Saturday, February 28, 2015

Weekly Blog Roundup

Here are some posts from the wide world of horse blogging!

Non-Judgment Day from Confessions of an AA Eventer
What a horrible, horrible winter. Suzanne's barn lost their indoor, and this was posted on a day when another barn in MA lost their indoor. I know the people at the second barn, and in fact nearly boarded Tristan with them a few years ago. This winter fucking sucks.

The Many Sleeps of Harley from Dandyism
omfg, cute overload.

Cute Overload from No Hour Wasted
omfg, part 2.

My Favorite Mug from Pony'tude
I love this story! Such a nice IHSA memory. I'm a sucker for good IHSA stories.

3 Winter Items I Wear from Work to the Barn from The Maggie Memoirs
I admit, I work really hard to keep my barn clothes separate from everything else in my life, and most especially my winter clothes. There's nothing like a barn to ruin a piece of clothing, and I am protective of my work wardrobe. Separate coats, boots, the whole nine yards. But I love the look of everything highlighted in this post!

Twelve Money-Saving Strategies My Family Uses from The Simple Dollar
I use all of these strategies on a regular basis, except maybe the haggling over soon-to-expire items. (I hunt the clearance and day-old racks instead.) I spend $50 per week on groceries for two people. It's a major part of how I'm able to keep overall household expenses affordable.

Breed Showing Encyclopedia Part One from Hey Hey Holly
Thorough, comprehensive, and fascinating overview of AQHA and APHA hunter showing, about which I knew precisely nothing beforehand. Great read & well-illustrated.

A Review: Complete Printable Horse Binder from Wilbur, Ellie, and Emily
LOVE this idea for a product, and this is a great overview.

Exercise vs. Turnout from Equinpilot
I really like this. I wish Tris were on 24/7 turnout, but it's just not possible for him right now for a variety of reasons. Honestly, if I were ever to move him, as much as I love my current barn, it would be to somewhere with more turnout. Seeing the data laid out like that is really compelling.

Friday, February 27, 2015

[Help Me] Follow Friday!

I am a fairly obsessive blog reader. I just checked the RSS feeder I use, The Old Reader, [insert obligatory moment of silence for Google Reader] and it tells me that I follow 262 blogs on a daily basis. Some of those are dead, and I need to do some cleaning; some of them post multiple times a day. It averages out to about 180-225 blog posts a day. Do I read every single word of every post? No. I do some serious skimming for some of them - I'm looking at you, Harvard Business Review. (the signal to noise ratio of useful thought leadership to pure assholery is...less than ideal.)

I held steady for a long time, but I'm now at a point where I'd like to add new subscriptions. Over the next few days, I'm going to add a "horse blogs I read" function to this blog - possibly to the sidebar, possibly as a separate page.

I'm looking to expand my reading. I love finding fun new blogs to feature in my weekly blog roundups. I want to go out of my comfort zone and read different blogs, different point of views.

SO. I'm going to do a sort of reverse Follow Friday.

Please comment and tell me one (or two, or three) blogs that I should be following. Please include the URL and if you have an extra moment, a sentence or two about why you like that blog. I'd really appreciate it.

Thank you in advance!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Filtering and Blog Honesty

One of the many (many, many) reasons Lauren at She Moved to Texas is a great read is that she so often posts really thoughtful statements about horses and blogging.

Today, she wrote about "filtering" your blog, ie, how does your blog reflect your life? should it?

I've been thinking about what she said on and off for a little while and trying to honestly reflect on how I approach writing about my horse and my life in this space, and here's what I've come up with.

I always write openly and honestly about my own experiences and feelings. I can't think of a single time I've left something out for fear of the internet comments. I started a hoof thread on the COTH forums, for crying out loud. I have a (perhaps unusually) thick skin. (Or I just don't give a damn, which can be both a good and a bad thing...)

What I do make deliberate choices about filtering are other people's experiences and feelings. This is my blog and my space. I'm not going to use it to intrude, speculate, or otherwise impinge upon someone else's life. I will write all day about my own lessons, but I don't feel the need to write in detail about other lessons around the barn, or horses in training. They're not my experiences, and my interpretation of them would at best be sketchy and presumptuous. I don't post openly about my trainer, her horses, or her actions and statements that don't have anything to do with me. I haven't about any of my previous trainers, either.

The most obvious example of this is the Vermont Moonlight 50 ride I went to last year. I crewed for Hannah. Here's my recap of that ride. It's entirely my point of view, but it is not everything that I did at that ride. While I was intimately involved throughout the ride, it wasn't my story to tell.

