Monday, November 30, 2015

Blog Hop: 25 Questions

Jumping on the bandwagon so late there might not even still be a bandwagon. That's just how I roll lately.

1. Mares or Geldings? Why?

Geldings. Mares and I do not work. I've only ever enjoyed one.

2. Green-broke or Fully Broke?

Aspiration: fully broke.

Reality: green broke.

Tris was basically still wild when I started working with them - he did not know how to be groomed or pick up his feet. I helped put him in a squeeze chute at the rescue to get his shots.

Training him has been a remarkable experience but every time I sit on a trained horse, I feel so much better about myself. I feel like I do actually know how to ride.

3. Would you own a "hotter" breed (ie. Arabian, Trakhener, etc).

Nope. Not my style. I prefer a kick ride to a pull ride.

I mean, I would like to do a little less kicking, TRISTAN, but I am not mentally built to enjoy a horse with a bit of an edge.

4. What was your "dream horse" growing up?

Black mustang stallion. I had it all planned out, you guys. He was going to be untamable by anyone but me and we would go on moonlit adventures and I would spend hours crying into his silky mane.

I got the mustang and the crying part right, I guess?

5. What kind of bit(s) do you use and why?

I've gone over the bits of my past before.

Tris currently goes in a loose ring double-jointed snaffle for dressage and trail riding, and a full cheek double-jointed snaffle for jumping. He hasn't needed anything more in a long time.

6. Helmets or no helmets?



Jesus Christ, people, it's 2015, buy a goddamn fucking clue already and wear your helmet.

7. Favorite horse color?

Hm. I am honestly not sure I have a favorite. Maybe a nice bright blood bay with a blaze.

Or, really, secretly I think we would all answer this question as that lovely dappled iron-grey look but as we all know grey horses are all about getting your hopes up and then getting gradually disappointed.

8. Least favorite horse color?

Paint. Any variation. Meh.

9. Dressage or Jumping?

Dressage, no question. It has the kind of problems that my brain likes to solve.

10. How many years have you been riding?

Ummmmmm. 20+, I think, on and off.

11. Spurs/whip or no spurs/whip?

Both. Every time I go without, I regret it. See also #3 above.

12. Your first fall?

Big rawboned QH lesson horse; I was in a semi-private lesson with another girl, her horse took a nutty and my horse did a patented little hop and twist. I landed on my feet, directly next to his head, facing backwards, still holding the reins. Still not sure how. I ruined the effect when my knees buckled and I then sat down on my ass almost immediately.

13. When was the last time you rode and what did you do?

Last Friday night (goddamn it); worked on loosening Tristan up and then on his canter, particularly getting better quality up transitions.

14. Most expensive piece of tack you own?

My dressage saddle, for sure. But even then it is way less than what most people consider expensive for a saddle. I paid $1,200 for it. It's a used Albion.

15. How old were you when you started riding?

I'm honestly not entirely sure. 10, maybe? Middle school.

16. Leather or Nylon halters?

Personally, I prefer leather for their oh-shit-breakability, but I have nothing personal against nylon.

17. Leather or Synthetic saddles?

Leather. Again, nothing personal against synthetic. I owned a Wintec saddle for a while that I still wish had worked out. It didn't fit Tristan, but it was great to bomb around in and not worry about.

18. What "grip" of reins do you like?

Hm. I have yet to see a webbed dressage rein with stops that didn't get all crappy after a while. I love my rubber reins on my jumping bridle, but not for every day use. I really kind of hate laced reins. I like the idea of plain leather reins but not the actuality of them.

I wish you could still find plaited reins. Actually braided, not laced. I loved those.

19. English or Western?

English. Western saddles make me feel like I am trapped and give me panic attacks.

20. How many horses do you currently own/lease?

Just the one, thank God.

21. Do you board your horse? Self-care/full board? Home board?

Boarded at a barn I love.

22. Have you ever had to put down a horse that you loved?

Not personally, but I was a strong advocate for the first horse I ever truly loved to be put down. He was in terrible pain and no longer comfortable even in a field, and he stayed too long before his owner was able to make the call. Someday, I'll decide for Tristan.

23. How many saddlepads do you have?

Ummmmm...three? Four? Three in regular rotation.

