My Horse is a Genius

Rio and I had our ritual Sunday lesson this afternoon, and he could not have been more perfect. Everything is clicking- the canter work, our distances, our general flow. Even his leads changes were pretty stellar today! I think we got every one I asked for except one. I seriously cannot believe he has gotten the hang of lead changes in let’s see… 5 rides?! Not even kidding. Rio must be a horsey genius. Anyway- not much to report other then a great baby horse. I am super excited to take him to a show in 2 weeks!

Please forgive the angle- apparently I didn’t get my phone on the chair very straight LOL.

Rio4.30.17 from Kelly on Vimeo.

2 Ponies for the Week

Let’s start with a few quick updates!

Cascai struts his stuff

I had a great hack with Rio on Monday. I have been struggling a bit with whether or not to use a flash on him. He still acts like a baby with his mouth, and wants to gape it when I put pressure on him to work harder, such as with the more collected canter we’ve been schooling lately. Since he will show in the hunter ring, I wasn’t sure that a flash was the answer. I’ve had his teeth done twice in the past year- so he should be comfortable on that front. I decided that I wanted to try a flash, just to remind him to accept the contact and not just try and avoid it. I am not planning on using it every ride, as I don’t want to become dependent on it. Rio had a soft mouth, I think he just needs to learn that avoidance isn’t the answer. I would really like your thoughts and input though- as I am not sure this is the best approach. Any advice is appreciated!

Rio demands carrots after being a good boy

After our ride I gave him a good conditioning rinse to prep him for his photo shoot on Tuesday morning. If you have any interest in pro equine photos and have not heard of Karinda Kinsler, then go check out her site now! Her work is stunning, as well as affordable! If you want FREE photos taken of your horse, check out her 365 days of horses project. You can apply to have your horse be apart of the project, and she will come shoot them, and feature them on her blog for free. After the shoot, you have the option to purchase some of the images if you want, but it’s not required. Anyway- Karinda photographed Rio for the project on Tuesday morning. I am beyond excited to see how the images turn out, and I cannot wait to purchase some for my home!

Cascai looks so handsome in his Bruno Delgrange bridle

My trainer is out of town on a much deserved vacay this week, so I have had the opportunity to school her jumper, Cascai. I rode him and Rio on Thursday, and they were both amazing. I got a few lead changes on Rio, which is very exciting. I am trying not to ask for too many right now, so every time he gets one I get so excited. I had a blast flatting Cascai- he is totally different from Rio, but a really enjoyable ride. I set my phone on a chair and videoed while I rode him, I edited out the “out of frame” parts. I tried to do the same with Rio, and took him over a little 3 jump bounce combo- but unfortunately I didn’t have the phone angled correctly and all I got was the tops of the standards LOL.

Cascai struts his stuff


CascaiKelly4.27.17 from Kelly Wilson on Vimeo.


Lesson tomorrow, I’m going to try setting my phone on a chair again to try and get some jump video, fingers crossed I don’t mess it up this time!

Loving the green Tailoreds with  brown boots 

Doubting the Vision

Young hanoverian
Rio just got body clipped, isn’t he just the hunkiest?!

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Sometimes I doubt. I doubt that I have made the right decisions, that I am on the right path, and that I will be able to tell the difference. I try to push it down, but sometimes that seed of doubt creeps to the surface, like an ugly zit that just won’t go away!

Kingsland equestrian fashion
My new Kingsland breeches make me so happy

I want so badly for Rio to grow up to be my “ideal” show horse, that I worry that I am making mistakes that will keep him from becoming that super horse. I’ve never started my own baby horse, and I never realized how much pressure comes with it. If they develop bad habits, you can’t blame then on anyone but yourself LOL. I think I need to be happy with the horse I have right now (which I am, I love him!) lower my sky-high expectations, and trust the vision a bit more! #easiersaidthendone

Young hanoverian
Best baby horse ever

Long story short, I stopped during my lesson today, turned towards Trainer, and voiced my doubt loud and clear. I explained that I wasn’t seeing the vision and couldn’t figure out why we were doing such “jumper” type exercises. How was this going to make him a better hunter?