Hannah later wrote about the ride (which ended in a completion but her horse, Tucker, on fluids for a dehydration colic) and after she did, I posted again here to let people know where to find the rest of the story.

I'm not going to say I wasn't impatient to see her story, but I never had the slightest temptation to blog about it myself. I am not the center of attention of everything! Very far from.

Of course, I write this from the perspective of a fairly small-time blogger, with a relatively limited audience, and I blog for reasons that tend to fall more on the personal side than the public. Would I change my tune if more people actually read my blog? Lauren probably gets 10x as much traffic as I do (and deservedly so!) and anytime you increase your attention on the internet, you increase your chances of attracting assholes.

So, there's my point of view. I'd love to read more about what others think, though, and how they approach this question. I think it gets at a lot of the fundamentals about why we blog.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Road ID Gift Card

I am a big fan of my Road ID, and bought my fiance one for Christmas to use while skiing. They sent me a gift card to use - but I am not planning on making any orders in the time allotted.

So, do you want a $5 gift card to Road ID? Shoot me an email:

TOABH: Costly

What has been your horse's most expensive injury to date? Let's exclude maintenance things, like hock injections and the magical monthly package of MSM. What single episode blew your savings or left you boiling ramen? If you want to get technical about it, time is money, too.



I've covered this at length in the blog, but for newcomers, here's the short version. In August 2012, Tristan blew his first ever abscess. It was really bad. He blew at the coronet band, and then at the toe, and then a few weeks later midway down the hoof. Cue 6 months of NQR; he would almost come sound, and then he wouldn't. On and on. In March, he had surgery to remove the cause of the abscess: a bone chip from his coffin bone that had become badly infected, as well as portions of his coffin bone that had died from infection. Upon recovery from that surgery, which took months (if we're counting the time back to normal hoof status), he came sound and has been ever since, though I would not call him 100% recovered - he still has to wear front shoes to keep that foot stabilized, because it is still not growing evenly enough to stay balanced barefoot, 2.5 years later.

Here's what I call the foot progression collage: photos taken at monthly intervals from initial abscess to final recovery.

And here's the post where I broke down and tallied up every penny I spent on that injury and what it went towards (three sets of x-rays, supplies, surgery, umpteen vet visits, specialty shoeing, the whole nine yards). So, to answer the original question: $6,100.08, which does not include lost opportunity costs or even begin to approximate time.

If you're really feeling in a reading mood, check out the abscess and surgery tags. Dozens and dozens of update posts there.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015



Wintering Over

On Sunday, it was 30 degrees. Thirty. Degrees!!!

I felt almost instantly more human again. I did a ton of laundry, worked around the house, and headed over to the barn for some actual time with my horse.

I tacked up and everything, and we went up and down the road for about 30 minutes. OUTSIDE! I rode him in one circuit of the outdoor ring, but he was less than enthused and I didn't want him to strain himself. It's one thing to ride through deep snow, but this had clearly drifted quite a lot in some places, and he was having trouble getting even steps. One step, fine, the next step, waaaaaay deeper, with no way to really see or tell which would be which.

So we did the roads.

There were horses in the turnouts just to the right who were deeply concerned that we were on the road.

 Winter apples, dried on the branch.

Road hacking in the winter is not without its travails, though. See the snow drifts on either side of the road? And the thicker snow? Down the middle of the road is the safest place to ride in some ways: it's the most visible, and it's the smoothest and flattest. On the other hand, it's also the iciest, because it's what melts first. So you'd think that it would be better, but right at the foot of those snow drifts are ditches, masked by lighter, fluffier snow that hasn't settled and packed.

So I tend to keep him down the middle of the road, and if it feels too icy - if he's slipping too much, I head inside. On Sunday, the warmth and the sun kept the middle of the road just fine, slushy and a bit muddy.

With so many indoors coming down lately, I was both worried and pleased to see someone on the roof digging snow off. Looking more closely, though, and chatting with the barn owner, it's really just that corner, where the wind forces the snow into drifts. Removing the load in that corner made a huge difference.

In all, a nice ride and a productive day. Now we're back to low single digits, though, so back inside for me.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Weekly Blog Roundup

Here are some interesting blog posts from the past week in the horse world.

I always ride with spurs, and between my longer legs and Tristan's shorter height, I've found myself contorting in some not-great ways to get the spur on when it's needed. I've always wondered what my other options might be, and Austen gives a great overview of another option here! I might give these a try this summer.

