Tuesday, March 31, 2015

FINAL FOUR: National Velvet versus Black Beauty

Here's our second matchup of the Final Four, another really tough choice.

National Velvet handily beat out Hidalgo in its previous match.

Black Beauty just baaaarely edged by Seabiscuit.

Here's a nice collection of clips from National Velvet - it hits all the highlights, including all those gorgeous shots of Elizabeth Taylor galloping the (chestnut) Pie.

Here's the trailer for Black Beauty.

So...who advances?

Monday, March 30, 2015

FINAL FOUR: The Black Stallion versus Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken

Here, I'll set the mood.


Here's what our bracket looks like now.

We're down to the Final Four. Every movie that made it to this round should hold its head high, because some really great movies went down in the previous rounds. That said, this can only get harder now, and this match in particular is a real heartbreaker.

The Black Stallion edged by The Man from Snowy River by one measly vote, proving that every single vote counts.

Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken only cleared Secretariat by two votes. 

For this round, I'll find some iconic scenes from the movies in question to get you inspired and make you think about your vote. So here, take a few minutes to watch these. I'll wait.

Now make your tough decision.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Round 2, Match 4: Black Beauty versus Seabiscuit

Black Beauty versus Seabiscuit

The Battle of the Tearjerkers ended in tears for Phar Lap, with Black Beauty in a convincing victory.

I was also sad to see a personal favorite go down hard when Seabiscuit trounced International Velvet

Only one can keep going, though.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Weekly Blog Roundup

A few great posts from the horse blogging world this week!

Tips to Organize Your Equestrian Life from Fly on Over
I am a fairly obsessive paperwork organizer. I love this. Good tips, and a very soothing look into another equestrian's way of organizing.

So You Want to Blog Part 2 from She Moved to Texas
I am not at all a graphic designer, so I loved this post in particular about the design of your blog and how you can work with it. Lots to think about there.

The Unsung Plight of the Show Photographer from Zen and the Art of Baby Horse Management
My last trainer's wife was a horse show photographer, and I thought of myself as fairly savvy when it came to the challenges facing show photographers...but I hadn't thought of any of these!

Professionals as Role Models from The $900 Facebook Pony

Because You Asked: Lucy's Tack from The 7MSN Ranch
Donkey tack, you guys. Donkey. Tack. Awesome.

Moms + Horses = ? from What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
I admit: one of the biggest reasons I get nervous about the idea of having kids is because I'm certain it would destroy my horse life. This gives me some hope, but it also leaves me in awe - no way could I be that present and aware.

Midwives on Horseback: Saddlebags and Science from O Say Can You See? (Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Oh my God this is awesome. Wow. Women rock.

Round 2, Match 3: National Velvet versus Hidalgo

National Velvet versus Hidalgo

Here's where it really starts to hit the fan.

National Velvet had an easy win over The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit, which might be the first time one of my own personal picks had such a resounding loss. Apparently no one else chants "Aspercel, Aspercel, when you're sick it'll make you well!" after opening their medicine cabinet.

Hidalgo eked out a really close win over Return to Snowy River - which I have to say, I was not expecting! Quite a bit of consternation in the comments on that one, too.

So: who gets to keep going, and who has to stay behind?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Round 2, Match 2: Secretariat versus Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken

First, a moderator note: the next two matches will be posted at 10:00 am EST on Saturday and Sunday. They'll feature National Velvet versus Hidalgo and Black Beauty versus Seabiscuit. Each poll will be open for 24 hours, so make sure you get your vote in. (If you miss it and you REALLY want to vote, leave a comment before Monday at 10:00 am so I can take it into account.)

On Monday, we'll do the two Final Four matches and then on Tuesday, March 31, we'll have the final.

Secretariat versus Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken

This match pits one of the real nail-biters of Round 1 against the runaway winner of the other bracket.

Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken barely beat out Spirit: Wild Stallion of the Cimarron despite my decidedly non-objective rant.

Secretariat trounced The Horse Whisperer much like its title character at the Belmont.

Who will make it to the next round?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

In which I display excessively poor judgment

My truck is a 2WD. It is in every other way perfect, so I work around that foible by letting it have winters off. It sits in the driveway, slumbering away.

Last year, the battery died. Not a huge deal; I'd never replaced the battery, it was a cold winter, it was time. So we towed it out of the driveway (and the several inches of ice it had frozen into, yikes) and got the battery replaced, problem solved. I had a vague thought of pulling the battery and leaving it inside for the winter this year, but one thing on top of another and I never did.

I was not planning to tackle digging the truck out for a few more weeks yet, but it turns out that we will need to move equipment for work back and forth between three different towns and my truck is the only staff vehicle that can cope with that much Stuff.

Ok; so Tuesday night, I tried to start it. Nada. I called AAA, and they tested it: dead. I faithfully ran it for 30 minutes, then tried again: nada. It's fine, said the AAA guy, who also works for my regular mechanic. This is a good battery, and it's less than a year old, so it's still under warranty. Call us in the morning.

The next morning, I called my mechanic and explained everything to him. He said sure, the battery is probably under warranty, but the warranty does not cover batteries that died due to being left to sit all winter and subsequently freezing. Bring it in the next morning, we'll test it, and we'll know for sure.

