Help me choose a new jump bridle

When I bought Jester in 2010, I hadn’t ridden in 6 years and had virtually nothing except a pair of paddock boots (shoutout to those Ariats that held up 9 LONG years) and a helmet (which was totally expired when I started re-riding, but I had kept it anyway for decoration). My husband was a lowly Corporal in the Marines (aka, paid less than minimum wage) and I had just started my first real job at a non profit (but at least paid minimum wage). So I had a Wintec saddle and a $20 eBay bridle to start with.

 

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After this I literally hosed off my saddle. Because that’s what you can do with a Wintec.

 

Eventually I upgraded to this little gem- I realized I desperately wanted to event again, so why not buy a bridle that literally had my preferred discipline in its name?

 

 

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Harwich Eventer bridle by SmartPak

 

 

 

And that’s what I’ve used since 2011- minus the detachable flash because P doesn’t need it, and with my Thinline reins because webbed reins suck (to me).

Now that it’s 6 years later, the leather around the chin strap is starting to come apart. It still functions and holds just fine, and you can’t even see it,  but I’ve gone 6 years with the same bridle. I want a new one.

So what does everyone recommend for a new jump bridle? Trying to keep it under $350, and I don’t care if it comes with reins as it would take a miracle to make me part with my TL reins.

These are a few I’m considering:

Schleese snaffle bridle

PS of Sweden High Jump Revolution

Lund Saddlery Snaffle Bridle

Main wants are durable leather that don’t require a lot of breaking in, a monocrown, and the ability to completely remove the flash.

Anything that I missed that I should definitely check out?

Some Improvement

This past week I’ve been riding P daily. 20 minutes tops, way too many 20m circles for either of our liking, but we’ve got some bend back.

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He’s still rough in the contact…as in won’t take it. So I’ve just been trying as hard as my ammy self can to keep my hands low and quiet, only moving one hand when I need to reinforce bend, and then release as soon as I get the desired response. I’ve had to do that less and less, which is great.

Here are some super boring videos of trot circles and one of the canter. He still has a great canter, but it’s so much less put together than it used to be.

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I had plans with friends all week to go on a Sunday trail ride. But Sunday’s forecast went from 80% chance of storms to 100% chance, and no one else could go on Saturday so…

P’s first solo trail ride!

 

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Authorized vehicles only; horses count

 

 

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Dos ears doh 🙂

 

 

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Obeying traffic signs. Looks like P is checking for traffic to the left.

 

Now I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous at first. But I couldn’t even stand the idea of going back into the arena. One of our main trail haunts is only a 20 minute drive away so I said I’d go and hop on, and if he was a mess, then it wasn’t too much time wasted.

But he was great.

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He was slightly nervous as we headed down a familiar trail by ourselves. The wind was blowing, leaves were flying all over the place…but he stayed pretty steady. Steady enough that I felt safe enough to take my phone out of my sports bra to snap a couple of pictures. Trust level= 1,000

Surprisingly, given how gorgeous the day was, we hardly came across anyone else on our 45 minute jaunt through the woods. And no one else on horseback, which really surprised me. But oh well, we can make our own fun. About 10 minutes in, P got super relaxed and swingy…exactly what I want. We trotted a little bit, but my phone was in a pretty precarious situation, so only for a couple minutes. I was so tempted to go for a little canter, but the trails are pretty twisty and we share them with hikers so I didn’t want to accidentally run anyone over. Plus phone safety and all. I need a new armband- the Velcro is all worn out on my old one.

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So we’re trucking along all by ourselves, and P is handling all the woodland creatures with ease. Handled everything like a rockstar (except a super scary culvert…but even then it only took like 10 seconds to convince him no trolls lived there), and you can clearly hear each hoof beat in the walk. Then we turn a corner and way up ahead is a couple walking. P got all sucked in and started TIPTOEING LIKE A NINJA.

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Then the couple went around a bend and P went back to his swingy walk. When we rounded the corner and they were back in view, P went back to, yes, tiptoeing.

