ZBH Blog Hop: Everyday Fail

Last week Emma wrote an excellent post about constructive criticism vs. public shaming.  I don’t think anyone who reads my blog hasn’t seen it at this point, but if you haven’t, go read it!  It summarises the many joys of posting a picture on the internet — especially a riding picture, in a sport where there are approximately 293740 opinions on how to do anything — and how people should and shouldn’t behave.  Now, I don’t now about you guys, but I am good at riding about 2% of the time that I put into it, and there’s a lot of evidence of that.  In fact, most of the pictures on this website are carefully curated so that Murray and I look as good as possible.

That’s not how we typically look.

In honor of this, I wanted to share some of the many pictures of Murray and I being less than perfect.  Things that I might not normally put on the twinternet because, you know, judging judger pants.  Media I might be proud of — ’cause we did it, fuckers! — but that isn’t really, uh, a demonstration of how I generally try to ride my horse.

blog hop

Because we all make mistakes.  And we all fail.  Every day, if you’re me.

I have seen, over and over again, that bloggers are far more self-reflective than most other people.  So I know that we know when we could use a little improving.  And I think that most of the time, we don’t need anyone else telling us what to do.  Sometimes we encourage it, and welcome it!  I often welcome critique and suggestion.  But for the most part, I know when I’m not quite on point — but not epic enough for a really good fail — and how to fix it.  Let me show you.

Because thaaaaaaat’s the way to encourage your horse to jump scary new obstacles, Nicole.

IMG_0671 IMG_0678

Yep, my horse is a saint.


Hmm, how about that time I taught my baby horse that bucking during the canter was a fantastic way to get out of work?


(No, he doesn’t need his back checked. Or his hocks. Or his stifles. Or his saddle. I swear, it’s just his brain.)

What, what, what are you doing with your body?!IMG_0404

Super proud that Murray jumped this Training arrow.  My position is also thing of wonders.IMG_3326

One from the way back machine.  I call this “nobody ever fell off the back of a horse” or… I don’t even know.IMG_9910

I dunno if I ever told you guys this, but I used to be hella good at dressage.




I see this ending well.


And to cap it all off: when I first started leasing Quincy he couldn’t canter right on cue.  He could pick up the right lead off a fence or if you tricked him (aka ran him at the wall and pulled a hard right at the last minute), but not on a circle or anything.  So I thought we’d give it a go on the lunge line.  Bareback.  In my onesie.


Judge away, haters!  Quincy and I are too fucking fabulous for your words.


If you guys want to join me, post a link in the comments!  I don’t want to pay to get InLinkz to work.  Post your silly, your tired, your teeming, your ridiculous, your hungry.  Join me in ridiculing myself.  And to make things fun, I’ll enter anyone who posts between now and the end of July in a raffle for a custom saddle cover, because sometimes I sew things for fun (ask Beka, she knows).

the really weird reasons I love horses

There are lots of reasons I love horses.  I imagine there are lots of reasons anyone reading this blog loves horses!  But I will be the first to admit to you there are some slightly odd reasons I love horses.  Perhaps even “really odd” or straight up “weird”… I’ll let you decide.

wpid-wp-1424051689499.jpegWeird like my pony’s face.

I think sweaty horse smells good

Yep, I said it.  I think that horses after a workout smell pretty damn good.  Gray horses excepted — sorry gray lovers.  There’s just something about gray horses that smells a little funny, more like wet dog than horse.  Maybe it’s from a childhood of riding mostly during summer camp instead of during the year.  I don’t know why.  I just love it.  And I don’t mean “it’s a hundred degrees out and I stepped out of my stall sweating bullets” sweat, I mean “I just did an awesome conditioning set in the fields and raced the barn manager’s daughter and her thoroughbred and it was AMAZING” sweat.  It smells like hard work, honesty, and love.



