Friday, August 25, 2017

Show Name! Show Colors?

After owning my horse for a year, I've finally come up with her show name. To be fair, the pressure to come up with a show name essentially disappeared when she got injured, because I knew it would be a while before I could show. No matter, she has one now!
One year and I think she only puts up with me
My problem in coming up with a show name for Casey was that I wanted the show name to have a connection to her barn name. But Casey gave me very few leads. The name Casey is generally believed to be Irish/Gaelic in origin. It's supposed to mean either "vigilant/watchful" or "brave." There wasn't really much to go on from that, because I didn't really like any of those words or ideas.

My next train of thought was Casey could be abbreviated to "case," and then I fell down a rabbit hole of trying to think of things that I could make out of "case." I got my blog name from this - Case of Addiction, but I was reluctant to give that name to Casey because there can be negative connotations with the word "addiction." For a blog it works because I am addicted to horses, but Casey isn't really addicted to anything.
Only addicted to horse cookies
I was stuck on "case" for a couple of months, and then I started thinking about other languages. I'm fluent in Spanish and realized that the Spanish word "casi," meaning almost, kind of sounds like Casey (but with a Spanish accent). This was something that I could work with! My first idea was "Casi Gratis," meaning almost free, because Casey only cost me a dollar. After ruminating on that name for a few weeks I decided I didn't like it because it didn't flow off the tongue, plus Casey is actually valuable to me.
Yeah, there's no way she would be free to anyone else now
Towards the beginning of summer I came up with two possibilities that I felt pretty good about, "Casi en Alza" (trans. "almost soaring") and "Casi Volando" (trans. "almost flying). Sound-wise, I think that "Casi en Alza" sounds more feminine and "Casi Volando" sounds more masculine BUT I think that "Casi Volando" flows better and might be a tad easier to say. Also the translation of "Casi en Alza" is a bit awkward because it literally would translate to "almost in rise."

This week I finally made my decision and landed on "Casi Volando." I like how it connects to her barn name & that it relates to jumping/flying. I also kind of love that it is a Spanish name, because I learned how to ride & jump in Paraguay, a Spanish-speaking country, so it feels like an ode to my riding beginnings. I'm a tad worried about how much announcers will butcher it, but if I love it, then surely it is good enough!
Casi Volando
Now that I have decided on a show name for Casey, the next thing I'm going to decide on are our show colors. When we finally show (probably next summer if all goes well), we will be showing in the jumpers and so I have a lot of freedom in terms of what we will wear. I don't own a show coat yet, so  I can also pair that with Casey's show colors (I don't need a show coat for jumpers, but will probably get one anyways as I might want to wear it and could show in the hunters maybe too).

Right now I have three color combos that I am really digging:

  • Hunter green with gold accents
  • Navy with silver accents
  • Navy with baby blue accents
Casey in blue
I know from experience that Casey looks amazing in Hunter Green. It is definitely her color. My hesitation for that color combo though is that it is an "in" color right now that lots of people are using, and I live in Oregon so green/yellow is associated with the Oregon Ducks (which no offense to them,  I don't need any more Duck stuff in my life).
Casey in Hunter Green
Navy might be the more practical option, as navy will never fall out of fashion. Plus blue is my favorite color, so I might go that way instead. In which case, which pairs better with navy? Silver or baby blue? Decisions, decisions.
I own no navy saddle pads, but this royal blue one looks great on Casey
The other option is that I could have two sets of show colors and alternate between them. In which case, I should probably make the accent color grey so that way I could get a grey show coat and just alternate between saddle pads & bonnets for Casey.
But the green is so pretty...
Does anybody else struggle with deciding on these things? Any input?

Thursday, August 24, 2017

An Adult Equestrian's Review of Free Rein

Much to the amusement of my husband, I spent the past couple of days watching Netflix's newest equestrian series Free Rein. He took every chance he could get to make fun of me, calling it "Zea's new favorite TV show," but I didn't care because it was wildly entertaining.

