All eyeballs on the new SS2020 stuff

Just because I have a new “one in, one out except for necessities rule doesn’t mean that I’m not still window shopping and paying attention to new stuff. I like pretty things. Sue me.

I found a UK company, Ponyo Horsewear, that makes BADASS blankets that I definitely must get for Presto for next season (since, as expected, the hand-me-down’s he’s worn this year will not live to see another winter). They have two prints in particular that are perfect for him:

Monkey Bananas - 100g / 250g
monkeys and bananas

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Unicorn Magic - 250g / 400g
unicorns pooping rainbows

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I couldn’t decide which one to get so I’m thinking he’ll get a light sheet in the monkeys and a midweight in the unicorns. They won’t be available in his size until next month so they’ll definitely be for next winter, but they’re just too perfect. Shipping from the UK is expensive, but if anyone local to me is interested in buying some too, let me know and maybe we can do one order and split shipping.

Otherwise, the SS20 collections are starting to roll out. Equestrian Stockholm already rolled out a nice dark green color that captured me probably more than any other matchy set ever has. It’s pretty.

I think the matchy sets still just aren’t really my thing though. Not like that anyway. Maybe if the pad had navy trim I’d be in, the beige just kind of kills it for me. Or if I liked the shape of the jump pad. Or if the boots weren’t shiny. I seem like like very matte suede and very sparkly glitter, but not really anything in between and def not patent. Maybe when they go on sale I’ll like them more. It’s a lot of money to spend on mass quantities of exactly perfect color coordination for someone who literally spent all of Sunday wearing her $29 riding tights backwards and not realizing it until she took them off in the evening (that happened. I did that.). The green is really pretty though.

Speaking of green, the SS20 collection I was most looking forward to was Premier Equine’s. I’m low key obsessed with the merino wool pads, and my only complaint is that most of their color combinations are ugly AF. Like, no, I do I not want lime green and turquoise, or hot pink and dark green, or orange and teal. I have the plain navy ones and the plain white ones, because those are the ones my eyeballs can handle, but I was totally down for adding another pad to the collection if they did some new color combinations. I was all up in their instagram suggesting new dark green merino pads like a crazy person. Like dark green with navy or dark green with natural, or even dark green with gray. I’d buy that.

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But they rolled the collection out without adding any new color combos to the merino wool collection at all. It’s confusing, because you know what people will buy 9000 of, if you just keep making them in new seasonal colors? Good saddle pads. Equestrian Stockholm and PS of Sweden have made entire businesses based on that premise. PE did add other new saddle pad styles and shapes, but largely in basic colors. And I don’t want new pad styles, I want the trusty merino wool ones that are A++. So, sadly, another year goes by at PE with the same bad color combos and no new ones. Womp womp.

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Luckily I had already pre-given up on PE and ordered a Presto-color-palate pad from Hufglocken last month, because coupon. Navy with dark green and gray piping. It will probably be months before it gets here but that’s fine because I didn’t actually need it yet anyway, it just drove me damn bonkers to look at his green bridle/green breastplate/navy pad that just did not coordinate at all. The pad needed some green to make it cohesive (but not too much green to make it matchy matchy), okay?

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me, trying to choose a saddle pad. I think I went with 3 but I forget now…

I am still holding out a thin glimmer of hope that Punk Ponies will someday roll out a version of their glitter boots in a nice super dark green. Those would be mine in .2 seconds if they did, I don’t even care what I’d have to get rid of to satisfy the “one in, one out” rule.

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I’ve also, as always, been keeping my eye on Riding Warehouse’s “new” section. They’ve added some good stuff lately, like Ego7 boots (they even have brown!), the Champion MIPS helmets, fancy new girths, clothes in new SS20 colors (Kastel, we have to talk. Are you ok?), and lots of new saddle pads and colors. Again, a slightly disappointing lack of dark green all around, but there’s some burgundy, which I’m also kinda into. Ya know… if it can’t be navy or green.

What new stuff has caught your eye? Any SS20 collections that are really blowing you away?

Presto’s First Road Hack (Pony) Adventure

I didn’t really have a specific plan for what I was going to do with the horses on Sunday. It was quite warm, Henry had jumped the day before, and I’d done some groundwork with Presto. I wanted to do something with both of them but wasn’t really sure what. I’m struggling these days to come up with things to do with Presto that are new or interesting or even consume like 1% of his effort/attention. 

And then as I was grooming Henry, it hit me: why not try ponying him on the road? It was a practical idea for a couple reasons. 1) I haven’t ponied him much at all lately, maybe once in the past 4 months. 2) I need him to start getting used to the road. I want to spend the summer hacking him, and would really like to ride him over to the 80 acre farm down the road at least once a week. It’s not very far from our gate to theirs, but it does involve walking down our street to the stop sign, and then a very short maybe 20-30 yards down a busier/higher speed road to get into their back gate. If I can start getting him used to the road before I ever actually climb aboard, we’ll be that much further ahead of the game when the time comes.

