Saturday, October 31, 2015

Weekly Blog Roundup

Some horse blogging posts from the greater universe this week.

HFH Opening Hunt Recap from Hand Gallop
Siiiiiiigh. I am so jealous.

The Ideal Day for a Rider from The Roaming Rider
I love this!

Autumn Adventures from In Omnia Paratus
Liz lives in a really, really pretty place, and has amazing adventures.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Reminder: Two Horse Tack Giveaway

In case you missed it, tomorrow is the last day for a giveaway sponsored by Two Horse Tack for a western breastcollar.

For my review of Two Horse Tack's biothane halter bridle and more information about the giveaway, check out the original post:

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Incorporating Work at Liberty

Last night, I headed to the barn with the intent to longe. I wanted to see how Tris was feeling; I am still (still) not breathing without mucus, at least not exercising. So riding was out.

I put the longe line on and then saw that someone had closed the indoor up tight and even organized it a bit: all the doors were closed and latched and some of the usual chairs, etc., that were often out were tucked away.

So I did not bother with the longe line. We spent about 20 minutes working at liberty.

Our indoor, with doors open in the back.

Now, I don't buy into the natural horsemanship join up sparkly hearts kind of working at liberty. I've never done any of the Parelli levels. I've never bought any specialized equipment or followed any schools of thought or anything like that.

I have worked Tristan at liberty on and off in the years I've owned him. More in the beginning, in a round pen that allowed him some space but didn't mean he went too far.

My philosophy is as such: work at liberty should be used as a tool to fine-tune our communications. Tristan should not simply use it as an excuse to sprint off bucking and then investigate all the corners.

He is allowed more leeway, sure. If he wants to take off bucking that's ok, but he should then re-focus on me.

So our rules last night were simple: we both had to keep moving at all times, and Tristan had to stay focused on me and listen to what I told him to do.

I feel like any kind of in-hand session progresses best when Tristan gets sharper and sharper off my commands. Last night, we definitely accomplished that. I walked or jogged alongside him around the edge of the ring, because I am in terrible shape and also needed to move.

the actual cutest.

So he did a lot of bucking and farting around, occasionally in sass to what I was asking him to do. He opted to start off cantering quite a bit, which was fine by me. I think liberty work can be a useful tool for helping see how your horse prefers to move. He's been telling me under saddle that he would rather canter for a while first, so I let him do what he wanted, figuring I would observe and see more of what I was feeling from the saddle. After several turns at the canter, he settled back to the trot when I asked, and it was not all that pretty: propped, short-strided. So I brought him back to the walk, then asked him to go forward, and let him canter again for a bit. After that, his trot was much more fluid, and after 10 minutes or so he started to stretch down his neck and come up through his back.

He also very much preferred to track right, though I asked him to turn from time to time. So that told me more, as well, which was also not a surprise - he prefers to move to the right. I also worked on getting him to halt, back up, and walk and trot bigger or smaller based on body language. I carried a longe whip but mostly left it trailing on the ground behind me.

He clearly had a lot of fun, which was nice. He gave me some lovely big ear-pricked trots around the outside of the ring, and was W-T-C and back from voice commands from a fair distance. I was really, really pleased with him, and he was clearly becoming more comfortable and happier in his body. Liberty work also gives me the chance to really just watch him, to focus on one leg or one muscle grouping, the way he used different parts of his body.

We finished with a long walk, and while he was a teensy bit warm he was definitely not hot. (It was in the mid-40s, so not overly cold or hot.)

In all, it was a good night, which I sorely needed after a very stressful couple of weeks. (Though, I'm starting to wonder what weeks won't be stressful right now...)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Favorite Products Blog Hop

Jumping on the bandwagon for this fun blog hop from Breeches & Boat Shoes.

What is your favorite equestrian-specific product that you use when you’re at the barn?

I think it might have to be my Oster Mane & Tail brush. I confess, I don't clean out Tristan's mane and tail as often as I should, but every time I do I LOVE using this brush. It's just one of the best-designed tools I've ever used around horses.

I actually own a full set of the Oster brushes - they lived in my trailer as my second, traveling kit - but I find the brushes so-so. The mane & tail brush is a thing of glory and a joy forever.

What is your favorite non equestrian-specific product to use when you’re at the barn?

Probably something medical. I'd say a toss-up between vinegar (for White Lightning & other hoof soaks), saline (for some idiot pony's eyes), and molasses, though the smell makes me gag.