I have always loved all things horse, and that included media like novels and movies. Give me a sappy story with some nice action riding shots and I'm a happy camper, so for the most part I really enjoyed watching Free Rein. That being said, as an adult, and as someone who knows quite a bit about horses and riding at this point, there were some moment of cringe-worthiness. This is my review of Free Rein, warning - spoilers may lay ahead although I will try to be good about avoiding them.
Netflix's Free Rein

The Plot

The basic plot of Free Rein is that an American girl, Zoe, goes to visit her grandfather in England (mother and sister in tow). She quickly finds a local barn, Bright Field Stables, with an eclectic mix of horse people and a mysterious black horse named Raven. The 10-part series is filled with many plot lines involving ghost ponies, horse thieves, horse showing, and relationship issues.

The Good


  • Casting & diversity. The casting was very well done on this show. The cast was diverse with Jaylen Barron, a Hispanic-African American girl, as the lead. This is awesome, because the equestrian field is pretty white in general, especially in media, and is needing representation of diverse peoples. The acting was fairly decent & believable (keeping in mind that this is a show aimed for children & teens) if not a bit over-exaggerated at times.
The cast of Free Rein
  • Story lines. This show had plenty of action with its big main plot and many subplots. The pacing never felt slow and each episode had a nice arc to it.
Black Stallion flashbacks anyone?
  • Charlotte Dujardin. There was a guest appearance by the queen of dressage. It was a shorter guest appearance (she wasn't riding, alas), but how awesome is that!
  • Good messages. If I were a parent, I would totally be on board with having my kids watch this show, because it does have some really great moral messages about the value of kindness & hard work. 
  • Strong females. I also really appreciated the presence of strong female characters in this show. There is a female business owner, a wife who chooses to leave her husband to figure out what she wants in life, a smart hacker girl, and a strong & brave female lead. These characters provide great role models to all the young girls who will watch this show.
  • Nice horses. There are many pretty and talented horses in this show. Obviously Raven is the main horse lead, but I loved the Gypsy Vanner Bob who served as great comedic backup.
Raven & Zoe

The Bad


  • Riding edits. Due to the fact that the actual actors definitely were not the ones galloping around and jumping the jumps, thank you stunt riders, the workaround to make it look like they were was to have some strange editing. In the jumping scenes for instance there would be a look at the actor's face as they "rode" and then it would cut to a scene of the horse's legs clearing a fence. The effect was a bit jarring and made the action scenes a little bit less exciting to me. That being said, I don't know how the producers could have worked around that. Perhaps by hiring actors who already ride?
The cast of Free Rein on horseback
  • Unnecessary love triangle. Am I the only one who is a bit sick of love triangles in YA media? Zoe is torn between two boys at her barn, Marcus and Pin. There is a lot of drama revolving around this, but it seems pointless to me. The show didn't try to focus on this instead opting to give more attention to other plots, but that just makes the scenes featuring the love triangle plot seem out-of-place and rushed. Either go all in, or leave it out (and I vote for leave it out entirely). My biggest problem with love triangles is that it eliminates the potential of a boy and a girl being just friends. We do see a boy-girl friendship in the show, but it is between the younger siblings of Zoe & Becky.


The Ugly


  • Unrealistic time frame. So I know that suspension of disbelief should allow me to watch Zoe progress from never riding a horse to jumping 2'6"ish oxers in the span of one summer, but it was just too much. Our sport is hard work and requires a lot of time so it is annoying to me when TV shows and movies portray a brand-new rider effortless galloping around. 
Marcus training Zoe on Raven
  • Treatment of Mia. Without going into too much detail, Mia is a villain-type character. She is the spoiled rich girl who owns Raven. She is portrayed as being bratty & entitled for not wanting to let Zoe ride Raven, but this is where the show lost me. Mia OWNS Raven. If she doesn't want Zoe to ride him that should be the end of it. She's the owner and gets to decide what happens with her horse. I couldn't believe in her character as a villain because the entire time I just agreed with her. Now, if I were a kid/teen/person who doesn't own a horse, this point probably wouldn't have bothered me, but I couldn't help but feel irked every time people treated Mia like she was being unreasonable.

