December 13, 2018

Product Review Update: Ariat Bromont Insulated H2O Tall Boot

Longtime readers will remember that winter boots are one item that I was just straight up cheap with a few years ago, and I lived to regret it.  After I got two years out of a pair of less fancy TuffRiders and then a pair of TuffRider Tundras lasted me essentially three weeks, I finally shelled out the cash for a pair of Ariat Bromont H2Os, in brown, which is a UK-only color for Ariat.

Now that they've survived two complete winters and are starting their third, how have they held up?


First of all, understand that I take great care of most of my boots but I haven't taken care of these AT ALL.  I don't know why.  Maybe it's because I lose all motivation and willpower when it's cold outside.  Winter is a season of survival for me and I guess my boots too.  These have seen some abuse and not a lot of love.

The picture above is what they looked like after one cleaning and conditioning.  Probably their first cleaning and conditioning in a year.  The picture below is more like what they usually look like:

They are still waterproof.  There's no signs of cracking.  Scratches come out easily. The only signs of wear are on the suede on the inside of the boots, which is to be expected:

My only complaint, and something you should consider if you're buying these, is that at 2+ years in they really haven't dropped at all.  And since I bought them a size bigger in the foot and calf than I normally do (to accommodate my 9,763 layers of winter clothing), that means I'm still wearing heel lifts with them and still leave them unzipped at the top most of the time.

So yes, they were over 3x the cost of the TuffRiders, but the cost-per-wear is going to end up being much cheaper because these things are clearly going to last.  So this is not the cheaper option, but it's definitely the more frugal option.

In terms of warmth, they're not going to blow your mind when it's -10 outside, but they get the job done.  More than anything, I need winter boots to give me more room inside for layers + socks than any of my other boots, so I'm not looking for them to be super warm.  That said, they're definitely going to keep you warmer than a non-insulated boot (and note - there IS a non-insulated Bromont tall boot available).

Bottom Line: Expensive, but worth it.  Still practically look new after 2 abusive winters, but be careful on sizing the height, they don't seem to drop as much as regular field boots do.

What: Ariat Bromont H2O
Price: $349.95 at SmartPak (I paid $198 + $105 international shipping on eBay)
Sizes: 5.5-11, full and regular calf options
Colors: Black only in US, brown available in UK (Flip between Ireland and US locations to see color options on Ariat website here)

December 11, 2018

Food for Thought: The Way I Sleep is Affecting the Way I Ride

A couple months ago, I read this (paraphrased) line in a CoTH thread: "The way you sit all day, even the way you sleep affects your body and muscle development, which can affect the way you sit in the saddle."

That has since led me down one of the most fascinating biomechanics rabbit holes I've ever been down, and since then, I've come to realize...oh shit.  That internet stranger is totally right.

For as long as I can remember, I've slept on my left side, with my right leg drawn all the way up, my left leg straight, my right side crunched up/engaged/short, my left side long/disengaged, and my hips twisted and facing the bed, with my left hip lower than my right hip.

I'm #6
Some additional research into what this sleeping position is doing to my body turned up this (grammatically poor but logically sound) paragraph:

"Sleeping with one knee raised over the other torques the pelvis for the duration of sleeping. Again no good can come from a pelvis that is misaligned for hours at a time...The classic manifestation of the psoas when tight is for the affected leg and foot shortened into the hip socket and turn out with the pelvis and shoulder of the same side to draw closer to each other. The whole affected side shortens."

That...sounds familiar.  Look at my non-riding position habits.  I:

- Typically stand with most of my weight on my left leg and my hips dropped down to the left
- Typically sit with my weight on my left seat bone (regardless of leg crossing or not) and my right side crunched up tight
- Drive with all my weight on the left seatbone and my right side crunched up
- Generally move with my right foot toe out with a lot of stress on my medial knee compared to the left

Blowing off steam with the boys in a random Ohio park after an awful funeral this fall.  I can guarantee swinging this way was a lot easier for me than the other way.

And in the saddle:

- I can easily pick my right seatbone up, but I almost can't lift the left one up at all.
- I can easily move my right seatbone forward, but I almost can't move the left one at all.
- My right foot tends to point out and the left points forward.
- The saddle fitter had to adjust my flocking because the left side was flattened from me sitting over there all the time.
- I hear "lengthen your right side" and "sit over the right side" from both my trainers.  A lot.  I have also heard it from clinicians.
Weight on the left, saddle on the left, left foot forward, left side long, right toe out, right side short, no weight on right seatbone, oh hey, that all sounds really familiar...
PC: Leah

This is definitely a chicken-and-egg thing, so, I could have started sleeping like this because it's easier for my more dominant muscles, or sleeping could be the cause of those muscles being more dominant.  It's probably a combination of both.

I also heard it from JenJ's T last year, when he was like "Ahhhhhhhhhhh I can't move the direction you're telling me to why are you sitting on the left side so hard?!"

Either way, it doesn't matter.  It's pretty clear to me that spending 8 hours a night with my right side crunched so closely together my ribcage almost touches my hip bone is definitely either contributing to or at least not helping the things I'm trying to overcome in the saddle.  It's also become clear to me that my left side obliques are waaaaaaaaay weaker than the same muscles on the right. do you sleep?  Is your sleeping position eerily similar to the way you sit on the horse too?