24. Slant-load trailer or straight haul?

Straight. I buy the argument that slant loads are uncomfortable for most horses.

(Really my ideal is open & loose in a stock trailer, but that is a semi-rare thing in the northeast.)

25. Why do you ride?
It keeps my brain on an even keel, and when I ride, I can't think or worry or stress about anything. I just ride. It's like when I sit on a horse there's a minute adjustment and all of a sudden all the tiny watch gears inside my body are well-oiled and run smoothly again.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

House Post: Preview of Bathroom Work

Hopefully next Sunday's house post will have the complete story of this godawful saga, but the last 3 weeks have been all about the bathroom.

And on and on and on. Getting there...

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Still here

I hear you, puppy.

No blog post roundup this week, sorry!

Tris and I are both still alive and well. We've just been insanely busy this week.

Him, eating and sleeping and doing lazy horse things.

Me, going at breakneck speed on house projects, dealing with eight million things at work, and then hosting my entire family for Thanksgiving. Which went great! Despite the usual snags and oh the upstairs toilet and the kitchen sink going on the fritz. Sigh. Also, the downstairs bathroom not being finished (more on that later).

In addition to that, I brought my home computer in to a shop this week hoping that they could give it a tune-up. I am one of the last of the dinosaurs using an older desktop computer for most home computing, and mine was running like molasses. They cleaned it up and are going to double the available memory for me, which should get me another 3-5 years of use before I have to re-purchase.

Hence, less blogging. I didn't really think about how much I relied on having a home computer to blog, especially during an insanely busy work week, but there you have it.

I am hoping for a return to normalcy and sanity soon. I'd like that.

In the meantime, here's a shirt I bought while getting new shower curtains at Walmart. I would like t-shirt weather back so I can wear it!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

House Post: Energy Efficient Sink Faucet Aerators

This is not the sexiest or most glamorous or most exciting home improvement project, but it was lightning quick, really easy, and should make a nice difference in our utility use.

The basic gist is this: the average showerhead and sink aerator is set to a fairly high gallons-per-minute, or GPM, rate because energy used to be cheap and the ideal was to cover yourself (and/or your dishes) in as much hot water as possible while cleaning. Think those rain shower things. Which is all well and good if you don't care about the cost of the water and the cost to heat that water, and then overall world conservation problems regarding water and energy resources.

But I care, because I hate paying more for bills than I have to, and I live in Vermont, and climate change and world resources and all that stuff is a Big Deal here. I mean, we're going to mandatory composting of household food waste in 2016, so.

Previously, I had already done our showerheads, which was an easy thing to do. Last weekend, I tackled the three sinks in the house: kitchen and two bathrooms. Some of the aerators didn't have info on them but the one I removed from the upstairs bathroom was marked as 2GPM. I replaced it with a 0.5GPM aerator, so I cut both water use and energy use in 1/4 by replacing it!

Here's the step by step of the process. I used these aerators from Niagara; they cost about $1 apiece, which seems insanely inexpensive to me! They should pay themselves off very quickly.

Step 1: the old faucet in our upstairs bathroom sink

Step 2: here's what 2GPM looks like

Step 3: wrap the old aerator in an elastic. this will provide better purchase for the wrench and make sure it doesn't scratch the metal

Step 4: remove the old aerator simply by turning left with a wrench or pliers

Step 5: here's what an aerator-less faucet looks like. clean out the faucet a bit, there's probably mineral buildup in there. you can soak it with vinegar if your faucet is shaped correctly, or just take a small brush up in there, or just loosen it with your fingers

Step 6: here's why aerators are a thing! water goes everywhere without one

Step 7: place the new aerator in and get it threaded on. my least favorite part; for some reason I've been having horrible trouble threading things lately

Step 8: elastic again!

Step 9: tighten as much as you can. don't half-ass this, or water will go everywhere

Step 10: here's what 0.5GPM looks like!

Step 11: voila! a bit deeper than the old one, but by maybe only 1/4"

The whole process took 10 minutes start to finish, and that's partly because I was photographing. So let's say for 7:30 minutes and $1, you can cut your energy use in one faucet by up to 75%.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Weekly Blog Roundup

Happy weekend, welcome to the blog roundup for the week!

