A collection of all of the random tidbits (most of which end up on Facebook or Instagram)…none that really justify a full post of their own, but collectively, enough for me to justify sitting down and uploading media and chattering on for a bit.

I hit a new level of neon visibility with my tights. These particular pairs are from Ride Boldly, and I love them. They’re completely custom made to size, and they fit me the best of probably any of the tights I own. Plus, they’ve got two large cargo pockets, one on each side, that easily holds a phone. Tested one pair out at the Grand Canyon ride, and they passed with flying neon colors.


Playing around in the arena. I think I was messing with my camera’s timer feature…I have very little media of me riding, aside from ride photos, and need to figure out a way to get some more. I’m drooling over the idea of the SoloShot3 automatic tracking camera, but the budget decrees that the price point on that level of spiffiness is going to have to come down significantly. Maybe a basic tripod/remote/phone set-up would be in order.


Cranky pony a couple weeks ago. She was in a mood and half, and we spent a solid half hour schooling manners when she got all kinds of rushy and gate sour. We were both hot, tired, and filthy by the time we were done. She never lets me get too complacent or bored, that’s for sure.


Happiness is: tack ho’ing. New stirrup leathers (that smell so good…I adore the smell of quality leather goods) for the dressage saddle (to replace the non-matching brown ones above, and so I can stop playing round robin among my saddles with not having enough stirrup leathers to go around) and a new bit for the pony. (Myler loose ring MB33WL, which is a lower, wider port version of the MB33 mouthpiece that’s worked very well for her.)


First time in the new bit today, and she loved it. For a pony who thinks the purpose of bits is to deliberately lean on them, she was amazingly light and soft in it. No clue how she’ll do in it on trail…but that’s what her s-hack is for anyway.


Obstacle course play day at the barn today. Fun chance to play around with all of her bells-n-whistles buttons that I spent years installing. Just a few minutes of tuning her up and she was phenomenally responsive and eager. Although she still thinks the point of caveletti is to deliberately hit them.

(I was super proud of her stepping up on the box, too. She doesn’t particularly like it, and it often involves scrambling and flailing on her part. But today she was happy enough to step up, stop, and stand quietly.)


Super-happy pony by the time we were done today. She looks so ridiculously cute in her tack get-up, too. So perfectly coordinated and matchy-matchy. Once an endurance pony, always an endurance pony…

And I like seeing that kind of happy expression on her face. I know she’s getting old, and aging…her quality of movement definitely isn’t the same, and I know she’s got some arthritis happening. (No surprise, she is 25, and has lived an active life.) But as long as she’s serviceably sound, happy, and wants to keep working, that’s what we’ll do.

No Stirrup November, Lite

So I have to chuckle a bit at “No Stirrup November” and the idea of dropping one’s stirrups for the month. I’m doing good to ride once or twice a week…I definitely won’t be driving 45 minutes each way to the barn on a daily basis for that particular brand of torture.

Also, it’s been over a dozen years since I did any active no stirrup work. Something about distance riding and trail riding tends to bring about feelings of deep affection and appreciation for one’s stirrups.

But on that same token, I also realize I’ve let myself get a bit lazy and too reliant on the saddle/stirrups. So my goal will be to spend part of my riding time (on Mimi, in the arena) without stirrups. And to continue it beyond just the month of November.

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I survived 10 whole minutes of sitting and posting trot torture today

Let’s face it: the pony is a sainted beast who really doesn’t need anything more by way of “schooling” — and frankly, it just annoys her when I try — but that makes her the perfect “schoolmaster” for me to work on me. She doesn’t run off, she doesn’t spook, she doesn’t take (too much) advantage.

And the more I’m focused on me, the less I’m nitpicking or nagging at her.

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dressage saddle means time for the rider to be put to work

My core is practically non-existent, so working on an excavation project of discovering those muscles is my foremost priority. While no-stirrup work is theoretically great for building leg muscles, balance and core strength is also a huge part of that, so that’s really my primary purpose in this endeavor.

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skeptical pony is skeptical of her idiot mommy’s crazy ideas

saddle time

Since I’ve got the Tevis Educational Ride coming up in a week and half, I figured it would probably be a good time to remind the riding muscles they have a function beyond just meandering a few circles in the arena.

Running the Renegade Hoof Boots trade show booth at The Mane Event last month and Western States Horse Expo earlier this month was a really good boost to my mental state. Not only was it a good confidence booster both personally and professionally, but that kind of immersive horse experience got me excited about riding again.

