Monday, April 17, 2017

Talk to me about spring clipping


You have all talked me down from the clipping ledge many times before.

So here I return, to ask further questions.

I'm seeing a lot of people doing spring clips to get ahead of shedding. It's warming up more quickly here in Vermont than I anticipated, and I'm holding back a bit on my rides because it's warm enough to sweat with hard work but not yet warm enough to rinse horses off.

remnants of winter's clip

So I find myself pondering a spring clip, to take out the winter fuzz and get us to the endpoint faster.

Realistically, I can't accomplish this for another couple of weeks, so it may all be beside the point.

But what should I keep in mind when thinking about doing a spring clip?

Is there such a thing as too late to do it? How about too early? (He's still wearing his sheet and we will continue to have a frost threat overnight until late May.)

Is there a setting I should use on the clippers - perhaps not go as close? Use different blades? (Pretend I'm stupid, and educate me in small words.)

Is it even worth it? Should I just stick it out with my shedding tools?

How do you decide whether to just let your horse shed out or clip him?

picture like 10x more hair; I took this picture 3 weeks ago

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Weekly Blog Roundup

Waze for Horses from In Omnia Paratus
I laughed pretty hard. This would be a top selling app in minutes.

Review: Kentucky Bridleworks Leather Halter from The $900 Facebook Pony
I've been drooling over these halters on Instagram for a while now. Maybe for Christmas next year Tristan can have one.

Too legit to quit from PONY'TUDE
Please go and also drool over the hunt coat of my dreams. I would be wearing that beauty every chance I got!

Really gross, but... from Not So Speedy Dressage
Uncomfortable (on several levels) but important!

How do you choose a bit? from Patently Bay
I am a sucker for these bitting posts,

That time my dog's junk got stuck from Riding with Scissors
I laughed so hard I cried.

Non-horsey read of the week: Going It Alone, about hiking the Appalachian Trail as a queer black woman alone. Extraordinary read.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Blog Hop: Poetry Month

Trying my hand at a blog hop, here, for April as National Poetry Month.

What's your favorite poem about horses? If you don't have a favorite, do some Googling and find one you like! Song lyrics count, too.

Mine is Robert Frost's The Runaway. It's one of his earliest, first published in 1918. Frost is my favorite poet, and he often included horses in his poetry. He spent a lot of time in Vermont and he knew Morgans well.

Frost with a foal, c. 1930

Here's the poem.

ONCE when the snow of the year was beginning to fall,
We stopped by a mountain pasture to say, “Whose colt?”
A little Morgan had one forefoot on the wall,
The other curled at his breast. He dipped his head
And snorted to us. And then we saw him bolt.        5
We heard the miniature thunder where he fled,
And we saw him, or thought we saw him, dim and gray,
Like a shadow across instead of behind the flakes.
The little fellow’s afraid of the falling snow.
He never saw it before. It isn’t play        10
With the little fellow at all. He’s running away.
He wouldn’t believe when his mother told him, ‘Sakes,
It’s only weather.’ He thought she didn’t know!
So this is something he has to bear alone
And now he comes again with a clatter of stone,        15
He mounts the wall again with whited eyes
Dilated nostrils, and tail held straight up straight.
He shudders his coat as if to throw off flies.
“Whoever it is that leaves him out so late,
When all other creatures have gone to stall and bin,        20
Ought to be told to come and take him in.”

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Wordless Wednesday: Muddiest Pony in All the Land

We hit mid 70s here on Monday & Tuesday, obscenely hot for this time of year, and Tristan had his first day outside without his blanket in many months, and boy, did he make the most of it.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Winter Gear Review

I've done some roundups of gear that gets me through the winter in the past (here's 2013 part 1 & part 2), and since this week we've officially hit spring (after snow flurries last Saturday, hahahaha, fuck you, weather), I thought I'd do a quick roundup of what worked really well for me this winter.


