5 unique things to ask yourself before buying a new horse

Photo Credit: HorseJunkiesUnited.com

Buying a horse is a huge commitment, and it can be disastrous if you don’t ask the right questions or have an experienced horse person to help you.

My trainer, who I will refer to as “LD,” has bought and sold a variety of horses for herself and for other clients. This past year she helped me go horse shopping. We picked out a horse for me to lease for a year, but he ended up being perfect for me and more than just a lease, and I just purchased him – with her help, of course! There are a lot of articles about buying a horse, but LD put together a list of questions that are not often asked in these articles and are often the most important to consider…

Throughout my time in the horse world, I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to look for horses, not only for myself, but for clients, as well.  I have seen thousands of horses, across disciplines and across price ranges.  Whether you are looking for a big show horse to take you to the 3’6″ or a child’s first pony, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself.
1. What is your budget?  This is a very important question.  It is very easy to spend a lot of money very quickly.  Know your budget, and don’t even try a horse if it is out of your price range- that will be the horse you fall in love with.  People ask all the time, “How much does a horse cost?”  I tell them that horses vary greatly in price.  (My boyfriend answers, “Well, how much money do you have?”)  You can find a horse in ANY price range, but you have to ask yourself…
2. What are you willing to give up to stay within your budget?  In horse shopping, like house/apartment shopping, the chances of finding exactly what you want for exactly the right price are close to zero.  I suggest making a “must have” list.  This list is different for everyone.  If you are looking for a sound minded horse that will teach your child how to jump, you might be willing to look at an older horse with some minor health issues.  If you are looking for your 3’6″ horse, maybe you would forgo show miles for talent.  Maybe not.  Only you can know what your priorities are.  If you want a horse with PERFECT x-rays, that horse might not have the most jumping experience.  And so the list goes.  Your “must have” list depends on your answer to…
3. What do you want to do with your horse and when do you want to do it?  Your goals are a very important part of finding your perfect horse.  Everyone has goals for their riding.  Some people have ambitious showing goals; some people simply want enjoyment from a ride once or twice a week.  By knowing your goals, you will be able to determine what you will want from your prospective mount.  Recently, a woman purchased a young, green horse and soon realized that this horse was not her match.  It was not because the horse was “bad” or “mean” or even because she didn’t like riding him.  She was not honest with herself about what she needed from a horse.  She was in love with the idea of training a young horse.  But, when it came time to do the work, she realized she didn’t have the time or the skill to train this horse.   Her true goal was to ride twice a week and have a predictable horse that allowed her to work on her skills.  This particular woman was also unrealistic about the time frame of training a young horse.   Young horses generally take a longer time to train and mature.  Older horses are who they are, to a certain extent.  Do you want to walk into the show ring and win tomorrow?  You are looking for an older horse with miles.  Do you want to spend the next year or so honing your horses skills while still improving yourself?  You are looking for a middle aged horse that needs finishing touches.  Do you want to spend the next 2-4 years helping a horse learn how to properly use him/herself and mold them to the discipline of your choice?  You are looking for a young green horse.  If you make a list of your goals, with a realistic time frame, then you will be able to narrow your search to more suitable matches for you.
4. How long do you want to keep this horse?   Horses are a strange combination of pet, teammate, and asset.  Many people buying their first horse believe that this is going to be their horse forever.  More often than not, this is not the case.  Children grow out of ponies; the rider’s skill surpasses the horse’s abilities; financial situations change.    Many people asked how I could sell my previous horses.  I generally answer, “The horse was not getting what he needed from me and I was not getting what I needed from him, so we broke up.”  It is okay to sell your horse if it is time to move on, much like it is okay to break up with your boyfriend if there is no long term future there.  It doesn’t mean you didn’t love him or that you don’t want the best for him or that you weren’t a great match at one point in time.   To alleviate some of that “break up” anxiety, it is good to think about how long you would like to keep the horse you are buying.  Is it a prospect horse?  Is it an investment horse?  Is it a transition horse?  Is it a school horse? Is it a child’s pony? Is it a horse that you want to fall in love with an keep forever?  Obviously, once you buy the horse, your time frame might change.  For example, one of my clients went looking for a transition horse.  She wanted something to build her confidence, help her move up, and get her into showing.  We found a great horse in her price range for lease.  We only tried him once; we didn’t invest that much time in debating his long term value.  He was great for right now, and then he would go back in a year when she was ready to move on.  The time frame fit her goals and the horse was ready to do what she needed right then.  After a few months, we realized that the initial time frame was changing.  The horse surpassed our expectations and had a lot more to teach this rider.  As the horse’s muscle tone changed, his true talent emerged.  This one year transition horse turned into a horse suitable for at least 2-3 years, if not longer.   While a time frame is subject to change, it is a good thing to think about in conjunction with your goals.  Whether you want to sell a horse quickly or if you want to keep him/her forever, your time frame effects your “must have” list.
5. How much training are you willing to pay for?  If you are going to look for a horse with your trainer, make sure you are on the same page about the number of training rides, lessons, and time you are expecting from your trainer.  Some trainers will try to “up sell” to ensure a steady stream of income from the sale and after the sale.  Some trainers will only “allow” you to buy a horse that they want to ride.  Some trainers are absolutely wonderful and truly help you through the process.  I have seen many people rely solely on their trainer’s opinion and not trust their own gut/ignore their own wants.  I have seen many people completely ignore their trainer’s advice.  In both those scenarios, neither the trainer nor the client (nor the horse) ends up happy.  Be honest with your trainer about what you want from a horse.  Be honest about what you are willing to pay for.  And if your trainer shows you something that doesn’t fit your “must have” list- be honest!!  There are plenty of horses out there.  If you trainer is pushing you to buy a horse you aren’t comfortable with- be honest!!  There are plenty of trainers out there.  A good trainer will listen, help you build your “must have” list, and review each prospective horse with a critical (but not judgmental) eye.  When I was a junior, looking for my big show horse, I had the help of a great trainer.  She patiently showed me hundreds (no exaggeration) of horses.  We talked about each one- the pros, the cons, the feel, the look, the training.  I could ride all of potentials, but none of them were MINE.  When I finally found MY horse, my trainer and I (and the horse, too!) knew instantly.  He had been looking for his rider as long as I had been looking for my horse.  To this day, he is the only horse I could never sell.