With as hot as it is (we got a blessed reprieve through the first part of June with a somewhat delayed summer, but we’re into it now…commence heat training), I’ve really backed off on how much trail running I’m doing, choosing instead to walk with the dogs or put in the treadmill time at the gym.

The flip side of not running as much means time to ride. And this weekend, I managed to get down to the barn both days, which is an almost-unheard of phenomenon for the last several years. Used to be par for the course, but more recently, between travel, work stuff, dead-truck-for-a-time, family stuff, running, and just plain old can’t-be-bothered-to-make-the-drive…it’s been a while since I’ve had both weekend days free, and felt sufficiently motivated to do something with it.

Doesn’t hurt I got a couple new toys to play with, either.


Taylored Tack “Zuni” Bridle and an original handmade Myler kimberwick

At the Western States Horse Expo, we were right next to the Western States Trail Foundation booth — aka “the Tevis store.” And my wallet ended up making some contributions to the trail. ;) They had this gorgeous Taylored Tack bridle hanging up…right next to me…after a day and half of being taunted (they also had the same bridle at the AERC Convention earlier in the year) I finally gave in and it found a new home.

Who says retired ponies don’t deserve nice things? By now, that pony probably deserves a gold-plated tack set, but that would be harder to clean, and probably not as flexible or easy to fit as beta-biothane.

And the Myler was an eBay find. Original handmade, not one of their production line. Sweet iron mouthpiece, which you can only get on English-style bits by custom order. And interesting hooks on the kimberwick cheeks. They’re half loops versus the fully-connected loops, so the reins end up with a bit more slide to them, especially on the bottom loop. I have no idea what the purpose of it is; I’ve never found any published info out there from Myler as to this style versus closed loops. But Mimi loves this thing. Like, grabs it out of my hands, and I have to practically pry it out of her mouth at the end. It’s the MB33 mouthpiece, which she really likes, but I think in this case, the sweet iron is what’s got her so nuts for it. This is the absolute softest I’ve ever seen her with a bit. No fuss, no fidget, no weird jaw crossing.

Sleepy side-eye when we were done. We wrapped up before it cracked triple digits, but it was still warm. Windy, too. But she knows she looks good. She knows when she gets new tack.


Have realized I can never get rid of this saddle

Irony is: When you have three saddles, and the one that currently fits the pony the best and is the most comfortable/favorable riding position is not the fancy dressage saddle, or even the saddle that did probably thousands of ride-and-training miles…no, it’s the old gymkhana-saddle-turned-endurance-saddle.

Yep, the old Big Horn has been pressed into service once again. The old Big Horn, circa 1999 (I think?). My former lesson and gymkhana saddle. I guess it’s no wonder I feel so comfortable in it…spent hundreds of hours in it when taking lessons and running gymkhana at shows.

This saddle deserves its own post, especially detailing out all of the alterations its gone through, but long story short: when I started distance riding, I sawed the horn off (if my trainer from show days is reading this, she probably just died a little at that part…) and gradually made changes like swapping fenders for English leathers, and putting girth billets instead of cinch latigos  on it.

It’s not always been the most comfortable saddle for me in the past, though…mainly, too wide of a twist. But I’ve kept it around as a back-up saddle…it lives down at the barn for the days I can’t be bothered to haul one of the saddles from home.

Funny thing…I’ve been playing saddle “Round Robin” for the last several times I’ve ridden…and when I hopped up and settled to the old Big Horn yesterday, it felt wonderful. Of the three saddles, it puts me in the most comfortable position, I don’t feel like I’m fighting it at all, and I feel really secure. And for whatever reason, the twist doesn’t feel too wide.

Mimi’s moving well in it, too. I’ve always had good luck with this saddle on her. We used it for half a dozen NATRC rides, and several AERC LD rides, and the only time she ever had any back soreness was when I used an Equipedic pad instead of the above-pictured purple Skito.

So I guess we’ll just keep on busting out the old Big Horn for now.


And finally: discovering the sneakers you put on by accident/force-of-habit because you forgot you were riding, not running, actually make for fantastic riding shoes. Still like my Terrains, but not for hiking since they have no tread. I’m not sure how much of the Ed Ride coming up might involve hiking, but since I’d like to be prepared for that eventuality, I’ve been scratching my head and wondering about what shoes to bring. Yesterday’s “happy accident” was further confirmed by deliberately wearing them today, and that settled the matter — these are definitely going on the packing list. Super comfortable, no foot numbness, good tread, and very breathable.

