Tuesday, January 28, 2014

AETA Adventures!

Another "Snow Day" another blog post....

While I haven't been getting as much riding in due to the cold temperatures as I would like, Bastian and I are making slow and steady progress. We even did some jumping and once we got our head in the game and I sent him forward in front of my leg instead of closing my eyes and curling into a ball of ineffective nothing-ness it was amazing. He was definitely happy to pop over that crossrail. (yes, I was nervous about jumping a crossrail...I've got a lot of jumping baggage!).

On the dressage front, he's getting steadier through the poll, more in tune to my half-halts and I'm getting better at not going to my reins first. I'm not gonna lie, I've been a little unmotivated to go out when the weather is less than 10 degrees so I'm not getting in as much practice as I want, but the when its that cold both of us just never really get warmed up enough. So I've been trying to keep busy with other things. This past weekend I headed to Philadelphia for the AETA (American Equestrian Trade Association) Expo to hang out with Team Hastilow. AETA was awesome, I got to meet some amazing people and talk to them about the amazing products that they have developed for the Equestrian World.

Here are Bastian's top AETA picks. I'm not kidding, you NEED to check these products out!

#1 The Spine Free Saddle Pad developed and sold by Hastilow Competition Saddlery.

The design of this pad is really ingenious, it is created so that there is no pressure placed on the horse's spine when it is used. Hastilow did their research and put that data into practice to create this pad. Here is a link to their blog where they explain all about pressure on the horse's back: Hastilow Blog . Further, they wash and wear FANTASTIC. Because of the way that they are stitched, the pad doesn't shrink and pucker the way that many saddle pads do when they are washed. I'm never a happy camper when my saddle pads start to curl...they usually get tossed when that happens. Lastly, (and this is I think a huge selling point), the pad is only $55. Definitely affordable.

#2 The GoVelope developed and sold by Giddyup Gear

This innovative cell phone holder is definitely what the horse world needs. Cell phones have become just as important to equestrians, whether we're checking scores at a show or texting the member of our group who drew the short straw and had to go get everything that we forgot in the trailer and letting them know that they need to grab a few more things, we need our cell phones to be handy and convenient. Personally I've been searching for a cell phone holder that works with whatever I'm wearing and keeps my phone safe from dust, dirt, and moisture. Those lovely leather cases designed for business people could not hold up to the sitting trot or to Bastian's antics when he decided to throw in a buck or two. My phone would end up in the dirt. Those fun coloured neoprene ones are no longer large enough to fit my smartphone, so those aren't an option. The GoVelope is amazing, the industrial strength Velcro that attaches it to your belt loops is phenomenal, I don't think even a velociraptor could tear this thing off. The zipper works with just one hand, meaning I can keep a hand on my reins or lead rope or bucket of water, etc. and still manage to answer my phone. Its water resistant. So I can be out in the weather with it, or fall off in a puddle of mud and my phone is still safe and dry. It comes in fun colours, I got the grey (Pewter on the website!) but definitely plan on picking up a navy in the future. Not only does my huge Samsung Stratosphere with its protective cover fit in my GoVelope, but it was a convenient place to keep my cash as well.....the uses just keep piling on! They retail for about $55. You might be thinking, 'ah, hey, yeah, that's a bit pricey...' and all I can say is stop and think about it. This is meant to last forever, not a $15 case you have to buy year after year. The materials are awesome, not only is the fabric AND zipper water resistant, but there is this grippy stuff on the back that helps to keep it from sliding around. Futhermore, think of what you spent on your fancy Otterbox to keep your precious iPhone in. That was pricey and you probably didn't even think twice. So don't think twice here either. Get one. (just so you know, that's Bastian talking there. He has this weird idea that they would be better served for holding treats and sugar cubes...he's such a food junkie). Did you buy one yet? ;)

#3 KBF99 Horse Health Revolution Brushes

I am very picky about my brushes. Its hard for me to buy new ones because I have to LOVE it in order to buy it and right now I love my brushes, but they are starting to show their age. I'm also not usually a fan of synthetic brushes (ie: I do not care for the Oster brushes) but after learning about these and hearing some first hand testinmonials, I'm 100% sold. The bristles actually kill germs, therefore helping to eliminate incidences of rainrot and other germ and fungus related problems. Science has never been my strong point so I'm just going to direct you to their webpage and read about it yourself: KBF99 Webpage. I've got a set on order for Bastian and can't wait until they arrive. Hastilow Competition Saddlery will be selling them soon, so when you contact them about saddle fitting or to buy your spine free pads, be sure to order a few KBF99 Brushes for your grooming kit.