And on and on this went until we finally passed them- they probably thought we were stalking them, but I had no say in this. I didn’t wear a helmet cam because this was going to be boring, but now I wish I had. The footing made it so you could clearly hear the difference in the way he walked when we were alone vs creeping on this cute little married couple out for a walk in the woods.

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All in all, great experience. My husband probably think I’m stark raving mad, given how much gushing about P was going on when I called him on my drive back to the barn. It’s called a BREAKTHROUGH, get with the program, hubs.

Sunday it was pouring so I went to go play with a couple of baby horses my friends just adopted!

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Can’t handle the cuteness

 

And now I’m back at work until Thursday morning, then I fly out to KY for Rolex! I’m flying to Louisville on Thursday night to meet my mom and sister, then we’re driving to KHP Friday morning. It still seems so far away. At least I have Michael Jung’s new IG to entertain me some.

 

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I am one of those stalkers. No shame.

 

 

 

Full steam ahead

Friday I finally got to visit my wonderful and always reliable trainer J. Even P was excited.

 

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P’s face the moment I told him we were going to see Auntie trainer J

 

Yes, my horse selfies like a pro. Better than I do, that’s for sure.

We headed to go assess the damage and it was quite clear to her right away what the issue was.

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Unfortunately it mirrored my theory (and fear) that P has been ridden by someone who has no understanding of how to use their seat and legs, and instead overuses their hands. That’s a training death sentence for a horse like Pilgrim. Since he came back, he’s been running around with his head up in the air like a giraffe, while being completely stiff throughout his body, neck and jaw, as well as being totally behind the leg.

To fix the complete lack of bend and suppleness, she had us track right (because that was the worst way) and try a couple of things to get him to connect back to the leg. The first way we tried was to put him on a 15m circle and while keeping my outside (left) hand just completely still and close to the saddle, while my inside (right) hand was opened up towards my knee, and really pushing my inside (right) leg against him at the girth.

That didn’t work. 15m became 10, then 7, then 5…

So method #2 was to continue tracking right and while my outside (left) hand was still motionless and by the saddle, to simultaneously press my inside (right) leg against him while lifting my inside hand straight up in the air.

Success! After a few tries because coordination skills are-a-lacking.

We continued around and around in our circles and each time P lost bend, inside leg went on, left hand stayed still and right hand went straight up. That put him right back into a bend and I released right away. In between corrections I do nothing with my hands. They are to stay completely still, hands low, practically touching the saddle pad/pommel, so that he re-learns to trust that I won’t jolt him in the mouth.

At least not repeatedly. I’m still an adult amateur after all.

Towards the end we had some really nice moments where he would relax completely for a few strides and go into a beautiful frame, then it was like he was terrified of hands hitting him in the mouth and he’d jerk his head straight up in anticipation. It really made me want to cry.

So we’re going to stick with dressaging it up for the next couple of weeks, working on just getting him back to where he was before. The goal is to have to make less corrections until he just responds to leg- like he did before Aikengate.

 

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For lack of creativity, I suppose

 

We also talked about who to work with for jumping. We discussed some trainers and then she mentioned a pair who is in the area, that I had NO idea was in the area. Husband is an eventer, wife is a show jumper. She contacted the eventer for his contact info and when he gets back from Rolex, we’re going to try it out. I’m very hopeful right now that this will work, and in the meantime we have our dressage homework that needs to get straight before we add the jumps back in.

 

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My husband’s future until we start back jumping

 

MY homework is to work on keeping the bounce out of the reins. Part of it is definitely that P changes his head position every tenth of a second. But part of it is definitely me. She wants me to pretend that my reins are the only things keeping the bit in his mouth. When we started adding in that extra pressure towards the end, she would emit a loud “BUZZ” each time the bit would’ve fallen out of his mouth.

She buzzed a lot.

I didn’t ride over the weekend because we were with family pretty much the whole time and then I ate way too much at Easter. Worth it.

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Starting over

Awhile I ago I was talking to my husband about how this is the furthest I’ve ever taken a horse that I restarted from the track, and how I wasn’t quite sure where to go from here.

