As I posted on Wednesday, I think keeping your horse in the best shape really improves performance but I am also a big believer in keeping yourself in the best shape as well. I have been an athlete my whole life and played NCAA Volleyball while in college. There it was easy to stay in shape with 3 hr practices everyday on top of weight lifting and conditioning. Since graduating and working full time that has become a little bit harder. When I end work the first thing I want to do is head to the barn, not jump on a stationary bike or go for a run. Friend W had suggested we try Nicola Smith’s Dressage Rider Training Program. For those who have not heard of it she does 20 min online video workouts 3X a week. The workouts focus on Core Strength, Yoga/Flexibility, and Rider Strength.
I am officially on week 3 and I am really enjoying the workouts so far. They are short enough to fit in during lunches or breaks in the day. It has been a good way for me to get away from my computer and move a little bit while working from home. The program runs for 12 weeks each week building on what you did last week. Nicola also provides educational resources about rider fitness and anatomy to help better your ridings. It’s a program that can be done with or without a horse of your own.
The biggest difference I have noticed so far is in my flexibility. My hips get really locked when I am riding Dressage and my wide horse does not favors to me either. So far I have noticed myself activating my core more while riding and keeping a more neutral spine instead of my natural tendency to arch.
After 12 weeks I guess I will see if this made a huge difference or not in some of my riding basics. In addition to the 20 min workouts, I am also trying to fit in some cardio a couple of times week to keep that up as well.
Do you set riding fitness goals for yourself? Would love to hear what workout programs work best for you and if you notice a difference in your riding!
A couple of months ago when Riding Warehouse was having one of their 20% off sales, I decided to splurge and get the Hylofit Heart Rate Monitor. When it comes to fitness, I love any statistics I can get, so being able to track both my heart rate and my horses while riding really appealed to me. The Hylofit systems comes with a girth attachment, horse transmitter, rider transmitter, and chest attachment for rider.
The directions for set-up are fairly straight forward and easy to follow. It did take me a couple of tries to get it completely reading the whole ride. The girth attachment sensors need to either be really wet or have electrode gel on them to ensure the best connectivity. I have been using water for now, but might invest in some cheap electrode or ultrasound gel from Amazon soon. The girth piece is slid under the girth (I’ve done both jumping and dressage) on the left side of the horse. Once its under, its a quick pair up with the app and you’re ready to go. For the rider heart rate, I have not actually used the provided heart rate monitor. I prefer to ride with my Apple Watch which easily connects to the Hylofit app to capture my heart rate.
The Hylofit does require you to ride with your phone in your left pocket while capturing heart rates which can sometimes be difficult if you wear breeches with only the short upper pockets or prefer to not ride with your phone. I have found that a jacket pocket is still close enough to the transmitter to capture the data, but prefer my riding tights with size pockets.
I have had about 5 rides using the Hylofit and really enjoy the information I am capturing from it. My first four rides have been on Montego and my most recent on MacHenry (a 16.3 Draft Cross). Hylofit easily allows you to add multiple horses and separates the data for you in the app.
It was shocking the difference of heart rates between the two horses. MacHenry is larger and a bit more out of shape than Montego which was easy to tell by his heart rate. During our longer sets of trot and canter, Mac was getting into the 80-90% category for prolonged periods of time. For a 30 min ride, I knew exactly how his was recovering and doing as to not over exhaust him in the beginning of these conditioning rides. I am looking forward to using this more to see how his conditioning improves.
Overall, I am really happy with the technology of the Hylofit System. If I constantly kept it on my girth I might use it more often than I do, but sometimes I honestly forget I have it. It has been a great tool to better understand the condition my horse is in. Most of the time I think the ride is hard and Montego is barely breaking a sweat. I wish I had only gotten the horse transmitter and girth connection as I only use my Apple Watch for my heart rate, but it is nice to have if other people in the barn want to give it a try on their horses.