Have Trailer, Will Travel from The Adventures of a Floppy Ammy
I have a 1980 trailer, and everything here rings true about how to check out and handle an older rig.

What's Your Opinion? Horse Racing Answers (Part One) from Racing to Ride
I posted the question last week; here are the answers. Lots to think about.

Brains before brawn: a rant from The $900 Facebook Pony

Friday, February 20, 2015

Weekend Plans

First, in good news: puppy has finally pooped. Hooray! Nothing like sick animals and baby humans to make you track and celebrate poop. She seems to finally be fully on the mend.

I am a little stumped right now, to be honest - I have lots of things going on in my life, but so few of them are horsey. My interaction with my horse lately has been primarily to kiss him on the nose, check his blankets, and heat up his bucket. It's too cold for both of us to pull his blankets and groom - I get stabbing pain in my fingers, even through gloves, after just a few minutes. So, nope.

I am reading. Crocheting. Watching waaaaaaaay too much HGTV, like to the point where the other day I thought positively about the turquoise paisley wallpaper one particular person had chosen for one room of her guest bedroom remodel. WTF, NO.

I have hit some kind of wall and had the fiance drag the stationary bike out of storage, and am committed to working on that for a while every night when I am not riding. I am not an exercise person; I tend to be a move-quickly type of person in my daily life, but ain't nothin' movin' right now.

On the plus side, it might be 30 degrees on Sunday, which would be amaaaaaazing. I am supposed to be in the next state over meeting friends on that day, but it's a 7 hour round trip drive for ~6 hours of interaction, and it would mean giving up literally the one day in the last two months when it has a chance of getting above freezing. (I am not exaggerating. Weather stations are starting to rank us in top 10 lists in terms of consistently coldest winters.)

I'm trying to kick some life into my Figuring History blog, and have made some small headway recently. So, follow that if you want Morgan horse history.

Anyone else have exciting weekend plans I can live through vicariously?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Arya's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Last week Arya threw up once or twice. She's a dog who eats many stupid things, and she was acting 100% normally other than that. We registered concern but didn't take it to heart.

Tuesday night, she threw up again, so I gave her a handful or two of rice for dinner instead. Then Wednesday morning, I woke up to her snuggled next to me with her stomach rumbling so loudly I could hear it clearly. I gave her a very little bit more rice and took a shower.

When I got out of the shower she clung to me like glue, and then put herself into her LL Bean bed - which she likes very much, but rarely uses when we are doing things. She snuggled up and looked generally pathetic, and then she started shivering, hard.

Snuggled up and miserable.

I piled a blanket on her and turned the heat way up and sat with her. She did slow down her shivering after about 15 minutes, but did not look any less miserable. I checked in with the vet before she finished shivering, and they had a 9:30 am appointment. I called work and they could cover without me, so I took the appointment.

I gave the vet her history, and the vet had already pulled her file and noticed she was an idiot dog who had already been a Dog of Concern a few times for eating random stupid things. Her vitals checked out okay, but she was clearly too quiet, miserable, and started shivering again on the exam table. The vet thought that the shivering wasn't cold, but pain and anxiety.

Way way way calmer than usual at the vet.

The vet said, "If she were my dog, I'd get her x-rayed." I swallowed back bile, sighed, and said, "Well, then, let's do that." The vet tech took her down to the exam room, and they gave her a mild sedative and took some x-rays.

When the vet called me in to talk about them, she pointed out that the colon and intestines looked fine, but there was an area of distension on her stomach that should not be there. The vet thought that there was a blockage - possibly some cloth, as it wasn't showing up clearly on the x-ray. She confessed to not being an expert at reading the x-rays, and wanted to send it out to a specialty radiologist. We'd hear by noon.

So I left the office with a very wobbly and sad puppy as well as two cans of prescription bland diet wet food. My instructions were to give her about a tablespoon every hour, and to call back about 1:00 pm. If the radiologist agreed with the vet, or if she reacted badly in any way to the food, she would have to go back for a second set of x-rays with barium tracer, to see if her digestive system was working at all.

I had carry her up our steps and place her on the couch, she was so out of it from the sedative. She just flopped on the couch in the most uncomfortable position imaginable. I straightened her out and sat down next to her to keep an eye on her. I had to coax her off the couch for her first little bit of food. She lapped it, turned to stare sadly at me, lapped it again, sighed deeply, and finally ate it. Then back to the couch. She was not enthused about her second feeding either, but she wasn't in any more pain.

