Wednesday, December 31, 2014

When Should I Retire My Horse?

I've been thinking about this post for a long time. Probably close to a year. I've gotten closer and closer to saying it out loud, writing it down, putting it out there for consumption by the universe.

How do I know when it's time to retire Tristan?

2015 will come with some big changes, and 2014 had a lot of challenges. Put those two things together and it's been on my mind more and more.

I know a few things for sure.

I don't want to wait until he is permanently unsound, unhealthy, or unhappy. I don't want the decision taken out of my hands. I want him to be comfortable and happy when he retires, and I want the option of getting on bareback for a walk around the field with my best friend. I don't want to watch him suffer.

I want to retire him with me, on my own property. I want him to be there every morning and every night, and when the time comes, I want to bury him somewhere I can visit. I want to do everything I can for him with my own two hands.

I want to keep riding after I retire him. That will mean a second horse, and it will mean I have to bring him home. 

I know he will be happy in retirement. He will not be one of those horses who paces the fenceline, who gets jealous when the trailer pulls away without him, who nickers for me to come visit. He has always been very much his own creature. He spent over half his life completely on his own. I know he loves me, but I also know that he does not live for his work. He would be happy to be retired to a field tomorrow.

I'm not ready yet. He needs at least light work to keep him sound and happy right now, until he can have a large field to walk around all day. He needs the physical fitness that quality dressage work provides. It keeps him loose and limber and comfortable. And I'm not ready to stop riding him. He turns 20 this year, and there's no reason he won't be sound and comfortable for many years yet, and I need my best friend still.

So what's next?

I started thinking about this almost a year ago, at the end of last winter. I can remember the precise moment when I relinquished ambition for us as a team - it was at the VERDA ride where I crewed for Hannah last summer. Every other time I'd chatted to endurance/CTR people, and they learned I have a mustang, they'd say "Oh, you should do CTRs!" and I agreed, at least in principle - I really did want to do that with him. Last summer, it was like someone else took over my mouth, and I said, "No, it's not for him anymore. Maybe my next horse."

Then at the Vermont Moonlight, someone asked again, and again, it was like someone took over my mouth, and I said "He's semi-retired now, actually."

I was surprised to hear myself say that, as it wasn't something I'd actively been thinking, but I've been thinking about it more and more. There's light work that means you're rehabbing, or busy in your own life, or planning some downtime. And then there's light work that doesn't lead to anything - it's enjoyable for its own end, but it's simply keeping you both happy and fit and together.

Sometime over the summer, I realized we were in the second category. I started saying it more often out loud: he's semi-retired now. He's older. He's in light to moderate work. He's never going to fox hunt, or do a CTR, or event. We'll do some dressage, we'll trail ride, we'll work on being a team together, but I don't have any goals for us, and I'm okay with that.

So what's the next step? I don't know. I'm in a weird in-between place. We'll keep doing what we're doing, working on fitness and suppleness and fine-tuning what we've always worked on. I'll keep managing his Cushings, and his foot, and his allergies, and his mental state. I don't feel an itch to do more. When I start to feel that, maybe it will be time. When I start to feel like he's nearing another milestone, maybe it will be time. 

Until then, stay tuned, I guess.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Arya had an awesome Christmas, and continues to be the very best of pups. Now that she behaves better in the car, she's been coming to the barn more often.

The traveling around Christmas was not her favorite, as she's a dog who likes both of her people together, ideally in the same room and doting on her. She spent some time with my parents while we visited my fiance's family (triplet toddlers + puppy = inadvisable), and then came back to Vermont with me while fiance stayed in Massachusetts. She kept an eagle eye out the window for him for three days, and was very happy when he came home.

2015 will be all about the recall for her, as nearly everything else is improving. I'm hoping to purchase a 30' or 50' biothane long lead for her to drag. I have a 30' nylon check lead but it's kind of crap - it gets tangled easily and it's in terribly shape after only a few months of light use from all the snags. If she starts to do well on that she may earn herself some off leash time at the barn.

She got a new stuffed Triceratops for Christmas, and she loves it. I spent an hour and a half stitching her toys back together over the weekend and she's already killed two of them again. Sigh.

Here, have some picspam. :)

Secret Santa Awesomeness

I'm a little behind on this but I returned from my Christmas travel to find my Secret Santa package!

From Karley & Henry at All In, I am REALLY excited for my gift!

First up: a bottle of EquiFuse Gleam! It's like Karley reached into my brain: the last few times I've gone out to the barn, I've been working on really deep grooming for Tristan, and that has included adding detangler to his mane and tail to help combat the winter dryness. I had just started thinking about what kinds of moisturizers I could use beyond my very basic detangler, and then not even 24 hours later this arrived at my door!

I used it last night and so far I'm really happy with it. The smell was clean and refreshing, and it worked into his mane and tail beautifully. I didn't use it throughout, but worked it into the roots on his crest and his dock. I'll use it a few times a week through the winter and maybe we can go into spring with a lovely lush mane and tail instead of dry rubbed out ickiness. :)

There was also a stocking of delicious treats. These were definitely Tristan's favorite; he couldn't figure out why I was spending so much time rubbing gunk into his mane, but he gobbled up a treat right away. I was actually running low on treats, so these are a welcome stopgap!

Thank you to Karley and Henry, and to Tracy at Fly on Over for hosting the Secret Santa swap, which is such a fun part of my holiday season.

Last but not least, my gift was for Karen of Not So Speedy Dressage. I was excited to see what she thought, and it turns out she was thrilled. :) I'm really touched to see it received so well. Gift swaps are the best!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Welcome to my life

Endless, endless circles of the indoor. Sigh.

Bareback December continues to go well. Nothing quite unlocks the lower back like working very hard to stay loose and following in a big bareback trot!