In actual happy things to use - I wouldn't necessarily say that I'm in a good mood when I have to use any of those things - I'd have to go with my iPhone + headphones. I've only recently come around to listening to podcasts while riding and it's such a great way to kill all that walking warmup time that Tristan needs.

What is your horse’s favorite equestrian-specific product to wear or use?

Cripes. None of them? No, wait, never mind.

I have this tiny little face brush. It's maybe 4" long, and it has the most flexible, softest bristles you can imagine. Tristan loves his face brushed, and I bought this for him almost eight years ago now. It was during his first, awful colic - which maybe I should blog about someday, but it was as bad as it gets - and I was on a rare break from the barn, at the tack store, buying extra medical supplies mostly. And there was this brush at the register in a box with others of its kind, and I was so strung out and tired and worried and sad and all I could think was how much he loves having his face brushed and how soft it would be.

So while I often brush his face with my regular body brush, on special occasions I take out this small wonderful brush and spend a long time just brushing his face. He leans into it and tips his head for me  and sighs happily.

What was the best equestrian-related gift you were ever given, and why does it mean so much to you?

It's not a great picture, but can you see the small horse statue in the photo? It's a raku horse made by Lindsey Epstein, who is an incredibly talented artist and was the barn manager for a previous barn Tris and I were at. (She appears on this blog incognito as both a teacher and occasional rider of Tristan a few years back.) Lindsey makes these gorgeous horses, and due to the quirks of the glaze they often come out in all sorts of different and unexpected patterns. This one came out looking like Tristan: all roany. It was a Christmas gift several years ago from a very dear friend, and it has occupied this spot on my desk in three different offices now. It's the combination of unique, thoughtful gift and the much-beloved people involved that makes this so special.

If you had the ability to create any product or anything to make your time at the barn better, what would that be?
Try as I might to devise a winter riding apparel plan every year, there is literally nothing on earth that makes going to the barn in 12 degree weather better. Nothing. So, if I could wave a magic wand and make that happen, that would be nice.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Weekly Blog Roundup

Back on the horse...a few blog posts from this past week.

Stay Classy - How to Share Photos from Professional Photographers from Pony'tude
This x100000.

My Horse Hubby aka My Other Half from The Jumping Percheron
My husband is basically the opposite of horsey, so this is a really sweet tribute - and I may be a bit jealous of a husband who will hold horses at a show...

A Coincidental Coming Together of Talents from Eventing Nation
I bawled.

Fancy Pants from The $900 Facebook Pony
I feel like it was just last year that I struggled to find non-beige breeches. The times they are a-changing.

DIY: How to Make Pill Hider Horse Treats from DIY Horse Ownership

Ecolicious Equestrian Giveaway from The Legal Equestrian
I'm always up for a good giveaway, and this looks particularly fun!

Why I volunteer from Hand Gallop
A lovely summary and call for volunteerism.

When does control become abuse? from The $900 Facebook Pony
A really, really important conversation to have.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Of Eventing, Risk Assessment, and William Fox-Pitt

If you have been following international equestrian news in the past week, and more particularly eventing news, you are probably already aware that one of the leading event riders in the world, William Fox-Pitt of Great Britain, fell from a horse while on course at the Le Lion d'Angers Young Event Horse CCI** Championships.

Fox-Pitt is a genuinely masterful rider and a lovely person. He is probably in the top 0.1% of most experienced, talented, and successful horsemen alive today.

from the Bromont 3 Day Event, photo by me

Following his fall, the course was held for an hour (it's unclear whether he was being worked on that entire time, or whether he was transported immediately and the hold was due to other logistical factors). He was brought to a hospital. He was medically sedated for observation due to a traumatic brain injury.

There have been no updates since, and no details, which is of course the family's prerogative; but it does not look good.

The Chronicle of the Horse forums, which, say what you will about them, are always a good place to go for ardent discussion of breaking news, have been covering the incident extensively, and sharing some really wonderful stories about Fox-Pitt's good-natured personality, sportsmanship, and extraordinary horse sense. (All of that also comes through if you've ever read his autobiography, which I highly recommend.)

from the Bromont 3 Day Event, photo by me

Fox-Pitt's fall has intersected with emotional ongoing debates about the nature of eventing as a sport: where is it headed, is it too dangerous, has it changed for the worse, and how to address the increasingly common news of human and horse injury and death in upper level eventing. (Some other bloggers have addressed this as well, among them SprinklerBandit's In Defense of Eventing.)

