Thursday, July 28, 2016

July 10 Questions

Oscar is slowly but surely winding down for his winter break towards the end of August. We have a couple jumping lessons to go and will continue familiarising ourselves with the racetracks, but other than that we're just working on smoothing things over as opposed to learning anything new and increasing fitness.


Don't judge me for using a bitless bridle to catch my horse, ha. I left my spare halter in a friends trailer.

Anyway, I have something cool in the works for a not too distant post but in the meantime I've been wanting to jump on the 'July 10 Questions' bandwagon, brought to us by blog hop queen,  L Williams.  Though Becks' F@#% Yea' blog hop has gone right in my basket too for a another rainy day.


1. Do you actually always pick the horse's feet? Always? Really?

Not always, but for the most part, yes. It's actually a rule at my grazing that horses feet are picked before riding in the arena, so if I'm doing arena work then absolutely. Also, if I'm trailering off property I'll pick the feet out - mostly because I don't want Oscar bringing half the paddock with him onto the trailer.

2. What is the biggest obstacle/reason preventing you from becoming a professional or competing full time with ease?

The fact that I just don't wish to become a professional/compete full time. I relate to Becks' statement that you lose a lot of the passion when it comes to turning your passion into work. There's suddenly a lot more to it than just loving the sport when it becomes the thing that has to put food on your table.

3. Do you think it will ever not be about the money?

Money, money, money... I eat your money for breakfast. 

Nope, it's always about the money for me. Horses are a hundred times more enjoyable when you have the cash to show every week and buy all of the tack that you covet... or even fix up your trailer so you can leave the property every once in a while.

Although with that being said, horse ownership in New Zealand is ten times more affordable than what I grew up accustomed to, so I guess time is actually the biggest thing these days.

4. Was there ever a horse that you loved and really wanted to have a connection with, but it just never panned out?

Absolutely - I really wish that I clicked with Smooch. She is always in the ribbons whenever she goes out, and is a super talented horse. I purchased her the day I saw her, I wanted her to work out for me that much. Sadly though, we just bring out the worst in each other. I have a super cold seat, I don't know if that's the correct term but whatever the opposite of a hot-seat is) and being a horse that has learnt how to say no, it's really hard for me to get her forward and off my leg without a serious full on slog-match.

Five minutes of ribbon winning on this horse isn't worth the hours upon hours of battling behind the scenes; and I'd rather just have a horse that I enjoy than a horse that will win me ribbons. I wish we clicked but sadly it's not to be. She adores my sister and watching them win stuff together is awesome.

As a funny side note, my sister purchased Oscar straight away too and the two of them just don't get on at all. It set us up for a perfect horse-swap.

5. What is one weakness in your riding that even your trainer doesn't pick up on, only you?

I don't know, I'm pretty transparent and share my weaknesses with anyone I lesson with. C knows Oscar and I pretty well and has identified plenty of weaknesses I didn't even know we had, but I did have to let her know how collapsed I felt through my left ribcage. I am being punished heavily for it. #AllOfTheLeftReinExercises.

6. What is the biggest doubt/insecurity you ask or tell yourself in your head?

I'm a pretty positive thinker, and know I share the same capability as all the big name riders to do well if I work hard enough to foster the right mentality, dedication, passion to do well and was prepared to work my ass off to get there. I know all this and don't have any "not-good-enough" issues.

My biggest insecurity then, and this translates across the board, is what other people think of me.

I remember the first time I rode at Pony Club - my parents took photos to share with my family in England, and a girl from the club that I hadn't even met yet left comments on each of them 'critiquing' my position and referring to "my poor horse". I was only tipping forward through my shoulder, the reins had loops in them and the horse really couldn't have given a shit.

It has definitely made me a little insecure about what people are thinking, though I have learnt to avoid the toxic and catty riders as they're mostly just insecure in their own capabilities.

7. There is a barn fire. You are the first person to discover it and see that the roof is collapsing in slowly, and you can tell that it is going to come down any time. Do you call people first, or head in straight to save the horses?

Did someone say "barn fire"?!?! I'd better spray #nervouspoo all up my stable wall just in case!

I'd do both, simultaneously. Probably yell out as I ran inside.

