Latest edition of latest additions

Considering that my horses have been walking vet bills this year and that I’m currently saving for the tiny house, my purchases as of late have not been very exciting. Unless you’re into animalintex and blanket straps and eyebrow razors (for bots, not for me…) and crazy looking tooth-hole-flushing instruments.

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Fun game: buy 400ml dosing syringe. Have it delivered to work. Let coworkers try to guess wtf it is. One thought it was for artificial insemination and I DIED.

But, you know, even on relative “lock down” sometimes there are things that are too good of a deal to pass up. Or a sale email hits my inbox on a particularly self pity-filled day and before you know it I’ve blacked out and bought more pants. These things happen.

The only truly exciting thing that has arrived lately was the closeout Mountain Horse boots that I actually purchased a couple months ago. They sat in customs for legit two weeks, and then USPS strapped them to the back of a 3-legged geriatric turtle to get them here. I mean I’m assuming that was the method anyway, considering how long it took. They got from Germany to New York in 2 days and New York to Texas in almost 4 weeks. Makes sense.

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I’ve always liked the look of the Opus High Rider, but they weren’t available in America and I’m not really into paying full price for something off the rack. And then Mountain Horse put the model on closeout, which made them half price, and at $180 I had a hard time saying no. I mean, technically yes I do already have a pair of brown boots, but those are my semi-custom Pioneer boots, which are kinda fancy, and I feel guilty abusing them with everyday barn wear and tear. I know that Mountain Horse boots can take abuse, and since I don’t have to care about keeping them pretty, I could feel free to abuse them at will. Especially at that price.

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So I bought a pair, slightly big on purpose so that I could also wear thicker winter socks under them. Both of my current pairs of boots are of the “fit like a glove variety”, which is great until it’s cold and you want thicker clothes. The Opus boots have just enough extra space in the foot and calf for all that, without being too big without it, and so far they’re working out pretty well. I don’t know that I would be in love with them if I had paid $360 for them, the ankle is not as nicely tapered and fitted as I prefer and the zipper feels a bit cheap, but for half price I think they’re fantastic.

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They are a lighter/redder brown than my very chocolate Pioneer’s, so I’ve got some variety going on with my colors at least. I also just realized that all three pairs of my boots are dress boots. I guess that makes sense, I do really prefer the clean lines of a dress boot. I still haven’t decided how I feel about the contrast sole. I specifically didn’t order the light sole on my Pioneer’s because while I love the look when the boot is on the shelf, I think once you’re on the horse it just looks dirty, like you just finished walking your course and didn’t wipe your boots off when you got back on. I might get over it eventually (I probably won’t).

I also fell prey to one of stupidDover’s stupidBOGO deals. I always feel a bit dirty when that happens. But they sent out that stupidEmail and stupidMe clicked on it, because it was early in the morning when I’m at my weakest, and I was like oh look, two pairs of breeches for $80 AND free shipping? That’s basically free! I nabbed a green pair and a charcoal gray pair of Dover’s Wellesley breeches.

I guess Dover tried to make their own version of Smartpak’s popular Piper line (which I admittedly hated) with the contrasting piping, and for some reason I was optimistic that maybe Dover did a better job. To be fair, they did. The fabric is a little better (still don’t love it, but it’s better), as is the fit, and I really like both colors. Unfortunately they gap at the waist on me too, the same problem I had with Pipers, although they don’t sag or slide down, so it’s a lot more tolerable. I think if I’d paid more than $40/pair I’d be grumpier about it but for that price they’re totally fine. And I do appreciate that Dover included pictures of some not-model-thin people in the photos of the breeches.

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I did have one pity-purchase too, when I was having a particularly frustrating day and just Could Not anymore. If there are two things I love, it’s socks and the f word, so when you combine them I’m definitely in. I grabbed a pair of Milton Menasco dreamers and schemers socks, and I truly have no regrets. They make me smile, which was their whole intended purpose.

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I mean it would be better if it wasn’t censored, but whatever

There was also “the thing that got away”… the item I really really wanted and MAY have squealed out loud about when I found it, but talked myself out of buying because I felt especially poor that day.

See, the SO and I are grumpy a-holes, so on Halloween we went out for mexican food and then walked across the parking lot to World Market. The entire adventure was specifically designed to get us out of our neighborhood during peak trick or treating hours. So we ate chips and queso, wandered around WM smelling soaps and looking at all the foreign candy, and then as we’re wandering up the very last aisle, what do I see?

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That is, I have to say, the best damn christmas stocking I have ever seen in my life. I was thisclose to buying it, but talked myself out of it when I remembered that we haven’t been brave enough to put up any christmas stuff since we got the cat. She is walking chaos, destruction, and mayhem. I feel like dangling stockings from the mantle would basically just be a written invitation for her to destroy everything up there, and then I would be mad at her for pulling down my $25 unicorn stocking. So… I didn’t buy it. And now I kind of regret it, but I also know I was right and the cat would totally ruin it.

What new pretties have you guys added to the collection recently? I hope they’re more exciting than mine.

The Gift of Literature

I know none of us are ready to talk about it yet, but we’re inching closer and closer to the holiday season. We’re a scant two weeks from Black Friday, which means that if you haven’t started contemplating gifts yet, you miiiiight want to get on that.

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I won’t be doing any big elaborate gift guides this year. The Black Friday bohemoth post is enough holiday masochism for me, thanks. However, when I was thinking back on my favorite things of the year, the first few items that sprang to mind were all books. To me (admittedly a major bibliophile) a book is a fantastic gift, especially for a horse person. You can find something out there to suit just about anyone. A book can bring so many things to the reader, whether it’s instruction, entertainment, or just pure happiness. What better gift is there than that?

