Lucky He’s Cute

It’s only Tuesday and I already find myself thinking that it’s been a long week. For the past 3 nights I’ve woken up at 3:30am and laid there running through every single thing I need to do within the next 6 months in my head. I dunno why, but I do know that it’s not conducive to good sleep. I also decided to read The Testaments after I finished binge-watching The Handmaid’s Tale, so like… I’m not ok. And then RBG died. And eventing community DRAMA. My brain is a little overloaded with thinking topics at the moment.

But some good news: I got my truck back!

cleanest she’s been in a long time, I’ll give them that

They ended up replacing the radiator (apparently it had a massive crack in the back of it that was somehow missed) and did something to the engine that I can’t remember the specifics of and am too lazy to dig back through the paperwork right now. Mechanic SO was satisfied (not blown away, but satisfied with only minor grumbling) at what all they did, and he checked their work. The repair shop covered all the extra costs, including the 5 additional days of rental car fees. When I went to pick it up both the tech and the GM came out to talk to me, and told me 3 times about how they road tested it, both on residential streets and on the highway, as if I should be impressed by basic due diligence. I tried not to glare, since like… if that had been done the first time we wouldn’t have been in that particular mess. But, ok. I appreciate that they seemed eager to fix their mistake, so I have to give them that much credit I suppose.

As for whether or not they caused other long term damage to the engine, we shall see. SO and I both remain a bit skeptical, but he wanted me to drive it for a while before we made any snap decisions. I was planning on getting a new truck next summer anyway, so if the engine continues to perform normally then that should still be fine. If we have any issues whatsoever, or anything seems “off”, we’ll have to move up the timeline.

Henry has still been feeling normal, knock on wood. This horse and his feet, I swear. It doesn’t help that he’s a huge baby. It’s like he looks at a rock and is instantly crippled. On my last Corro order I did go ahead and re-stock all my hoof care essentials: more Durasole, Keratex, and ThrushBuster. It makes me feel better, at the very least.

He’s been wild though, which is a good sign with him. Like I said, huge baby, so if he’s at all sore anywhere he tends to be extra mopey and grumpy. He’s been a complete lunatic a few times in his pasture though (COULD YOU JUST NOT) and was super wild with me on Saturday when we went out back to canter. Dolphin mode was fully engaged. Those are good things though, in this context. My farrier will be out this week for our regular 5 week appointment so I’ll see if there’s anything he’d like to do differently. And since I got my truck back I went ahead and made his appointment for his “filling” with the dentist, so he goes in for that procedure in a few weeks.

Lucky he’s cute, since he’s also expensive

Otherwise nothing exciting is really happening here. The weather has cooled down a bit which is AMAZING, but it’s also raining quite a bit so riding has been a little hit or miss. The grass looks SO FREAKIN GOOD for this time of year in Texas though, so I will not complain. This time last year it was just dead crunchy sadness as far as the eye could see. Nothing gets a horse person excited quite like good pasture.

I do need to do a small update on the tiny house stuff, maybe next week. I continue to slowly but surely go through the house and throw things away or put it in the donate pile (which has now become a room… there’s a room full of donate bags… I can’t even talk about it). I have also reached the point where I’m marking all the things that I’m going to just leave in the front yard and let people come take. A lot of my riding clothes wardrobe needs to be whittled down too, and my brain can’t even go there yet with everything else that still has to happen. And THIS is why I lay awake at night…

Periscope

After Presto’s XC adventure a couple weeks ago, he had a little bit of a relaxed two weeks. He came in to get groomed a couple times, and I took him on a walk hack last weekend, but otherwise he’s been living his best feral kid life. He officially turned 3 1/2 last Wednesday, although I forgot his half birthday until Friday so please no one tell him.

