Monday, August 21, 2017

Zoe's First Trail Ride!

As I told a fellow boarder, Ms. Zoebird has more rides on her than I have fingers now so probably it's a great time to go trail riding. I lined up the two most broke horses on the entire planet to go with us, and this weekend we loaded up.

Noted: ZB has limited trailering experience--her last owners hauled her 3-4 times and then her last trailer experience was when Roxie's mom stuck her in her (luxury liner) trailer and hauled her all day to our barn.

All that to say. If the little lady was like "ehhhhhhh i dunno" about loading into a strange rig, I couldn't have been too upset with her.

But instead she marched on like a freaking champion.

She unloaded like a champion. And remember. She's been very few places. She's four. This is her first off-property trip with me. It's her first trail ride. It's off a semi-busy road. There's a lady with a weed whacker directly across the street.

I'd be lying if I said I was totes 100% calm. I was more like 89% HOLY SHIT IMMA DIE WHAT IS LIFE and 11% trusting the people I was with.

And uh. Yeah.
Zoe like. Looked around a little. Was a little pushy on the ground. And I was like "stop". And she stopped.


I got on first because I wanted someone on the ground to grab me if things went sideways I guess.


She was fine. We went through the scary gate. We started motoring down the trail.

Motoring as in Zoebird thought her friends walked too slow SO SHE JUST LED THE FREAKING WAY LIKE A FEARLESS BADASS TRAIL HORSE.

(No pictures because I was like HO SHIT DO I HAVE BRAKES) (yes at the walk) (i have issues ok)
zero drama

Anyways. I did have brakes. I made Zoe follow the lovely brave painty mare because that just seemed like a better idea for everyone.

And you know what terrible naughty thing she did then?

Literally nothing.

At one point there was a big, scary stump right off the trail and Zoebird was like WUT IS THAT SCARY? And the other horses ignored her so she just walked past it.
pictured: not that stump
We saw a hiker with a dog. Zoe wanted to go put her smooshy nose on them SO BAD but when I said no, she just stood politely with her friends until they went past.
water sighted!

We went all over the park and followed lots of little trails. Zoe is not always the best at remembering how many legs she has, so she tripped more often than the other horses. One loop took us back in the direction of the trailer so she was like SMART ZB KNOWS WHERE WE R GOING FAST and tried trotting a couple times.

She didn't jig. Didn't throw fits. Didn't get mad. And when I asked her to walk, she just walked.
i also wore my kickass percheron shirt but the only hiker we saw didn't even notice to compliment me on it
About halfway through, my brain finally kicked things into gear and I realized I was actually having fun on my baby horse on her first ever trail ride. Loose rein. Smiling. Felt totally safe.

I mean, she's definitely a baby. Steering is still kinda, well, babyish. She kept wandering off the trail.

But that's literally the worst thing I can say about her.

To finish the ride, we had to cross through a marshy area and go over some concrete pipes that are partially exposed. Zoe trooped right up until the marsh and then was like HO SHIT GUYS DANGER which I think is a 100% rational response to the ground changing under your feet. The steady eddies were both not thrilled about the footing. It took some encouragement and a lead horse, but after a while, Zoe went through the marsh and up onto the solid ground.

But then the concrete pipes are right there.

And she was like HO SHIT WUT R THAT NO PlZ DO NOT WANT. (There are no photos because I blogger failed you).

Anyways. She'd been so damn good. She had literally just made it through the marsh with the sketchy footing. We were less than 100 feet from the parking lot. Oh and her "ho shit" response is literally looking at something quizzically and not offering any naughty behavior or getting agitated.

I just hopped off and led her over the pipes. She went first try with zero resistance and did fantastic. Calm, positive experiences. Next time will be better.
Oh yeah. And loaded and unloaded like a freaking champion. Again.

I just. You guys.

What do I even say? She is the coolest little lady and I am so lucky to have her.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

State of a Zoëbird

I know you're all thinking BUT WHATS ZOEBIRD DOING PRECIOUS?
ahhhh <3 so cute!

At least, you are if you're as obsessed with her as I am.

Which you shouldn't be because the Zozo Bird is a pretty rare species. #wentthere

Anyways. The answer to the very pressing question is "pretty much everything". The follow up is "in baby sized pieces". ZB shows up to work every day and has a fantastic attitude, so I don't really want to overdo anything and wreck that.
carefully selected screenshot

Right now, we're aiming for two days under saddle, then one day doing something else. One of those days is me riding. One of those days is trainer riding. The "other" day has been ground work. Or bath day. Or whatever. There is so much to work on
first soapy bath achieved!
I couldn't ask for a better lil baby mare--she approaches each challenge with her ears up and mind quiet.
She jumped her first baby crossrail (over painted planks!!) the other day. She was completely nonplussed by the whole experience. The coolest thing about Zoëbird is just how honest she is. As long as she understands, she gives each task 100% effort. 
look ears!
And it sounds weird to say this, but after a steady stream of thoroughbreds and thoroughbred crosses, I am so glad we have a trainer to work with regularly. ZB is fantastic and fun and straightforward and my whole skill set is built around a high-energy forward horse that wants to be tense through its back.