I don't think I could physically pause and stop to make a call whilst animals were trapped in a life threatening situation.

8. What is one event in your riding career/horse/anything that you're still not over, even though you might tell others that you are?

Hmmm, since breaking my hip on a bolting horse - I really dislike being aboard a bolting horse.
It's not something I talk about though, so I don't know that anyone knows about it/thinks I'm over it. It happened in Auckland so all of my riding friends now don't actually know about it, ha.

9. If you could tell off one person you just don't like, what would you say?

If you imply that you are above riding Thoroughbreds then you have an attitude that's not likely to get you very far. Sitting on a warmblood doesn't make you better than anyone else, despite what you might think.

10. Have you ever seen questionable riding or training practises, but let it go/ignored it? How do you feel about it in hindsight?

Totally. I can't really be salty towards others who call people out on what they don't agree with, if I do it myself. There comes a point when outside interference is necessary but I don't think I'm qualified to ever play that interfering party. In saying that, I will share the odd post on my Facebook page that raises awareness around say.. leaving nylon halters on horses in the paddocks.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Grid-work Jumping Lesson Recap

A week or so ago I asked the world of Facebook for jumping instructor recommendations, and a good friend put me onto L (at this point I realise most horse people that I interact with and talk about on this here blog are either L's or C's!!). We scheduled for this weekend which ended up being lovely and uncharacteristically warm for this time of year, perfect lesson weather.

L liked Oscar right off the bat and said so which was a nice surprise. Usually I tend to gravitate towards harsher instructors who don't fluff around with compliments, and that suits me just fine - if I'm paying for lessons I want critique, not pats on the back. I know that some people prefer the more encouraging instructors, but that teaching style has never really been my jam. Still, I'll gratefully take a nice compliment about my horse's general existence and dashing good looks.

We talked briefly about what Oscar and I had done (training level eventing), were doing (beginning jump work following hunting injury) and aiming to do (get back to eventing again) before we began warming up on a canter circle over two poles at opposite sides of said circle.

This exercise is one that always needs work; and we usually have the same issue whenever we try it, being falling out of the outside shoulder (yes, that old chestnut). L also wasn't overly pleased with the way Oscar carried himself to and over the poles, though I will point out that he was feeling particularly lethargic and behind my leg that day. A couple of vertical half halts at strategic points on the circle seemed to help slightly, but I opted to grab a whip for the rest of the lesson as I was already feeling a bit puffed.

In the interests of being honest, I don't believe that I was helping Oscar carry himself nicely over the poles - anyone who spends the majority of their time in a dressage saddle knows it takes a good ten minutes or so to warm yourself into a jumping saddle. I didn't feel like I could weight my inside leg enough to sit straight for a while during our warmup, which obviously makes it more difficult for my horse to travel straight underneath me.

On top of that it's ten times harder to get a horse between your seat and hands when your seat is unbalanced, any energy you are channeling forwards is able to be diverted through the weakness - or as was the case with us - blocked by, your seat.

The final straw before grabbing the whip was as we trotted into a tiny cross rail with a ground pole in front of it - Oscar got stuck on having a pole right before a jump so ended up clambering through the jump.  I picked up my stick, circled and came back around, pulling out the old one-handed-pony-clubber a stride out so I could tap him behind my leg as he took off. Oscar jumped out of his skin, threw in a buck and I didn't have to touch or nag him again the whole lesson. Whips and spurs are his least favourite, the boy is as far from Rihanna as they come.

Once warmed up and when Oscar was in a good place between my seat and hands, we moved onto grid work (red dashed lines are poles on my oh-so artistic diagram below):

The jumps were just a simple cross rail oxer and a teeny tiny upright and we were aiming for six things with this particular grid.

i) getting a good canter into, through and out of the grid.
ii) stretching my horse out over the fairly wide oxer, as his jump is apparently quite snappy.
iii) encouraging Oscar to figure things out without me trying to place him at the base of the fence.
iv) building good muscle post injury using small fences.
v) using the poles to improve my ability to see a stride. 
vi) improving confidence across the board, for the pair of us. 

So one grid, two poles and fences, had a whole host of benefits/things to work on with the above in mind. 