Mixing business with pleasure: Why you might not want to be friends with the people caring for your horses

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I wrote this post several times because I wanted it to be educational without seeming like I was you-know-what-ing on my former barn managers.

Many of you know that I had been having issues with my barn managers for a long time. What made it more difficult is that I had a good relationship with my barn managers, and there seemed to be a huge breakdown that occurred for a variety of reasons. Being close friends with my barn managers and having issues begin to arise made it a lot more difficult for me to address those issues and for me to be at my barn. I was very stressed out whenever I was at the barn. Riding was no longer fun for me. I was constantly being talked about to other boarders and my trainer by my barn managers. I also was getting treated differently by other boarders that used to be my friends because I had made complaints about the care to my barn managers, and I can only assume that something was said to the other boarders.

The above is an extremely shortened version of what happened during the breakdown of my friendship with my barn managers. Over all of this time, I’ve come to the conclusion: It may not be the best idea to be close friends with the people who are also running your barn and taking care of your horses. Why?

It may become harder to voice issues you have with your horses’ care. When I started having problems with how my barn managers were taking care of my horses, my issues were met with them telling me I was wrong. One of the most ridiculous things that happened was when I discovered they weren’t feeding my SmartPaks properly. I tried to explain to my barn managers how they should be fed, and they turned around and complained about me to another boarder that promptly came and told me. I felt like I couldn’t voice my opinion to them about my horses without them talking about me or turning it around on me. Essential things – like how my horses were fed or how they were turned out – were things I could not have an opinion on without them getting offended.