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So for this one I’ve gathered my own personal top 10 horse-related books. Most are recent, but some are older staples that I feel like people should have in their collection. There’s certainly a wide variety, and I’m pretty confident that no matter who you’re shopping for, you can find something here for them. Well ok, unless its me… in which case I already have them all.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse

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If you aren’t following Charlie Mackesy on Instagram then I dunno what you’re even doing with social media. And if you don’t have social media, Charlie Mackesy alone is a good enough reason to get it. His art is simple but beautiful, and his new book The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse is guaranteed to leave you with a lot more warm fuzzies than you had when you started. It’s pure simple goodness appropriate for all ages. Plus the hardcover is absolutely beautiful, perfect to display or have as a coffee table book. This one is a must-have, even for non-equestrians.

Riding for the Team

Riding for the Team

Another newer release, Riding for the Team is a collection of inspirational stories from top level riders in all disciplines, all the way from McLain Ward to Tim McQuay. I think it’s always interesting to get an inside peek into what goes on behind the scenes on the world stage, and learn more details about famous horses. Since this one covers show jumping, dressage, eventing, driving, vaulting, reining, endurance, and para-dressage, it should cover the bases with just about any horse person. Who doesn’t love an inspirational story?

Basic Training of the Young Horse

Basic Training of the Young Horse: 3rd Edition

This is, quite possibly, my favorite riding-related book of all time. There is no one quite like Ingrid Klimke, especially when it comes to riding and training young horses. Her approach is simple, it’s correct, it’s classic, and it works. Her principles and ideas are applicable across all disciplines, not just dressage or eventing. She’s an exemplary horseman who always puts the mental and physical well-being of the horse as the highest priority, and it shows. There are so many fantastic nuggets of wisdom contained within the pages of Basic Training of the Young Horse that I find myself looking back through it quite often. This book is a great resource for anyone who might ever find themselves sat on a young horse. Or, if you know someone who’s a particularly big Ingrid fangirl (ahem) there’s also a complete set of all 3 of her books.

World Class Grooming

World-Class Grooming For Horses

If you go to horse shows and don’t employ a team a grooms, or if you care for your own horses in any way shape or form, this book is your bible. From clipping to braiding to cooling a horse down properly to taking vital signs to choosing studs to traveling – this book covers everything (don’t believe me? take a peek at the table of contents) related to horse care. It’s chock full of fantastic tips and advice from, well, world class grooms. They’ve been there, they’ve done that, and this book contains all of the wisdom they’ve accrued over the years. There are tons of photos that help clearly explain how to do things and what it should look like. A grooming book might sound kind of silly as a basic premise, but World Class Grooming isn’t just a grooming book, it’s a complete care guide and has so many great tips that I’ve never seen anywhere else.

Chop Wood Carry Water

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I’ve talked a lot about this book before, and if you haven’t seen me talking about it, you’ve probably heard riders like Jenny Caras and Matt Brown mention it too. Chop Wood Carry Water is simple, full of short little life lessons that are very easy to read, but there’s just something about it that stays with you over time. This is the book that really served to jumpstart my quest to change and improve my mindset when it came to riding and showing, and I still think back to it all the time. It’s a great introduction to the idea of a growth mindset, and got my brain working in the right way to where I was ready to pursue the idea more deeply.  The subtitle of the book is “How to fall in love with the process of becoming great” and that’s exactly what it focuses on. It’s easy in this sport to get so stuck on the end goal that we forget about the journey, and this book does a great job of giving perspective. I think this would be a great gift for just about anyone who participates in competitive sports.

Brain Training for Riders

Brain Training for Riders

Along the same vein, my favorite equestrian-specific mindset book has been Brain Training for Riders. I think it breaks things down in a way that’s easy to understand, and it gives you tips for how to handle pressure, emotions, and fear. We all know just how mental this sport can be, and this book is really great at helping us understand why we feel the way we do, and how to change it, or how to move past disappointment or handle embarrassment. I have said before that IMO the mental side of riding is something we don’t talk about nearly enough, but it’s so incredibly crucial to our success and well-being. Every rider needs to own this book, and every trainer needs to read it.

Modern Gymnastics

Modern Gymnastics

Switching gears back into the actual riding side of things – if you jump, Jim Wofford’s Modern Gymnastics (which also comes as a DVD, if you’re friends with some weirdo who doesn’t like books) is a must. There are so many ideas for exercises, and it explanations what each one is aiming to accomplish. If this book can’t keep somone busy and invigorated during a long cold off season, nothing will. Great reference guide to keep a horse and rider tuned up!

Core Conditioning for Horses

Core Conditioning for Horses

Along the same vein – if you don’t jump, or if you also want a full arsenal of flatwork exercises to help keep your horse strong and loose, check out Core Conditioning for Horses. I have ridden with a Charles de Kunffy protege for years, so this book piggybacked perfectly off of his concept of dressage as a way to “gymnasticize” the horse’s body. The goal of flatwork should always be to make the horse stronger and more supple, and this book includes plenty of exercises (and pictures) to get you there. There are even suggestions for things to try for horses with kissing spines, for example. None of the work is particularly difficult to understand, so any semi-competent rider should be able to get something useful from it. Think of it as being kinda like yoga for horses.

Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere

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I think pretty much any human being on the planet would enjoy Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere. Horsey or not, avid reader or not, it just has such universal appeal. This book is a collection of stories from a veterinarian, most of them funny, some of them sad, some of them just downright jaw-dropping. The stories are all pretty short and easy to read, but the writer is an absolutely captivating storyteller. Oh, and who is that veterinarian writer? None other than the owner and head vet at the clinic where Presto spent the first few weeks of his life. They are great people.