So that's where we sit right now. Battery is at the mechanic for the day, but it's almost certainly dead as a doornail and will need to be replaced. I am banging my head against any and all hard surfaces in frustration, because earlier this week I spent $250 I don't have on Tristan's pergolide + pentosan + banamine, and now I may have to spend another $250 I don't have because of a really dumbass mistake. (Oh and that's on top of the $550 I don't have that I have to use to pay our home inspector tomorrow.)

I really flipping hate money. And my own idiocy.

Round 2, Match 1: The Black Stallion versus The Man from Snowy River

Here's where the rubber starts to hit the road: round 2. These are just going to get more and more difficult to vote on, I think. Here is your Round 2 bracket:

Our first match of round 2 pits two titans against each other: The Black Stallion and The Man from Snowy River.

The Black Stallion handily beat out War Horse in round 1. The Man from Snowy River had a slightly tougher battle against Sylvester, but still never gave up its early lead.

Only one can pass on to the quarterfinals. Who will it be?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Round 1, Match 8: Seabiscuit versus International Velvet

Seabiscuit versus International Velvet

Seabiscuit (2003)

True story of the undersized Depression-era racehorse whose victories lifted not only the spirits of the team behind it but also those of their nation.

International Velvet (1978)

Velvet's orphaned niece, Sarah, follows her dream of Olympic glory with her horse Arizona Pie.

Last time for round 1...vote!

Round 1, Match 7: Phar Lap versus Black Beauty

Phar Lap versus Black Beauty

This one, I think, will end in tears. (Partially because both movies end in tears, but I digress.)

Phar Lap (1983)

The true story of a Australian racehorse that becomes a champion with the help of a local stableboy.

Black Beauty (1994)

The fates of horses, and the people who own and command them, are revealed as Black Beauty narrates the circle of his life.

Battle of the tearjerkers...begin!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Round 1, Match 6: Hidalgo versus The Man from Snowy River II/Return to Snowy River

Hidalgo versus The Man From Snowy River II

Hidalgo (2004)

In 1890, a down-and-out cowboy and his horse travel to Arabia to compete in a deadly cross desert horse race.

The Man From Snowy River II / Return to Snowy River (1988)

(the second title is apparently what it as released under in the United States, so I'm including that in case it jogs memories)

Young Jim Craig returns to his home in the Australian high country. He finds that things are not as he left them - his girlfriend is being pursued by another man, and her father doesn't want Jim back into her life.

Two enter, one leaves...

Round 1, Match 5: National Velvet versus The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit

National Velvet versus The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit

National Velvet (1944)

A jaded former jockey helps a young girl prepare a wild but gifted horse for England's Grand National Sweepstakes.

The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit (1968)

Frederick Bolton has to solve two problems. First, his boss has instructed him to come up with a reasonable campaign to promote a new product, a stomach pill named "Aspercel" - by tomorrow. The second problem is Fred's daughter, Helen. She is absolutely fond of horses, takes riding classes and has already had decent success in some competitions. Her biggest wish is to own a horse herself, a dream her father cannot afford at all. Now Fred tries to solve both problems at once by simply combining them: A horse named "Aspercel", ridden by his daughter should bring the name of the pill into the papers and make Helen happy, too. But there's still one more obstacle: Helen and Aspercel of course have to win a few prices to make this idea work...

Monday, March 23, 2015

Round 1, Match 4: Spirit, Wild Stallion of the Cimarron versus Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken

Spirit: Wild Stallion of the Cimarron versus Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken

Spirit: Wild Stallion of the Cimarron (2002)

As a wild stallion travels across the frontiers of the Old West, he befriends a young human and finds true love with a mare.

Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken (1991)

This is the story of Sonora Webster, a teenage runaway during the Depression. Her life's ambition is to travel to Atlantic City, where "all your dreams come true." After leaving home she accepts a job from Dr. Carver and his girl-and-horse high diving act.


Round 1, Match 3: The Horse Whisperer versus Secretariat

First, some brief housekeeping: due to company and some internet issues during the only time I had to blog, I couldn't get these polls up over the weekend. Sorry! We'll go double time this week in order to catch up. Each poll will still be open for 24 hours of voting.

The Horse Whisperer versus Secretariat

The Horse Whisperer (1998)

The mother of a severely traumatized daughter enlists the aid of a unique horse trainer to help the girl's equally injured horse.

Secretariat (2010)

Penny Chenery Tweedy and colleagues guide her long-shot but precocious stallion to set, in 1973, the unbeaten record for winning the Triple Crown.

(Lest anyone judge me, I copied that summary from imdb.com, as I have been doing for all of these matchups, in the interests of objectivity. I will now abandon my objective stance and say holy shit that is the worst movie summary of all time. I trust that you all know what a movie named Secretariat is about.)

(No, I mean really, what does "the unbeaten record for winning the Triple Crown" MEAN?)


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Weekly Blog Roundup

Here are a few good horse blog posts from this past week.

