Review – Ecolicious Equestrian

ecolicious-editjpg

Ecolicious Equestrian is my favorite brand of horse grooming products. This company makes an assortment of completely natural, chemical free grooming products (from hoof oil to shampoo, and everything in between!). The fact that Ecolicious uses only natural and organic ingredients was the biggest reason why I started using their products. I am a big fan of chemical and silicone free products, especially when it comes to my horse. I always cringe when people put products on their horses with warning labels that say “wash immediately with soap and water if contact with skin occurs”. If the company feels it necessary to put a warning about the product being potentially dangerous if contact with human skin is made, why on earth would you want to put that product on your horse? Especially considering that horses will scratch and chew on themselves (or groom other horses) and might end up ingesting some of that product with a warning that takes up 1/3 of the label. My motto is that if I can’t use it on myself, then I don’t want to put it on my horse!

It is true, that a lot of people do not like to use the natural grooming products because they typically do not work as well as the chemical and silicone laden ones, but I am pleased to say that Ecolicious is not one of them. After trying numerous of other natural products, and having disappointing results, Ecolicious was practically my final hope. With all of their products that I have used, I have gotten wonderful results. My horses have never been shinier or softer.

IMGP0341edit
#ecoliciousgroomed

An added bonus with the Ecolicious Equestrian products is that they smell divine. They all have either a deliciously citricy (is that even a word?) or coconut scent. They smell so good in fact, that my farrier even commented on how nice my horse smelled, and asked what products I used; and this was over the smell of burning hoof as he placed a heated shoe on my mare’s hoof. Now there’s a testament to how strong (yet not overpowering) their fragrance is!

I have tried practically all of their equine products, and a great thing about all of them is that a little goes a long way. These products last me a surprisingly long time, because I only need to use a small amount of them. Ecolicious also offers a line of human products, but I have not yet tried any of them.

For a more detailed review of their individual products, I have listed and described my experiences with the products that I have used below:

Squeaky Green & Clean Shampoo~

This shampoo both conditions and cleans the horse’s coat, and as an added bonus it has tea tree oil in it, so it also has antibacterial properties. I love this shampoo, after using it my horses are silky soft and super shiny. I’m very sensitive to drying agents in shampoos, so much so that there only a handful of shampoos that I can use on myself. Ecolicious’ Squeaky Green & Clean Shampoo is one of the few shampoos that doesn’t dry out my hands after I use it. Also, this shampoo suds up and foams a wonderful amount (which for some reason, is oddly satisfying). Additionally, it is also biodegradable, so you don’t need to worry about it getting into your waterways or killing off your grass.

This shampoo is also great at combating dandruff, and from keeping your horse from getting dandruffy. Most shampoos I have used will remove dandruff after a bit of scrubbing, but the scaly skin is usually back within a couple of days,but with this shampoo it actually gets rid of the dandruff for good (or, for at least several weeks).

This product is also great at getting out stubborn stains. Green stains and random poo spots on my tobiano miniature wash out easily and quickly with this shampoo. It brightens white socks and stockings really well, and gives them a glorious sheen. This shampoo also seems to deter stains from setting in after I have used it, which is of course every horse person’s dream (a clean horse for a longer period of time!).

Silky Rinse out Moisturizing Conditioner~

This is by far my favorite conditioner that I have ever used. Oils and fatty acids contained in it help to moisturize and condition the coat, and I can attest that it certainly does. I have found that it really restores damaged and sun bleached hair. My black mini, Max, has a horrible issue with his mane being frizzed and frazzled from sun damage. This is the only conditioner that I have found that makes any significant, noticeable, and long lasting difference on his mane. His mane goes from being a dull, fuzzy mess, to a silky and shiny mass of tangle free hair.

For already healthy and non-damaged coats, this conditioner creates a gorgeous shine, and makes them incredibly soft and smooth. However, despite their reflective appearance and polished coat, this conditioner doesn’t make the hair slippery, nor cause the saddle to slide.

Like the shampoo, the conditioner also has tea tree oil for added antibacterial properties. Also, silk powder contained in this conditioner acts as a natural sunscreen, helping to ward off the damaging effect of the sun’s UV rays.

Blinded by the White, Total Body Whitening Treatment~

This is a great whitening product, and it creates the most lustrous coat. I much prefer using this product over the traditional whitening shampoos (you know the ones, the blue ones that have a risk of giving your horse a purple hue if you leave it on too long). Asides from no longer having heart failure from applying a bright blue goo all over my white horse, I do find that it works better than the other ones that I’ve tried.

The only downfall that I can say about this product is that it does need to be left in for a long time, at least 30 minutes. However, I think that the wait is definitely worth while, especially considering that I no longer have to fear about having a purple horse the day before a show.