Henry is all of us with Pest-o right now

Henry himself is generally quite good on the road. For as spooky as he can sometimes be, he’s spent a lot of time road hacking and while he might sometimes get snorty about crossing ditches or walking past culverts, he’s trustworthy and excellent in traffic. Perfect tour guide for a baby’s first road adventure. 

I tacked Henry up, put Presto in his rope halter, and off we went.

The first “challenge” was getting out of our front gate. There are flags on either side of the entrance, big and billowy and snapping in the breeze. The first time I ever rode Henry out of the gate he was NOT a fan of them, but he’s gotten used to them by now. I wasn’t sure what Presto would think… he’s pretty bold naturally, but certainly does have a spook in him sometimes. So we rode up to the gate and I stopped and stood for a minute, letting him see and hear them. He didn’t seem to care at all, so we edged closer and closer until we were standing right between them. No shits given. Even when Henry flinched at a particularly loud SNAP, Presto didn’t care. 

Ok then… out the gate we went.

I turned right, heading down our quieter road first rather than toward the busier main road. First we stayed on the shoulder for a bit, until the first several cars passed us. I wanted to make sure we were safely on the grass and out of the road in case he spooked, but again he didn’t care. He’s lived close to roads for a while, so I guess he’s become accustomed to the cars passing already. The shoulder got too small and slanted to easily walk on so we graduated to the road, retreating down to the shoulder to stop and stand when a car came. He was good about all that, and patient. Even when a very loud very fast car came rumbling past, he didn’t mind. 

I turned up another side road and we were quickly assaulted with car doors slamming, kids running and screaming, and dogs barking and running up to the fence on both sides of the road. That rattled him a bit. There was some snorting and arabian-esque prancing, so we just stopped and stood and let him think about it for a minute. He was worried, but he settled, and we walked a little ways up that road before turning around and looping back. 

Then we retraced our steps but this time on the opposite site of the road, going back toward our gate. We encountered plastic bags (no problem) and lots of culverts (he couldn’t figure out why Henry was giving them the hairy eyeball). We walked up to the industrial building and checked out, which he thought was boring. And then, as we passed the building, he saw what lurked behind.

OH MY GOD

And so began his only meltdown of the day. All the other shit was totally fine, but the cows were his complete undoing. He snorted. He piaffed. He tried to turn and run for the hills. He bounced off of me and Henry. It was horrific, according to him. We stood there for quite a while just watching them, until I could finally get Presto to keep moving his feet forward. Eventually we got past them, and worked our way up to the stop sign where our road dumps out onto the main, busier road. We stood there for a while watching traffic zip by, which he didn’t care about. So we turned back around, he spotted the cows again, and the meltdown replayed.

Honestly. Cows? COWS? He’s seen cows before. At the vet’s farm there was a resident cow. He saw it EVERY DAY. I mean seriously, of all the things. I guess I should have known that whatever was the least logical scary thing would be the one that caused the hamster to fall off it’s wheel.

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me, watching him go apeshit over cows

Once he settled down we walked back to our gate, and I had him just stand there between the flags and watch some more cars go by for a while until he was bored again. Yes, standing between two big loud flapping flags and watching cars zoom past was the way to calm down the baby idiot’s brain explosion over cows existing. He quickly chilled out enough to where I moved him close enough for the flag to literally flap right next to his face, which I started videoing.

So that was when he decided to grab the flag and yank it, breaking the flag pole mount on the fence and giving Henry a complete heart attack. 

I didn’t see that one coming, which was really dumb considering that I’ve known this horse for his entire almost 3 years, and if there’s one thing I should have absolutely expected, it’d be that. Breaking something? Totally in his wheelhouse. Scaring other horses in the process? Presto written all over it. He had no idea what Henry spooked at and tried to go back and pick the flag up. That would have been the end of me for sure, if he’d come at Henry with that thing. 

The flag is now rolled up in the house, and the new bracket will be here today. Thanks Amazon Prime. Dammit Presto. But, ya know, otherwise… pretty successful first road outing? We just gotta work on the bovinophobia (I was today years old when I learned that that was a word). 

All Horses. All weekend.

The payoff for making it through a cold soggy week was a relatively glorious February-in-Texas weekend. Temps were in the upper 70’s, it wasn’t too terribly humid, it alternated between overcast and sunny, and there was a breeze but no gale force wind. 