Our first target was to establish a canter that allowed us to really travel forwards and into the grid. 
Oscar is happy to collect deep to the base of the fence and tidily pop over whatever obstacle is in front of him, but L wanted more ground coverage without compromising the collection in the canter, and we worked on a surprisingly simple and effective exercise to achieve this.

We took things right back to the circle, where we picked up a light skippy canter straight from walk. When we had a good rhythm going L asked me to sit deep and bring Oscar back to the slowest canter we could manage, right back until he was about to break into trot at which point I was very quickly to push him forward again. It was an ugly and difficult exercise but the first two or three strides of canter offered after I got after him were perfect, exactly what L was looking for. The key with this exercise is to be assertive enough to push your horse out at the critical 'just about to trot' moment, and back off when the horse leaps into the forward-but-still-on-his-hocks canter. I could feel exactly what L was asking us for, which is always a great thing, and so we were able to progressively get more and more strides of it as we continued to practise. Once the concept had stuck we'd alternate from circle to grid and back to the circle. It kept Oscar's brain busy and fresh, and was super effective (Pokemon Go lovers will appreciate that description) to maintain the exact same canter on the flat and through a grid. 

Show hunters watch out ;) (tricking).   

The improved quality canter did have the added effect of encouraging Oscar to reach more over a jump, but also widening a parallel oxer to the right effort-inducing distance helped out too. Especially the third or fourth time when Oscar had gotten comfortable working his way through the grid.

Teeny tiny fences are all you need in a grid, especially in early stages as your horse figures things out.
I am usually of the opinion (and I don't know where this theory came from) that a horse needs something at chest height or above in order to improve his jumping technique. Well I was certainly  shown otherwise today, as Oscar felt a hundred times better the last couple of times than he did in the first couple, and it was basically just down to engaging the haunches in the canter and engaging the brain by leaving the horse alone.

We opted to finish the lesson early as we'd already made big improvements, we have plenty of homework coming out of the lesson and most importantly, Oscar was tired. I never mind finishing a lesson early when my horse is tired as he means the world to me, but I see no sense in ever pushing anything on a tired horse anyway. We've rescheduled for another lesson and I'm thrilled that I now have a genuine understanding and feel for what I'm teaching my horse in a jumping context, and we no longer have to just aimlessly canter between jumps in order to feel we're schooling something. Good times indeed.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Too Much Weekday, Not Enough Coffee..

I've been a little lethargic over the past week, mainly due to limiting my coffee intake and forgetting my iron supplements after dinner a few times. When you're a carb girl through and through, it's hard to be a vegetarian and still get adequate amounts of what your body needs. Spinach and chips has nothing on steak and chips. Time to get back on the green smoothies I think. 

Of course, it is that much harder to be motivated with your riding when you have no real tangible goals and that's not helping my recent low energy state of mind. With my trailer still out of action and business as slow as it is (having a farrier business in winter is great! said nobody, ever ha..), it's hard to scrape together the dollars needed to make the repairs there. 
I'm still staying hopeful that we'll be able to sort something come spring, so the dark winter evenings in the saddle will hopefully end up paying off towards the end of the year.

Whilst the trailer is out of action, a local girl has managed to bring together enough participants to get someone in to host a pole work and jumping clinic at the arena next month, which I am super excited for! I put Oscar and I down for pole work in the morning and jumping in the afternoon, and it's nice to have something to look forward to and something to keep me riding even when I just feel like curling into a ball on the sofa with a hot coffee and a bar of chocolate. 

On a more positive note, all of the difficult stuff C was drilling us on (who knew going straight was difficult?!) is starting to come to us much quicker, and Oscar is offering that much more in his way of going as a consequence. I feel like the spookiness that haunted us in every dressage test we completed last winter has finally bit the dust.. either that, or I have learnt to cope better with my horse's overactive imagination. Perseverance paid off, and I can only imagine how much fun we'd be having at the dressage series this year! If we can get out eventing next season we are set to have a ball, I'm absolutely certain of it! My show jumping nerves are surely shrinking away like Oscar's spookiness, and I feel more excited than nervous to jump these days. We're getting back to being the awesome team we were during our time at pony club, which makes me happier than you could imagine. Again, perseverance and fostering a "just do it" attitude was key here.