IMGP3360
Pearly white mini after his whitening treatment

Squeaky Green & Clean Waterless Shampoo~

Living in the dreary and wet west coast of Canada, bathing my horses with water isn’t always an option (especially if one does not have access to hot water). In situations when it is just too cold to bathe, or for when I don’t have enough time, Ecolicious’ waterless shampoo has been a life saver.

It’s super easy to use, simply spray on, let sit for a few minutes, and then towel off. It’s great for getting that stubborn dust out that gets trapped under a winter coat, and for that last minute clean before a show. It leaves my horse’s coat shiny and smooth, plus it smells great!

Gloss Enhancing Coat Tonic~

This is the all natural and silicone free version of ShowSheen (the biggest difference is that I can spray it on my horse’s back and not worry about the saddle slipping and sending me plummeting towards the earth). The ingredients in this product have reflective properties, causing it to catch the light and create a shimmering mirror on your horse’s coat.

It also contains essential fatty acids that help to condition the coat, and the incorporated silk powder acts as a natural sunscreen. My mind is at ease when I use this product because it doesn’t have any chemicals or silicones in it, substances that will ultimately dry out your horse’s hair and cause more harm than good. I absolutely love this product, it really does create the ultimate show ring shine, and I make sure that my grooming tote is never without it.

De-Stress Intense Restructuring & Detangling Treatment~

In a base of coconut oil, and filled with vitamins, fatty acids, and other oils, this is a great detangler. Since it is very oily, a little goes a long way. I just squirt a small amount (less than the circumference of the tip of my pinky finger) into my hand, and smooth it over my horse’s tail. I can then easily brush out any tangles.

It has added sunflower extract to help prevent damage from UV rays, and it also contains tea tree oil to improve scalp health and prevent itching. Additionally, the coconut oil and other fatty acids condition and nourish the hair.

Before finding this product, I had liked to use straight coconut oil on my horse’s tail, but I found that a little annoying and not as easy to use as I’d hoped. This product however is super easy and convenient to use, and combines all of the beneficial properties of using straight coconut oil.

Moisture Maniac Mane & Tail Detangling Infusion~

This detangling product isn’t as heavy duty as the De-Stress coconut oil one, but it works marvelously well for everyday use on tails that are regularly cleaned and brushed out. As the name suggests, this product moisturizes the hair, while providing a light detangling effect. For heavily tangled manes and tails, or for manes and tails that just haven’t had regular care, then I would use the De-Stress treatment first, and then switch to this product.

When used on a regular basis, it creates shiny and tangle-free tails. Unlike chemical detanglers, that tend to build up on the hair and actually end up causing more tangles in the long run, this product creates a long lasting, tangle-free tail. This product also gives the hair a very healthy appearance, whereas some chemical detanglers can end up creating the tail to look dull after a couple of hours after application of said product.

In Control Conditioning Mane Setting Cream~

This is by far my favorite product to use when braiding to give that extra hold and grip on the hair. Being a dressage rider, I of course braid for every show (well, almost every show. Sometimes I have been known to neglect the smaller, one day schooling shows), so I have tried numerous different products to provide grip on the mane. Ecolicious’ Mane Setting Cream is the only one that I really like. It provides just the right amount of grip, but not so much that it makes the mane sticky and tacky feeling.

I love that it is in a cream format, rather than a spray. I can get exactly the right amount in the exact spot I need. I also find that the cream is better at taming those random flyaway hairs. As an added bonus, it is filled with different vitamins that help to condition and to restore elasticity to damaged hair. This is now the only product that I’ll use when I’m braiding.

Glamorous all Natural Face Highlighter~

I used this product when I was involved in the world of in-hand miniature horse showing. This products gives a lovely, subtle shimmer, a much better look than the gross, greasy appearance that baby oil gives. Filled with conditioning and moisturizing ingredients, it also soothes the skin and protects it from UV rays.

I really appreciated the look that this product gave my horse, it was enough of a shine to highlight my mini’s delicate muzzle, but not so much that it looked like I just dunked his head in a bucket of olive oil.

I no longer have a need for this product, because I am no longer competing my minis in the in-hand shows, but if I ever returned to that world, then I would use this product again without hesitation.

So Fresh & So Green Equine Body Spray~

I love to use this product after I ride to help remove sweat marks and to condition the coat. Chock full of gentle essential oils and plant extracts, this product is great for it’s antibacterial and soothing properties. It also contains sunflower seed extract, so it also acts as a natural sunscreen to help prevent sun bleaching.

I have also found that this products works quite well as a fly spray. I have found that flies and other flying insects don’t like the smell of it, and stay clear of my horse for a couple of hours after I have applied it. So it is definitely a wining concoction of ingredients.

