Friday, October 31, 2014

OMG: Smartpak mentioned my blog!

So there I am, on my fourth piece of banana bread and third cup of tea of the day (don't judge) and I'm taking a short mental break. I click on this video, because I love the Stuff Riders Say series. This should be good, right?

Then I got to 1:13 on the video: they mentioned my blog! I can only guess it's because my review of their new SmartBlanket App came across their desk somehow. The power of the internet?

I laughed and laughed and laughed. Yes, that is how you say that. :)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Friday Afternoon Music Break

Okay, fine, this has nothing to do with horses, but it is such lovely soothing calming music. 

The refrain at 3:33 is one of my favorite bits in any song, ever.

PSA About Sharing the Road with Horses

The UVM Extension Service put together this short (30 second) PSA about sharing the road with horses. I think it actually does a decent job encapsulating good manners.

Have you ever had problems sharing the road with cars?

Tristan is very good now, but he wasn't always so bombproof. My worst moment was some years ago. I had to ride a short distance on a paved road to get to the state park near my boarding barn. A driver in a sports car revved up his engine, gunned it past us, and passed so nearby I could feel a passing breeze on my skin. If I'd held my hand out he would've hit it. It all happened so fast by the time Tristan was reacting the car was well past us; thankfully, he just jumped around a bit on the side of the road and there were no further cars coming.

Clipping Tristan: Decision Time

Okay, you all convinced me. I'll give Tristan a bib clip (neck + chest) next Monday, when I have the most time and daylight hours.

Last night, he was warm and puffing after just 25 minutes of walk and trot work, some canter. Not okay.

I have really, really basic clippers. They do the job for a bridle path and for cleaning up his fetlocks, but I guess I'll find out if they will do anything more than that.

They're not exactly these clippers, but pretty close. The package says they are for trimming ears and doing whiskers. (I have zero intention of ever doing Tristan's ears or whiskers. I like his head natural, and also, he'd kill me.)

There will be pictures. Pray for us both.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Reminder: King of the Wind Blog Hop / Readalong Coming Up!

Please consider this a reminder that on Friday, November 7, I will be posting the kickoff post for the King of the Wind blog hop / readalong.

More about King of the Wind here, and more about the blog hop here.

Happy reading!

Breyer Stablemate Custom Painting

As I mentioned briefly in my recap of the Vermont Live Model Horse Show, I wandered into the main part of the farm store and almost immediately got sucked in to painting a Breyer Stablemate.

I'll be honest: I spent an hour and a half painting my little Stablemate to look like Tristan. I had a three year old girl on one side of me and a five year old girl on the other side painting Stablemates pink and purple, and gold and orange, respectively. I got way, way too into it but it also turned into a lovely sort of zen thing and I'm happy with the results.

I'm usually terrible at all things artistic, so that this even turned out passably good is amazing.

Coat 1: Very splotchy.

Coat 2: Getting darker, but still splotchy.

Coat 3: Starting to look good!

Coat 4: good enough for now! Starting the black on his legs and hooves.

Coat 5: Adding black to the mane and tail, and touchups on the body to darken the splotchy parts.

Coat 6 doesn't look much different, but it was basically continuing to touch up splotchy parts.

Coat 7: Adding in the white, and done!

Thank you, Guy's Farm and Yard, for a fun morning!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Short Hack

I got to the barn intending to do some combination of trot sets and long & low dressage work. I looked at blue skies outside, no snow on the ground, and I couldn't make myself stay inside. We're predicted for rain the entire rest of the week and snow this weekend.

So I opted for a road hack instead, which was at times lovely and at times very frustrating. Tristan was not too enthused to leave his hay, and he wandered back and forth across the road on a loose rein. It's a catch-22, really: if I let him have a loose rein he's clearly happier and better moving, but he also takes it as an opportunity to wander and occasionally swing around and turn for home, especially in the first 15 minutes or so. If I pick up the reins and ask for contact his momentum stops and I have to do more "schooling" than I really want for a low-key road hack.

I wished, in retrospect, that I'd brought his quarter sheet as it was still chilly even with the blue skies (low 40s) but he warmed up and moved nicely, and was happy to get back to his stall with his stable blanket.