I am an inveterate picker, it’s one of the traits I share most with chimps. (You should see a chimp go crazy on a pimple sometime!) If I have a scab, I worry it until it’s all peeled off.  If Ellie has a patch of funny hair, I pull it out.  Horses — especially Murray — are a veritable cornucopia of shit you can pick off them and feel like you’re “helping” them while you do so.  Murray is constantly covered in scabs that I can peel off, little burrs or fox tails buried in his mane and tail, ergots that can be trimmed down.  There’s all kinds of currying, manes need pulling, tails need banging, and there’s always CHESTNUTS.  Chestnuts, you beautiful, groomer’s daydream.  Always peely, and they look better flat anyway, and it doesn’t hurt anything!  Then there’s abscesses.  Do not pretend you aren’t a little morbidly fascinated with abscesses.  The internet is in love with them.  I have seem just the foulest and yet most fascinating stuff come out of some horses’ skin.  And it is awesome.  And you get the clean them every day when they have them!!!

I like being held to a higher standard

Maybe this isn’t just a riding thing, but I like when my trainer tells me I can do better.  I love being told that I’m doing well, and I love it even more when I’m told that I can improve.  It’s not just that I should do better, or should ride better, or should be better, but that I can do it.  That someone, other than myself, holds me to a high standard is pretty awesome.


I love being covered in dust and sweat at the end of a hot day

There are definitely Summer days when I will spend the entire day at the barn (and Fall days, and Winter days, and Spring days… it’s not necessarily limited to Summer!).  I’ll ride my pony, ride other peoples’ ponies, clean tack, move jumps, turn horses in and out, and lately, garden.  And after all that I come home at the end of the day covered in dust and sweat and salt and horse and, let’s be real, probably some poop and I love it.  It feels like an honest day’s work — though I didn’t do anything income-producing at all.  It’s a really good kind of tired feeling.  And then showering feels AMAZING when you finally get to it.  It’s only slightly disconcerting to see the water run down the drain all brown and dirty.

Horse Breath

Okay, so possibly not such a weird one here, but if you think about it, liking the smell of another animal’s semi-digested food and unbrushed teeth is at least a little weird.  You know when your horse breathes on you and you’re just like ahhhhhhhhh pony smell?  Yeah, love that.  Even better after a mouthful of grass!!

Grain Car

I will often pick up my grain while out running an errand and might not make it to the barn for a day or two.  In the central valley, that means that it heats up a little and my whole car smells like delicious, delicious grain.  Sometimes the rolled barley smells a little vinegary but no matter.  Stable mix smells absurdly delicious.  I would probably eat it with a spoon if I were hungry enough.

I like it when Murray looks sad/defeated

2014-07-10 12.17.26


We’ve been having a lot of discussions lately, Mr. Murray and I, and I’ve been winning them. (YESSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!)  And after I’ve put a solid kibosh on one of Murray’s absurd demands that he get to run all over the barn aisle while I’m tacking up and instead insisted that he stands quietly without moving, he always looks a little miserable.  It’s a very “I have the worst life ever” kind of look.  And if I have any humor left over from the fight, I have to say, I think it is hilarious.  I don’t think I’m a mean person, or a mean-spirited person, but I think Miserable Murray looks hilarious.

Along the same lines, I love it when a really naughty pony is having their butt kicked by someone who totally has their number.  The look on their faces when they realise they can’t get away with anything is priceless.  PRICELESS.

Throwback Thursday: May, 2014

As I alluded to on Tuesday, May 2014 was not a great month for me and Murray.  Specifically, this week last year was a really bad week.

On Monday, after currying Murray out after I ride, I knelt down to take off his bell boots.  I liked to do this every so often to clean underneath them (mud and dirt, you know) and get a look at his krazy foot.  Murray, seemingly never having heard the sound of velcro before (no, never!) panics.  He scrambled backwards, elbowed me in the face, and I threw myself away from him seeing stars.  Murray, much to his credit, calmed down rather quickly, and I sat miserably on the rubber mats in the barn while I regained my breath and vision.  Clearly my nose wasn’t broken, and my skin just felt a little raw, so I went on my merry way.  Little did I know he had scraped the skin off the bridge of my nose and over one eye and I would get a large and delightful burgundy scab there shortly.


Tuesday I fell off in a lesson.  Murray was stopping all over the place, but most notably in the middle of combinations.  He slammed on the brakes in the middle of a two-stride and left a 5-foot skid mark in the footing.  I’m not sure how I didn’t fall that time, but when he slammed on the brakes in the middle of the one-stride I went flying over his shoulder and into the fence.  It’s the only time I’ve ever taken down a fence due to falling, and it was shockingly not that painful.  It was my most spectacular fall to date.  I limped into lab and explained to my students why I had a huge scrape in the middle of my face.  They were extremely amused, and many were surprised that horses even had elbows.