“wtf mom”

Anyway, I’ve been wanting to work on his canter a bit more (he’s only cantered u/s maybe 5-6 times, I feel like the dressage arena at home is still just a little bit small of a space for how big/gawky/not-coordinated-enough-yet that he currently is – it’s a little challenging to keep moving at the canter in there), so yesterday I took him over to the barn down the street. It’s the same place where I’ve taken Henry a couple times to ride in their really big field, I bought a yearly pass back when Covid first hit and haven’t really taken advantage of it enough. They have a pretty big arena so I figured that would be perfect to work on Presto’s canter. It’s only maybe a mile away, but I didn’t think Presto was quite ready for a solo road hack involving speeding cars, so I stuck him on the trailer and we drove down.

And boy, he was really into the change of scenery. A brand new place, with lots to see in every direction. His head was on a swivel. No, scratch that, he has a giraffe neck. His head was on a periscope.

I lunged him for a bit before I got on, and he just couldn’t stop looking gawking at things. Not in a scared or spooky way, but in the way where he just wants to go check out and be involved in literally everything. Horse way over there in a field? Must go make friends! Tractor driving around behind the barn? Where’s he going, I wanna go too! The running commentary from him pretty much the entire time was WHAT IS THAT WHAT IS THIS WHO ARE YOU HI I IS PRESTO WHERE DIS WHAT DAT WHAT YOUR NAME WHERE YOU GO I GO WIFF. He’s an ADHD toddler that asks way too many questions. Like you know the ones that even follow their parents into the bathroom and continue talking without so much as pausing to take a breath? That’s him.

To his credit, despite being way too nosy about everything, he wasn’t naughty. He could have easily used it as an excuse to turn completely belligerent and he didn’t. His hamster stayed on it’s wheel. He still listened, and I had no qualms getting on him despite how unfocused he was. He was definitely very forward and distracted to start, but once I gave him something to do (figure 8’s seem to soothe his brain), he started to settle.

When you is uphill but also you is THREE and everything is REALLY COOL

I mean, I’m not sure that he so much as flicked an ear back to me for the first 10 minutes, but he was still obedient enough. He did settle more and more as we went, though. I only rode him for 20 minutes, and once we cantered the first time he finally took a deep breath and everything after that was a bit more chill. The periscope slowly started to come down a bit. I didn’t ask him for anything in particular except to listen to me and keep some semblance of a rhythm, so I kept him on a lighter contact. No pressure, he’s allowed to be curious as long as he isn’t being rude in the process. He “sang the song of his people” a little bit, but nothing too bad. He’s still green enough to where he can’t really scream while also turning or cantering… too much multi-tasking. He can trot and scream though, that works just fine.

settling down enough to give me an ear, at least for a few seconds
Definitely the most cantering he’s done in one ride

All things considered I was pretty pleased with him. This horse is definitely not a dead-head, he’s got some fire in him, but it’s not malicious. I trust that he’s not going to do anything completely stupid, at least, or totally come apart at the seams. He’s got plenty of enthusiasm, and a good work ethic, and I love that he’s so forward-thinking. I feel much safer on a horse like that, especially for eventing. There’s an eagerness to him that I really like to have. He will definitely require patience and a sense of humor, but if I can keep channeling the fire for good, positive things, it’ll be a great quality for him to have. Most of the time anyway.

I’m going to try to get him over to that place more often, it was definitely easier for him to canter in the bigger space and it’s good for him to see new places. I did realize that this is the first time I’ve ever actually asked him to go somewhere new and “work”… every other outing has been a trail ride, or pretty much just a hack with some friends. This time he was alone and had to do big horse things. All things considered I really can’t complain.

Left a scream in there for you. You’re welcome.

Foal Friday: Bad Influence

Let’s be real guys, we already know that Ollie is definitely the fan favorite of the foal group this year. I mean if nothing else he’s certainly the most entertaining, I don’t think any of us can dispute that. Plus he’s a chonky, cute, naughty AF little pony foal… what’s not to like?