Every decision you make will be taken personally. This might not always be true, but for the most part, if you are friends with your barn managers, any decision you make that adversely affects them will be taken personally. For example, I decided I did not want my one barn manager – who was also a trainer – to be involved in my search for a new horse because she and I had fundamental disagreements about the horses we liked and styles of riding. I did not say this is why I didn’t take my barn manager horse shopping with me, but she was very offended when I decided to horse shop with my trainer rather than with her, even though she did not teach me in lessons or really know what I liked or how I rode. There were a few weekends where my trainer was on vacation, and my barn manager was upset that I did not want to take a lesson with her in place of my trainer not being there. I also made the decision to take my green horse out of my barn manager’s training program and put him in a training program with my trainer. I did this because my green horse was developing bad habits due to how my barn manager rides, and she also was not doing the things I asked like working on teaching him flying lead changes and getting him used to cantering jump courses. I still wanted to continue my relationship with my barn manager, just not necessarily the part where she trains my horse. Instead of accepting that my way of riding meshes more with my trainer’s way of riding, my barn manager was upset and offended that I asked for my trainer to do more of his training rides.

You will feel as if you are involved in running the business instead of a client. I knew a lot about my barn managers’ business including when they were having financial difficulties. This is very stressful considering I am trusting them to feed my horses! They would often tell me about problems they had with other boarders, and I was often pulled into the barn drama even when I wasn’t involved at all. I knew what boarders weren’t paying and what boarders were getting discounts (even if they weren’t working it off). I was paying full price and not accepting any discounts for the work I did, so you can imagine how it sounded when my barn manager told me one day that one boarder “pays what she can when she can because she doesn’t have a lot of money.”  I would stress out about things that I shouldn’t have because of the amount of information I knew about everyone there!

You will be put in an awkward position if your barn managers make decisions that result in ripping off other people. My barn manager has, several times, purchased ponies or horses that were not suitable for the individuals for whom she bought them. Unfortunately, I knew details about the ponies or horses that the purchasers did not know, and I was put in the very awkward position of wondering about whether I should say something. If I said something, it would be a betrayal of the trust of my friend, the barn manager. If I didn’t say something, someone could get hurt or was getting ripped off. Thankfully, in the instance where someone could’ve gotten hurt, I was given an opportunity to out my barn manager to the owners, and I took that opportunity. But, my main point is that when you are friends with a professional who makes decisions that are not in the best interest of her clients, and you know about it, it can put you in a very troubling position. While someone getting ripped off is not necessarily my business, someone potentially getting injured is, especially when they trusted my barn manager to purchase an animal suitable for young children that was not in any way, shape, or form suitable for young children.

Your friendship may be taken advantage of. This can actually work both ways, but it only happened one way in my experience. You may be taken advantage of, or you may take advantage of the relationship. Additionally, you may be given higher priority because you’re a friend, or you may be given less priority because you’re a friend, and your barn manager figures you will be more understanding than a client with whom they do not have a friendship.

You will second guess making critical decisions because of the emotional ties you may have. When I started seriously thinking about leaving, I felt bad. Why did I feel bad? For several reasons. The first was that I knew way too much about my barn managers’ personal lives. Second, I knew that if I left, it would cause a huge problem with the barn owners, from whom they leased the property, because the barn owners really liked me and felt like I was their best customer. Third, I kept getting caught up in the notion that I was going to “ruin” their business because me leaving meant they would be losing a chunk of steady income every month, and they were already having trouble paying their bills. None of this should have mattered to me. I was to the point where I was unhappy, stressed about riding, going home crying somedays, having anxiety about my horses. I wanted to quit at one point because I hated being there. That wasn’t good, and I should’ve never let my emotional ties and empathy for them influence my decision in any way. Me leaving was not going to ruin their business – their decision to treat me the way they did caused me to leave which in turn caused them to lose my business.

Obviously this does not apply to all situations. And, in full disclosure, I am actually really good friends with my trainer. It is possible to be friends with someone with whom you do business. In fact, many of you stated that your barn manager(s) are like your second family! But I personally feel that mixing business with friendship depends on the people involved. I know that I could make a business decision without offending my trainer, and she could do the same with me. If you are able to keep the business and the friendship separate, it will work a whole lot better. It takes practice, and it helps if the other person involved is able to keep them separate too.