Let me just tell you- sometimes, when you are wrong, you are SO wrong. She patiently explained how every thing we are doing is going to help us make those hunter courses look and feel effortless, then proved it by having us do a nice long canter to  a decently sized oxer (compared to the small fences we were using in our exercises) and what do you know? Rio jumped the socks off that jump, easy as can be. We did it a few more times, and every time the distance was right there. Foot, please come here so you can meet Mouth.

In other news, my hubby went down to Austin this weekend to pick up this beauty! I am so excited to have it for horse shows and not have to pay those crazy rental fees anymore!

Golf cart equestrian
Beep beep!

Huge shout out to Trainer for talking me through the doubt and staying patient with me! And a big shout out to the best body clipper ever for doing such an awesome job on my boy!

Buying a Horse: Your “No” List

So a recent thread on the COTH forum got me thinking- What is on your “No List” when buying a horse? What faults can you absolutely not look past? Wha,t during a PPE, makes you stop and pass on the horse?

Started with flexions

Keep in mind- standards change with budget. I was working with a small budget and wanting a very tall horse, so I was willing to overlook some things. If my budget had  been a lot higher (think 20-40k) then I would definitely not be so forgiving of some things. My main must haves were 16.3 plus hands, some natural hunter movement, sane with little to no “crazy”, and not older then 10 but really preferring much younger. All for 4 figures.

Spine x-rays

I did quite a bit of horse shopping before Rio, and vetted 2 before him, so I have a pretty good feel for what I want and what I cannot overlook, so here is my list:

  • No crazies. Nothing with a tendency to buck/rear/or bolt for no obvious reason.
  • No chronic spookers. If you are ridden in the same arena every day, and every day you spook at the same corner of the arena, I do not want you.
  • No stifle lesions, no kissing spine. Some stuff on the vetting is ok, but not in the stifles. As long as my vet felt the horse would stay sound jumping with some maintenance, I was willing to overlook things. I am ok with joint injections to keep a horse comfortable and an Adequan/Pentosan regimen.
  • No chronically bad feet requiring tons of special shoeing, pads, wedges, etc. Hoof supplement? Fine. The occasional special-ish shoeing- Ok, but nothing extreme.
  • Absolutely nothing smaller then 16.3. This is not a vanity thing- You guys have seen my long legs on Rio, and he is a solid 17.3.


That is basically it! I had no real training requirements. Rio had no jumping experience when I got him. Training-wise I would have been open to any horse that was at least under saddle. Conformation-wise, he is not perfect. Some people don’t like his eye. He is a bit base narrow behind. He has a slight roach back. But for me, he checked all the boxes and is my dream horse, so I make no apologies for being a bit picky and having a tight budget. I really dislike when people act like you should be happy with anything if your budget is small, because that is so far from the truth. If you are patient, and willing to dig a little deeper, you can find that horse that is perfect for you and get what works for you.

So spill, what are your deal breakers???

Getting in your own way

I have decided that Murphy’s Law is totally a thing. If you have a 3rd party that is willing to video your lesson- you will ride terribly. Things will just not go your way, and you will want to burn the video footage.

Group selfie with S’s horse Dalton

Haha ok I’m being a bit dramatic, but only a bit. My BFF and I planned a horsey filled day yesterday, where we watched each others lessons at our respective barns (which conveniently enough, are only 8 minutes apart). Her lesson wasn’t the smoothest, but she did an amazing job riding through it and keeping a positive attitude. Rio has been super lately, so I was feeling really good about showing off for my bestie. LOL. Murphy had some other ideas.