3rd Annual Equestrian Blogger Gift Exchange from Fly On Over
It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Mountain Trail Adventures from Pony Express
Holy shit that looks like a ton of fun.

An Equestrian Thanksgiving Table from If The Saddle Fits
I am focusing more on bathroom renovations than I am on dinner table decorations but I loooooove these!

Motivate Me Wednesday; How to stop being a people pleaser from Viva Carlos
This is really, really good.

DIY: Dyeing a Saddle from The $900 Facebook Pony

Things You Should Never Take for Granted as a Rider from The Legal Equestrian
...what. Not only would I not take these things for granted, I doubt I will ever do any of them even once. Maybe #4, but not likely in a horse that I own.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Small Victories

Some months ago, I found a really nice Goretex insulated barn jacket on clearance at SmartPak. I examined every inch and determined that the zipper was broken: it no longer had a retaining box at the bottom to stop it from opening up again once it was zipped. I was willing to live with that for the great price - it was a style of coat I really wanted.

I have started wearing it in past weeks, as it got colder. First I thought I would just leave it unzipped. That did not work. Then I thought I could use a safety pin to hold the bottom closed once zipped. That did not hold up to the rigors of riding.

Then I thought I would have it fixed, but the sewing shop I have used for small things in the past said it was unfixable, and I would have to replace the zipper at a cost of 2x what I paid for the coat. No thanks.

So I bought a zipper repair kit, and spent about 30 minutes Googling and thinking and trying different things. The end result? I added a second zipper clincher (the thing that actually moves up and down) to the bottom of the zipper. So now I can unzip it from the bottom if I want (like if I want more freedom of movement in the saddle) or leave it down, and it will stay zipped.

The zipper kit cost $10, I paid $40 for the jacket, and it retails for $279 right now. I call that a win!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Reminder: Giveaway of Stablekeeping by Cherry Hill


If you haven't yet entered to win this awesome book, don't delay - enter today.

It's an awesome book chock-full of useful information. And who doesn't love a free book?!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


So I was going gangbusters for a while there, and I not right now. I'm not coping terribly well with my life. My usual coping skills are frayed and taut, or I am not giving enough attention to them. I have so many balls in the air I am honestly not sure how many there are, much less what color and shape they are - and when they'll come down.

Case in point: I wrote a stack of cards, some of them with payment of bills. I addressed them. I put stamps on them. I carried them in my purse for 3 days to mail.

I have no idea what happened to them next. Literally no idea. I cannot place a memory of them, and I cannot find them. I assumed that I had mailed them in a fugue state until I checked my bank balances and the money was still there. Shit. Cue emails and apologies. I will double-pay the farrier on Friday. I will re-mail another payment. I will re-write the card to my friend who moved away.

Moments like that terrify me, because what else am I not thinking of? I run over and over and over the things I need to do and check on, and add to my lists, and review my lists from last week and yesterday, and hope that I've got it all, and that I haven't screwed up any of the important things.

Which is a long way of saying I'm tired. I have family coming for Thanksgiving and a bathroom in pieces and I have to rip up part of the attic floor to try and get the upstairs bathroom functional and I have to shampoo my carpets because the dog decided for a few days to forget she was housebroken and I have to find a turkey and I have to plan everything and finish unpacking the library so there's somewhere for my brother to sleep and and.

What does this have to do with horses? Well, I was late to work this morning because I woke up and it was 18 degrees and I ran around getting things ready for the handyman to work on the bathroom this morning and fretted about the cat and then I realized that Tristan's medium blanket was still in the back of my car. So I dropped the dog off at daycare and then dropped Tristan's blanket off at the barn and was late to work. It's ok though I'll be here until 9pm today!

Last night, I did get to the barn and free longed Tristan for a while, which was not his favorite thing, and soaked one of his feet because he's been having some thrush problems. He was spunky and a little grumpy about not having had his grain yet, but overall it was good to fuss over him for a while.

I'm happy with his general condition right now, though I would like more muscle; he's in good flesh and overall happy and healthy.

Pony JAIL. They never feed him, clearly.

We never feed this one, either. Her life is really hard. She did not believe me when I told her she was going to daycare today.