If I can apply that attitude to saving money, we'll be tearing across country in no time! Until then we'll just keep drinking coffee and working on getting awesome..

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Adventuesdays: Wairere Falls

So, in my spare time (ha ha ha ha ha...) I just love walking/hiking/tramping/exploring/discovering secret swim holes/climbing waterfalls. Like if I wasn't able to own horses anymore I'd happily take up adventuring as my hobby. And what sane individual residing in New Zealand doesn't love adventuring?! This country is stunning. My good friend, Katie, introduced me to car camping not so long ago and I think that once a week I'd just pack up my car, hit the road and get lost in whatever nature had to offer.

And seriously, it has a lot to offer! My favourite hike so far was an almost vertical ascent to the top of the North Island's tallest waterfall. The views from the top as I sat and caught my breath, with my bare toes dug into some mossy pebbles on the edge of the waterfall and gripping onto a boulder for security, quite literally took my breath away.

I visited Wairere Falls with my sister, Coco, and by the time we reached our destination at the top we were both feeling the intense burn in our thighs. Our favourite sibling bonding sessions seem to occur perched atop a mountain, a waterfall or a horse together, so a lot of my adventures involve climbing something with her. 

This particular walk was one of the most difficult; it won't knock a particular Auckland trail off top spot in terms of difficulty but it got close. We'd get through what felt like a huge chunk of the trail, only to reach a clearing and see our destination still looming ahead. Still, there's worse views to be seen and that's for sure. 

In New Zealand, what I refer to as "adventuring" is better known as tramping; as in tramping through leaves, mud, tree roots, bush and other untouched characteristics of nature. Oftentimes you'll find yourself on a DoC (Department of Conservation) marked walk, only to discover that you're left to your own devices to pick your way through the bush. It's not always a case of walking, but sometimes crawling, scrambling or sliding your way through. Excellent cross training!

Personally, I think it is important to work on rider fitness just as much as, if not more so, than a horse's. A rider is the horse's trainer, and is a lot more effective if they can hold their own throughout a training session. I have miles to go to reach my goal fitness, in this post in particular I share one example of how my lack of fitness holds Oscar back. Popular activities to compliment riding typically involve yoga or pilates type training, but just getting out and walking, which is the defining movement of human beings, is so underrated. 

Another advantage for me is that exercising outdoors suits me better than chewing through numbers on a treadmill inside an air conditioned gym, and the scenery distracts me from the fact that I'm actually exercising. Bcuz why exercise when you can eat all the fries?!
A free swim thrown in completes the deal. 

Tramping is my second favourite form of excercise for many reasons, but the thing I love the most is that it goes a long way to engage all of your senses, which in other words means it's hella interesting. 

On this tramp in particular, the air is so fresh and so crisp - even with the sticky rays from the sun attempting to burn us to crisp, each intake of air was thoroughly invigorating. It's as if your personal energy levels are feeding off the processes going on around you. You can hear the (almost deafening up close) tumbling and crashing of water bouncing off the platforms on the face of the rock with every step, and the singing of birds going about their business with the faint clicking of cicadas in the distance. The views leave nothing to be desired, whilst the clean cool water rushes all around you and cools you off when you reach the top. 

Or at a midway point if you need to cool down right there and then..

After all the climbing and splashing around and clambering over rocks and tree logs, and general engaging of all muscle groups you are aware or unaware of, you will have likely worked up an appetite. My sister and I are suckers for hot, extra salted McDonald's fries and it's almost tradition that we finish our adventures with fries fresh out the basket. 
(Life tip: ask for your fries unsalted, and then request salt sachets. You'll get hotter, fresher fries that way!)
Food also tastes a million times better after you've worked for it, so there's the taste component of my tramping statement too, ha..

As tramping is a secondary love of mine, I thought it'd be fun to share my adventures on my blog - even if it's just for personal satisfaction to be able to look back and reflect on good times. I did think that a lot of other blogs that I read and follow have overseas authors, the exception obviously being Becks', and so maybe visitors coming from my favourite blogs will enjoy an up close and personal peek into some secret New Zealand spots! There's more to us than earthquakes, volcanoes and hobbits, I promise!