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these two remain BBF’s

On weekends like this I find myself wanting to do All The Things, both with pony time and with projects. On Saturday morning we went out to breakfast and stopped at Lowe’s on the way home so I could get some jump painting supplies. I grabbed a gallon of white paint, found a deep blue in the Oops section for cheap, and grabbed tape, trays, and brushes. I also picked up a few more poles, since I intentionally left some of mine behind at the old barn for them to use.  

Most of my jumps were gifted to me, and I’m extremely grateful to have them, but they arrived in my possession in need of paint/some repairs and I had not actually done any of that yet. They were useable as they were, and I was in a pinch, so they went straight to work. And they’ve been that way now for… years. I was way overdue. 

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some of the 19 poles.. you get the idea

It took me longer than I was hoping, but I got all the poles painted white at least. Some will get stripes put on later. I still have to paint the standards, and repair a few of them. Painting jumps does not make my top 10 (or 100) list of favorite activities, but they do already look so much better.

I also got another jump school in on Henry and I feel like we’re definitely back in our groove. My eye is returning and we’re both feeling more confident again. He’s forward and hunting the jumps, and I’m riding more positively. I’m looking to add a couple more jumper shows to our calendar in the near future, if I can find something that works. 

After I was done with Henry I also worked both of the babies in hand a bit. JB is learning the “send” commands and verbal whoa, and basic desensitization (fly spray is murder). He is way more sensitive and reactive than Presto, but also wicked smart and picks up on things pretty quickly. I’ve really grown to like him. He’s going to be that semi-weird, sensitive, one-person-horse type that I tend to enjoy (ahem Henry). 

Dis MINE, do not use on JB, he CANNOT HAS!

Presto was a little rude going to turnout the other day so he got a tuneup on moving his body based off of my body language or hand signals. Then he just… held his halter for a while. As one does. He gets salty any time I give JB attention and not him.

Later on when I let them in for dinner Presto put on quite the circus act/arabian impression, because he always has to investigate everything and the jumps having moving around/changed color was exciting. I took the opportunity to snap some pictures, to show how at this stage he can look really different depending on what angle you happen to catch him at. 

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I see a real horse in there, though. Also, I can’t wait until he gets some topline and sheds the extra 2″ of hair that makes his head look so freaking blocky. Right now he looks very much like his mother did when she was a coming into her 4yo year. Hopefully that means he’s maturing faster than she did, because lord help me if this thing keeps adding height until he’s 7 like she did. 

Facebook memories reminded me this morning that his mother left for her first 60 days training with the cowboy exactly 10 years ago today. 

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It also reminded me that six years ago today I took Henry for his first gallop, 3 years ago today I was posting pics of Sadie’s rapidly changing teats as we progressed on foal watch, and one year ago today Henry finished his second Prelim. What a day in history. 

On Sunday Presto went for his first road-pony-hack, but lord that is whole story in and of itself so we’ll talk about that tomorrow. To cap off the weekend both boys got a haircut (I am embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t even find where Henry’s bridlepath had once been) and a long curry session to help speed up the shedding. Henry’s entire front half is well on it’s way to being slicked off, but Presto is really just starting to shed. 

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I forgot to take “after” pics but both boys were looking a little ranchy

It’s supposed to be low-mid 80’s today, and then do the patchy rain thing again for the rest of the week. It’s keeping the grass green, at least, but I’m also getting a little tired of things being squishy. Thank goodness this place drains pretty well. 

Hope everyone else had a productive and horsey-filled weekend! 

You’ve got a friend in me (for now)

Henry has been living the solo turnout lifestyle for a while now. Almost 3 years while we were at the western barn, and while he started out in group turnout at the vet’s place, he eventually got banished again. Why? Because he’s a butthole and if he senses any kind of weakness or submission in another horse, he will chase them, or have random outbursts of rage.

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This poor sweet goofy idiot just wants to be friends and play bitey face but Henry is mostly interested in sporadic homicide

When we moved to the new place I didn’t even bother trying him with other horses. Mostly because he makes me kind of nervous, since I never quite know how he’ll react, and I didn’t want him to hurt anyone. He’s content enough on his own, and it’s worked out fine.

And then February decided to be rainy. Like day after day after day. This presents a bit of a quandary for me, because 1) only one of the pastures has a shelter 2) I’m gone like 10 hours, all day long. I don’t really like for horses to be stuck outside with no option for shelter, especially since I work so far away and can’t get there at the drop of a hat if a more severe storm were to pop up. Of course, I also don’t want to have to leave them inside all day either, especially if the rain is spotty or light or the chances are like 50%, which is how this week was. None of us want them stuck inside for days at a time for no real reason.