In the Middle are the Horsemen

In the Middle Are the Horsemen

I’m not sure how many riders are left in America that don’t already have this book, but I feel like pretty much anyone would enjoy it. It’s just so… relateable. Tik Maynard has had an interesting journey throughout his career, and he’s learned a lot from so many different people along the way. In the Middle are the Horsemen a refreshingly honest story about what he did right, what he did wrong, and how all of those things shaped the thoughts and methods he has today when it comes to riding and training. Eventers, h/j folks, dressage riders, even western riders – this book combines all types of horsemen and shows us that there’s something to be learned from everyone.


I had to limit myself to 10, otherwise we’d be here all day, but these are definitely a good representation of my favorites. I tried to keep a wide variety, so hopefully there’s something on this list for just about anyone on your shopping list! If not, Trafalgar Square‘s (I send you there because they have such a good selection of horse books) website is conveniently set up so that you can shop by category, if you’re looking for something more specific, or they have a decent selection of DVD’s, or you can even just buy a gift certificate. Plus their shipping is free, you know how much I like that.

When in doubt, buy a book. Even if they don’t read it, they can just smell it until they’re happy.

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Ski Pants and Alpaca Socks

Texas is drunk AF, y’all. A month ago it was like 95 degrees. Now it’s 28 degrees and there was frozen shit falling from the sky. I don’t know which circle of hell this is, but I don’t like it. I feel like it’s especially cruel to make us suffer through the SECOND HOTTEST SUMMER IN AUSTIN HISTORY with 90 days at or over 100 degrees. – Ninety. Effing. Days. – and then do this shit a month later. I’ll just go right out and say it, mother nature is being an asshole right now.

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NOPE

Luckily by some miracle all of the precipitation seemed to die right when it got to the farm’s doorstep. Totally dry here. Windy as hell, soooo freaking windy, but dry. Up at my house, NW of the city, we got a good coating of ice and the wind knocked a neighbors tree into a powerline, which apparently sent sparks flying out of it for almost an hour before the city showed up to fix it. Rob said he stood there at the back door watching it in case he had to grab the animals and make a hasty exit. And then the next day the city came swooping through the neighborhood trimming trees, leaving huge branches and tools and trash scattered all over the place in their wake. Cool. But hey, the house didn’t catch on fire and now everyone’s trees are well-trimmed, so there’s that.

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Henry and I have similar feelings about this weather

I was outside cleaning stalls and doing barn chores as the front blew in, which made things extra exciting. On my way home from work I had tried to pop into the sporting goods store and buy the coveralls I had my eye on for Black Friday, but the place was totally ransacked. I diverted to plan B, ski pants, which were suggested by Jen. They were only $30 and miraculously there was one pair left in my size, so I figured why not. Let me tell you, those things have been da real MVP these last couple days, especially when I’m in and out of the house a lot to go dole out more hay or check on the horses. I can be wearing my leggings in the house, slip on the ski pants at the door, go do my thing in glorious warmth, then just drop trou at the door when I come back in. They’re easy, and they make a huge difference. It’s like wearing a sleeping bag on each leg.

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I look ridiculous but I don’t care

The other thing that’s been a great life choice? My alpaca socks. I’ve had them for a couple years but mostly have just worn them around the house at home. Now I’m layering them under my Blundstones and lord they are fantastic. I like them a lot more than my wool socks. They’re a little thicker, but they fit just fine in my boots. Boy are they soft and comfortable, and my feet are so warm but somehow never sweaty. Perfect for barn work in the cold. I came inside and ordered another pair last night (navy of course).

While I’ve been busy adding layers and experimenting with all kinds of new expletives about the weather (“bitchsicle” is a word btw, and it goes wonderfully with my all time favorite, “twatapotamus”) there are a couple of farm residents that have been absolutely loving it. I’ll give you a hint:

The Baby Idiots (which I think has some legitimacy as a band name) have been enjoying themselves immensely. Their games of tag just go on and on and on and on. Quinnie, their supervisor and life coach, is not thrilled by this, but she just stands there and lets it happen around her. You can practically see her thinking “nope, this is beyond my pay grade.”. They know better than to get too close to her.

I think it’s fantastic that Presto has a friend his age to engage in these shenanigans with, because clearly he’s having a grand ol’ time, and it’s good for him to be running around and getting some exercise. He would probably be a shitty racehorse though, since he LOVES to go juuuust fast enough to stay within biting distance of JB’s ass. I suppose it’s a good thing JB loves to be chased just as much as Presto loves to give chase. They’re super entertaining to watch, I’ll say that much. Two peas in a dingus pod.

Presto’s blanket, though… it’s not had such a great time. Yesterday (which, if anyone is counting, is day 4 of being worn by Presto) it suffered a grievous wound.  Four years with Henry and it suffered nary a scratch. Four days with Presto and it’s got a gaping hole in the butt. It’s certainly not a stretch to imagine how this happened.

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This is why we can’t have nice things

The other side also kind of looked like he’d tried to roll in the pond with it… there was a suspicious level and color of mud that doesn’t exist anywhere else besides the edge of the pond. I figured he’d end up in there eventually, this horse is a magnet for mayhem.

It was suggested that perhaps instead of a unicorn blanket, he needs one with the poop emoji. I 100% agree. How do I get one of those?

Tiny Home Tuesday: The Expo

I promise I won’t post about the tiny home thing very often, since this is a horse blog after all. It’s kind of a big deal for me though, preparing to have a tiny home built, and then subsequently moving into it and living in it. Plus technically it’s going on a horse farm, so… it’s relevant. Either way, when I do post anything about the house, I’ll limit it to Tuesdays only and clearly title it so that you don’t have to read about it if you don’t want to. Sound fair?

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The Tumbleweed – that’s our model!