I don't have answers for any of that. I don't think anyone does.

Here's one thing I want to take a stand on, however. An argument which comes up time and time again when this discussion happens is that being involved with horses is inherently dangerous. When a horse dies on the cross-country course, someone is guaranteed to say, "Well, he could have tripped out in pasture." When a rider dies or is seriously injured while competing, someone is guaranteed to say, "Well, I know someone who died just leading their horse back to the barn."

from the Bromont 3 Day Event, photo by me

I'm officially fed up with that argument. Below, I have copied the text of a post I finally made after I got angrier and angrier reading the COTH thread. The post I responded to is at the top, in italics.
Honestly...I've known riders killed going for a walking hack on a reliable horse. I've also known (not just know of) people with TBIs in a coma for days doing dressage. I've also known 3 people killed by horses just handling kicked in very normal situations with normal horses. My worst injury came during a dressage school. I don't think you ever know what will cause you to question the danger....but most people I do not really think understand the danger until they do. Our minds do not let us think about otherwise we would all never get into a car on a daily basis.   
While I wholeheartedly agree with the second half of this post (that we must all make our own personal decisions based on our own risk assessment), I keep hearing this argument over and over and I'm starting to get frustrated with it.

For me, it's a false equivalency. It's the same argument used to justify not wearing a helmet - "I can get killed at any time around horses, so why bother wearing a helmet while riding?" Yes, you can, and yes, you should. The two situations are not mutually exclusive.

Horses are dangerous. No one sensible would say otherwise; we can all reel off the names of riders seriously injured or killed in freak accidents. My worst riding fall came while walking on a loose rein in a field; after my horse hand spent a solid 90 minutes behaving abominably, he calmed down, was quiet and well-behaved...and tripped. I went off. My helmet split. I got a concussion and screwed up my back permanently. So believe me, I get the "horses are dangerous at all times" argument.

But. Here's the thing. Saying that extrapolates from the anecdotes and the statistically practically inconsequential freak accidents and tries to create a big risk umbrella that belies the significantly higher risk that any rider takes on when raising the activity and difficulty level of an equestrian sport.

What I'm trying to say is: yes, you can be injured while just standing next to a horse. But your odds for being injured go up as you go along the continuum: longeing, riding, dressage, jumping, and cross-country. Riding a horse cross-country is without question one of the more dangerous things you can do on horseback. It just is. There are more variables, there is more speed, there is more adrenaline, and there are infinitely more things that can go wrong. Ratchet that up as you go up the levels, with more athletic horses, bigger jumps, faster courses, and trickier questions. It becomes a sheer numbers game.

Possibly the best event rider in the world was very seriously injured riding what seems to many to be a straightforward fence, at a level he had done hundreds of times before. The fact that troubles me is that we've cornered the numbers game so that even the very, very best that have ever participated in this sport cannot do so safely. Not with any consistency. It's not a question of whether they will be seriously injured. It's a question of when. If not the riders, then the horses. I find that deeply troubling and unbelievably sad. 
The problem is not "oh well you could get killed doing anything with horses." The problem is that eventing seems to have become an unacceptably high risk endeavour, and we can't catch up fast enough with safety measures. The former does not justify the latter. 
Look: I love eventing, but when you add up the numbers of horses and riders seriously injured or killed, you can't ignore the pattern. So far, the answer seems to be, well, that's the price we pay for having eventing as a sport. And that frustrates me.
from the Bromont 3 Day Event, photo by me

The "you could get killed doing anything around horses" argument is the "guns don't kill people, people kill people" argument of equestrian sport.

They are both true, but simply saying them and refusing to consider statistics, evidence, and attempt a more nuanced understanding of risk assessment is naive and counterproductive.

We need to nip this argument in the bud, acknowledge that there are things we do that can dramatically increase or lessen the danger and risk inherent in any particular activity, and not simply say that all the risk levels involved in horses are equal, and therefore we sign an imaginary contract saying we're ok with whatever happens next. We should not be ok with what happens next.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

An Ode to the Best Barn Manager

I've been at quite a few barns with Tristan. Some of them have been spectacular. Some of them have been actively dangerous. Most of them have been decidedly mixed.

The barn I am currently at is the best-managed that I have ever seen.

There are a thousand small grace notes in the basics: the layout, the avenues of communication, the ample supplies, the wealth of knowledge, the friendliness and efficiency of everyone.