I will be glad to get in a saddle again if for no other reason than we can accomplish more that way. Fitness sets are fine and dandy, but trying to get a good bend in the trot on an unbalanced horse = holy dropped shoulders, Batman.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Weekly Blog Roundup

First of all, Merry Christmas to all who celebrate!

Here's a roundup of blog posts from this past week.

Tracking Apps for Riding from 'Fraidy Cat Eventing
Great review of an app I hadn't heard of before. I've been using Endomondo quite a lot, but wondered what else was out there.

Yesterday Was True Horror from Guinness on Tap
This is one of the most difficult blog posts I've ever read. It's really important, though; kudos to Austen for keeping her head, for working so hard to save her horse, for writing an impartial and thoughtful account, and for being brave enough to share it with all of us. She's not kidding about the graphic photos, though - read at your own risk.

101 Apps for Schooling Inspiration from The Journey to 100 Miles
I love the 101 exercises books - they are far more useful than I would ever have thought. I LOVE the idea of having them in an app format, though the price seems steep. This is a good review of what you get for your money.

In Which We Ride 10 Miles on City Streets from In Omnia Paratus
Liz is approximately 100 million times cooler and more adventurous than I will ever be. SO COOL, YOU GUYS.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Repost: Horse Christmas Ornaments

I was reminded by Lauren's post about her horsey Christmas ornaments to repost something I shared last year - a few photos of my favorite horse Christmas ornaments.


Our Christmas tree has four main themes: geeky (Back to the Future, Star Trek, Doctor Who), Swedish (tre kronor, "God Jul," flags, Dala horses), Boston sports (Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins, and the infamous Rene Rancournament) and...equestrian.

Here are some of my favorite equestrian ornaments, from a collection built over the last few years.

One of my favorites, from Maple Landmark Woodcraft in my college town.

A gift from my aunt and uncle.

My newest, an instant favorite. I bought it at The Breakers while at a work conference.

Do you have any horse-themed ornaments or holiday decorations? What are they?

Equestrian Social Media Link Up

From Fly on Over & Hand Gallop!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Lunatic Longeing Pony

I worked on Christmasy things for my day off yesterday: made cake for cake balls, worked on some crafts, wrapped presents, crocheted, all of the above.

I also hit refresh on the package tracking for my Secret Santa gift approximately eight hundred million times. DAMMIT, UPS. I was so on top of things, and then it turns out it was a three week order and the shipping was slooooooooow. SIGH. Today, hopefully!

Anyway: when I headed out to leave, Arya ignored the food I had left for her and sat in front of the door and whined so hard her whole body was shaking. She is already the whiniest dog in the whole world - crying is her love language basically - but this was a cut above. So I gave in and brought her to the barn.

Now, the last time Arya came to the barn and hung out in my car while I was riding, she puked all over the driver's side of my then-brand-new car. Like, everywhere. I was cleaning puppy vomit out of the window buttons with a goddamn toothpick.

Anyway. I walked her around a bit and we worked on focusing and behaving when everything in the whole world was more exciting than focusing on me: eating poop, eating snow, playing with other barn dogs, eating hay, eating name it. She's nowhere near off leash ready yet, so that involved quite a lot of "WHOOOOO" and hitting the end of the leash, and then having a focused session about behaving on a loose leash, getting treats for touching my hand, re-focusing on me, walking when I said...etc. Some people can let their 14 month old dogs off leash. Arya's brain would immediately unspool out of her ears and she would never come back. Ah well.

Then, the test: I put her in my car, settled all the various snacks out of the way, closed the door, and kept my fingers crossed.

I opted to put Tristan on the longe line. Just bridle, no surcingle and chambon. He's been working really well that way, and today was another example. He's in a great weight right now, and feeling good from the pergolide and pentosan. He moved out nicely, and responded well - even felt good enough to throw a couple of bucking fits as his back loosened up.

He worked for about 25 minutes overall, and over a pole from time to time. As I've been longeing him more and more, I'm learning that he doesn't longe very well at the canter. He tips in, and I have no good way to correct him in the longeing setup I'm using. (I could go to double lines, but I haven't done that with him in years and quite frankly I'm lazy.) He motorcycles and drops his inside hip and bends to the outside. That pushes him off balance and leads to a bit of a frantic scramble. He'll get half a circle or so of a good pushing canter (and he's starting to lift through his back the teensiest bit when he does that, which is exciting), and then fall in and scramble.

Trot, now - he works beautifully at the trot on the longe line. Nice and lifting and after a canter, a loose back and stretchy gaits. He's becoming a pleasure to watch, truly. It's so nice to see him building strength again!

He actually got a bit warm from the longeing, so I left him under a cooler with a note for the barn staff to put his blanket back on at grain time - just about 45 minutes later.

And Arya? Behaved perfectly. Cried and screamed up a storm when I got back to the car, but we stopped for McDonald's on the way home, and some fries went a long way toward rehabilitating me as a parent in her eyes.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Equine Metaphors

I was reading this excellent article about the history of sex ed in the United States, and came across this vaguely horrifying metaphor for male sexual energy.
“The Science of Life” even had separate segments meant for boys and girls. Part of the boy’s section voice-over states, “The sex impulse contributes to those masculine qualities which make men ambitious to strive and achieve. Controlled, the sex impulse, like the horse, may be a source of power and service. The sex impulse is like a fiery horse. Uncontrolled, it may be destructive and dangerous.” “The Gift of Life” warns, “Masturbation may seriously hinder a boy’s progress towards vigorous manhood. It is a selfish, childish, stupid habit.”

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Weekly Bog Roundup

Here are a few posts from the horse blogging world!

2nd Blogaversary Blog Statistics from She Moved to Texas
All the stats! Lauren is an excellent blogger and a great designer, so this is a really cool roundup.

Initial Hoof Boot Review: Equine Fusion Ultimate Jogging Shoes from The Journey to 100 Miles
Innovation keeps marching on. Check out these weird and really neat boots and read Gail's thorough, thoughtful review of them.