#4 Stay-on Poultices

This product may be the best thing since sliced bread and peanut butter came together. I'm a poulticer, I poultice every night at horse shows and after hard workouts at home. Its a bit of necessary evil. I love the benefits of poulticing, but I hate the messiness. It gets everywhere, and my horse gets it all over himself, it will be around his eye, in his mane, through his tail....you get the picture. These, however, give all the benefits of poulticing without the mess. Amazing!! They offer three different 'formulas' to choose from. You want more you say? Okay, here you go. They stay moist longer than traditional poultice, which we all know is the key to an effective poultice. Once the mud dries, there ain't nothing happening. They can be put in hot or cold water depending on what it is you are trying to treat/accomplish. They can be laid across the horses back if your horse has a sore back (and if your horse is sore because of an ill fitting saddle, contact Hastilow!!). They make an awesome foot wrap-no more soaking for abscesses, this boot has got it going on. There are some great videos on their website as well. While I'll still use my traditional poultice on my horse on a regular basis since he is on field board (I poultice him and turn him out, no wraps), at horse shows this is what I'm using. No mess, no scrubbing mud off every morning...I can't wait! They retail for $15 for a four pack.

#5 The Lovely Range of Products from Equi-Spa

I bought several bottles of good stuff and got samples of everything else. These smell heavenly and are going to get a lot of use in my grooming caddy during show season. I'm super excited about the sample of the sheath cleaner I got as well as the sample of the Cooling Tea-Tree Gel. I used a bit of the Tea-Tree on my own knee last night (I slipped and twisted it on Christmas Eve and it is taking its own sweet time in healing) and It made a huge difference. I can't wait to use it on B, I know that he will love it. I also can't wait to use the Grapefruit Coat Refresh. I currently use Miracle Groom and while I like the results I am not a fan of the smell. I also like the idea of using it between classes at a horse show. There is always that accumulation of dust that you just can't get off between classes at a show. The spray on Cool Muscle Wash-awesome! I can really target specific muscles and again, I think Bastian is going to love it. He likes his grooming/spa time and I'm excited to be able to pamper him a bit more. Check out their website to order!

Well, those are Bastian's top five picks. There were a lot of great new products to be seen as well as subtle changes to beloved brand names (Getting to see the Kerrits fashion show was a personal highlight-I love Kerrits!). On top of all that I got to spend time with my amazing sponsor, Hastilow Competition Saddlery, and have the opportunity to learn even more about their great products. I have to say that despite my horse's difficult shape, I love the fact that when we go to horse shows, I am one of the few riders that has a saddle that fits my horse without having to use any special pads. My saddle fits my horse's entire back, not just the withers and I have the master fitters at Hastilow to thank for that. I was amazed at the improvement Bastian started making once we got a saddle that he was comfortable in and that fit him. It truly does make a world of difference, so if you want your equine partner to be comfortable and able to perform at their best, be sure to get in contact with them and set up a saddle fitting appointment.

Here's to warmer weather!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Happy New Year!

Bastian is celebrating a Happy New Year and looking forward to an amazing 2014. With the frigid weather we are experiencing tonight and tomorrow, we ended up with a "snow day" at school. I can't say that I'm actually a fan, I mean it's not like the school isn't heated...but before I dip into the "back in my day kids went to school no matter what the weather is" diatribe (and yes, I think I am officially old enough to start using that line), I do have to say that I am excited by the fact that I get to sleep in tomorrow before I wake up and start reading *hopefully* brilliant essays on Arthur Miller's The Crucible.

2013 in Review

2013 was loaded with some amazing awesomeness and some harsh realities. I managed to coordinate a cross country journey for my horse, myself and two extraordinary friends to compete in my first CPED*** Dressage show with Bastian. The experience was wholly worthwhile, if still disappointing in the fact that we were prepared to compete at the Grade III level and I was reclassified as a Grade IV. The reclassification wasn't the disappointment, it was having spent an obscene amount of money to basically "school" my horse at a show in California since neither of us were prepared to perform 3rd Level movements. I'm proud that I was able to eek out my required 60% score in front of three international judges having never schooled things like trot or canter half passes, extended gaits, and canter to halt transitions. Not to mention completely rewriting my freestyle the day before the competition and going in and riding it without ever having practiced it before. And I would be remiss if I did not mention the amazing people I had the opportunity to meet, I will be following their progress closely and cheering for them all the way, when they are competing at the WEG, I'll turn into a total name dropper and be like "oh I know them...." :) I think this will be a great year for Team USA!

