Saturday, November 29, 2014

Weekly Blog Roundup

Last week's blog roundup was shortened on account of me being insanely busy with a professional conference. Here, have a special edition horse blog roundup for your reading enjoyment!

Go-Everywhere, Ride Camp Dog from In Omnia Paratus
I am a huge fan of Liz's Husky Kenai, and I loved her round up of ways in which you should train your dog to be a solid citizen when out and about. Arya is slowly, slowly becoming a more civilized barn dog but she's nowhere near ready yet. Here's something to aim for.

Crop to the Rescue from A Gift Horse
Oh man. I have many flaws as a rider, but my elbows might be the most egregious. I might have to try this.

Happy on Horseback from Confessions of a Pioneer Woman
I know some people hate her, but I kind of love this blog, and have for many years now - almost 10, I think? Here's a great example of the gorgeous photos she takes of working ranch horses. (As an aside, I once stumbled across a blog that was solely a hate blog for Pioneer Woman; it basically mirrored each of her posts with reasons why everything she wrote was terrible. It was a mystifying example of anonymous internet nastiness. The pinnacle, for me, was reached when the blog tried to prove that their ranch horses were abused because they had sweat marks!!1!!1! Oy.)

The Weenie Eventers Head to Hagyard Midsouth Three Day Challenge from A Filly's Best Friend
Really cool goal, cool story, and a chance to both enter a giveaway and bid on some great horse products for a good cause. Check it out! (You can also head directly to their Go Fund Me page and their Facebook page.)

Winter Wear Review from All In
I could basically read winter gear reviews all day. Some really drool-worthy tops on here.

What It's Like Being an Anxious Horse Owner from She Moved to Texas

Rehabbing Real Life from Confessions of an AA Event Rider
Kind of an important lesson for me right now. Be as kind to yourself and as thoughtful about your progression as you are about your horse's.

Working a horse show from Hand Gallop
Here's the other side of all those drool-worthy mobile tack units you see at horse shows. I know I've personally bought panicky last-minute items more than a few times, and browsed every time I can. So many pretty things!

Wofford on Grooming from Incidents of Guidance
This is clear, precise, and yet still nearly spiritual. It made me want to go to the barn immediately.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Why is it that as soon as you put yourself on a no-spending budget, you find things to covet?

It is snowing sideways in whiteout conditions outside, and I can't stop sighing over these boots for barn chores.

I don't even have any plans to do barn chores this winter, AND I have some perfectly good winter stomping boots, both for home and the barn.

Some girls want jewelry, some girls want fleece-lined stomping boots for the barn.

Also on the covet list: Carhart coveralls. Yes, you heard me. 

Doesn't she look warm? and competent? and warm?

I love Vermont, I love Vermont, I love Vermont...

Small Things

I got to see my horse last night! Whooooooo!

I did not ride, on account of still not being able to take a deep breath without wheezing. But I brought him out of his stall and let him hoover up the little bits of spilled hay in the aisle, and pulled his blanket, and curried and brushed him all over. He was happy to see me, which is always a nice feeling, and it was heavenly to spend even 30 minutes in the quiet with him.

He was wearing his heavyweight and not too warm. I remain amazed by this. It was 34 degrees outside, which is not that cold! Good grief. Of all the changes wrought on his body by aging, this is one that continues to flummox me. How is MY horse, Tristan, my tough little mustang, who lived outside 24/7 through multiple Vermont winters, who turned up his nose at going in the shelter in driving snow, how is he wearing a heavyweight blanket in November comfortably?

Also, what are we going to do when it gets actually cold? He is carrying a bit too much weight right now, so on the one hand being a little cold and burning some calories wouldn't be the worst idea; on the other hand, I am still utterly terrified of the one cold-induced colic that he had.


No barn tonight, on account of our Thanksgiving storm. Hopefully Friday.

Tristan is pretty firmly in that 10" purple band.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Do you shop in barn clothes?

Inspired by this recent cartoon from The Idea of Order:

I have to ask: do you go grocery shopping in your barn clothes?