I just think that if you are going to mix horse business with horse pleasure, you should tread carefully and look for warning signs that the business aspect will be tainted if the friendship goes sour. It may save your sanity in the long run.

What did you think of this post? Do you believe that you shouldn’t be friends with the people taking care of your horses, or are my thoughts a bunch of you-know-what? Let me know in the comments below!

Looking for guest writers

Hi everyone!

As the blog is growing, I am hoping to get some people to do some guest posts on a to be determined basis.

If you would be interested in guest writing for us, please email me at jess@thelegalequestrian.com! The positions are not paid, but that opportunity may come in the future as the blog grows.

I hope to hear from some of you soon!

Why it’s important NOT to burn your bridges in the horse world…

For those of you that follow me on Twitter – or know me in real life – you know I’ve been searching for a new boarding facility for quite some time now. My old barn’s atmosphere had changed dramatically. It was becoming stressful for me to go there and ride. I would develop anxiety as I drove there. Riding was no longer fun for me because I was too busy worrying about my horses and about who was saying what. My barn managers, with whom I was previously close friends, were mad at me for making complaints about certain things regarding my horses’ care. The whole thing was a big mess. I did talk everything out with both of my barn managers before I left, but it was clear that our relationship would never be the same (not that I wanted it to be) and that the barn atmosphere had changed to where I just did not want to be there or around most of the people there.

I finally found a new boarding facility right down the street from my old one. This new place does not have an indoor, so it is only temporary, but in terms of convenience, level of care, and sheer aesthetics – this place is a HUGE step up. I decided to move there because I needed to get away from the stress of my old barn. I didn’t want to have to worry about my horses, and my trainer was able to come teach me at this new place.

Before I left my old barn, I spoke with both of my barn managers and told them why I was leaving. They both understood – one more so than the other. While I had wanted to be confrontational and really say what was on my mind, I decided the best thing to do was to wish them both well and leave on as good terms as possible. I am STILL surprised at how small the horse world is, and I didn’t want to do or say anything that might haunt me later on in life.

Two weeks ago, I sold my green horse for many reasons. I bought him when I was at a different place in my riding career. I didn’t want to jump. I didn’t want to compete. I didn’t really want to be on anything bigger than 15 hands. After I bought my green horse, I started riding with my current trainer, and I realized I actually do want to jump and compete.. and I decided I love warmbloods. My relationship with my green horse wasn’t working, and I wanted to do things at which he would never be competitive, so I made the very difficult decision to sell him. The woman I sold him to was great. She had Arabs; she showed on the Arab circuit; she was going to do all these things with my horse that he would LOVE. She understood he was young and that while he was walk, trot, canter, and jumping up to 2’6″, he still needed finishing. She came out and tried him, and everything went perfectly. She decided she wanted to buy him, picked him up two Mondays ago, and the times I spoke to her after his sale, she said he was perfect; things were going great; and her trainer thought they were a great match.

I got a text from her two days ago saying that she had a bad ride on him, and that things with him might not work out. It is a long story that I will venture into later, but let’s just leave it as she’s an average, backyard rider, with no experience with young horses, and she got herself into something she wasn’t prepared for in the slightest. I reluctantly agreed to buy my horse back from her, but there was one catch: I had nowhere to keep him. My new barn doesn’t have any stalls, and I didn’t want to go through the trouble of finding a brand new place for him because he would need to be in training and not many facilities allow outside trainers.

After speaking with my parents, my trainer, and the owners of my previous barn – who were very upset that I had left in the first place – I decided to call my former barn manager and see if he would be willing to let my horse stay there until I had figured out what to do with him. Talk about awkward and embarrassing. I hadn’t even been gone a full day, and I was already asking if I could come back – partially anyway.

My barn manager was more than happy to let me come back. Both were. Well, maybe it was my horse more than me, but here’s my point: I left with class and on good terms. I didn’t get into a confrontation. I took my opportunity to talk things out and be civil, even though we had our disagreements. And when I was in a major pinch, I had people to which I could turn.