Run, Bike, Ride, Paddle: The ECTAthlon from The Maggie Memoirs
This looks infinitely more appealing than a triathlon - cool!

How to Make a Wood Horse Stall Sign from DIY Horse Ownership
I kind of love this. I'm still artistically inept, but I think they look really cool. A lot of the longer term horses in my barn have wooden stall signs, and when they pass away their sign is hung on the wall outside the tack room. It's a lovely tribute.

Product Review: Equifit Shoulders Back from Viva Carlos
I've always been intrigued by this - great review.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Round 1, Match 2: Sylvester versus The Man from Snowy River

Sylvester versus The Man from Snowy River

Sylvester (1985)

Charlie is a 16-year-old orphan struggling to raise her two younger brothers when she endeavors to train a rogue horse she names Sylvester and turn him into an eventing champion.

The Man from Snowy River (1982)

In 1880s Australia when young Jim Craig's father dies Jim takes a job at the Harrison cattle ranch and he is forced to become a man.

(Mod note: I have so many feels about this matchup, you guys, I cannot even.)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Round 1, Match 1: The Black Stallion versus War Horse

DAY 1!

The Black Stallion versus War Horse

The Black Stallion (1979)

While traveling with his father, young Alec becomes fascinated by a mysterious Arabian stallion who is brought on board and stabled in the ship he is sailing on. When it tragically sinks both he and the horse survive only to be stranded on a desert island. He befriends it, so when finally rescued, both return to his home where they soon meet Henry Dailey, a once-successful trainer. Together they begin training the stallion to race against the fastest horses in the world.

War Horse (2011)

Young Albert enlists to serve in World War I after his beloved horse is sold to the cavalry. Albert's hopeful journey takes him out of England and to the front lines as the war rages on. (Pictured: Benedict Cumberbatch with the title horse. You're welcome.)

So, which one should advance?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Got Issues? I am your worst nightmare.

Amanda's post at The $900 Facebook Pony got me thinking and remembering. So many of you have quirks and things that you're OCD about around the barn.

I get that! I really do! I have a few myself: I triple check stall doors and gates, I really like a nicely swept aisle, etc. You better believe that when I muck out a stall it's clean to the bones, and as the barn manager recently said when I told her about my endless night check, "So you OCD'd out a little bit, didn't you?"

Here's the thing though: there are a whole lot of things that everyone cared very much about that it never occurred to me to even think about, or at least be bothered by.

Tristan's bridle path hasn't been trimmed in 4+ months. I honestly can't remember the last time I figure-8'd my bridle. (Yes, that's a verb now.) It's been 3+ months since I cleaned tack, which, to be fair, I haven't really been using it. Forget trimming fetlocks. I wear breeches and barn clothes into the ground, and then I wear them a few more times, and then I wash them, except in cases of extreme filth or sweat. Usually they're secondhand anyway, or at the very least off the clearance rack.

I have never, not once, not a single time in almost 10 years, pulled Tristan's mane. Not a single hair.

Wild unkempt beastie.

Also, it falls naturally to the left. So I leave it there. I've never had more than a passing thought of training it over.

Ready for the one that would drive most of you absolutely crazy?

Take a good close look at the boots Tristan is wearing in this picture.

Those are Dover's house brand galloping boots, in black. They're Tristan's standard XC boots; he's a relatively careful horse and just needs a bit of extra padding. They wear well, and they're cheap.

Anyone care to guess how long I used them before trimming the extra Velcro straps?

Your answer is never. I never trimmed the extra Velcro off. Every single time I put the boots on, I pulled the Velcro loops snug and left the extra bits flapping in the breeze. It never, not one single time, not once, occurred to me to cut it off.

Then Hannah came with us XC schooling and noticed that I had never cut the Velcro straps and she was horrified, and she would not let me go on course until she had trimmed them properly. See below. You can just see the LF and RH boots in this image: nicely trimmed!

The moral of the story is, I can't be bothered and would probably drive most of you insane if you boarded with me.

In my defense, my horse is happy, healthy, never wants for anything, and I work my ass off to make sure he has what he needs. I just...don't have that gene that needs everything around the barn to be Just Right. Neat? Clean? Relatively presentable? In immaculate shape when we're showing? Hell yes. Any other time? Meh.

Horse Movie March Madness: The Bracket

It's time! Here's the bracket for our March Madness voting, based on the poll that ran Monday and Tuesday. I chose the top 16 vote-getters, and then randomized the brackets using a handy-dandy website generator.

I know I said I'd start voting today, but doing this bracket has taken all my extra mental concentration for the day, so I will set up the polls to start voting tomorrow. Get ready! Some crazy matchups in there.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Can't win for losing, also VOTE

It's finally warm enough to ride consistently, so of course I am sick as the proverbial dog with the nastiest upper respiratory infection I have had in years. I've had no voice for coming up on 72 hours now, my phlegm is neon & rainbow-colored, and I can't really be vertical for long periods of time. THANKS, UNIVERSE.


Quick post to say VOTE in the Horse Movie March Madness poll. The top 15 vote-getters will be seeded in their bracket in a post tomorrow, and then we'll start the elimination polls. Are you psyched?

(I would be, but I'd probably pass out.)