At this moment, Zoëbird swings her back more than any thoroughbred I've ever sat on. 
big trot!

So like. What comes next? We're going to find out! 

There are fun things on the horizons--I'm pulling together her first trail ride and getting ready for lessons. Photo shoots! Outfits! Show plans? IT COULD HAPPEN.
you just want to smoosh her nose. admit it.
The world is our oyster. 

Well, that or cantering.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Teach Me Tuesday: Registering the Grade Horse

For the first time in my life, I own a grade horse. That doesn't particularly bother me inasmuch as the traits I purchased her for are definitely ones that will help her down the line in the unlikely event she needed to find a new home.

But to me, a registered horse just has one more layer of security--something to point to as a value add.

So tell me, people of the internet--are there registries that accept a pedigreed-but-not-papered performance mare? And if there are, are any of them worth the time and money?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Outfitting a Zoëbird: Part Two

Needless to say, when you go from the cobbiest of cob size OTTBs that ever cobbed the earth to a Percheron cross baby, not a lot of your tack is going to fit.

Like. Less than you'd think even.
i mean. they go on. and they're purple. so they stay.
I did not expect C's boots to fit, but they do. Sorta. As in. Well. ZB has good, solid bone but isn't exceptionally enormous, so the height is pretty ok. She's definitely broader than C is, so boots that overlapped a little on him don't quite close on her.
o hai expensive boots
I do have this fancy schmancy set of Schockemohle dressage boots that I bought for Courage, but by the time I got done dicking around with eBay UK and they actually arrived, I'd already decided to rehome him. (So if you don't recognize them, that's why.) Anyways. They fit just slightly differently than the knock offs and are the best fitting boot I have right now.

I did not expect my boots to work.

I did expect my saddle pads to work.
yeah she thinks i'm funny too
I keep meaning to take a fairly hilarious video for you guys, but essentially, my beautiful Ogilvy wither-relief pads... uh... don't work for a horse without withers. Like. You push one end down and the other pops up. And if you're wondering, no they do not stay under the saddle. Oops.

Fortunately, I have more dressage pads and those seem to work ok for her shape.

and that shape is hella sexy
 Then saddles. 


I knew my $$$$ Custom was never going to fit her and I know it's idiocy to buy a $$$$ saddle for a baby horse that's going to change shape dramatically unless you can afford to just keep buying them. Which yeah no. Not happening. 

I scrounged up a saddle at a local consignment place that fits both of us well enough but won't completely break my heart to sell when the inevitable time comes. 
sad lil jump pad
Bridles were tricky of course. Zoëbird is actually the same measurement bit to bit over the poll as Courage, but let's just say all of her other dimensions are... larger. If you're counting, yes, that means off-the-rack bridles are out for her. SOB. This is a shopping killer. I ordered her a Nunn Finer Custom event bridle because they let me pick the size of each piece without ever talking to an actual human being. (That's the whole point of the internet. Retailers, take note.) 
hey baby. sad bridle.
Now of course I have already ordered Ms Zoëbird her very own Topline Leather browband (custom specs omg can't wait!) buuuuut the wait time is killer and no matter how many times I'm like BUT LOOK AT THIS SAD BRIDLE WITH NO SPARKLES, I don't get to jump the line (sob) so I needed an interim browband also. Alyssa let me play with her cool new toy from Blackjak Refinery and with my great sense of restraint, I ordered my own immediately. 

rainbow hematite. i think yes.
Haha and remember how I buy every bit I can get my grabby hands on and never sell them and have this life goal of being the crazy bit lady in 30 years with basically every bit that was ever made?

Uh yeah. 

Well like 85% of horses on the planet wear a 5" bit. So my entire collection is 5" bits. And one 5.5" because there was a sale. 

Guess where this is going.
Yeah the "little" D bit in that picture is my lone 5.5". And yeah. It's too small. The eggbutt is a 6" that fits just fine. Jury is out on the ramifications for the bit collection, but it's a strange position for me to be in. 

Oh and halters? Hahahahahahaha shut up. When Roxie's mom dropped Ms. ZB off, she handed me a rope halter and was like "this fits weird. you can have it." 
just. weird. not bad. 
She's not wrong. It does fit weird. It also goes on Zoëbird pretty ok, so we use it on the daily. 