When I called the vet, she said that the radiologist actually wasn't concerned. He saw the distension but thought it was sort of normal/generalized GI distress. She clearly wasn't quite right, but it didn't look like she was going to have to have a second set of x-rays or, God forbid, surgery.

So we set a second check-in time for later in the afternoon, and I kept giving her small bits of the bland food. She started getting up from the couch on her own to take drinks of water, and asked to go out. She peed quite a bit and while she still wasn't her usual self, she wanted to walk around the yard for a bit and sniff things, and she took a long hard stare into a neighbor's yard.

I canceled an afternoon hair appointment, drove in to work briefly to pick up my computer, and stayed beside her on the couch. She slowly, slowly improved and by about 4:00 pm she got up of her own volition and laid in front of the heater, which is one of her preferred spots in the apartment. She also started getting excited for her little bits of food.

When my fiance got home at 5:30, she was excited enough to get up and look out the window, and jumped around a little bit with him, then snuggled back on the couch.

I'm writing this around 7:30 pm on that same night, and just a few minutes ago she jumped off the couch to chase the cat. It seems like she'll be just fine. The fiance is staying home with her tomorrow to keep an eye, just in case, but hopefully she just had a weird bout of GI distress and will be just fine going forward.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What do you do for extra cash?

Horse people know that money is always in short supply, right? 

I'm curious as to what people have done to earn some extra money for showing, vet bills, or just to shore their bank accounts up on a tough month. As we start to get ready to buy a house, money is even more on my mind. My savings are still not rebounding as quickly as I'd like, so I need to start tightening spending and focusing on ways to save and to add more value overall to my budget.

I've been thinking about the ways that I've done that in the past so I thought I'd toss a few of them out there and get your feedback. (I'll intersperse with horse photos so that you're not bored silly!)

In grad school, I picked up a few odd jobs for professors: I spent a few weeks proofing and copyediting in French, checking all the footnotes and bibliographic entries for a new book. I also worked briefly for an educational startup, and earned about $3k writing history essays that funded my summer schooling and showing.

Part of the key to using extra cash for horse expenses is keeping other expenses down, so I've done a few things over the years to earn gift cards. I convert those into other things, primarily gifts (around Christmas) and household necessities. 

I used for a while, but honestly? Not something I'd necessarily recommend. I used it when I had a desk job with lots of down time built in, so I could spend an hour or two a day doing the searches and hunting down high value tasks. The way it works is that you use their search engine, or perform certain tasks (surveys, sign up for 30 day offers, etc.) and you earn Swagbucks. Earn enough Swagbucks and you can trade them in for all sorts of things. I always swapped them for gift cards in $5 denominations. Over the course of 18 months, I earned ~$200 in gift cards. I used that to purchase a ton of supplies when I first moved in with my fiance. It was a LOT of work, though, and sometimes I screwed up with the special offers and had to pay for some services.

One of the most lucrative things I've done has been consumer testing. I did it a fair bit as a teenager, and have picked it up again lately. Lots of consumer research companies are always looking for people to test, and you can earn good money for offering your opinion on various products. Sometimes you have to fit a specific profile, and sometimes they'll just take anyone to taste test, watch commercials, or brainstorm. I've tested packaging, hot chocolate, candy bar arrangements, kitchen layouts, you name it. Recently, I've established a relationship with a local company that offers occasional opportunities, and it's been really helpful. If you live close to a major city, you probably have this option, and for an hour or two of time you can make $50+. I made $150 once for a 2 hour interview/testing when I was a teenager and all I had to do was talk about what might be exciting names and descriptions for potato chips.

Lately, I've gotten into Amazon's Mechanical Turk. You get paid small amounts for performing small tasks: typing in things from scanned receipts, identifying photographs, taking some short surveys. It's total no-brain work and honestly the return isn't great: you'd make far more getting a second job if that's what you have time for. But I don't have the time. So Mechanical Turk is something I can do on a laptop while we're watching TV at night. Half an hour or so of doing it in the background earns me a few dollars. If I plug away while we're watching and engage just a tiny portion of my brain, I earn a decent amount. The money goes right into, and if I keep at it - half an hour here, half an hour there - it really adds up. I can order staples like toilet paper, paper towels, etc., and save my cash for other, horse-related expenses.