I hope to share an Adven-tuesday (adventure-tuesday, yeah?) every third Tuesday of the month, and I'll do my best to stagger them fairly across the different regions to show how varied the landscape is depending where you go. 

Do any of my horse-riding readers have a secondary hobby/way to get fit that also helps them in the saddle? Is New Zealand on anyone's bucket list?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Balancing School & Horses: Priorities

It took a long, long time for me to be able to juggle two of the most important things in my life responsibly; those being university and horses. My partner (Louie) had a huge dirt biking accident in 2013 which has resulted in a career-ending time bomb waiting to go off inside his leg. How long he'll be able to work as a farrier for is anyone's guess, and so we both agreed that I'd be the main breadwinner for our household, and he'd eventually go part time or less. I detest a housewife-lifestyle anyway, and so I am much the driving force behind this decision.

My academic performance then, is crucial if I am to increase my chances of securing my dream job, and my ultimate academic dream is to graduate with first class honours (an A grade average). On that note, second class honours is nothing to be sniffed at and I'll be only slightly less happy to achieve that.

In the beginning of my university 'career', I would almost live in the library. I'd read and write and stress about my performance if I achieved anything less than an A grade, until I burnt myself out. More often than not I would arrive home at 11.30pm, only to get up the following morning and scoot off to class. Things would then take a u-turn and I'd be crabby and snappy and hide away at the stables, spending time with the only constant thing in my life over the past nine years - Oscar. I've moved between countries, regions, careers, relationships and friendships and the only thing that has stayed the same since landing on New Zealand soil for the first time over nine years ago, has been Oscar.

So he is a pretty big deal to me, and I can't sacrifice time spent with him in pursuit of an A grade if I want to be truly happy. I thought I could, and I just ended up bitter and stressed to the point of breaking. My horse is quite literally the only living thing I have in my day to day life that is special to me, with a connection to life before Louie.

I know a lot of people who have sacrificed something for university; even if that something is only a comfortable income (StudyLink really know how to teach students about life on the edge - on the edge of starvation, hypothermia, eviction heh heh). But, the only way to get through university without feeling like you're in hell is to prioritise your goals simultaneously with your happiness. A sad or stressed person will never smash their goals the same way an enthusiastic and happy person will, so personal happiness should never be overlooked just because it doesn't carry the same social prestige as an excellent report card.

I've noticed that focusing on my happiness has also had the added bonus of improving my schoolwork, and boosted my feelings about university tenfold. I love being a student, the time it affords me to spend riding and the creative freedom to interpret assignments to certain extents. It has its' challenges, absolutely, but when I'm happy I tend to look more to what I enjoy about the situation. This translates across the board, whether you work, study or run a household. A happier you equates to a more enthusiastic and motivated you, and this has been proven in study after study.

Defining my happiness and my career as the two things that are the overarching priorities in my life means I no longer favour one over the other, or alternate my attention between them. I know that if I am to stay consistent in my academic achievements, I need to take time out before the burnout threatens. But I also know that it is never prudent to miss a show to meet an important assignment deadline.

If I were to give anybody any tips on finding a close-to-perfect life balance, based on what works for me, it would be to prioritise what is important for your present and your future simultaneously. One should not be exclusive of the other. Of course, there are some great apps that hold you accountable and help out tremendously if your time management isn't the best *ahem*, but the most important first step is to just figure out what it is that needs prioritising in your life and figure everything else out after that.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Jump Practise.. and something a little exciting.

I'm a bit late to post these photos, but better late than never at all.

Last week I brought Oscar in for a pop over a few jumps. It was our first jumping session since he'd hurt himself hunting, and as he'd been handling his workload really well over the past few weeks, I decided to test him out over some small fences. Truth be told, we both needed a break from the dressage and we're struggling to hack out at the moment because someone's got sore feet. I have something really, really exciting to share next week and it starts with "we have been given permission to ride on the sand racetrack next door".

Scratch sharing next week, I'm hella freaking excited. It's literally a fence line away, on the next door property, and it's a fully fledged race track where real life thoroughbreds gallop in races (omg). And I get to use it to condition my horse. If that isn't a score for an aspiring ammy eventer, I don't know what is. I'll take him there on Sunday for a wee canter and will probably then leave it for a while as Oscar's winter break is looming ever closer at the end of August.

