2017 eventing bingo: final call

I was pretty amped when Emma suggested Eventing Bingo this year.  I knew when I saw my cards that I wasn’t likely to get a full row, but thought I’d take a stab at it anyway.  In a perfect world, my bingo cards would have been a little more Murray-centric. But I guess I’ll take what fate gives me.

Anyway, I figured with all of the 2017 updates, I’d update my bingo cards as well. And lookie here — with just a teeeensy bit of creative credit-giving, I knocked out quite a few more cells!

So sure, we didn’t compete in heavy rain by anyone’s standards… but in June, we had a crazy, aseasonal DELUGE and got nearly 1/4 of an inch overnight before dressage.  I feel like doing dressage in the slop is really in the spirit of “heavy rain”, since rain in June in Camelot is basically an apocalypse-level event.

this court was the better of the two and it was still sloppy! okay, sloppy FOR CALIFORNIA

I also had no brakes at this event as we approached the trakehner. I knew we needed to slow down and get a look at the fence, but could we slow? Noooope.

I somehow managed to finish second to last at two events, and third to last in the third I competed in this year. So I just modified my cards a little to make them more applicable to my status in the bottom 3.

At Camelot in August we had a pretty baller square halt. I don’t remember if the judge commented on it (too lazy to go get the test), but here’s the photographic evidence (thanks Kate!).

mmmm lookin’ so good with all that burned-off skin missing from your cannons

And in August I also fell off of my horse during a warm up day for XC.  Camelot schooling shows let you school and warm up on the XC course on the Friday before the event begins, which is where I fell off and sprained my MCL.  So I went ahead and gave myself “fell off in warmup” as well.

A rousing success it was not.  There were a couple of rows there with four items selected, but not the fifth… which is a bummer but OH WELL.  I can’t say that I’m sad I didn’t miss the finish flags or fall off in stadium!

In the end, I made a few modifications to my bingo card so that it more accurately reflects my season. Murray ain’t leaving any strides out any time soon, so I changed all of those to more accurately reflect his tendencies (deep spots and screaming). And how lucky is it to ride in a division where more than half the riders were eliminated?! Or get toted around stadium and XC on a sprained MCL, coming in a full minute under optimum to boot?  Notorious OTTB, that’s who.

and look, we got Bingo twice!!



GoT Bloghop: Murray is Craig Middlebrooks

Over a year ago, Austen started this clever little blog hop talking about our horses as characters from movies (or TV).  And at the time I was like “I don’t know what character my horse is! He’s just Murray! All the good characters are taken! I HATE THIS BLOG HOP!!!”

Never let it be said that we are not well matched in melodrama.

But I finally figured it out!  I now know who Murray’s television personality is.

Murray is Craig Middlebrooks from Parks and Rec.

We all know that Murray just feels way too many feels.  He, quite literally, cannot keep the feels inside his body.

And he is always happy to tell you about them.

Murray freaks out easily.


And when that happens, he very desperately needs your help.

His responses to normal stimuli generally fall somewhere between “wildly inappropriate” and “way over the top”.

Especially when he doesn’t want you to know that he likes something.

Lying down is his happy place.

Despite the fact that he just can’t control himself, we love Murray anyway.  He’s just so cute when he’s upset!

Eventing Bingo

Emma is winning at getting me to post twice in one day, but MAN is this Eventing Bingo challenge one and a freaking half.  I mean, damn!  My cards are not smiling upon me for likelihood.  But since my bingo entry is allowed to be a work of fiction…

It was a bad day — awful day, really.  Just the worst day that anyone has ever had happen to them!  And nobody knows more about bad days than me.  First of all we were competing in heavy rain — an absolute deluge of rain.  I haven’t seen rain like this in my entire life.  There was so much rain everywhere, it probably broke the drought in California.

We went in to dressage and the judge — good guy, really. A great friend, just a real quality human being — gave me straight 6s across the board.  Of course, this was enough to land us a score of 0%!  Not that it was to anyone’s surprise, of course.  Nobody knows more about dressage than me.

This amazing score was enough to land us in first place after dressage.  In a huge class!  There were hundreds of people there!  Our show was going so well, right up until cross country.  We got lost in the woods on course, and it took a whole search and rescue team to find us again.  No joke!  They were looking for us for weeks in there.  Murray and I survived by foraging for nuts and berries, and eating a lot of grass and shrubbery.  I never knew that humans could survive on shrubbery, but we can, and we did.

