Saturday, May 27, 2017

Weekly Blog Roundup

First, a question about these roundups. It occurred to me that maybe some people would like them in their email inbox as weekend reading. Could you answer the poll question below and let me know what you think? I'd probably try and make an email version a little bit beefier - maybe tie in a COTH thread that I thought was worthwhile, a meme or two, and some other updates.

Horses Handed Down from A Gift Horse
I actually never thought about whether or not to hand down the bad parts of horses.

Are calming supplements cheating? from Hand Gallop
A topic that brings a lot of passion out.

Help a Haffie Out - I Need a Name! from Wyvern Oaks
CUTENESS. Also, naming posts never get old for me.

Two Horse Tack Product Review x3 from In Omnia Paratus
Some really nice things and also gorgeous pictures of a gorgeous horse showing them off.

Mud and Projects from The Feral Red Horse
I am such a sucker for these detailed barn planning posts.

What to Buy Wednesday: Washing Machines from Eventing Saddlebred Style
Anyone have some advice?

Managing Seasonal Allergies in Horses from If the Saddle Fits
My answer is "drugs. lots of 'em" but other people may have more success with management.

Grindstone Mountain Farm Keeps Former King Oak Farm H.T. Tradition Alive from Eventing Nation
This is stretching the definition of blog post but it makes me insanely happy so I don't care. King Oak for my birthday weekend was one of my very favorite things, and I treasure all my memories of those weekends.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

May Lesson Notes

Lesson notes almost didn't happen for this month because the lesson almost didn't happen because I am a fucking idiot and wrote down the wrong time. Thankfully, my barn manager texts AND I live less than ten minutes from the barn. I was on and warming up only 30 minutes after my planned start time. Sigh.

What we worked on:

1. Forward. Always. Forever. In this lesson we focused hard on quickness and getting his feet hustling, accomplished at least partly by me posting much more quickly, which frustrated him enough to want to match it.

2. Bending through his whole body. He was actually pretty responsive to softening in his jaw right off the bat, but took longer to convince to yield his ribcage and step through with his inside hind, particularly to the left.

3. Lateral work. In particular, we worked hard on sharpening up my aids for the shoulder in: when I was asking for too much bend, when I wasn't signalling clearly enough with my leg aids to keep his hind end moving. It still wasn't bright and quick but it was a damn sight more through than I've ever had him in the shoulder in. We also dabbled in haunches in, even getting a few creditable steps at a time.

4. Canter. For once, we didn't actually school the canter too much because it was pretty darn good! But I finally got the idea hammered into me that I am breaking too much at the wrists in the canter.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

House Post: Library Organizing & Rug

The library has been in fine shape for some time now; once we did the initial renovation, it's functioned nicely as a library/craft room/exercise room. I spend a lot of quality time in there reading and sewing, and a lot of miserable time on the treadmill.

However, an upgrade for the space has been on the back of my mind for some time now, and last weekend that finally happened.

Here's the before; pardon the mess, but it all shifts around on a regular basis as I better organize the books and cut and sew fabric.

We took all the furniture out of the room except the bookshelves, and rolled up the old rug, which led to the sad discovery that in the year or so since we originally pulled up the old rug, there was some bad sun fading to the beautiful hardwood floors.

This room got more direct sunlight than almost any other in the house - definitely more than any other room that has the exposed hardwood. So that's a lesson learned for me, I guess. It's not a problem going forward, though, because after vacuuming and cleaning up a bit, we unrolled a new rug in the space.

It's actually quite an old rug, belonging to my great-great-uncle many years ago and having made its way to me through a chain of family members. The label on the back indicates it actually came from Iran - probably at least 75 years ago. It's still in extraordinary shape and fits the room perfectly. I love it.

With the unrolling of the rug, the treadmill went elsewhere, and I am working hard to organize the books still further. I'm even - gulp - setting aside boxes to donate and/or sell to our local used bookstore.

This room isn't 100% done yet; my longterm goal for this room is to do built-in shelving all the way around. That's a few years off, though. So this is how it will live in the near term!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Weekly Blog Roundup

Let's talk about tack trunks from Hand Gallop
Organization is one of my favorite things to think and talk about, so this post and its comments are great.