From September I'll be excited to have the facilities available to really incorporate fitness work into our schedule. Things seem to be falling into place nicely (touching wood), aside from transport, but I'm slowly putting money aside for float repairs and will have that sorted in 2016 for sure, providing I don't get thrown any more curveballs like .. $5,000 vet bills for a kitten that lacks spatial awareness... le sigh. (She's cute, she's worth it ha).

In other exciting facilities updates, we're also allowed to use the perimeter of the rugby field for schooling/werkin' on our fitnezz come summer. It's a nice 15 minute walk away and will provide a welcome change of scenery for sure.

Anyway, I majorly digress! Oscar jumped great last week!

With his usual sloppy style for the most part, and he was a bit wobbly on his lines into jumps - but the main thing is that he was bold and forward and had a sparkle in his eye the whole time that showed he was happy to be doing his favourite thing again.

OK, slightly less than enthusiastic here but this was before he realised it was time for jumping!

Trit-trotting over ze poles (which I neglected to fix up after the kids were galloping around them). 

Canter poles! Letz me at 'em!!

Ok, Ok I wait for you.

*Disclaimer* I pull my horse's mane in quarters to make it slightly less unpleasant for him. Please overlook the fact that it is half finished here, we didn't leave the property like that I promise ha.

Once Oscar was checked once for trying to run into poles - yay hunting!- last time we jumped I had a hard time getting him forward - we had a beautiful forward canter with just enough 'up' to make this closet DQ happy.

I like this canter for show jumping.

We don't take jumping lessons nearly enough to be considered proper 'eventers', but at the last jumping clinic we attended, we worked a lot on our jumping canter. I used to sit in a half seat and just point and shoot, hoping for the best, in our schooling and so I'm pleased that I'm slowly becoming less passenger and more picky about actually teaching Oscar something when we jump these days. 

I took a lot away from this ride too. Another bad show jumping habit of mine is to finish the ride happy to have jumped everything first pop and stayed on, but this time I was thinking about what needs improvement. 

Straight lines is a very good, and very obvious start. 
Our lack of straightness as highlighted by the below jump sequence....

Oscar wanting to go right upon landing, through his shoulder.

But we still made it to the middle of the next jump, albeit following a crooked line.

My less than attractive "that was less than attractive" expression. 
Still happy because these small jumps allow us to make mistakes, but are still substantial enough to allow me to actually feel the difference between a straight ride and a crooked one. 

Second thing to address is technique. This will arguably improve to some extent by itself as the height increases, but there are a 101 jumping exercises out there (literally) to improve technique and so our next jump school will inevitably have a bounce or grid in there. 

Sloppy knee technique in action...

And not the flashiest hind end either.

But we don't jump often, or even with any kind of routine at all really. I'm putting feelers out (this expression makes me uncomfortable haha) for someone willing to travel to where I live to give us a helping hand with our jumping so we can have regular lessons. He's not going to win show hunter points any time soon but if we get our straightness in check he can easily fling himself around a cross country course, and that's what we want to be doing.

And call me bias - it's okay, I really am!! - but he gets all the points in the world for cuteness..

Dreamy McDreamy!

Clearly we have a lot to work on, straightness into jumps and perhaps the odd gymnastic or twenty to improve Oscar's technique, and also my collapsing left rib cage came to the jump party, but we had all of the fun to be jumping again and I just really, really enjoy this horse!

Red faced and tired, but not a care in the world in my happy place :) 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Product Review: Dublin 'Husk' Boots

I was hesitant to review these boots as my first 'product review' because I have such mixed feelings about them. They retail in NZ for $339.99 ($245.45 USD, £188.90 GBP) which places them towards the mid to top end of the paddock boot market; 'Horze' and Saddlery Warehouse's 'Cooper Allan' sell cheaper, though arguably less stylish, variations. The only real competition for top spot that I've found are the 'Sergio Grasso' Baxter 60200 boots, which retail for more than twice the price of the Husk boots. 
Dublin issue a boot care guide with their boots to prolong the life of them, and recommend you wipe mud off boots after use, treat with leather conditioner and use an occasional weatherproofing treatment as they are marketed as waterproof. 