Hoof Therapy, Restorative & Protective Serum~

This is so far the only hoof oil that I have found that actually works. It is designed as a moisturizer to help prevent cracks and chipping, and I have found that it does live up to it’s claims. When I apply this on a regular basis, my mare has immaculate hooves, but if I run out of it, then she soon develops a couple of chips in her feet. Asides from being a good moisturizer, it also contains ingredients that enhance hoof colour, eliminating the need of the chemical laden hoof polishes for shows.

It also has antibacterial properties, containing tea tree oil, burdock root extract, and lavender oil.


I have been extremely happy with all of the Ecolicious Equestrian grooming products that I have used, and I plan to continue to use them on a regular basis. Overall, I would give Ecolicious Equestrian a solid 5 stars.

DSC_0304edit
#ecoliciousgroomed
Advertisements

The term “Success”

A conversation came up at the barn the other day, “what does success mean to you?”. People’s responses were varied, and hugely individual. Some connected the word to being financially stable, or having a happy life. While others thought of the word as achieving a goal. In general, the end conclusion was that success is the objective of life. Everyone wants success in their life, and everyone strives for it.

This conversation got my thinking what exactly success is, and what it means to me personally. Merriam-Webster simply defines success as a “favorable or desired outcome, or the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence”. For me, I suppose that I think of success as accomplishing a goal that I had set out, and through living each day to its fullest potential. Success, for me, isn’t a once in a blue moon occurrence, it’s everyday. It’s feeling the softening over Hope’s back during collected work, it’s that one extra stride in our canter pirouettes, it’s pushing myself just a little bit harder, it’s finishing that project, it’s smiling and finding a lesson when the day didn’t turn out how I expected it would. Success is a day by day attainment, and it means that I accomplished what I set out to do, that I am a little bit better than I was the day before.

success

Perhaps what I love most about success, is that I am able to control it. I can choose to work harder everyday, to try and achieve my goals, to push myself, to learn. If I am not successful in the conventional sense of achieving a goal or improving, then I still try to find a lesson in the day’s events and learn from it, so I am better prepared for the next time something stands in my way.

motivation

If I could have one wish fulfilled, I decided long ago that I would ask to have success with horses. That was, and is, my one wish. Everyday I strive to make that a reality, and I work just a little bit harder to make that wish come true.

What does success mean to you?

Ulcers – what they are, what to do about them, & why I know so much about them

Most people in the horse world have, at the very least, heard of ulcers. Perhaps, you have even had a horse with one, or even experienced one yourself. What are they? Well, in essence, ulcers are lesions in the protective mucosal lining of either the foregut or the hindgut. This lining gets irritated, and is then eroded, leaving the intestinal wall exposed to the acidic environment, which ultimately turns into a painful wound.

ulcer_stomach
Retrieved from The Atlanta Equine Clinic

There are two major categories of ulcers, gastric or foregut ulcers which primarily occur in the stomach, and colonic or hindgut ulcers which mainly occur in the colon. Gastric ulcers can be further broken down into two categories, glandular and non-glandular ulcers. The glandular portion of the stomach is the lower section, and it is protected by a thick layer of mucosal lining. This section is constantly producing hydrochloric acid (HCI) through millions of pumps, designed for the horse to be constantly grazing. This region also secretes mucus to prevent the stomach from digesting itself. The non-glandular portion of the stomach is the top section, and it is not as well protected, being covered with a thinner lining of squamous epithelium that does not secrete as much mucus to protect the stomach. As a consequence, the non-glandular region is most commonly afflicted with ulcers.

Non glandular region
Retrieved from McKee Pownall

There are many different factors that can cause gastric ulcers, but essentially, anything that causes the HCI from the glandular region to splash excessively onto the non-glandular area, either from an overproduction of HCI, or an empty stomach, will cause them. The stomach will produce more HCI during times of stress, or if the horse is being fed a diet high in grain and starchy foods. Diets that are low in forage, intense training, an overuse of NSAIDS, or horses being fed large meals a couple of times a day, rather than being allowed to eat food constantly throughout the day, are the most common reasons why ulcers develop. Since most of these reasons are typical of a performance horse, it is no surprise that ulcers are very common among these horses. Hay and other types of forage act as a buffer to prevent the HCI from “attacking” the non-glandular portion of the stomach, but when horses are denied free access to forage, the HCI is then able to erode the non-glandular region.

horse
Retrieved from Dr. Jess

Ulcers usually manifest themselves by the horse developing a loss of appetite, loss of weight and condition, becoming colicy, having a decrease in performance, being girthy, and a general change in attitude.

Gastric ulcers are diagnosed through endoscopy, which is a camera attached on the end of a long tube that is inserted into the horse’s nostril and down into their stomach. The vet is then able to take a look at the inside of the horse’s stomach and determine whether there is ulceration or not. More often, however, ulcers are “diagnosed” through the symptoms that the horse is presenting.