So last weekend, knowing that the rain was coming, I started experimenting with how I could make sure they still got turnout, but also that everyone had the option for shelter. In the past I’ve tried putting Presto, JB, and Quinnie in the front field with the shed, and leaving Henry’s pasture gate open so that he could use the barn as shelter. But since him going to shelter would require putting himself very much out of the line of sight of the other horses, he refused to use it, just parking himself dejectedly at the fenceline. That doesn’t work.

Henry has played with the other horses over the fence and I never saw any aggressive behavior from him, so first I tried the easiest option of putting him in with them and making a group of 4. That lasted for about 10 minutes. He and Presto are well acquainted enough to where Henry isn’t TOO psychopathic towards him, and Presto knows to steer well clear. But JB just kept trying to go up and make friends with him repeatedly, and he made the crucial mistake of being way way too submissive about it. Henry sensed weakness, pounced on it, and started chasing him. I had to intervene and quickly put the kibosh on that. As I suspected, he can’t be trusted alone with the babies.

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Presto wearing last years sheet because he ripped half the lining out of this years, proving me right for not selling the old one

Plan B was to make two pairs, which I really hate doing in general because I feel like 2 is the worst number for horses. They tend to get overly dumb about their friend, and one or both turns into a moron when the other one leaves. But… I didn’t have a lot of options, and was willing to try it. So the babies went out in the front pasture with the shed, and I turned Henry out with Quinnie in the middle pasture that opens up into the barn courtyard. I figured I could just leave that gate open and they could have the barn to use as shelter.

I put Henry with Quinnie and thought “Ok, here we go”. He marched up to her, they sniffed noses, he squealed and pinned his ears, and Quinnie looked at him deadpan like “Who the fuck you think you are, bucko?” and starts grazing, ignoring him completely. Henry was perplexed. You could see the hamster spinning at mach 5 on it’s wheel in his brain. He tried again, puffing up to her, ears pinned. She didn’t even so much as acknowledge his presence. And so began Henry’s love affair with Quinnie.

They’ve been out together all week now, and he is very much NOT the alpha in their relationship. He goes where she says, when she says, how she says. He’s been transformed from a psychopathic baby-chaser to a relatively pathetic puppy dog. She owns his ass.

But she’s also nice about it, too.  Not mean, just very clear firm lines. They’re always pretty close together and she seems to enjoy having an adult companion again. She still keeps track of what the babies are doing in the pasture next to hers, and they tend to all tend to hang out in the same area. One time I caught Henry trying to mess with JB over the fence and Quinnie came barging between them, reprimanding Henry and moving him back away from the fence. She ain’t got time for that shit, and she ain’t having it. She couldn’t really manage him when all 4 were together, it was too much chaos, but she can manage him pretty well one-on-one.

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Having the barn for shelter on the rainy days worked pretty well. I hung a couple slow feed nets, so they wouldn’t have reason to wander out into the rain if they didn’t want to, and they chose to stay pretty dry. Presto is a little salty about the whole ordeal because Quinnie is his favorite friend too, but he seems to be getting over it. And Henry, while totally devoted, has not been stupid about it yet, knock on wood. Yesterday I rode him and no one had a meltdown about being separated.

on one of the rainy days I opened the cameras while I was at work and found them sharing a stall. It’s cute, admit it.

I like that Henry finally has a friend, and as long as he can keep himself together about it, he can keep her. We’re getting a few days off from the rain but I’ve kept them in their pairs. If he doesn’t try to kill anyone and can keep his brain in his head for riding, I’m happy to let him stay with her. We shall see. For now, they’re pretty darn cute. They both look like fat old mares… they’re BBFs – best broodmare friends. There’s a real Golden Girls aspect to them, especially when they’re standing nose to nail under the tree in the afternoon, taking a nap.

I think they’d be Dorothy and Sophia

Fingers crossed that we’ve found a good solution and Henry can actually have a friend that he doesn’t try to murder for once.

13

Guess who’s officially a teenager today?

Yup, it’s Mr. Hesalmostsweet aka Happenstance aka Henry aka Henny aka Handsome aka Boo.

Since we’ve got a tradition of birthday hats/headbands by now, he picked one that had an appropriate amount of sass to match his personality. Well he really wanted one that said “worship me and give me cookies” but I couldn’t find that so we settled for the next best thing.

Where does the time go, y’all? I can’t believe he’s 13. I’m not ready.

Also, man I really didn’t notice how terrible his halter looked until these photos. Ignore that.

This afternoon we’ll definitely celebrate Henry with lots of cookies, some peppermints in his dinner, and a nice long canter in his sidepull so he has ample opportunity to spook and be wild and pretend to try to buck me off. All his favorite things!

There’s Always the Circus

As I alluded to yesterday, if Presto doesn’t work out as an eventer I’ve decided that we’ll just go audition to join the circus. I feel like he is uniquely qualified, and let me tell you why.