After California, back home and recooperated from our trip, Bastian made huge progress and we handily earned the scores we needed at 2nd Level for our Bronze Medal along with earning our qualifying scores for Regionals. Unfortunately Regionals did not happen due to a myriad of reasons, but it worked out all for the best. Bastian was contending with some sort of muscle soreness from playing rough in the pasture and I was already overbooked between my full time job, my part time job and full time graduate level college courses. September and October was time off that we both evidently needed despite my protestations. November came and we started to get back into the groove of things, regular rides and Bastian felt excellent and bouncy again. Progress. December was more getting back into the groove, long and low, building up muscle, developing impulsion, steadiness, straightness. Things were back to normal and we could start looking forward again, developing a plan of attack for the big bad 3rd Level that we need to conquer. :)

The unfortunate reality of the situation is that France in 2014 for the WEG is completely out of the question. Being reclassified plays a big part in this, in order to be competitive as a Grade IV, Bastian and I need to be scoring well at 4th Level. I'm at a huge disadvantage in that I lack the financial backing that I need in order to compete at the FEI level (and those that helped me I give my whole-hearted thanks, I could not have done what I did without out it!) however the majority of the financial onus rests on me and it is not something that my pocketbook can take. Bastian is a lovely horse and I positively adore him, but we're going through this together, he learns as I learn, I've noticed that many Para horses tend to be trained through Grand Prix or higher, we're simply not there yet. Eventually, yes, but right now no. Being named as a member of the team means that the selection committee feels you have the ability to bring home a medal, to do better than the riders sent by the other countries. That's not us right now, no matter how much determination I have, how much I want it, and how much I have sacrificed for it. It sucks, but that's the reality.

So what does all this mean? It means that right now we're focusing on mastering 3rd Level, earning our Bronze Medal, aiming for Regionals at the Kentucky Horse Park next fall and keeping our nose to the grindstone. I'm going to enjoy 2014 and be proud of the fact that when we get to 3rd Level and continue on to 4th Level that I got there through hard work and Bastian and I did it together with the guidance of fabulous instruction of my trainers. I'll be the one putting the miles in the saddle and the time into the schooling that brings us there and that is something that I cherish now and will continue to cherish.

What's in Store for 2014...

Well, 2014 did not start out as auspiciously as I had hoped. Through no fault of Bastian or myself, while we were enjoy our first ride of the New Year and happily cantering Bastian exhibited a display of intense gracefulness tripping over his own feet sending us both into the fluffy arena dirt. Luckily, no harm was done aside from my reins ending up in three pieces and the intense amount of arena dirt that ended up in my eyes and mouth. Seriously, chunks of dirt were oozing out of eye until Thursday night...eeewww.
Here is my helmet after the fall, now imagine that much dirt covering my entire left side. I'm hoping this means that it's out of the way for the year and I won't have any more falls. It also made me realize that 2013 was the first year ever where Bastian and I never parted company.

Never fear. The next two days were amazing. I had two lessons with Tawny (my first lessons since early September) and aside from being pleased with how good Bastian felt, Tawny helped me figure out our straightness issues going to the left and had me getting him round, light and fluffy and, drumroll please..... straight! Bastian is a squirrely little wriggle-worm and I've got to really concentrate on where his haunches and shoulders are. Getting him moving straight and square is the key to developing better collection and getting the points we need to compete with the more naturally gifted warmbloods we'll be facing more often at 3rd Level. We have to be precise and correct.

Other goals include mastering our flying changes-a movement that is pretty much the bane of my existence right now, Bastian is a counter-canter extraordinaire and has so far proven fairly resistant to complying with the idea of a flying change. But I'm not worried, we'll get it, and with our flying changes will come the remaining two scores I need in order to earn my Bronze Medal with the USDF. Regionals is in the mix too, showing at the Kentucky Horse Park is amazing and Bastian likes it there. I'm hoping we get to ride in the Rolex Arena again, he was a big fan of the footing there. Aside from that I just want to master 3rd Level and improve my riding.

I was invited to attend AETA in Philadelphia, PA by my sponsor, Hastilow Competition Saddlery and am definitely excited to attend, if you're going be sure to stop by their booth and introduce yourself and to check out their amazing saddles, bridles and other tack. I adore my Concept Dressage Saddle and so does Bastian! They have trained and qualified saddle fitters that will work with you and your horse to meet all of your needs. Be sure to check out their website.

And finally, thank you to the 7864 people that have read and visited my blog. :) I'm working on updating my website as well so be sure to check it out soon. Until next time, Bastian says stay warm!