I honestly can't remember the last time I went grocery shopping in normal clothes. The only place I drive is to the barn, so if I have my car out and about, I'm almost certainly wearing breeches. It doesn't make sense to go grocery shopping before the barn, so I go afterwards. I am totally oblivious to the weird looks at this point.

I mean, if I'm totally covered in mud/manure/hay, I will give the store a pass, but if I'm otherwise pretty neat and clean? No question, I'm there.

Cushings Update: New ACTH Levels

So, just to give the quick background. In August, if you will remember, the vet looked at Tristan and wanted him tested for Cushings. She drew blood that day, and sent it off to Cornell overnight. His ACTH levels came back positive, and we started him on Pergolide. If you want to read the really long version of that, here are the posts:

What the Vet Found
New Challenges: Cushings Diagnosis
Feeding & Nutrition Update

For every fussy thought that has come into my head through the whole saga, use the Cushings tag.

August 5: blood pulled for ACTH test
August 12: blood comes back with high ACTH levels; normal levels are 9-35, and Tristan was at 47.8
August 13: diet adjusted to low-starch, higher-calorie alternatives
August 22: day 1 of Pergolide dosage at 1/4 dose
August 31: first day of full dose of Pergolide
November 19: blood pulled for second ACTH test



He's at a great weight, he has more energy and is more alert, and he has had zero complications with the Pergolide. Here's to a winter of muscle-building and good health. (Quick, someone find me some wood to knock on.)

Monday, November 24, 2014

What Hogwarts House Would Your Horse Be In?

I am, I confess, not even a huge Harry Potter fan, but for some reason the fiance and I were talking about where we would place the puppy (Slytherin all the way) and I got to thinking about Tristan.

Yep. Slytherin for him too.

I had originally thought Hufflepuff, because he is a pretty laidback, sweet, kind horse. 

On the other hand, he is whip-smart, strongly dislikes hard work, is not terribly loyal (ie, doesn't make a lot of friends with other horses). The Harry Potter Wikia also tells me that Slytherins have a highly developed sense of self-preservation, which also fits him beautifully. He is not ambitious in the human sense but he is in the horse sense: he's always got an angle on getting what he wants, whether that's figuring out how to unlatch the stall door, sneaking more food, or planting his feet on the trail.

(In terms of further classification, I myself am a fairly classic Ravenclaw.)

Expanding this outward:

Eventers are in Gryffindor.
Dressage riders are in Ravenclaw.
Jumpers are in Slytherin.
Hunters are in either Slytherin or Hufflepuff, depending on which stereotype you want to go with.
Ranch horses are in Hufflepuff.
Fox hunters are in Gryffindor.

Anyone else care to place either their personal horse or their discipline within a Hogwarts House?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Life is just not fair

I spent last week in Boston at a very, very intensive professional conference. Life was go-go-go from 5am to 11pm every day. During every break in the conference I was trying desperately to stay on top of email from my day job.

Tristan went out a few times on hacks with the working student, but I have not ridden him myself in 10 days.

Today, Sunday, I was back home and had nothing in my schedule. It's even back up into the 40s for what will likely be the last time in 5 months.

I woke up feeling like death warmed over. I've been awake for 7 hours now and still feel exhausted, achey, and listless. I'm reading things on the internet and poking at some work but I just can't make myself go further than the living room.


Maybe tomorrow?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Weekly Blog Roundup

Here are a few interesting blog posts from the past week.

Challenges of the home hospitalized horse from Boots and Saddles
Mel's young horse recently had a really, really scary fight with internal pigeon fever. I was too nervous watching the story to really link to any of those posts, but this is an outstanding and thoughtful look back on some aspects of care in that situation. Scroll down on her blog to read all about Merrylegs and her illness.

Results Are In: Blanketing Fees from Poor Woman Showing
This information has gone a long way toward making me think that after saddles, blankets are the most pricey investment in horsekeeping. Wow.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

2nd Annual Equestrian Blogger Gift Exchange



Fly on Over is hosting an awesome holiday gift exchange. I participated last year, and it was a TON of fun both to give and receive. I found lots of new blogs and cool people. I got a great gift. It was an all-around awesome time.