So, that's a quick summary of non-traditional ways I've used to add a little more cash into my horse budget! I've never had the time for a part-time job, since I've either been in grad school or had a full-time job that was waaaaaay more than full time. So I don't have hours and hours to devote to something - and if I do, the best return on an investment is almost always going to be to work at the barn in return for lessons.

What have you done to earn some extra money for horse activities?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Winter Hacks & #horsegirlconfessions

We're back into subzero temperatures; I got three! whole! days! of riding in last week when the temperatures came above single digits. It was pretty great.

Then we plunged back into the arctic abyss.

When it gets this cold - and by "this cold" I mean well below zero, double digits below zero, wind chills colder than -30 - there is quite simply no way to keep fresh, unfrozen water in front of a horse at all times unless you have a bucket heater. Bucket heaters and de-icers are strictly verboten at my barn, and I tend to agree with them. They make me incredibly nervous. I saw a barn fire once, and it remains one of the worst memories of my life.

For the most part, the horses adapt pretty well: barn staff keeps a very, very close eye on their consumption, and each horse has a rotating system of buckets so that they get fresh water 2-3x a day. The horses learn to drink their fill when they have water. They get soupy mashes on the regular when it's going to be painfully cold.

That's not to say I'm not doing all I can to increase Tristan's water consumption. Lately, I've been staying an extra 30 minute or so, or going out when I'm not riding, and heating up four or five kettles full of boiling water in the tack room with the electric tea kettle. I top his bucket off with those to get the water up to lukewarm; it makes it more likely that he'll drink deeply and less likely that it will freeze immediately. (And I do mean immediately - by the time you finish doing water in the barn, most of the buckets have skimmed over with ice already.)

On Friday night, I stepped up my game and bought a bucket water heater from Tractor Supply. A friend of mine has one and loves it. They're designed not to de-ice, but really to heat the water up to boiling if left long enough.

So, the new system is to pull Tristan's bucket from his stall and put the bucket heater in it for about 10-15 minutes. I stand next to the bucket and check it constantly while I'm doing so.

As you can see, it does end up melting the ice. It takes a while, but it gets the water nice and warm. I don't think I'd feel safe really getting to boiling - for a lot of reasons! - but once the water is warm it'll take that much longer to freeze.

The other night, I was going through this system and it was bitterly, painfully cold. I'd forgotten barn clothes, and I was wearing thin pants. I wanted the water to heat up quickly. I dipped one finger, then another, and now both my hands were cold and wet even inside my gloves AND my pockets. I was impatient, and all I could think was that there had to be a way to test the warmth of the water without making me colder.

So I decided to lean over and stick my tongue in. I know. Gross. But it worked! My tongue was already wet, so whatever, and it got warm again immediately, and since I already knew how to test the temperature of liquids with my tongue I had a good barometer.

Another few minutes, and I brought the bucket back to Tristan. One of his quirks is that he will almost always take a sip of a bucket that is on the ground or held for him, so I put it on the ground inside his stall, and he promptly drank half of it. Score one for lukewarm water!

I half-filled another bucket, heated it up again, and topped his bucket off before I left.

I'm declaring the new bucket heater a success! The only drawback: even knowing it has an auto-shutoff, even carefully unplugging and triple-checking it, I still have a twist of anxiety in my gut about it. Ah well.

Have you ever resorted to slightly strange and obsessive ends to make things more comfortable for your horse in extreme temperatures?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Weekly Blog Roundup

Here are a few interesting blog posts from the horse blogging world.

I've really enjoyed reading the Day in the Life blog hop posts from Tracy at Fly on Over. All of them were great, but here are two I thought highlighted some really interesting lines of work!

A Day in the Life from Racing to Ride
Racing! I love all the behind the scenes stuff.

A Day in the Life from Wait for the Jump
I love Saiph's posts about her work as an emergency vet tech. I got exhausted just reading this!

My Favorite Overseas Tack & Equipment Sites from The $900 Facebook Pony
Some of you are so much more adventurous than I about what you buy and where you buy it!

Boston 2024: Franklin Park as the Equestrian Venue from The Maggie Memoirs
Hands-down one of my favorite blog posts of the last six months. Excellent analysis, thorough reporting, and I actually learned things I didn't know about the equestrian scene in and around Boston!

Wes, One Year Barefoot from The Jumping Percheron
I am a sucker for barefoot transformation posts, and this is a particularly good one, with lots of photos and thoughtful details.

Conformation Analysis from DIY Horse Ownership
I've also loved the conformation analysis blog hop that's been going around - and here it is applied to a mule! A MULE, you guys! COOL.