With COVID-19 still shutting down most of Pennsylvania until June 4th, I have decided to fully embrace the masks in public places. At this point if I am going to wear them they might as well be cute and horse themed.
My first two fun masks were gifted to me on my birthday from Friend W at the barn. The unicorn one was made from one of her local friends and she got the dressage themed one from Two Old Mares. I have definitely been getting some longer stares and weird looks at the stores I still have to go in, but I love adding a little fun to this quarantine life.
I listened into the USEF webinar this week on some of the precautions they will be taking as they begin to start shows up again and it looks like masks will likely be a big part of our immediate future. Right now, they are advising anyone on the ground wear a mask; however, mounted riders will be exempt. So naturally I went online shopping and bought two more masks. Dreamers and Schemers is one of my favorite stores to buy cute designed socks from and now they are selling masks to be delivered end of May. I continued with my unicorn theme and added and Unicorn Donut Mask and Alpaca Mask. I’m sure as more and more stores come out with interesting face masks I’ll jump on that bandwagon too. I want to be safe and stay fashionable at the same time!
Montego has also gotten some new masks this week: fly masks. Besides the 35 degree day we had on Saturday, the warmer weather is finally here and so are the flies. With Riding Warehouse’s 15% off sale I got a Cashel Mint Fly Mask for him to wear with his muzzle as his long nose it too much material with the muzzle. Then I found the most amazing this and for $10 I had to buy it. Who can resist a Unicorn Fly mask! It is Professional Choice and a stretchy material design so it is pulled on and off really easily. The material is very light and airy so I think it will be nice on super hot days. I also like that is covers his skin completely where he just got bit by the tick. Incase we have another incident of that, I know the scabs will be completely covered.
Have any of you jumped on the fun mask bandwagon for you or your horse?
Having a horse in SE PA comes with the fun of a lot of ticks. Deer ticks are very prevalent in this area, so it is not uncommon for at least one horse in the barn to be diagnosed with Lymes Disease every year or so. A big part of my grooming routine in Spring/Summer is going into all the little crevices to see if there are any ticks hiding on Montego. When he was boarded in Maine the ticks were never as bad because of the colder winters. About two weeks ago, I pulled my first tick off of Montego. I had felt a swollen lump under his chin with a little scab but as I looked closer I saw tiny tiny legs. Pulled it off completely and cleaned the site thinking that would be the end of it. Well about two days later, his whole under jaw started breaking out in oozy scabs. It got worse before it got better.
Every day, the scabs seemed to be oozing more and his hair started falling off as it moved down his chin. His behavior did not change so I felt no need to call the vet, just watch it and keep it clean. It took about 5 days before the scabs stopped oozing and turned into actual healing. My routine included cleaning the whole area with alcohol and then switching back and forth between Silver Sulfa Cream and Mary’s Botanicals Summer Sore Paste. Now that the scabs are completely closed, I have been applying the summer sore paste about every other day to keep the flies off and promote hair regrowth.
It’s been about two weeks now and we’re finally in the homestretch of healing. I have never had a horse react this way to ticks before. During the two weeks, his behavior never really changed to make me think I needed to get him tested for Lymes but it was a very interesting experience. Thank goodness it was on a part of him that is easily hidden!
Do any of your horses have these types of reactions to tick bites? Any suggestions to keep ticks to a minimum this season, would love to hear!
I am a Cinco de Mayo baby, so the 1st day of May is always one of my favorites because its the start of my birthday week and usually means the Kentucky Derby is only a few days away. Unfortunately, with COVID-19 for the first time in my life I will not be watching the Derby on my birthday week. Luckily, this weekend was still filled with many fun horsey adventures.