One area that has to stand out, though, is our barn manager.

I write this on the heels of a 25 minute phone call in which we did a rundown on Tristan and his latest batch of stuff. I called initially see whether they could help me out with soaking Tristan's ever-problematic RF, but we covered a lot more ground in the conversation.

She had thought up a gradual plan for weaning Tristan off his summer fly mask + antihistamines, with a timeline that would coincide with an upcoming barn-wide vet visit; that way, if his eye blows up again (which would mean it's a tear duct or eye problem rather than the allergies we strongly suspect) the vet will be there to check on it when it's actively causing problems.

She has two other horses getting their ACTH levels tested on that same day, and she had talked things through with the vet to make sure that we were well enough past seasonal rise for the tests to make sense. She wondered if Tris should go on that list too; yes! Getting an ACTH re-check for his Cushings was on my list this fall.

She wanted to make sure that my concerns about our new farrier were allayed, and reported that she'd had conversations with the two other owners using him, and they had reported that they were happier as well, so she was satisfied that he was doing a good job. She had been actively managing his first three visits, checking in with owners, and making sure he was a good enough farrier for the barn to recommend to people. She would never have said "you can't use him," but she wanted to make sure we were happy and she was ready to intervene if we needed help or advice.

These are just today's details. I have conversations like this with her on a nearly weekly basis. When Tristan had his surgery and rehab she was amazingly helpful, though she'd known me and Tristan for less than six months. In the time since she's provided help, advice, and friendship on everything under the sun. She always gives me good ideas, or helps finesse my ideas, and makes it easier on me to ask for barn help by giving me clear outlines of what would be most useful for them. She was instrumental in helping to figure out Tristan's blanketing regime last year, and I know she was tweaking it constantly, right up to the end, checking all her horses multiple times a day to make sure they were warm enough, not too hot, that their blankets fit right, and on and on.

She is unfailingly cheerful, kind, generous, and thoughtful. She loves all the horses in her care, and I have never seen anyone work harder to do right by them and to keep constantly updated through new research, new ideas, new best practices, and new ways to help them. She is always experimenting with new systems to make things more efficient, smarter, tidier, and easier for everyone, and she is a keen discerner of the line between "too many new systems" and "things that genuinely will make life better." She knows when to drop a line of experimentation and when to keep searching for the thing that will work.

She has extraordinary powers of observation and works well with a wide variety of owners - from me, who tends toward the hands-on and neurotic, to other owners, who have semi-retired or leased-to-the-barn horses and are 99.9% absentee. I have never felt for a moment that I was bothering her, that I was not communicating well, that I could not ask a question, or that I was worried to ask for - or give - clarification. Even at 10:00 pm at night.

She also texts. Which is awesome.

So: here's to awesome barn managers at large, and to mine in particular. I often feel like I don't appreciate her enough, though obviously I tell her frequently and at length how terrific she is. I'm going to try to make a resolution to do more tangibly, like bringing baked goods to the barn and maybe getting some gift certificates for her to use.

Have you had a barn manager or other barn staff member who has just been amazing? What kinds of things did he or she do that were above and beyond?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Tail Update: What the Vet Said

So, when I posted that Tristan's tail lump had mysteriously vanished, I said I would email the vet and check in.

Here's the email exchange.

Hi Vet,

I went out to the barn on Monday, and Tristan's wrap had come off when he came in from the field, finally. (It was on for 5 weeks!)

There is...nothing at all on his tail. No stitches, no lump, only a vague maybe-sorta outline where the lump was.

So, I guess it's all over with? I'm puzzled but glad, I guess. Weirdo horse.

Her reply. The bolding is mine.

It's our beads! Non-cancerous tumor or not, they shrunk the growing tissue. As an aside, I'm thinking of doing a research project on this. It is very interesting. Glad they are gone and he is well!!

My horse: subject of a research paper, coming soon. If she actually does write it I will absolutely share it.

(For those wondering what happened to the radioactive beads: I, too, am wondering. My best guess is that since they were "bioabsorbable" they did indeed absorb fully and are gone, and that the half-life of the radioactivity was such that there is no concern. I have emailed the vet back to make 100% sure, though. She is SUPER on top of things, so if there were any danger I'm quite confident that she would have followed up.)

At least he is cute.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Plague stricken

I have both a naaaassty head cold AND house problems. It has been so cold that any kind of exertion outside leads me to a new coughing fit, so no horse time.