My inner optimist stuck Courage's fancy clinician-style stiff rope nose-knot halter on her...
someone should slap my inner optimist
Yeah it just straight up doesn't fit. Her smooshy nose barely goes in it and the tie throatlatch is BARELY long enough. 

So uh. Possibly there was some late night online shopping that hopefully rectified this situation. I'll keep you posted. 

Oh. And. We're not even talking about bonnets, ok? WE'RE JUST NOT. 
(definitely) let them tame you

I mean. I guess I would have been disappointed if I didn't get to shop for her. Silver lining?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Baby Horse Training: Initial Thoughts

Zoëbird is my first "actual" baby in terms of a horse that came to me with only good handling and no negative baggage to overcome. 
It's magical. Really.

I mean, yeah, it helps that she has this incredible brain and is level-headed and intelligent for sure.

After all the rubber-meets-the-road theory testing I did with Courage, I am having a fabulous time applying those things with Zoëbird.
I definitely realize I'm totally spoiled here--I cannot overemphasize what a cool girl Ms. ZB is. If there was ever a horse that could handle the rigors of the "young horse" type program, it's her.

And yet.

I have zero interest in pushing her along that road. I am on principle opposed to time-bound competitions for young horses. I think it encourages egotistical behavior and a wanton disregard for the long term good of the horse. (Admittedly, it could be argued that the competitions themselves weed that out--high achieving pairs are rewarded and those who pushed too fast too soon generally sift to the bottom of the barrel.)

Instead, I find that with Zoëbird, the accomplishments are their own reward. She went from afraid of the hose to confidently standing in the washrack and letting me hose her whole body down with zero use of force or extra people. I just went slow and explained it and rewarded every try.
We're doing the same thing under saddle. I have a very cool rider helping me out at this point--she just sits loose and comfortable with soft hands and soft legs. Zoë is never punished for trying--any effort merits a release.
trotting off the lunge!!
Again, Zoë has given us nothing but solid effort and sure, we could probably push things along more quickly. But you know what's cooler than jamming a horse around for a few quick instagram updates that gloss over the struggles?
Going slow. Explaining every step. Watching the light bulb click on and having my very cool baby horse start to offer behaviors because she understands the question. 
so basically she's a champion of everything
Right now, everything is new for Zoëbird. But every single day, she shows up to work.

It is so much fun to work with a horse that wants to be there. Whether it's her first time trotting off the lunge line, her first ride with me up, or her first time playing with ground poles, Zoëbird is the sort of horse that makes every day fun for both of us. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Teach Me Tuesday: Currying is Back!!

I love grooming horses. So much. Courage always hated it, so we compromised--he kept himself clean and I only touched him with the softest brushes. 


She thinks brushes are GREAT. 

She likes to lay IN HER OWN POO. 

She needs a curry. 
the current options
My curry brush selection is indifferent at best because SOMEONE hated them with a fiery burning passion, but I can totally justify getting a new one(s) now. Tell me horse people of bloglandia, what is your favorite curry? 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Baby Bird

Lil Ms. Zoëbird is officially a grade horse. However. She's the result of a ranch breeding program that was creating a very specific type of horse-level headed, sturdy, good to be around. Also they took tons of pictures. The day I met her, I spent hours going back through their social media and I present you with:


Baby pictures!!
Of course, I should back pedal a little. Here is her beautiful daddy:
basically a barbie dream horse
He's a purebred (but I think not registered?) Percheron stallion. 

Momma was (/is) a quarter horse/paint cross named Dove.
By all accounts, momma had a lovely disposition and the cross produced several excellent horses. 

This blog is not about those horses. It's about a baby Bird!! 
Can you even??
you cannot

Noted: I have a very strict rule about all-original photography on this blog and clearly I did not travel back in time to meet baby Zoë, however sorely I was tempted. These photos are all shamelessly stolen from her breeder. I would link the breeder, but they have since slowed down the breeding program. I have not met them, but if I did, I'd thank them for creating a lovely little mare. 

And that folks, is what a baby Zoëbird looked like.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Budget Bridle Breakdown

As you might have guessed, lil Ms. Zoebird doesn't fit in a single beautiful cob-size thing that Courage left behind. This means shopping. I like shopping.

And of course, shopping means putting all that expensive, time-consuming product research I've done to use. 

And if I'm going to do that, y'all might as well benefit. 