Friday I got off work and headed out to the barn to ride. Montego had the vet out this week for annual shots with the rest of the barn and a couple of the horses (including mine) got put into the category of “too fat out of winter”. This means muzzles. Last year when I brought Montego home from Maine, he did really well on the turnout without a muzzle. In Maine, he was on a dry lot all year with hay but no grass fields. However, at his current barn he is fed buffet style which he is not complaining about and honestly I don’t either. They are fed the nicest quality free choice hay all day on turnout and all night in their stall. Unfortunately, Montego he took it a little too far and needs to cut back on the Spring grass.
I ordered two muzzles to try this year: the Flexible Filly Thinline Muzzle and the Greengard Muzzle. Both offer more airflow and comfort than your typical muzzles. I started with the Thinline on Wednesday. Right now the grass on the rested fields is extremely tall and with a more open muzzle, Montego has figured out to eat through the sides. So now were onto the Greengard which is a little more closed in and hopefully that keeps his grass intake lower. This horse does not even get a lot of grain: 1lb ration balancer AM/PM. It goes to show just how important forage is in a horses diet.
Saturday was another gorgeous day weather wise which I took full advantage of it and cleaned/organized some of my tack at the barn. With rain at the end of last week, Montego was a mud ball but got him groomed up and did a quick easy ride on him around the grass fields.
Sunday, I was back out early to help friend W run some errands for the barn. We ventured out to Lowes in our new dressage themed face-masks and got a bunch of items for some painting projects around the barn. The jumps we have have not been painted in about 6 years so they are due for some TLC. We also wanted to paint our supplement/vet cabinets in the feed room to have a nice chalkboard front.
Once we got back to the barn we did some much needed power washing starting with blankets. This year I decided instead of sending all my blankets to get professionally washed to try doing it myself. I have a washer for just my horse things at home so I am hoping with some Nikwash and Waterproofing they’ll be good as new for next year and I’ll save a little bit of money. Next, we started on the jumps that have been sitting outside the ring collecting dirt and growing grass. A quick pass of those and they should be ready to go for painting this week/weekend.
The rest of this week is looking pretty nice weather wise, so I am hoping to get some good rides in to prepare for an online dressage show next week! Details coming soon.
How did you spend your weekend? Hopefully the spring weather has allowed you to spend more time outside!
While my shopping addiction during quarantine has most definitely gotten out of control, it has not been to only the large retailers. Some of my favorite small businesses have been having sales through early this year and I have been taking advantage of those sales as I continue to be stuck at home.
Mary’s Botanicals: I found this business through instagram and I always like giving natural products a try before those filled with a ton of chemicals and ingredients. I think I have about every horse product from her site minus the rat stick (PA just does not have the same rat problem as CA). All of her products smell amazing and I am confident that they are not hurting my horse because of the all natural oils and ingredients used.
Montego is very reactive to flies in the summer and I have found that this fly spray not only keeps the bugs away longer, but it leaves his coat shiny and hydrated rather than oily and greasy. The summer sore paste is my other go to product all year long. After our very wet Winter and Spring, Montego usually always comes out of turnout with some sort of scratches/greasy heel from the mud (one of the many perks of having a horse with 3 white socks).
Some of their other items that have made their way into my daily use include Muscle Spray, Fly Lotion, Bit Stick, and Hoof Spray (keeps thrush down).
Next is Two Dark Bays Custom Tack: I found this store while on Facebook and was seriously impressed with the quality and design I had to order some items. My first order took place back in November where I got a really nice custom browband and jumping gloves for me and one of my barn friends! She can seriously crystallize anything you want! I chose the teal to purple ombre as their my favorite colors and a simple black to clear ombre for my dressage bridle.
Recently, TDB was having another sale so I got a white pair of dressage gloves with purple crystals for showing and a fun black silver glitter halter. Both products again were made beautifully and I know I will be ordering more in the future.