He also has the effect of being the herd pot-stirrer, and sometimes inspires the other foals to subscribe to his particular brand of mischief. One in particular seems to be a favorite target.

It’s almost as if he just KNOWS that they’re related, and she’s his “sister”, so he picks on her just a liiiiiitle bit more than the others. Oakley generally prefers to ignore him, but… as I’m sure you can imagine, Ollie is hard to ignore for very long. She does deign to indulge him sometimes. She is a closet zoomies lover, after all, and they’re close enough in size to be suitable partners for some mutual grooming.

everybody likes groomies

Even if we all know that what Ollie may originally propose as mutual grooming is inevitably going to turn into at attempt at Bitey Face. But in true big sister form, Oakley also knows exactly how to dish it right back to him if he starts to get out of line (which he always does).

I’M WARNING YOU KID
I SAID STOP
you can practically hear Ollie giggling anyway

Ollie, ever-chipper and rarely ruffled, tends to push to the point of no return, get cast away by Oakley, and then move on to his next victim. Er… friend. And sometimes said friend can even be convinced to join him willingly for a little trouble-making, because colts do seem more easily swayed by peer pressure. Don’t tell me there’s no such thing as a bad influence.

Ollie opens the pump house door, Remi grabs some insulation and chases his mother around the pasture with it. What a team.

Let’s be honest though, trouble just doesn’t come as easily to the other foals, so it’s always pretty short-lived… especially when you’re Remi and have a no-nonsense helicopter mom. Not that it stops Ollie from trying.

Ollie: REMI WAIT, COME BACK! LOOK WHAT ELSE I FOUND! Remi: No man, I can’t right now, my mom’s still mad.
Ollie: Remi, come on man, it’s a NOOD! Remi: SHHHH bro, you’re gonna get me in trouble, she’s watching!
Don’t be such a baby! Get back here!

Never change, Ollie. Never change.

Believe or not, y’all, we’re getting close to time for the babies to leave the nest and go off to their new homes. We don’t have too many Foal Fridays left for 2020! Sad times…

The “plantation” problem

I feel like most of us, especially eventers, have probably seen what went down on Eventing Nation yesterday right? If not, here ya go. Read all the comments too, they’re important. See both sides. It’s only fair.

Eventing Nation broaching the topic of the possibly offensive event name culminated in the property owner feeling personally attacked (he felt as if he was being called racist), terminating the lease with the organizing group, and essentially cancelling the sport of eventing at his facility indefinitely. That termination happened a couple days before EN published their article, explaining what had gone down and why they had approached the topic of changing the event name in the first place. The cancellation of future Plantation Field events is a huge loss for the sport, and a situation where there really are no winners.

I saw a lot of emotional people and knee-jerk reactions after this came to light, which is understandable. I get that. And while I (shockingly, I’m sure) have so much to say about this I could probably write a novel, instead I mostly wanted to shine a light on a few things that other people have had to say. Opinions that are significantly more important and relevant than my own. Thoughts and feelings that we shouldn’t be ignoring, and that shouldn’t get lost in the other thousands of comments. Before we speak, we have to listen.

“But in my experience, when people won’t welcome feedback about the language they use that impacts people of color, I can rest assure they wouldn’t welcome me either.”. Let that sink in for a second.

“The word plantation makes me and many other poc uncomfortable”

I also suggest reading this article, if you’d truly like to understand the issue a bit more and why it’s so extremely relevant at this particular moment in history:

‘Not a Welcoming Name’: Calls to Drop ‘Plantation’ Gain Steam Nationwide

I also ask you to consider a few points regarding EN in particular, who is shouldering the entirety of the blame from many:

  • EN stated months ago that they were dedicated to the issues of diversity and inclusivity in eventing. They’ve written and published plenty about it. The cause and their stance on it shouldn’t be a surprise.
  • As a media outlet, they do have the benefit of the power of the press, theirs to wield as they so choose. There is plenty of precedent for this. They also have the added responsibility of knowing just how much their own words matter, particularly within the current movement.
  • It was only a matter of time before Plantation Field and the event organizers were confronted with this question and these pressures, regardless of the source. EN may have been the first, but they won’t be the last. Is anyone who questions it going to get “cancelled”?
  • EN can only use their voice to bring awareness to the issue, they cannot control the reaction or the outcome.
allyship by Jerilyn Hassell Pool | Black lives matter movement, Black lives  matter, How to become

It’s also clear that many many people who originally declared themselves “allies” need to understand what allyship really means and that it isn’t just performative. I’m discouraged to see so many be so quick to jump ship when it meant that they too actually had to pay the piper in some way. Allyship doesn’t just stop at words. Losing something for standing up for what you think is right… it sucks. But I have to ask: are we not in this situation now both as a society and as a sport because we’ve spent too long standing idly by, unwilling to rock the boat, unwilling to ask the hard questions, unwilling to address the elephant in the room, and unwilling to stand firm, have courage, and actually risk losing something ourselves? It’s one thing to “say”… there is little risk in that. It’s another thing to “do”, especially when you yourself have a lot on the line.

For those who keep posting the dictionary definition of a plantation, as if that somehow proves it isn’t racist, I have to ask you this: how would you feel if there was an event called Swastika Farm Horse Trials? Before you roll your eyes, hear me out. A swastika is another thing that technically does not have a racist meaning by definition, but the symbolism within a certain group is undeniable. Here’s the dictionary definition of swastika:

Okay, so now imagine that the word “plantation” created the same feelings in you that the word “swastika” does (or at least should, for god’s sake). Seriously. Set your emotion and defensiveness and personal perspective aside and imagine it, just for a second. Imagine that every time you saw the word, or rolled through those gates, you got that visceral reaction of discomfort, sadness, subjugation, and not feeling welcome or wanted. If a group of people is standing in front of us telling us how something makes them feel, it’s not up to us to tell them that they shouldn’t feel that way, or to throw out a dictionary definition. It’s up to us to listen and try to understand.

My hope is that once emotions settle and some perspective is gained, the “powers that be” that are involved in putting on this event can sit down together (along with some of our BIPOC community) and have a meaningful conversation, and reach a suitable resolution for everyone. Whether you agree with it or not, whether you approve of how it was done or not (which no one knows the exact details save for a very few people, so how bout we ease up on the “I don’t have a problem with what they were trying to do but I don’t agree with how it was done” thing), EN has done a bold, brave thing, one that has gained them few friends and many enemies. They’ve done exactly what they promised to do, even though it was certainly the hard thing and not the easy one. But I know one thing for sure: if we really want change, if we truly DO want to be inclusive in our sport, we have to stand for something. That means stand for it in the storm, too, not just in fair weather. And yes, when you take the risk to truly, relentlessly, unwaveringly stand for something, you sometimes risk losing something else in the process too.

I would like to report a Murder

Y’all. My truck. She is not ok.

You may remember a few weeks ago when I got into a minor fender bender and my truck was towed away to a body shop. Two weeks went by before they called me and said she was ready to come pick up. I was very excited. My little rented Nissan Altima is great and all, but… it’s not my truck. I love my truck, she is my dearest, my beloved, and we’ve been besties for almost five years. I drive a lot, I spend a lot of time in my truck, and she’s certainly towed my trailer aaaaaall over creation by now. She’s the first truck I’ve ever owned, and while she’s not fancy in the slightest, she’s rolled right along with everything I’ve ever asked of her, ever faithful. I say all this just so you know exactly how I feel about my truck.