Are there some situations that call for a complete blowout? Sure. But in the grand scheme of things, this wasn’t one, and I wanted to remain as peaceful as possible.

My horse will be returning this evening, and hopefully I will be getting back what I sold. I do intend on selling him again, but this time with a bunch of lessons learned from the original sale.

Most importantly, don’t burn your bridges unless it is something you absolutely have to do. The horse world is very, very small, and reputations/actions/character will follow you everywhere. I’ve seen it happen many times. Treat others how you would want to be treated, and choose your battles wisely. You never know when you may need someone’s help. Asking to go back to my old barn was hard, but it would have been ten times harder if I hadn’t left on good terms with the barn owners and on somewhat good terms with my barn managers.

Remaining objective when your horse is hurt or sick

I am going to admit that I am the WORST when it comes to my horse being hurt or sick. I start to imagine all the scary things that could be wrong instead of seeing what is in front of me and being realistic.

Obviously it is really hard to remain objective when an animal you love is hurting or sick. Depending on the injury or the illness, it can be extremely scary for us to watch our best friends in pain and not be able to do anything to help until the appropriate professional arrives at the barn.

While I know these tips may not completely quell the anxiety and upset, I hope they at least help the next time your horse has an injury or is sick.

1. Talk to someone knowledgeable immediately if you are super worried: Sometimes we know that the injury is not bad. My former horse was notorious for getting little scrapes from playing in the field. If they weren’t bad, terribly swollen, bleeding profusely, or anywhere near a joint, I would often treat it myself and keep an eye on it in case it turned into something worse. However, sometimes things happen, and we don’t know exactly how to treat it or what it even is. Talking to a knowledgeable person, be it a barn manager, trainer, experienced boarder, or even calling the vet for an over-the-phone opinion (some will not do this, but it’s worth a try), can help calm you down and gauge what you should be doing to treat your horse. There are always situations where you should call the vet out immediately. If your horse is bleeding profusely, you should probably just call the vet and skip consulting with that experienced boarder that seems to know everything about horse injuries. I also want to add that talking to a knowledgeable person is NOT posting on google, Facebook, or twitter asking for opinions. It’s one thing if it is something minor, but it’s another if your horse is exhibiting signs of a neurological problem, and you resort to an online forum for medical opinions and/or diagnoses.

2. Don’t Google: This is not a blanket instruction, but sometimes something is so obvious that if we Google it, we can work ourselves up rather than taking it at face value and accepting our gut instinct. Example: Last year, my pony’s sheath was swollen on one side. There was a little bump in the center, but the whole thing was swollen. I asked my barn manager who told me to clean it because it may have been dirty or irritated. She looked at it, and she said if anything it was a bug bite, and that it should go down in a few days. I cleaned it, and the next day it was still swollen. My pony wasn’t exhibiting any other signs of being sick. He was completely himself, and he wasn’t even tender when I touched his sheath where it was swollen. The vet was coming out for spring shots a day or two later, so I asked that she take a look at his sheath when she was out. I made the mistake of Googling “swollen horse sheath” when I got home and found all sorts of scary things including congestive heart failure. I freaked out, cried, thought my pony was dying, etc. When the vet came to do the spring shots, she took a look at his sheath. Her diagnosis? A bug bite. (insert crying & laughing emoji here). Obviously Google can be helpful, but some health issues are obvious, and despite the fact that my pony was exhibiting ZERO signs of congestive heart failure, I got myself worked up anyway.

3. Know that the vet cannot guarantee your horse will be 100% okay: Recently, my horse got hurt, and everything was healing beautifully until he got a little bout of cellulitis. The vet came out to look at him, and thankfully my trainer was there to ask all the important questions while my head was spinning with worry. The only question I asked was if my horse was going to be 100% okay after the infection healed. The vet responded that she couldn’t guarantee me that he would be 100% okay, but that cellulitis is common in injuries like these, and that everything should be fine. Was that the answer I wanted? No. But the vet is not a psychic. It is important to note that professionally and legally, the vet cannot and should not guarantee anything because literally anything could happen that would cause a complication. Even if it is something the vet has treated hundreds of times before, and that he or she knows will respond to the course of action she or he has prescribed, if something were to go wrong after he or she guaranteed your horse was going to be fine, they may have opened themselves up to a malpractice suit. It also helps that the same thing applies to lawyers – we are never supposed to guarantee the outcome of any case or even give a probability to clients because if something goes wrong, we could get sued. Damn lawyers.

