “Jaws” theme song. (This also means pretty much no photos or videos, sorry friends)

Photo depicting pretty much what my husband looks like at a show. (Image from Google, not actually my husband or horse or stuff. Just for imagination sake)

I have never attended a horse show without my husband, or at least another human being willing to “hold this for a sec please?!” like my mom – bless her, I’m 28 and she still comes to every one unless she’s out of town, like she was for this show. Even at basic schooling shows, I generally get pretty decent nerves, which results in me getting flustered and losing track of things, so having someone with their brain working normally is invaluable to me. A few days before the show, my husband broke the news to me that he would be doing other things, and since I am a Big Girl and didn’t want him to see me cry, I pretended like it was all no big deal (newsflash: it was a huge deal).

I spent the next few days planning out where I would keep my keys during my rides, should I leave the rain jacket in the trailer and just put up with getting wet, etc – all really minor things until you have to organize them all on your own while managing a 1300lb toddler amongst 40 other 1200lb toddlers.

Freshly washed draft tail is show-perfect

I gave myself loads of time to get ready a few days in advance by cleaning everything and packing it into the trailer so that on the morning of, I could simply load Vesper and head out. My entry form was all filled out, a lunch packed (ha, who eats at horse shows), and duplicates of just about everything went into the trailer in case of an emergency of any kind.

I was able to mentally talk myself off the ledge about this show a few days prior – I used to win at hunters with my first horse, but the only placing that Vesper and I have ever received was at our 2 phase last year, as I’m notoriously timid in the jumper classes and she’ll never pin in a hunter class. So I went into this schooling show with the strong mentality of “chill”. I had a couple of simple, achievable goals:

  • Allow Vesper to go forward to the fences and not choke up on the bit (my normal reaction when jumping a course)
  • Enjoy it!
  • Feel confident at 2’9″
  • Leave wanting more
  • Bonus goal: navigate a horse show completely on my own

I wasn’t interested in a ribbon (that was a difficult brain pattern to break myself of in the last 2 years) which takes a lot of pressure off myself to win.

Although we’ve been almost totally issue-free about trailering in the past year, the show morning Vesper knew something was different and pulled her stupid “bolt backwards” trick off the trailer as we were loading, whacking herself on the head in the process. She hasn’t done that in a very long time, and it seemed to literally knock some sense into her, as she immediately settled down and walked on sort of contritely. That was it for issues, however, and we made it to the show no problem.

Huge facility is huge. And this doesn’t include the XC course…

Old pro me was able to back the trailer into a spot between 2 others, which a year ago would have left me hyperventilating and calling my husband in tears, probably. I definitely didn’t pat myself on the back, but it may have been a close shave.

I am exceptionally thankful that Vesper is a very schooled show horse; apparently she was a prelim+ eventer down in California before she came to me, so she’s got the show miles – and you can really tell. I left her in the trailer with the window down while I went to the office to sign in, and within a short time we were tacked up and ready to ride.

Intimidating dragon jumper sleeps between classes

I have to hand it to Vesper: she’s got this whole show thing figured out. She’s as cool as a cucumber during warm up, around other horses, between classes (see above photo where she almost fell down under me TWICE from dozing off), but when we step in the ring, she’s fizzing and ready to kick butt at her job. She made our day plain easy, as I could literally stand her against the warm up ring and leave her to fall asleep without worrying about her prancing around or losing her mind.

It turns out we weren’t totally alone after all – both of the gals who have leased Vesper in the past live near this show venue, so I had texted them to say we would be riding, and both of them came to cheer us on, bless them.

I warmed up with a 2’3″ class which was just plain fun. I let her go forward and made only minor adjustments to her pace without holding on for dear life and riding at a crawl. She had a lovely big open stride that is her norm, but today didn’t make me feel out of control at all. I trusted that she knows her job better than I do, and it ended up being an excellent confidence boost in our teamwork. I came out with a grin on my face and ready for the jumps to go up: a huge milestone for me!

We rode in the 2’6″ class and the 2’9″ class, and both were more of the same: forward, trusting, fun! There were a couple of moments when either she or I made a poor distance choice, but no rails came down and we were both listening to each other. During my 2’6 round, my phone armband slid down around my wrist and I had to put my reins in one hand to shimmy it back up mid-course! It got tucked into a sweater pocket on the side lines after that. I also forgot the last jump in the 2’9 class (backyard hooligan here, oops) but I didn’t care… Others in front of me had done that too, I was told. Which made me feel less like this was my first time in a jumper class.