Winter Wear from The Longest Format
<3 gear. The only thing that makes winter bearable.

What's Your Opinion? Horse Racing Anonymous Survey from Racing to Ride
Go, offer your opinion! I'm curious to see what will come out of this. I have some deeply ambivalent feelings toward horse racing as it's currently structured.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Winter

FOO Blog Hop: A Day in the Life

Thanks to Tracy from Fly On Over for what's become a really fun little blog hop to read and think about. I thought I'd give it a try.

One of the good and bad things about my job is that it changes practically every single day, so there's really no "typical" day. I'll try to aim for an average day. We'll also assume this is a riding day, and not a day where every 15 minutes from 1pm onward I check the temperatures and sulk.

So, here we go!

7:00 am - alarm goes off; I roll over as best I can around the dog, who has probably returned from her morning walk to settle between my legs with her head on my stomach. Check email, check work social media accounts.

7:20 am - shower

7:35 am - what the hell am I going to wear today? ugh.

7:45 am - breakfast and a cup of tea and a few minutes of reading

8:10 am - how on earth is the living room so cluttered and what will the puppy destroy today? Just to be safe, better tidy up everything, ever. Typical setup also includes locking the cat upstairs (they get along fine, but the puppy loooooooves the litter box), locking the trash in the bathroom, locking the bedroom door.

8:20 am - leave to walk to work

8:30 am - arrive at work, start sorting through more email, check to-do list for the day. On a perfect day, I've written it the night before.

11:30 am - lead a school tour

12:45 pm - lunch, maybe, if I'm lucky, while sorting through what's happened while I was on a school tour. On a really good day, I read during lunch.

1:30 pm - cover the front desk

2:30 pm - put out fires

4:30 pm - leave work and walk home

4:45 pm - arrive home, let puppy out, walk her around the block. On a sunny day, take her down to the ball field to run like a lunatic for 30 minutes; on a day below zero, a quick trip around the backyard for her business

5:00 pm - change & leave for the barn

5:30 pm - arrive at the barn, tack up if I'm feeling really motivated

5:45 pm - ride! or longe, some nights.

6:45 pm - get off, toss on a cooler or straight to a blanket, tidy up his things; in winter, heat some water to add to his bucket

7:00 pm - head home, usually stopping somewhere on the way for a quick errand; figure out dinner on the way

7:45 pm - arrive home, change, start making dinner, tidy kitchen and clean up any dishes from breakfast or soaking dishes from the night before while it's cooking

8:30 pm - sit down with fiance to eat dinner, usually while watching TV of some description

9:30 pm - take puppy out one last time

9:45 pm - in bed to read for another ~45 minutes, or as long as I can before passing out; some nights it's until midnight

I admit, I'm envious of those of you who can get up early and get to the barn. I have tried many variations over the years, and find it nearly physically impossible to get up earlier than 6:30 am. I'd always rather eat dinner at 9 pm than wake up that early. Just. Can't.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Farm Hunters: On Hiatus

Sort of. Kind of. I'm still scanning property listings, but alongside properties with horse potential we've been looking at just houses for less $$$ and within walking distance of a downtown.

On Sunday, we went back for a third viewing at a house that we've both fallen a little bit in love with. We're still cautiously investigating all of our options, but this is feeling really good.

So that, for the first time, is the actual house we're looking at.

The basics: 4 bed, 2 bath 1928 Dutch Colonial. 2700 square feet on 0.5 acres (double lot). City water, city septic. Primarily oil heat powering a steam radiator system, but confusingly also has baseboard electric and a gas stove (the heating kind) in one room. Attached 2 car garage.

The budget (1 being bottom, 5 being top): Let's say a 2.5. The house by itself is a 2, but when we run the numbers on necessary renovations it moves to a 2.5.

The pros: Exceptionally well-maintained, large kitchen, tons of space, huge living room, office space for me, man-cave space for the fiance, sun-room (on the right), sleeping porch. Gorgeous exposed original custom maple throughout - including hardwood floors in perfect condition under the current carpet. Nice but not spectacular neighborhood with an excellent location for both commutes, and 8 minutes from the barn (not that I timed it...). School system is somewhat meh but that is not really a concern for me.

Overall, the biggest pro is how right it felt the first time we walked into it. Fiance and I haven't agreed wholeheartedly on a house yet, and after 45 minutes in this space we were in love. 

