book review · giveaways · Uncategorized

Brain Training for Riders: Your Questions, Andrea’s Answers

51892rNSrWL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_In Part I of this series, I reviewed Andrea Waldo’s book Brain Training for Riders. In Part II, she answered some of my interview questions, and in part III, she answers your questions!

Before we get to those, the winner of the giveaway for a copy of the book is…

L. Williams of Viva Carlos! Congratulations, I’ll be following up by email.

Now, your questions and Andrea’s answers.

Q: i’d love to hear more about how Andrea encourages riders to go about the act of “making better habits.” in other words, how to continue translating some of these thoughts, practices and perspectives into unconscious routine.

We have to consciously practice our riding skills in order to improve; our mental skills require the same conscious, regular practice. I go into all my rides with a plan–to practice flying changes today, for example. In the same way, if I’m working on eliminating mental chatter, I’ll plan to practice saying “delete” every time an unwanted thought comes into my mind. Rather than trying to change everything all at once, choose one mental skill to work on for several weeks at a time, which will help it become something you do automatically.

Horse Riding GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Q: I have a hard time with the sports psychology side of things. I like the positive visualizations and prep work, but it seems like as soon as I get into an actual competition environment I forget to even think about those things.

Make sure your prep work includes preparing a plan for using your psychological skills at the show. Write down exactly which skills you want to use and when. For example, plan to put on your Performance Self as you get into your show clothes. Then, post reminders for yourself in your show environment: on the truck dashboard, on the lid of your trunk, in your grooming box. Write a one-word trigger on your wrist, or stick a piece of colored tape discreetly on the crown of your horse’s bridle to remind you to use your skills. You can even set alarms on your phone as triggers: “2:45–BREATHE!”

Show Jumping Horse GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Q: I had one bad fall that sent me to the emergency room and it has been a struggle at times. It was scary. Because of what happened, my fear doesn’t really fit into the “dying” or “embarrassment” column. I don’t want what happened to me before, to happen again. It’s a specific fear. I wonder how she would address that.

As far as your Lizard Brain is concerned, this fall does, in fact, fit into the “dying” category: it believes you could have died, and it wants you to avoid getting into that situation again, because THIS time you just MIGHT die (from your Lizard’s point of view). Approach the situation gradually: for example, if you fell because your horse spooked and bucked on a windy day, start by riding inside on a quiet day. Imagine that you’re in the outdoor and he’s distracted, and practice skills for getting his attention again. Work on your seat so that you are less likely to come off if he does buck, and learn emergency procedures such as a pulley rein. Work your way up to being outside, then being out there while it’s breezy. Keep practicing your skills for coping with the situation. How do you know how much to challenge yourself? Rate your anxiety about your planned activity on a scale of 1-10. If it’s between 4 and 6, it’s challenging enough; below 4 is too easy, above 6 is too hard and you won’t be able to think clearly. Ride until your anxiety drops by 2 points, then call it a day. Keep doing this until your confidence recovers. If you backslide–something that was a 4 is now a 6–don’t worry, this is normal. Just start wherever you are at this moment, and you will get back to where you were.

Show Jumping GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Q: My question would be dealing with a psychological issue that has a physical underlining. When I broke my back falling off, I developed both a physical and a psychological issue. Now I will seize up in self-protection if my back gets hurt while riding. Bucking is really hard for me as the second my back hurts (physical) my brain shuts down (psychological) and then I often go to protective maneuvers (pulling the horse up) instead of what is actually needed (pushing the horse past the buck).

This kind of self-protection makes total sense. Your Lizard Brain is trying to protect you from further injury, which is exactly what it evolved to do. Thank it for protecting you; that way, it knows that you’re listening and paying attention to your body. Once you’ve done that, start noticing when your brain is shutting down–maybe when your horse is threatening to buck–and stop for a few moments. Take some time to breathe and let your fight or flight response slow down, so that you can think clearly again. You can’t “push past” Fight or Flight, because it literally shuts off the rational-cognitive part of your brain; you need to slow it down until you can think rationally. Then, make a plan for what you are going to do next–put him on a small circle and ride him forward past the buck, for example. Talk it through out loud while you’re doing it, if you can; this helps you to breathe and to stay in your rational brain. In addition, practice slowing your mind and body down when things are going along just fine: stop for a moment, take a few breaths, and make sure you’re present in the moment. Doing this when things aren’t at a danger point can help make it more of a habit, so it’s easier to do it when things are escalating.


Helping Puerto Rico: A Giveaway

I know. I’ve been MIA. “Sorry I haven’t blogged” is the most common phrase on the internet. In my defense, it has been a shit summer and my brain is barely staying on top of feeding & cleaning myself.

Like many of you, I have been heartbroken and horrified at the summer of natural disasters that have taken their toll around the world. There are so many awful things going on it’s hard to know where to start. Lately, I’ve been trying to embrace the idea of starting with one thing at a time to just keep going.

So in that spirit, here’s something I can do.

I’m giving away one of the handy bags I’m developing in exchange for donations to help Puerto Rico.

