The first time I went down a bank it was on my first horse, Sheena. I had trailered in to a friend’s barn to go trail riding. Instead, being young and stupid, we went to play on their XC course without permission. (I know. I know.) They had a bank complex and Sheena, who was not willing over anything higher than 2’6, dropped down a huge training bank with no questions.

The second time I rode a bank it was with Dandy. It was his first XC school and I wasn’t just asking him to go down his first bank, I asked him to go don’t his first bank into water (granted, a small bank). Dandy was a very brave horse but he went cautiously down the bank his first time. Dipping his foot in cautiously which led to one of my favorite pictures.

So when I started working with Gus, I didn’t give a second thought to going down banks. I had had two horses who didn’t think twice about it, why would Gus? Oh but Gus did think twice and thrice and even a fourth time about going down banks.

We would school it one weekend and be fine but the next time we saw a down bank it would be like he had never seen it before, even if it was the exact same bank. So I think it’s a little understandable that I started developing a complex about them. I just didn’t know what I was going to get at any one time.

Then at our XC schooling before Full Gallop we came across a small bank complex. While getting Gus to move out of the way I asked him to step down the most baby of baby banks there ever was. It was basically a pole with an extra two inches on one side. He balked. And continued to do so until we got a lead over with another horse.

What. The. Hell.

So we schooled it. Over and over again. Moving up to the next size as Gus got more confident and was willing to go down at a trot and then at a canter. And I got schooled too for not leaning far enough back and not keeping my legs on. All very fair criticisms but I was just more frustrated at Gus more than anything. Why do we constantly have to redo this? We have no problems going up banks. (Or, at least, Gus has no problems, I’m a mess and can’t coordinate myself, but he takes care of me.) But with down banks I feel like we start over at stage one every single time. It’s frustrating and it certainly puts a dent in my confidence.

At least when Gus does get to the going down part he at least jumps down nicely instead of launching himself. Small victories?

Eventually we were going down the Novice size bank and LT moved everyone over to do a Novice size Training Question: downhill to a brush fence and then three strides to a down bank. She told me I didn’t have to do it unless I wanted to and I did not want to, did I? I mean it looked kind of fun but it was a down bank after a downhill jump. Oh, what the heck, I told myself. Worst case scenario is that he stops again.

But he didn’t! Because I actually rode the fences Gus quietly hopped over and then down for me.

I was pretty pleased with myself. We can ride banks! At least for now.

Putting it into Perspective

For Christmas my husband bought me a winter layering shirt from Lululemon. I’ve never had anything from Lululemon but I did know one thing: that shit is expensive And, my husband being your typical male, didn’t black out the pricetag so I knew just how expensive this shirt was.

$88 if you’re curious.

I loved the shirt though! It was super soft and warm and had thumb holes. The boy did good. Still, I couldn’t help but cringe thinking about wearing such an expensive shirt to the barn. What if it got ruined?

But I was pulling out breeches and a belt I realized just how silly that was. I mean, my breeches alone are over $100! And then once you factor in the tack that goes on the horse the shirt is probably one of cheapest parts of my outfit.

So I stopped worrying and wore the shirt to the barn. Now it’s one of my favorite layering pieces for winter riding.

Full Gallop January 2018 HT

The only thing I regret about Full Gallop’s January HT is that I have almost no media. Especially considering we kicked butt and took names. But between me allowing my wonderful husband to skip the show and the rain, well… pictures were hard to come by.

After having such beautiful weather for our XC schooling on Friday and our Ride a Test on Saturday, it was a little disappointing to watch the rain clouds come in for Sunday. But come they did and it started raining steadily by the time we were pulling into Full Gallop. Thankfully we didn’t have super early ride times for dressage and were able to relax a little bit. Gus was not thrilled about waiting on the trailer but I wasn’t thrilled about having a completely soaked horse before we even rode.

I don’t want to jinx it, but I think we are finally starting to get a hold of this whole dressage thing. If you count the ride a test we did on Saturday, we had two beautiful, quiet, and obedient tests. Gus maybe wasn’t brilliant or overly bold but they led to my best test yet. We got three 8s including one for our entry and one for our halt. I was thrilled when I got the scores. I was expecting to score somewhere in the 34 range but instead we got a 31! I may have let out a little squeal. If we can just clean up a few more things (like the canter) I could definitely be scoring in the high 20s.

After dressage it was time for our XC walk. I already knew there was a ditch on course and I was nervous. Until Pine Top, I’ve never had a real problem with ditches. Down banks? Yes. Oh lordy, yes. But honestly, I never thought we were ditchy which is why I just cantered straight towards the ditch in Pine Top’s warm-up and expected Gus to soar over. He didn’t and I ended up on the ground. That issue carried forward into our XC schooling on Friday and, while I got over everything, I was just a little bit nervous. LT told me to lean back, leg on, and let him trot it. I said okay and tried not to think about it too hard.