Monday, November 16, 2015

3 Things I (Re) Learn Every Time I Drop Stirrups

Happy No Stirrup November, everyone! I am not fully participating in the festivities for a variety of reasons that mostly boil down to, I can't always do the work I need to with Tristan without stirrups, at least not right now.

I am, however, trying to do 15-20 minutes of quality schooling work within each ride without stirrups. When I dropped them for the first time last week it had been quite a while since I'd purposefully schooled without stirrups. I ride without a saddle all the time, but am rarely working in trot or canter when I do that.

So I started thinking about all the things that change on me when I drop stirrups and try to be productive.

1. I ride some things better and some things worse.

With stirrups, I am far better at riding and improving the trot than the canter.

When I drop stirrups, my trot abilities go by the wayside, and I am magically much better at sitting deep and properly using my core to lift up in the canter.

My up transitions are better without stirrups; my down transitions are better with stirrups.

The walk is a toss up, since I ride that so often both ways.

I am better at encouraging and correcting for straightness in Tristan without stirrups and am just more sensitive to tipping or weighting one hind leg over the other.

On the other hand, I am much better at putting together a cohesive, planned ride with stirrups.

2. I am somehow always surprised by the journey I go through with my muscle groups.

It always starts out with me tensing my hip flexors as I try to go a little bit fetal.

Then, as I learn to let go of those - usually just as they're getting a little sore or tweaked - I re-re-re-realize how much more deeply I need to engage my core. So I go down that route.

Then I re-learn just exactly what engaging my core means, usually about the time I've given myself a nice little side cramp from holding my breath and/or letting my lower back muscles slack off.

Somewhere in there I also go through a slump/straighten cycle with my shoulders and neck, and a round under/straighten up cycle with my pelvis as I work to follow Tristan's movement without jarring him.

3. Tristan is not an easy horse to ride without stirrups, but he is a saint.

Tris needs a lot of leg. He needs to be sharpened off the aids early and often. His default is to slam his shoulders around and get thick and heavy and difficult to steer when he's not thrilled with what's going on. His gaits have never really been smooth (though in his defense they are not dramatically choppy, either). So that means that I have to make trade-offs in what I want to accomplish with him versus myself when I'm riding without stirrups.

On the other hand, if I am fair to him and warm him up properly, soften his back a bit, and then start to work without stirrups? He'll tolerate my flailing around all day long. If I get too badly off-balance, he pulls up automatically. He gets very worried about me when I'm clearly not coping well. He'll truck along and take the joke all day long, and often, once I've got my feel and my rhythm and my balance nailed, he gives me big lovely sweeping on the bit trots because he's just glad I finally connected my damn core through my seat.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Weekly Blog Roundup

Trying a new thing with these blog roundups: a bit of audience input & interaction at the same time. So, here's this week's poll before our blog links. I'll try to keep on top of giving results at the end of next week's blog links, and so on.

I'm going to cheat a bit and put my own giveaway at the top to remind you it's going on, so:
Giveaway: Stablekeeping by Cherry Hill

Accident-Prone Humor from Guinness on Tap
Yep, I laughed. HORSES.

What Do We Owe Our Horses Part I & Part II from DIY Horse Ownership
Really, really good and an important conversation to have.

Five Things I Learned Scribing at a Dressage Show from Hand Gallop
YES! I love scribing, and I do it whenever I get a chance. I have found all of these things to be completely true.

1K Facebook Fan Giveaway from If the Saddle Fits
This is a Serious Giveaway, you guys. Wow.

Eventers Wit' Attitude from Zen and the Art of Baby Horse Management
I laughed pretty darn hard at these.

Event Recap: Myopia Fall Hunter Pace from The Maggie Memoirs

On Elderly Horses from Hand Gallop

Caring for deep thrush - in pictures from Wyvern Oaks
Really, really interesting and a useful photo essay.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Disney Horses: Maximus from Tangled

I am not nearly into Disney as much as some people are into Disney, but I love me a Disney movie. We just watched Tangled again and I thought about all the great horses that have been featured in Disney animated films over the years and I thought: this needs to be recapped.

So, we begin with Maximus from Tangled, arguably one of the best of the lot.