Vermont Live Model Horse Show

I am fascinated by the world of model horse showing, and follow blogs like Braymere Custom Saddlery with deep fascination. When I was at Everything Equine earlier this summer, I saw a card advertising the Vermont Live Model Horse Show at a local farm store, and my interest was piqued. I went back and forth on whether I'd be able to go, but a friend's plans for the weekend fell through at the last minute, so off I went!

Here's the registration form and the class list, if you're interested.

When I first entered the room, I felt super awkward. Really, really awkward. It was relatively small and everyone there was very busy doing their thing and I was the only creeper hanging around staring at things. I can dive right into social situations where I have content background - I am that weird soul who loves professional networking - but a new social situation where I knew nothing of the background? Eep.

Thankfully, when I stopped at the front table to try and break the ice and ask if I needed to check in or anything, I struck up a conversation with one of the organizers. After that, it was easier to chat with some of the other show staff, from the helpers to the judges and a few people selling things.

I didn't stay for the entire show; I ducked out to the car to charge my camera (which of course was being finicky about battery life) and then wandered through the main store and got totally sucked in to painting a custom Breyer Stablemate. But I saw enough of it to learn a lot and see how neat it was.

I think the thing I was overall most impressed with was the way competitors talked with the judges after the fact, and how incredibly detailed the feedback was. I don't mean to take anything away from model horse showing when I say I had no idea that judges would be so careful as to have a long conversation with a competitor about the placement of their horse in relation to a fence so that the striding would be right relative to the horse's motion. Or the extra small strap on the horse's face meant to secure the bridle, but really an extraneous strap that wouldn't have made sense in real life. Or the suitability of a particular stance, breed, setup, etc. to the class and the activity described.

F'rexample, I loved, loved, loved this model, and he was used multiple times in a few different classes. He scored better or worse depending on his suitability. This was my favorite use of him, but it was not his highest-scoring class. (Check out the little fox peeking out from behind the stone wall, btw!)

I watched the competitor place this horse carefully and change his position relative to the rail a few times, but she got knocked points because the letter on the ring (which you can't see) wasn't right for the particular movement she was trying to illustrate in the dressage test. Wow!

This young girl and her dad were showing in Intermediate, and they worked so well together and I may have gotten a little sappy about how great it was that he spent his day helping his daughter show model horses. <3

Another of my favorite things: the Novice competitors, and the way the judge worked with them to fine-tune their entries. She gathered them as a group after pinning each class and talked a lot to them about the way they presented. It was educational not just for model horse showing, but also for real-life horsemanship skills: how should this rider be sitting? how should this tack fit? etc.

A couple of trail entries.

The same dressage horse from above, here doing canter poles. I stared and stared and thought this through for a long time. On the one hand, I would never set up canter poles like that for a real, live horse; it wouldn't accomplish anything, or at least not the things I want to accomplish on the occasions I use canter poles. On the other hand, it's not wrong. You probably could canter a horse through poles like that. And in this case it let the exhibitor use more poles and the "look" is better. Fewer poles might not have illustrated the point as well. So where's that line? I don't know! It's an interesting intellectual exercise that I didn't expect to encounter.

On the other hand, here's my favorite model for the day showing perfectly strided trot poles. BUT, and here's another thing I thought a lot about, a horse actually moving through trot poles correctly and with engagement would not have that pretty hunter daisy-cutter trot. There'd be a lot more action going on, particularly in the hock and stifle. If you saw a flesh-and-blood horse trotting like that through poles, wouldn't you expect him to drag that right front and knock the pole forward?

But are there models that are really perfectly suitable for that? Who's going to create a model with the right kind of movement and engagement for trot poles? So does it matter as much? Again, I don't know!

These were my favorite "action" models of the day. Can't you just see the fire in these horses?

Custom models for sale. Don't think I wasn't tempted to check the price on that Sleipnir. The fiance would've flipped out.

Overall, I spent about 2 hours there watching and perusing. I would've had more pictures but a) I felt like a creeper, though I did ask permission multiple times and b) above-mentioned camera battery issues. I would definitely go again, and though I thought from time to time "how much fun!" I didn't really come away with the urge to do it myself. :)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Should I clip my horse?

I'm really struggling with this question this year, so I thought I would do a straight-up pros and cons list. I'm going to present Tristan as an anonymous case study, and ask you all to weigh in on what you think. Ok?