4. Taking it one day at a time: This is very hard for me to do personally, and something I imagine others having trouble with, especially if your horse gets hurt in the middle of show season and will be laid up for weeks.You may be thinking a month or two down the road when you were unable to qualify for something due to the injury, or maybe you have been completely unable to ride because your horse is on stall rest, and you’re envisioning all the goals that you wanted to accomplish just flying out the window (kind of like the money you’ll be spending on vet bills). While it may be hard, you have to take each day as it comes. Note the improvements and progress, but try not to be too discouraged about the setbacks or anything that may seem to negate all the progress and improvement that has been made.

5. Remember that it’s about the horse: One of the hard things about being objective is that we have our own feelings in the mix. But really, our feelings don’t matter, especially in the case of a serious injury or illness. When you have to make a big decision about your horse’s care, it may be clouded by you wanting your horse to be able to do something in the future – or, on a sadder note, not wanting to be without your horse. When my horse was healing, the vet said that we could canter again once his bandage came off. I changed it one day, and the cut looked great, and I so badly wanted to leave the bandage off because I was going bonkers from not being able to do anything other than walk/trot, and to be quite honest, my horse felt like he was going to explode. My trainer advised me to leave the bandage on for a few more days because while the cut was healing amazingly, it could use a few more days of being shielded from the elements. She didn’t want us to prematurely take it off and have an infection or other injury occur. While I was disappointed, this was the best thing to do for my horse.

It’s definitely hard not to let emotions and feelings get in the way when your horse has been injured or sick. However, it is important to remember that the best thing we can do for them is not be frantic or impatient. They need healing time, and they need us to be calm. Some horses tend to worry if they feel their rider/owner is worried. The above tips have helped me remain objective in previous illnesses/injuries/strange things that have happened that were actually okay (see swollen sheath story), but the most important tip I can give is trust your vet. I assume we all use a competent veterinarian, and we need to trust what they are saying, especially during an emergent time. After all, if we had all the knowledge and medical training, we wouldn’t even be calling them out to the barn.

 

Confessions of An Aspiring Amateur: Outing Myself

I did a survey about my blog a while back to see what my readers liked and didn’t like about the blog. I got a lot of requests for more posts about my own riding experiences, so I’ve decided to start a series on my blog called “Confessions of an Aspiring Amateur.” While I think it is self-explanatory, I would like to show in the amateurs one day, and I am working towards that – hence, the “aspiring.”

This is my first post.

For those of you that don’t know much about me, I have been riding for 19 years. During that time, I didn’t do a lot of jumping. I had a period of a few years where my confidence was completely obliterated by terrible trainers, being overmounted, and my war with riding anxiety that I still am waging to this day, though it has gotten easier.

I never competed because the barn I grew up at was not into competition. They weren’t into jumping very high either, and I really never got experience cantering jumps. Most of my jump work was trotting courses and cantering in between the jumps but always breaking to the trot before the next one. When the barn I rode at for 10 years closed, I bounced from barn to barn trying to find a good fit – and it was extremely hard.

I began working with my current trainer almost two years ago. She has an amazing riding background. She trained her show horse, who came from an abusive owner, and showed in the 3′ equitation classes while schooling 3’6″ at home. She didn’t have the money to buy a horse that could do the 3’6″ equitation, so she never got to do the Big Eq. She also started teaching lessons as a junior rider. She eventually left her show barn and found a trainer job at my current barn.