After 2.5 weeks of delays, our contractors are finally here, insulating the house, so fingers crossed we stop hearing the great outdoors of Vermont soon. Getting ready for them over and over has involved a lot of scrambling that had chewed through what little time and energy I have right now. 

Needless to say: no week 2 2pointober stats for me.

Here, have some pictures of our last fall trail ride in lieu of thoughtful content.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

House Post: Spare bedroom -> Library

Room #2 is under way! Wallpaper came down lickety split in about half an hour. Today, I am supposed to be sanding and then priming...but am flat on my back with a fever and head cold. We shall see if I rally this afternoon.

In the meantime, here you go!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Ponies against nukes

Nothing from me today, as I am on a work trip doing research. But I could not let this photograph go unshared.

I believe this is the same horse and rider that subsequently dressed up as Joan of Arc for protests against the Seabrook, NH nuclear power plant.

See, history is fun!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

News update: Vermont still the best state

I am a little lacking in words, so here, have our most recent trail ride, possibly our last with any kind of fall foliage, because it has rained on and off all week and the high on Sunday will be thirty nine degrees.

Anyone who has complained about how hot it is out west/down south/places that are not New England: I say this lovingly, but you can bite me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Weirdo horse gets somehow even more weird: tail update

You guys, I do not even anymore.

Monday afternoon, I went out to ride. Yay.

Tristan's tail wrap was missing. Lo, the miracle of the Elastikon had at last come to an end; it continued almost two more weeks after I first reported it. Goddamn, you guys, seriously.

Anyway: it was gone now.

So, I lifted up his tail, curious as to what it would look like. It had been nearly two months since we put in the cisplastin beads, and one month since I last looked at it, when it looked like a healing scab.

There was nothing there.


You can sorta-kinda see a vague outline of a maybe-lump in the second picture. That's where it was.

No stitches.

No lump.

Like nothing ever happened.

Certainly not a $750 ordeal with multiple vet checks and a biopsy and a second lab test on the biopsy and goddamn chemotherapy.


I mean, I am not complaining. Really, I'm not. I have an email in the vet basically consisting of ?!?!?! and I am a smidge worried that maybe the beads were supposed to come out? Also, the stitches? But other than that, problem seems to be solved without another vet visit.

So, thus ends the saga of the tail tumor, which was weird from point A to point B.

Monday, October 12, 2015

2pointober: Week One

Good news: Improvement!

Bad news: sonofabitch ow.

It was just too nice to stay inside last night and bang out trot sets, which had been the plan, so I just started off in the indoor and warmed up and then got my new baseline out of the way.

So, our progression thus far:

baseline: 0:47
Week 1: 2:11


Also. Ow.

After the baseline, we headed out to the field for some walking and trotting. Tristan was wholly uninterested and unimpressed and kept tripping. Sigh. But at least it was pretty?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

House Post: Nest Thermostat

When we rewired the house, we had to replace all of our old smoke & CO detectors in order to bring them up to code. There were, approximately, 8 million of the things throughout the house, either battery-powered or plugged in or you name it, of at least three different vintages.

So we yanked them all out and I piled them up to donate (those that were still up to code just not the right kind for our house because code is complicated), and ordered new ones. The electrician had brought the regular wired-in kind, but I took the plunge and bought three of the new Nest Protect smoke & CO detectors. They talk to each other via wifi, and they talk to my phone, and lo, they are awesome.

That is a really long way of saying that when Efficiency Vermont started a new statewide study of Nest thermostats, offering to give them to homeowners for free as long as we met a few basic requirements (check) and allowed access to our utilities consumption for the next two years (check), I jumped on board.

I installed it that night, I was so excited. Here is a step by step.

Old thermostat. Contained actual mercury, non-programmable. I brought it to our local hardware store for proper disposal and got a $5 gift card. #wining

Ugly hole in the wall, with old wallpaper behind. Awesome. I debated cleaning this up, re-mudding it, etc., but then decided to deal with all of that when we do the wallpaper & repainting in the hallway.

New Nest mounting plate, wiring not yet done.

Wired! After our rewiring earlier this summer I have probably more than the average experience at handing my home electrical stuff, but once I squared away which wires go where (with the help of the booklet & the internet) this could not have been easier.

Then we told it to find wifi. This took a little while because it had to refresh its software once it did connect.

And done! Bonus hilarity because our wifi network is named SkyNet thanks to the husband.