On Sunday the SO and I went to the Tiny Home Expo here in Austin. Not for any real specific reason, I was mostly just curious and wanted to take a look at what was there to see if there were things I hadn’t though of, or cool gadgets/gizmos on display. The expo was, overall, pretty underwhelming. It did have a fair number of tiny home models on display, which was good, but nothing much else worth looking at. Some of the booths didn’t even make any damn sense, like all the douchey overly perfumed people trying to sell me “instant face lift”. WTF? Clearly they are NOT understanding the type of people that tend to want tiny houses, because, well… we ain’t that. People that are looking to live tiny or rustic or minimalist prooooobably aren’t gonna buy your 10-product face care package from Mr. Walking-Axe-Body-Spray-Commercial. We came here to see creative storage solutions and compost toilets and collapsible fire pits. Just saying.

Anyway, having all the tiny home models there in the convention center was the saving grace of the expo, and made it worth the trip. We got to look inside everything from a hunting cabin to a shipping container home (by far the most godawful thing I’ve ever seen in my life) to a plastic dome yurt thing to a converted school bus to a “bohemian bungalow” to a gypsy wagon. It was not lacking in variety.

I’ll be honest, I kind of loved all the kooky details in the gypsy wagon. The colors and patterns aren’t my style but you cant deny it had A LOT of character.

The builder that we’re using was also there with two models, one a towable tiny home and then one park model RV, which happened to be the same model that we picked out – The Tumbleweed. It was finished out quite differently from what we’ve picked, but it was really good to see it again and stand in it again and confirm, without a doubt, that this was for sure our favorite. It really wasn’t even a contest, we still both love the layout and the space. It’s definitely bigger and lot more open than your usual tiny house.

We also took the opportunity to do some things we hadn’t thought to do when we saw the model a few months ago, like take measurements for the area where the couch goes. I wasn’t sure what would fit, but we’ve got 84+” to work with so I think we’ll be able to find a smaller sectional without a problem. We also got to see some of the upgrades that we had picked out but weren’t in the model we saw at the showroom, like the stainless steel farm sink and appliances, and the front load stacked washer and dryer. This one had all of those upgrades, and I loved them.

I also like how they did this kitchen island, which is different from standard. The front half is cabinet space and the back half is recessed so you can fit stools or a bench under it.

This is the video tour of the one they had at the expo. We won’t be doing a back deck, since it means sacrificing a closet and a dresser in the bedroom, but otherwise the layout is the same and it’s got the same size front porch that ours will.

What stuck out to me most, though, in walking through all these models, is that what I really seemed to be drawn to were the little pops of character. For the most part I’m boring, I don’t like big walls of color or tons of bright accents or anything that looks busy. For those who don’t remember from the first tiny house post, we picked out a quite GRAY interior. Which I like, but now I’m second guessing a few parts of what we picked out, like the cabinets and the backsplash.

I do still want the place to have character. Seeing the unique tile accents, or the stained glass panels, or the little pops of color, or even the super fun and unique drawer pulls… I loved those touches. It gave the spaces a little bit of personality and made them feel less cookie cutter, less bland.

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was a wee bit obsessed with these handpainted knobs
Stained Glass - Vintage Retreat by Hill Country Tiny Houses
LOVE the little stained glass bathroom window

This is perhaps the first time in my life that I’ve wished I was a little more girly. I have  no eye for design, no concept of what will work or what won’t. I don’t really know how to go about adding these little things that will give the space some charm without making it look like… well, a gypsy wagon.

I went a little bonkers googling things on Sunday night, and just flipping through Wayfair to try to understand what I even like. I’ve never paid that much attention, to tell you the truth. I found some really cool handpainted knobs that I’m wondering if maybe we could incorporate into the bathroom or something…

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I love how all of these are different but similar

I’ve always loved stained glass but never even thought about putting it in the house until I saw the accents in a few of these tiny houses. Then I was like OMG WE COULD DO STAINED GLASS DOORS. OR A TRANSOM WINDOW. But… thinking that might be a bit much and/or awfully permanent, so maybe I could hang a nice panel on the kitchen window or bathroom window or something and get the same effect?

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Image result for stained glass panel blue

Then I realized we’d also have to pick out rugs, a couple counter height chairs for the island, porch furniture, a coffee table, and a couch… at which point I pretty much just curled up in fetal position and gave up. Thank god this place is only 399 square feet and requires very few items of decor or furniture.

Basically, I came away from the expo feeling like my mind had been opened up a lot, but that quickly morphed into feeling a bit lost and overwhelmed. I’m astonishingly bad at being able to imagine what things will actually look like in the space, and whether or not I’ll even like it. Looking at all this stuff just made me think that I should hire a decorator to help us, but I’m 150% sure there’s not room in the budget for that. And I’m scared they’d just put knick-knacks and shit all over the place anyway, which makes me cringe. I mostly just need guidance. Someone with a good eye and some creativity that can tell me what to buy, or like… present me with just a couple options to pick from. That would be so much easier.

Advice? Ideas? Words of wisdom? I’m all ears.

Flying Solo

It’s official: as of Saturday I’m now living out at the barn full time! The barn owners and 3 of their horses left for their farm in Florida (a little jealous right now since cold front is about to blow through here and drop us down below freezing) on Saturday morning, and I swooped in as they were pulling out.

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Quinnie has never been too sure about whether or not I’m actually qualified to feed her, pretty sure she calls me “the girl”

Trying to pack for a months-long stay was kind of interesting. I took it as an opportunity to prepare for living in the tiny house. What stuff did I REALLY need? Clothing and shoes especially. Honestly I need way less than I actually own. All the clothing I brought (aside from jackets, which are hanging near the door) fits easily in the closet and a couple of drawers in the dresser. I’ve decided to limit myself to using one shelf in the pantry, and just a few dishes/pots/pans etc. Mostly to see just how much stuff I actually need, vs how much stuff I’ve accumulated back at home. If I don’t use it over the next 5 or 6 months, do I really need to own it? Probably not. I packed what I feel like are the necessary essentials, so now we’ll see how that works out.