Gracie's Bootcamp Starts from Wait for the Jump
Saiph has been having some trouble with her mare Gracie keeping her feet underneath her. After vet checks, she's proceeding with a plan to work on Gracie's footwork. I really like the way she spelled out the work here, showing photos and talking about her reasoning. Tristan is on the clumsier side, so I'm always curious to hear how others have improved their horses' steadiness.

2014 Beach Trip from Team Awesome
Possibly the coolest horse photo shoot I have ever, ever seen. Amazing.

Friday, December 19, 2014

10 Questions

I can move my head again, guys! Hooray! Thank you for all your sympathy yesterday. I may be going back to my doctor to try some other migraine meds in the new year - I don't want to be caught out like that again. Hopefully it's not the start of a new trend.

Since I haven't seen my horse in a few days, have some blog hop questions from Viva Carlos!

1. What size horse do you prefer to ride?

I like them on the small side. Tristan at 15 hands (15.1 in shoes) is a bit too small for me, though he does take up most of my leg. But 16 hands is about my max, even though I'm 5'9" and by fashionable standards ought to be riding something much taller. I've done it, but I prefer the movement and cattiness of a smaller horse. I also like them more solid-built than average; not drafty, but lots of bone and a nice well-sprung barrel. Think Cob or Morgan rather than draft cross.

2. Do you school in tall boots or half chaps and paddock boots?

Tall boots. Always. This year I started riding occasionally in half chaps and Ariat sneakers, but only for hacks, never for actual schooling. I'll also ride in straight up winter boots for bareback hacks, but again, not for schooling.

3. What do you do with your ribbons after shows?

Ummmm, throw them in my trailer's tack trunk or the back seat of the truck and forget about them for months, then re-discover them while cleaning out and cuss because they're all creased and I can't actually remember what class they were for and wow, I am such a failure at the ribbons game. 

At one point I tacked them up on a corkboard, then I moved and forgot to do that again. Right now, my best ones with Tristan are all arranged on the outside of a lampshade because that's where I put them when I unpacked that box and it looks surprisingly not-awful, even if it was 95% unintentional.

4. Do you ride/board at a large show barn or a small private barn?

Is it weird that it's kind of both? In the late spring, summer, and early fall, it's a super-fancy fairly large (~45 horses with lots of haul-ins) dressage show barn, like Grand Prix schooling every day. In the late fall, winter, and early spring it's half empty (maybe 20 horses), very quiet, and has the feel of a small private barn. There are only a handful of other boarders; most of the horses are schoolies, retired competition horses, or babies growing up. I pick barns for the care first and foremost, and I think you can find quality care at all sorts of different barns. I could rave all day about the care at my barn, and the people behind it. I feel really lucky that it's also such a nice place.

5. Have you ever seen a horse give birth?

I mean, on TV, but not in person. Kittens once. I've met foals that were a handful of hours old. I have no ambition whatsoever to breed or to observe that.

6. What is your favorite breed?

Morgans, hands-down. Love 'em. I always have. 

7. Favorite tack brand?

Ummm...the cheap kind? I don't think I own two pieces of tack from the same maker. I buy what fits, is quality, and I like at the moment. Right now I have: a Passier saddle, an Albion saddle, a Nunn Finer breastplate, a Stuebben bridle, a Circuit bridle, a true no-name auction bridle, Smartpak leathers, and so on. No, wait! I also have some Passier leathers, so I guess I technically have two Passier things. Oh, and my rubber reins are Nunn Finer, so there, two pieces from them too. I am terrible consumer, apparently.

8. Would you ever buy used tack?

Yeah so that list above? Only the Stuebben bridle was new. Literally every single piece of tack I own I got used. I never really thought about that before. And the Stuebben was last year's model on clearance at Equine Affaire. REALLY nice bridle but I paid $175 for it at a steeeeeep discount and I'm sure it's nobody's idea of stylish. Also, it has dog tooth marks on the noseband from an asshole German Shepherd from three barns ago.

9. Ever been on a carriage ride?

YES! Actually one of my very favorite memories is from a "carriage" ride.

I did my graduate internship at Old Sturbridge Village, where for several weeks I did a variety of museum-y things around. Two days a week I was in costume doing interpretation, one day at the farm and one day at another house. (OSV doesn't do first-person, so I didn't have to pretend to be from the 1830s, thank God, just be in costume and demonstrate and talk to people.) I totally stalked the stagecoach driver and his horses, who were the loveliest, most well-trained animals. On my last day in costume, I got to ride up next to the driver, wearing my complete 1830s dress & bonnet, all around the village. So awesome.

On my very very last day before leaving, I brought Tristan down and rode through the village as part of an organized trail ride. That was awesome too. I'm just now realizing I didn't blog about it, apparently? Hm. I'll dig up the pictures and save that one for a rainy day.

I've been in a carriage lots of other times, but that experience really stands out.

10. How often do you go to the tack store?

I go to the farm store (ie, feed store) for miscellaneous things maybe every two or three weeks. The closest proper tack store is a ways away in Vermont, so I tend to save those trips for when I'm visiting family in Massachusetts. Dover & Smartpak are equidistant from my parents' house, and I've been to both many, many times over the years. So maybe every 6 months or so? I do a lot of ordering horsey things online right now, especially with the Smartpak free shipping to my barn.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


I get migraines on average of twice a year. The last few haven't been too bad: a few handfuls of OTC drugs, a few hours of rest, and I'm good to go.

Last night, I changed into barn clothes and as I said goodbye to my coworker, I noticed that I was having trouble seeing her. I started to get nervous, but headed out anyway. By the time I got to my car and started it, my aura had started in earnest. Cars on the road in front of me came in and out of my vision, and I lost all depth perception.

I was able to drive the few blocks home, and get drugs into my just as my aura vanished and the migraine really hit. I crawled into bed and after a few hours, felt steadier and able to sit up and have some food. Then back to bed.