Here's my Nest app. I can check in on my smoke detectors and make sure they are all working properly, and also dig into my thermostat even from work, which is awesome.

So: yes, we really do keep our heat set at 60. Welcome to Vermont. The "fallback" temp is 50, which is what it will be when we are away from the house. I am being VERY conservative with the heat during our first winter because a) I am not rich and b) I just don't know what the energy use patterns for the house are yet, ie how much oil it really takes to get & keep it up to temperature.

The good news is that the Nest app helps us figure that out. It tells you how long the heat was on for, what times it came on, and the thermostat itself starts to automatically figure out when you're home and when you're away and will adjust the temperature for you.

It will also start to learn how long it takes our heating system to turn on & produce heat, and then how long it takes the house to get up to temperature. So it will adjust accordingly: it will turn it on when it needs to and make computer-educated guesses as to how long it needs to stay on.

Huzzah for technology!

At $200 each, I knew that I wanted one but it was probably not in the house budget for this season, so I was VERY excited to get this for free in exchange for participating in a cool energy-saving study. Win-win.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Weekly Blog Roundup

A roundup of horse blog posts this week.

Secrets to simplifying your R&R life from Boots & Saddles
Really, really good ideas, all of them.

5 things I learned at the AECs from The $900 Facebook Pony
Hilarious, touching, and thoughtful all at once.

Out of place in another saddle from The Maggie Chronicles
Interesting thinking - do you feel odd riding other horses, or is it part of your routine?

Eliminating dichotomous thinking from A Enter Spooking
Huh. Good thinky stuff there.

Breaking the mold from The Pony Club Pizza
I...may need this information. I have no excuse.

Interview: Sarah Crowe, Creator of Dyna Does Dressage Documentary from The Aspiring Equestrian
A documentary about a mule doing dressage. WHERE DO I SIGN UP?

Equestrian Apparel for All Shapes and Sizes from Hand Gallop
Great guide.

Tiny Side Project from The Reeling
AAAAAAHHHHH. I want one.

Hoof Over Time Project: Conclusion from Boots & Saddles
The whole project has been fascinating and informative, and this wrap up is particularly good.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Product Review & Giveaway!: Two Horse Tack Halter Bridle

Important clarification/disclaimer: I received this product for free as a review item.

Note: If you're just here for the giveaway, scroll all the way down, but I encourage you to read the review, too.

Two Horse Tack is a US-based maker of custom biothane strap goods - bridles, halters, harnesses, breastplates, etc. They have a genuinely dizzying array of different styles, colors, sizes, and options.

I've thought seriously about a biothane halter-bridle combination for years. It always seemed just outside of sensible when I had so many other things (like vet bills) on my plate. So I was stupid excited to get an email from Two Horse Tack offering me my pick of anything on their website in return for a review & a giveaway promotion. No arm twisting required!

So, step 1: ordering. Like I said, an unbelievable array of possibilities there. It took me quite some time and hemming and hawing to finally decide on what I wanted. I chose the Traditional Halter Bridle made with Reflective Day Glo Biothane. I opted for the reflective biothane because I primarily envisioned this as a trail riding bridle, and I wanted something really obvious for hunting season. One tiny quibble: there was no true hunter's blaze orange among the reflective options. (Or at least that wasn't clear; there was an orange but I couldn't tell if it was blaze orange, so didn't choose it.)

I ended up ordering the black base, with lime green day glo overlay. I chose the Horse size bridle - Tristan is often a fairly true horse size, and the range said it ran from 14.2 to 16h horses, so seemingly on the smaller side. I went with the stainless steel hardware and matching reins, and chose the roller buckle attachments for the reins because I prefer them whenever possible. I didn't go with a breast collar or curb strap, and chose white stitching because I thought it would be a nice contrast. (So, basically, I bought the exact same bridle that the model horse is wearing.)

The retail price for this combination was $112.50, which is actually really good for a new bridle with reins!

Because every piece is custom-made, it didn't ship immediately, but it also did not take too long at all; my records show that it shipped within 2-3 days, and took another 2-3 days to get to me. I was really pleasantly surprised.

Since its arrival, we've been sort of up and down, but I've ridden in it about a dozen times, both in a trail riding and a schooling context.

Overall impression: I'm really, really pleased. I think it looks sharp. The hardware is all nice stuff, and the biothane itself is way nicer than I would have guessed, not having much exposure to it previously. It was stiff to start off with but is loosening up nicely. The dayglo overlay absolutely stands out, and the reflective strip is VERY reflective.