Also I might possibly have a color palette. This was not intentional. 

I kept myself pretty busy on Saturday, getting settled in. I turned the horses out, unpacked my stuff and put it all up where I wanted, then went to move and set up my jumps. They’d all still been sitting behind the storage barn right where we unloaded them the day before I moved the horses. In reality they all need some repair and paint, which will be a winter project, but I still need to be able to jump in the meantime. So first I loaded up fillers and poles, then drove out to Henry’s turnout (the biggest, flattest space) and started plotting out where I wanted things.

Which took me forever because I went out there with no plan and thus was completely indecisive. Once I had the poles set, I went back over to get the standards. By this point I was kind of glad that I only have like 6 jumps. Moving them all by yourself is a real bitch. But now it’s done, and we jumped them (boy is Henry really excited to find himself pointed at a jump again). The field that I put them in is right up next to the road and someone driving by yesterday stopped to watch us jump… I think I might become a bit of a neighborhood spectacle.

Henry thinks he’s bucking. It’s sad. No one tell him.

Then of course when I was cleaning stalls, the lawnmower that pulls the manure spreader got stuck in park. Because naturally, day 1, something has to happen. Luckily I’d already done most of the stall cleaning by that point so I just left it there and figured the SO could fix it the next day when he came out. It helps having a mechanic around sometimes. And fix it he did, in like 5 minutes, using one screwdriver. I figured it would be simple and I would feel dumb, and I was correct on both counts. He showed me what to do if it happens again, but hopefully it won’t. I’m a lot better with horses than I am with machines.

Stewie likes to ride along when I go spread the manure. 

Saturday night I went and got groceries, which was the last big thing on my to-do list for the weekend to get settled in. It’s funny, it takes me pretty much the same amount of time to get to the grocery store now that I live 9 miles away as it did when I was 2 miles away. Country roads vs city traffic. Much prefer the country roads. And now that I’ll basically be living as a single person 5 days a week for a while, I got perhaps overly excited about being able to eat whatever I want again. The SO is mostly vegetarian, and before he came along I existed pretty exclusively on variations of chicken. As you may imagine, it’s been tough finding things we’ll both eat. But I stocked up on chicken, and I’ve had it 2 nights in a row for dinner. Also really looking forward to having breakfast for dinner again, which is something the SO just did not do, but I love. I bought turkey bacon for that exact reason. I also don’t have to cook if I don’t want to… like if I get done in the barn late, I could totally just have cereal or a sandwich for dinner, because I don’t have to consider anyone else. I definitely didn’t appreciate that part enough when I was single and yes you’re right it’s kind of sad that I’m so excited about it now.

My favorite part, though?

The view out my bedroom window
the view from the kitchen window

It’s stalker heaven.

I can see my boys whenever I want, just by looking out the window. Even in the middle of the night, because there are cameras in the barn, I can pull up the feed on my phone to check on them without even having to get up. Not that I’ve done that. Ok yes I’ve totally done that.

I can blanket them how I want. I can feed them how I want. I see them every single day and can observe every little nuance with their condition or behavior. I know how much they eat, drink, and poop. I see their attitude and demeanor. Taking care of my own horses is a dream come true. It’s a time constraint, sure, and it ties me to the farm in a way that gives me a lot less freedom. Given my 1.5hr round trip commute to work, fitting everything into the weekdays is going to be a bit tricky. It’s a totally fair trade to me, though, and one I don’t mind. If I need to change something, I can just… change it. After so many years of compromises with boarding, I LOVE being 100% in control of their care, and it’s worth the work or whatever I have to sacrifice to make it happen.

btw how good is Presto looking right now? I haven’t groomed him in a week and he’s still so shiny.

Of course, tonight that cold front is blowing through, so maybe ask me again in a couple days after I’ve been rained on and frozen solid like a popsicle. Just kidding, it’ll be fine, I brought 3 jackets. I’m ready.

Help me find…

How about a little group shopping experience? I’m having a hard time finding very many options in exactly what I want, so I figured the hive mind might be able to help come up with some things I haven’t.

Ever since Henry outgrew his PS of Sweden quarter sheet a few years ago, I’ve struggled to find something else I like to replace it. By the time I sold this one, PSoS no longer made this style, or I would have just bought another one in a bigger size.

quartersheetripoff
love you, miss you.

It was by far my favorite quarter sheet that I’ve ever owned. It had leather straps that looped through the girth, it was wool, and it had a tail cord. The shape was great, it stayed in place perfectly, and it was easy to take off/put back on while in the saddle. Everything I’ve bought since then has… well… displeased me. I’ve learned that I really just hate the style that goes under the saddle or over the rider’s legs, and I cannot, in any circumstances, do fleece. Not even as the lining. I dunno if Henry’s swishy helicopter tail is some kind of electricity generator or what, but he is walking static in the winter and I’m done with any hint of fleece. Done. Burn it all.

So basically, here’s what I’m looking for:

  • the “loin rug” style that sits totally behind the saddle

Back on Track loin rug

Image result for catago exercise sheet

But I would much prefer that the straps be set lower, like the PSoS was. Failing that, they at least need to be long enough to loop over my stirrup leathers (not looping it through my stirrup leather keeper, no thanks).