Gastric ulcers are treated with omeprazole, a proton pump inhibitor, which blocks some of the pumps that produce HCI. The stomach is still able to secrete enough HCI to digest food, but not so much as to cause it to splash onto the non-glandular region and continue to irritate the ulcer, allowing it to heal.

Hope was diagnosed with gastric ulcers through the symptoms she was presenting when I first got her. She was girthy, had a poor appetite, and needed to gain more weight. I put her on omeprazole (some people use the FDA approved product Gastrogard, but I just used the generic stuff from my vet), and her appetite increased and she finally started to gain weight. I am also careful with her diet, and ensure that she has 24/7 access to hay and also give her a probiotic, I use Biotic 8 from Omega Alpha (best stuff ever!). I had noticed that she has a tendency to start acting like she possibly had ulcers after shows, so I now put her on a preventative dose of omeprazole a couple of days before, during, and for a couple of days after shows. This seems to do the trick, and I haven’t had any issues with gastric ulcers since I’ve started this regimen.

Hindgut ulcers are a whole nother kettle of fish entirely.  They are typically caused by stress and an overuse of NSAIDS, although parasites can also cause them. Hindgut acidosis is caused when the acidity of the hindgut is too high, usually caused by feeding too many starchy and sugary foods (such as grains and processed feed). This increased acidity can then have the potential to create an ulcer.

The symptoms of hindgut ulcers are very similar to those of gastric ulcers. Horses will typically have a loss of appetite, experience weight loss, have poor performance and resistance under saddle, become girthy and grumpy when their abdomen is touched or brushed, and have a change in their attitude. The only addition is that horses with hindgut ulcers will be particularly sensitive on the right side of their abdomen, some going so far as to even kick out undersaddle when any right leg is applied. Hindgut ulcers are frequently called Right Dorsal Colitis, as the ulcers tend to develop on the right side of the colon (which is why horses afflicted with them are more sensitive on their right side).

Hope started to display this behavior, becoming very grumpy whenever I brushed her abdomen, especially her right side, and started to kick out her right hind leg undersaddle whenever I put my right leg back (for certain lateral movements, or when asking for the left lead canter). Because her kicking out was only with her right leg, and only when I used my right leg further back, I assumed that she might have hindgut ulcers.

Screen Shot 2017-05-22 at 1.45.44 PM
Hope wasn’t a happy camper, and was plainly letting me know

Hindgut ulcers can be clinically diagnosed through ultrasound of the colon. In ulcerated areas, the colon will appear thicker. I chose to not get Hope ultrasounded, because this can sometimes be inaccurate and finicky. I decided to just go ahead with the treatment instead. Depending on the severity of the ulceration, some veterinarians recommend taking your horse off of all long stem forage, to allow the colon to rest and heal itself. We decided to not follow this route however.

I put Hope on Sucralfate, a complex of aluminum that coats any ulcers present in the hindgut with a protective lining. This medication is a little annoying, because it has to be given three times a day, 1-2 hours before or after meals. Sucralfate comes in pills that need to be crushed up, have water added to, and then syringed to your horse. Asides from the administration being a little tedious, it seems to work quite well. I noticed a difference in Hope after a couple of days.

I suspected that her hindgut ulcers were caused by hindgut acidosis, because she had been on a high starch grain (she is an extremely picky eater, and it was the only grain she would eat). When she started displaying symptoms of hindgut ulcers, I immediately stopped feeding the high starch grain, and put her on a low starch, low sugar feed instead (much to her disappointment, but after about a week of refusing to eat it, she finally gave in, and has been eating it ever since). I also had to find a product to decrease the overly acidic environment of her hindgut. Equishure by Kentucky Equine Research was the most well recommended, so I decided to go with it. Equishure is a time-released hindgut buffer, essentially, it is encapsulated baking soda. The encapsulation ensures that the product gets to the hindgut (normal baking soda would be destroyed in the stomach, it would never reach the hindgut), which allows it to change the pH and lower the acidity.

I’m pleased to say, that the combination of Sucralfate and Equishure healed Hope’s ulcer in a couple of weeks, and she went back to her normal self. I can now use my right leg without her having any objection, and can brush her entire abdomen without her caring.

I’ve decided to keep Hope on a preventative dose of Equishure, just to help ensure that she doesn’t redevelop hindgut ulcers again. So far, she has been totally fine, and now enjoys her low-starch grain sprinkled with her Equishure, a brilliant product tasting faintly of baking soda.

Have you ever had a horse with ulcers? How did you treat them, and do you do anything to prevent them?