Monday, March 16, 2015

Horse Movie March Madness: Seeding

It's heeeeere!

This is the poll that will be used to seed the top 16 tournament bracket.

Please vote for FIVE (5) horse movies that you would like to send to the sweet 16.

The top 16 vote-getters will head to the bracket, and the results will determine their ranking.

If you believe there is a movie missing from this list, please add it in comments. It will automatically get one vote.



Farm Hunters: The Conclusion

I feel like I got everyone's hopes up with promises of an endless search for the perfect farm. So I feel mildly bad, from a blogging POV, to write this post.

We are officially under contract on the city house I wrote about before!

It's pending inspection, obviously, so nothing is set in stone, but we're really happy about it, and feeling good about the inspection.

So now, a very important question: do you want renovation blogging? I'm not talking about anything more than once a week, probably, as I have not a ton of interest in being That House Blogger, but it's about to become an important and time-consuming part of my life. It might do me some good to vent via blog.

Let me know!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Product Review: Toklat Coolback Bareback Pad

Toklat Coolback Bareback Pad
$74.95 at Smartpak

I posted, oh, a very long time ago now about riding Tristan occasionally in a bareback pad, and thinking about finding my own. I liked the idea, and did some cursory research, and then lost interest as other things took financial precedence.

Then my friend C. posted on Facebook that she was doing some cleaning out of horse supplies in preparation for moving, and did anyone want a bareback pad? I jumped at the chance. She mailed it up, and both the puppy and the cat approved immediately.

Last week, I finally got the chance to use it at the barn.

First impressions: it's a pretty straightforward thing. You toss it on and girth it up. The barn manager immediately commented on how soft it looked, and liked that it came with its own padded girth. Said girth is really straightforward. It's also really small: any horse in cob or pony range would absolutely have to punch quite a few extra holes. Tristan wears a cob size in surcingle and is on the small side of the horse range for girths.

The fleece is not exactly natural fleece - it's pretty clearly synthetic. It's not terribly bad synthetic, though, and the pile really is quite dense and thick. It feels softer and more durable than synthetic fleece usually does.

I was a little concerned at how little wither clearance there seemed to be - wither rubbing was why I didn't use the barn's bareback pad as much as I would've wanted. I figured, though, that the fleece was thick enough and the whole thing was flexible enough that I might as well ride in it and see how it went.

When I mounted up, I immediately felt comfortable and cushioned. Tris does not have a terribly uncomfortable back to sit on bareback, but wow, this was COZY. Is this why endurance riders put that fleece on their saddles? Drool.

I have no idea why the pad is labeled "Coolback" but can report that it warmed up nicely with movement. I rode for about 35 minutes walk and a bit of trot, and it never felt less cozy. Warmth from his back gradually came up to my legs, which is honestly my #1 reason for riding bareback in the winter. I had been worried that the pad would obscure that - the other one I used did. I actually think it was transferring the heat from his back up through to me. Win-win. I'm curious how it would feel in the summer, though.

The fleece was surprisingly grippy, and plush. One complaint might be that my leg naturally fell at the girth, because of the way it pushed down the fleece when cinched tight. That tended to encourage a bit of a chair seat in me - but then again, bareback does that generally anyway, so not the end of the world. Another problem is that the oh shit strap on the front was kind of useless...it was so close to my crotch it wasn't exactly an intuitive place to grab. I'd really have to be sliding off to reach for it naturally.

At the end of the ride, I was pleased to see that the pad hadn't moved too much at all. The fleece on the girth served to help keep it in place. It slipped back a little bit but it wasn't exactly a problem - not like slipping back would be on a saddle, for sure! It hadn't rubbed his withers at all.

In short: I really like it. It was quick and convenient, and more grippy and comfortable than bareback. I didn't feel any true loss of feeling through my seat, like I was worried about. Nothing like a saddle. I'll definitely be using it more and more!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Weekly Blog Roundup

Here are some great posts from the horse blogging world this week.

How to make your own Smartpaks from DIY Horse Ownership
Smartpaks can be great, or they can be way too pricey for convenience. If you have a little bit of extra time, this is definitely the way to go.

Izzy's Leg: Update 8 from Not So Speedy Dressage
AWESOME progress on Izzy's wound and a great photo series of how it's wrapped. The whole series has been so educational and fascinating. Not recommended for those with weaker stomachs...

European Adventure from The $900 Facebook Pony
Read the whole series. I'll just wait here. This links to Part 1 and there are buttons to continue you on your journey at the bottom of each post. If you get too insanely jealous just take a short break and come back. They're worth it.

Costume Creations: RuPaul Drag Horse from Poor Woman Showing
This post just flat out wins the internet this week.

HITS 1995 from Braymere Custom Saddlery
Vintage showjumping! Awesome.

King's Canyon Ride from Funder's Good Idea
All that green, and those trails, just made me swoon.

Ask and Answer: Boot 'Em Up from Hey Hey Holls
Boots are a perennial favorite question. I like this post because it links to some actual science about the pros and cons of warming legs up underneath boots.

Grant Schneiderman Clinic Recap from Fraidy Cat Eventing
Really, really nice clinic recap! Good meaty reading.