Background: horse is a 19yo mustang gelding in work 3-5 days per week for 20-45 minutes each, primarily dressage and trail riding. Never been clipped before. Not a huge sweater (rarely more than a slightly damp/tacky coat in the girth and chest area once the weather cools), but typically does get warm enough to require extended cooling off time 1-2x per week over the winter.

- horse exhibited signs of cold weather-related colic when temperatures began dropping this season, and will now be fully blanketed through the winter for the first time ever
- though the plan is to stay at 3-5 rides per week, there will no doubt be periods of time during the winter when 1-2 rides per week at the walk of short duration are the most work he'll get due to extreme cold or snow
- horse was diagnosed with Cushing's in August, is maintained on 1mg/day of pergolide, and is essentially asymptomatic on medication, with a totally normal winter coat and no signs of the classic long/wavy Cushing's coat
- horse is heading into the winter at a body condition of about 5.5/6 after dipping down to a 4.5 or so this fall
- horse lost weight last winter, though not dramatically; say down from a 5 to a
- horse will have access to (essentially) free choice hay through the winter
- horse will have between 4-10 hours per day of turnout, depending on weather
- horse did not add muscle/wind well before starting medication for Cushing's, and work will be harder for him as he regains fitness now that his body is capable of building it again; he has been running hotter than normal for the last 3-4 weeks

Possibly extraneous factors:
- owner is neurotic and terrified that clipping will result in constant vigilance to prevent cold-related colic symptoms
- owner also does not want to pile coolers and walk out for an hour after each ride

So: in my situation, what would you do?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

New and inventive ways to annoy your mom, by Tristan

What the hell kind of horse scrapes two inches of hair and skin off the OUTSIDE of his fetlock while being longed?

He wasn't bothered at all, and I didn't even notice until we were done. Oy.

Exactly the kind of cut that Alushield spray was invented for.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Weekly Blog Roundup

Here's a few interesting posts that came across my dashboard this week.

Deciding How Much to Clip and Why from Cob Jockey
Great, GREAT overview, with pictures, reasoning, and thoughtful commentary. I'm currently flailing around deciding whether to do a very light clip on Tristan for the winter, since he's been sweatier this year than ever before. This was a really helpful read.

Vegas: The Prequel & Vegas: The Part Where We Actually Showed from The Roany Pony
I know exactly nothing about AQHA showing, and I was incredibly excited to see this, about the AQHA Championships in Las Vegas. What an amazing experience!

Griffin Lately: A Photo Journal from In Omnia Paratus
I love reading about Griffin's progress. Liz has such a practical, discerning eye when it comes to training a young horse both mentally and physically. The comparative photos she shares are always amazing, and wow, what a difference in this installment!

Tack Ho Pro: Buying from Overseas from The $900 Facebook Pony
Great tips here, and a nice followup to the PS of Sweden bridle post. Have you ever bought tack or horse equipment from overseas? I haven't, though the fiance buys hockey stuff (mostly jerseys) from overseas all the time.

Fall is in full swing & another case of the OTTBs from The Foxhunting Friesian
Check it out for the gorgeous photos of foxhunting in New England in the fall. Stay for the honest & heartfelt pang we've all had when our horses are not 100% suitable for the things we love to do with them.

Full Circle: From Breyer-Crazy to Breyer-Creator from Musings at Minkiewicz Studio
I was never truly what you'd call Breyer-Crazy, but I do have a soft spot a mile wide for them. This post is utterly amazing in the way it takes you through the creation and sculpture process for a new Breyer model. WOW. Read every word.

Pau CCI**** Livestream

Can I just say, everything about the Pau livestream is making me happy this morning?

Gorgeous horses, check.
Retro tv design, check.
Hearing French and re-tuning my ear for it, check.
Excellent background to the work I'm doing today, check!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday Food for Thought

"You can never know everything. Part of what you know is always wrong. Perhaps the most important part. A portion of wisdom lies in knowing that. A portion of knowledge lies in going on anyway."

Tristan's Blanketing Plan for 2014-2015 - Fashion Show with Pics

So I've gone back and forth and back and forth on this blog and 30x as much in private about Tristan's blankets and sheets - what he would need this winter now that we know he needs some blankets, what to use, when to use them, what blankets to buy. I've had a dozen different solid plans that I've moved on and then discarded.

Here's what has emerged as our plan heading into winter.

