As a student with a limited budget, shopping for a saddle can be a long and involved process. Before coming to Rocky I had bought an English saddle off of Craigslist. I really had no experience riding in an English saddle and had only sat in one or two before making my purchase. The saddle was a great little starter saddle for me, but now that I am in my senior year and have signed up for the Advanced Hunters class I was in need of an upgrade.
It probably only took me a month or two to find that first saddle, but with the experience that I have gained while in college my most recent purchase was a year long quest. When I first started my search I was still only considering the idea of making an upgrade. I would peruse eBay every week or two just to see what prices were like and to get an idea of what I wanted. Thankfully, two of my roommates showed on the Hunter/Jumper circuit in Washington state before coming to RMC, and they were very helpful. I would show them a saddle that was in my price range at the time and (more likely then not) they would cringe and turn a little green in the face.
By the winter of this past year I was saving a little more money to add to my saddle budget and my roommates were just wincing a little with the saddles that I found. When “Spring” Break rolled around at the end of February I finally had time to spend a few spare hours at the barn trying out different saddles that other students had. I realized details that I liked and wanted in my next saddle, such as a low pommel and a narrow twist, and things that I didn’t want, like thigh blocks and cheap leather. After riding around in these saddles I had a better idea about how the build of the saddle can affect riding position, too.
Now it is summer and the new school year is just around the bend. Over the past two months I have kept a close eye on my eBay feed, looking for THE saddle. I would add some to my watch list and put bids on a couple of others. Earlier this month I found one that I really liked and received the blessing from my helpfully critical roommates to make the purchase, but by the time that I had actually made the decision another person had already bought it. I was a little bummed that I had missed out on the saddle and figured that it just was not meant to be. So when one of my roommates sent me a text of an ad for the exact same type of saddle I bought it in less than an hour! This one was a little more expensive than the one that I missed, but it was also in a lot better condition! I am so excited to ride in it that I decided to have it shipped here to my internship in Illinois rather than having it sent home to Idaho! Hopefully it will be here by the end of the week and I can take it out for our maiden ride!
It wasn’t long after my arrival here at my internship that we were on the road to our first show. I have done a little bit of showing in 4H and IHSA, but these AQHA shows are a whole new ball game to me. The Gateway Classic was held at the National Equestrian Center in Missouri, only about an hour away from us.
We left the barn in the afternoon a couple of days before the show to make sure that everything was set up for the weekend. We filled the stalls with shavings and hung our water buckets before leading our horses to settle in. The vast majority of our gear was packed in our two trailers. Our two tack stalls were soon filled to the brim with saddles, bridles, and show clothes.
Our mornings started bright and early, usually between four and six (depending on what classes were being shown on that day). We hayed, grained, watered, and picked out the stalls.
I made a new best friend during the show and it was great to get to know him so well during all of the time that we spent together! We went on at least three walks a day — well, he mostly ran while I walked (he’s so athletic!)– and spent the whole time studying and listening to each other. Okay, so maybe he was one of our horses. And maybe we spent a lot of time in the arena lunging, but I feel like Scout and are closer after our weekend together!
After long days of general awesomeness, it was great to kick back at the lovely Italian restaurant nearby with the whole crew. We laughed so much that there we definitely some tears and belly cramps!
All in all, the weekend went better than I could have ever imagined! I learned some new skills and got to better know the people that I will be spending the rest of my summer with. I am blessed to be working with such a phenomenal group of people!
Survive Dead Week: Check
Dominate Finals: Check (3.8 GPA for the semester! Woot woot!)
First Day of Internship: Check
I woke up this morning at around 6 a.m. and dozed for half an hour or so, but couldn’t stay in bed any longer with the anticipation of my first day as intern at Mark Harrell Quarter Horses! Though I had been given a tour the day before, I headed down to the barn early to check things out. Angie was (one of the gals who cleans stalls and feeds the horses) already there scooping the morning grain into each stall and she gave me an impromptu tour while she worked. She pointed out which horses were the cuddlers and which ones had quirks.
Brendon and Chris arrived not long after I did and wrote out my list of horses for the day. I had eight horses to lunge, each of them fell into one of two categories: Spunky and Lazy, most of them were the prior. My final horse was a little dun pony mare named “Q”. She is used primarily for lessons for kids, but was in need of a tune up. Before coming to my internship, I had heard from other students that they had not been given their riding privileges until a couple of weeks into their internship. So, it came a fantastic surprise that I would have the opportunity to ride on my first day! Riding her around was not unlike my first few rides on Dan. She knew how to walk, trot, canter, and stop, but she definitely had some skills to refine. My job with her was to help her to start establishing a “frame“, speed control, and steering. I had a great time riding her!
After my ride, I hosed down Q and tied her in her stall to dry. My final task of the day was to give Jiggalow a bath. The tall chestnut gelding had recently arrived at the barn and was in dire need of a bath! He was a good sport, especially when I discovered that he liked having the hose sprayed in his mouth.
It was only 5 p.m. when we finished up our chores, so I was just in time to help my new roommate make dinner. Tammy is the nanny for Mikey, the son of Mark and David (owners of the barn) and she has been so kind and helpful since I’ve been here!
My list of horses is already posted for tomorrow, including a ride on Q!
With nine days remaining until finals week, I keep realizing more things that need to get done. I have things to do before finals, things to do before going home, and things to do before heading out to Illinois. I seem to have lists everywhere. Lists in my agenda, lists on my computer, lists on my phone. Lists, lists, lists.