First and best addition to the wardrobe: new winter breeches. I've been looking for a good pair of winter breeches for a long time; my old breeches were threadbare and wearing out fast.

That niche was admirably filled by the Noble Outfitters Softshell Riding Pants. These did absolutely everything I wanted them to: they held up to 5 days a week of riding, they were lined and warm, they cleaned up nicely, they came through the laundry just fine.


In 2016, I spent a lot of time trying out gloves, both winter and summer. I had some abysmal failures, and some tentative success. This year, I'm happy to declare that the gloves I was happiest with in 2016 remained my favorites through 2017.

My absolute favorites were the SSG Fleece Knit Winter Riding Fleece-Lined gloves. They were warm enough and flexible enough to get me through. The caveat? They are not the sturdiest things. The second caveat? They're no longer made; I can't find the on the internet anywhere. Damn it all.

My runner up gloves, which were warm but not depths-of-winter warm, were the Equistar Ladies Fleece Winter Riding Gloves. Let's be honest: these are total junk. They have zero fancy upgrades, are not particularly stylish, and I honestly might be able to sew them myself given some thinking time. HOWEVER, with all of that? They're the best combination of warm, comfortable, and flexible that I found after the knit gloves, and at $5 a pair, I don't particularly care that they might not last more than two or three seasons. (For the record: my two pairs are still in totally fine condition after two seasons.)


My best-beloved and discontinued Ariat winter boots remain perfect. These will last forever, God willing, and even if they do finally go to the great tack closet in the sky someday, I am happy enough with their similarities to the new Ariat winter boot lines to buy those immediately and strongly suspect I'll be happy.


Alllllll about the layers. This winter, I could most typically be found in long-sleeved technical shirts of two kinds, depending on the weather. For warmer (20 degrees or more) days, I have a few that can double as sunshirts, made out of lighter technical fabric. For colder days, I have a few that are fleece lined and more in the style of compression shirts, most of the made by Nike. That was base layer.

I also had a nice rotation of sweatshirts or other thicker layers over that base layer, and topped it off with a Patagonia down jacket that was light and flexible but also quite warm.


One of my very favorite additions to my winter wardrobe remains my fleece helmet cover. It makes a HUGE difference in comfort, both as a insulating layer to keep my head from bleeding warmth and as a windbreaker to block the vents in my helmet. I freaking love it.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Monday, April 10, 2017

Nashville Blogger Meetup?

In about two weeks, I'll be down in Nashville for a few days for a bachelorette party. Said party will take over most of my time there, BUT!

It literally just occurred to me last night that some of you are in the Nashville area and we could meet up.

Because of time constraints & other commitments on my part, the only day/time that works is afternoon through evening on Sunday, April 23. I will have at that point rented a car so I can do some traveling further afield but would rather not go more than an hour.

Are you in Nashville? Want to put together a horse blogger meetup? Send me an email: beljoeorATgmailDOTcom.

Also: if there's anything horsey (or otherwise) I should check out in Nashville, let me know! I may have an hour or two free in the previous days that I can use to pursue my own interests.

(I am...not really a country music fan? But I like Tennnessee, and history, and barbecue, and biscuits, and tourist things.)

Sunday, April 9, 2017

House Post: Recycling Smartpak Containers as Seedling Planters

When I reorganized the basement, I set up what would become a new seedling growing area. After last year's initial foray into growing from seed, I doubled down this year because I am apparently trying to reach peak Vermont.

I had a grow light that my father gave me, I had some scrap lumber, and I had most of what I needed from last year's seedling supplies. I did not have quite everything I needed, which is where the Smartpaks come in.

First, the actual setup itself.

First picture is the location; second is my scrap lumber grow light holder.

As you can see, I had the tray, but what next?

Well: I happened to walk by the barn's pile of Smartpaks for recycling on my way out of the barn and that started the wheels turning, so I grabbed a pile and came home to work my germ of an idea into an actual plan.

Necessary tools: a drill with a thin bit (I used a 5/32 bit), used Smartpaks.

