October 7, 2019

IDS September: The Best Yet

In addition to trying out all the gear I reviewed this week, I did actually show my horse at the horse show, and it was the absolute best we've ever done 2-1.  And even though the whole point of Dressage is that it'll never be perfect, I am so proud of it.

THIS has changed a lot!

It was the first time we didn't get against each other halfway through the test.  It was the first time we've both stayed relaxed and present.  I actually had the presence of mind to think "Damn, this is the best 2-1 we've ever done" as I finished the first counter canter here:

We may have stayed relaxed, but I also rode hard.  The first thing my trainer said afterward was, "I just watched that entire test with a huge smile on my face.  That was a HUGE improvement!  You rode that with conviction !" And one of her other students said, "You made that look so easy."  That comment meant a lot, because 2-1 did feel easy, for the first time ever.

When I had to basically pick him up and carry him through the counter canter in the tough direction

What was different?  A couple of things.  My trainer warmed us up, which rarely happens, and she did an outstanding job of it.  She has a knack for knowing exactly what the horse needs in the moment, and it was an exceptionally effective warmup.


I also had CGP's lesson ringing in the back of my mind, and kept my elbows soft and the contact following through most of the test.  I got a little stiff in the canter work, but did a great job with it elsewhere.  I also had a better idea of how to sit in my jump saddle for maximum Dressage position effectiveness.

Perfect?  No.  But believe me when I say this is the best medium walk out of the halt/reinback we've ever gotten.

And, it just felt like progress.  We're better than we were in April.  We've learned things.  And because we're showing, we have this objective measurement in addition to the glowing feeling I came out of the ring with after that test.  68.919%!  A high score by nearly 5%.  It's a fantastic feeling to head into the offseason with.  And it's exactly the reason I show even though I'm not motivated by awards or regionals or anything like that.  Measurable progress!

Check out how straight his tail is after his bodywork - he's carried it to the left the whole time I've known him

Three years ago I left this show feeling dejected, because nothing had changed over the season and I knew I wasn't riding well but I didn't know exactly what was wrong or how to fix it.  Ending on this note this year after all the progress we've made was just so gratifying.  I'm sure some people will look at it as "She's only gone from 1-3 to 2-1 in three years,"and that's totally fair, but there's a whole lot more to the story than that.

Looking forward to really putting in the work over the winter and seeing where we are in the spring!

October 4, 2019

Product Review: Convertible Garment Duffel Bag

My old horse show garment bag was the last thing that wasn't working about my show setup.  It was an eBay score probably made in the 1980s that hung so far down on me, even folded in half, it made it hard for me to walk.  When I found myself actively trying to avoid using it, I knew it wasn't working for me anymore. So I replaced it with a convertible garment duffel:

 These are popular with traveling consultants who need to fly with a suit.  They unzip into a garment bag and then zip back into a duffel bag shape for travel.

There are straps at the bottom to keep your clothes taut so they don't fall down and wrinkle.

There are side pockets for belts and socks:

 As well as a side pocket meant for shoes, where I keep my stock tie:

 And a couple of inner pockets where I put things like stock tie pins:

As an unexpected bonus, it's the perfect size to store my tall boots inside as well, making it a single grab-and-go bag for all my show clothes.  Any taller than me though and this won't work for you!

The only thing I wish it had was a hook for hanging.  I could solve that pretty easily with a carabiner through the handle though, or by getting dressed with it hanging in my trailer's dressing room depending on how close I'm parked to my stall.

Bottom Line:  Necessary?  Not entirely.  Improvement to my show life?  Definitely.  Knowing all my show clothes are kept in one place in an easy-to-carry bag is a major de-stressor when packing for shows.  Grab and go!

What: Convertible Garment Bag with Shoulder Strap, Modoker Carry on Garment Duffel Bag for Men Women - 2 in 1 Hanging Suitcase Suit Travel Bags
Price: Currently $40.99 with coupon, I paid $32.99 during an Amazon lightning deal
Where to Buy: Amazon

October 3, 2019

Product Review: Finether Aluminum Work Platform

Told you it's product review week.  Although to be fair I've made all these purchases over the past two months so it's not like I just dropped a bunch of $$ all at once!