  • NOT FLEECE. Wool or thermatex are preferred. Nylon would do, as long as it isn’t fleece-lined.
  • Must have a tail cord, because wind.
  • Must be under $100 shipped to the US.
  • Prefer navy. Dark green or gray are fine too.
  • New or used, I don’t care.
  • No I’m not interested in making my own or modifying one. If it requires sewing I’m out. I just had to sew new buckles onto a couple of my blankets and the torture is too fresh. I know, first world problems.

I’ve only found one so far that ticks most of the boxes, a wool B Vertigo.

The attachment is not my favorite, and lord that logo is giant enough to be seen from space, but it’s my fall back if we can’t find something 100% perfect.

So, friends… what have you seen that might fit the bill? Help Henry’s apple booty survive the winter.

It’s in the Blood: Pau 2019

You made it, friends! It’s the final “In the Blood” post of 2019, so after this you’re off the hook again until spring. I feel like I’m still evolving in how I do these posts and what statistics are proving to be consistent, and which ones are proving to be more interesting (at least to me). If there’s one thing that the endless hours of research and spreadsheets have taught me, it’s that there IS definitely a pattern here when it comes to what makes an upper level event horse. Well… usually anyway. For now, let’s take a deeper look at the Pau field!

Image result for etoiles pau

I found myself going off on a bit of a mare tangent on this one, for two reasons.

1) if you are in any sporthorse breeding groups on facebook, you have probably seen breeders arguing (sometimes quite vehemently) about sport mares vs career broodmares. Is it important for a mare to have had a sport career herself? Do mares that are proven in sport produce better offspring? Watching them go back and forth about that will give you whiplash.

Image result for back and forth head gif
me, watching grumpy old men argue on facebook

2) there are two horses in this field with the same dam. A pretty rare feat, but one we also saw this year at Burghley (with a different mare).

So, let’s look at the dams a little bit here. My eyes started to cross a bit as I was researching, so I only took a super deep dive into the dams of the top 10 horses (well, aside from that mare who had two offspring in the field, but we’ll get to her). Of those top 10 horses (I couldn’t find details about the dam of one, so toss that one out), two had dams who competed at the FEI level in sport – one a 1.30m showjumper, and one a 2* eventer. The rest were either career broodmares or a mixture of lower level riding horses with a few foals. The 1.30m showjumper mare also produced a 1.60m showjumper – so she has a top level eventing offspring as well as a top level showjumper, both of which exceeded her own success. One of the career broodmares has a 5* offspring, a 4* offspring, a 3* offspring, and a 1.30m showjumper to her credit.

And the mare that is the dam of two horses in the Pau field?

King’s Gem, who herself competed at Pau (her only 5* completion) with Gemma Tattersall in the irons. King’s Gem was bred by Mary King and is by the very successful event sire Rock King. She is the dam of King Albert (sired by Mayhill xx, who competed through 4* with Mark Todd) and Chilli Knight (by Chilli Morning, who competed through 5* with William Fox Pitt). 

Sportmares vs career broodmares… the debate goes on. Psst, no one tell them that they’re both right, it ruins the fun.

Moving on to all the normal statistics, the average blood percentage for the starting field was 62%, with only 3 full thoroughbreds. That’s the fewest we’ve seen in any 5* this year. The highest placed full TB was Canadian-bred More Inspiration, finishing in 12th. More Inspiration was one of three full siblings, and at 55k earnings in 28 starts he was the best racehorse of the 3.

Holly Jacks-Smither & More Inspiration at the Kentucky 3-Day Event 2017

If we look at the average blood percentage of the horses that completed, it drops slightly to 59%. Average blood percentage of the top 10? 58.5%. Average blood percentage of the 5 fastest XC rounds? 52%. Blood percentage of the double clear SJ rounds? Goes back up to 61.4%. (this is where my brain goes oooo interesting). Also worth mentioning, 3 of the 5 double clear SJ rounds were logged by a Selle Francais. And finally, the blood percentage of the horse with the ONLY double clear XC round? 39%. Yep, you read that right. Zagreb, the only horse to complete XC double clear, has a blood percentage well below average. In fact, he’s one of only 7 horses in the field with a blood percentage under 40%. He did perhaps pay for that speedy round a bit by adding two rails on the final day, and he’s also the only one of those 7 under-40% horses to finish in the top 10.

Looking at all the different places in the pedigrees where a full-blooded horse appears, 8 of the 41 pedigree-verifiable horses (20%) had a full TB sire, 5 horses (12%) had a full TB dam, 14 horses (34%) had a full TB sire’s sire, 13 horses (32%) had a full TB damsire, and as usual the most common place is as the dam’s damsire with 17 horses (41%) having a full TB in that spot.

There was only one stallion who had more than one offspring in the field – Chilli Morning, sire of Chilli Knight and Jalapeno. Both completed XC but did not compete on the final day.

jalapeno
Jalapeno, by Chilli Morning. Best name ever for a chestnut mare. 

Interesting for breeders that despite being quite blooded himself, both of these top level Chilli Morning offspring are also out of blooded mares. Blood plus blood.

Other stallions do make multiple appearances in the first three generations of the field’s pedigrees though, in different places. Quinar, Quick Star, and Pilot for the warmbloods, and Mytens, Shaab, and Buckskin for the thoroughbreds.

Shaab Stallion
Shaab the chonky boi

It’s been a long year of spreadsheets (my 2019 excel document has 11 sheets! 11 different events! 11 different times I’ve spent WAY TOO MANY HOURS on this!) but I continue to learn a lot and be a bit addicted to all of this. It’s fascinating, if you’re a breeding geek. Thanks to those who have followed along with the series, and if you have any suggestions for stuff you’d like to see in the 2020 editions, let me know! Until then, I’m looking forward to a bit of a break.