Naming Baby M from Equestrian at Hart
I had the distinct pleasure of meeting this stinking cute little colt when he was just a few days old - go help Hillary name him!

My Horse Has EOTRH (What on Earth?) from Saddle Seeks Horse
I had never ever heard of this before, and I consider myself a connoisseur of weird horse diseases.

DIY: How to Make a Trailer Bench for Your Trailer Tack Room from DIY Horse Ownership

Warm Up & Warm Down from Eventing Nation
Tinkering with warm up is one of my endless obsessions, so I liked what this had to say - particularly about long walks and the actual physical readiness component of a warmup for cross country.

Five Pony Club Rules That Are Slightly Impractical from Eventing Connect
I was a Pony Club DC for a number of years. We used to say that there is the Pony Club way, and you will never ever go wrong following it, but there are often other equally smart & safe ways to do things. I still think Pony Club has it down in terms of teaching kids safe and quality ways to interact with horses, but boy are they sticklers.

The sad saga of DJ Trump, Donald Trump's lone foray into horse racing from the Washington Post
It's pretty obvious that the fuckwit-in-chief is a failure as a human being on every count, but did you know he even behaves shittily toward horses? Well, here you go.

Finally, new blog alert; I've known Paula for years and she has a truly extraordinary story to tell, so please check her out & follow along: My Brave Arab Mare

Your non-horsey read for the week: My Family's Slave. This was mind-boggling, heart-wrenching, and extraordinary. Take the time to read it through.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Three things we're working on right now in dressage rides

There's not much that's more boring than a ride recap in which I just write "yep, went pretty well" for a couple of paragraphs. For the first stretch of time in a long time, my rides are going pretty damn well. It's a perfect combination of regular lessons, a horse in great physical condition, my renewed commitment to physical fitness and presence, and a couple of small revelations all clicking together at the same time.

That said, my horse still can't really canter on the bit, so obviously it's pretty far from perfect. Here are three things we're working on right now in our dressage schools.

1. Accessing the hind end independent of the front end.

First and foremost, this has implications for lateral work. It's part of getting him to be more supple and responsive. I can do a somewhat acceptable leg yield and shoulders in without fine control of his hind end. I cannot hope to get beyond that. I started playing with haunches in yesterday and it was not pretty.

It's both a frustrating problem and an interesting puzzle to work on. It's a lot of thinking for me, requiring a much higher degree of communication through my seat than I have been used to, as well as more subtlety of aids than I have trained my horse to respond to. That's the tough thing about being 99% responsible for your horse's training: no one to blame but yourself.

So I am struggling to do things like ask him to step through with his inside hind from the saddle, and to do different things with his hind end than his shoulders might be pointing toward. Moving against the bend is a big red flag what is even wrong with you, mom? See also, haunches in. Most of our problems in that can be boiled down to being totally unwilling to step under with his hind end in a new way.

2. Transitions, transitions, transitions

I've been hitting these hard lately, particularly the trot to canter. Halt to walk, walk to trot - not perfect, but I can get them soft and through with some level of consistency. Slowly, slowly the trot to canter is starting to shape up.

I like the longe line for this, particularly with side reins or the chambon. Once I've got him responsive and quick off the aids, I ask for a trot to canter. I praise him for transitions in which he pushes up from his hind end, through his back & withers, even a little bit. Transitions in which his neck goes vertical and he lurches his whole body upward via his shoulders get an instant back to the trot and then another swift try. His reward is thus both loud praise - which he does respond to on the longe - and a brief respite from doing transitions.

I'm also working on downward transitions, specifically not quitting on them. I'm trying to make them true transitions and not just a drop down, carrying over energy and softness, and using a higher gait to invigorate a lower gait. This has been working particularly well in canter to trot, and my most successful strategy has been patience: waiting for the right moment to ask, usually on a long side after a good, deep, bending corner.