This mornin I woke up with my head back in a vice grip, and the world spinning when I moved. I stopped getting migraine-specific drugs a few years ago when they began giving me horrendous side effects - the only time I've ever had bad side effects from drugs - and this is really the first one I've had in a long time that I needed them for. Oh well. 

So I am home sick today, having finally migrated from the bed to the couch. Sitting up works again, but moving at anything more than a snail's pace is out of the question. I am watching Ken Burns documentaries and crocheting Christmas gifts.

Which is a long and windy way of saying that I am not riding or at the barn. I have hopes that by this evening I can get to the barn to groom but I am not counting on it.

Sigh. Anyone else get migraines?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Boosting the Signal: Help out a fellow horse blogger

I'm reposting this from The Reeling: An Unexpected Mareventure. I think it's really important. Please help if you can.
Longer term bloggers will remember Bre and Greta, who hasn't blogged in a long time - she's been busy with college and Greta is mostly retired now. While Bre lives in queer-friendly Austin, this is still Texas, and things with her family have gone very sour due to her sexuality. She now finds herself estranged and with hardly any money to her name. Most of us have been through the broke-college/post-college-kid phase so we know what it is like, and others who went through growing up queer will understand exactly how crappy and hard it can be. Bre needs our help while she gets through this period in her life - she's a fighter and she'll be fine, but right now she needs help to make sure she keeps her heart horse. It is not her fault that she ended up in this situation and she and Greta should not have to suffer and pay for someone else's harsh and misguided judgements.

Click to help Bre!

My 10 Favorite Posts in 2014

We'll call this a 2014 review, after a fashion. I thought I'd go back over my archives and pick my top 10 favorite posts - which ones I thought were well-written, informative, fun, significant, you name it. So here we go; in no particular order.

1. Bits I Have Loved
An overview of all the different bits Tristan has gone in over the years, and why.

2. How to Identify and Read a Bureau of Land Management Freeze Brand
I did a lot of research and reading to write this, and I'm pleased with it. It's also one of the posts that gets search hits from time to time. I wrote it after realizing there wasn't a good comprehensive article out there that put all of this information together.

3. Green Mountain Horse Association Sleigh Rally
What a fun day - so many gorgeous horses and sleighs, so many picture opportunities. One of my top 5 most-read posts on this blog.

4. Breyer Stablemate Custom Painting
I am the least artistic person in the whole world, so I was proud of this all out of proportion with its actual importance.

5. Product Review: SmartPak's SmartBlanket App
This post got me mentioned on a Stuff Riders Say SmartPak video and made me briefly internet famous. Okay, not even briefly, and not even a little bit famous. But I actually do still really like the app, had fun writing this, and was totally surprised at the recognition I got for it.

6. DIY Project: Custom Quarter Sheet
I still use this quarter sheet all the time, and love it. Thrilled with how it turned out.

7. Fall Trail Ride at Groton State Forest
Hands-down one of my favorite horse memories of the entire year, and I loved getting to share so many photos of just how beautiful Vermont can be.

8. How to Re-Waterproof a Turnout Blanket
I'm happy that I got this huge project out of the way and that I did a pretty good (imho) tutorial as I went along. It's gotten a bunch of hits, too.

9. Pony Pulling at the Tunbridge World's Fair
I can't even properly express how much fun this was. The videos in this post don't quite do it justice, but they're still awesome. Another great horse memory of 2014.

10. RTR Blog Hop: Superstitions
So often the blog hops are fun, informative, and quirky, but this one really struck a chord with me. I got to share something really personal about the way I think about Tristan and it seemed like people really responded.

So, there you have it! There are definitely more I could've chosen, but these rose to the top. Do you have a favorite post that you wrote in 2014?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Body Sore and Happy

Bareback December continues apace. I've started adding some short canter stretches in - down a long side, around a 20m circle. My seat is fine, but I'm staying limited in what I do more for schooling purposes than anything else. I don't want to do anything that isn't good just because I'm riding bareback. I'm pushing myself to really be both flexible and strong in my core during the sitting trot, and to really get him to move out rather than settling on a shuffle.

That's been both good and bad. Tris has always been the kind of horse that's warmed up better after some canter, but I've been reluctant to canter bareback with the ring so crowded - I don't want to be that person who makes a dumb decision and then has a loose horse in the busy ring! So I've been forced to get my sitting trot better, faster, so his back loosens up faster.

Yesterday afternoon was about 50 minutes of walk and trot, with some canters thrown in. I felt like I made progress both with how deep I was sitting at the trot and how I was paying close careful attention to his body and where his spine was underneath me as we did some leg yields and smaller circles both at the walk and the trot.

The result? Today I'm a bit sore through my thighs and abs. Riding has been my primary - and often sole - form of exercise for over half my life now. It takes quite a lot to really get me sore from riding, since my muscles are all formed for that purpose. I may overwork certain muscle groups but it's rare that I'm discovering new ones. It's kind of exciting to be a bit sore, as it means I'm really accessing new things and working hard.

Tonight the plan is to longe, and then Wednesday off. I should be able to get some good rides in both before and after Christmas, always excepting possible weather interference. The end of December is looking much better than the beginning!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Dog and/or Pony Show

My horse is so inexpressibly weird sometimes, you guys.

Case in point. Yesterday afternoon we took advantage of clear skies and daylight to get out of the indoor and walk on the roads a bit. I was still bareback, and the roads have been icy, so we oped to go up and down the flat parts for a while.

We approached a branch. There are lots of branches still coming down regularly after the heavy snow. Tristan approached, curious, so I have him his head and he sniffed it.

Then he took a piece of it in his mouth and dragged it down the road with us three or four strides, like a dog.

What the ?!

He was so pleased with himself! "Look, mom, I found it! I get to keep it, right?"