Pretty quickly after I started shopping for a stepstool replacement, I knew I was going to end up with something "extra".

I'm very short, so I need all the height I can get, but none of the stepstools were doing it for me.  The tallest ones were A-frame which meant I wouldn't be able to get as close to the horse as I wanted to, and the non-A frame ones weren't as tall as I wanted.

So I turned to the home improvement section.

Pony for scale
I ended up with an aluminum work platform.  It's just a smidge taller than a 2 step mounting block at nearly 20" tall, 31" wide and 12" deep, and has a rung on both sides so that you can get onto it easily.  It also folds nearly flat, has a nice carry handle, weighs only 11lbs, and hangs nicely on my gridwall.

Things a mounting block can't do

Of course it made things like hanging my fan easier (and safer), but it also made my braids come out nicer.

The #1 rule of Dutch braids is that you always braid up toward the sky, because that makes the braids sit on top of the neck rather than against it.  The 20" tall walkboard made it easy to get way above Connor in order to do that (YMMV on a full-sized horse, of course).

And - since the walkboard is long as his neck, I didn't have to get down and reposition it every two braids like I did with my old stool.

In addition to all of the above, it also made a great mounting block, table and foot rest.  It was nice to have a flat surface off the ground where I could throw things, and I had several people walk by it at the show and murmur to each other what a good idea it was.

World's Tiniest Horse Trailer next to some normal-sized trailers

Shown next to a haybale for scale
The only downside to this is the price.  At $62.99 I felt it was steep, but justified it by how much I'd use it even outside of shows.  And that's definitely been true, so far I've used it for painting at home, for washing the horse trailer and for all kinds of grooming situations at the barn.  There are cheaper ones, but the reviews weren't as good, so I went with this one.

Bottom Line: If you're a shorty like me, this is a great multi-purpose option to replace your mounting block/braiding ladder/table at shows, and you'll probably find other uses for it around the house and barn too.

What: Finether Aluminum Work Platform Drywall Step Up Folding Work Bench
Price: $62.99
Where to Buy: Amazon

October 2, 2019

Product Review: State Line Tack Rolling Saddle Rack Cart

I had a show last weekend, but I'm still getting through the media in order to write a post, so enjoy a series of show gear review posts in the meantime!

After my July show, I posted about what was and what was not working in regards to show organization.  Last weekend, I got a chance to put my new gear to the test. First up, this rolling gear cart from State Line Tack.

Dog for scale

This. Thing. Is. Awesome.  It comes with two saddle racks, a basket, a velcro grooming tools organizer, and a bridle rack - and all of that comes off the cart so you can use it to haul hay and shavings.

There are a lot of tack cart options out there, but I chose this one for a few reasons.  First, it has big pneumatic tires, which will make rough ground easier to handle than solid tires.  Second, all of the attachments are removable so that you can use it as a hay/shavings cart too.  There's nothing I hate more than schlepping individual bags of shavings down the barn aisle at places where you can't get your trailer close to your stall!  And third, it came with some nice extras that not all the carts had, like a 5 hook bridle rack and a Velcro grooming bag.

It has two handle positions and I have it in the shorter one, so it actually can be up to a foot taller than this if you want it to be.

My first trip from the trailer at the show, I hauled 3 bags of shavings and his water buckets.  Next trip, I hauled a hay bale on it.  Third trip was the stuff in the photo above (And my trailer was only parked 30 feet from my stall, so I probably could've condensed these trips more but didn't need to).

Later that evening, I prepped it for the following day by putting my bridle, helmet, saddle, grooming stuff, whip, morning grain and bathing stuff in it before wheeling it up the ramp and into the horse area of my trailer, so that in the morning all I had to do was wheel it to my stall and I was done.

Prepped for day 2 and ready to spend the night in the trailer

During the show day, it worked admirably too.  Honestly I was surprised by what I found to be my favorite feature - that tiny Velcro grooming bag, which I took off the cart and hung inside his stall while tacking up so I didn't have to go back and forth to my bag.