In honesty, I opted not to follow the care guidelines. I purchased the waterproof paddock boots as a casual winter boot that would save my nice Mountain Horse's the damage that winter generally inflicts. As paddocks usually turn to pugged up mud baths over winter, wiping the boots daily after use would defeat the purpose of purchasing them. I could maintain the condition of my regular riding boots that way, and those are incidentally easier to clean and quicker to dry afterwards. So I neglected my duties as a responsible buyer in that regard. 

Conditioning and weatherproofing in proportion to the cleaning advice also represents a further monetary investment, so if you're a strapped for cash student like me, I'd recommend a nice pair of gumboots instead; also sitting in the casual paddock boot category and much cheaper/easier to maintain over the winter.  

The Dublin's do have an advantage over regular gumboots- being fully functional riding boots too, complete with a smoother sole, tidy heel and even handy spur rests incorporated into the design. They are also more flexible than other paddock boots, giving you a better range of leg motion in the saddle.

However, the calf area of the boot eventually began to sag and sits in a really unfortunate position when I'm riding - bunching right into the bottom of the saddle flaps on both my jumping and dressage saddles. Whilst this is only a minor inconvenience, as my leg is generally still anyway, it gets irritating asking for a canter transition moving one leg slightly back, and feeling the boot pull away from its sticky position. Perhaps storing these with boot-fillers would be a good idea?
- If you're one of the naughty riders who rides in gumboots, you'll be a million times comfier in the Dublin boots. For me, they're just not as snug and seamless as I'd anticipated and the only time I don't switch them for my usual riding boots is if we're going on a bareback hack.  

Finally, I do think the boots should be marketed as water resistant as opposed to waterproof. Whilst I have indeed chased down the odd hard-to-catch horse across a puddle infested paddock without a damp sock in sight, these boots have had a really easy nine months. They've been exposed to perhaps ten days of accumulative bad weather, the rest of the time they've been on dry ground, and stored in a dry and airy space. I've never cleaned them and you can see above the layer of dirt they've collected over that time period. It's not too bad for a pair of winter boots, right? So, I'll be generous and say that they've faced a fortnight of winter weather without being cared for as suggested, and they've started to leak. Slowly but surely my socks are getting slightly damp after crossing a couple of gateways to catch my horse. This makes me a little skeptical as to just how much weatherproofing would be required to keep them waterproof throughout a normal winter; because let's not forget that we've had incredibly dry weather this year. 

Crunch time; despite being less comfortable than usual riding boots, and not as waterproof as I imagined, I would still repurchase these boots for three reasons.

The first, and most significant reason is that they are potentially the comfiest pair of boots I have ever worn; and I thought my Mountain Horse's would be impossible to beat. They're like a pair of warm and toasty running shoes. The mandatory breaking in period for new shoes is not necessary for these guys, just slip them on and they snuggle into your feet like outdoor slippers. Wearing gumboots on particularly wet days, because as I said - these are losing their water resistant capacity - feels a bit like I'm punishing my feet. The Dublin Husk's have turned me into a bit of a princess, and now gumboots feel cold and very tough on my delicate feet!

Secondly, the accumulative fortnight of treacherous weather that I've put these guys through was bad, let's be fair. The mud was relentless and these boots kept my toes entirely warm and dry. So they're not just waterproof, but cold-proof too. I'm disappointed by how long they stayed waterproof, but as I mentioned, I haven't taken the best care of them. And warmth. It's a big deal for me. I'd for sure spray a bit of waterproofing spray on my next boots every now and again and see how that works for me. Maybe you have a pair of these and can say yours have held up better than mine? If on the other hand, you're thinking of purchasing, do yourself a favour and spray them every now and again. They're warm and comfy; keep them waterproof and you'll be away laughing on a fast camel. 