Go, now, without delay, and sign up!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Animals are people too

It's no surprise I turned out the way I did when you consider this pillow, which has been on my parents' bed for several years now.

A Visit to the SmartPak Retail Store

I've heard more than one person say that they had no idea SmartPak had a retail store, so I'm here to enlighten you: yes, Virginia, SmartPak maintains one retail store. It's on Route 9 in Wellesley, Massachusetts - ironically, not too far from the original Dover Saddlery store. (At least I'm about 99% sure it was the first, anyway.)

I've been to the SmartPak store many times over the years, and it's definitely kept coming up in the world as the company itself has grown and matured. Displays have gotten more comprehensive and more professional, with more complete equipment. The square footage is still relatively small (at least compared to my gold standard for retail tack stores, which is the Dover Saddlery store in Plaistow, New Hampshire, about which more later).

I'm visiting family in the area right now, and I had a pair of breeches my mother had bought for me but didn't quite fit. So I packed them up and decided to bring my camera shopping.

The store itself is much more focused on rider than horse: most of the square footage is taken up by clothing, helmets, and boots.

Every color, every size of the new Pipers.

There's plenty of tack, too - much more than there used to be. I think every single time I've set foot in the store they've re-arranged things to maximize their space, and added inventory.

That's probably 1/5 of the bridles they had out. These are just the SmartPak brand ones.

There's a separate area downstairs with information about the various Smart supplements.

Upstairs, you can find general horse equipment and other horse care items.

I love the small grace notes throughout the store. For example, this awesome space for people who just want to take a break.

Please note, to the bottom left of the coffee station, a grooming tote full of trucks and other toys. The screen was showing USEF Network livestreaming of the World Cup events in Las Vegas.


A "what's in your trunk" display; the papers had info about an employee's horse as well as why the employee picked the equipment she did for her horse. Really neat.

New England was already completely covered, so I didn't even try to put a star up. Look how far people have come!

Let's talk about the best part, though, and my source of complete win for the day: the SmartPak clearance outlet.


Do you see that? Every single one of those hangers is a pair of discounted Pipers. Most were 25% off. Some were 50% off. I saw several pairs at 75% off.

It's all jumbled willy-nilly. You have to be committed to hunting through, but the bargains are amazing. On the left, Charles Owens - all at least 50% off. To the right: Tredstep DaVincis and Tredstep Donatellos, 25% - 50% off. Against the far wall, blankets from 50% - 75% off.

Things end up in the clearance section for a variety of reasons. Maybe they were customized but the stitching went wrong - or the client changed her mind. Maybe they were just discontinued. Maybe there's a small piece missing. Very often this is where the returns that weren't in perfect condition go - maybe someone wore a pair of breeches a few times, or snagged a thread taking them out of the packaging.

For example: white Ogilvy pad, some scuffs/wear but in otherwise perfect condition. 25% off $199. 

I had already tried on a pair of Piper breeches, fallen in love, and set them aside to buy with my store credit, but here's where I really ran into trouble. I found that whole rack of Piper breeches upstairs, and I started hunting them out in my size. Most of them were 25% off, but a few were more steeply discounted, including a few pairs at 75% off!

I found a pair of knee patch breeches with some loose thread. 50% off. Done! A second pair of knee patch Pipers - some scuffing around the waistband. 50% off again!

Finally, I capped it off with a pair in black with white piping, which was what I'd really come in for. I "settled" for 25% off for those.

My final order was $145, having saved a total of $99. I traded in the pair of breeches that hadn't fit, and got $45 more knocked off the price. Final score: $100.95 for three pairs of brand-new Piper breeches. \o/

I'll write up which ones I chose, and what I loved about the Pipers, in a separate post. Sadly, our temperatures at home in Vermont have plunged so that I may not be able to really school them until the spring.