December 10, 2018

Product Review (and Giveaway!): The Dressage Rider's Journal

Although I've stopped accepting free things to review on the blog, it felt different when a fellow blogger asked if she could give me a copy of her trainer's new Dressage training journal, and also give me a copy to giveaway on the blog.  So I said yes!  Thanks, Emilie!

(She actually didn't ask me to review it, but of course, I'm going to anyway.)

First, a perhaps surprising thought: I actually think this journal is even better for those of us going up the levels for the first time or those who have never taken Dressage seriously than it is for serious Dressage riders.  And that's not to say this isn't for serious Dressage riders, because it totally is, everyone could benefit from this journal.

But this is a journal that will ask you to sit down and apply some structure to your riding life.  It will gently ask you to think about what you're doing, why you're doing it, and how your every day activities are helping you reach your goals.  These are things that people showing Grand Prix likely have a better concept of than those of us stumbling through Second for the first time, because it does take that level of drive, structure and goal-setting to get that far.

It's HUGE!  More of a book than a journal.  10" iPad for scale

It spends just a few pages in the beginning asking you to think about high-level things - for example, you and your horse's strengths and weaknesses (side note: coming up with my weaknesses and Connor's strengths was way easier than the inverse.  Riding self-esteem may need work).

It also asks you to set goals.  And not just 2019 goals, but a series of goals.  My advice to you is not to skip the self-assessment, goals, and action plan sections, as much as I wanted to, because everything else in the journal should logically lead back toward what you write in these sections.  As someone who has almost superstitiously not set goals to this point, this is something I don't want to do, but should do.

The first 5 sections only amount to 14 pages out of a 187 page book, but they're very important to making the rest of the book effective.

Once you're done with the self-introspection part, the rest of the journal is set up in such a way to help you achieve those goals.  There's a box for each day where you can write what you did in your ride and lesson notes, there are arena diagrams (tons!) on which to write exercises or notes, and there are places to record test scores.

So far, there are just two things I wish it had: a place to write down all scores received on a particular movement through the season, and more than six slots for "Show Schedule". 

I'd like to be able to use the Show Schedule pages for both planning and organization.  I'd like to write down every show I could possibly attend in 2019, so that I can at a glance see them all together, and then cross off the ones I won't be attending as I go.  There's a strong possibility I'll attend more than 6 shows in 2019 too, so it really doesn't even have enough space just to catalog the ones I'm attending.

Bottom line: Everyone who sets foot in the sandbox could benefit from the level of structure and planning this journal gently eases you into, but especially those new to moving up the levels in eventing or Dressage stand to benefit the most from this journal.  A great concept!

What: The Dressage Rider's Journal - 2019 Planner & Calendar, Dressage Rider Organizer
Price: $29.95 on Amazon

I was given a copy of this book for free by a fellow blogger but all opinions in this review are my own.

Now for the giveaway!  Leave a comment on this post telling me about one horse-related goal you have for 2019 and then enter the Rafflecopter giveaway in the box below (RSS reader folks may need to click through to see it).  Your goal doesn't have to be competition or Dressage-oriented!

Giveaway runs from 12:00am EDT on Monday 12/10 through 12am EDT on Monday 12/17.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

December 5, 2018

Lesson Wrap-Up: That Wandering Right Shoulder

I had no idea what to expect from my first lesson in *coughcough* a month.  (How dare my job interfere with my hobby, I mean, really!)

I started out by talking about something I've been feeling lately that I don't fully understand, which is that during Connor's warmup, he swings the right fore diagonally and lands it outside of his body.  In both directions.  But once he's warmed up, that foot no longer swings out and instead lands under his body.  And the faster I can achieve that, the shorter his warmup is.  And while he's landing it to the outside, it feels like his head, neck and shoulders are slanted with the left ear being highest and the right shoulder being lowest, as I look at it from the saddle.

All photos from the warmup at the IDS September 2018 show
PC: Karen Taylor

(I got to thinking about this after reading Megan's post "Cold Backed & Disconnected" last week, although I can't say for sure the two issues are the same.  But that was the inspiration.)

My trainer's response was something along the lines of "Yes I know exactly what you're talking about and I'm so glad you're feeling that!"

I had thought to attack this from a "I must be letting him escape out the right side" angle, which was working somewhat.  I've noticed my right thigh is often not on or in the thigh block, which is part of the reason NK is always using the "pull up your knees" cue.  In order to put my right thigh on from where it normally is, I have to rotate my thigh in and snuggle into the thigh block which puts my calf on him better.  The left thigh is always snuggled into the block.

Ahhhh our warmups are always so beautiful #noshame

My trainer had me attack it also from an inside hind activity angle.  I have lesson amnesia and didn't record it so I'm not going to explain it here, but it worked SO well.  Between that and my newfound almost habit of not pulling on him, the contact felt amazing.  

We used half pass and SI at the walk, and then "thinking" half pass and SI at the trot in order to really engage him.  After some canter work when he was really engaged, we asked for a big trot - and he actually forged under saddle for the first time ever!  Not that I WANT my horse to forge, but for my dachshund-shaped horse to be hitting his front feet with his hind feet, we're talking never-before-seen amounts of reach with the hind legs.

He's been good lately, but for him to feel THAT good, in a lesson, after a long spell with no lessons, I am so thrilled.  

That warmup turned into this ride, so, y'know.