So if you're looking for a solid bridle on a budget (and your horse is a standard size):

...and you can spend up to $200:

I realize that just because I think a ~$200 bridle is "relatively affordable" doesn't mean everyone does. However. This starts to be the range where you don't have to compromise a whole lot. My favorite in this range is Eponia Equestrian. Nice leather that breaks in fast, fantastic, thoughtful details, interesting designs and solid customer service. A recent blogger review from Austen pretty well dials it in. I snagged one of these babies at Rolex and it was GORGEOUS. Super sad that it was never ever gonna fit Ms. ZB. 
why yes that's Teresa's horse rocking brownie now
10/10 would buy again and don't be surprised if another one shows up in my collection. 

...and you want to spend about $100

This is a dicey price range. There are some options on the table but you're definitely going to have to make some pretty serious compromises with either design details or product quality. Or both.  

One entrant in this category the Premiera line by Hypostore. (These are also marketed by a popular instagram retailer for a 200% mark up. Friends don't let friends pay 200% too much.) I picked up one of these last winter. The leather is ok. There are definitely attempts at thoughtful details, but the budget nature of this range just means that it's not... quite... something. Mine just sat funky on Courage's head. It wasn't bad, but I wasn't in love with it. Blogger Karen hasn't written a full review, but she had a double from this line (on my referral, sorry Karen) and the noseband just didn't work for her horse and the browband fell apart. Buyer beware apparently--their customer service was underwhelming when I dealt with them. 

5/10 would use them in a pinch but probably won't go back

...and you want to spend less than $100: 

Once you hit this end of the spectrum, you better know what you're getting in to. Royal Sports is probably the best option here--lots of options, lots of coupon codes, reasonably fast shipping from India. Downsides include leather that smells weird (technical tack ho talk here), iffy-at-best customer service, and kinda wonky sizing. Like. Cob size is TINY and horse size is HUGE and maybe oversize is for elephants? I have no idea. Haven't tried the OS. Alli wrote a review here, and she's the most recent purchaser I'm aware of. It's not my favorite option, but you can get a bridle pretty inexpensively and if you're not too picky, it's probably fine. 
browband unrelated

2/10 unlikely to place another order unless I need something cheap and weird 

Not to worry!! You're not SOL if your horse is full or semi custom, but you will have to take some measurements and try a little harder. There can also be a bit of a premium for buying piece-by-piece. It's definitely more expensive than just buying an assembled bridle. So. 

If you want to spend up to $300 (and you need custom sizing): 

I know it's not super sexy, but a quality standby is the Nunn Finer custom event bridle. You can pick leather and buckle colors and then pick a different size for every different piece. Or at least choose from three different sizes. It's not fancy and modern, but we're talking solid leather that does the job and isn't embarrassing. The look blends seamlessly in the dressage and eventing rings and the bridle will pretty much last you forever. 
ZB not getting a figure eight obv

9/10 have already ordered one for Zoebird

If you want to spend up to $200 (and you need custom sizing):

I've written a very positive review of Uisce Saddlery in the past. Elaine makes a quality product with excellent craftsmanship that is surprisingly affordable. Because these pieces are hand made, you can get all crazy-go-nuts on hyper custom sizing and details. I did contact her this time around and apparently mid-busy-season she's a little slower to respond than if you catch her in the off season (and I have the patience of a gnat, oops). On the whole, my experiences have been positive and I love the little extra zazzle you can get with colored padding if you're bold. 
i love different stuff

8/10 we all know this is going to happen again

Noted: Flexible Fit Equestrian also theoretically lands on this list but I have no personal experience with them and haven't been thrilled with the designs I've seen out there. I'm happy to be proven wrong but haven't had the impetus to spend the money yet. 

If you want to spend about $100 (and you need custom sizing):

A bit of an unexpected entrant in this category is the Equiture line of bridles. I'm not sure where they're sourced from (well I mean Asia obv), but you can order each part individually and get some fun details like patent or white padding. It's more of a dressage look, but with the right pieces you'll be ok regardless. Downsides are of course that you're looking at pretty mass-produced leather that's just... not that pretty. It has that cardboard-y shine that doesn't really come off and it doesn't break in like super nice leather, but it's affordable and it will do in a pinch. 
this qualifies as a pinch

4/10 unlikely to buy again 

Final Thoughts

Ummmm I hesitate to add at this point that I've (obviously) owned models from all of these lines and all of my reviews are based on actually owning/handling them. I also paid full price (or used publicly available sales) and received no compensation for any of my thoughts on these. This is also just a list of budget options and doesn't include bridles from higher-end price ranges that take a little more commitment to acquire.
and none of this includes browbands haha

At this point, I'm playing with an Equiture frankenbridle with a Nunn Finer on the way. What are some other options that would be worth checking out? 
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