1. Stable Sheet. Used sometimes as a straight sheet in the barn (40s-50s), or as a liner underneath a turnout sheet. Tristan's is a Tuff Rider brand stable sheet that I've owned for a few years but used primarily to keep him clean after baths until now. It's not the highest quality sheet ever and its a teensy bit small, but it does the job. Basically a previous style year version of this sheet.

2. Fleece cooler. Used on its own sometimes (low 40s, high 30s in the barn) but mostly as a liner for a turnout sheet to create a sort of light-fill blanket. Now, I had a previous fleece cooler, but I bought this one new this year because the previous cooler did not have a belly band. This one does. It's the Smartpak Fleece Cooler. I like some things about it a lot (styling, straps, length, and overall cut) and other things not at all (it's long for the size and the back gather is awkward, and there's no fleece at the withers to prevent rubs).

3. Turnout sheet. Unlined, basic, waterproof turnout sheet to use as a top layer over the sheet and cooler above, or sometimes on its own on a rainy but warmer day. This particular sheet has the distinction of being the one I've owned the longest for him: I used to keep him at a place that had the most incredible clay deposits in their pastures, and all horses in that barn went out during mud season in turnout sheets. Otherwise you'd be currying dried clay off of them for an hour before you could ride. It's a Saxon that I've always really liked, actually, for all that it's a "cheap" sheet. Basically the older model of this sheet.

4. Stable Blanket. One of the two blankets my friend J. gave to me, this will enter the rotation when it's 30s overnight and during the day, under a turnout sheet. I have no idea what brand it is, but I like a few things about it: the cut back withers, the belly band (which you can't quite see in this photo), and actually the closed front - less to fiddle with, less bulk under another blanket.

5. Medium Weight Turnout Blanket. Used for temps below 30s, possibly combined with the stable blanket when it gets down to the teens. The other blanket J. gave me, this is a Weatherbeeta that is clearly showing its age. The straps - as you can see - are hanging on, and the edging is almost entirely gone. There are rips in the flannel lining. That said, this blanket has been hard used for many years and the fact that it's even still intact shows its class.

6. Heavy weight turnout blanket. Used for single digits and below. Depending on how he handles the winter, might double over the stable blanket when it really starts to dip below zero. This is the blanket he wore last year for single digits and lower. Another gift from a very generous friend, this is the Rider's International Heavyweight Turnout Blanket. As you can see, it's a great blanket but it swims on him a bit - it's a size too large, and the cut of the blanket is too long for his legs. Not the end of the world, but I would not buy this blanket new, even in the right size, because of the length against his legs.

So, there's the plan, anyway. What's your rotation for the winter?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ten Questions

From Viva Carlos, of course.

1. How many pairs of breeches/jods do you own?

4 schooling, 2 show (grey & white), 2 winter. One of those schooling pairs is on its way out (I did throw away the black ones I featured here a week or so ago, sigh), and the other three don't fit me - they're a size too small and make me look sausage-y. Ah well. I like my show breeches and looooooove my winter breeches, so that's something.

2. How many horses have you ridden?

I'm going to guess just over 100, if you truly count all of them - early lessons, summer camps, nose-to-tail trail rides, etc. Since owning Tristan, fewer than 10.

3. How many trainers have you had?

Oof. Trainers, as in I was in their program for a while and I came away substantially improved - four. Three for 2+ years, one for just two short winters but she was fabulous. "People who taught me riding things," probably closer to 20.

4. How many barns have you ridden at?

Hm. Let's see: childhood lesson barn, camp barn, barn in France, college barn, three post-college barns in MA, new barn in VT. Not that many, actually! 8 total.

5. What is the name of the horse you consider yourself to have the greatest bond with?

Tristan. No question.

6. What is your favorite show name you’ve ever encountered?

I don't know about show name, but my favorite show name + barn name combo was a Morgan I knew years ago. Show name: Heza Little Devil. Barn name: Taz.

7. What do you consider your greatest weakness or flaw in riding?

I'm not committed enough, both in the sense that I'm always finding excuses not to really ride (I'll longe, I'll groom, I'll just hack out...) and not to push myself or Tristan hard enough (I'm tired, he'll break, I don't have time...)

8. What do you consider to be your greatest strength?

Ground work. I can handle just about any horse doing just about anything on the ground and come out of it positively. I'm not saying I like to do that, but I have handled my fair share of assholes.