The customer service this business offers is amazing! From the beginning of my order Emily walked me through what choices in colors/designs I could make and puts them together beautifully! So happy to have found her business
Many people I follow on Facebook and Instagram have been posting about If The Bonnet Fits for quite some time, but I jumped on the bandwagon on recently and I wish I had sooner. Like I mentioned above, my favorite colors are Tealish/Turquoise and Purple, so when ITBF was having a sale on some similar colors I couldn’t help myself! Sierra offered the same amazing customer service as Emily with gathering certain design ideas my mind may not have come up with. I decided to go with 3 bonnets. Two for schooling and one a more formal show bonnet.
The final product was better than I could have even expected. The quality is better than the name brand bonnets found at tack stores and they are fully custom. I chose a closed stitch bonnet for all three and the the ear material for the mint and eggplant are a mesh lycra and the grape is full spandex. The idea behind the mint bonnet was to be a fun mermaid like design and it fits Montego’s head beautifully. I have not tried the others yet riding but will grab pictures soon when I do.
The shipping was super fast after the 4 week wait time for making, but totally worth the wait. Each bonnet comes in a small canvas bag to keep them clean and organized in your tack trunk.
The two purple designs were to match my LeMieux Jump Pad and Purple Woof Boots and the colors are spot on. I am hoping to get to use the Eggplant as a show bonnet once our dressage series starts up again. I think its subtle enough but still adds a bit of fun to your typical black and white dressage outfits.
What are some of your favorite small businesses to support? I am always on the hunt for new products to try!
The weather is finally looking more like Spring here in PA which means bye bye blankets, or at least the majority of blankets. Our days have been in the 50s-60s and nights usually don’t drop below 40s in the barn, so Montego has either been naked or in a light sheet. IDK about most of you, but I have a bit of a blanket problem. You can never be too prepared right?! Below was Montego’s blanketing options for this season.
Where I board, the horses are brought in every night during the winter. I really like this because it allows me to keep track of how much my horse is eating and drinking overnight and I think it gives them a nice break from the cold and sometimes very muddy pastures. Montego also LOVES to lay down at night; every morning he wakes up with new poop or pee stain on his blankets.
Turnout: Montego was clipped in November and again in January so he definitely needed to be appropriately blanketed this winter.
Rambo Duo w/ Hood: I bought this blanket in 2014 for my first horse Belle. While its a 78 it actually fits Montego really well who normally wears an 81. I like this blanket because one its lasted for so long with no rips or wear and two it can change to be many blankets in one. I have the 100g and 300g liners and the outer shell is 100g so it acts as my mid/light 100g, med 200g, and heavy 400g.
Amigo High Neck Medium: I only used this blanket once or twice this year when I did not feel like adding or removing a liner in his Duo. Its a really warm blanket and kept Montego warm and dry. I like the high neck too because it adds extra coverage without a full hood. Got this on sale at the SmartPak Store in the clearance attic so a good deal for a new blanket.
Schneider’s Lite Blanket: I also got this blanket on sale as a backup 100g before I fully started using the duo. Its constructed very nice and its in one of my favorite colors purple, but it spent most of its time in my tack box upstairs.
Amigo Disk Front Sheet: This was Montego’s main rain sheet this year. I really like the front closure disk but the sheet was a little bit lighter than I was hoping. Its good for warmer days when he’s clipped, but I prefer something a little heavier when its raining. I got the Amigo Bravo 1200 sheet on sale this season so I will likely be replacing the 900D for the 1200D next winter.
Stable: The barn stays about 20 degrees warmer than the outside temperature when all the doors are shut, but I still like to keep some type of PJ on Montego when he’s inside.
Our three go to were the Rambo Newmarket Cooler, Baker Stable Sheet, and Dover Comfy Cooler. He busted through buckle of the Dover cooler in about 2 weeks so that one got retired pretty early on in the season. The Rambo Newmarket was great on colder nights while the Baker sheet was a bit light during some of the warmer nights.
Do I have more blankets than I listed on here….definitely, but you always need to be prepared! What is your blanketing routine? Any favorite brands you can’t live without let me know!