When I first came to my trainer, I was a nervous wreck about riding. I wanted to start riding consistently again, and I wanted to get my fitness back. At the same time, I didn’t want to canter or jump due to my bad experiences and my completely shattered confidence. My trainer saw me ride and told me she couldn’t help me at the walk and the trot. She encouraged me to canter and do a few tiny crossrails. From then on, I was paired with Rascal – a horse I have written about before and that completely changed my riding ambitions. I discovered last year that I wanted to really start jumping and working towards showing. And then, he died.

I eventually found my current horse, L, so that I could work towards moving up to the 3′ jumps. My trainer says that I progressed extremely quickly. I went from not being able to do a full course to cantering full courses in 2 months. Then, my horse got hurt and was out of commission for 10 days.

My goal was to reach 2’6″ by the end of this summer and 2’9″ by the end of this year. I know my goals are ambitious, but that is how I am. I am a perfectionist, and I put a lot of pressure on myself. I work better that way. My horse getting hurt frustrated me extremely. My barn doesn’t have a lesson horse for me to ride and/or jump, so I wasn’t able to ride the whole time my horse was on stall rest.

I am now working full-time, and I won’t have as much time to ride. My riding time will be cut in half more when winter comes because my current barn does not have an indoor – though I am working on finding a new facility. My lack of time to ride has frustrated me more because I had two weeks to really work on my riding, and one of them was taken up by stall rest, emergency vet calls, hand walking, and wrapping bandages. I want to clarify I am extremely grateful that my horse’s injury wasn’t worse, but being unable to ride was killing me. If you’ve ever seen the t-shirt that says ‘I ride so I don’t kill people,’ I am sure you understand. I am very motivated towards reaching my goal, moreso because my former second trainer and barn manager told me that she didn’t think I could reach my goal this year, and she also has cut down my long-term goal of competing at the 3’6″ level. Nothing is more frustrating than wanting to prove the haters wrong and not being able to.

My horse in back in work, but during all the frustration and waiting, I realized that I want more than being at a backyard barn for the rest of my life. While I knew this for months, the intention and drive was even more clear due to being unable to ride. I am judged at my barn for how serious and focused I am on my lessons and on progressing. I am truly passionate about riding. I watch videos of big name riders when I’m not riding. I study them to see where I can improve and what I need to excel at that level. I am constantly observing. I do it any moment I can. I school when I am not lessoning. I am always trying to improve, and I actually ask my trainer to nitpick my position so I can be the best I can be. Many of the riders at my barn think I’m nuts.

So here are my confessions:

I wish I was able to ride as a junior. I never got the chance, or rather, I didn’t have the desire because I was never at a barn that promoted it. I wish I was a pony kid. I have met some amazing riders since starting my blog and since getting serious about my goals and realizing I want something more for my riding: My trainer – we’ll call her LD – Dani, Ashley, Georgie, Kendra. I look up to so many big name riders – Lillie Keenan, McLain Ward, Beezie Madden, Liza Boyd, Kent Farrington, Tori Colvin. I know I’m missing some. I wish I could be half the riders they are. I am envious, and I use the word envious because it is appropriate when one lacks a quality another has. Envy is actually a good thing, as weird as that sounds. Jealousy is the one we have to watch out for.

I want more than being at a backyard barn where I am considered “weird,” “crazy,” “too intense” for being passionate about my riding, for having goals, for being a little too ambitious.

I went to a Grand Prix with my trainer a few weeks ago, and she was detailing someone’s ride to me. I commented that she could totally do Grand Prix classes, even if she had once told me she could never do it. She responded that I would be doing them one day, and she meant it. That’s how driven I am. She believes that I, a rider that has never jumped over 3′ in her 19 years of riding, could make it to Grand Prix level one day. Even if you think that’s ridiculous (I admit, I did too), I do have the drive and the motivation. I want something so much more for my riding career than what I have, and the injury, and the setbacks in my riding have fueled that desire more and made me even more frustrated at the same time.

I am making a big change in the next week, and I do believe it is the best thing I can do for my riding and sanity at this point, but it’s scary. I am looking forward to a new chapter in my riding life that is taking me towards where I want to go not keeping me where I want to be.