3. Bend to straight and back again

Everyone has lessons they're always re-re-re-re-re-learning. Forward is my core one. I've added a new lesson to that list: the phenomenal improvement in Tristan's way of going by focusing on moving between a deeper bend and a true straightness.

The best example of this is coming down to a short stride: I ask him to stay straight and then for a deep bend to make a true, directed corner instead of just shaving off the corner and making a sort of oval. Then I aim for 2-3 strides of a straight, uphill gait on the short side, then another deep corner.

A slightly different variation of it is on a 20m circle. Points of the compass get a stride or two of deeper bend, and curves get more straightness. (Obviously not complete straightness, but more of the dressage definition of straightness.)

If I focus on this hard, really follow up and work those feelings of bend and straightness through his whole body, keep him soft and reaching for the bit through it? 10 minutes of this work is like magic for him. It's like a giant, half-ring-sized half halt that's easier for him to process and makes him ever so much more supple and more willing to respond to what I'm asking going forward.

Are there any things you're particularly picking apart right now?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Seeking Testers for Equestrian Products

I'm actively trying to sew various things with an eye to at least nailing the patterns down as a personal exercise. If all goes well, I'd like to sell some of them.

I'm seeking testers, at all stages.

Sometimes, I'll ask you to receive a raw thing for free and let me know privately how it worked for you, with an eye to critical feedback. (My intent is not to hide, but rather to get substantive advice and work to improve.)

Sometimes, I'll have things that have gone through a few rounds of testing and I might be ready to give away or sell at a steep discount/at cost if you're interested in reviewing them.

I'll try to be upfront and clarify what the circumstances are around each item. Sometimes there will be an opportunity to customize; sometimes I'll have pictures and you can choose what you get. There will almost never be enough for everyone, so you'll have to get back to me quickly.

It's all a big experiment, and I'm hoping to have fun while I'm doing it, so if you sign up for this it's important to understand that! If it's not fun and interesting, there's no point in doing it.

So, if that all sounds interesting to you: please sign up with the form below! You'll be added to a mailing list and will receive emails when there are things available.

Testing signups are currently closed; they may open again at some point in the future, so keep an eye out!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Ten Questions for May

When in doubt about what to write, pick up a meme!

This one comes from The Horse Is Not Black.

1. What are your summer goals?

I'd like to continue our slow-but-steady progress in dressage; in particular, in accessing his hind end and working on relaxing instead of bracing through transitions. I'd also like to solve his assholery in the outdoor. I'll have to get it on video at some point so you all really understand what I mean, but I'd like it to stop. I don't mind spicey, I mind idiocy.

2. Do you have any tips or tricks for fly control?

Sigh. No. I want to try that new EcoVet stuff that people are raving about, just to see how it goes. Tristan wears a fly mask & fly sheet all summer but less to actually keep out flies than to keep him from other irritants. His eyes blow up if you look at them sideways and he has some kind of allergy that triggers hives. The fly gear helps with that, but actual flies are probably here to stay.

He does need a new fly sheet, though, since his old one (admittedly picked up for $15 on clearance 10 years ago) is giving him rubs. So that's on the list for this summer.

3. How often do you bathe your horse?

I'm really not sure. That's actually a good question. Once a month, maybe? He gets rinsed off whenever he sweats, so I don't know if that counts. I do hope to give him more regular baths this summer.

he hates baths so much.

4. Do you have any upcoming travel plans? Equine or otherwise?

It's a summer of family weddings, so we have three trips planned for that. It's also a travel summer for work, both to research a new exhibit and to do outreach work and speak on some of our past research topics. It's rare that work takes me out of state, though. Safe to say I'll be on the road at least once a week until it starts snowing.

5. What is your favorite way to beat the heat?

I am a thin-blooded lizard person and I rarely feel the need to beat the heat. (Also, it's Vermont; we'll have a week or two where it hits the 90s and that's as hot as it gets.) If I am really desperate there are rooms in our house that get better ventilation, and I read or do something to take my mind off it.