Wednesday I tried out a new bit.  Murray had been bolting around in the eggbutt French-link I had him in, so at my trainer’s suggestion (she had been suggesting it for ages) I put him in the loop gag.  Murray jumped around just fine, until we got to the new fence that our assistant trainer had just got done painting neon green and blue.  Murray said no thank you to that fence, and I hit the dirt again.

IMG_7448These are the offending poles. They were terrifying when new, apparently.

Thursday I jumped again while Alana was watching me, to check out the new bit.  Alana liked it, right up until we got to the combination.  Murray pitched a fit much farther out this time.  He skittered out from under me at least six strides away from the fence.  I landed on my feet and patted him, then walked back to the mounting block to approach the fence again.  Alana turned this into an impromptu lesson, and schooled me back to the combo.  I talked to Murray the whole way in, but got a little ahead, and at the last minute he threw on the brakes, snapped his head straight up in the air and smashed me in the face as I popped off over his shoulder to and on my feet.  The top of his skull had hit my chin and I immediately felt my mouth fill with blood.  I cried while Alana comforted me, then got back on, got through the combo, and called it a day.

Back in the barn I texted my boss to ask if I could cancel my office hours for that day.  Because every time I spoke my mouth filled with blood.   He said okay.  I sent out this email and got some delightful responses from my students.


My personal fave is the one at the bottom, but I also enjoyed one student’s sentiment of “Gurl you gotta fight back.”  Trust me, I’m trying.

Friday I did not ride.

And that, my friends, is how I got dumped or injured five times in four rides.  Happy anniversary, baby horse!  I still love you.


non-trainer approved moves

Ever find yourself doing something that your trainer just hates and yet somehow you’re doing it anyway?  Yeah me too.  Can’t seem to stop myself.  These are my top postural oddities, as explained by popular media.


Shoulder Lean
as imagined by Young Dro & DJ Drama

Let me see you bounce right and left and let your shoulder lean,
Let your shoulder lean, just let your shoulder leeeeaaaaannnn

This is one of my worst habits, to the point even when I’m not in a lesson and trainer sees me riding around I’ll hear “stop collapsing your right side” or “stop collapsing your left side!!!!!!!”  It’s bad.

If you photoshopped Murray under these rappers, that would be how I often look riding.


Brush Your Shoulder Off

Jay-Z’s lyrics are not blog approppriate, so I’m not posting them.  This is how I look when I’m trying to straighten my shoulders and get myself aligned properly.  I’m all “whatever, body misalignment, let’s get on with this” while simultaneously ducking/shaking and checking on each shoulder.  Macklemore is really a better example of how I tend to look.


The Creep
as imagined by The Lonely Island

Well, we got a new dance so get up on your feet
It’s real easy to do, and it’s called ‘The Creep’
Let your hands flap around like a Marionette
Pop your knees up and down, sh-sh-shaking your neck

Context: whenever I try to sit the trot. ’nuff said.

Hips Don’t Lie
best performed by: Shakira

Wait this isn’t how you’re supposed to move when canter?

The Miley Cyrus
has anyone else considered how gross Robin Thicke’s name is?


I’m not sure where I developed the misguided notion that if I straightened my legs and snapped my back over fences that it was a good choice, but I am utterly resentful that when I do so there’s no Robin Thicke to back me up.  Oooorrr maybe I’m glad of that fact.  Not sure yet.

consistency is key

Last week’s jump lesson with Murray was filled with exuberance and joy for we jumped in the outside arena for the first time since December! Huzzah! Huzzah!  Murray was very happy to be outside and we jumped all around a relatively simple course, albeit with some new, scary filler, with ease.  Kept it lower, except for a hanging log that was a solid 3′ of terror — I was seriously concerned it would come down.  We jumped everything in stride, which was very comforting after our XC adventure left me a little bit shocked at how reliant I’ve become on the deep spots.  However, it turns out that deep spots are a function of the tight turns in the indoor and I can, indeed, still jump things in a gallop stride.  So fun!