S gives Dalton a kiss

We started out pretty good, but once or twice over each jump and Rio was tired and I just couldnt keep it together. I always want it to go well SO BADLY that I seriously get in my own way sometimes and do this thing where I just like stop thinking while riding and become incapable of making a decision as I approach a jump. About 4-5 strides out I can tell we are in trouble but am incapable of pushing forward or holding. I literally found the same terrible distance 3 times in a row to the same jump. Exasperated, I turned to Trainder and said, “What am I doing wrong?!”She laughed  a little and told me to do something DIFFERENT. I kept riding the jump the exactly same way and not changing our track or pace or anything, like a midless drone. Seems so obvious right?

Hunter jumper
Showing off our new more uphill canter

But really, Rio and I are going through some growing pains and hit a tiny bit of a rough patch in our lesson. We are working on completly changing the balance of his canter (from  very downhill to more balanced and uphill), and neither one of us could see a distance to save our lives Saturday. He also tires really quickly right now, and we are working on pushing him past his comfort level, and he doesn’t love it. In his defense though, he always jumps no matter what, which I am incredibly thankful for.

Enjoy this video, including all of our “misses”! Big thanks to my bestie S for videoing!

Rio4.15.17 from Kelly on Vimeo.

Product Review: Ovation Wide Nose Bridle

A few months ago I purchased the Ovation Ultra Fancy-Stitched Wide Nose  Bridle from Dover to be my show bridle for Rio. Now that I have been using it for about 4 months, I felt like it was time to give it a proper review.

Stock photo:  Ovation Ultra Fancy-Stitched Wide Nose Bridle


Why did I choose this bridle?

Predominately, it had the look I was looking for at what I consider a reasonable price point. It is currently listed on Dover for $169.95, which also includes fancy stitched reins. Now don’t get me wrong, I dream of ultra lux French bridles with butter soft leather, and I absolutely do think that they are worth the cost, but…. (yes there is a but) I have to be reasonable. I was in a situation with a horse with a lot of vet bills at the the time, and I was also trying to set aside some money for future horse shows, so I couldn’t blow $400-600 on a bridle, as much as I wanted to. I was doing a ton of shopping around on FB groups to try and find a higher end wide nose bridle second hand that was still in show condition, but I just couldn’t find one. Everything I came across was either too used to be a show bridle, still too expensive (my budget was max $225ish), or a cob or warmblood size.


What is the quality like?

I have  been very impressed with the quality of the Ovation. The leather is Wickett and Craig, and has a lovely color and luster. It is NOT the plasticky leather of the cheaper bridles, where the color is like painted on. The leather is very sturdy, so much so that I have oiled it quite a bit and I still condition it regularly to encourage it to soften. It is not stiff, I just get the feeling that with continued use and conditioning it will gt nice and soft. Although I plan on it being a show bridle, I have been using it every day for a few months and it is holding up perfectly. I plan to continue regular use until I feel that it is sufficiently conditioned and softened and then I will reserve it for shows only.

What is the padding like?

The crown piece has really nice soft padding on the inside. It feels lovely, and I’m hoping that Rio also appreciates it. The 1 inch wide noseband has no padding, which I feel is a nicer, more elegant look for most horses. I am personally not a big fan of padded AND wide noseband bridles, I just think it is too much for most horses faces.


Love me an un-padded fancy stitch wide noseband!

How does the sizing run?

I would say it runs true to size. Even though Rio is 17.3 hands he still wears a horse size bridle, on about the 4th hole from the top on the cheek pieces, the 3rd hold from the end (loosest) throatlach, and 3rd hole from the end on the noseband. Rio can wear an O/S halter on all the tightest holes, but it is still semi loose on him. He cannot wear an O/S bridle as the cheek pieces are too long.

Fancy stitched reins

What is the color like?

Color is  a dark chocolate brown with a hint of red in some lighting. There is some slight variation in color between one of the cheek pieces and the strap for the noseband that I have noticed.