I finished the day feeling like I could easily have handled a 3′ or even 3’3 class, which was a really massive accomplishment for my confidence. I had left myself the option of sticking around for the 3′ classes, but Vesper was getting a bit tired, we were both wet and I had somewhere to be that evening, so I decided to finish on a very high note and go home after the 2’9.

June 25 is our next show – a derby one – and I definitely entered into a 3’3″ warm up class. I felt like maybe this was a poor life choice when I did it, but after this past weekend, I’m feeling pretty confident in us!


Show prep

Well, it’s finally here: our first show of 2017! In fact now that I think about it, this may be our first show since the end of 2015… I don’t think we went to any in 2016. If I recall correctly, I opted to spend the show budget on a drag hunting clinic and hunt (super worth it, PS) last year. 

Rather more amazing than jumping sticks in an arena, not going to lie

Super budget rider = few shows and only local cheap ones. Which I’m totally fine with, as I already feel pressure and performance anxiety at local schooling shows – there’s no way I could handle a rated show. I have no desire to spend my show day in the first aid tent hyperventilating, thanks!

2 entry forms

The plan is to drive to Maple Ridge Equi-Sport Centre this coming Sunday June 18 for a H/J schooling show and hit up some low-level classes to get us tuned up a bit (sub 3′ jumper classes). We have barely jumped in the last 2 months because of the set back that was Vesper’s fetlock strain, so I don’t have any particularly high expectations for this show: I just want to do a couple of clean rounds that leave us (basically me) feeling confident. I’m the type of person who mentally struggles to jump anything larger than 2’9 at home, but when I arrive at a show, I suddenly seem to think everything looks tiny and have this surge of confidence that only lasts while I’m on the show grounds. So the plan is to enter anything 2’6-2’9 and then just see how it goes. I may have stuck in one 3′ class too, but we’ll see how the week plays out and how I feel on the day of. I’d be happy to walk away with some solid 2’6-2’9 rounds that went really well (aka brakes and steering all fully functional).

The following Sunday, June 25 is a local derby show which we have also entered, and is more The Show for me than at MREC. It gives us an extra week of prep, and somehow while I was filling out the entry form I must have blacked out because I entered us into a Training level jumper warm up class (3’3). The warm up classes are not judged so way less pressure, but still… Gulp. I’m getting twisty-tummy just thinking about it.

Rachel is the only person who understands my insanity

Since my Big Deal Show of the year in September is a 3 phase horse trial at Pre-training, I told myself to stop being a pansy and try a Training class. That’s the “protocol”, right? Show at the level under what you’re schooling at home? I seem to be the opposite… It must be show day adrenaline or something.

I had enough heads up to be able to start bringing Vesper back into shape with the goal of showing on the 18th, and everything has been coming along swimmingly. Her leasor flats/dressages her 2 days per week, which conveniently allows me to spend many our rides working on over fence stuff without feeling guilty for not putting in enough flat rides between. I’ve been keeping the fences really low and focusing on technical work instead of height – it’s me who needs practice and confidence on the height, but both of us need help in the technical side, so I’ve opted to put in our time there.

Our course this week

I set up something that allowed us to work on areas of weakness: turns and lines. Wait, isn’t that basically the entirety of jumping? Oops. The hardest thing for me is sitting and waiting and finding our distance in a straight line, so I made a single vertical with tons of space in either direction (and a pole mimicking the same thing) and a 4 stride line. Having no fence along the arena has actually forced us to improve our turns and outside aids, because we will literally fall out of the arena if they are crap – which has already happened. I never realized that I was totally cheating and using arena fences as outside aids until we moved to this barn!

A sweet little bending line to reinforce balance and the elusive outside aids

Our first day of schooling this involved only cross rails as I didn’t want to cheat – I really wanted to nail some accuracy. Vesper generally poo-poos anything smaller than 2’6 but she was a pretty good sport the last few days. She was actually really polite and didn’t haul me around like usual. The 4 stride line is still anywhere between 3.5 (only when she hauled me through) and 5, but someday I’ll get it maybe. Thank goodness jumpers and eventers don’t care how many strides you put in between fences… I could probably fit 11 into a 5 stride line if left to my own devices.