 

 

Review – Ogilvy (saddle pads & half pads)

If you’ve been around the horse world long enough, Ogilvy is a name that you would heard on multiple occasions. You’ve most likely heard about people raving about their Ogilvy half-pads, but with the hefty price of $200-$240, you have probably wondered if the pad is as good as it claims to be.

I have been using some different Ogilvy products for about 2 years now, their baby pads, their profile pads, and both their memory foam and gummy half pads. The construction of all of these pads is gorgeous. The stitching it tight and even, and the materials feel like they will last a lifetime. Also, they wash up beautifully. Even the white pads and half pad cover wash up looking brand new.

Baby Pad~

Ogilvy’s baby pad’s are very reasonably priced at $47, and have the same beautiful construction as their other pads. These pads do not have any billet straps, and their older model didn’t have girth loops (they have added them in their new model). The inside of the pad (the side that goes against the horse) is lined in a very soft, slightly fuzzy material (it is called brushed poly on the website). Ogilvy used to claim that this material would keep the pad from sliding, hence allowing the pad to not have any straps. However, with both their old and new models, I had a horrible issue with the pad sliding and bunching up behind my leg, creating a rather unattractive appearance. I do know that other people were having this problem as well, and I suppose enough people sent in complaints to Ogilvy, which caused them to “fix” the issue by adding girth loops that are sectioned into 4 parts, allowing you to put your billets into the exact slot you need to keep the pad still. Despite this addition though, I still had issues with the pad bunching behind my leg.

Overall, I was not really impressed with this pad. It is super thin and lightweight, and I prefer a pad with more of a sturdier construction. Even though the pad is very thin, it doesn’t seem overly breathable however. I can take this pad off of Hope after a ride and have the entire thing, as well as her back, absolutely soaked. Where as on a similar day weather-wise, I can take off a normal saddle pad after a ride and she isn’t sweating nearly as much under it.

In general, this pad left me with a “meh” feeling. Which is unfortunate, because these pads really do look beautiful when hanging up in the tack store.

IMGP4829
The baby pad at the start of a ride, before it had slipped

Profile Pad~

Since I loved the look of Ogilvy’s baby pad, but not so much the issue with it sliding back, I decided to try their profile pad. At $57.50, this pad is a little more expensive, but is still reasonably priced and not outrageously expensive. The construction and materials of this pad are the same as the new model of their baby pad, with the exception of the added billet straps. I was a little disappointed to see that this pad is really not any thicker or sturdier than the baby pad, like I was hoping, and even with the billet straps, the pad did slip back and bunch up behind my leg, although not nearly to the same extent as the baby pad.

Again, this pad left me feeling “meh” and disappointed. I’ve since decided to avoid any of their saddle pads in the future, as I seem to always have problems with them (even though I do know of some people who are perfectly happy with their products). Despite the pad’s gorgeous appearance (and high appealing factor of being completely customizable in colour options), it is unfortunately, in my experience, just a well contrived facade.

IMG_1123
Note the slight bunching behind my leg/ beside the saddle flap (it’s minor, but still annoyingly present)

Memory foam & Gummy half pad~

I have tried both of Ogilvy’s half pads, the thicker memory foam one, and the thinner gummy one. These pads have been the trendy and “in fashion” half pads since they became available, although it does seem as if the fascination with them is starting to diminish.

Their half pads are gorgeous, the craftsmanship is beautiful, and they feel and look so luxurious. The top side of the pad is sued-like material, that has a tendency to get dust, shavings, and bits of hay stuck to it. The underside of the pad is their standard brushed poly. The pads have a Velcro closure on the spine, to enable you to remove the memory foam inserts and wash just the cover (which is very convenient).

IMGP4443
Ogilvy half pad in midnight blue

I found their memory foam half-pad far too thick for my liking; it felt almost as if a pillow had been placed under my saddle. My feeling of my horse’s movement was significantly muffled (I bet my horse could hardly feel me, either). With this pad, I have to say that I didn’t notice any remarkable (or even apparent) difference in Hope. She didn’t act any differently, and didn’t seem to care whether I used this half pad or not. Since I was only borrowing this pad from a friend, the fact that I disliked the thickness and general feeling of the pad resulted in no loss to me (I would have been very sad indeed if I had bought this pad).

The gummy (despite it’s name, this pad is also made out of memory foam) is quite a bit thinner than the above mentioned memory foam half pad (1/2″ as opposed to 1″), it still felt fairly thick under my saddle, but it was certainly less than the memory foam. After I had ridden in it for a couple of minutes the gummy “settled down” and started to feel thinner (because of this, you have to tighten your girth after you have mounted and ridden for a bit). However, I also didn’t notice any real difference with this half pad, but since I had bought this one, I decided to continue to use it anyway. It couldn’t do any harm, and it might even do some good.