Monday, November 17, 2014

SmartPak FTW

I walked in to the SmartPak retail intending to return, in person, a pair of breeches that had been a gift but did not fit, and maybe try on some new pairs. (I am visiting family nearby.)

I walked out 2 hours later with three pairs of the new Pipers from the clearance section.

With store credit: $100.95


Full report to follow soon.

In Praise of the Show Bow: 3 Reasons They're Awesome

Will today's blog post be the most controversial one I've ever written and hit publish on? Stay tuned.

I enjoyed Lauren @ She Moved to Texas's thoughts on how horse people always seem to be chasing the next trendy thing in tack. Someone in the comments made a disparaging note about how even show bows used to be the hot thing to wear.

I'm going to come right out and say this: I love show bows. I own one. I use it on a regular basis. (Well, I use it when I show, which doesn't happen often.)

Yes, you heard that right. I love show bows.

Yup. Those things.

If you've somehow managed to avoid knowledge of this sadly misunderstood piece of showing apparatus, and its polarizing influence on equestrians, take a seat. I'm going to tell you why they're awesome and then I will serve popcorn for you all to throw at me in the comments.

Here are three reasons I love show bows.

1. I don't have to put my hair under my helmet.

My helmet doesn't fit when I put my hair under it. It slides. It slithers. At the same time, it's so tight it gives me a headache. I have to re-do it constantly. I have to use bobby pins, or double or even triple layer hair nets. Speaking of...

2. I only have to use one hair net when I use a show bow.

One hairnet to keep the side wispies in, then a pony tail, then twist the rest in the little lace holder and clip on the bow. BAM. Ready to enter the ring.

3. I think they can look really classy.

Specifically, I think they look nicer than hunter hair. Yes. I said it. I'm just horrifying people all over the place today, aren't I? But think about it: they allow people with long hair to clip that hair up neatly and quickly. Done well, they have a simple velvet bow that blends right into the helmet, and the pouch part is basically a black hairnet. Having it attached all together reduces the chances of it flopping around.

There are bad apples in every bunch that ruin it for the rest of us.
Like people who wear this. This show bow is UGLY.
Yep, this one too. Blech.

But are you really going to tell me that flyaway hair is better than a show bow?

So, there's my spiel. Does anyone out there wear one? Do you now want to set me on fire? Why do you like or dislike them?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Weekly Blog Roundup

Some interesting posts from the equine blogosphere this week.

Ride in the Desert from Pam's Pony Palace
& WW - Scenic Fall Trail Ride from 'Fraidy Cat Eventing
Gorgeous photos of two starkly different rides in the same week. Everything looks better from the back of a horse, doesn't it?

Lest We Forget Our Soldiers from A Filly's Best Friend
Really, really wonderful tribute with some lovely photos.

A Veterans Day Salute to Riders and Their Horses from Eventing Nation
I really, really liked this story about two Air Force equestrians and their links to the Trakehner breed after serving in Germany. It makes a lot of sense! Hats off to them for their service and for their dedication as riders.

Vacationing in Horse Country: Keeneland Breeding Sale
& Vacationing in Horse Country: Beer, Bourbon, and Barrels
& Vacationing in Horse Country: Keeping Everyone Happy from Guinness on Tap
Best vacation ever, or best vacation ever? I am simultaneously insanely jealous and inspired. Awesome trip, awesome documentation.

The All New England Hunt's Joint Meet from The Foxhunting Friesian
Droooooooooling. What an amazing day!

TRXC 2014 from Braymere Custom Saddlery
I recently made my first visit to a model horse show, and it was so freaking cool. This? This is a whoooooole 'nother level. WOW.

A week in the life of a polo groom: week one from Two Bay Horses
Watch this space, people, because it's only going to get more interesting from here.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Beautiful Monotony of Conditioning Sets

I've been focusing a lot lately on conditioning work for Tristan. Now that winter is settling in (2" of snow overnight, heeere we go!) and the time change means that I always get to the barn in pitch black, it's endless indoor circles for us.