Friday, March 13, 2015

MARCH MADNESS: Horse Movie Style

I have a dream.

I want to stage a March Madness tournament for horse movies.

Here's how I imagine this working. Comment on this blog with names of horse movies. I'll do an initial list below, too.

On Monday, March 16, I will put up a poll. You can choose your top 5. Based on the weighted results of that poll, I will "seed" a sweet 16, and present that on the following day.

Beginning on March 18, I will begin competitions. Each day, I'll put up a poll for our matchup, with short descriptions of the movies, links to their imdb pages, images, etc., so that we can all make informed decisions. The winner of the poll advances.

On Monday, March 30, we will crown our champion. I think it'll be a fun way to talk about our favorite horse movies, and maybe discover some new ones.

SO! Comment here with names of horse movies that you think should be in the initial list!

I'll start:

Black Beauty (1994)
The Black Stallion
The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suite
The Horse Whisperer
International Velvet
The Long Shot
The Man from Snowy River
Miracle of the White Stallions
National Velvet
Spirit: Wild Stallion of the Cimarron
War Horse
Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken

What am I missing? I know more than a few...

Thursday, March 12, 2015

There ought to be a word...

One of the things I did during my endless night check was let my mind wander and think about why I actually love horses, instead of how frustrated I was that this was taking so long.

I thought about language and writing and all the wonderful words that are connected to horses, and are so horse-specific. Then I thought about all the feelings and moments in horses that have no words.

So, for your perusal, here are a list of horse things that really ought to have their own word. I bet we can think up tons more!

- the endless hanging moment in the middle of a wide oxer when you've been in the air just half a heartbeat longer than you thought possible
- the smell of a horse's nose in summer, that perfect mix of sunshine, grass, and horse
- the adrenaline rush of a horse taking up the bit and surging forward when you ask for a gallop
- the almost audible click of a horse locking on to a fence
- the sense of rightness in the universe when you nail the perfect striding to a perfect jump
- the moment when you realize that the mud puddle you just stepped in is over the height of your boots, and your foot is coming back up with just a sock
- the perfect spot where a horse's neck meets his shoulder, you know, the one where you bury your face when you need to cry
- the peaceful happy sound of a barn full of horses munching on hay at the end of a long day
- the endless possibility of a forward-striding horse on a beautiful open trail
- the gangly wobbly awkwardness of a week-old foal out in the field
- the floating weightlessness of a collected canter
- the intense, neverending itch of hay chaff stuck underneath a bra and down your underwear
- the happy, productive, satisfying feel of bridle leather between your fingers as you work conditioner into it
- the muscle memory that takes over when you post to a lovely big trot without even thinking

Anyone else?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Do you have a horse emergency fund?

I'm currently devoting all my extra cash toward building Tristan's emergency fund back up. I had a really solid personal emergency fund as well as a decent horse-specific one, but, well, the last 2 years or so have not gone so well for either of those two accounts. My personal emergency fund is on its own dedicated savings plan, but Tristan's account has mostly been seeded with a few dollars here, a few dollars there.

So as I am making plans, I found myself wondering: how many people out there have a horse-specific emergency fund? Hence the poll.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Night Check

Does your barn do a night check? What does it consist of?

I've always felt most comfortable keeping Tristan at a boarding barn that does night check. I think it's a good double-check, and a good way to help keep barn management flowing smoothly. It makes me feel more comfortable, as a nervous horse owner.

Last Friday night, I did night check, since one of the regular barn workers was visiting with the trainer in Florida. (And posting photos of kayaking in t-shirts on Facebook, sob.) I hadn't done it in nearly a year, so the barn manager left me a list of what the current night check routine is.

Holy mackerel, guys. Here was my night check.

sigh. summer.

9:00 pm - Arrive, turn on lights, walk up and down the aisle to make sure everyone is bright and alert

9:05 pm - Duck into tack room, let cat out, check the list.

9:06 pm - Put on lined rubber gloves and start soaking hay for the two recent colic cases. Tear the hay up into tiny shreds, flip over and over and over again to make sure water penetrates every possible nook and cranny.

9:15 pm - Start haying remaining horses in the barn. Everyone gets two flakes, except for a few who get three, and the yearling, who gets one. 2/3 of the horses in the barn have Nibble Nets right now. All of the Nibble Nets are double-clasped and those clasps are tied together with baling twine. The first stall takes me a solid 7 minutes and I swear, out loud, repeatedly. You haven't known frustration until you've tried to stuff two flakes of hay into a Nibble Net hung at head-height, while undoing the tiny clasps with thick winter chore gloves, while a deeply impatient horse is dancing back and forth, snatching pieces of hay that are escaping your arms.

10:07 pm - Finish haying (YES, REALLY), and do blankets. Every horse that had a neck cover got that neck cover that cover pulled up and buckled down. One horse was wearing a cooler from being worked earlier in the evening; I pulled that and put on the two blankets in the aisle. Probably about 1/3 of the horses had some layer that needed to be added. I also took that time to look hard at all the other blanketed horses, and fixed two leg straps that had come undone. Fortunately, I was warmed up enough from haying that I could take my gloves off to do the straps.

daytime, not last night, but Tristan's blanket waiting for night check

10:23 pm - Toss grain to the horses who either got a snack at night check, or whose evening grain had waited until night check because they had been worked right around dinner time. Add water to all the grain.