Overall I would give this bridle 5 stars for value, and 4 stars for quality. For $160 you are not going to get 5 star quality, but I absolutely think this bridle is an amazing value, and no one will be able to tell that it isn’t a $500 bridle while you are in the show ring!

What is your favorite bridle on a budget?

Collected Canter Progress

I was scheduled to work second shift at work today  (2:30 to 11pm) so I headed out to the barn this morning to enjoy a quiet hack. The weather in DFW was gorgeous this morning, mid 70’s, overcast, and a light breeze.
Rio was less then thrilled to see me. As I pulled in, I saw him frolicking with his new buddies, 2 Czech imports of my trainers. Do you think horsey language is the same all over the world? Lol jk (sort of). He usually comes up to me expecting treats, but no such luck today,  he was having too much fun with his buds. I will give him some credit though- he didn’t run away!

Horses pasture grazing
Rio is the one with his butt to me. He definitely saw me coming and then turned away like that LOL

I planned on a light ride because Trainer is riding him tomorrow and I would like her to have a horse with a little bit of energy. I was excited to see how he was after having two days to percolate on the collected canter work we schooled on Sunday. (See my theory on letting it percolate here).

We warmed up with some lateral work in the trot. My inner DQ wants the lateral work to be perfect, but the logical part of my brain is trying to come to terms with using lateral work to improve Rio’s straightness, throughness, and strength, and not be so obsessed with the perfection of the actual movement. It is actually going pretty well!

For example, on left-handed turns/circles I can sometimes feel him locking his inside jaw against my hand, and instead of stepping under with his inside hind and pushing, he tries to slide out my outside rein and make a really large turn/circle instead of the tidy one I had asked for. I played with 2 different “fixes” today to try and improve our left turns.  I started with doing 4-6 steps of shoulder in with the the goal of getting him to really step under with his inside hind, soften to my inside rein, and accept the contact of my outside rein. The idea was that I could then straighten him, maintain the softness of the inside jaw and the engagement of the hind end, and have him truly through on my outside rein through the turn, with support from my outside leg. Does any of that word vomit make sense? LOL. Well, it sort of worked but sort of not really. I felt like as soon as I straightened him he went back to bracing against my inside rein, which says to me that our shoulder in wasn’t REALLY there- he must have still been bracing somewhere because he wasn’t really connected and he wasn’t really accepting of my outside side rein contact.

After that didn’t quite go as planned I asked for some counter bend as I approached the turn, and really used my outside leg to control his shoulders around the turn. Next time around, I didn’t counter bend, and kept him straight, and again a lot of outside leg. Then I again attempted it with slight inside bend, but mostly focusing on turning off the outside leg. This seemed to help, so I moved on to other work, not wanting to drill the left handed turn. I plan to continue incorporating more lateral work, especially in our weak areas.

After our focused trot work I asked for the canter. He immediately jumped into a lovely, collected (for him, not like dressage collected) canter!!! What a smart boy! He definitely remembered what I was asking him during our Sunday lesson and was trying sooo hard. All I had to do was sit up, take a hair more feel, and add a hair more leg. The canter felt SO adjustable and SO light! I was thrilled, to say the least. I played with going from collected canter to a lengthen canter and back to collected. It was definitely hard for him, but it was also obvious that he understood, and was trying to do it. A few times each direction and I let him be done. He got rewarded with lots of praise and carrots, as usual.

After carrots I forced Rio into a post ride selfie sesh. I think his expressions says all you need to know about how much he enjoys taking selfies.

What Rio does love after  a good ride is to have his face curried. Out post ride ritual involved me taking off his bridle, and currying his face before I put the halter on. He LURVES it. Like a lot. Here he is, and all his majestic glory:

Rio4.12.17 from Kelly on Vimeo.


So do you guys incorporate lateral work into your flat days? Does it always go smoothly or do you ever end up trying something else? What is your most helpful tip when riding the shoulder in?