The downside to the lesson was that it is clear that Murray is not nearly as fit as I had hoped he would be by, oh, March 16th.  Remember when I was obsessed with equine fitness?  Yeah, let’s recap that.  I got totally scrooged on my schedule for Murray by (2/9) him getting that puffy knee, and me being afraid to work him on it,  (2/23) stone bruise/whatever after XC schooling, (2/25) going to Italy for a week, and (3/6) him falling on his side and being both sore and then requiring a chiro (3/12), after which one is supposed to only do light work (w/t only) for at least four days.  Soooo that’s every week since I last did a timed gallop set.  Yep.  So we’re approximately up to, oh I don’t know, three and a half minute canter sets?  Fortunately, the kid is quite able to do long trot sets (we frequently work for 10 minutes at a go), but I usually only do 2-3 of these per ride, and trotting is not what one does on XC.

I’m growing cucumbers!

Our dressage rides since my lesson have also revealed the holes that I’ve let re-form in Murray’s body this winter by not sticking to my tried-and-true exercises.  Last year I was obsessed (quite literally) with spiral in and out, especially to the right, and Murray got a lot more used to bringing his right hind under and pushing off of it through that exercise.  I’ve not done it in approximately five months (bad, bad Nicole), and Murray has been travelling haunches-in to the right for at least two.  I’m so annoyed at myself for letting such an important exercise slip — because what was I doing if I wasn’t doing spiral in and out?!  I hardly worked on anything new in the last five months (started the haunches in & my new lunging regime) sooooo there’s really no excuse.

So it’s back to my old favourite exercises, and reminding Murray that getting off my right leg is not a favor, it’s necessary.  Upside: Murray has put on a TON of muscle this winter (I should take some comparison pictures…) and his neck is getting huge.  Most impressive is the muscle he’s laying down in his lower back, which is obviously critical to dressage.

On the other hand, the little horse has been progressing in leaps and bounds since our first ride last week.  Every day he got quieter and more relaxed on the lunge line, and picked up on my voice commands excellently.  I even have him stopping out on the circle without turning in, which is something I’m literally still struggling with Murray to accomplish.  I’ve been keeping things light and breezy for our actual under-saddle work, and he’s much more relaxed and I actually asked for a little trot last week.

On Friday, as we did our post-lunge walk around the arena, little horse saw something terrifying (which I assumed was a flowery gate jump) and sat, spun, and tried to escape but was kinda confused about what direction he wanted to actually go.  I grabbed onto his safety belt mane, which is fortunately plentiful, and held on, and once he settled we walked quietly past the terrifying gate.  I realized then that it wasn’t the gate that was so horrible, but the aforementioned hanging log!  The way he was acting it was clear that there was something sick and wrong about that log.  I got off in the center of the arena once little horse had settled and walked him over to the log.  This precipitated much snorting, but the little one is quite brave and shortly reached out to touch the offending log.  Once he realised he could try to eat strips of the bark, little horse was over it and happily continued trying to explore the log for foodstuffs.

I’ve got a blank space, baby

(On my show entries, that is.)

And I’ll write your name.

Or I would. IF ONLY I HAD ONE.

As long as I’ve been riding Murray, I’ve been thinking of what I should show him as.  His JC name is, in my opinion, rather unfortunate (“Ima Looking Cool”) and I’m not really a fan, though my barn manager thinks it fits him perfectly.  She thinks that it exemplifies both his big ego and how he’s pretty much full of hot air.  I, however, kindof hate it.  I go back and forth, sometimes I’m ok with it, sometimes I really hate it.

Anyway, names are important to me, and I’ve been looking for the perfect show name for us for a long time.  My boyfriend thinks I’ll never find it because I’m too particular, but I really don’t think my criteria are that insane.  All I want is for it to reflect Murray’s quirky personality and perhaps a little bit of his naughtiness, and ideally be funny.  I’m a funny girl, you see (or at least, I think I am), and having a clever, joking, or punny horse’s name announced after mine at a show gives me quite the smile.

We’ve been through several rounds of names now, and now I’m going to present them to you, dear readers, to get your opinions.  I’m going to include all the show names I’ve ever thought of, even the ones too naughty for USEA registration, so that you can be as amused with them as I have.

Unsafe at any Speed — a book written by Ralph Nader that vilified the Chevy Corvair of the 60s.  This name was super appropriate in the beginning, when Murray was as likely to run over you on the ground as to let you get on him.  And also, all the bucking, sideways running, and dirty stops.  However, multiple people told me I wasn’t allowed to use this name because …. of superstition, essentially.