10:30 pm - Start water. Oh, winter water. My nemesis. I had two options: hose or buckets. Using the buckets would take longer, be harder work, and involve more walking back and forth. Using the hose would guarantee that I would screw up the draining, hanging, and putting away, especially with the barn manager's warning that the hose would freeze very, very quickly once I stopped using it. Buckets, then!

11:07 pm - Water done. On the one hand: I am now twice as cold, have ice rimmed all over my jacket, and pulled something in my elbow hauling water to 25 horses. On the other hand: is there anything quite as satisfying as using a sledgehammer to smash out ice from buckets?

11:08 pm - Quick double-check of the list the barn manager left for me. Check everything off. Do one last walk up and down the aisles, checking doors, latches, and lights. Everyone looks happy, and the mare who earlier was a bit unexcited about her hay is going at it with gusto now. Good. Tristan, who got extra hay scrids and a sip from every water bucket as I went by, doesn't really want to see me go, and shoves me all over the place with his nose while I close up his stall door, which I had left open with a stall guard up.
"But having my stall door closed is booooooooring!"

11:15 pm - Put the cat back in the tack room, over his loud protests. It's 14 degrees and predicted to hit 1 degree by about 3 am, so I don't feel right leaving him out. Make sure the space heater is on and near the water line and not touching anything. Make sure the frost-free hydrant outside is not dripping, or the dripping water will freeze right back up into the water line, no matter how well-insulated.

11:16 pm - Get into my car, blast the heat, and sit for a moment checking off the list in my head. Decide I'm done, drive away.

11:17 pm - Turn around because I have no specific memory of tucking the draft blockers underneath the front door. I hadn't really disturbed them when I entered, but the barn gets unbelievable wind coming up the valley and hitting the hill, so this is actually an important piece. I double-check: yup, they're in place.

Barn in winter, earlier this season. We have way more snow now.

11:18 pm - Back on the road again.

11:43 pm - Home. Bed. I'm too keyed up from what amounted to two hours of constant physical labor to sleep, so I read for about 15 minutes until the adrenaline passes and then I am out.cold.


So yeah. Our night check routine is pretty intense right now. In the summer it's just to put eyes on everyone, toss grain and sometimes a little hay, and make sure all the lights are turned off.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Happiness Is... (Winter Version)

Tristan LOOOOOOVES a good roll.

A friend once told me that you should count how many times your horse flips over while rolling. Each flip is $1,000 added to his sales price. I guess the theory is that it shows flexibility.

I counted up to 8 once with Tristan.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Weekly Blog Roundup

Here are some great horse blog posts from this past week.

First of all: thank you to everyone who recommended new blogs to me last week. I've added probably 20-25 to my reading list and am loving the new variety and reading material. Keep 'em coming!

Let it go without saying that I am beyond jealous of everyone who got to hang out in the warmth of Austin together. (Okay, I know you all keep saying it was freezing but if precipitation was coming down in liquid form it can't have been that cold.) Here are a few recap posts that I've been living through vicariously all week.

Weekend in numbers: horse blogger edition from Hand Gallop
Epic blogger weekend from Wyvern Oaks
Horse bloggers weekend was a blast! from She Moved to Texas
Blogger Meetup, Part 1 & Blogger Weekend Retail Therapy & Not Actually Jousting from Cob Jockey
Blogger Weekend 2015 from A Gift Horse
Icy Wet Weather and Bloggers Weekend from Bay With Chrome

Significant Other Survival Guide: Three Day Events from Dandyism
It'll be a cold day in hell before my fiance grooms for me at an event, but this is an outstanding and hilarious guide. Great reading material if any of you have partners who are willing to do the horse thing!

Costume Creations: Frontiers-horse from Poor Woman Showing
What. This is AWESOME.

Breed Showing Encyclopedia Part Two from Hey Hey Holly
Even better than the first part! Check out the video of the showmanship pattern. o.O

TIL: The Florida Chronicles, the Easy Edition from Guinness on Tap
Who doesn't want to make horse laundry easier?! No one. Check out these great tips.

Throwback Thursday: Buster from Hand Gallop
What a wonderful story - I smiled all the way through.

Finally, the blogging world lost a really special horse this week. Suzanne and Sugar were an incredible team, and I never read a post of Suzanne's that didn't make me admire her work ethic and her enormous heart. I wish I'd gotten the chance to meet Sugar in person. Suzanne writes about it here, in Living Life in the Middle.

Remembering "The Other Sugar" from A Work in Progress
And a tribute to Sugar.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Behind the Scenes of Downton Abbey: Filming the Point to Point

Okay, I'll confess. I haven't watched Downton Abbey since the second-to-last episode of season 3, allowing me to preserve the illusion that a certain favorite character is alive and well and happily where he belongs. At one time I was as rabid a fan as it gets. Season 1 got me through my master's thesis: for every 10 pages written, I got to watch an episode.