However, I later found out that Ogilvy’s claim of “the memory foam acts as a buffer that fills any voids between the saddle and the horse, stabilizes the saddle, and provides shock-absorption for the backs of both horse and rider. This half pad will have your saddle fitting perfectly on every horse, even with custom made saddles” was certainly far from correct. With my old dressage saddle, a Regal, it’s flocking suddenly compressed and didn’t fit Hope perfectly anymore. Since my custom fitted Voltaire saddle was scheduled to arrive in a couple of weeks, I decided to not spend the couple hundred dollars to get the Regal re-flocked. I was using the memory foam half pad, and assumed that it would provide the extra cushion until the new saddle arrived. However, even with the half pad, Hope got back sore and fervently refused to be ridden in the Regal.

I was a bit disappointed in the half pad, and in the company’s claims, but since Hope does have a bit of the “princess and the pea” syndrome, I was not overly frustrated. When my new saddle arrived, I decided to use the Ogilvy gummy with it (since I had it, I figured that I might as well use it). However, Hope still acted back sore when I rode her, even though we had gotten a chiropractor and massage therapist to work on her back. I decided to try my new saddle without the Ogilvy, and used my old Ultra ThinLine instead. Hope was instantly better.

Hope had sometimes had short episodes of having a sore back while I was using the Ogilvy, but I just attributed that to her long back. However, since having started using the ThinLine, Hope hasn’t had a sore back.

Clearly, the Ogilvy half pad just didn’t work for Hope. She is much happier with her ThinLine, and my $240 Ogilvy half pad now sits unused in my cupboard (I need to get around to selling it one of these days). Hope told me what she likes, and for me, that is the clearest and most important review that I need.

 

Goals & Plans for 2017

Even though the year is shockingly almost halfway over, I figured that it is never too late to post my equine related goals for this year.

My biggest plan that I had laid out for this year was to have a less intensive show season, so I would be able to focus more on training. I only have three gold shows planned, and a few different schooling shows.

IMG_0153
More time for training, and more time for treats

This year, I wanted to really focus on improving myself as a rider, and to further Hope’s training. I have a couple of goals that revolve around just that. I know that some people have goals to do with placings at shows or for qualifying for a certain event, but I personally have never liked to have those types of goals. I do not like to have a goal that I don’t have 100% control over. I find it unrealistic to have a goal to win a championship at a specific show, or to want to get a certain placing. You cannot control how the other competitors ride, so there is no point stressing over your placing if you are unable to control it.

For me personally, my placing among other riders means much less to me than how my horse and I actually did when compared to our previous tests and rides. I could have a poor test at a show, and still win first place, not because we deserved it, but simply because the other riders had a worse day than I did. Placings are very subjective, and they only represent a 5 minute portion of your riding on that given day, and are only compared to the other competitors.

I do, however, think that having a goal to achieve a certain percentage on your dressage test is an okay goal to have. That is something that is more within your power to control. You can control how much you train prior to your show, and how much effort you put in at the show. However, there are still two major uncertainties with this type of goal. Firstly, horses are animals. They are unpredictable, they have off days, and they most likely won’t try to behave themselves at a show just because you had a goal to get a score above 65%. Also, even though judges are not supposed to be biased, they all do, to some extent, have certain preferences. It is admirable to have a goal to increase your scores by a certain percentage, but remember that if you don’t achieve it, it isn’t necessarily because you rode badly, or because your horse made a mistake. Sometimes, it is just factors that are outside of your control. Keep this in mind when at shows, and always try to analyze your own rides and compare them to your previous tests, not the tests of other riders.

IMG_1046
Ribbons are always appreciated, but how you feel about your ride is always more important

My goals for 2017~

Ride a 4th level test- (I’m aiming for 4-1, anything higher than that would just be an added bonus)

  • Develop consistent 3 and 4 tempis
  • Develop working half-pirouettes in canter (we almost have our quarter-pirouettes down, now we just need to focus on getting those couple of extra strides)
  • Develop more collection

Go to a driving show with Max- (last year I was just too busy with school and dressage shows with Hope to go to any shows with Max, but not this year!)

Participate in the Mane Event with either Hope or Max- (this one may be negotiable; it will depend on who the clinicians are and if we get accepted/ picked)

General riding goals for me-

  • Look up! ( I have a tendency to have my head tilted slightly downwards)
  • Keep my legs still (my legs are much better than they were last year, but if I forget to keep a mental check on them at all times then they can get a little loose and bounce a bit)
  • Don’t let my right foot point outwards (apparently, climbing on an unfinished playground when I was 7 and getting my right leg caught in a gap and then proceeding to fall over the edge of said playground with my body twisting 180° while my leg stayed put has long lasting consequences…)

Introducing the rest of the herd

I am fortunate enough to not only have the privilege of owning Hope, but to also be able to call three other horses mine (well, technically 2 horses, one is a pony).