Boldly going forward ’cause we can’t find reverse…

The USS Enterprise — I’m a Star Trek dork. Don’t judge me.

Jordy LeForge — See above.

Battlestar Galactica — Okay, this one was never meant for Murray.  There’s this big bay mare at our barn, seriously she’s as big as a house, and if it weren’t for a debilitating knee injury she’d be such a fantastic eventer.  This would have been her name, but would work for any big mare!

The Honeybadger DC (or DGAF) — This is honestly a leading favourite. I’m not sure if Murray is really that honeybadger like, though he certainly does not give a fuck about me when we’re out on XC and has plenty of ZeeFrankesque characteristics.  I also really like the faux suffix, because it’s almost like he’s a big fancy warmblood or something but really it’s just an acronym and that tickles me.

Konichiwa, Bitches — I thought “konichiwa” was like “aloha” in that it meant both hello and goodbye, so this seemed particularly appropriate in light of Murray’s many escape attempts when away from home.  However, “konichiwa” actually means “good afternoon,” and that made it even funnier.  Of course, all of this is a moo point because you can’t put “bitches” in a USEA name.

Camelot Horse Trials -- but mostly tribulations!Favourite, overused photo is the perfect example of his notoriety…

Notorious OTTB — I really like oldschool rap and especially Biggie Smalls.  I also feel like Murray is slightly notorious.  Also, I think this is punnily hilarious.

Party & Bullshit — This song is basically Murray’s life story.  “I’ve was a terror since the public school era / bathroom passes, cutting classes, squeezing asses,” “Moet popping, hoe hopping, ain’t no stopping Big Poppa, I’m a BAD BOY,” and of course the chorus, which is Murray’s real life anthem: PARTY AND BULLSHIT.  Of course, also not USEA appropriate, much to my great dismay.

My favourite remix, by Ratatat.

Footloose — I like music. Kid’s got some fancy footwork, and he’s pretty nimble when we’re jumping!

Saturday Night Fever — I went through a disco phase.

Stayin’ Alive — I DO love the BeeGees and this also seems curious appropriate to Murray.  Both because it’s shocking how he’s still alive at this point, and because it’s kindof a fight for me to stay alive with him sometimes…

99 Problems — Okay, I swear this is the last rap-related “show” name.  But just think of what a funny announcement this would make!  “And now entering the ring is Nicole with 99 Problems!”

Sublimely Self Righteous — I also like beer. And Murray is pretty self righteous.  And I kindof feel like I might get bonus points on our dressage test if the judge is a beer person?  Who am I kidding, dressage judges drink white wine.

Wilco Tango Foxtrot — This is another beer name, but is almooooooost phonetic alphabet for three little words I use rather often with Murray.

National Public Radio — I thought this possible show name up a long time ago, and it’s always absolutely tickled me.  I could clip the NPR logo into his butt!  I would make such an entrance to the show ring!  And I LOVE NPR!!!


So there you have it.  Rather a long, silly list of show names that I will probably never use.  I hope they brought you as much entertainment as they have brought me.

the six stages of the OTTB Connect cycle

I don’t know if any of you are members of the Facebook group OTTB Connect, but it is an ottb-centric group that can be a great resource for owners, afficionados, and admirers of thoroughbreds.  I love OTTB Connect, as it is a great group, and have really enjoyed being a part of the community.  Just being around so many ottb lovers is wonderful!  You can get a lot of useful information off of the group, and people are always eager (and sometimes a little too eager) to help.  I found Murray’s full brother on there, and while I didn’t manage to help him find a new home, I gave his owner some useful information about what his potential might include.  However, if you’ve been part of the group for any amount of time, you’ll probably notice that the content gets a little…. repetitive.

All that has happened before will happen again….

As if the search bar never existed, the same topics seem to come up over and over again.  It’s kindof like the Wheel of Time, only a lot less long.  Or perhaps the Battlestar Galactica Cycle, without cylons or intergalactic travel.  Regardless, there’s a pattern, and here’s my tongue-in-cheek interpretation of it.