6. Do you do anything to prevent your horse from sunbleaching?

Nope. My horse is a funny color no matter what I do, I just try to sit back and enjoy whatever color he turns up as next. (His roaning has changed with every summer/winter coat shift for as long as I've known him.)

current state of funny horse color, spring 2017

7. How hot is too hot for you to ride?

Those weeks where it hits the 90s I'll ease off. Having the indoor helps - it's markedly cooler in there due to shade and cross-ventilation. It's really rare for me to choose not to ride because of the heat. I have more nuanced limits for cold.

8. How important is sun protection for you riding or just in general?

Less than it should be, for sure. There have been times in my life when I've been neurotic about sunscreen, but I've slacked on that in the last few years. I rarely burn (my skin has more olive tones) so I've gotten lazy.

9. Have you ever gone swimming with your horse?

Hahahahahaha. I once tried to get Tristan to the edge of a small pond and it resulted in a 45 minute bucking & rearing fit. Desert mustangs Do Not Do Water. We've ridden through water jumps after much coaxing and weeks of firm cross-country schooling. That's as close as it gets.

10. And because shopping is always on my mind, what’s on your summer wish list?

New tall boots! Finally. Probably also some new sunshirts, I have a bunch of house-related wish list items as well, and some personal ones, like a new computer.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

House Goals: Year 2 Recap & Year 3 Goals

Here's the year 1 roundup, and stating of intentions of goals for year 1. (I mark years according to when we closed on the house, not calendar years.)

So let's recap my stated year 2 goals first:

- finish garage (and by extension, basement reorganization)

Mostly, actually - and the last of the necessary work is scheduled. I'm particularly happy with the basement reorganization.

- gut weird back room and turn it into a man cave

SO CLOSE. Just needs some touchup paint and then flooring.
- strip wallpaper and repaint: back bedroom, front bedroom, office, front hallway, nook area/game room
Back bedroom & office, check. Not on this list, but I'm halfway through the dining room.

- conserve front entryway mural

I had literally half a dozen repeats of the same "hey could you come look at my mural?" conversation with a conservator and it never happened. Does that count? Moving on to a new conservator who lives closer.
- sleeping porch: repaint, replace glass panes, finalize furniture arrangement there

Uh...I forgot this was on the list? So not a priority, probably won't even happen year 3. We did sort of finalize the furniture, mostly by default in that I cleaned it out and am reasonably happy with what's there, even if it is random.
- most remaining radiators stripped and repainted (will probably hold on sun room and living room for now)
...nope. Whether this happens this summer is entirely dependent on finances. I do have a better workflow for it, in that it makes more sense to do this AFTER we've otherwise finished the room, so that means I have three radiators that are ready to go, and maybe a fourth by the summer.

- landscaping and yard, including some raised beds for gardening

Ish? We did get the raised bed done.
- drainage work along the north side of the house to prevent flooding problems

No. :( This is the goal I am most frustrated about right now, and that's saying something. We do have some concrete plans to make progress on this, as in, I've bought the topsoil and we have a deadline for the first part of the work based on other work, so there will be progress this summer. But ultimately we need to dig a long ditch, buy materials, and set up a french drain and I feel like it will both be intimidating and expensive.

Okay, so what about year 3 (!) goals?

- finish dining room
- finish garage
- insulate basement, garage, and crawlspace
- throw out ALL construction trash
- decorate more
- strip wallpaper, paint, pull up carpet in guest bedroom
- finish attic: paint & panel
- figure out something to do with the yard so it doesn't look like shit constantly
- better organize library/craft room
- pull up carpet & refinish floor in back bedroom
- deal with closets

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Weekly Blog Roundup

A tail dying how to from Contact
I could never, ever pull this off with Tristan, but I do love the look of a nice black tail.

How not to be an a$$hole boarder from Riding with Scissors
Cosigned, every single one of these.

Austin Hunter Derby from She Moved to Texas

Gaited Horses Can't Do Dressage from Wait for the Jump
Pfffffft, is what I say. Go here for thoughtful rebuttal.

Do you know how to fall? from Eventing Nation
Before I rode, I vaulted, and one of the first things I was taught as a young vaulter was how to fall. It's knowledge that has proved invaluable over the years, so I love this program.