First of all, he looks like a damn giraffe.

Honestly, we could paint the giraffe spot pattern on him and a lot of city-folk probably wouldn’t even know. The legs, the withers, the neck, the slightly flopped ears… you have to admit it’s pretty close. So right off the bat, he could be part of the “rare zoological feature”.

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It doesn’t stop there, though. See, he’s multi-talented performance giraffe. He also has a ball act, which (as I have proven in my Instagram stories) can easily be set to music for more flair or drama. His performance features myriad tricks, including but not limited to:

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kneeling

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twirling

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violent twirling

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a toss-stomp-reverse smoosh combo

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spins

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and even some freestyle rodeo moves, to add to his all-american appeal (rodeo is backup plan C, if both eventing and the circus don’t work out)

And of course, he likes to end every performance with a good snuggle session.

Every performance is a freestyle, so you don’t just get the same show every night. Sometimes he even throws new combos in there, trying out new material to keep the audience on their toes. Really, there’s so much stage appeal here, and I’m not just saying that because I’m his manager. This kid could be a star.

If the circus still isn’t convinced to take him as a solo performer, it’s possible that we could cast JB in a supporting role, for additional chaos.

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DIS MAH STICK

I think Presto could potentially draw quite a crowd at the circus, given his appearance and skill set. Sure, he might be a bit of a diva about what he requires in his dressing room (please ignore the “45 buckitz of COOOOKEEEEES” scrawled across the bottom of his contract in crayon) but you have to admit he has star appeal. I refuse to wear this outfit though. I draw a hard line at that.

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The Home Stretch

You know what’s stupid? Breeding. Ok, it’s not stupid, I love it a lot, but if you’re into instant or at least somewhat short-term gratification, this is 1000% not the way to get it.

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I picked the stallion and mare in 2015. Five years ago. We are five years into this and I haven’t even ridden the resulting offspring yet. And the worrying… my god. It starts before the horse is even born. What if something happens and the mare aborts? What if the foal is stillborn? What if something goes wrong during delivery and both the foal and the mare die? What if it has 4 eyeballs and 3 legs? What if it tries to die constantly for it’s entire life, because it’s a horse and that’s what horses do?

Not that I, uh… over-imagined any of those scenarios plus like 500 others or anything.

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And for the record, one of my nightmares did actually come true so now my neurosis is justified forever and ever.

But when they’re foals it’s all pretty fun (okay, when they’re not trying to die it’s fun) because they’re cute and fluffy and everything in the world is exciting to them. It’s literally a new horse, but in the cutest possible form. You are delighted to have successfully created said new horse, and you’re thinking “Ha! SUCCESS! I did it!”.

And then they’re weaned and you’re like well, ok… now what.

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They get ugly, and then less ugly, and then reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal ugly, and then less ugly, and then dumb, and then less dumb, and then re-dumb. They grow, and they change, and they learn, and then forget, and then learn again, and then grow and change some more. Sometimes you stand there looking at them like:

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And then other times you see a glimpse of the horse they hopefully will become someday, and that changes to:

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If there’s one thing you learn really quickly about babies that you’re raising for yourself, it’s that you have to take the best of what you see, and learn how to burn the rest from your memory. It’s a long long long long wait, and you’ll drive yourself crazy if you overanalyze them on the regular. It’s like looking at a 10yo kid and trying to guess what kind of 35yo they’ll become.

And so it goes for those first couple years, staring at varying versions of an ugly yak-creature that you’re pretty sure is a horse, at least biologically, until basically they’re 3 or 4 and ready to start their real life. And that stretch between 2.5yo and 3yo? It’s approximately 1,008 months.

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For real, while the entire first few years are slow AF, this particular stretch of time could not be more torturous. The horse is big and grown up enough to look like a real horse, but… it’s not a real horse. If I didn’t have Henry as a distraction I don’t know what I would do.

Originally I had wanted to put a handful of very easy rides on Presto around the 2.5 mark, but a particularly awkward growth spurt put the kibosh on that. If he can’t even figure out how to canter on the same lead in the front and the back, there isn’t much use in asking him to figure out how to carry a rider. Now, knock on wood, the balance seems to have magically re-appeared again. All the sudden one day I looked up and his lovely gallop was back, and I found myself staring at him starry-eyed as I have so many times in the last 3 years. Imagining what that will feel like to ride. Picturing him storming around his first cross country, the thing I literally created him to do (FIVE YEARS AGO). More and more, day by day, bit by bit… I can see it in him. He’s almost a real horse.