I was so startled that it took me a few seconds and them I thumped him on the neck and yelled "hey!" He yanked with his neck and pulled off a piece of the branch, then continued on, chewing on the stick.

I pulled him up and reached forward to pull the stick out of his mouth. What a weirdo!

The rest of the ride was uneventful, thankfully, if short - there's only so long I can ride up and down the same half mile stretch...

Winter Shoeing 2015

The farrier was out last week, and Tristan has his winter snow shoes on.

Two main changes to the shoes: first, the studs you can see at the heel, and second, the anti-ice rubber thingy. The idea is that the studs will help him grip on ice, and the rubber thingy will help prevent those awful ice snowballs from building up in his hooves.

I know people go back and forth on whether to do studs &/or borium for the winter. I can see both sides, but ultimately, I trust our farrier. I also tend to feel that non-studded shoes are the most slippery thing a horse can possibly wear - far worse than barefoot, booted, or studded shoes. If Tristan (still, sigh) can't go barefoot in the front, then I'd rather he have the studs in.

Does the rubber thing work? Yeah, it helps. It's not 100%. Sometimes snow still gets packed in, but it seems to do so much less often, and it's easier to dig out when it does.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday Stills: Winter Wonderland

By way of an illustration of how wet & heavy our snow has been this week. Taken on Friday afternoon, and it's still snowing.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Weekly Blog Roundup

Here are a few interesting posts from the horse blogging world!

Celebrating Aengus from Wait for the Jump
Psych! Aengus is a cat. Wait, though. I am not a cat person. I am in fact pretty much the opposite of a cat person. I do not willingly touch or pet them. Part of that is allergies, but part of that is I believe a fundamental inability to make my brain interface with cats. We just don't get along. I do live with a cat, who I have grown fond of over the years, but the fiance is very clear that it will be his last. So why am I linking this post? Because Saiph IS a cat person, and the way she writes about Aengus makes even this non-cat person want to meet him, and appreciate him, and see him through her eyes. He sounds like a really cool dude.

A Few of Christian Schacht's Exercises from Not So Speedy Dressage
Karen does the most extraordinary job communicating her lessons and clinics, complete with diagrams and pictures. Every post is a gem. This post links to several other days of the Christian Schacht clinic as well.

Ending the Cycle of Excuses from The Simple Dollar
The Simple Dollar is a personal finance blog, not a horse blog, but I often find applicable, interesting things here nonetheless. This post in particular spoke to me this week, about forcing myself to do the hard, drudging things and get out there every day to work.

Four Awesome Things I Want for Christmas from Sprinkler Bandit
Tis the season for snooping on other people's wishlists and bulking up your own. I love these lists because they are like mini product reviews and they expand my horizons.

Steps to the Changes: A Better Canter from Guinness on Tap
The canter is probably my broadest weakness as a rider. I really appreciated the thought and care put into writing up this lesson, and the video evidence of what Austen is talking about. Top notch post through and through.

Friday, December 12, 2014

5 Items on My Christmas Wishlist

Let's acknowledge that I don't really need any of these items, but they would be really, really awesome to have. I'm actually at a point in my horse-owning life where I don't need anything. I took care of my last round when I got winter blankets for Tristan and some new breeches for myself.

I am, of course, lusting after things in the SmartPak catalogue anyway. So what am I hoping I find under the tree (knowing full well that my family really doesn't give me horse stuff, with a handful of exceptions)?

1. IRH XR9 Helmet, $176.95 at SmartPak

My current helmet is an IRH Equilite. It's three years old and hasn't had any knocks on it; I replaced it after taking a dive at Scarlet Hill while schooling XC a few years ago. It is practical and sturdy and ugly as hell. The concept of something non-plastic that doesn't give me bubble-head makes my  heart go pitter-patter.

2. SmartPak Winter Overpants, $84.95 at SmartPak

Yes, I have plenty of lined breeches and jeans and other warm layers for barn work. I do not currently own a pair of ski pants, though, and the idea of waterproof, windproof thick pants that I can wear while riding bareback this winter is tremendously appealing.

3. Polar Equine Inzone, $119.95 at SmartPak

I love me some stats, and the idea of a heart monitor I can wear on my wrist and use to check Tristan's fitness as we're going along? Droooooooool. It's actually not too terribly expensive for what it promises, either. Yes, I can darn well use a stethoscope and get a pulse when I hop off. You're missing the point. (Also, Tristan is legitimately difficult to pulse; even the barn manager had trouble doing it this summer.)

4. EquiFit Shoulders Back Lite, $46.95 at SmartPak

My posture is the actual worst. I promise it's worse than yours. I have Tall Girl Slumping Syndrome and I sit at a computer all day - not even a real computer, a laptop, because I move so frequently between offices. I've heard good things about these and I'd love to give it a try.

5. Baker Irish Weave Anti-Sweat, $104.95 at SmartPak

I borrow the barn's on a regular basis. There's nothing quite like 'em for wicking sweat. In cold weather, I put this as a bottom layer and then throw a wool sheet on over it. The very best for baths when it's a bit chilly, or when you'd just like to go home and stop walking your sweaty horse in circles, already. Again, there are plenty for me to borrow but sigh. 

Bareback December Rides Again

My record for riding in December has been pretty abysmal, so I was pleased to get out for another ride last night. Bareback again, with a wool quarter sheet underneath. We're still on the loosening/fitness plan, if only because I can't string together enough rides to work harder on that.

So: 15 minutes walk, 5 minutes trot, 10 minutes walk, 5 minutes trot, 10 minutes walk last night. All bareback. I felt pretty good about most of it; he had a couple of zoomy moments but nothing he didn't half-halt out of. He relaxed pretty good over his topline about 2/3 of the way through, and though I never got really true long & low work out of him I feel good about what we did.