When humans fail horses

There’s been a lot of chatter going on this week on social media about what happened to Mongolian Groom in the Breeder’s Cup Classic. I’ve seen it discussed by so many different people, from so many different backgrounds. Some are blaming the track, some are blaming officials, some are even blaming Mongolian Groom’s pedigree (that one I don’t particularly agree with).

Seeing what the non-horse people are saying is probably the most troubling. It’s easy, as an “insider” who understands the animals and the sport a lot more, to shrug off those opinions or roll your eyes at them, saying they’re just the uneducated public. But the truth is, their opinion is what’s going to make or break this sport. Public perception matters, and what’s happening now is the ultimate PR nightmare: a horse breaking down on prime time tv at a track that has been making headlines all year for horse deaths. The public sees jockeys whipping the tar out of horses, a horse’s leg turning into a spaghetti noodle underneath it, and then voila – yet another death. It’s incredibly bad for racing, and honestly it doesn’t exactly shed a positive light on ANY equestrian sports, as far as the public is concerned. They don’t know the difference.

The videos of Mongolian Groom’s last few workouts also make you wonder what exactly happened here. The horse didn’t look good on these videos.

https://www.xbtv.com/video/workout/mongolian-groom-galloped-at-santa-anita-park-on-october-31st-2019/?fbclid=IwAR0lQs4Jj8ZeM8V_n2NZsuLNVYaukterCUqPCgn19c3kLpFcfsoKWcWEg6w

He’s also had a pretty packed schedule. In the last 12 months he raced 13 times. He spent all spring training and racing at Santa Anita when horses were dropping left and right. He traveled to the east coast and back twice. He’s done 9 stakes races since April of this year – 7 months time. At one point he even did two Grade 1 races two weeks apart, with a third less than a month later. Not a schedule you see that often with a hard-running stakes horse.

Mongolian Groom had a heck of a year, with no breaks. He finished pretty consistently in the money and put up speed figures between 105 and 126 all but one time. If his record tells us anything, it’s that the horse was definitely a trier. He showed up and he did his job, time and again, right up until he couldn’t. This wasn’t a horse that colicked, or had a pasture accident, or whatever myriad ways that horses find to die on a regular basis. This wasn’t a case where everything was done right and the horse just fell on some shit luck. This was man-made, on the world stage, while in service to entertain people, with a lot of questionable factors involved. Combine his record, how he looked in those workout videos, the controversy surrounding Santa Anita, and what happened in the Classic… it makes me feel like humans really failed this horse along the way. Massively.

That’s the part of this that is so heartbreaking to me. The shit storm is really tough to watch, but honestly… maybe the sport deserves it. Maybe all horse sports do. Maybe we ALL need to do a better job of looking after these horses, and if we can’t do that, if we can’t put the well-being of the horse as the highest priority, then maybe we don’t deserve to have a sport. Business is business, yeah sure I get it, but at what cost? I will never be comfortable with the idea of horses being disposable. And using up a good horse certainly isn’t limited to just racing, you see it all the time. Shoot, there was an eventer that did Burghley (didn’t finish, but made it about halfway around), Blenheim, AND Pau. And how many people are out there showing 3+ days a week, 20+ weeks a year?

Maybe I’m overreacting or being a bleeding heart, or maybe I’m just tired of seeing horses pay the price. It’s been a long year, with way too many lost horses in several sports, and my heart is weary. We haven’t done our best by these horses. But I do know one thing… if we don’t fix this – if racing doesn’t fix their massive PR problem, and if all horse sports don’t sit up and pay attention to what’s happening here – it will trickle down to all of us. Someday the industry as a whole will have to answer for this, and that day is coming.

LeMieux hits and misses

LeMieux has, undoubtedly, been one of the hottest brands of the past few years. Their matchy sets really put them on the map, and the product line has rapidly expanded to all kinds of horse and rider wear, grooming equipment, and stable supplies. I am not a fan of the matchy sets myself (thats… a lot of color…), but LeMieux does make some REALLY nice saddle pads. I’ve had my eye on the merino+ half lined dressage pad, because man LOOK AT THAT WITHER PROFILE. And the d-ring strap attachments are brilliant because I hate billet straps with every fiber of my being.

While LeMieux rose to fame on their saddle pads and polo wraps, those are admittedly two items from them that I don’t own. I have three LeMieux things in my arsenal now – bell boots, bandage pads, and ice boots. And my feelings about them vary quite a bit.

The first thing I bought was the leather wraparound bell boots.

I’d had a pair of leather bell boots before and I LOVED the look of them but they died within a couple months. I mostly ride outside of the arena, and grass can really wear on the material. When I went shopping for a new pair I decided to try one more time on the leather but go with LeMieux. It’s been 6 months, and while they’re starting to show some wear on the bottom edges of the leather, they’ve certainly held up a lot better than I thought they would and far surpassed the previous brand. I feel like the leather gives a little bit more protection (Henry grabbed THE SHIT out of himself once to the point where he almost fell down and there was just a very slight ding in the leather. Probably would have been a rip in rubber.) and I haven’t had a problem with them getting wet or muddy. I just hose them off. I’ve been happy with these, and feel like the price is really reasonable. Would love them even more if they came in navy (navy is a lifestyle, I can’t help it).

The next LeMieux purchase was bandage pads.

These were kind of an impulse purchase when I was trying to replace my really old no-bow’s, couldn’t decide what I wanted, and just panicked and threw something in the cart. LeMieux says they can be used as stable bandages or exercise bandages, and I use them as stable bandages, but I would say they’re probably better suited as exercise bandages. I think they’re just a bit small and short and thin and flimsy for a stable bandage, personally. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the towel-like material on the inner lining, because if I’m just dry wrapping, it’s great, but if I’m wrapping over wet poultice paper, I’m not so thrilled. I also thought I would really like the velcro tabs in the middle but turns out I hate them because they’re right where I want to tuck my wrap in to start it. I would probably like those features a lot if I was using them as exercise bandages, but as stable bandages they’re not my favorite. They certainly work just fine as stable bandages but wouldn’t be my first choice for that purpose.

