The Best Blogs Of 2021 Gave Us Friends Along The Way

Dec 31, 2021 - 9:50 AM

Back in March, blogger (and dressage trainer and Grand Prix rider, not necessarily in that order) Lauren Sprieser wrote about the struggles and setbacks that invariably come with riding and training horses in “Getting By With A Little Help From My Friends,” and observed,  “How lucky am I to have so, so many people in my world who’ve walked this sucky path before me, and who are willing to walk it alongside me now.”

That is what our talented fleet of Chronicle bloggers are, virtually, for so many readers: Fellow riders who celebrate and commiserate, share the insights learned, and let us know we’re not going it alone through the triumphs, setbacks and quiet moments that come in a life with horses.  Read on for 10 of the best blogs of 2021.


10. You Can’t Put A Timeline On Horses Or Children

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Baffin, 25, takes his job of educating teenagers and pre-teens such as Aria Priola very seriously. Photo Courtesy Of Sara Bradley

Blogger and dressage trainer Sara Bradley shares that she’s reached a point where most of her horses and riders have “leveled up into middle school, simultaneously!”

“This is both delightful and terrifying,” she writes. “This is an age (11-13 for humans, and 5-6 for horses) where you get glimpses of who they are going to be as adults. These fleeting flashes of profound maturity make my heart explode with happiness! And then … there is the other stuff.”

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9. I Only Dog Paddle: An Eventer’s Conversion To For-Real Trail Riding

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Blogger Allie Conrad has rediscovered ‘for-real trail riding’ with her off-the-track, stakes-winning Thoroughbred Bettys Bambino. Photo Courtesy of Allie Conrad

Blogger Allie Conrad grew up showing and foxhunting, then spent two decades of her adult life transitioning race horses off the track. More recently, she has gotten into what she calls “for-real trail riding.” She shares the response she gets from calling herself a trail rider—what people think it involves versus what it truly does involve.

“They see me as a backyard rider in mismatched tack, walking around my horse community for 20 minutes and marking off my calendar as having ridden that day,” she writes. “I know better, and that gives me a giggle nowadays.”

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8. Fear Is A Funny Thing

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“I am a professional rider. A good one. A relatively brave one…. And year by year, I’m just a little less brave … particularly when unchallenged,” Lauren Sprieser writes. Heather Richards Photo

A hard fall and its aftermath, the expected physical soreness and the unexpected mental wobbles it produced, lead Grand Prix rider, trainer and regular Chronicle blogger Lauren Sprieser to reflect on recognizing and handling fear.

“Fear, I’ve come to know from sports psychologists, and from watching my own students, is a funny thing,” she writes. “Calling it what it is—a fair thing, really, given that we clamber on 1,000-plus pound animals bred to be flighty and powerful at the same time—makes it just a little less awful. And then I go through my checklist: I am actually good enough to do this. I am fine. I have been fine before, and I will be fine again. This horse is a good horse. I am not out over my skis on him. I have good help and a deep toolbox.”

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7. Listening To Your Horse: A Case For Empathy

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Laura Adriaanse felt more empathy than ever toward her mare Dixie Rose when she realized her spooking issue came from soreness, not malice. Photo Courtesy of Laura Adriaanse

When her horse suddenly developed a phobia of one end of the ring she’s ridden in every day, blogger Laura Adriaanse‘s search for answers got her thinking about communication between horses and riders.

“I know hindsight can be 20/20, but going forward, my eyes will be quite a bit more open to ways that my horse might be trying to communicate with me, and prolonged, unprovoked spooking will likely be among them,” she writes.

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6. A Day In The Life With: An Inferior White Board

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Blogger Allison Kavey on her dog pack: “All but one have legs too short for stairs, and they did not hire me so they could stretch those adorable legs.” Emma Miller Photo

Being a college professor, author and Grand Prix rider all in the same day is sure to create scheduling conflicts. Here, blogger Allison Kavey gives us a humorous take on our regular “A Day In The Life” feature. From the moment she wakes up, you know this isn’t going to be a standard day in the barn:

“I look at email first thing, even though this is stupid. You would be amazed by the number of things deemed emergencies in academia, a field in which emergencies are impossible. Then I turn off the internet and glare at my Word document. This is time I can either devote to working on the book that will never end or worrying.”