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We are now officially about a month from Presto’s 3yo birthday. It’s shaping up to be a wet month, and I don’t have anyone around or in town to come help me with his first few rides, so we’re just waiting. What’s another few months at this point, when it’s already been five years in the making? And then consider that he’s definitely over a year, maybe year and a half away from actually going to his first event… those first rides are the culmination of one part, but also just the beginning of a whole new even longer process. Which is almost depressing when you think you’re finally at the end of what has already been a long process.

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So here we find ourselves, on the home stretch of this particular part of the journey. Hopefully. Maybe. It’s a really really long home stretch, that’s for sure. I for one CANNOT WAIT. It’s been a long 84 3 years. And hey, if the eventing thing doesn’t work out, Presto can always join the circus. More about that tomorrow…

Now I Get It

For the majority of my life I’ve always had horses that were green and/or young and/or remedial. Part of that was because projects were the only thing I could afford. The other part of that is that, luckily, they’re also what I’ve always tended to enjoy most. I like taking something and molding it into something better. It’s rewarding, it’s challenging, and it keeps life interesting.

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what, you don’t buy random 17.1h halter-broke-only TB’s out of people’s backyards because it seems like a good way to spend the winter?

Sure, I fantasized about the whole “if I won the lottery I’d go buy an experienced horse” thing, but since it was so far outside of the realm of reality I never devoted that much thought or desire to it. Realistically I didn’t really even understand the appeal… a horse like that seemed honestly a bit boring to me. What was the point really? And if, in my price range, you gave me the option between the young/green/idiot vs the older/past it’s prime/but likely a lot easier horse… my dumb ass is gonna choose the idiot every time. I can’t help it.

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And, truth be told, because pretty much all I’ve ever had is projects (aside from my first horse who was older but actually WAS, in retrospect, fairly dangerous for 16yo kid), I’ve never kept one long enough to enjoy it as more of a finished product. The closest I’ve ever come was the lease horse that I rehabbed from a soft tissue injury and showed a little in the adult jumpers. He was further along in his training when he came to me compared to most I’d had, although he was T-R-I-C-K-Y to ride. Particularly the first 5 minutes where you had to convince him that he was, in fact, required to move beyond a stand still (every ride. every effing ride.).

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he could jump though, if/when he felt like it

In my time as a barn rat, though, and then later at boarding barns, I was lucky enough to have access to some more “made” horses. I got to ride some nice ones, and it was of great benefit to me as a rider. I still never really found myself jonesing for one though. I can’t help it, I really love my projects. When it comes to horses, green is my favorite color.

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I’ll take two

But now, 6 years into owning Henry, I find myself in uncharted territory. He’s almost 13, we know each other really really well, and swinging a leg over his back is like slipping on your favorite pair of gloves. He’s not a dead-head, but he’s a pretty confirmed, trained horse by now. There are few surprises (even last week, when he spooked at the bushes because the lawn guys trimmed them and they were SHORTER THAN THEY HAD BEEN BEFORE OMG… it was still the reaction I expected). And although he is a spooky idiot and probably always will be, he’s predictable.

predictably terrifying, if you ask Presto

I think the best part, though, is that even when he’s off for a few months, or we do things we haven’t done in a while, he still just shows up and and does his job. He has buttons firmly installed, and they don’t come and go depending on the day. Like when just a couple weeks into riding him again, I got on bareback and ran through all of his confirmed dressage movements and he just… did them. Half pass? Ok. Halt-rein back-canter? Ok. Shoulder in? Ok. Counter canter loops? Ok. They weren’t perfect, he’s not as strong as he was, but… he did them without question. I have been riding for almost 30 years and this is legit a new experience for me.

The jumping is much the same. I’ve taken my time working him back up, but on Sunday I put up a 3’3″ course and hopped around it a couple times. First of all, he knows when it’s a jump day, and all he really wants to do from the second I swing a leg over is canter. Which I find more amusing than I probably should, but I just can’t help but think his enthusiasm, and the fact that he obviously knows what’s on the agenda, is endearing. And the fact that he’s so excited to be doing his job, one he knows really well, that he’s more than happy to cover any of my rusty mistakes (could I find a consistent distance? any distance, just not 500 different ones…) because he’s confident and happy in his job.

Now I get it. I get the appeal of having an experienced horse, and I understand why it’s so fun. No it’s not boring. No it’s not monotonous and predictable. Yes it’s still very rewarding… I made the horse, now I get to enjoy him. Maybe I’ve been doing it wrong all along. Not in the respect of buying green horses and projects – that will always be my first love – but in not keeping them and enjoying them long term.

But maybe I’m also able to say that now because I look out in the pasture and see the next big project waiting for me, and knowing what all is in store. It makes it easy to appreciate the horse I’ve built, and at the same time I’m also really excited to get started on the next one. Maybe this is the way to do it – one older established horse, and one dumb baby idiot. Best of both worlds.