Gwyneth is a spunky 12.2hh, 2001 Welsh mare, and the first horse I ever owned. We first met in 2010 at a local fair; she was the demo horse (or demo pony) that was being used by a farrier in a shoeing demonstration. I happened to remark to my Mum as we were passing her pen “That’s the kind of pony we need!”. I had been begging for the past year for my own horse, and my parents had finally relented a couple of months prior. However, we had as of yet been unable to find a suitable pony, so when I saw Gwyneth standing among the hustle and bustle of the fairgrounds, standing as calm as could be and looking as if she didn’t have a care in the world, it just slipped out of my mouth that we needed a pony like that. At that very moment, the farrier’s head popped up from behind a magazine she was reading and said “She’s for sale, you know”. I just about dropped down dead on the spot, I couldn’t believe it! I scurried over to her and gazed in awe at this fairy-tale looking pony.

IMGP5017
A pony seemingly right out of a fairy tale

The farrier pinned up her for sale ad, and I eagerly read through it. It said her name was Peanut (“That would be the first thing to go!” I thought to myself), and that she was previously a gymkhana pony, but was now being used as a trail horse in a nearby horse camp.

We set up a time to try her, and I spent the next few days daydreaming about owning this breathtaking chestnut pony. When we went to see her, I absolutely adored her (how could I not? I had fallen in love with her through the previous days spent fantasizing about her). Needless to say, we bought her, and she came home a week before my 12 birthday. A pony for my birthday! Every horse-crazy kid’s dream.

I only rode Gwyneth for a couple of years before I outgrew her. In that time, she helped me to develop as a rider. Not in the show ring, for I never once showed her, but in my level of determination. For, a more obstinate pony undersaddle I have yet to meet. Her favorite activity was stubbornly refusing to move, despite my pony club kicks and undignified flapping. We were, eventually, somewhat successful in establishing forward motion, so she would throw in the odd buck, just too keep me from getting cocky.

She is now retired, and living out her life quite happily as a princess and diva. Despite our rather bumpy riding career, I genuinely appreciate what Gwyneth taught me, determination. The ability to stand up after being unceremoniously dumped on the ground, and to dust myself off, smile, and try again.


Max is a 32″, 2008 miniature horse (yes, he counts as a horse!). I unintentionally acquired him in 2013. His owner was leaving on a holiday, and needed to board him somewhere while she would be away. She had brought him to the stable that I rode at, but none of the fences there were suitable to contain such a small horse. My Mum spotted him, and immediately fell in love with him, and before she could stop herself she blurted out “He can stay at our place!” (our fences were mini proof, as Gwyneth would stick her head between any fence board that didn’t have wire on top of it, so all of our fences were practically escape proof). I stared at her, and my mouth fell open. As we already knew his owner, she was completely fine with that and hauled him up to our place that very afternoon.

Although I was slightly hesitant about having a mini on the property, I found that I too quickly fell in love with Max. When his owner returned from her holiday, she asked if we wanted to keep Max at our place for a little while, and I could learn to drive on him (I had previously expressed some interest in learning to drive). I was overjoyed, and with that, my driving adventure began.

IMGP0233edit
Who could not love that face?

A year later I purchased Max, for having gotten to know and love him, I just couldn’t let him go. He is the sweetest little guy, and never puts a foot wrong. He is so chill and relaxed, but will eagerly gallop through the fields when I ask, and happily runs around his paddock bucking and squeaking (he doesn’t squeal, he squeaks). He is a really nice change of pace from the more spooky and hot horses I ride.

We now compete in CDEs (combined driving events), and are having a tremendous amount of fun.


Aeras, standing at just a hair taller than Max, is a 2006 33″ mini. His personality is as colourful as his markings, and he is as energetic as Max is relaxed. These two are pretty much polar opposites. Whereas Aeras is slightly spooky, Max is calm and relaxed. Aeras loves attention and to be fussed with, but Max would prefer to get down to business and work (unless you have treats, then he’ll be happy to hangout with you). Aeras loves to be kissed and cuddled, but Max thinks that he is too manly for that degree of affection. Even though their personalities are quite different, they love to play together and make excellent companions for one another.

IMGP5700edit
Best buddies
IMGP5734
Well… most of the time

I got Aeras in 2013 as a free lease. Basically he was just supposed to be a friend for Max, and a companion for when I had to take another horse off the property, and someone else was left on their own. I have done a couple of the in-hand miniature horse shows with Aeras, but they weren’t really my thing. Aeras much prefers being a companion and snuggle bug.

In 2014, Aeras’ owner gifted him to me, and he’s been here ever since.