When we finally got back out of the woods, another show had conveniently started and we were just in time for the stadium rounds! The show officials decided that they would let me run stadium in this division since I never got to complete at the previous show, due to being lost in the woods for several weeks. I was feeling great, as good as you can after being lost in the woods for a few weeks.  Murray, likewise, was full of sass.  He was the sassiest he’s ever been!  He was so sassy that I fell off in warm up.

Despite that, we went on to win our class.  Because that’s what winners do.  And we’re winners.



Viva Carlos Blog Hop: Naivete

When L first posted this blog hop about funny things we believed when we were less educated riders, I was like “ha! good thing I’ve had such a thorough and correct riding education in my adulthood.”

I know.  I make even myself laugh.

Despite many attempts to teach her otherwise, past Nicole straight up did not understand pushing a horse into the bridle.  She definitely thought pulling was a thing there.  And even after she knew it was about pushing the horse forward, her ability to execute such a thin was really astonishingly limited.

A big mistake of past Nicole’s was believing that just because you could do a movement on a horse you should do it to school it.  Thus, poor past Nicole’s past horses have schooled a lot of really atrocious leg yield, shoulder in, and haunches in.  Past Nicole also may have believed that if you could do something smoothly it was obviously good (like, the transition between going straight + leg yield was smooth and we slid over to the wall no prob? awesome, first level movement), and show ready.  Past Nicole was broken of that one REAL fast.

Past Nicole also legitimately believed that you could get any horse fat on just hay.  Like, not just that hay should be the staple of the diet, but that the first thing you should do to a horse who wasn’t gaining weight appropriately was shove more/better/different/other hay in front of them until they decided to stop being borderline anorexic and cave to your ridiculous human behavior.  Present Nicole understands that horses are mysterious and complex individuals who may not like eating hay and may just need grain to keep their dumb asses alive.

A lot of past Nicole’s naiivete was around riding myths/herself.  Things like

  • if I could ride a difficult horse, I would be a good rider
  • if I could sit a buck, I would be a good rider
  • if I could ride this particular difficult horse, I would be a good rider

Of course, now I know that none of the above are indicators of anything other than being able to ride one or a few difficult horses.  And it turns out that just riding the difficult horse isn’t all that difficult.  It’s coaxing an excellent performance out of them, or even just the relaxation and suppleness needed for a good performance that’s the challenge.  But none of those instantly make you, or indicate that you are, a good rider.

correlation =/= causation or even really an actual effect (apha errors are real yo)

Past Nicole also believed that since Murray was athletic and could jump real big, if she could just get him strong and fit he would be totally confident and competent over big fences.  While confidence is certainly intrinsically tied up in ability, it’s hardly the be-all-and-end-all.  I now know that there is soooo much more that goes in to confidence than strength and ability — including rider confidence.

Additionally, past Nicole also used to believe that if Murray were confident over big fences, she would magically be confident over big fences.  Sorry, kiddo!  It doesn’t work that way.  Especially not with a horse who is really, really, really tuned in to finding anything potentially scary about a situation and RUNNING THE FUCK AWAY from it.  Confidence has to go Nicole first, then Murray, then positive reinforcement loop & trust bank that leads to more confidence.

murray is so good for carting me over stuff like this even when
i promise to ride terribly over it!

I learn so much about horses and riding every day that I look back on myself just a few months ago and think “WTF was I doing/thinking/saying” and then immediately “omg what must people think of me?!?!”  Past Nicole is always screwing over Present and Future Nicole(s) in that way. She’s such a bitch.



alternative pony facts

It’s time, friends. I’m going there.

Alternative pony facts.

Perhaps we should blog hop this?


Fact: Murray is jumping like a deranged moose.

Alternative fact: This horse has incredible jumping form. It’s just the best.  It’s the best jumping form I’ve ever seen. The best jumping form in the world. Nobody has jumping form better than Murray.


Fact: Spot might kill you for a chicken nugget.

Alternative fact: Spot hates alfalfa and treats. In fact she’s the least food motivated horse ever. Nobody hates treats more than Spot.


Fact: Murray is going to bumblingly his way over an 18″ pole.

Alternative fact: This horse is so good.  Look at him leaping over that pole!  He doesn’t want it to touch his feet. He would never touch a pole with his feet.  That pole is probably three feet, no, four feet in the air!  Nobody is more careful than this horse.

nap-02nap 01

Fact: Murray is one lazy sucker.