I hope you’re following along with what’s happening on Puerto Rico. It’s part of the United States, and Hurricane Maria has totally devastated infrastructure on the island. Just under 3.5 million people (American citizens!) live there, and they’re expected to be without power for six months. The entire island. They’re not getting anything like the help they need to recover. (Don’t think too hard about why. You know. It’s America in 2017.)

Here’s the deal. If you donate any sum of money to help Puerto Rico, you’ll be entered to win a small embroidered bag that I will make. We’ll work together on color & design.

Here’s what they end up looking like.

Here’s a list of organizations you can donate to, to get started. If you know of others, please mention them in the comments and I’ll add them to this post.

Please let me know if/when you’ve donated using the Rafflecopter below, and please share this widely so people can donate more and enter.

Please note: it really is any sum of money. I’m asking how much in the widget below so I can keep track of how much we all raise together, not to try and shame you. We all have different budgets and abilities, and that’s totally ok. If you donated supplies, just write that in or guesstimate how much they would have cost.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

blog hop · clipping · giveaways

Blog Hop Raffle Results

You might have forgotten that I did this, but I definitely didn’t!

The winner of my horse clipping blog hop is…

Ashley of The Feral Red Horse!

Thanks, Ashley! Check your email!

I hope to do more of these in the new year, so keep an eye out.

Thanks to everyone who participated, commenting or participating in the blog hop. It really helped me to think through what I’d do with Tristan. I ended up doing a modified Irish clip; I had every intention of doing a full Irish clip, but as I started in on his shoulder I didn’t like how thin the hair was, and I kept thinking about blanket rubs. So I clipped down his chest and onto his stomach a bit, but not over the shoulders.

Here he is halfway through.
And here you can see a little bit how it turned out. I don’t love the line on his neck – I’d like to go up more to his throatlatch – but I’m happy with the rest of it. And I’m happy with the way he’s cooling out.

blog hop · clipping · giveaways

Blog Hop: How are you clipping this year?

Okay: giving this at try, because I really want advice.

So let’s try a blog hop.

How are you clipping your horse this year? More or less than last year? Are you doing any fun designs?

Let’s make this a bit more appealing, too. If you participate in this blog hop, please come back here and tell me you did so to enter to win a $10 gift card to the horse retailer of your choice!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Last year, Tristan got basically a light strip clip: down his throat and to his chest. It helped.

(Oh, and lest we forget, I finally got into the world of detail clipping and he rocked a Rebel Alliance insignia on his butt. I’m still insanely pleased with how that turned out.)

He needs more this year.

Because this happened after 35 minutes of dressage work.

I’m pondering an Irish clip. Not his face, because I do not have a death wish, but something that would expose more throat and more chest & stomach, possibly shoulder. No way am I doing a full body clip (he doesn’t need it, I don’t own the clippers for it, see above re death wish).

I am experiencing my usual seasonal anxiety about taking off too much hair, though. I have no idea what this winter will be like. He has all the blankets he needs, but what if? Ugh.
I also need to decide what to put on his butt. 
Right now, I’m leaning toward making him the Flash or Captain America.


We’ll see!

So: please tell me what you’re doing so I can pick your brains and relieve some of my anxiety.


Stablekeeping Giveaway Update!

Remember ages ago when I did a giveaway and then my brain dribbled out my ears and I forgot to pick a winner? Yeah. That was awesome of me.

Um, anyway.

The winner of one copy of Stablekeeping by Cherry Hill is…

[insert drumroll here, use your imagination]


Renate has a very striking paint horse in her profile pic through Rafflecopter but I can’t figure out whether she has a blog. So I’ll be sending her book off post haste.

Thanks everyone for participating, that was kind of fun. 🙂

book review · giveaways

Giveaway: Stablekeeping by Cherry Hill

If you’re not familiar with Cherry Hill’s work, you really ought to be. She and her husband, Richard Klimesh, have co-authored some of the most useful and informative books out there for horse owners. I own probably 10 or 12 of their books, and each one has terrific information, well-organized, well-illustrated, and sensible.

There’s a school of horsekeeping thought that is all about the Ideal and the Perfect and then there’s a school that has well-thought out reasons for everything, takes workarounds into consideration, and gives you things to consider you never realized would factor in. Cherry Hill’s books are in that latter category. I have learned something every time I’ve picked up one of her books.

In unpacking my books into the new house, I discovered that I own two copies of one of her best books, Stablekeeping. Here’s the book summary:

Learn to design and maintain a high-quality barn with this complete stablekeeping reference. Expert Cherry Hill draws on decades of horsekeeping experience to help you provide a safe, efficient, healthy living environment for your horse. Instructive text and more than 250 photographs cover topics such as stalls, tack rooms, work and storage areas, sanitation and pest control, feeding practices, safety, emergencies, and more.

Even if you just board your horse, there’s something here for you to help your horse. And who hasn’t spent hours and hours designing their dream farm? Get more imagination fodder here.