I ended up putting five holes in each well, and stacked them all up so I could do a whole bunch at a time.

It took me maybe five minutes..

Then I laid them out in the tray. I had a standard tray that I bought at Agway; I think it's roughly 10" x 20". By some miracle, the Smartpaks fit beautifully 4 across and 8 down What you're seeing below is a combination of a couple different sizes of Smartpaks; some fives, some threes, some twos. Four 5 packs + three 4 packs would've been perfect but I made do.

Then it was fairly easy to pour soil over the top of them and portion them out. I can't plant for a little while longer, since Vermont will be a frozen tundra until Memorial Day, but I did start lettuce in my other open tray just to get something green in my life.

I'm getting ready, though, and plotting out how much of each I want to grow!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Weekly Blog Roundup

The Vaccination Struggle from The Exquisite Equine
Tris doesn't react badly to vaccines so this isn't something I usually worry about, but I have friends for whom this is an annual problem.

RWYM - General from Pampered Ponies
Some really good notes on a riding position clinic. Lots to think about here.

Eventers: What's under your show coat? from PONY'TUDE
I've only fairly recently graduated from my old hunter shirt to more technical fabric, so seeing the range of replies in the comments was particularly interesting!

World Cup hangover from Hand Gallop
What a cool way to experience the World Cup!

Friday, April 7, 2017

March Madness 2017 FINAL: The Pie v Beauty


Three rounds, sixteen excellent competitors, and I bet some of you would have called this final match from the very beginning.

Here we go; poll will be open until midnight on Monday, April 10, EST. I expect it to be fiercely competitive and to go right down to the wire, so make sure you vote!

Final Match

The Pie


Black Beauty

Instead of the images I've been sharing, I thought I'd insert some clips from the movies that feature these famous fictional horses.

First up is a nice compilation of scenes from National Velvet in four minutes, but 0:46 starts the really memorable bit.

And here's the very last scene of Black Beauty. If this clip doesn't make you cry like a baby, well. I don't even know.

Now that you've fortified yourself, it's time to vote.

And having voted, make sure you enter the Rafflecopter one last time for your chance to win a custom quarter sheet (or saddle cover, or helmet cover, we'll talk.)

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

March Lesson Notes

Super behind, but I DID have a lesson in March!

We worked more on getting him truly forward, and then on working out how much weight he takes in the reins right now.

I always worry about this line: when do I take too much weight back, too much of a pull, and I'm backing him off or being hard on his mouth?

The answer we worked out in this lesson was: way more than I had been using (I'd been using an extremely light touch with the reins to keep encouraging him to fill them up) BUT the key was that he had to be going forward.

Forward is always the key; I should be able to remember that by now, right? Ha. But: when he is forward, I can take much more weight than I can otherwise, because I'm not sucking him back, or stalling him out. I'm using the weight to encourage him to lighten.

Primarily, I was using very strong inside aids to a firm holding outside rein as a very hard half halt. Strong aids is not a new thing for Tristan, but I struggle with getting in & getting out again, and often fall into the trap of simply increasing the strength of the aid over and over again.

That's actually been the story with my leg aids for a long time now, and I've been working hard on leg aid means GO and then taking them off in the meantime.

This may sound really stupid, and I feel kind of embarrassed for putting it out there, but Tristan has typically required constant, strong, nagging leg aids to maintain forward momentum. It's a training problem, and it's entirely my fault. I'm working hard on fixing it right now, with the result that we're getting long minutes at a stretch of a springy, forward trot with only occasional leg aids to ask him to come strongly out of a corner.

By the end of the lesson, I'd reached a new equilibrium with my rein aids and he was giving me a lovely strong uphill feel through the base of the neck and into the bridle.

In the two weeks since, he's been going really well, like we've unlocked something in him, to the degree that I've been schooling transitions in that uphill frame, and working on lightening him in the bit in the trot. Canter still weighs a ton and is not wildly maneuverable, but I can feel how much lighter it is already, and I'm excited!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

2017 Goals: March Recap

Previously, I set horse goals and life goals.