Alternative fact: Murray is the most active horse with the best work ethic ever! This horse never sleeps! He’s always up and about, doing things, always working, always trying, always thinking.  Nobody sleeps less than Murray.

tiny horse

Fact: Horses are money pits that make their owners crazy in many ways

Alternative fact: Horse are a reasonable and budget-friendly hobby.  Everyone can afford horses!  And everyone who rides horses is totally reasonable and sane.  They would never do anything crazy for their giant pets. Nobody is more reasonable than people who ride horses.


Fact: … and they are constantly trying to kill themselves, requiring alarmingly specialized care for a giant pet

Alternative fact: Horses are so easy to keep, never do anything strange, and can be left unattended for long periods of time.  An idiot could keep one!  Nothing is easier to keep than a horse!


december 10 questions

I really enjoy learning about everyone’s opinions, ponies, and lives through the monthly ten questions.

Does your horse need shoes?  Questionable.  Murray was 100% sound when he was barefoot and lived on hills and rocky soils in Oregon.  For the work we do now he needs front shoes at least — his upright RF has rotation of the coffin bone that diverges from a foot with a normal angle (nothing more than to be expected of a foot with that shape), which places it close to the sole.  I have had several veterinarians (including a lameness specialist) recommend that I not take his front shoes off as long as we are in work.

2014-02-12 08.49.18
these need a little extra help

What do you think of the barefoot vs. shoes debate? So many things. I have so many thoughts on this.  I think that we don’t have a good enough understanding or what it means for a horse to be barefoot, or any rigorously performed scientific studies on how being barefoot influences movement, long term soundness, and performance.  I think we don’t have a good understanding of what adding a shoe to the foot really does in terms of traction and pressure distribution*.  I think that in over a year of living and traveling in Africa I saw zebras (barefoot, in case you didn’t know already) hauling ass away from me/lions/cheetahs/hyenas/scary wind across wet grass, rocky outcrops, gravel, slick mud, and hills without slipping, falling, tripping, or collapsing.  I know I saw a couple of zebras get caught, and many more than one lame zebra.  I think that we don’t really understand how selective forces on horses have affected the strength, shape, and quality of their feet in regard to the jobs we expect them to perform, or truly how the way we keep them diverges from what may be “best” or “healthiest”.  I think that there are people keeping and competing barefoot horses very successfully. I think that if you have something that works for you, there’s no need to mess with it.

* I could very well be wrong – please tell me if I am because I want to know MORE!.

Favourite season for riding? Any season when it isn’t actively raining on me.

img_5067zebras are, incidentally, hilarious

How many shows do you think know you’ve gone to? I can count them! It’s not many. 2011 – SAHJA at HNR. 2012 – Camelot in April and June. 2013 – busy living in Africa. 2014 – SAHJA at WSS (didn’t compete, Murray was lame) in Jan, Camelot in May and July. 2015 – SAHJA at WSS in Jan, Camelot in June, WSS in August, SAHJA at WSS in October. 2016 – Camelot in April.  That comes to ten!  Such a nice, round number. Perhaps I’ll keep it that way and never show again.

Do you consider yourself a good rider? For the amount of time I have been riding, the amount of training I have been able to afford, and the quality of horse I have? Good enough.  I could be much better with more money/time/horse power/access/talent.

How experienced do you think someone should be to own a horse? Experienced enough to know when to ask for help and listen to people who know more.  It’s different for everyone.


Have you ever gotten into a fight with your trainer? I don’t really get in fights. I have discussions.  It seems like a pedantic distinction (and it is, to some degree), but a fight implies irrationality and a discussion is an exercise in trading rational arguments.  If you aren’t interested in listening to logic or trying to convince me with logic, I’m not interested in talking to you.

Describe your dream horse. Tall, dark, and handsome. Hard enough to ride that he makes me look good, but easy enough to ride that he makes me look great.  Goes fast, comes back easily.  Jumps big and always goes but doesn’t let me get away with bad habits.  Dressages like Valegro and jumps like Bioesthetique Sam.  You said dream horse, right?

Does anyone in your family ride? I have ranching family that used to use horses for work, but don’t really any longer.

If you could ride any horse in the world, which one would it be? Why? Hawley’s Livingstone when he was still running fast and jumping big.  He was beautiful, fun, talented, and continues to be an amazing teacher at 26 — imagine what he was at 10 or 15?!  Plus he has the name of an incredible African explorer.


sffs blog hop: location, location, location

I have had so much fun reading the responses to Sarah’s blog hop about our horsey locations!  I live in Davis, California, which is a small university town located in 2015’s favourite county — #YOLO.  The town keeps about 60,000 people, around 10,000 of whom are probably students, with another 20,000 or so students that flood in during the school year.  The town is small — 6 miles end to end (I measured on Google) — and you can’t drive more than 10 minutes in any one direction without hitting ag fields.

locationanimals not to scale

It takes me about 20 minutes to get to my barn on the ag roads.  Much of the housing development that I live in used to be a thoroughbred breeding ranch.  My trainer and barn manager actually used to rent one of their old barns — it’s where I started riding with them.  (Our new location is a MASSIVE upgrade).