For the first time since I was probably 9, I rode in bit roundings, or converters, yesterday. Vesper jumps and goes xc in a French link pelham which we both love – it’s a soft, communicative mouthpiece with the curb chain as an e-brake when she gets excited and ignores me. I always ride using 2 reins for correct control of each part of the bit, and in general I am a firm believer that this bit should be ridden with 2 reins. However, when I ran my first xc back in September, I found having 2 sets of reins to be very cumbersome, and fumbled them more than once when I was trying to stay out of her way (at the drop bank was the worst, I definitely nailed her in the mouth by accident). After much research and consideration, I decided that I would try the roundings for xc and see if the bit was still effective. Having roundings actually changes the dynamic of the bit and doesn’t work it as it is meant to be used, so this would be very experimental…

For safety’s sake, I decided to try the roundings at home during a jump school as opposed to straight out onto the xc field when brakes are super important. Since the fences would be 2’9 and lower, I didn’t expect to need to use our e-brake much or at all, but wanted to play around with it and see how Vesper felt.

It turned out to be one of the best jump schools we’ve had in a very long time – but I can’t tell you if the roundings played a role at all! She certainly respected the bit when she did choose to plow through my body one time into our line, and came right back to me very politely when I engaged the pelham. I was able to be quite light in my hands the whole ride. After the jumping we went for a gallop around the track, and she settled onto the bit in perfect racehorse fashion and she really hit some speed. I could tell she was really comfortable and happy. Now, there are a few factors that could have contributed to such a good ride: we often break things up by going out on the track to keep her brain from frying, the weather was perfect, she’s back in regular work, etc. So the jury is still out on this one.

I am going back to 2 reins for the jumper shows this month, but the xc field down the road opens up near the end of June so I’m going to test out the roundings again when we go there and see how we like it. I would be stoked if I didn’t have to fumble with 2 reins during xc and also be able to keep our bit set up.

Now it’s a case of cleaning tack (and finding another set of curb reins because I dropped mine on the track and can’t find them, how embarassing), keeping pony fit, and remaining mentally cool until Sunday. Recap will happen on the other side!


Blog hop: Riding hacks

Not riding hack horses, or Hackneys, or hacking out… But ways to make riding more convenient or comfortable! Everybody knows the “storage hacks”, the “DIY hacks”, but what about riding hacks?!

Pretty, but not what we’re talking about here

Basically every horse person that I know is pretty resourceful and crafty – if something breaks or an important component is missing, we’re pretty quick to MacGyver something suitable out of whatever is on hand. Lead ropes as stall or paddock gates, baling twine for literally anything… 

Watch strap breaks? Not a problem: baling twine!

I was inspired to write this post from the other day when I went on our first trail ride of the year: I had forgotten to grab my phone armband from home and was wearing riding tights that lack any type of pocket or belt loop. I realized that I had nowhere to keep my keys (my driver’s license and credit card fit nicely into my sports bra, but a big ol’ set of keys aren’t nearly as low profile), so I had to get creative – and here’s what I came up with:

Einstein 2.0 right here

They were jangly and slightly irritating at the trot, but since we spent the majority of our ride walking, I barely even noticed them hanging from my watch (good incentive to practice quiet hands?!). I would have clipped them to a belt loop if I’d had one available, but this worked out great as it meant I wouldn’t forget about them or lose them and get locked out of my vehicle.

Other common riding hacks in my life include:

  • Phone tucked into the top of my half chaps or
  • Exercise armband for phone (mostly on trail rides)
  • Whip tucked into the back of my jeans (I learned this one at the racetrack)
  • Wireless headphones for music (changed my life)
  • Bandana to reduce sweaty helmet residue
  • Baling twine to basically hold my life together

I’m very keen to hear others’ ideas for “barn or riding hacks” – let’s hear it!


Why Vesper?

A question I get asked a lot (by both horsey and non-horsey people, but mostly non-horsey to be honest) is some variation on, “Why did you name your horse Vesper?” Variations include, but are not limited to

  • “Vesper? What does that mean?”
  • “Where did that name come from?”
  • “Vespa? Isn’t that like a scooter?”
  • “Besper?”
  • “Ves… Pardon?”
  • *a long, silent stare is shared between us*

And so, gentle readers, let me share with you the story of how Vesper got her name.

My very first horse had a name that I really wasn’t a fan of: his name was Chester, and he was (you guessed it) chestnut… Too cliche. I am a strong believer that horses should have majestic names, like Pharaoh, Dante, Empress, etc (yes, even your derpy ones deserve something epic). 

Derpus maximus

Chester came with that name, and by the time I brought him home, everyone in my life knew him as Chester and I didn’t have the willpower to change it. However, I swore that if I ever purchased another horse and didn’t like their name, I would change it right away and be done with it. (I gave him a more majestic show name: Winchester. Very British and noble.)