We meet Maximus for the first time as a determined mount for the Captain of the Guard chasing Flynn Rider. He ditches the captain pretty quickly and enters into his own pursuit. His facial expressions are amazing and I'm most impressed at the way he still moves (mostly) like a real horse, despite being way more anthropomorphic than the average cartoon horse.

He quickly develops into a strong personality, taking his role as a guard horse very seriously and pursuing Flynn with determination, grit, and real anger. His actions are played as hilarious but the movie clearly respects him and just lets him be awesome. Even though you're supposed to sympathize with Flynn and Rapunzel, if you're a horse person, you're secretly (or not so secretly!) rooting for Maximus all along.

Eventually, he teams up with the heroes. He hates Flynn until pretty much the last few minutes of the movie, but he warms up to Rapunzel all unicorn-like. (Or maybe you're supposed to think that since he's a palace horse he somehow recognizes that she's the princess?)

But eventually he and Flynn are BFFs, and they are a fun sort of odd couple. Law&order and the rascal, but they have Rapunzel in common.

Usually Disney horses are helpmates, even if they've got cool personalities, but one of the fun things about Maximus is that he has his own agenda and he's often better at his job than the humans who surround him. (You get the sense that he just puts up with most of them in order to do his job better; does that sounds like any driven sporthorses to you?)

Fun fact: Maximus is also Disney's first - and so far, only - computer-animated horse.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Clipping Update: My Little Rebel

Remember I asked for ideas about what geeky thing I should clip onto my horse's butt, My Little Pony style? There were some awesome suggestions, and I mulled them all over.

Being not in the slightest bit artistic, it needed to be something I could transfer easily to a piece of cardboard to create a pattern. I thought and I thought and then I figured it out.


Why yes, my poor long-suffering little mustang is now a member of the Rebel Alliance. (The husband cracked a joke about "Roan Squadron," proving that he actually does pay attention to horse vocabulary sometimes. We then spent a solid 10 minutes reciting dialogue, which I suppose is one of the reasons we're married.)

I am so insanely thrilled with how it turned out. It's not perfect by a long shot, but damn, it looks so cool.

Here was my process, in case you're curious.

It took some finagling, especially since my clippers are not the sharpest, and Tristan had to be convinced to stand still and within the range of the cord of the clippers while all the other horses were being grained. About an hour start to finish, all things considered, including cutting out the pattern.

I'd do it again in a heartbeat, and probably will keep this design touched up through the winter!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

They Also Served: Equine Veterans

Horses were part of warfare even before we were riding them. Before the first kid threw a leg astride, horses were driven; before that, they were used as meat.

Here are a few horses that have been in military service over the years. This is by no means a comprehensive list.

Reckless was a part-Thoroughbred mare who served with the United States Marine Corps in the Korean War as a supply horse. She performed some truly extraordinary feats of bravery and actually held rank as a Sergeant in the USMC. She also received two Purple Hearts.

Rienzi was a black Morgan ridden by Union General Philip Sheridan during the American Civil War. Sheridan was the Union's top cavalry officer, and Rienzi his favorite mount. Rienzi was renamed Winchester after he performed extraordinary feats of endurance and strength on "Sheridan's Ride," a famous overland cavalry ride that brought Sheridan's troops to the Battle of Shenandoah in time to win. Rienzi features prominently in a famous poem written about that ride:

With foam and with dust the black charger was gray; 
By the flash of his eye, and the red nostril's play,  50
He seemed to the whole great army to say, 
"I have brought you Sheridan all the way 
From Winchester, down to save the day!" 
Hurrah! hurrah for Sheridan! 
Hurrah! hurrah for horse and man!  55
And when their statues are placed on high, 
Under the dome of the Union sky, 
The American soldier's Temple of Fame; 
There with the glorious general's name, 
Be it said, in letters both bold and bright,  60
  "Here is the steed that saved the day, 
By carrying Sheridan into the fight, 
  From Winchester, twenty miles away!"

Rienzi/Winchester was so famous that he was mounted and today can be seen in the Smithsonian.