Reflecting on Eventing from Equestrian at Hart

A Little Dog Horse Show Recap from Guinness on Tap

Non-horsey read for the week: Literature's Arctic Obsession.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Braiding kits? What do you use, and how do you use it?

I'm doing a lot of experimenting with making and sewing things that might be useful for horse people, with a bit of a flair - in fun colors, or in YOUR colors, or clever patterns.

It does a nice job of combining a hobby that soothes my brain and lets me express a bit of creative side and who knows, maybe people might want to buy such things someday. (I kind of hope they will; I am feeling even more broke than usual horse-person baseline right now.)

One of the ideas I diagrammed out last night was a braiding kit holder.

This actually started as an idea for something like a cosmetic case: something you could unzip that would lie flat, with elastic loops inside to stick everything. So then you could zip it back up, everything would stay clean & neat & together, and it would look cute - maybe with an embroidered design, or just in fun colors.

Kind of like this.

I don't braid all that often, and when I do, I'm rarely in a hurry. I currently keep my braiding supplies in tupperware. Tristan has a long mane, so I only ever do a running braid - which takes ten minutes and not a ton of supplies.

When I thought further about the idea of that braiding case, I thought that actually people who spend a long time standing on stools braiding their horses' manes usually use a belt-mounted system.

That would actually be even easier to make, and would maybe be more like what people were interested in. It could get some cool color highlights in edging that would also reinforce things.

I don't know. I'm mulling it over. Half the fun of this is planning it out.

So, which would you find more useful? The open case or the belt thing? Would you think it was fun to buy one in an interesting pattern, or in your colors?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

2017 Goals: April Recap

Oh, boy. I don't want to write this post, but here we go.

Previously, I set horse goals and life goals.

January Recap
February Recap
2017 Goals: March Recap

So, how was April?

Horse Goals - original post here

1. Put hands on my horse 5x a week - suck. suckaroo. Accomplished for the first two weeks; then I was away for a week; then I was recovering from being away for a week. I guess, when I was on top of this it was really good because we got some great things done in the two weeks I did ride.

2. Be less perfunctory - Not really, especially in the sense that my impulse control across the board sucked except in regards to food & exercise.

3. Aim toward dressage schooling shows - Now looks like I can't do the September show either which means all shows are most likely off the plate for the summer and I want to hit things.

4. Take more lessons - Okay, I did actually do this and it was a great lesson. I haven't yet scheduled May but it will likely be soon.

5. Horse-specific income stream / funding emergency fund - well.

I don't want to put the numbers in this answer as I have been doing because it will make me nauseated. Short version: I made a handful of dumb choices combined with the truck's transmission blowing out while I was using it to haul for work and now I am in credit card debt instead of advancing on my savings goals, and those savings accounts are basically now down to zero or at least way too low and god damn everything.

In terms of the income stream, because of money fallout I've accelerated this planning and will probably post soon.

6. Do more thoughtful work - hahahahahaha

7. Get more media - I don't know, I took a bunch of pictures of my horse standing around? does that count?

Life Goals - original post here

1. Pay off car - still on track, so there's that at least

2. Read 75 books - 35/75

The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough
Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates
A Million Worlds With You by Claudia Gray
Horse-Drawn Yogurt: Stories from Total Loss Farm by Peter Gould
My Year of the Racehorse by Kevin Chong
The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley
Weighing Shadows by Lisa Goldstein
Dragon Heart by Cecelia Holland
Blackout by Connie Willis
All Clear by Connie Willis

3. Revive history blogs - lololololol nope.

4. Do better about food - This is literally the only bright spot in this entire list. I crushed it in April. Between using a new app to track what I'm eating (not denying myself food, just using it as a journal to remind myself to make better choices) and focusing on exercising, I've lost 13 lbs in the last 6 weeks. More importantly, I have more energy and feel better overall. So there's that at least.

5. Decorate the house - I haven't done anything with the house except scrape at wallpaper with my fingernails sometimes in an attempt not to feel like a complete fucking failure as a human being