Davis is a little expensive for what you’d expect in the area, because we are kinda near the bay area and the land is expensive and the schools are good, so… I don’t know. Inflation. Or something.  My barn is inexpensive for the area (we do not have the world’s most amazing footing, but we do have all night turnout when pastures permit).

Trim – $40-60
Shoes – $65 for a half set is the cheapest I have heard of, I pay $85 for a full set, others start out around $100 for a full set
Monthly training – $600+ is the price I’ve seen thrown around, but I’m sure it doesn’t come close to what some of the trainers in the area charge
Pasture board – $350+ (weirdly there is NOT a ton of pasture board in the area – it’s more profitable to grow tomatoes/sunflower seeds/corn/hay or almonds/walnuts)
Stall board – $450+ (closer to $550-$600 average I’d say)
Hay – $13+/bale for rye, $15+/bale for orchard grass, $18+/bale for alfalfa. These are three string bales and weigh well over a hundred pounds, and you can get them cheaper when you buy by the truckload.  But it’s ABSURD how much of our hay gets shipped to Asia.  There’s a hay broker down the road from our barn called HAYKINGDOM and they don’t even sell within the US!
I have literally never seen a round bale in this county. I have seen cow bales, but have never seen a price on them.


The weather in Davis is pretty good, with spurts of absolutely awful.  It hangs out in the 90s from basically mid-June to mid-September (and sometimes into October, ick), with spikes up into the 100’s (and some waves).  In winter it gets down to the 40s, but we don’t get a terribly large amount of rain (I think something like 30″ per year?).  We are technically in a desert so we get massive swings between daytime and nighttime temps (sometimes 70 degree days are followed by 40 degree nights).  We get some of the central valley weather but none of the worst of it — it will freeze (sometimes hard enough to freeze the arena), but not all that often.  I complain a lot about the cold, but really, Davis rocks much of the year.

One of the most interesting weather phenomena in Davis is the tule fog (I call it ground fog).  The soil in the area is incredibly clay-y, and water doesn’t drain very fast.  When it rains a lot, followed by clear sunny days, the moisture evaporates into the air.  After sunset the air cools and the moisture trapped in the air condenses into a thick cloud that just… hangs out.  Sometimes it will take days for the fog to clear, sometimes the fog will be heavy and strong in the mornings and evenings and disappear during the days.  It gives the area a wonderfully eerie ambiance, but does occasionally make you skip your freeway exit.

IMG_0238Showing in the Tule fog in 2014.

There’s a pretty even split between English and Western riders here.  I imagine there are very few trail riders, as we have no trails to speak of — the land is flat, flat, flat.  I don’t know anything about the Western scene, but there are English riders of all shapes, sizes, colors, and disciplines here.  Just within our barn — an eventing barn — we have a couple of hunters, a couple of dressage riders, and the rest of will us dabble in jumpers/hunters for fun.   There are tons of dressage and H/J shows within a 3 hour haul, and even a decent number in the Sacramento area within a 1 hour hall.  WSS is the only event within 1 hour of Davis, though Camelot comes in at just over 2 hours away, and there are plenty more south of us.

We do have one tack store in the area. There’s another in the foothills. I… don’t want to talk about it right now.

Prior to white occupation, much of the central valley was a series of vernal pools, which are shallow ponds, lakes, and creeks that fill up with the winter rains.  Ever since human occupation of the area the creeks have been dammed and diverted until we got this pattern of agricultural land we preferred.  It means that there are fewer of the vernal pool species that used to exist (like salamanders), and the environment changed rather radically from a seasonal wetland to a mostly dry-land with a few seasonal rivers and wetlands.  Sometimes humpback whales come up the delta.  Some have even made it as far as Sacramento, following the river up from the Pacific ocean.  Nutty, right?

boreal-020believe it or not I used to spend all my free time and money doing THIS! underlying story: I have never been good at saving money

We’re pretty close to the mountains, not far from the beach, surrounded by good wine and good breweries, and absolutely no fucking hills whatsoever.  That is my biggest complaint: NO HILLS.