Of course, I could just try to get as much of these things done as soon as possible, but that is not my nature. I am a procrastinator. I write speeches the morning that I have to give them. I work on my metalwork projects the night before the critique. And I know that I could — and should — change my ways, but I really have no motivation to do so. Maybe I would be more motivated if I were failing because of my procrastination; thankfully, I seem to do just fine.
Maybe someday I will complete all of the items on my lists before they actually need to be done, but for now I will keep on keepin’ on.
Every year hoards of young children fall for the beauty and grace of the horse. Their love grows with each new Saddle Club book they read and every pony they see frolicking in a pasture at the side of the road. And as these children enter their new elementary school class each fall, the number of horse lovers dwindles. Some lose the curiosity to learn more and others forget the mystery that once intrigued them. Only a handful of these remaining children will continue to pursue their passion for horses through junior high and high school, and even fewer exist when it comes time to apply for college.
When these young adult horse lovers are considering whether or not to attend a college with equestrian options they need to decide what kind of involvement they want to have in the equine industry. Do they want to have a career as a trainer, instructor, journalist, etc? Or do they want to be the weekend warrior who loves to groom and show their horse?
Being an Equestrian Studies major can really show you what type of horse person you should be. The student who has remained curious horses since their childhood is the one with the potential to learn more as a professional. It is impossible to know everything about horses, there are hundreds of facets that can be discovered and explored. To be a successful and respected professional in this field it is mandatory that students understand this. You have to keep an open mind and have a willingness to seek knowledge.
Many people find satisfaction in being the amateur rider or the weekend warrior. They enjoy long trail rides and find joy in building a relationship with their own special horse. They love horses and they enjoy spending time with them. These are the people who have retained their intrigue in the mystery of horses. This type of horse person does not always excel in an equestrian studies program. That is not to say that they are any less capable to succeed in one of these programs, but it might not be as satisfying for them.
If you are unsure as to whether or not to enroll in an equestrian studies program, here is what advice I can offer:
1. Be honest with yourself and figure out which type of horse person you are — a learner or a lover.
2. Decide how involved you want to be in the industry. Do you want to have a professional career or do you just want to be an owner/exhibitor?
3. Ask questions! Ask an admissions counselor to put you in touch with a student in the program (these people will have first hand knowledge!). Research some questions to ask before going on a tour of the school. Visit more than one program and decide which one will fit you the best.
The end of the spring semester is coming up and that means the end of something that has been the main focus of my year. Training Dan! It has been an experience more rewarding than what I could have imagined. Though I have ridden dozens of other horses, and have worked with a handful of those extensively, it was not until I started with Dan that I realized how rewarding training can be.
With each ride I find something that we excel at, and I find something that we need to work on. For example, lately we have been doing fantastic at our left lead lope, but our right lead can be sloppy and lacking good cadence. It can be easy to do things that we already do well at, because they do not take a lot of work or energy. But by neglecting our weaker skills, I do Dan and all of his future riders a disservice. The work that I put into him now is the foundation and impression that will last his entire life. It is my job to make sure that Dan is a well trained, reliable, and responsive mount for whomever sits in the saddle. This final month of training that we have is when I have to fill in, and refine, anything that Dan might need to know in the future.
Not every day in the saddle is a dream come true. Dan and I have our disagreements and arguments, but these days are the ones that I learn the most from. I learn how to use different techniques that will help him understand what I am trying to teach him. I learn to feel when he is preparing to throw one of his temper tantrums. And most of all, I learn that sometimes a stalemate is the most likely (and reasonable) outcome. Thankfully, not every day is a fight. The bad days can teach me a lot, but it is the good days that inspire me to continue on the life/career path that I have chosen!
Over the next three weeks Dan and I will be tying together the loose ends of our story. Our final exam will cover the jog, extended jog, lope, half pass (at the trot and the lope), stopping, backing, spins, and simple lead changes. We are already able to complete all of these maneuvers and am fairly confident that we will be able to execute them in a good fashion.
Dan’s owner will be present for the end of year horse show and I know that she is looking forward to seeing how Dan and Butters have progressed! The show will be our final ride at school before he heads home to Idaho. Thankfully, I will probably have the chance to ride him a few times this summer while I am home from my internship in Illinois!
Here is our latest riding video!
Last weekend was the final English show of the season for IHSA. Four of us Rocky girls had either qualified for the Regional show early in the season, or were only a few points away. So after class on Friday we made the drive to Missoula, MT.
I only needed four more points to qualify for the Regional show and I was expecting to need both shows to acquire them. I ended up winning my first show, so I qualified with three points to spare! The best part was that all of my teammates placed that day too!
Three of us ended up riding in Regionals. Both of my teammates made it in the ribbons and we all had a great time!
I want to give a big “Thank You!” to Chris Brown for being the world’s best coach! Also to Meredith Burton, Kristina Felix, and Erin Burns for making sure that we always have what we need and know where to be! Last, but not least, to the parents (especially mine) who give the team their whole hearted support! THANK YOU!!!
Though this weekend was not my best in the show ring, the team as a whole was fantastic! We were high point team for the first two shows and had at least one high point rider! The fourth show of the weekend was the Western Regional Show, where all of the riders who have accumulated enough points during the year compete for spots to go to Semi Nationals. A handful of RMC’s riders qualified! As a team, we were only two points shy of being the overall high point team in the region (congrats to Utah State University, though!).
Thanks to all of the people who make the show happen. Whether you helped organize, ran the concessions table, or held a horse, we could not have done it without you! Also, thanks to all of the parents (including my own Mom) who came out to support the team!
This coming weekend is the English Regional Show in Missoula!
Everybody loves baby pictures, so here’s one of Dan! Happy Monday!