Fit: Horse size was definitely the right way to go. Tristan's head is a comfortable fit; when you actually read their sizing guidelines, their horse size seems to be on the small side. The reins are definitely on the long side, which is actually totally fine for trail riding. It might get a little irritating for schooling. The good news is that the biothane is probably really easy to just snip and re-punch if you wanted to shorten them.

Quality: Like I said, pretty darn impressed. The hardware is solid, and the biothane is really quite nice.  It feels more rubbery than plasticky, soft and light. There are a small number of spots where the stitching is not perfectly in line, but it's only noticeable on very close inspection.

I've gotten several admiring compliments on it, and it is my go-to for any kind of field or road hack, especially now that we're entering hunting season.

I love, love, love the halter bridle aspect of it, for a lot of reasons. My current favorite is that if I forget something at my stall or in the tack room - a not infrequent occurrence - I can just toss him on the crossties and hustle back to grab it, rather than take off his bridle or ask someone to hold him or any number of inconvenient options.

However, the first time I put it on resulted in a rather derpy moment.

Tristan would like you to know that his mom is an IDIOT.

It was like my brain got mixed up between halter and bridle and I honestly stared at the bit hanging below his jaw for a moment in deep confusion. Like...wait I did what I was supposed to - OH. The good news? I just unclipped the bit, slid it into his mouth, and then clipped it back on without undoing the whole bridle!

In summary: I love this thing. I was excited to try it out, and it was precisely what I wanted. It's not often you can say that about something!

SO. Now for the most exciting part: the giveaway. 

Two Horse Tack is sponsoring a giveaway just for readers of this blog. They're giving away a Western breastcollar. I know most of you ride English, but I just spent a long time studying the photographs of the breastcollar's basically the same thing, without the grab strap.

Here's what you should do:

1) Go to Two Horse Tack's giveaway page. At the bottom of the form, enter "Bel Joeor blog" when it asks how you heard about us. This is the really important step - that will make sure you're part of the smaller pool of people who are eligible for just this giveaway.

2) Leave a comment here letting me know that you entered the giveaway. If you spent some time perusing the website, tell me what caught your eye - what would you want to buy for yourself?

The giveaway will run through 10/31. Two Horse Tack will contact the winner directly but I'll stay in touch as well and make sure everything goes smoothly.

Ready, set...enter!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Vermont is pretty, my horse is an idiot

Last night I threw on my jump saddle and headed out to the fields to work on my two point. And realized that we are both sad sacks. This was reinforced by the official competitor's list in which I have to be among the top 5 lowest times. Room for improvement, right?

Anyway. We went down the field, we went up the field, we went across the field, and then we headed down the road for a bit. It was actually warmer than it has been - in the low 60s - but for whatever reason Tristan got progressively more up through the ride.

He tried (admittedly, half-heartedly) to take off with me up the hill, and then on the road on the way back he spooked, and kept spooking: a stray cat in the woods, a slippery bit of gravel.

And then a UPS truck.

Yeah. He got jumpy when he heard the rattle of the truck behind us, and I pushed him as far to the side of the road as possible and sat deep. Then the truck passed us, and he went up and sideways. Toward the truck. I'm sure we gave the truck driver a heart attack - we were probably only a few feet away from the side of the truck, on a rather narrow dirt road.

I actually never seriously thought he would go into it - he has more self-preservation than that - but it was still an ugly few seconds as I pony kicked hard to get him to go back to the right and manhandled the reins a bit to stop him flinging his neck all over the place, all while yelling at the top of my lungs "COULD YOU JUST FUCKING NOT RIGHT NOW?"

And then the truck passed, and things were fine, until the next gust. Ugh.

So we did a little bit of walking in which he did not get any say whatsoever in where he put his feet, and we went into the outdoor and did some big trots around the edge of the arena, then incorporated some trot poles, and he did not get one iota of say in anything he did for the next 10 minutes. He had to put his feet where I told him to, when I told him to. That seemed to put his brain back between his ears, with the added benefit of getting some nice pole work in.

So, mixed success on the two point front - though I did get some work in while we were still in the field, and I stood up at the walk when he wasn't spooking one the road - and a sort of, kind of near death experience

Tonight: dressage school with some two point practice, then some trot sets tomorrow in the outdoor.