11 days out from Tevis Ed Ride departure day. Counting down!


You’d think that after two decades of being together, Mimi and I would have a seamless partnership. In part, that is true. I know, for example, that she is probably the overall best horse I will likely have in my lifetime. I may have others in the future that end up better in some specific regard (more suited for 100-mile endurance rides, for example), but as far as the overall “hit every box for what I need and want in a horse,” she’s set a really high standard.

The danger of a 2-+ year partnership, though, is complacency. Of late, I’ve been guilty of just “going through the motions.” When you’ve “been there, done it all” and there’s nothing new on the horizon, it’s easy to slip into a mode of boredom with a side of “don’t give a damn.”

And she deserves better.

I owe it to her — 20+ years of packing my butt around and putting up with my shenanigans and foolish ideas — to still keep pulling my weight. It’s hardly fair to expect her to put in a good performance when I myself could be accused of being “barn sour.”


Yesterday felt like an eye-opening refresher. I had access to the big pasture, so rather than subject her sometimes-questionable mechanics to the soft sand and tighter turns of the area, we were able to have a lot more room to move out (getting and keeping her momentum up seems to be the trick now in getting a reasonable canter out of her), and she didn’t have to work as hard at lifting her hind toes on the harder-packed turf as she does to clear the softer arena sand. Case in point: she didn’t trip or stumble at all yesterday.

As for myself, I’ve gotten so caught up in paying too much attention to fine details and minutiae that I’ve forgotten to to just sit up and ride. As a result, I’ve gotten more and more tense, overthinking and trying to force the issue, letting myself get into a downward spiral of believing I don’t know what I’m doing and don’t really know how to ride.

I don’t really know what changed, but a couple weeks ago, I had glanced at one of my ride photos I have hanging on my bedroom wall, and my takeaway impression was “What are my lower legs doing?” A closer look at some of my other photos all revealed the same consistent error. Apparently I’ve forgotten I have lower legs, and that they have a job to do in the saddle.

Lightbulb moment. Way too much gripping with the thigh/pinching with the knee, not enough “heels down, lower leg as a solid platform under you.” No wonder all my ride photos have me pitching forward, with lower legs swinging back. I’ve gotten so comfortable in my defensive, curled over, “cling like a monkey” default riding style that riding centered actually feels like I’m in a chair seat.

So the past couple of weekends have been spent paying attention to the basics of keeping my lower leg solid and under myself, with a side order of “heels down, shoulders back, eyes up.” Y’know, all the stuff I learned as an 8-year-old.

And wouldn’t you know it, as long as I kept a solid lower leg in place, everything else just came together as it should.

This is why my pony should be sainted. 20+ years later, she’s still tolerating me with good humor.


Degrees of Perfect

I doubt there’s such a thing as a truly “perfect” ride, whether it’s an endurance ride, a dressage test, a jumping round, or a schooling session. Every step, every moment, all perfect, nothing out of place? Not exactly realistic…

But degrees of perfect? Moments that end up seared in your brain forever for their feeling of absolute rightness? Those absolutely exist. For me, a good ride is one that leaves at least one of those moments as a permanent impression.

I actually had one of those moments last week riding Mimi. We were just doing some arena work…after almost 20 years, our arena work has become a pretty ho-hum, common-place thing. We both know what we’re supposed to do, but the motivation levels aren’t always there (from either party), and we have nothing to prove.

But I was feeling good after my Tahoe Rim completion (not even sore a week later), and she had obviously missed me after me being gone for a week (ran over to me from the pasture…even after only having been turned out for about 20 minutes before I got there), so things were just working.

We’d only been riding for maybe half an hour at that point, but we hit a moment where she gave me the most perfect trot ever. She was stretchy, balanced, had light contact but self-carriage…and I felt balanced, not fighting her, not flopping around, not a posed mannequin.

We finished our trot circle…and we quit while we were ahead. :) Like I said, nothing to prove anymore…and with a pony who doesn’t exactly love arena work anymore, what she gave me was a gift.

So she got a bath, and a roll in the sand, and a peppermint.

I don’t know when the next time will be I’ll get a moment like that from her, but she’s given me so many good ones along the way, if I take all of those moments and smush them together, they add up to about as close to perfect as a pony can get.

(And I’ve been fortunate enough to have some of these moments with other horses as well. Mimi’s my heart horse, but that doesn’t mean she’s the only one who can make me feel this way.)