So when I heard that season 5 featured Lady Mary Crawley riding in a point to point race...! Well. I scoured the internet for footage, and found this lovely little video. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Boosting the Signal: Please Help Vote

I'm passing this along from a dear friend. ESPN is running a contest to give charity moneys to various foundations. Basically, you vote for a particular coach, and then that coach chooses the money to give charity.

If Matt Painter, head coach for Purdue University men's basketball team wins, he will donate it toward a charity that promotes research into a rare and devastating disease called Niemann Pick Type C.

The friend who sent me this information is married to a wonderful man whose brother and two sisters died of this disease before they became teenagers. His family started a foundation to begin research into the disease, and thanks to the research of that foundation they were able to develop a genetic test. He alone of his siblings is not a carrier, and he was able to start a family because of that research. They have a beautiful little girl together.

Please take a moment to vote for Matt Painter at the ESPN website. You'll have to sign up for an account, which is frustrating, but this is worth it.

Thank you.

TOABH: Ermahgerd!

What is your pony's absolute favorite riding activity? What makes those little ears perk and causes the knees to lift?

First things first, please raise your hand if you said "ermahgerd!" out loud in various funny voices and at different volume levels while pondering the answer to this question.

...just me then? well, okay, fine.

I think we've already established that Tristan's absolute favorite activity is eating, preferably by himself, preferably in a large field outside.

If I had to pick something he loves under saddle, though? Cross country.

He takes a while to warm up but when the lights come on upstairs and he realizes he can go FAST and JUMP and then the adrenaline rush hits and it is the BEST DAY EVER.



Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Farm Hunters: Would You Buy or Rent This Property? Part Two

Yesterday, I wrote about my cousin and his potential investment in a horse property. He wanted to know if it was a good horse property, and in particular whether it was realistic to lease out the barn + pasture to a horse owner in the area.

Here's what I told him.

- At 1.32 acres, and only .75 acres fenced in, it's extremely small as a horse property. The pasture would always be a dry lot, and manure removal would be constant. Soil remediation would be necessary on a semi-regular basis.
- If he were to find someone to lease the barn, he'd have to write up a fairly strong contract and I'd help him work on that, but it would have to include things like who's calling the vet, what their obligations are as owners/lessors, who's responsible for what maintenance, and he'd probably have to provide a space for trailer parking.
- I ballparked a guess at $100/month per horse for the lease, based on what I knew of the area and what he was offering. I gave him the information for the tack shop, where he could both advertise the space and get good local market advice.
- In short, he'd have to be really careful at screening whoever he got, if he could get anyone interested. I explained to him in the strongest possible terms that horse people are crazy, and that he'd have to be prepared for that. He's a longtime landlord, but I said to him, no, think way crazier.
- I also told him that I was far from an expert, but he'd have to seriously explore changing or increasing his homeowner's and/or liability insurance with all possible contingencies covered.
- That said, I DO think he'd find someone to lease it.

In conclusion, however: I don't think the time, expense, and worry would be worth it unless everything worked out perfectly, and, well, horses. No such thing as working out perfectly. I advised him against leasing the barn and pasture out on a longterm basis.

However, here's what I think has real potential: I think this could be a really ideal rehab or short-term situation. If he made the right contacts at the tack store (and actually I'd be happy to do that for him, as it's an awesome tack store with good people) he could be in a great place to provide a space for someone whose horse needed 3 months of inexpensive stall rest, or limited turnout, or someone who was in a bad place and loved their horse but needed a place to put them for a month or two.

The absolute least hassle solution is simply to maintain the barn, pasture, and fence. Use the barn as storage - and as a real estate guy, he's always got a ton of extra stuff that's going in and out of new apartments - and spend some real quality time remediating the pasture, planting good grass to revitalize the turf. Keep it looking sharp, and yeah, down the road, someone probably would buy it as a horse property.

How do you think I did? Agree, disagree?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

See, I wasn't just whining: coldest winter EVER.

I would just like to leave this here, as evidence that I am not simply a whiner who can't cope with winter. While Boston was getting record snowfall, Vermont experienced literally the coldest winter in recorded history. I have never sacrificed so many riding days to the extreme cold.

From Eye on the Sky, our local non-hysterical and actually-meteorological weather guys:
The February 2015 Summary: 
This was one of the coldest months on record for several stations. 
For Burlington, it was the 3rd coldest February, and the 7th coldest of any month, with an average of 7.6°F. 
In St. Johnsbury, this was the 2nd coldest February, and ties the 6th coldest month, with an average of 7.7°F. 
In addition, this was the coldest January-February period since 1904, and includes 41 days (so far) with temperatures consecutively at 32°F or colder, the second longest stretch at the Museum (the longest, 51 days, ran from late December 1976 through early February 1977) 
This is the only February on the Museum records with no above freezing temperatures.
Southern areas also received heavy snowfall, with 45.6 inches reported in Marlboro, VT, and Hillsboro Upper Village, NH had 56.5 inches. 
To get an idea how extraordinary the cold was, the image shows the average February temperature in St. Johnsbury since 1895 (the dark blue line), with the red line a 7-year running mean to show a trend over the years. It is only the 2nd February to average less than 10°F since 1934. This was NOT just an "old-fashioned" February!