Mia & Susie

Overall

I really did enjoy watching Free Rein. It was solid entertainment that was about equestrian life, a solid plus in my book. Although it had some flaws, overall it was a really great show and even as an adult I had fun watching it. Hopefully Netflix will renew it for a second season!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Worst Blogger Ever - Month Recap

I disappeared again... this time for a month... To be fair though, the past month has been really busy, I've been working at the barn and have been preparing curriculum for next school year. On top of that there were lots of horse things going on. So here's the recap of the past month (and I pinkie promise to be better in the future).
Casey being cute and bored

Casey's Gotcha Day

The most exciting thing that happened is that Casey and I celebrated our one year anniversary on August 1. I can't believe that it's been a full year and I'm thankful every day to have her in my life. I never thought I would be able to own a horse, let alone a horse as amazing, talented, and sweet as my girlie. In just one year together we've progressed by leaps and bounds. Our relationship is unrecognizable from where we first started.
One year anniversary
Cantering around
I remember that when I first bought Casey one of my biggest worries was that I wouldn't love her. I have good relationships with lots of horses and care about them, but I have loved very few horses in my equestrian career. In fact, before Casey I only really had loved two horses, Cleopatra and Molly. Horses are strange pets in that, for most people, horses are expected to perform a job. They are too expensive to own if they can't do their work. For me, I know I love a horse when their ability to do their job doesn't affect how I feel about them. For this reason, Casey's suspensory injury was a blessing in disguise. It showed me that I love her regardless of whether or not she can work. She makes me happy every day and I can't imagine my life without her.
She's the bestest

Casey Vet Re-Check

On our anniversary, we also had another vet check for Casey's suspensory injury. It was a quick exam, the vet just looked at her movement on a straight line and when being lunged. He was super impressed with how she was moving and said that she looked great. He bumped up our exercise regime to 15 minutes trotting + 3 minutes cantering (with the 10 minutes of both warm-up and cool-down). At this point we are just working on building back muscle mass and stamina so that she is strong and healthy.
Working on building muscle

At this vet check we opted to not ultrasound, as the results of it don't really matter right this second. If Casey is moving fine and feeling great, then obviously her leg can handle the amount of work she is doing. However, we did schedule another (hopefully the final) vet check for the end of the month and the plan is to do the last ultrasound then. I'm fully expecting the ultrasound to show that her injury is completed healed and would be shocked if it turned out that wasn't true. The ultrasound is really just the final seal of approval for us to go back to regular work. If all goes well we will be back in regular flat work in September and will start jumping again in October (it'll take probably a month to build up our jump height again though - so jumping at our actual jump level will probably take until November).
So excited to be cantering again!
All in all it was a good vet check and I'm looking forward to the next one because hopefully it will bring even better news!

Riding Progress

Since we got vet cleared to increase our work load, we've taken full advantage of it. I am riding five days a week and Casey and I are like a super team right now. I've never had her be so responsive before in our relationship. She's listening to all of my aids and my subtle body language cues. I can now adjust her speed by simply adjusting my seat (this was 1000% impossible before). We've become leg-yielding masters, now being able to leg yield at the trot (albeit a very crooked leg yield). She listens to my vocal cues, instantly slowing when I say "ho" or "easy."
Working at the canter
In addition to listening to me, she also is becoming more self-aware. She's figuring out how to use her body more effectively. This is especially apparent in her trot. Before, she would try to trot around with her head up and would always be on the forehand. Throughout rehab I have been experimenting with trying to get Casey to really extend her trot and push from behind, and something clicked in her brain, because now she realizes how much better than movement is. She now willingly puts her head lower and uses her butt to propel herself forward. She's still gaining strength in her back end (because her injury was in a back leg, it was weakened), so there are moments when she falls back into her old bad habits, but the moments of powerful trot are increasing daily. I hope that this self-awareness will translate to other things, like cantering and jumping, but only time will tell.
Trot extension
Leg yielding at the trot