The final reason I'd repurchase, and I've kept it to last because it's entirely trivial, is that they just look good. The design really is beautiful, and whilst Dublin have created different variations in style (the River boots, the Harroways, the Estuarys), the Husks are a firm favourite of mine. They are not true to colour, so if you like the deep chocolate colour that is displayed on the Dublin website, you may find yourself disappointed, but they absolutely still look fabulous. I've had compliments on mine whilst out walking the dogs, and so they get the non-horse person tick of approval too -- perfect for those of us who prefer to look more like an equestrian than a farmer.  I'm not at all knocking the red bands here, but I know I'm not the only rider that's half townie at heart.. even if we do like to keep it on the down low! 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Barefoot Hoof-venture: Pulling the Shoes

So I have made the decision to transition Oscar from shoes all round, to barefoot-- for winter at the very least. And it's been hard, actually really hard to watch him tense and contort his body into funny shapes to take the weight off of his hooves whenever we have to cross any kind of gravel/limestone.

As my partner is a (really flipping good) farrier, I'm going to assume that anyone who knows me and reads this will raise an eyebrow. Why would I choose to go shoe-less when I can get them for free, right? And what does that say about L?

Well.. This probably won't come as a surprise, but if you're engaged to a farrier you don't pay for hoof care. Pink shoes, diamantes, bar shoes, studs, heels - your wish is their command. Also, you're not going to take to Facebook to whinge (and rightly so) if your farrier puts you off for a week because they're busy/sore/tired/have an upcoming golf trip/*insert excuse here*. So naturally, you're the last client on the list, and also the only one who can be put off due to said excuses.

Add to the mix that I also don't really have much bargaining power because technically I should be doing the horses' feet myself. Once upon a time - I was a farrier too! True story. However, shoeing a horse is exhausting unless you're 'fit to the job', and since I'm not doing it regularly anymore - I'm well out of practise. My eye for shape and level isn't quite there anymore either. And frankly, being a perfectionist - L is a zillion times better at it than me.

Is this not a beautifully presented pair of hind feet? Room for heel expansion, perfect clenches and shape, well balanced - it ticks all the boxes.

Now if I had any horse other than Oscar, it would probably be ok that I'm occasionally pushed back by a week or so. But, my horse has a plethora of hoof issues. If I'm to shoe him, it needs to be on a strict 6 week schedule. Once upon a time, I said he'd never wear shoes again because of this. His feet are boxy and tend to grow upright instead of laterally. He has suffered severely contracted heels at the hands of past farriers, and where really accomplished master farriers prescribed remedial shoeing and scary spring shoes, L managed to open up his heels through basic, regular shoeing done to his usual high standards :D. However, as time has gone on and he doesn't need to 'impress me' anymore (haha) Oscar and I have been pushed farther and farther down the queue. Just compare the below near fore to the one in the above jumping shot, and you can see deterioration of the frog even within one shoeing cycle.

And so, after being given one too many "tomorrow's" when requesting my horse's shoes be refit, I just bit the bullet and picked up L's tools, pulling Oscar's shoes myself. I've always had a massive respect for barefoot performance, and I don't intend to have the shoes put back on if I can achieve healthier hooves by taking the barefoot route. So as such - our barefoot hoof-venture has begun.

(Oscar is also a super candidate for going barefoot, he has sole on top of sole so won't run into as many problems as his thin-soled cousins.)

In the next 'instalment' I'll share above, front on and side shots of each hoof to get an understanding of what needs to change, and then check in monthly to watch the changes that occur. Whilst I was frustrated over my #farrierproblems, this little adventure is actually quite exciting!

And as a completely necessary disclaimer, this little hoof adventure is in no way, shape or form, me joining #teambarefoot or #thebarefootrevolution or anything like that. I have seen first hand that you can maintain and absolutely improve hoof health through regular and correct shoeing. Shoes totally have their place and should we need them in the future I am not adverse to that at all. I just have trouble getting a farrier on time; just like the old saying goes "the builder's house is the last to be built". And routine farriery is kinda a big deal if you want healthy hooves. So there.

If any reader of this post is an advocate for barefoot hoofcare, and can link me to informative articles (particularly relating to the transitioning stage) in the comments below, I'd be very grateful. 
I do have L to bounce ideas off, and he is extremely supportive of the switch to barefoot, he recommends and prefers horses to go without shoes where possible himself; but extra reading never hurt anyone, right?! Right.

Here's to healthier hooves!