The rest of the course was fairly straight forward and not terribly big. At least it didn’t feel big since we had been jumping training size fences just a few days ago. The only other thing besides the ditch that I had to take a second glance at was the corner option for jump 14. We had the option of a fairly straight forward corner or a big upright bench thing. LT had us walk the corner. Gus and I have done all of one corner. Granted, we had no issue, but still… ONE corner! But since there was a very real possibility that we wouldn’t even get that far, I really wasn’t worried.

But first was stadium.

I was really happy with this stadium round. It wasn’t hunter pretty by any means but I felt like it wasn’t scary crazy either. Instead of getting crazy to the fences I was able to ride with more leg and more adjustability. There’s still a lot to work on with my posture but I think it’s starting to come together. The best part about it all was that we left all the bars up this time.

It’s the little things right?

We went straight to XC where I had time to jump a handful of fences before we headed out on course. LT wanted me riding really forward to the fences as Gus was still a little backed off. But once we were out on XC, Gus kicked into another gear. He was flying.

Gus ate up the ground and jumped boldly over everything. He did peak at the ditch but didn’t hesitate. By the time we hit the water, I knew we were going to come home clean and on time. It was just one of those rides. Even the corner felt like we jumped those all the time (though I’ll admit I didn’t get a good life and we ended up jumping the widest part of the fence). I don’t think I could have been happier crossing the finish line.

This was the perfect start to our 2018 season and it was just what we needed as a confidence boost after Pine Top. As a bonus, we finished on our dressage score and came in third out of eleven.

Review: Arctic Horse Outlander Wool Skirt

Despite growing up in the frigid North, I am a pansy about being cold. I still prefer it to being over heated because you can *almost* always put on more layers – you can’t always take them off – but I still don’t like it unless being cold means I can curl up in front of the fire in sweatpants with a good book. When it comes to riding, I have tried just about everything and have come to the conclusion that I just don’t like riding in bad weather. And right now the whole country is stuck with bad weather!

So when I saw an ad on Facebook for Arctic Horse’s winter riding skirts (sitting in the bath tub trying to warm up after doing trot sets in a downpour), I was intrigued with the concept. The idea behind it made a lot of sense. Much like mittens versus gloves, the skirt helps heat the air around you to keep you warm. It also works as a quarter sheet and traps the heat coming off your horse. Simple enough right?

But does it actually work?

Obviously I had to find out.

Arctic Horse has several different versions of their skirts from fully insulated snow skirts to mesh lined rain skirts. Since I live in the South now, which is *supposed* to be warm, I settled on the Wool Outlander Skirt and the mesh lined Tongass Rain Skirt. I figured the Outlander Skirt would be the right amount of warmth for Georgia winters and the Tongass Rain Skirt would be good for those spring and fall days where the rain just wouldn’t stop but it was still warm out.

Well, we were having an unseasonably long and warm fall so I was kind of worried I wouldn’t be able to use my skirt at all but along with the box came the arctic temperatures. Winter had arrived. So I buckled the Outlander skirt on over my winter breeches and headed out for my lesson.

And I honestly haven’t wanted to take it off since!

At first it was hard to tell if I felt warmer while tacking up Gus, but as soon as I buckled up the sides to put my boots on, I realized how much warmer having the skirt around me was. It really had kept the air around my legs warm! I also stayed nice and toasty during my rides (though I usually take it off once my lesson starts so that my trainer can see my position… and then she steals the skirt!). And then when I dismounted and found that I could still feel my feet and I didn’t get that painful sensation of landing on frozen toes (I’m not the only one right?) I knew this skirt was a winner.

While I’ve only been riding in the Outlander, I did bring the Tongass out with me for the winter photo shoot. Even though the Currant color has mesh lining versus fleece and is basically just an outer shell it kept the wind out so well that I barely noticed the cold.

And if staying warm and dry is not enough, the care put into the design of these skirts is amazing. The pockets are deep, zippered and fleece lined! That was a nice little surprise. There are also snaps that you can use to pull the flaps up to mount – a very handy feature! – and straps to secure the skirt around your leg if you are feeling like you need a good gallop – though I’ve cantered without the straps and the Outlander, at least, is heavy enough to stay in place while moving.

While these skirts are a little pricey for something purchased on a whim (I purchased the Outlander Wool for $299) so far it has been worth every penny.

I’ll do another review once I’ve had a chance to use the Tongass skirt more but if my experience is anything like what I’ve had with the Outlander, I don’t expect it will be anything but glowing praise.

Best Photos of 2017

I was blessed with so many good photos this year. Beyond blessed! But, I just found out that I’m getting an award from our local dressage and combined training club and they want a picture for the slide show. How am I supposed to pick?

Help a fellow blogger out?

Stadium at Sporting Days Farm H.T.
Best Horse Ever at Poplar Place May H.T.
Stadium at Stable View H.T.
XC at Stable View H.T.
Dressage at Area Champs
Novice Stadium at Tryon Riding & Hunt Club H.T.
Finishing XC at Pine Top Thanksgiving H.T.



So which one is your favorite? Got another? Let me know in the comments!