9. Have you ever leased a horse?

Yes. During and just after college: Sly

10. What is the name of the first horse you rode?

Not counting, say, pony rides at the state fair: Thistle. Isn't that a great name? He was a lesson pony extraordinaire.

Marguerite Henry Readalong Blog Hop: Poll Results!

The results are in!

We'll read King of the Wind, Henry's Newberry Award-winning story about the origins of the Godolphin Arabian, one of the founding stallions of the Thoroughbred breed.

You can buy it new here on Amazon, used here on, or check it out from your local library.

Start reading! I'll post here on Friday, November 7 with my review, and the blog hop link code. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Happy Birthday, Puppy!

Arya turns one year old today, according to the vet paperwork from the rescue. It's also her six month gotcha day. We adore her. :)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Product Review: Smartpak's SmartBlanket App

Eventing Nation had a post about the new SmartBlanket app yesterday, and being that I am in the midst of fussing about Tristan's blanketing options, I downloaded it instantly and spent some time playing with it.

The app purports to offer tips about blanketing, based on a series of customizable questions about your horse and your location. You can add multiple horses later on.

So here's Tristan's information in the add-a-horse phase. I liked the questions they asked, actually, and there were lots of options in each section. One option under clipping style was "show coat," which took me a while to figure out - they mean clipped short but not all the way down to the skin. I've never seen a horse clipped like that, but I guess anything is possible!

Here's the thinking screen. That little blue arrow circles the horse. Kind of fun. It made this thinking screen anytime I changed a setting for Tristan. It didn't last terribly long - a second, two or three at the most. I've waited much longer for apps to load!

Ta-da! Here's Tristan's recommendations. I really like that they gave separate recommendations for night versus day, keeping in mind that it would be colder overnight. They also took into account the rain - if you scroll down to days when there's no rain predicted, it suggested I leave him with no blanket.

I monkeyed back and forth with the settings quite a bit - pretending he was all the way clipped, partially clipped, overweight, underweight, etc. I got it to tell me he should go totally naked all the way up to a medium weight turnout overnight, depending on the settings. The little "i" next to each blanket type will lead you to more information, telling you what exactly they mean by each blanket.

It's easy to adjust the settings: see the horse head in the upper right-hand corner? Tap on that and it gives you a list of horses you have saved. Then you tap on the horse's name and it brings you back to the information screen that I showed above. You can just adjust things from there, save them, and then it will recalculate everything.

In general, I was pleasantly surprised to see this app erred on the conservative side for blanketing. I admit, I was expecting it to recommend all the blankets! all the time! and it definitely didn't. For example, on the night when it recommended just a turnout sheet for Tristan, he would probably wear a stable sheet + turnout sheet, or a cooler + turnout sheet. Yesterday during the day, he was actually wearing a stable blanket + turnout sheet. This year is the first year he's being blanketed that aggressively, though - remember, he colicked from the cold just a few short weeks ago. Any other year these recommendations actually would've been spot on, or perhaps a titch more than he needed.

Moral of the story? If you are really new to blanketing, or new to your horse, and need some rough guidance, this actually works really well! I love the updated weather information, I love the customizable features, I love that it saves multiple horses. If you need some more information to take in while considering your decision (if you're like me and can't get enough data points for neurotic things like this) it's a great thing to have around.

I think its recommendations are a lot like what an old trainer of mine used to say about Pony Club stuff: you will always be okay following their rules, but sometimes there's a better way to do things. It's a good baseline.

Another thing about which I was pleasantly surprised: it didn't push the Smartpak brand sheets too much at all. I didn't really even notice too much brand creep. Just the facts, ma'am.

The last pieces of the app were interesting, but not terribly useful for me, honestly. 

Again: if you're new to blanketing, or new to blanketing a particular horse, I think some of the fit tips, how to measure, and blanket type glossary information would be really useful. I read through a lot of it and it's good, solid information. I even learned some things I'd never heard of before: apparently a rain sheet is something even more specialized than just a waterproof turnout. HUH!

If you find yourself in any of the situations I listed above - new to blanketing, new to blanketing a particular horse, or in need of/curious about extra data points for your own blanketing - I'd recommend this app. If you're a longtime, confident blanketer with a horse you know well, I'd probably skip it.

Anyone else download it and play with it? What do you think?