The cons: Taxes are the highest of any property we've looked at. The city it's in is on a definite upswing but it's too early to tell how far that will go: will it become a trendy young professional city, or will it level off as the half-industrial city it currently is? Will property values really rebound?

The size will make it expensive to heat through the winter, though it has a ton of room for energy audit improvements. 

Biggest cons: it needs a not-inconsiderable amount of rewiring to remove old knob & tube, and two new bathrooms. They are livable, but not terribly functional. Both are 75% gut jobs. It needs a few thousand dollars in energy audit improvements as well, though I would probably do that on any house we buy.

The intangibles: It just feels right. I can't explain it more than that.

Stay tuned, I guess!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Bread Delivery and Other Barters

Once or twice a week, I get a call on my cell phone. Usually it's late morning. The number on my screen comes up as "Manghi's Bread."

Seeing that number on my cell phone almost always makes me smile. It's a signal that the owner of the local bakery is calling me and asking me to make a delivery for her. The only time it makes me sad is when I'm out of town and won't be back by 5pm.

On the days I can make the delivery, I leave work right on time, walk home, grab my car, and stop by the bakery. It always smells delicious, and everyone is cheerful. I take the slightly longer route to the barn and I pull over a few times at a small local hardware store, or coop, or country store.

It only adds 15-20 minutes to my evening, and it makes me happy to have my car smell of fresh-baked bread. Each time I make a delivery, I can order off the menu: I get one of anything I want. Usually, I opt for a loaf of whole wheat sandwich bread, but sometimes I'll get a honey bran, or maple walnut, or oatmeal.

I honestly can't remember the last time I bought a loaf of bread. I think it's been over two years. Either a Manghi's delivery run comes along at just the right time, or I bake some bread of my own. I love bread, and would happily eat a loaf every two or three days, so I try to limit myself to really high-quality bread with straightforward ingredients. It's my own small version of portion control.

Delivering bread is also great because it adds in an ironclad guarantee that I'll go to the barn. Especially in winter, it's much too easy to look at the temperature, get discouraged, and not even go out to groom. The last stop on my typical bread run is just 5 minutes from the barn. On days when I know that it's too cold to ride, I often grab Arya and bring her with me, and we work on some training at the barn. I tie her leash to Tristan's stall and we work on a long wait while I fuss over him.

I've bartered for other things in my life, too, horsey and not. I work with my friend to trade either a bag of home-baked goodies or business/website work for Tristan's massages. I've done many, many hours of chores to earn lesson credits. I've traded tack, or hauling. I've taken barters in return when I've provided help or services for another person. There's something more personal and satisfying about it to me - and it helps me afford a lot of things I wouldn't be able to do otherwise. I quite simply don't have the $200 a month in my budget for regular lessons, but if I carve out enough time I can get quality advice.

Have you ever bartered for things in your horse life? What's worked for you? Or do you prefer to keep business separate, and pay for everything you get?

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Weekly Blog Roundup

Here are a few interesting posts from horse-blogging land!

January Sunshine from Pony Express
Lovely horses, lovely photos, and my second-favorite livestock: BABY LAMBS! Even if part of me did die inside a little when she talked about spring-like weather...

When Event Horses Defy the Odds from Eventing Nation
AMAZING rehab story. Wow.

The Ammy Manifesto from Sprinkler Bandit

I Was a NYC Carriage Driver from The Adventures of a Floppy Ammy
The world can't have enough honest reporting about how well-treated NYC carriage horses are, and this is a really neat perspective!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Classic Equestrian Art from the Yale Center for British Art

My brain is mush today, and has been all week. Also, I walked to work in -15 this morning - with my Smartwool tights under my pants, so thankfully no more frostbite.

So here, have some gorgeous paintings from the Yale Center for British Art. (All are in public domain, and so ok to post, but click on the links back to Yale to show their online collections some love and to get loads of additional details.)

Henry Thomas Aiken, 1785-1851

John Wooten, 1682-1764

Thomas Spencer, 1700-1753

Anson Ambrose Martin, active 1830-1844

James Ward, 1769-1859

John Frederick Herring, Jr., 1815-1907

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Vermont Achievement Unlocked: Mild Frostbite

So on Monday we had a bit of a snowstorm. Nothing too bad - quite a bit of snow, but the light & fluffy kind. We ended up with maybe 12" overall.

Mondays are my day off, and so I was home with the dog, cleaning the apartment and watching home renovation shows.

I took her for a walk when I got up. Nothing really intense; just 30 minutes or so around the block, taking a couple of double-back routes to get us both some fresh air.