Product Review: Higher Standards Leather Care Saddle Soap & Conditioner

In full disclosure, I received a request to review these two products. In more full disclosure, I REALLY did love it, and I will be buying another container of saddle soap!

Embarrassing confession: I never used to clean my tack. I would do it every once in a while because the leather on my saddle or bridle felt dry. This changed one day when my trainer shunned me for not cleaning my tack after every use. She can often be found cleaning her saddle, boots, half chaps, and the bridle of the horse she rode, in the back of her car in the barn parking lot after her training/exercise rides. Now, it’s become something we do together after my lesson and her training ride!

Higher Standards Leather Care was started when Libby, the company’s founder, began making saddle soap as presents for her friends for Christmas. According to the product website, Libby took a chance and sent her soap to Karen O’Connor’s groom, and the groom ended up requesting more!

I also have to confess that Libby and I seem to be kindred spirits. In her email to me, she revealed that she is an attorney, and the product name came from the fact that Libby had been asked to leave a couple of boarding facilities for being “too picky.” I laughed at this because I have been called “needy” and “high maintenance” by my barn manager because I expect certain things to be done that, in my opinion, should be done – but that has been detailed in other posts. While others may describe us as “picky,” I consider it to be the expectation of excellent care for our horses.

I received the Ben’s Rosemary Mint scented saddle soap. Each jar comes with a sponge to make tack cleaning easy and convenient. Everything you need is right there in the jar, except for the water to do a pre-clean and a post-clean to wipe the soap off. I also have to say that even though I left the jar in the trunk of my car which caused the soap to melt due to the hot summer weather, the soap still effectively cleans my tack and leaves it soft, supple, and without the sticky, tacky feeling some leather cleaning products leave! (Editor’s Note: You should probably just not be an idiot like me and leave your soap in the car during hot weather…..)

Flash noseband attachment before cleaning.

Flash noseband attachment before cleaning.

This soap is super effective and gets rid of grime, even stuff that has been dried up and on the leather for a few days. My Arab has a flash noseband, and after rides, it often is gunked up with foam that is also mixed with hay and grass. By the time I get to tack cleaning, it’s often dried up and hard to remove. To see just how effective Higher Standards was, I skipped bridle cleaning for my Arab for a day and then cleaned it after he had been ridden the next day. Higher Standards definitely cut through the grime and made the leather look shiny and new again. It did take a bit of elbow grease and scrubbing though.

Flash noseband attachment after cleaning.

Flash noseband attachment after cleaning.

I also used the soap on my paddock boots, which I don’t ride in that often but wear a lot around the barn, so they get beat up with all the dust, dirt, horse poop, and water I walk in on a daily basis. I also do not clean them often. The soap got all of the dirt and grime off and made them look almost new again.

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Paddock boots before cleaning.

Paddock boots after cleaning.

Paddock boots after cleaning.

Finally, I cleaned my saddle. My saddle is pretty brand new, so it hasn’t gotten the chance to get super grimy or dirty yet, but that’s also because I clean it after every ride. However, here is what it looked like after Higher Standards.

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I also really like the leather balm. This is not something to be used every time you clean your tack. It’s best if you use it when you feel your tack needs a bit more moisture or hasn’t been conditioned in a while. It definitely leaves the leather feeling soft and supple, and my saddle didn’t feel dry at all. Because you don’t need to use it often, the balm will definitely last a long time.

Now for the fun part: the saddle soap comes in different scents! I am a huge fan of scented items, so this was a big selling point for me. I received the Ben’s Rosemary Mint for my test run, and it smelled great. It wasn’t too strong or overpowering. As an added bonus, mint is soothing to migraine headaches, which I get a ton of during the summer, so cleaning tack did not irritate my head because I was using something that had a soothing scent to my particular ailment. For my next tub of soap, I will be buying the Vanilla Lavender because vanilla is my absolute favorite scent in the world. I also got some compliments from fellow boarders about how good the soap smelled, and they said the mint was particularly “soothing.”

If you’re interested in trying this awesome soap & conditioner, you can find Higher Standards’ retail partners here, or you can order their products online!