January RecapFebruary Recap

So, how was March?
Horse Goals - original post here

1. Put hands on my horse 5x a week - yes! accomplished

2. Be less perfunctory - Baby steps. One thing that's really helped me in this goal this month is to force myself into making deliberate decisions about things. I had gotten into habits of "well, we'll wait and see." Now I try to take a moment, examine the situation, and actively decide: "should I keep reading/watching tv/etc. and if so, is that how I want to spend the next period of time? or should I get up and do something? when I say I am going to accomplish X today, what does that mean?"

3. Aim toward dressage schooling shows - I guess? Still not sure what to do about my schedule problems.

4. Take more lessons - March, check! Scheduled April.

5. Horse-specific income stream / funding emergency fund - Tristan's emergency fund is now at $700/$1500, and my overall emergency fund is at $8,315/$12,000, which means Tristan's account is on track to complete this year and the emergency fund is growing slowly but surely and will be complete next year.

Some progress on the income stream: a couple of inquiries are bearing fruit and I've written a business plan.

We'll see.

6. Do more thoughtful work - Um...I spent all of March doing the March Madness stuff, which was a ton of fun but not exactly thoughtful. Then I flaked out at the end. I get a big fat F on this one for this month, but have been trying to make notes for April posts.

7. Get more media - Faiiiiiiiiil.

Life Goals - original post here

1. Pay off car - yup still on track. Realistically, though I would love to knock this out early, I've had to divert some savings to important things like replacing my 12 year old desktop computer at home.

2. Read 75 books - 21/75 down:

Some Luck, by Jane Smiley
The Fireman, by Joe Hill
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin
The Broken Kingdoms by NK Jemisin
The Kingdom of Gods by NK Jemisin
The Path Between the Seas [halfway] by David McCullough

Again, slower due to heavy nonfiction.

3. Revive history blogs - Suck. Just suck.

4. Do better about food - Tiny steps, but also some backsliding because goddamn, pizza is the perfect food.

5. Decorate the house - does reorganizing the basement again count?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

How quickly is ok to move a horse through training?

I've been thinking about this article from Eventing Nation on and off for a week now.

Chris Talley and Unmarked Bills: From Track To Three-Star in Two Years

Relevant bits from the article:

He raced in California, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey before retiring in November of 2014 [at age 5].
So Bills went with Chris to Florida in January 2015, and four months later he was entered in his first event at Training level. “I wanted to enter the Novice, but I entered late,” Chris says. “I contacted the organizers and they said all they had was a spot for Beginner Novice or for Training, so I figured we’d just give the Training a shot. He was a little unsure of things, but he has such a big heart, he just tried all weekend long.”
By August 2015, they had moved up to Prelim after completing three Training events; the next year, they came out at Intermediate and did three CIC** evenets over summer and fall 2016, and came in 15th at the Fair Hill CCI** in fall 2016.

The horse came back out at Intermediate in early February 2017, and did his first Advanced at Pine Top in late February. Last week, they came out at the Carolina CIC***.

When asked how he was able to move up the levels so quickly, Chris is quick to give all the credit to Bills and his incredible Thoroughbred heart. “Bills just never stops trying. The cross country has never been an issue for him,” Chris says. “He has struggled with connection issues on the flat, but he’s always been incredibly bold over jumps.”
So let's do the math: first event ever at Training in January 15 after 2 months off the track. 25 months later, he ran his first Advanced; 26 months later, a three star. Their spring plans include another CIC*** and then the CCI*** at Bromont in June.

I will be the first one to say: I am not an upper level rider. I have never taken a horse beyond Beginner Novice; I have never retrained an OTTB. Arguably, I have done such a shitty job of training my own green horse that we're still dealing with basic things after a decade.