SO! I’m going to give away my extra copy of the book to a blog reader. You can enter via the Rafflecopter below. The giveaway will end on Friday, November 20. There are a bunch of ways you can enter the giveaway; pick just one or all of them. The easiest is to leave a comment on this blog sharing your best organizing tip for around the barn, in the spirit of the book. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway//

giveaways · product review

Product Review & Giveaway!: Two Horse Tack Halter Bridle

Important clarification/disclaimer: I received this product for free as a review item.

Note: If you’re just here for the giveaway, scroll all the way down, but I encourage you to read the review, too.

Two Horse Tack is a US-based maker of custom biothane strap goods – bridles, halters, harnesses, breastplates, etc. They have a genuinely dizzying array of different styles, colors, sizes, and options.

I’ve thought seriously about a biothane halter-bridle combination for years. It always seemed just outside of sensible when I had so many other things (like vet bills) on my plate. So I was stupid excited to get an email from Two Horse Tack offering me my pick of anything on their website in return for a review & a giveaway promotion. No arm twisting required!

So, step 1: ordering. Like I said, an unbelievable array of possibilities there. It took me quite some time and hemming and hawing to finally decide on what I wanted. I chose the Traditional Halter Bridle made with Reflective Day Glo Biothane. I opted for the reflective biothane because I primarily envisioned this as a trail riding bridle, and I wanted something really obvious for hunting season. One tiny quibble: there was no true hunter’s blaze orange among the reflective options. (Or at least that wasn’t clear; there was an orange but I couldn’t tell if it was blaze orange, so didn’t choose it.)

I ended up ordering the black base, with lime green day glo overlay. I chose the Horse size bridle – Tristan is often a fairly true horse size, and the range said it ran from 14.2 to 16h horses, so seemingly on the smaller side. I went with the stainless steel hardware and matching reins, and chose the roller buckle attachments for the reins because I prefer them whenever possible. I didn’t go with a breast collar or curb strap, and chose white stitching because I thought it would be a nice contrast. (So, basically, I bought the exact same bridle that the model horse is wearing.)

The retail price for this combination was $112.50, which is actually really good for a new bridle with reins!

Because every piece is custom-made, it didn’t ship immediately, but it also did not take too long at all; my records show that it shipped within 2-3 days, and took another 2-3 days to get to me. I was really pleasantly surprised.

Since its arrival, we’ve been sort of up and down, but I’ve ridden in it about a dozen times, both in a trail riding and a schooling context.

Overall impression: I’m really, really pleased. I think it looks sharp. The hardware is all nice stuff, and the biothane itself is way nicer than I would have guessed, not having much exposure to it previously. It was stiff to start off with but is loosening up nicely. The dayglo overlay absolutely stands out, and the reflective strip is VERY reflective.

Fit: Horse size was definitely the right way to go. Tristan’s head is a comfortable fit; when you actually read their sizing guidelines, their horse size seems to be on the small side. The reins are definitely on the long side, which is actually totally fine for trail riding. It might get a little irritating for schooling. The good news is that the biothane is probably really easy to just snip and re-punch if you wanted to shorten them.

Quality: Like I said, pretty darn impressed. The hardware is solid, and the biothane is really quite nice.  It feels more rubbery than plasticky, soft and light. There are a small number of spots where the stitching is not perfectly in line, but it’s only noticeable on very close inspection.

I’ve gotten several admiring compliments on it, and it is my go-to for any kind of field or road hack, especially now that we’re entering hunting season.

I love, love, love the halter bridle aspect of it, for a lot of reasons. My current favorite is that if I forget something at my stall or in the tack room – a not infrequent occurrence – I can just toss him on the crossties and hustle back to grab it, rather than take off his bridle or ask someone to hold him or any number of inconvenient options.

However, the first time I put it on resulted in a rather derpy moment.

Tristan would like you to know that his mom is an IDIOT.
It was like my brain got mixed up between halter and bridle and I honestly stared at the bit hanging below his jaw for a moment in deep confusion. Like…wait I did what I was supposed to – OH. The good news? I just unclipped the bit, slid it into his mouth, and then clipped it back on without undoing the whole bridle!
In summary: I love this thing. I was excited to try it out, and it was precisely what I wanted. It’s not often you can say that about something!
SO. Now for the most exciting part: the giveaway. 
Two Horse Tack is sponsoring a giveaway just for readers of this blog. They’re giving away a Western breastcollar. I know most of you ride English, but I just spent a long time studying the photographs of the breastcollar and…it’s basically the same thing, without the grab strap.
Here’s what you should do:
1) Go to Two Horse Tack’s giveaway page. At the bottom of the form, enter “Bel Joeor blog” when it asks how you heard about us. This is the really important step – that will make sure you’re part of the smaller pool of people who are eligible for just this giveaway.
2) Leave a comment here letting me know that you entered the giveaway. If you spent some time perusing the website, tell me what caught your eye – what would you want to buy for yourself?
The giveaway will run through 10/31. Two Horse Tack will contact the winner directly but I’ll stay in touch as well and make sure everything goes smoothly.
Ready, set…enter!