Well, guess what? I get to start from scratch again, only on a horse that I put 3 years into.

Commence mad/sad/frustrated face.

The beginning of my wanting to take P off the market started when I received a text with a picture of P that had the caption, “Look how much muscle he’s gaining.”

 

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This is not a happy P

 

Huh? I see a tense horse that is bracing in the bridle. What is he doing? Is he walking or trotting? If so, why is he so short-strided? Is he backing up? I’m just not sure what’s going on here, but I don’t see a horse in self-carriage, or who looks particularly comfortable. And I don’t see this deluge of extra muscle.

 

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This is a happy P

 

The only thing that makes sense, given that P had the same shoes on for 11 weeks and didn’t lose one, is that he wasn’t ridden as much as I was told he was, or as much as I paid for. It would also explain why he can’t do the things he used to- walk to canter transitions, lateral work, staying balanced, trotting for longer than 2 minutes- boy is out of shape.

Since riding has been spotty since he’s gotten back, I haven’t worn spurs. And oh my goodness, how my legs have gotten a workout for the 20 minute rides that we have had. He’s back to plodding around at the walk, having to be kicked to stay in the trot, and keeping the canter for even a 20m circle is a joke. So spurs are going back on the boots today to see if I can start to refine him again.

My favorite analogy for getting a horse in shape (or back in shape), is to liken it to weightlifting (because I love weightlifting). And that sentiment is shared by the famous Denny Emerson, and he just so happened to post a little something on it at just the perfect time for me.

Capture

 

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That 5th paragraph makes a really good point: a trained horse will do what’s being asked, even if he’s physically now unable to. I could tell in my rides that P knew what I was asking for, but he either couldn’t do it, or he couldn’t hold it for very long, if at all. Like when I asked him to counterbend, he went in the general shape, but then just couldn’t get that hind end to comply and he just fell in. When I finally got him into a working walk and gave him the signal for canter, he just kind of fell all over himself, then ended up doing a crazy speedy trot for a few steps before going into the most unbalanced canter I’ve felt from him in a long time.

I still can’t believe that this all happened. And I’m not even sure WHAT happened. Did he sit in a stall for 6 weeks? That’s what he feels like. Were his rides being supervised? Doesn’t seem like it. I made so much progress on him when we were training there, I don’t how or why it all fell apart.

Dressage trainer and I are trying to find a lesson time, so we’ll see how it goes from there.

And for the first time in forever…

Don’t ever have kids. You’ll type a title and then go, “Isn’t that part of a Disney soundtrack?”

And yes, it turns out it will be.

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To the point: 6 weeks with no riding is DEFINITELY forever, so don’t even say I’m exaggerating.

Of course we had super thunderstorms on Monday, starting about an hour before I left work, so I couldn’t ride then. Yesterday even though the arena was a sloppy mess, I had to just get on and see what I was dealing with.

I kept it super light and simple since P’s feet are, ya know, 11 weeks in. The farrier came this AM, thankfully. BO couldn’t believe they still look as decent as they do for having missed what? 2 routine farrier visits? SMH.

Deep breath in. And exhale. Think happy thoughts.

So I got on and just did some w/t/c and my light, balanced horse is no more. Now I’m basing all this off of a 15 minute ride, so I may be exaggerating HERE, but he didn’t feel the same as when I left him. And since he’s pretty much the only horse I’ve ridden for the last 3 years, I think I know him fairly well. He was so HEAVY on the right rein, and I could just forget the walk to canter transitions that I worked SO FLIPPING HARD on for so long. Keeping the canter was equally as hard, he wanted to break every couple of strides. Asking him for counterbend and square turns was much the same-I may as well have been asking him to do a sumersault. It just wasn’t happening.

 

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He’s still cute

 

I’m hoping some of it was me, seeing as I haven’t ridden in so long, or the fact that his feet are so overgrown. Of course he was as spooky as ever, bless his little spooky heart, but I’m still glad to have him back. I’m putting together a calendar of local shows to go to starting in May, and depending on where we are in life, may aim for some recognized HTs this fall. And I need to schedule a dressage lesson ASAP.