To all of my non-horsey friends who then exclaim, “But how can you change their name, how will they know you’re talking to them?! You wouldn’t change a dog or child’s name halfway through their life!!1” – it’s not the same with horses. You can (and I have) call them just about anything in the entire world and they will respond to the sound and tone of your voice. Mare, ladyship, sasspants, OYE YOU all get me the same response as “Vesper”.

Now, back in 2006, the James Bond films rebooted with Casino Royale (my favourite JB movie ever), starring Eva Green as the “Bond girl”. They could not have cast a more perfect person to fill this role, I mean she’s intelligent, sassy, powerful and looks like a goddess all of the time.


We find out her name as she hands him her business card, which has her name, Vesper Lynd, typed on it. Bond glances at it and says, “‘Vesper’. I do hope you gave your parents hell for that.” I seem to be the only person who I have ever talked to who did not hear that name and, like Bond, go “eurgh”. I heard that name and thought “that is the most beautiful and unique name I have ever heard”. I saved it in my mental closet.

Flash forward to 2015 when I met a mare who I wasn’t going to buy but then bought anyway (see The Story in the links at the top). Now, this mare was named Wednesday. Wednesday is not a name I would like to call my horse. It’s a bit of a mouthful, and how do you shorten that? Wendsy? Weddy? Nessie? No thanks. As soon as I realized that she was perfect for me, I began to refer to her in my head (and to my husband) as The Mare, because I was remembering Chester and refused to be stuck calling my horse something for the rest of her life that I did not like.

Days like this she doesn’t get very nice names

As I began to catalogue name options, I recalled Vesper and put that one high up on the list. Actually, the only two I ended up with on the list at all were Vesper and Winter. I didn’t want to have anyone nicknaming her Winny, though, and ultimately decided that Vesper was the most unique of the two.

I think I nailed it here, because my mare is intelligent, sassy, powerful and gorgeous just like her namesake. Yes, it can be a bit annoying to have to repeat myself 3 times when people ask her name, but when I get exhausted of that I just tell them her name is V and it’s all good.

The prettiest

After a few months together and discovering just how regal this horse actually is, I decided that her show name had to be Queen V. It is a play on the term “queen bee”, which Vesper very much is, and I also love simple show names with a letter after them like Antares F:

One of my favourite jumpers

Frankly I’m wondering these days if I didn’t make an error on that one, though, and should have called her Empress V, because dang this girl is royalty.

Bow down peasants
review, Uncategorized

Review: Uniquely English bridles

Hermagersh, BRIDLES!

That mohawk is the literal worst

Ah, my first review! I’ve been looking forward to this part of my blog, because I love reading reviews from other riders and finding/sharing budget items for fellow equestrians is awesome.

At the beginning of May I sold my funky event bridle and used the money to purchase 2 O/S bridles from Jeffers Pet: the Uniquely English Deluxe dressage bridle and the Uniquely English Deluxe fancy stitched snaffle bridle. I was only planning to buy the dressage one as a show bridle, but the adorableness of that palomino model wearing the havana one totally nailed me, and I would get free shipping if I bought both. Duh, obvious decision here. I’ll review them based on first impressions – I haven’t had them long enough to speak to their longevity.

*Also a note to mention that I generally have really low expectations for tack (and other items I buy) and the cheaper the better, so this is all very much my personal opinion and others with more “refined” tastes might not agree. I also turn over tack pretty regularly when I find an “upgrade”, like in this situation. I went from 2 bridles to 4 when I bought these UE ones, so I’ll sell one of my older ones. Probably. Maybe?

Price – 10/10

The price was what originally caught my eye – as mentioned, I am a really budget spender, and almost never buy equestrian items brand new if I can help it (not having a full time job really affects this). Each bridle is approximately $60 CAD, which is an excellent price that you wouldn’t find locally even for a lot of used bridles, let alone brand new with extra padding everywhere PLUS a set of laced reins each. I have never come across a bridle that boasts all of the features of these ones for anywhere near this price. By purchasing 2 bridles, I qualified for free shipping within the USA, and I very handily live 20 minutes from the Canadian/US border, where they have tons of parcel drops for us Canadian shoppers. I spent $108 to get them to my parcel drop (10% discount for first order), and $6 to use the parcel drop. Plus gas to get there and back, but I don’t count that. That’s $114 for 2 brand new bridles – or $57 each. I believe that the cheapest bridle you can buy at our main local tack shop is $70 and it’s super basic (no padding, no monocrown, etc).