Hope – a horse of a lifetime

_adp1945_29538507972_o

Hope (registered as Hope’s Promise), whom this blog is named after, is a 1998 Canadian Sport Horse (fun fact! Hope and I are practically the same age, we share the same birth year, but she is older than me by 4 months). In 2014 I was casually looking for a horse to free lease after having to retire my 25 year old Thoroughbred gelding, and consequently not having a horse to ride. My ideal lease horse would be something that was already trained in dressage, possibly even something big and fancy. My equine chiropractor mentioned that one of his clients had a mare that they were looking to lease out. He described her as big and black, sweet but temperamental, and warned me that she had some back problems due to not being ridden for a while, but she was currently being brought back into work and building her strength. I was intrigued, mainly for the fact that there was seemingly no other horses available for free lease at the time. I contacted her owner and set up a time to see “Hope”.

As I walked into the dark barn on the day scheduled to see her, I saw a silhouette of a horse at the far end of the aisle. A silhouette of a big horse, as described, with an almost absurdly long back, an equally long and slender neck, and huge ears. Her conformation was certainly far from the average standard of correct conformation; her back was long enough to seat a family of four, her neck was set too low, and she was built downhill (and she wasn’t black! Dark bay, but not black). This horse didn’t look like anything special, and I must admit that my heart sank a little when I saw her (I was expecting something “fancier”, the big stereotypical dressage horse, not a somewhat weedy looking horse). Still, this would be a free lease, and I figured that I could at least watch how she moves and ride her.

I liked her movement, her strides were big and she looked like a very forward moving and energetic horse. Upon riding her myself, I was immediately fascinated with her; she was like no other horse I had ever ridden before (and I don’t 100% mean that in a good way). She was obedient, but I felt that she had no spark. She was different, and I somehow felt that I needed to figure her out. Even though it was certainly not love at first sight, I knew from the bottom of my heart that this was the horse for me.

There was a hitch, however (isn’t there always?). She supposedly wouldn’t accept a bit. She was currently being ridden in a hackamore, but since hackamores aren’t dressage competition legal we had hit a bit of a road block. I tried a couple of different bits on her, and she was alright. She didn’t particularly love it, but she wasn’t trying to kill me either, so I figured that we would be able to make it work.

The other major issue was that she was not very strong due to having a year or so of time off. As a result, she traveled mostly with a hollow back and with her nosed poked in the air. She also only had 3 speeds: walk, semi strung-out trot, and a bolting gallop. Her habit of bolting was partially due to rider error on my part, but if we were to make this relationship work, we both had a lot of work to do.

After getting to know Hope over the span of a couple of weeks, I began to fall in love with her. I adored how sensitive she was, and how she would let me know the moment I had done anything wrong, she wasn’t going to coverup any of my mistakes for me. If I wasn’t going to pull my own weight, than neither was she. Quite a logical approach, if you ask me.

For the first year of the lease, we were just working on training, no shows. When we did eventually start showing, it wasn’t even in dressage, it was in the jumper rings because that was what Hope was actually trained for. I decided to take advantage of her previous jumper training, and started competing in the jumpers for the second time in my life (and here I thought I was out of jumping for good).

IMGP4467

We did start in dressage, and slowly moved further and further away from the jumper ring, until we eventually stopped competing in the jumpers altogether. As our time together lengthened, our relationship improved. Hope began to loose her aloofness, and she developed more of a personality. She now had a spark that she previously lacked, and was much more personable. She had also figured out how to make the cutest “plz may I have a treat” face (it’s her big ears, she knows how to angle them in the most endearing way).

Before and After
Before and after pictures – On the left, when I first started working with Hope, and on the right is from earlier this year

Perhaps the most charming part of our time together is the day that Hope became mine. It was the Christmas of 2015, one seemingly just like any other, but this Christmas turned out to be one that I will always hold dear to my heart. I shall forever remember walking into the barn on Christmas day and seeing Hope standing there with a bow tied around her neck, and my coach standing beside her, smiling and saying “Merry Christmas!” as she handed me a card that explained that Hope was now mine. This was the greatest Christmas present I could have ever imagined, and only would have believed possible in my wildest dreams. Which just goes to show, dreams really do come true.

IMGP6117

Hope and I still have a long way to go, but I am so proud with how far we’ve come already. We still have issues, and neither one of us is perfect. However, I can confidently say with complete honesty that I made the right decision when I chose to lease Hope. Our time together has certainly not been all sunshine and rainbows, and she has at times caused me to want to bash my head against the wall in frustration, but I know without a shadow of a doubt that I love her, and would not have her any other way. She has taught me so much already, and I know that she will continue to teach and humble me. I will continue to strive for improvement, and hold onto my belief that Hope and I are capable in the realm of dressage, if only holding onto the belief of the promise of hope.