The last and most recent purchase was the ice boots I impulse-purchased at Burghley.

Image result for lemieux pro ice

Sigh. These things. I really like the boot itself… I think it’s designed well, I like that it goes all the way down to the hoof, and that the elastic straps let you adjust it tighter if you desire. The interior pocket is insulated and has a zipper that allows easy access to take the ice pack in and out. So what do I hate? Said mother effing ice pack. It SUCKS. The shape is nice, and it doesn’t get stiff, but it’s SO THIN that it doesn’t hold the cold at all. Like I took the packs directly out of the freezer, put them in the boots, put the boots on my horse’s wet legs, and when I took them off 20 minutes later the legs and the ice packs were both warm. Not cold. Not even cool. Like body temperature warm. That’s… relatively terrible. For the price of the boots, the ice packs should be a lot better than that. I know it’s hot here, but geez.

I’m experimenting with making my own ice packs to see if I can make these work, since I do like the actual boot itself.

Despite not loving those, it was really fun to walk through the giant LeMieux tent at Burghley and get to touch/feel everything. I remain impressed by all the boots and saddle pads (in fact I talked both of my traveling companions into buying fluffy boots), and some of their clothing looked nice as well (anybody have the base layer?). Certainly no one can hold a candle to their variety of colors, that’s for sure. Shit, they even make pompom helmet covers, and y’all know how I feel about that. I have a lot of regrets over not buying the sparkly pompom beanie hat. Maybe next time…

Check-ups and Check-ins

First order of business: did the baby boys’ blankets survive the cold snap? I know, y’all are probably just totally on the edge of your seats about this. The answer is, shockingly, yes. Both blankets are still in tact even after several days/nights of wear. Although I think perhaps it’s a testament to the blankets more than it is a credit to the boys.

opened up the camera app on Saturday morning to see Presto insisting (with his feet, of course) that JB get TF out of his hay because it’s time for breakfast
followed by a bit of morning yoga

But yesterday I found a Unicorn blanket and now I really really want it so I need to find an excuse. Henry can’t wear it, since it’s not a HUG, but Presto could. I mean… I guess I could just get a bigger one and keep it for Presto for next year. Does he need another sheet? No. Not right now anyway. He probably will next year since I don’t own anything bigger than a 78 and there’s no way he’ll still fit in a 78 in a year’s time. So technically I kinda need it but not right now. But… unicorns. Rainbow unicorns.

Speaking of unicorns, the vet came back out this weekend to check on Henry’s mouth and do some annual maintenance. Having a big hole in his head (ok fine it’s in his mouth) is still freaking me out. Despite flushing it twice a day with the hose he still had some chewed up hay stuck around there, and the vet got it flushed out then checked the hole. Seems to be healing as expected. I don’t think I’ll relax about it for another like… year, probably.

img_9750.jpg
someone’s getting chonky

Henry seems to be feeling fine though, considering he spent Saturday morning’s ride squealing and crowhopping with his nose planted between his knees. I’m totally okay with it though, because my cool weather horse is so much happier than my hot weather horse. It was a gross summer. I think we’re both more than ready to get back to our regular schedule, even if it means I’m riding a cracked out dolphin.

Henry got yesterday off, so I brought Presto in for his weekly “remember you’re not feral” session. He still comes to the gate and happily marches away from his pasture without a peep, so I’m pleased. I haaaaate herdbound shit, so I’m glad to have avoided any issues with that so far, knock on wood. Presto has always been pretty confident in himself, though.

He’s already really mastered the “bored with you” expression

I brought him up, brushed him, and threw a saddle on him. Fun fact: he fits in Henry’s girth now. It goes up to almost the highest holes, but still… it fits. Ha. Hahahahaha. Helpme. Anyone want a used twice 22″ FlexRider girth? I will add it to the pile of things I need to sell.

I didn’t really know what else to do with Presto at that point, he stands in the crossties pretty darn well and was half asleep, resting a hind foot. So we went around the barn investigating everything, sniffing all the cool stuff, and looking at the other horses.

I feel like he posed and said “take a pic of me with my new Trakehner friends” so I did

It was uneventful. He’s the same dude he’s always been, which is a really freaking nice quality to have in a 2yo. I bred for the brain first and foremost, and he hasn’t let me down yet.

I also finally caved to the peer pressure and put a stick on him for the first time in months. I have regrets. He’s 16.2h at the wither. The butt is higher so I didn’t put a stick on that because I just can’t. I thought we’d agreed that he wouldn’t be bigger than 16.3h at maturity but I’m starting to think he’s not going to keep his end of the bargain. But hey, until he actually passes 16.3 I can still pretend it’s not going to happen. Denial, it’s my chosen coping mechanism.

remember a month ago at FEH when they said he was too light and weak? lol

When he was sick so much as a foal I was worried that he might end up stunted. I’ve changed my mind, some stunting would be fine. We’ll also ignore the fact that the saddle actually sits much taller on him than it does on Henry because this creature’s withers haven’t really popped yet, therefore his back is actually like SEVERAL inches higher than Henry’s. My eyeballs are solidly at mid-knee pad level. Maybe I should have bred Sadie to a Connemara stallion instead.

This really just reaffirms that my highest priority Black Friday purchase will be a bigass mounting block. Definitely feeling reaaaaaally glad that I’ve already done lots of mounting lessons with this giraffe, otherwise I’d be dreading the idea of trying to climb on it come spring. Maybe I should just stop feeding him? Joking. Sort of…