Presentation – 8/10

I don’t particularly care how my parcel shows up when I order online, as long as it’s in good condition when it arrives. Also maybe no demon-summoning spells written on the box in blood, or whatever (none of that this time, well done Jeffers). See disclaimer above re: low standards. Both bridles came in individual plastic bags with cute little snap tops and logos. The bags ripped as soon as I started to open them, but they went in the garbage anyway. I did consider keeping them in case I ever rehome the bridles, but the rips put an end to that thinking. The bridles were presentable and tidy when I pulled them out with everything intact. I also received free 6oz containers of Perry’s Potion leather conditioner which was a sweet, thoughtful addition (the stuff is great, I used it on my half chaps, paddock boots and the bridles already).

  • Extra points for the free leather conditioner
  • Only reason the score is not higher is that I’ve seen product reviews by other bloggers like this one by Amanda where the stuff arrived with the cutest presentation and therefore I apparently have higher standards now about that kind of thing
  • I took photos of the newly-opened box but they’ve disappeared into the void… So just picture a long brown cardboard box with bagged bridles inside

Quality – 7/10

My first impression was that the leather was pretty soft, albeit on the cheaper side (I recognize that for $60, I’m not going to be getting Sedgwick or CWD-level stuff), both of which I expected based on the one review they had on their website. The padding is super nice and squishy and was exactly what I was hoping for; it caught my eye right away. The noseband, browband and monocrown are all thickly padded which I adore. The fancy stitching on the snaffle bridle is super cute – it’s on both the browband and the noseband.

Cutest nosebands you ever did see

The havana colour is just like in the website photo: a warm, dark brown that goes with almost any horse coat. I did notice that after playing around with the straps, the ones on the dressage bridle were already showing a bit of mild cracking, so I lotioned them stat with the free conditioner I received… I expect I’ll have to keep that up regularly to maintain them.

Mild cracking on the edges

The reins are made of the same leather as the bridles, but I don’t like laced leather reins on a good day, especially not ones that haven’t been broken in yet (rubber grip for the win, yo) so maybe I can rehome them for a bit of cash. The buckles are lightweight and I think stainless steel.

Frankly they could be made of diamond and I wouldn’t know the difference
The keepers are pretty flimsy
Neat removable flash attachment (that it took me days to realize I had it on wrong *facepalm*)

Fit – 5/10

This part was oddly the worst part of the whole bridle. Vesper is 100% a WB (aka O/S) size in bridles, as horse sized is too snug and she’s always got some extra room in a WB – every time. Except this time, apparently. This is the risk of ordering online, but I figured O/S is O/S across the board. The bridles fit her well everywhere except for the nosebands, which couldn’t even be done up on the largest hole. This was pretty shocking and frustrating, because the super wide nosebands were one of the big selling points for me. Even on a horse sized bridle, I can get the noseband done up on the longest (or second longest hole) – I just prefer her to have the extra wiggle room that an O/S one provides. So I would classify this O/S noseband as fitting more like a cob size?!, which is a huge discrepancy. I was able to have the nosebands extended by a local saddler, but that cost me almost half of what each bridle was priced at and took a week to get them back. This really put a dent in my excitement about receiving my new tack.

Where the saddler extended the leather. Luckily it’s subtle so I don’t mind at all how it looks
  • Monocrown is anatomically shaped around her ears
  • Browbands are a little snug, but this is normal as she takes a draft sized browband. Good reason to get some snazzy blinged out ones which I’ve been craving for ages
  • Monocrown fit great, all other straps fit great
  • Noseband fail HARD
Noseband 2.0 fits great and looks fly

All that math adds up to a final score of…

30/40 = 75%! 

That’s pretty great overall in my humble opinion. Obviously the noseband issue really took a chunk off the score, but now that I’ve gotten them back and have actually used them I’m feeling more magnanimous about the whole situation.

We would win for “classiest act” if that was a dressage category. Just ignore the ratty reins; they’re rubber grip so they’re staying forever

Things to love:

  • Super padding
  • Extra wide nosebands
  • Price!!
  • Anatomic monocrown
  • Removable flash
  • Soft leather

Things to not love:

  • Too-small nosebands
  • Easily cracking leather
Stuck on “loop mode”

All that to say: I highly recommend these bridles for budget riders who want something that looks and feels like a much higher end bridle without breaking the bank (or even denting it, apparently). Just be sure to ask for some measurements from customer service before ordering a size to be sure the fit will suit your horse.

It’s also maybe a good thing that Jeffers is only in the US, because their prices in general are so absurdly awesome and if they had a location nearby, I would probably be homeless and sleeping in my horse’s stall.