They do not report on my area, but did in a previous post: my city averaged 4°F for the month of February, which was officially its coldest ever.

Farm Hunters: Would You Buy or Rent This Property? Part One

Not for me - sorry! Our own house/farm search is continuing apace, and I hope to have an update soon. In the meantime, I present to you this quandary.

I have a cousin who has an extraordinary head for business. He's been pursuing various lines of moneymaking since we were kids. He works incredibly hard at his very lucrative day job, and in his spare time is always looking for investments. Lately, he's been doing a lot of real estate. I think he's up to four or five rental properties. He does the work himself to make them nice and he's a really thorough landlord.

Last week, he called me for my opinion on a property he's looking at purchasing - for himself, this time. It's a foreclosure in a semi-rural area but still quite close to the Boston metropolitan area. The house is huge and gorgeous, but what he called me for my opinion on is the horse potential of the property. He has zero interest in horses himself - well, at this point in his life he does, anyway. When we were kids we totally had a plan to adopt a black mustang stallion named Midnight and keep it behind my house and have adventures together. But I digress.

What he was wondering was whether it would make sense to lease out the barn and pasture to someone who wanted to keep their own horses there. So, here's what I'll do: I'll set up the situation as he described it to me, and as I've researched it on my own, and I'll ask you what you would choose. Tomorrow, I'll write up what I advised him.

The basics: The entire property, house + barn + pasture, is 1.32 acres. Approximately .75 acres of that is fenced with high-quality board fencing that has been well-maintained. The 2 stall barn (visible in this picture) was built in 2008 and has an overhang, hay loft, tack/grain room area. There is electricity and running cold water in the barn, which opens to the pasture. The previous owners kept two horses on the property.

The surroundings: The lot is on a slight incline, but nothing too dramatic. Most of the pasture is flattish. Soil quality appears to be pretty decent, with good drainage. The lot is a corner one on a larger, but not too busy, road. The town itself is VERY horsey; one of the better tack shops for 50 miles is within 10 minutes, and there are multiple state parks and conservation areas with extensive trail systems in the town itself, with quite a bit more accessible just a little further away.

There is significant land across the street, and it connects to the trail systems of one of the largest parks. However, there is an open question of whether there are any right-of-way paths through that land, or whether it is private and posted against trespassing. 

So, with all of that in mind: would you lease the barn + pasture for your own horses, for self-care board? Would you buy this property someday as a horse owner? What would you recommend he do if he were to buy this property?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Getting Back in Shape

I checked the forecast for this week and I don't mean to alarm anyone but it might hit 20 degrees. On one day, it might hit 37. 37!!!!!!!!! I have actual literal tears in my eyes, tears of joy, at the idea of feeling the warmth of a 37 degree day.

(All of you in sunny climates can stop snickering now.)

So, I have a horse who has not been ridden in any real, substantial way for two months. Whenever I can I would go out and ride, but that amounted to once, maybe twice, on really rare occasions three times a week. Followed by a week of nothing. Lather, rinse, repeat. On such an intermittent schedule, I couldn't get anything really significant done for risk of injury; full blast then back to sedentary does not a sound, happy horse make.

So: walking. When I could. That's been about it. He's been turned out, obviously, and in snow, but he's also been eating his head off on free-choice hay to try and stay warm.

I've been reading and thinking about our back-to-work plan. I want to ride, really ride, all summer, none of this back and forth crap. I want a fit horse that can do canter sets. I want him to have a proper topline again. He was doing so well late this fall and earlier in the winter!

Here are a couple of good things I've been reading:

Bringing a Horse Back Into Work from Equisearch
Our Guidelines for Bringing a Horse Back Into Work from Grey Horse Matters
How long to go from winter flab to eventing fab? from COTH Forums

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Do you have a horse emergency kit in the car?

A recent post on A Filly's Best Friend about catching loose horses got me thinking about a similar incident in my own life about 10 years ago. I was driving to my barn in a not-terribly-rural part of Vermont, and a horse came out of what seemed like nowhere to gallop in front of my car. I slammed on the brakes, pulled over, and luckily the horse was so wigged out by everything he came right to me. I grabbed his halter with my hand and led him over to the nearby barn that I knew he'd come from. They had only just realized he was gone and were relieved and grateful.

A few days later, I bought a cheap nylon halter and an extra cotton lead rope and added them to my car's emergency kit. I keep a few basic supplies in a milk crate in my trunk at all times: a jug of water, extra windshield wiper fluid, a quart of oil, jumper cables, some old hand towels, a human first aid kit, an extra winter hat and gloves, and some reflective blankets. I added the halter and lead rope to it. Of course, now that I'm prepared, I've never since needed it.

But reading that post got me to thinking: should I add to that kit? Maybe some gauze and vetwrap? I've posted before about my fairly obsessive trailering first aid kit, and I'm wondering if that needs to be expanded.

Do you keep any horse rescuing supplies in your car at all times? What kinds of things do you have?