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5. Air Horse One: An American Thoroughbred In England

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Living in the U.K. means learning to hack on narrow roads—sometimes past, if not to, a local pub. Photo Courtesy Of Lindsey Colburn

Our active duty blogger, Air Force officer Lindsey Colburn, recently took an overseas assignment in England and decided to bring her American Thoroughbred, “Sig,” along on the journey. In her first installment after getting him settled in his new British livery yard, she takes us through what their new life looks like.

“For the past several weeks, we’ve experienced a lot of firsts here in England. Sig has learned to hack on the local country roads quietly and deals with traffic like an old pro,” she writes. “We’ve had some very fun grid schools, and a lovely afternoon with the ladies and lots of cavaletti at the yard’s monthly ‘Poles and Pimms.’

“The poles were great fun, but the Pimms was even better. I highly recommend.”

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4. Surviving Tall Boot Shopping In 28 Easy Steps

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Exhibit A: Once the heel is fully detached from the boot itself, and past a cobbler’s help, the boot-buying experience can be delayed no longer. Photo Courtesy Of Joe Nevills

Blogger Natalie Voss made us laugh with her account of her foray into buying a new pair of tall boots:

Step 1: Reluctantly reach the conclusion that the heel on one of your boots is probably beginning to dry rot. Ignore this for a while, until the detaching part of the heel separates so far from the leather that you can no longer get a spur strap around it. Continue to ignore it, until your Sassy Mare calls you out on the spur not being in place by ignoring all requests for a canter transition. When she asks if that’s a fly on her ribcage, decide it’s probably time to buy new boots.”

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3. I Thinx It’s Time We Talk About This

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Thinx underwear in the (from left) sport, cheeky and hiphugger styles. Photo Sonya Mendeke Illustration

Ella Doerr, the Chronicle’s longtime junior contributor, tackled a topic she was worried she might be bullied about when she wrote about using period panties in a sport where half the uniform consists of form-fitting, usually light-colored breeches.

“Months of careful preparation can get thrown into the air at the in-gate when you suddenly realize your period has started. The mental focus that should be locked on the ride ahead instead shifts to wondering whether you will leak through your light-colored breeches before your round is over.”

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2. Knowing When To Say Goodbye

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Blogger Sophie Coffey and Callie share a moment before parting ways. Photos Courtesy of Sophie Coffey

Part of being a horseman is recognizing untapped talent. Another part is recognizing when, despite that talent, a horse is telling you they aren’t interested in the job you picked out for them.

“I always thought to myself, ‘I’m so lucky to have gotten such an athletic little horse,’ ” blogger Sophie Coffey writes, “and I always imagined that Callie thought of herself in the same way.”

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1. Getting Through To Scottie

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A very early moment of connection during Justin Haefner’s session with Scottie: “He’s facing me, and we are giving each other our full attention. It feels like an acknowledgment of the long road ahead.” Erin Gilmore Photo

Virigina-based horseman Justin Haefner brought us along on his experiences in retraining rescue horse “Scottie” in his four-installment blog series leading up to the Appalachian Trainer Face-Off. Haefner’s quiet, thoughtful approach to training shines through in each post as he shares his insights on how to work with a horse who has negative associations with humans—and how to recognize the limitations of what a trainer can, or should, do within the constraints of a restarting competition.

“This process of changing Scottie’s reaction and feelings about his environment and physical contact is both simple and complex, messy and beautiful,” he writes in his first post. “To help a horse see the world in a new way is an honor to say the least.”

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Check out the rest of our Best Of 2021 coverage, and make sure you follow @chronofhorse on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to stay up to date with everything happening in the horse world in the new year.

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