1. Can someone tell me about my horse’s pedigree please?

As though nobody had ever written pedigree analyses before, new-to-ottbs owners are always eager to find out about their baby’s pedigree.  I too was eager to know about Murray’s pedigree, right up until the moment that I realised he had absolutely nothing notable within three generations.  Regardless of how big the name, and how much both racing and sport-horse analysts have written on the topic, no pedigree shall be left uncombed for notable athletes.  And somehow, everyone is a great, great, great, great grand child/nephew/neice of Secretariat.

1391787763SecretariatPreaknessWhether or not they ran like Big Red.

2. Confirmation Conformation critique

Right after someone finds out what important sires are in their pony’s pedigree, it’s important to understand what potential their baby’s body suggests — nothing negative, please!  Confirmation Conformation can tell you a lot about a horse, and if you ask enough people you’re bound to hear exactly what you want to!  No need to focus on studied angles and lengths, even soft tissue is up for critique here, and somehow everybody’s topline needs improvement.

3. I need training halp my horse won’t do X

We all know ottbs can be smart, stubborn, and wily, and inevitably they outsmart their owners regarding at least something.  Whether it’s teaching their rider that they don’t really have to canter because cantering will lead to bucking, or simply refusing to get in a trailer, it’s important to nip these problems in the bud.  And if other ottb owners have some tricks that might work, we want to know about them!  Guaranteed responses: give him lots of cookies, natural horsemanship, don’t let him be the boss of you, don’t beat your horse!, Parelli, carrot sticks, and logic.

4. People who say ottbs are CRAZY must be ON DRUGS

Look at my horse not being crazy!  He’s so not crazy!  Look he put his head down!  Look I can walk around on a loose rein!  Look I can ride him in my halter!  I put my neonate on him and he’s so quiet he’s packing the kid around a 2’6″ course though my baby can’t even lift his head yet!  WHO SAYS OTTBS ARE CRAZY??! THAT IS INSOLENCE!!!!!!!

Not the bucks of a wild, crazy creature. Not at all.

5. Transformation Tuesday!

These posts show what a little TLC can do to a horse.  You see weight go on, blooming, metallic coats, and happy chubby horses.  Horses that were sickly or lame that are now happy and free, running and jumping, living with friends.  Horses that sucked at racing are suddenly invigorated with new life and excel when presented with barrels or reining patterns or fences or a dressage court.  I love these posts, because I am a sucker for a happy ending.

6. I hate my horse’s racing name what should I call her??!!

There are some for real dorky JC names out there (e.g. Hot Tub Aaron, Tommydelu, Ima Looking Cool?!), and I totally get the struggle about your horse’s name.  The JC name gives homage to their heritage and pedigree, but do you really want to be walking into the show ring with Arrrrr?! Somehow, other users of the group are supposed to come up with a good show name for a horse that they’ve never met and may never have seen (pictures, of course, optimal), that give a little bit of a hint to the horse’s fantastic pedigree while alluding to his talents and complementing his colour.

A tiny pony adventure

Yesterday I was the first person to arrive at our barn, right after our barn manager ran out to drop her kids off at school.  I was a bit earlier than I needed, so I decided to walk my Jellington before my lesson.

Two of Ellie’s favourite barntime activities

As we exited the hay barn, I noticed something amiss.

We are NOT inside a pasture…

Patti, our barn manager’s retired mini/shetland had escaped the confines of her pasture and was freeeeee!!  It seems that in the night the latch on the gate had come undone. Fortunately, all of our gates are all secured with a chain in addition to the latches, so only tiny creature managed to slip under and escape.

Unfortunately, Patti has decided that she is a Wild Creature since her tiny rider outgrew her, and shuns the love of most humans.  When I approached her with a carrot and her halter, she fled the scene, running into the corridor between the main pastures.  Our barn was set up by someone very clever, and all I had to do to keep Patti confined was shut the gates to the corridor.  Hooray, problem semi-solved!

>Patti has a siren-like allure to most full size horses (those that aren’t terrified of minis, that is) and as soon as the horses in turnout saw her they came GALLOPING to her aid. Patti greeted them, squealed her challenge, and went joyfully off down the corridor — full size horses following, rearing, and handstanding behind her.

Fortunately, when Patti returned just a moment later she accepted my carrot peace offering and let me put on her halter and lead her back to her pasture.  Much to the annoyance of the rest of the ponies, who thought this whole thing was So Unfair.