The biggest difference in Casey, I would say, is her attitude, rather than choosing to fight me when I want her to try something new or complicated, she actually trusts me to try. She still will have moments of ridiculousness (like trying to take off bucking because Leigh the horse looked in her direction), but isn't being cruel or mean. When I reprimand her in those instances she clicks her brain back into work and calms down.
Happy horse & happy rider
She did have a temper tantrum about a week ago, but it was because she took a bad stride in the canter and it aggravated her injured leg. She was pissed off and had to show it by crow-hopping. She wasn't trying to be a jerk though, she was just really mad that her leg hurt.


Due to all of these changes in our relationship, Casey and I are now able to try new things that before would have been impossible. One of those things is bridle-less riding. I got a neck rope (review coming soon) and have been building up to riding with only that. Girlie is really understanding how to pay attention to all of my aids and so we have been able to ride at a walk and trot using just the neck rope (although with the bridle on as my emergency brakes). This month we were able to ride bridle-less for the first time ever. I wasn't sure how Casey would react, so we only walked around, but she was so good! This is definitely something that we are going to continue working at, because it is really fun and a good challenge for us. My big dream for this is to eventually be able to ride completely tackless (just a neck rope) and I really think that some day we will be able to achieve that.
Neck rope only

Barn Life

I've been spending a bunch of time at the barn lately. For the past three months I've been able to work off all of my board, which is really nice because suspensory injury vet visits really add up. I've gotten a few more riding clients, which is nice because I love teaching riding lessons. The barn has been really hectic this summer, with a bunch of new lesson clients coming in and there is currently a long wait list for people who want to board their horses. It's nice to see business picking up my trainer deserves the clientele.
More trotting
I've also gotten to spend a lot of time with my barn buddies. One of them taught me how to stretch out a horse's legs and Casey has gotten really into it. She will throw her legs all the way forward and really lean into the stretch. The first couple of times this caught me by surprise and her motion almost sent me sprawling, but now its become our little routine.

LASIK

The biggest non-horse-related thing in my life is that I got LASIK surgery last week. I've worn glasses/contacts since 2nd grade and at this point in my life felt that I just couldn't do it anymore. Glasses are annoying because they aren't very comfortable and get dirty (especially in rainy Oregon and at the dusty barn). Contacts are annoying because they dry out my eyes and stuff gets in them. So when I started my career job and had insurance options, I opted to get the crappiest, cheapest insurance plan + an HSA (health-savings account) which my employer deposited money into every month. I knew that regular insurance wouldn't cover LASIK because it is seen as an elective surgery rather than a necessary one, but I could use an HSA to pay for it.
Obvi not going to show photos of my gross burst blood-vessel eyes, so instead look at Casey's pretty eyes!
The actual surgery was not the best experience of my life, but what could I expect when lasers were cutting into my eyeballs? But LASIK was sooooo worth it. I can now see everything. I wake up in the morning and I can see. I take a shower and can actually see my legs when I try to shave. I don't have to worry about taking out my contacts before I go to sleep. It's really like a miracle.
These will be the last photos EVER of me riding with glasses on
I haven't had any major side effects, the first three hours after surgery were miserable, but after that it's been smooth sailing. My eyes are dry and itchy, but no more so than they would be with contacts at the end of a long day. I do notice that my eyes get tired a lot faster than before, but that's because they are still healing and so that side effect will go away once they heal completely. So yeah, if you are a glasses/contacts wearer who gets annoyed with that lifestyle, I totally recommend LASIK!
Fancy mare

Well now you are all caught up on what's been going on in my life. I will really try to be better about blogging. In some ways I think going back to work (I start next week) will help because having a routine works better for me. I have summer brain right now and can't even recognize what day of the week it is, let alone work on abstract things like blogging about my thoughts.
Enjoying our last days of summer