Lately our schedule has looked a little bit like this:

15 minutes walk
5 minutes trot
5 minutes walk
5 minutes trot
5 minutes walk
2 minutes canter
10 minutes walk

Yeah. Kind of boring. But also very zen. I watch the arena clock. I focus entirely and exclusively on how he's moving, whether he's forward enough. He goes almost entirely on the buckle, and I make sure he's really stretching his nose down and out.

The good news: he's definitely getting stronger and more willing. His muscle tone continues to improve.

The bad news? Wow, is he out of shape. I feel like a terrible horse owner both for admitting that and for admitting that I don't actually know how it happened. I know I'd been slacking off in the rides, and I know he doesn't keep condition as well as he used to...but his respiration stayed up for almost that entire 10 minute walk after the canter. Ugh.

I'm trying not to read too much into this, but - could he have some respiration problems going on? He was close to 50 breaths per minute; not inverted and puffing hard, but not good either. He came down slowly, and didn't go back to normal until he was standing for me to pick his feet out as we were ready to leave the ring. It was a hail mary on my part to see if standing still for a few minutes would help; I was totally ready to keep walking. Is it possible that he just needed to stand still?

The clipping did seem to help, though: he had more energy and was much less warm than he would've been, though some of that was due to the 30 degree temperature difference; it was 36 when I got on and 30 when I left the barn. Brrrrrr.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

GMHA Winter Warrior Series

These all sound amazing, and I've put them on my calendar. I'll do as many as I can - we'll see!
December 11, 2014: Bits and Bridling
Bring your bits or other headgear and share stories of what worked when (and what didn't!). We will discuss the families and actions of different bits/bridles and how they work. 
January 8, 2015: Yoga for Equestrians
Get ready to have some fun and learn some great exercises to improve your riding. 
February 12, 2015: Trucks and Trailers
What do you drive, what do you haul, and why? Learn about the importance of trailer safety, tips for truck/triler driving, and maintenance. New technologies and innovations. 
March 12, 2015: Horse Agility and Groundwork
Simple and fun things you can do with your horse that will help to prepare you both for riding season, improve your bond, and your horse's manners.

Product Review: Devon-Aire Fleece Full Seat Winter Breeches

As we approach true winter riding season, I'll review a few of my favorite winter riding products.

$64.99 at Dover Saddlery

It's that time of year again, when I don't leave for the barn without layer upon layer upon layer. I've got the top layers figured out. I've got my feet figured out. A few years ago, after experimentation with different winter breeches, I settled on my favorites.

Many winter breeches have the tendency to be so thick that they practically stand up on their own, and create that horrible "diaper butt" feeling. I had a pair of Tuff Riders that were just awful. I felt like I was waddling when I wore them.

These Devon-Aires are by far the best combination of warmth, flexibility, and durability that I've found. They're a relatively thin fleece but do a decent job of providing warmth, and I'm easily able to fit Smartwool tights underneath them when I need to (usually for temperatures in the teens). The full seat is good roughed leather and surprisingly stick-able. They're decent but not great in the wind - if I'm riding outside I'll probably go for lined jeans. They are very good for schooling in the indoor, though.

The only thing I'm not thrilled about is how sensitive the outer fabric is to every little bit of hay that comes its way. It snags on ev-er-y-thing. 99% of the time, that's not a problem, but over the years there have been enough snags that mean the outer surface has quite a bit of rough threads. They still work just fine though!

Reading the summary on the Dover website, I see that they've tried to address that problem in the new design - which may explain why I picked up a pair in the old design for $20 last summer!

Do you have a favorite pair of winter breeches?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Other than your horse, what other pets do you have?

Just the two, thankfully!

The boyfriend-now-fiance came with a cat. I am NOT a cat person. I am allergic to them (though thankfully have gotten used to this one) and our brains just don't seem to mesh. It's like we're at total opposite ends of understanding.