Between this and the backpack, all of my show stuff was easily visible, easy to reach and well-organized.  Two thumbs up to this thing, it saved me a ton of time and reduced my show day stress.

Now on to what I didn't like, although none of these are dealbreakers.  First, the instructions absolutely suck.  I had to sit down and logically think through which screw should go where and why in order to put it together.

Second, the powdercoating is not the best.  Out of the box there were two places where it was chipped and rusting.  Not the end of the world, but it means at some point I'll have to spray paint this whole thing.

Third, it's poorly balanced without the attachments, and will fall over.  This meant I had to lean it against something when I went to put hay/shavings on it.

Fourth, the holes are baaaaaaaaaaaaarely lined up, and it took some real effort to get the handle installed as a result.

Finally, I wish the handle had grips instead of just bare metal, so I'm going to be taking some bicycle grip tape to it at some point.

Packing to go home with the saddle rack removed

Bottom line: If you show off your trailer, this is probably useless to you, but if like me your area more or less requires show stabling, this thing is invaluable in terms of the time it saves and the organization it provides.

What: State Line Tack Rolling Tack Cart
Price: $175.99 list, I paid $123.19 plus freight charges
Where to Buy: State Line Tack

October 1, 2019

Product Review: Charles Owen My PS MIPS Helmet

Every 5 years, I replace my helmet on International Helmet Awareness Day.  I get a discount, and I also use IHAD's excessive social media promotion as a "Time to make sure my helmet isn't expired yet" reminder.

I won't buy a helmet without trying it, and this year, I really wanted to try the new Charles Owen My PS MIPS helmet, but since my "local" tack store didn't have it (or any MIPS helmets), I ended up buying the same helmet as my expired one but in a different color (OneK in rose gold).

And then I went to the LandSafe clinic.  Danny is sponsored by CO, and had the entire range of CO helmets available to try on.  Aaaaaand the second I put the My PS on my head I knew it was coming home with me.  It fit like a glove, and made my OneK feel like a cheap toy.

I asked "Can I order this?" and he said "You can walk out the door wearing the one you've got on if you want."  So I did 😂
I had already spent a lot of time researching MIPS myself, and decided it sounded like a good idea for equestrians.  The concept is that the brain actually benefits from a certain amount of "slip" in blows that don't happen square on from the top of the head - which is how current helmet safety testing is performed, and how most falls don't actually go.  So MIPS helmets have this inner liner that moves:

The yellow part, which is very thin, moves around a bit
Of course I was aware that Danny had a vested interest in selling me something, but given that he's made a career out of equestrian safety after his own high-risk riding career, I asked for his opinion on whether MIPS was worth it.

I think it looks like a motorcycle helmet from the side, but I don't hate it

Paraphrased slightly, his opinion was: "MIPS is absolutely worth it, and today, if I was doing Dressage and Show Jumping I'd wear any of the CO MIPS helmets, which are the best for low-speed falls like you'd see in those sports.  For XC, I still think the CO 4Star is still the best helmet out there, but as soon as they put MIPS technology in the 4Star, that's what I'm buying." 

And yes, he's sponsored by CO, so he's not taking (other current MIPS helmet manufacturers) Champion or Trauma Void into consideration here, although he did seem very educated on the offerings of other helmet manufacturers in general.  I found his comment about the 4Star interesting, but I didn't press him for more info since I'm not shopping for an XC helmet.

In the end my feeling on this is that our helmets are only as good as the research that went into them at the time they were developed, and MIPS technology seems worth it to me after reading up on it. The bicycling world has flocked to MIPS much faster than the equestrian world, but I expect we'll see more and more helmets start to come out with it shortly.

And that's how I ended up with two helmets...

Bottom line: Top safety technology? ✅ Fits my head well? ✅ Removable, washable liner? ✅  Cost in line with other mid-range helmets? ✅  Sold.

What: Charles Owen My PS MIPS Helmet - Matte
Price: I paid $220 with the LandSafe discount.  $244.95 at Riding Warehouse
Where to Buy: Riding Warehouse