But: 26 months from racing to three star? That can't possibly be ok, right? Even if we assume the horse had a ridiculously high base of fitness from the track, even if we assume he is some kind of prodigy at cross country, does he still really and truly understand his job as a three star horse after barely two years? Even more, does he understand it well enough to handle all the challenges and complexities of some of these huge courses?

I'm genuinely curious. Is this a reasonable, if fast, timeline, or do you think there are dangerous training holes?

Monday, April 3, 2017

March Madness 2017: Round 3, Match 2: The Black v Beauty


This is the worst - THE WORST - matchup in the entire contest so far. Brace yourselves.

Round 3, Match 2

The Black v Beauty

These two have an awful lot in common. They are both beloved literary horses who became really wonderful movies. They're both black. They both have hard times. They're both beloved of one boy.

They're also different. The Black's entire storyline is about being tamed only by that one boy; Beauty is constantly trying to please everyone.

Their origin stories are about a hundred years apart, and the messages of their stories are dramatically different. The Black is about adventure, passion, and exclusivity; Beauty is about the ways the world chews you up, and what that reveals about the people who go in and out of his life.

(You might also argue that the relative literary quality of their source material differs as well...)

Who will keep going?

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Sunday, April 2, 2017

House Post: Basement Organization Forever


It was not a whole lot of fun, but I did it.

So the last pieces that needed to be done were:
- flip shelving to cut through braces on the bottom
- reattach new bracing to the back
- cut down plywood to make a new top shelf
- move everything to its new position
- get all scrap lumber to appropriate (reuse, burn, dump) piles

When last I wrote about this project, here's where I left the shelving.

So, next step, flipping it forward to cut off the bottom part, then re-attaching bracing to the back. Luckily I found some leftover pressure treated 2x2 wood that suited this part quite nicely. Unluckily, I was using these 3" trim nails with a special star bit head and I stripped, like, three bits before I got the knack of it, sigh.

Then it got flipped right side up (okay actually let's all be honest here: it went up and down like five times while I was doing this part because I waffled a lot on the best way to do it and spent a lot of time swearing and thinking about giving up).

I also put the last piece of back bracing on - the top shelf support against the cellar wall in the below picture.

Then, I marked up and trimmed down the plywood that had previously been on top of the shelving, in the very safest manner possible, obviously.

(still amazed there were no power tool mishaps)

(though this was the stage at which the following conversation took place)


This was the moment I finally thought "oh, wow, actually this was all worth it after all."

While turning it I discovered a whole lot of instabilities that I hadn't before, so after putting it into this position I spent some time putting screws ev-e-ry-where.

Then, I cleaned up some of the things you can see here in the foreground and moved over the project table to its final location.

Then I moved the leftover printer table that was getting thrown away (well, not like to the dump but it was up for the taking) to its ultimate location to begin life as a seed starting table, about which more next week.

Then I dealt with the scrap lumber, ugh.

Then I added in the organizing bins and lo, they fit perfectly, and put the first project (a coffee table that broke during the move & needs to be refinished anyway) on the big project table.

So, let's do a before & after, shall we?

aahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh so much better.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Weekly Blog Roundup

Couple of links for you on this Saturday.

How to back a trailer from Dr. Mel Newton
To this excellent list - with illustrations - I would add PRACTICE. This is truly a skill that anyone can learn. I am the most spatially challenged person I know, and I learned.

Let's Discuss: The Retirement Plan from House on a Hill
I love this - I've been putting a lot of thought into it myself lately. It's something every horse owner should think about.

World Equestrian Center Tour from Fly on Over

Rodeo Queen to Dressage Queen from Not So Speedy Dressage

Splat: Finding Commitment and Drive After Discovering That I Don't Bounce Anymore from PONY'TUDE
Welcome to my life. (but seriously this is thoughtful and well-written)

This week's non-horsey read: The Trauma of Facing Deportation from The New Yorker. This is an amazing, emotional, compassionate read about the mental health of children who are in precarious situations. It's from Sweden, but worth considering in light of the things happening in America right now.