Of course I still have to find a jump trainer. I talked to BO for a long time yesterday and she said she could help me with stadium, though she has no clue about anything regarding XC. I may take her up on it, though I’ve always been hesitant to lesson with the resident trainer where I board, because if it doesn’t work out then it makes everything else awkward. And they do take excellent care of him there. But I’m so picky when it comes to instructors (which is my fault, I know). And, don’t laugh here, but I enjoy having a reason to get off the property. If I had to fault the barn at all, it’s that there are really no places to ride other than in the arenas, so lessoning with 2 different trainers at different barns got us both a change of scenery on a frequent basis.

I’m just dying to get out on an XC course. This weekend my sister is flying in for the Spartan race, so there will be little, if any riding, going on, so I’m hoping next weekend to get out to KFP and jump the jumps!

And of course, seeing as I have approximately 2.5 hours left in the office…it’s storming again.

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Guess who’s back? (Back again)

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I couldn’t resist.

But for real…

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I’m happy to have him back. But a bit nervous also. What if his time there screwed him up? I mean, if he was “so strong” for all those that came out to look at him, is this how he is now? I don’t particularly WANT strong. So we’ll see.

I definitely made the right choice in going to get him, though. When I dropped him off on February 19th, I let her know that he’d be due to have his feet done by the end of February, and if her farrier had any questions then to give my farrier a call. When I got him yesterday, she said to have the farrier out as soon as possible to have his feet done, and I asked how much I needed to reimburse her, to which I was told, “He hasn’t had them done since he’s been here. That’s why I said he needed them done now.”

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He needed to be done the week of February 19th. So now he’s almost 6 weeks overdue, AND he’s been jumping? Come on. Do you know how long it took for my farrier to get his typical TB feet halfway decent?

So I’m at a complete crossroads. This whole selling debacle has really put a bad taste in my mouth. I loved training with her, she’s really a fabulous instructor, see this post for how terrible my riding was when I first got back into riding. But I don’t feel like I got what I paid for at all in regards to the last 6 weeks of having him there. He wasn’t advertised, I wasn’t communicated with, and potential buyers weren’t properly vetted. And now I’m finding that some pretty basic needs, such as shoeing, weren’t even met. Surely in the last 6 weeks, at least ONE of the many horses on the property received farrier work. I informed her that he was coming due. What’s so hard about this?

So I don’t know if I can continue to work with her. But I don’t who else TO work with. I have my wonderful dressage coach, but she’s limited in her jumping knowledge, even more so with XC, and doesn’t even have jumps at her property. There’s one local trainer that some friends are friends with that’s a really good hunter trainer. She came and schooled XC with us and had a blast, and I took a tune up lesson with her before a show, and really liked her…so I’m considering that. But as far as true eventing, it’s very limited in my area, which is why I was willing to drive to Aiken for training.

I’m going to email dressage coach to see if  I can tag along to some dressage shows if they have any coming up, then there’s a local CT/Jumper show on May 6th that we’ll probably go to. Guess we’ll start there and play it by ear.

Meanwhile, I haven’t ridden a horse in 6 weeks so today is the day!

Seriously?

Horse selling is almost as bad as horse buying. And saddle shopping. And I feel like I’ve made clear how much I despise saddle shopping.

I think I’m pulling P off the market. Since my husband is home I now have the time to ride again, at least for the time being. And the last couple weeks I’ve been missing P something fierce. But even if it doesn’t work out with us, I’m still bringing him home for now. I need to ride before I go crazy (last ride was February 18th!!!). And if I decide to still sell him, I’m going to do it closer to home. Having him in Aiken isn’t working for me, as I don’t feel like I’m getting the services that I’m paying for. Besides what I’ve done on my end, there’s been no advertising, spotty communication and some pictures that show P looking absolutely miserable.

I’m being told that he’s been too strong for the people that have come out to look at him, but that a lot of people have tried him. He’s too strong for all of them? If that’s true, then there’s something that’s just not working for him.