It was 0 or just below; cold, but not anything I hadn't done before. I was wearing appropriate boots, hat, gloves, long coat, etc., and jeans.

I got back into the apartment, and jumped into the shower. I was quite cold, obviously, but again: nothing out of the ordinary.

The tops of my thighs started itching badly under the hot water of the shower. Then they started burning. I was a bit weirded out but didn't get worried until I got out of the shower and noticed that the skin on my legs had swollen so badly I couldn't see my kneecaps anymore, just dimpled wrinkles. The skin was an unbelievable lobster red.

So, um, whoops? I must've been walking into the wind the entire time, and out there just long enough, with not enough layers on the one part of my legs.

Needless to say, I promptly put on Smartwool tights underneath my jeans and didn't leave the house for the rest of the day.

Two days later, they seem to be fine, with just some residual sensitivity. I have been carefully applying moisturizer to try and keep the skin healthy, and after the first day the random burning sensation stopped.

Still, that's a first for me! Obviously I'm pretty good at layering up, and obviously I've worked outside in much colder temperatures, but it serves as a good reminder for how careful you have to be, even about the little things!

Monday, February 2, 2015

TOABH: Self-Actualization

Assuming that your horse has absolutely everything he needs (food, bedding, a warm stall, plenty of blankets, and a pasture mate he neither humps, maims nor gets abused by), what does your horse need to be the best version of himself?
Time off.

When the assistant trainer was riding Tristan last summer, I told her that he is a horse who needs processing time. He functions best and happiest when he has a day in between intense rides. He is not a horse who needs or wants work seven days a week.

AT remarked that she'd often heard people say that about their horses and had never found it true, and then a few days later she came back to me and said "Wow, it's true!" Giving Tristan a day completely to himself in between training rides resulted in a totally different horse: more forward, more willing, and he had clearly digested the mental lessons and come out better for it.

Granted, my current once-every-ten-days schedule is not ideal either! But Tris would do very well on a solid, consistent, 4-5 day a week schedule with two, mayyyyybe three, of those days as a hard drill. The others would be non-brain work: trot sets, hacking out, you name it.

It works well for me, since I'm not in a position in life (or quite frankly, a desiring frame of mind) to have a horse that NEEEEEDS that 7 days of work a week.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Horses & Weddings

Okay, I know I promised I wouldn't talk wedding planning here, but...well...

So in lieu of complaining!

The wedding date is set for September 2015. We have a venue, rental company (tables, chairs, tablecloths, tents, stage, silverware, glasses), caterer (SO EXCITE), photographer, florist (ugh hands down my least favorite vendor but oh well), theme, and a bunch of little touches. Like, everyone is very concerned that we have something catchy or clever or pretty to hold the cards on the gift table? Seriously? Anyway: my aunt is super-crafty and is making a large baskety thing out of found rope from the beach. Done and done.

When we announced the wedding, after "when is it?" the number one question was "oooooh, are you going to have your horse there?"

No. No, I am not. As my mother pointed out, there will only be three people at the wedding I would trust with him: my mother, Hannah, and me. And all of us will be busy. Also, I have no particular desire to haul him 5 hours to be there and then spend the rest of the time boarded somewhere strange and all of it would just add to both of our anxious qualities and also so far this wedding is not that horsey.

But obviously horses are crucially important to me. So I'd like to find some subtle, classy ways to integrate horsey stuff into the wedding itself. PLEASE HELP, INTERNETS!

For reference, if we have a general theme, it's Art Deco. As in, here's what our save the dates look like, sans identifying info, obviously.

So, with that in mind, to Pinterest!


Meh. I don't strongly dislike it, but it's much more barn/country than we're aiming for.


I kind of like it, but that is waaaaaaay more effort and time than I am willing to put in for something we'll just throw away right afterwards.

Ah, the good old-fashioned theme of "the groom should grovel before me." Why, people. Why.

Now we're getting warmer! With an Art Deco font, maybe?

I kind of like the style, but this is a garter. Eep.

Of the many (many, MANY) horseshoe-themed craft ideas, I like this one best so far.

So, help? Any ideas? I'm open to a subtle equestrian touch in nearly any area of the wedding. I'm not in love with the horseshoes...but they are so easy to craft with. Then again, I also don't particularly want to craft. Or think hard about this at all. I am developing a particular aversion to wedding planning, actually.

So with those very helpful guidelines: any suggestions appreciated!