2020 WTW Baby Bets Contest

OMG OMG OMG it’s almost that time again!!! The first mare “up to bat” is officially at 300 days gestation today, which means that theoretically we could have a foal on the ground in a month or so. That means, of course, that it’s time for my favorite annual tradition – the Willow Tree Warmbloods Baby Bets contest!

babybetsFirst off, the prize package. The winner of this year’s Baby Bets contest will receive:

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Money, swag, and practical items… hopefully we’ve covered all the bases!

This year we have four foals coming – the biggest crop yet at WTW. We’ve got two eventers and two sportponies, including the first two Usandro foals in the US (side note, frozen semen will be available for purchase this year from Usandro as well!).

We’ll do the rules just like always. All you have to do is exercise those psychic powers and comment here with your guesses for the following, for each foal:

  • Foaling Date
  • Foaling Time (doesn’t have to be to the minute accurate, just to the hour is fine – ie 2AM. If it happens in the 2AM hour, you get the points.)
  • Gender
  • Color
  • Face Markings
  • Leg Markings (again doesn’t have to be specific – “one sock”, “none”, “four socks”, etc will work)

So your submission should look something like this for each mare:

Peyton: 3/22 3AM bay filly with a stripe and two socks

But filled in with your actual guesses, of course. Everything you guess correctly will earn points. 10 points each for foaling date and time, and then 5 points each for gender, color, face markings, and leg markings… each foal can potentially net you up to 40 points. So even if you get a few things wrong, there are still ways to rack up some serious points. If there are any ties, I’ll put them all in a hat and get Michelle to pick a winner.

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I will never not include a baby Presto pic in these contest posts

Submit your entries via a comment here on this post or you can message them to me on the blog’s facebook page. Just make sure you leave a link or an email address in your comment so I can contact you if you win.

The “Due dates” I’ve listed below are based on the average 340 days gestation, but keep in mind that average gestation can be anywhere from 320ish to 360ish. I’ve included pictures of both parents and whatever info is important so you can make your best guesses.

PEYTON x RAMIRO B

This will be Peyton’s first foal so I don’t have any historical data on what her gestation tendencies might be. Early, late, or right on time – it’s anyone’s guess. 340 days (average gestation) would put her “due date” at 3/17. As far as color genetics, both parents are obviously bay, but they also both carry the red gene. For those who want to get really specific, Peyton’s genetic color panel is Aa/Ee. (psssst… here’s a foal color calculator if you want to look at the chances for each color)

DAISY x USANDRO

Again I don’t have any historical data on what Daisy’s gestation tendencies might be, but 340 days would put her “due date” at 4/8. The color possibilities with this one are a little more fun – Daisy is a grulla with a color panel of aa/Ee D/D. Usandro is homozygous black (EE).

STORMIE x USANDRO

Another sportpony! Stormie’s “due date” is 5/8, although last year she foaled a few days early. Stormie was originally grulla and turned gray, with a color panel of aa/Ee/Gg/Dd. Usandro is homozygous black (EE).

SADIE x WISE MASTER COOL RUNNINGS

Another Presto half sibling and I’m SUPER excited about this one. The sire shares the ancestor Heraldik with Presto’s sire, so they’re a little more related. It will be interesting to compare them! This will be the sire’s first foal. Both parents are bay, and Sadie’s color genetics are Aa/Ee. I’m not sure if the sire has a red gene or not… both of his parents are bay but there is chestnut another generation back so it’s possible. Sadie’s “due date” is 5/17, but she usually foals a little bit early.



I’ll leave entries open through 2/21, so that gives you 2 weeks to get your guesses in! The contest winner will be revealed after the last foal is born. Obviously I have no idea exactly when that’ll be, hopefully mid-May, so you’ll just have to stay tuned.

Who’s really excited for baby pictures?

Applying Minimalism to the Equestrian Lifestyle

Part of tiny home living, unless you want to live in a Hoarders house or pay for a giant storage unit, is minimizing possessions. Granted, at 399 square feet (plus a loft space) we aren’t going nearly as tiny as what most people think of when they picture a tiny house, but it’s certainly a change from a 1500 square foot, 4 bedroom 2 bath suburban home.