Copenhagen was, you could argue, the original OTTB success story. He was extremely well bred and raced until he was four years old, and was then sold as a riding mount. He was eventually given to Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, and became his primary battle mount. Copenhagen carried Wellington, most famously, for 17 continuous hours during the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Supposedly Wellington dismounted at the end of the battle, patted Copenhagen's flank in thanks, and the gelding let fly with a hind leg, narrowly missing bashing the general's face in. Copenhagen was Wellington's mount for the remainder of the Napoleonic Wars and then his parade mount afterwards, and became so famous that his hair was a coveted accessory and was made into jewelry.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Fall 2015 Cushings Update

So, continuing on in our Cushings journey.

Previously: Tristan's fall 2014 ACTH levels were back within normal range, and he had a good spring and summer.

My horse is sad because jump standards are not part of his diet.

Tris has not had a ton of work in these past weeks; every time I think my work schedule is about to even out, it ramps up again. The house has been taking the lion's share of my mental and physical energy. I'm getting him worked maybe 3x a week in light work. So his physical condition from exercise is not terrific.

Overall, though, he's in great shape as we head into the winter. Last week, on November 4, he got an updated flu/rhino vaccine, an overall physical, and his vet pulled blood to run another ACTH level so we could make sure we were on track.

She was pleased with his overall condition and demeanor, and reported that he tolerated her kissing his nose several times. Good pony. <3

Last night, we got his ACTH levels back: 33.7 pg/mL, which falls within the normal range of 9-35. It's a smidge on the high normal side, but the vet was not concerned, and it's definitely still within a safe range.

So: good boy, Tris!

For reference and future blog posts: he is down to 1/4 quart of Blue Seal's Carb Guard AM + PM, still on what grass is left, and 3-4 flakes of hay. He also gets a ration balancing vitamin & mineral supplement and a hoof supplement. He is maintaining a healthy weight just fine on that. He's started his blanket rotation for the season - depending on overnight temps, he's in either a stable sheet, turnout sheet, or slightly thicker honeycomb sheet. He seems more comfortable with the temperature swings this year, knock wood.

Monday, November 9, 2015

My Favorite Thing

This horse, you guys. I don't know what I would do without him.

These critters, too.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

House Post: Library

On a more cheerful note than our insulation nightmare: the transformation of one of our back bedrooms into a library!

We have four bedrooms. We do not need four bedrooms, nor will we ever, probably. (8 weeks of marriage and the "so, when are the kids coming?" jokes started at the reception, to which my standard answer has been "ALL THE DOGS!") We do plan to have large gatherings of friends for hiking and ski weekends, so we were not wild about completely losing that fourth bedroom (by, say, turning it into a master bathroom).

So! Library it is, which will leave the floor open for an air mattress, and we got one of those uber-expensive super-fancy ones for the wedding, like you are practically on a real mattress and it keeps itself inflated. Which should be just fine on occasions when we are truly full to the gills.

Previously, it was what we called the Lighthouse Room, for, well, obvious reasons.

So, Step 1: remove wallpaper. This went REALLY EASILY. After all the awfulness of the master bedroom, this was a joy to do. Then I scrubbed the walls and the whole "use the appropriate wallpaper paste wash" actually worked, which tells you just how bad that master bedroom was.

Step 2: holy mackerel was there a lot of patching in this room, and I even found spots I missed after I painted and they are just going to have to stay there, good grief.

Step 3: priming with Kilz oil-based primer just in case we missed any wallpaper paste.

Step 4: paint! We went with Sherwin Williams "Worldly Gray" which does not photograph terribly well but is a nice soothing and neutral sort of sandy gray. I wish maybe it had been a little more blue, but I am by no means unhappy with the color.

Step 5: goodbye rug! *happy sigh* Then a long vacuum, followed by a thorough mopping with Old English oil

Step 6: bookshelves! These are IKEA's Ivar shelving system with a light white stain applied to plain pine. They were fine in previous apartments but now that they are in this much nicer room, they are sorely lacking. So they will be upgraded eventually. For now, they are serving their purpose.

Step 7, still in process: unpacking the books, whew.

Still needed: new curtains, new rug, and getting the radiator sandblasted and repainted. None of those things are a crisis, though. For now, I'm really, really excited to get all my books unpacked, put the old curtains back up & one of our extra rugs on the floor and have a proper room. I think I will also move my sewing table + sewing machine in, and strongly consider storing my extra yarn in that closet, along with my file cabinets to free up space in my office.