Unusually for my barn during the winter, last night there were four of us working in the ring! One adult on a lovely tall hunter, and two kids on ponies going zooooooom. Since the trainer takes ~20 horses south for the winter, we're usually less than half full during the winter, and it's the quietest time of the year by far. Not this winter! The adult on the hunter is a local trainer who has brought about six of her clients and horses to the barn for the winter.

She was VERY nice and her horse was just lovely, verrrrrrry hunter type-y (a lot of you guys would've loved her). The kids were nice and pretty darn good at ring etiquette, but wow, did I fall out of the habit of riding with other people! Especially since there were jumps set up and it's not a huge indoor to begin with. Eep.

We made it through just fine, though, and my schedule is starting to open up, so here's to more bareback December rides!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

They Do Grow Up

When we met with our photographer for the wedding last week, one thing led to another and we ended up getting a bunch of photos of ourselves taken because we had, like, none. As in...I think there are three or four pictures of us together in the world. I have serious problems with photos of myself when a horse is not involved (and often even when a horse is involved). I don't really have body issues in the traditional sense, but I do think I have the kind of face (and body) that looks best in motion, and that's how I prefer to be, and damn it, I hate pictures of myself.

I digress.

We brought Arya, and since the photographer is both a family friend AND a volunteer photographer for a local dog rescue (he said his daughter has SIX rescue dogs, yikes) he thought it would be a great idea to do some shots of her.

They came out awesome. Here's my favorite: doesn't she look grown up?!

I think we'll keep her, even if she did puke all over the kitchen floor this morning and make me late for work. (At least she was very, very sorry about it and crawled into my lap to apologize.)

#Boston2024: Coolest Promo Video Ever for the Worst Idea Ever

Okay, so maybe not the worst idea ever. I'm not among the people who thinks that an Olympic Games in Boston would utterly ruin the city; I think there are a lot of good things that would come with it. On the other hand, I come down definitively on the HELL NO side when I think about adding the traffic and security concerns of the Olympics to an already overcrowded, relatively small, city.

That aside: check out the beginning! You guys, I know that grey horse! I've jump judged for him!

The rider playing Paul Revere is Andy Cook, who I've also jump judged for and who I'm pretty sure I did a course walk with at one point, since he sometimes works with my old trainer from Massachusetts.

Awesome video. I hope it doesn't work.

(That said, the equestrian events are one of the few things I think would go resoundingly well for Boston. The USET, after all, was based in Hamilton, MA for many years, and there are two Advanced courses a short distance from the city at Groton House and Ledyard, though both would obviously need some serious upgrades.)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


On the one hand, things are going well: Tris is healthy, happy, fat, and well-cared for as we head into the winter.

On the other: I've hit a bit of a slump. December has been a disaster for riding so far, as was the last half of November. I string together two or three days of riding and then I have to go out of town. Or, like today: I took the day off to get to a series of appointments. Two of the three were canceled due to our impending snowstorm.

Great! I thought. I'll re-route my afternoon and after the first of the appointments, stop by for a few quick errands that need to get done, and then head to the barn. Except, fiance to my car to work today because of said snowstorm; it is 4WD, and bigger and more solid, and I feel better having him drive it when he's got a long commute on Vermont's poorly plowed roads.

The storm hit with a vengeance by 1pm - it really seemed to go from overcast to whiteout very quickly. I worked my way through my short errands on the city and main streets, and within an hour even those streets were ugly and slippery in fiance's smaller, lighter Prius, even with the snow tires on.

So I headed home, and I've been puttering away on the kind of necessary household tasks that have been piling up these last few weeks.

I can't help but feel that if I'd really wanted to get to the barn, I would've. Some of that drive and fire that pushed me a few years ago is gone. I'm not sure if I'm overall tired and stressed from work and life, if the work Tristan is doing right now is not lighting a spark, or if I'm just in a temporary lull.

I've been reading a lot of blog posts recently by people suffering the same thing. I think in horses we work so hard - and read so often about others working so hard - that it's a tough thing to admit, and to cope with. When do you need to slow down, when do you need to take a break entirely, and when do you need to get the hell over yourself and push through no matter what? I don't have answers for myself, unfortunately.

Monday, December 8, 2014

TOA Blog Hop: History of the Horse

From The Owls Approve: Before you met, where was your horse? Who bred him/her? What do you know about his sire and his dam? What do you know where he came from? Tell me about the time before he had a trainer.

So, where did Tristan come from? This is actually a complicated story, and the part of it that I think is most interesting to blog about is the very beginning.

Let's hit the rewind button quickly. Before he came to me, Tristan was at a rescue in southern Maine. Before that, he was in the custody of the state of New York after being seized as part of an animal cruelty investigation. Before that, he was on a farm in upstate New York alongside a few dozen other horses, some of them alive, and some of them dead. Most of them dead. Before that, he was in various places across the United States, various large and small holding pens as the gears of the government system ground on.

Before that?

Tristan was born in central Nevada in 1995, in a remote desert area at the foothills of the Toiyabe mountain range. It's a decent guess that he was born in spring, and stayed with his dam for a few months - maybe up to a year, even. In the wild, horses travel in a variety of different kinship groups. Foals are born into family bands, groups of mares and sometimes adolescent stallions, owned or guarded over by one, sometimes two, stallions.

Bachelor herd.

By the time he was a long yearling, Tristan had probably moved on to a bachelor herd. Maybe he left on his own; maybe he was chased off by his dam, ready to drop another foal; maybe he was chased off by his sire, or by another stallion who had taken over his family band. It's nearly impossible to know.

Gather in the Callaghan HMA, 2010

Tristan ranged with that bachelor herd for nearly three years, until one day in February 1999, when he was rounded up and gathered by the Bureau of Land Management, or by a contractor working for the BLM. He was herded into pens with other members of his bachelor herd, gelded, freezebranded, and given basic vaccines and a Coggins test. (His first proof of vaccine lists an entire page of mustangs, the freezebrand numbers before and after his own; cousins? brothers? friends? or some mixup of horses from different herds that all ended up in the same pen at the same time? who knows?) Then he was shipped east, and the story I relayed above began.