I have generally never been the type of person to collect a lot of personal (ie non-horse related) stuff. I don’t like clutter, I don’t like knick-knacks, and I’m a rather poor decorator since it all just looks like “stuff” to me. If you really want to psychoanalyze it, it’s probably due in large part to a couple things: 1) I’ve moved a lot in my lifetime. Like 17 times in 36 years. There for a while I moved every year basically. You know what sucks? Having to pack up lots of stuff. I learned how to live without things I didn’t like enough to carry up and down 3 flights of apartment stairs. 2) My mother collected all kinds of things. She was tidy about it, and decorative, but there were gas lamps, copper molds, chickens (like thousands of ceramic chickens), deorative plates, fabric, etc etc all over the place. It always felt like there was stuff everywhere, and like if I turned around too fast I might break something. She got joy out of collecting those things, and that’s fine… but I did not, and still don’t. It makes me feel suffocated.

I just collect naughty horses who destroy things

I’m also not really into clothes, or beauty products, or shoes, or jewelry, or whatever else normal people might have a lot of. I tend to wear the same types of things over and over, and the same two pairs of shoes, and I could not give less of a shit about all the different exfoliating scrubs or lotions or whatever else you’re supposed to use that I definitely do not. I’ve got like… 2 things. Hence why the idea of minimalism has been pretty appealing to me – it’s mostly in line with my natural tendencies. Granted, not the particularly “true” more extreme form of minimalism where they own like 4 shirts… that’s a bit much for me. But the idea of having things in much smaller quantities, and only keeping things that you actually use or need? Very appealing.

Except… you know what I AM into, in large quantities?

HORSE STUFF.

Yeah I know, that’s probably a real shock, right?

My real vice, when it comes to buying things and keeping excess, is horse stuff. In my own defense, horses do require a lot of shit. Like multiple blankets per horse. Different types of equipment. Boots for different purposes. Bits. So many bits. Sprays, ointments, shampoos. I mean… even if you try to minimize it, they still require a whole lot of shit if you want to be a well prepared horse owner. Also, look, I like having shit that matches and coordinates. Gotta have the boys looking cute. I also like have fun “toys”. However, I will be the first to admit that I’m like 15 steps past what constitutes well prepared.

The real question I had to ask myself though, was: do I want to minimize this part of my life too? If so, how far do I want to go, and then how do I get there?

For the first part I decided that the answer is a bit of a shaky yes, shaky only because – in answer to the second part – I don’t want to go to an extreme. I still want to be a very well-prepared and well stocked equestrian, and I want my horses to have everything they could possibly need in any forseeable training/care/riding/management situation. I have ample storage space, so I don’t have to worry about that part. The real opportunity to minimize comes when I turn the spotlight on myself.

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This jacket earned it’s permanent place yesterday while I was doing chores in the freezing cold

Do I need 16 pairs of breeches? Probably not. So I picked out my favorites – a couple pairs of tights for summer, the one winter pair I own, the “regulars” that I reach for most often, the whites I show in, and the tan I keep for foxhunting. That left me with 9. Still a lot, sure, but… better than 16. I still feel prepared for any situation, so it doesn’t feel like any kind of loss. I did the same with show shirts (god I LOVE show shirts for some reason). Did I need 8? Probably not, considering how little I show. Pared it down to a couple of my favorite white shirts, a couple of colored ones for schooling shows or if jackets are waived, and the rest went in the cull pile. And so it went, weeding out all the things I really just don’t need, and honestly don’t even wear that much. I was left with a smaller but still comprehensive collection of things I truly love and use/wear on at least a semi-regular basis.

But… it’s pretty easy to just clean stuff out, isn’t it? The harder part is preventing it all from piling back up again. So I gave myself a rule: One in, one out. Basically, if I buy something non-essential, another item has to go. I’ve been applying the rule since the beginning of the year and so far it’s actually working. I’ve passed up several purchases already because by the time I sat there and tried to figure out what I would sell in order to buy it, I talked myself out of it. And, alternatively, I’ve added one thing because I liked it so much I was willing to let go of another similar item. Really it’s not minimalism so much as mindfulness. If I have to get rid of something else in order to acquire the thing I want, I have to really want it. Especially since I’m now pared down to only the things that I like and use the most. I can’t just pile stuff up because it’s pretty and fun. My goal isn’t really to spend less money (although that’s a natural side effect), it’s to have/accumulate less unnecessary stuff.

the ball was a necessity

Except gloves. It will be a cold day in hell before you make me stop buying gloves. At least they’re small.

While it’s not true minimalism by definition, and it’s not particularly “strict”, this was the method I picked for myself because I thought it was one that I could actually sustain. Other people would maybe have more success with a different approach, but I know myself well enough to know what’s realistic for me. My horses get what they need (yes, I’m putting Presto’s ball in the need category, fight me) and I still get to be well-equipped and have/buy stuff that I like. But the purchases are more mindful and more intentional, and that’s really what the overall goal was. Will I stop window-shopping? Never. I’m always interested to see what’s new and great, and eager to try things and see if I’ll like them. Now I just have to be a little more sure before I click buy.