I have gotten used to this guy, though, and I think because 9 times out of 10 I will offer a quiet warm lap with no petting fussing or other indignities the boy inflicts on his cat (like pretending he's a bazooka, or singing and dancing around the room, or putting him on his head, or...well, I could go on all day) -- anyway, many times the cat chooses to come and snuggle with me instead of his actual owner. That includes sleeping on the bed on my side, too.

His name is Buddy, and he's a 10 year old Maine Coon. He weighs about 18lbs and is longhaired. In the picture above he is modeling his Halloween costume shortly after being shaved at the groomer. That was the fall we (by we I mean the boy) figured out that shaving a longhaired animal in late fall is a terrible idea because they will be very very cold. So now he goes longhaired for the winter and trimmed through the summer and we are all much happier. (Thankfully he does not mat at all.)

Then there's puppy.

Any excuse for more pictures of puppy! She is a joint pet between myself and the boy. Her name is Arya, and she's a 13 month old mutt transported up from the south. The rescue said Boxer/Labrador, and we think there's hound in there somewhere - possibly Tennessee Treeing Brindle?

She seems to have settled at an adult weight of about 43 pounds now, loves her people, is a ball of greased lightning energy when she's loose at the baseball field and snores on the couch the rest of the time. She also loves squeaky toys, playing with other dogs, trying to talk the cat into playing with her, and oh yeah, sleeping.

Also pretending she's a lap dog.

Tristan's Very First Clip

Confession time. I had decided some time ago to clip Tristan; thanks to the excellent advice I got from everyone, I'd been swayed by the pro arguments, and had decided on a bib clip. Then I ran out of time on the day I had intended to do it, and put it off. And put it off.

Yesterday, it was in the 50s during the day. I had the day off, and thus all the time in the world. And I still drove to the barn with my stomach roiling, worrying, fussing. I even had this blog post half-composed: why I am terrified to clip my horse. I pictured everything that could possibly go wrong going wrong. Most of all, I couldn't stop thinking about the winter to come, and the two horses in the barn that colicked last week (two totally different kinds of colic, both freak occurrences; one horse pulled through fine at the barn, the second is still at the clinic after surgery).

I rode for about 30 minutes, and after 6 minutes of trot Tristan was puffing like a steam engine and almost a bit damp. I was so frustrated with myself for letting him get into that situation because I was afraid, so I put him in his stall and assembled my tools.

My clippers. After some fits and starts, I finally got them running smoothly.

I started down at Tristan's chest, and after a few treats he let me do pretty much whatever I want. Best pony!

I had always wondered what color he'd be when clipped. Answer: even more roan! I'd always had a theory that his red hairs grew longer than his white ones in the winter, and that's why he looks more dark red. Guess I was right!

As you can see, I have a lot of learning to do - and some clipping to go yet. I got a decent strip done and decided to let him be done, because he was behaving so well.

Tomorrow or the day after I will extend the clip back further down his chest a little bit, to just behind the girth line.

Definitely my worst spot - right up under his jowls. I couldn't get him to stretch so that I could make it even.

Here you can see about the width up his neck. I really kept the edge right at the jugular groove. I miiiiiight widen it at some point in the future. We'll see how he does with this.

Funny colored hair!

Honestly, he was so good I probably could've done him ground-tied. GOOD BOY. As it was, I had to unhook the far cross tie so that I could bring him closer to the wall. The cord on my clippers is like 3' long, maybe. I barely got it to the other side of him.

It doesn't look like as much when I put it all into a pile. You can see some bits of mane too: I finally trimmed his bridle path, after threatening to for months.

And when he was done, he was D-O-N-E, done. Exhibit A of Tristan behavior: pawing when bored. Exhibit B: looking adorable.

Today it's warm again, and then winter will set in for good. He's got his full range of blankets ready, and hopefully now he'll cool off faster and easier.

I'm really glad I went through with it. Soon after I clipped the first hair (not going to lie, there were some hesitation cuts there with little fluffy bits of hair in the air and my stomach doing flip flops), I immediately set in to the job at hand and felt fine about doing it. None of the angst I thought I might have.

I'll report back on how we're handling it going forward.