I've done a lot of research over the years to find out what Tristan's life was like growing up. Thanks to his gather paperwork, we know he was part of a 1999 gather from the Callaghan Herd Management Area. The BLM divides the public lands where mustangs range into these herd management areas, which are then grouped together in district offices. Callaghan is part of the Battle Mountain District Office. It is close to the Ravenswood, Bald Mountain, New Pass, and Rocky Hills Herd Management Areas. Together, these HMAs consist of 640,148 acres around Austin, Nevada.

Austin is marked here; dead center in Nevada, and on the edges of the Toiyabe National Forest.

Here's what the BLM says about Callaghan (source): 
The Callaghan HMA is located northeast of the town of Austin, Nevada and encompasses over 156,230 acres of public land. The HMA is approximately 27 miles long and 16 miles wide. The entire Callaghan HMA lies in Lander County at the north end of the Toiyabe Mountain Range.
The Toiyabe Mountain Range in Lander County, NV
Topography/vegetation: The proposed gather area is located within Central Nevada within the Great Basin. Much of the rangeland at lower elevations consists of salt desert shrub and Wyoming big sagebrush communities. Pinyon and Juniper are prevalent in the mid and upper elevations. Precipitation averages 6-10 inches per year in the valleys and up to 16+ inches in the mountains. Drought conditions may occur 1 out of every 3-4 years. These HMAs are comprised of north/south trending mountain ranges surrounded by wide valley bottoms. Perennial streams are infrequent, and most waters consist of small springs, ponds and wells or springs developed to include pipelines and troughs. 
Another view of the Toiyabe Mountain Range, from the valley floor.
Wildlife: Within the proposed project area, numerous species of wildlife occur. Mule deer, pronghorn antelope, mountain lions, coyotes, and bobcats are the main game and fur bearing species present. Chukar, California quail, morning doves, and cottontail rabbits constitute the major upland game species. In addition, a variety of non-game mammals, birds, and reptiles occur in the project area. Very common shrub nesting species include the sage thrasher, sage sparrow, Brewer’s sparrow, horned lark and meadow lark. The loggerhead shrike, common nighthawk, various wrens, warblers, larks and swallows are all common. . Species that nest in aspen communities include the northern goshawk, broad-tailed hummingbird, northern flicker, house wren, American robin, warbling vireo, yellow-rumped warbler, junco, western wood pewee, lazuli bunting, and western tanager. Common reptilian wildlife in the Complex includes collared lizard, Great Basin fence lizard, northern sagebrush lizard, horned lizard, Great Basin whiptail, Great Basin gopher snake, and Great Basin rattlesnake.

Horse Colors: These HMAs support wild horses that exhibit the full spectrum of colors of wild horses including the most common colors of bay, brown, sorrel and black, but also include the more brilliant colors of palomino, grulla, pinto, roan and Appaloosa.

Size of Horses: Wild horses within these HMAs average 14-15 hands in height and weigh 900-1,100 pounds as adults.

History: Wild horses in these areas are traced back to domestic ranch horses used for ranching, transportation and mining when the areas were settled. Genetic analysis indicates that these horses are similar to domestic breeds with indications of Light Racing and Riding Breeds, North American Gaited Breeds, Morgan, Old Spanish, Old World Iberian and Oriental Breeds. The genetic variability of all of these herds is high and no signs of inbreeding are present in the genetics analysis.
This page has a great selection of horses from the different HMAs in the Battle Mountain District, and suggests that Callaghan horses tend to be colorful and leggier, due to Thoroughbred influence on the breeding stock, which fits with the BLM's genetic analysis. Tristan is 15 hands, 15.1 in shoes, and is actually on the tall side for a mustang - many of them hover around 14 hands. There are clear Spanish influences in his head and neck, and his aptitude for cross-country and jumping (though sadly not his overall athletic ability) is much higher than the average mustang, which may also point to TB. On a fun note, the Pony Express went through Austin, NV, which was a lonely mining outpost. Maybe Tristan has some ancestors who were stringer horses for the Pony Express? It's possible!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Did you know...Hitching Post Farm used to have a ski area?

True story! If you've evented in Area 1, you know Hitching Post Farm in South Royalton, VT. It's a staple of the schooling & recognized show calendars. Truly wonderful venue. (Our visits there are tagged in the archives.)

I was browsing the New England Lost Ski Area Project website this morning, and what do I see but an entry for Hitching Post Farm!

Here's what they say about it:
The Hitching Post Farm in Royalton, Vermont was a small rope tow area that operated sometime before 1968 to 1975, according to the Vermont Tramway Commission and John Steinert. The rope tow was 750' long. There was one wide open slope with tree islands, and a few other trails along the periphery of the area. According to topo maps, the vertical was about 200'. 
According to John Steinart, the area had ski camps for kids in the late 1960's.
While the area officially closed in 1975, there is a chance the rope tow may still run privately for the owners. Betsy McDonough had emailed the owners a few years ago and found out the tow did occasionally still run.
Here's an image of the ski slope in winter, from the NELSAP website:

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Weekly Blog Roundup

Here are a few great posts from blogging-land this week.

Head in the Game from Racing to Ride
SO SO SO crucial to the success or failure of a ride. Where is your head? Do you need to calm down before you get on? I am very guilty of sometimes taking frustrations to the barn.

Phases of the Jump: An Overview from Incidents of Guidance
This is a smart, thoughtful analysis that made me think quite a lot about the mechanics of jumping. Really, really worthwhile.

Bit Warmers from Diary of an Overanxious Horse Owner
Looking for something fun, pretty, AND useful for a holiday gift? Look no further than this newly-launched Etsy venture.