On March 19th, when I asked how the selling was going and said that I was thinking about bringing him back here, she said a girl who was a good match for him was coming to try him again that week. So I figured I would give it one more week and if it didn’t work out, then I’d go grab him since Matt was home by then. Thursday the 23rd, I was asked if she could bring P up to a horse show in Camden for the girl to try with her trainer, since she was bringing a different horse of hers already. Of course I said yes, thinking that this would be the yes or no. Apparently he was great, so then she asked if she could let the girl ride her in her unrecognized HT on Wednesday (March 29) to seal the deal. Um, ok. Keep in mind, it’s costing me $40/day to keep him there, but I figured this girl must really be serious and I was told that she rides him well. Sooooo, alright, but that’s it. I need an answer on Wednesday.

Yesterday I got the call after the HT are done. P did great, girl loves him. She’s a college student and daddy (a pilot) is buying her a horse. He offers $6,000.

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On P’s ad, it’s listed TWICE that he’s $20,000, though “MAY be negotiable to right home.” If you have a budget of $6,000, why are you inquiring about horses that are over 3x that price?

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So I said that was absolutely not going to happen, and was told she’d let the “buyers” know my response and call me back. I haven’t heard anything yet, but it’s a safe bet I’ll be making a trip to Aiken on Sunday.

Now this was no one’s fault except this girl’s. I was ready to go get him last weekend, but was told this girl was coming back out to see him, and because we were under the impression that she was a serious buyer, I left him there for her to come out and try him again. Then I left him there another 5 days so she could ride him for a 3rd time in the HT. Since I can’t go get him until this Sunday, altogether I wasted another $600 in training board. My trainer wasted her time bringing him to Camden and then gave her a free entry in her HT. And her budget is $6,000?

I’ve been casually browsing horses since dropping P off to be sold and my budget was $25,000. Now, there’s a super nice one I saw advertised that would be PERFECT except for the fact that he’s $40,000. So did I contact the owner? No, I KEPT SCROLLING. Common sense, people.

When my trainer told her that there was no way I was going to accept anything close to $6,000, the girl apparently started talking about how her dad always lowballs and that she has a horse she’s sure she can sell for $10,000. WTF? Who cares? If you don’t have the cash, you don’t have it, plain and simple. There are plenty of horses out there in the $6,000 range. Do what I did and buy a nice OTTB and put a few years of training/showing into him/her. But don’t pick out a $20,000 horse and finagle 3 rides, including a free show entry, out of the owner and trainer, then offer 1/3 of his asking price. JUST DON’T DO THAT.

Ok, I’ve vented long enough.

Apparently after the HT, P went back to his field and immediately laid down. A couple girls ran into the barn, hysterical that they were sure he was dead or dying. So the barn manager went out there and tried to get him up, then ended up grabbing a tarp and waving it at him until he stood up. He said P gave them the most withering look, like, “Why you do dis to me?” As soon as they closed the gate and started to walk away, he laid back down. I had to tell them that that was just something he’s always done and not to be alarmed. He’s always loved his naps.

This was the picture I got after they determined he was ok, just tired.

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I really do miss the cute lil guy.

I think as long as I don’t put so much pressure on myself, I should be ok. When Matt was gone 5-6 days/week, I was super stressed out already, then beat myself up even more on the days I couldn’t get out to ride him, which were many, so much so that riding became a chore. I probably made his rides worse because I was so rushed. Instead of letting him do his wild thang bit for a few minutes, he had to be perfect or I was done, because I would usually only have exactly 45 minutes from the time I got to the barn after work until the time I needed to leave to go get kids. But P didn’t understand that. So while I think the little break was probably a good thing for us, I’ve missed showing him and going on trail rides/runs. So if I do decide not to sell him, I’m going to try super hard to be ok on the days I can’t get out there. He’ll be just fine with time off, we’re not going to the Olympics or anything.

But…I AM going to Rolex! And I’m so excited for it! It’ll be my first time- I’m getting to KY Thursday night with my mom and sister. Any tips for us? Favorite places to hang out and watch XC? Good places to eat?

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