Curious about Fence Construction from 'Fraidy Cat Eventing
This is a really thorough, really neat overview of different ways of building fences, and the pros and cons of each.

What Do Wednesday from Chasing the Dream
Tails! I am lucky in that Tristan has always had a wonderful tail and I do nothing to it, but many horses have awful tails. This was a great overview of techniques to strengthen & lengthen a tail.

IRL Training from In Omnia Paratus
ALL THE STATS. Liz is my hero. Impressive on so many levels.

BEST Bombproof Pony

Last night, I had only a limited window between the end of work and date night with the boy. I sprinted to the barn, grabbed grooming tools, and decided to do a really thorough, end to end curry.

I was capital-L-lazy, and unbuckled the surcingles on Tristan's blanket, and folded it up over his shoulders while I curried away along his back and his haunches. We were both pretty pleased with life: it was snowing outside, which meant everything was quiet and still and muffled. He loosened and relaxed and chomped away on his hay.

Then he put his head down in just the right way and the entire blanket slid forward onto his head.

He picked his head straight up, and the ENTIRE blanket was covering from about mid-neck to well past his nose, still folded over. A heavyweight blanket, that was already one size too large for him

He just stood there. He was clearly nervous, but he stood like a rock.

I reached forward and slid the blanket back onto his body - thankfully it hadn't gotten twisted. He turned his head around to look at me, all "well THAT was stupid, MOM." He blew out. He put his head back down and went back to eating his hay.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Product Review: Road ID: It's here! & coupon giveaway

Product Review: Road ID

A few weeks back, I purchased a RoadID during their anniversary sale. I got a great deal, snagged a limited edition color for the band that matched my barn colors (gray), and was all in all excited.

It shipped and arrived quickly, with great customer service. Kudos to them! I'm only just now getting around to blogging about it.

First, the shipping email? Adorable. A+. Complimenting Vermont always gets you points in my book.

Packaging was straightforward and simple.

Here's what I got on mine:

Full Name
Birth Date
Matt [phone number] HUSB (okay, I jumped the gun by a few months, but there's no point in buying one that won't last)

My mother was amused/horrified that I wrote find horse, but I think that's actually really important. I don't want to wake up in a hospital three days later and learn that no one has been searching for Tristan, if something awful has happened. And honestly, even if I'm incapacitated in a completely non-horse related accident, I want someone checking on my horse!

Note to everyone: if something happens to me, check on my horse. No matter what.

I also bought the RoadID Slim, in medium size, which I was happy with. The Slim is about the width of those Livestrong style plastic bracelets, and medium was good for my wrist, which is on the more solid side - I'm 5'9" and 160lbs, so not fine boned! If I were any bigger, I'd want to go up a size, but this is a perfect, just short of snug size.

The plastic of the bracelet itself doesn't snag on arm hair, and is unobtrusive. Right now, for example, I'm wearing it on my left arm and typing and I can only tell it's there when I think about it. With a little while longer in wear, I'll forget it is there entirely.

When it arrived, I tucked my RoadID down into my purse to bring to the barn...and promptly forgot about it. For a few weeks. So it jostled around in my bag with my keys, Kindle, purse, books, papers, aspirin bottle, you name it. For weeks. And you know what? It still looks great. Other than some dust from various things, which brushed right off, there is not a scratch on the metal plate, which is quite frankly kind of amazing. Most other things that live in my purse for that long get beat up.

See? Pretty good size, nice and discreet. 

I am so happy with it I actually bought the fiance one for Christmas for him to wear while skiing.

Now, when it arrived, it came with a bunch of coupons for $1 off a RoadID that it said to give to family and friends. I don't need 'em.

If you would like a RoadID coupon, comment here and let me know, then follow up with an email to beljoeor[at]gmail[dot]com so that I have your contact information. I have three coupons, so first three people who want them get them!

Explain to Me: Belts?

Many years ago, I was a Pony Club DC. I loved it. Pony Club to me still represents the highest possible standard of horsemanship. Ever since then, I've jumped at chances to stay involved, which mostly means judging at ratings, and since I am nobody's idea of a dressage or jumping judge, that means a lot of stable management and turnout inspections. I love doing them.

Pony Club = the best.

Pony Club requires - at a certain level of turnout - belts.

I have literally never worn a belt in my life. Not on my everyday pants, and not on my breeches.

I understand the background behind Pony Club requirements, and I once saw it with my own eyes. I arrived at the county fairgrounds just about ten years ago and as I walked over to the stabling area I heard "loose horse!" Around the corner came barreling a gelding who belonged to one of my kids. He was D-O-N-E, despite typically being a solid citizen.

He spied me, and my trainer, who was standing next to us, and he went faster, right toward us. We did what you do when presented with a loose horse: make yourself big, hold your hands out wide, and talk in a low, soothing voice. He skidded to a halt in front of us, obviously relieved, and in that moment my trainer took off her belt and in one smooth motion put it around his neck and re-buckled it. She led him like that back to the barn, where he was put back in his stall to think about what he'd done while I interrogated the kid.

I often think "that was really practical and useful" and it's the reason I've kept a halter and lead rope in every car I've ever owned, and always keep a lead rope near to me when I'm hauling horses, even if they're not my own.

But every time I wear a belt all I can think is how awful they are. They cut into my stomach. They make the fabric of my pants all bendy and wrinkled and uncomfortable. Then the pants slip down and the belt is just on my skin and the belt loops are inverted and EVERYTHING IS AWFUL.

I love the look of them, especially the adorably styled ones that are starting to come out. I admit, my heart goes pitter-patter when I see a coordinated polo and belt. It's such a nice, trim, turnout. I am jealous of all of you who wear them and shop for them and look awesome in them. Every so often I think I should get one and wear one and then I think about the feeling of a belt on the skin of my stomach and how much I want to set them on fire inside of fifteen minutes.

So: why do you wear belts? Am I doing it all wrong? Should I try again?