broke my heart, seeing her like this

Anyway, so on Friday they called me to come pick her up. I was so relieved to have her back. I paid my deductible, they brought her out front all clean and shiny, I hopped in, and away we went. Reunited and it felt so good. The body shop isn’t far from my house, a few miles, just a short jaunt up the highway. As I was on the ramp getting onto the highway, my oil temp light came on. I thought hmmm that’s odd, what the heck. I had already decided to pull over and call the body shop back, once I could safely get off the highway. By the time I merged into traffic, I noticed the heat gauge creeping up at an alarming rate. Then the check engine light came on. All in very rapid succession, maybe a minute. Um. WHAT THE FUCK. I took the first exit I could, and as I was limping down the exit ramp to pull over the engine started to sputter, and I noticed the temperature gauge was now all the way at the top. I slid over immediately into the first parking lot I could, snapped a picture of the dash real quick, turned it off, and called the body shop.

They were only about 10 minutes before closing, but luckily the manager answered. I explained what had happened, and he apologized and asked me to bring the truck back. Um. Don’t think I’ll be driving anywhere like this, thanks though. When I explained a bit more forcefully that it was super hot and the engine was SPUTTERING, he said okay tell me where you are and I’ll drive your rental car back to you and arrange for us to tow it back in. It was a stroke of originally annoying luck that they still had my rental. Since they had waited until 45mins AFTER the rental car place closed to tell me my truck was ready, I couldn’t go drop it off, I’d had to leave it at the body shop for the rental company to come pick up on Monday (which would accrue 3 more days of rental fees). But thank goodness for that in retrospect, because otherwise I’d have had no vehicle.

2 miles. We went two whole miles.

Anyway… so the guy shows up in my rental 5 minutes later, very apologetic, and I show him the picture of all the dash warning lights and explain the sequence of events. He says “hmm… that’s weird, we ran the diagnostics and nothing showed up” enough times to make me see red. See, in the time I’d been waiting for him to show up, I had called my mechanic SO (he works at the Bentley/Rolls Royce/Aston Martin/Lotus/Maserati dealership) to tell him what happened, and the very first question he asked me was “Did they road test it?”. IE, did they drive the truck around the block a couple times after repairs were complete to verify all was well. This is standard procedure at any repair shop worth their salt with any mechanic who gives a shit about checking their work. SO was out at happy hour at the time with a bunch of other mechanic friends, and as they all heard what had happened I was met with a loud chorus of “Daaaaaaamn, THEY DIDN’T ROAD TEST IT!”. So as we’re standing in the parking lot next to my disabled truck and manager said for the second time that they ran the diagnostics and it didn’t return any codes, I asked if they road tested it. He paused, looking a bit panicked, and repeated the same line about the diagnostics for a third time. Uh huh. Got it. Figured not.

Xena Rage GIF | Gfycat

I quietly packaged my rage, stuffed it deep down inside, took the rental car keys from him, and drove away without another word. Mostly because if any words had been allowed to come out of my mouth, they would not have been very polite.

When SO got home we talked through what happened in detail and his guess was that either the coolant hose came loose or had a major leak, bad enough to where in the very short distance between the dealership and me getting on the highway, all the coolant had leaked out. Which of course caused it to overheat, which in turn caused the sputtering as the engine was starting to take a hit. His concern is that once the sputtering starts, there’s almost always some kind of resulting engine damage. Even though I got pulled over and turned the truck off as fast as I could get out of traffic, maybe went all of 50′ with the sputtering, that’s still bad. Really really bad. Especially for a high mileage vehicle that has to tow things reliably. There is a good chance my engine is fucked. I am equal parts devastation and rage.

The Path to Oadara — Lads & the Knee-Bending Hysteria
How I feel right now

I have yet to hear from the body shop again, so I’ll be calling today and asking for an update. In the meantime my insurance stopped covering my rental as of last Friday. As far as they’re concerned, everything was completed then. The body shop WILL be covering the rental and any subsequent repairs, at the very damn least, whether they know it yet or not. I’m mad. I’m so mad. Just driving the damn truck around the damn block after they had “fixed” it would have prevented all of this.

Once I had calmed down enough to see straight, I went back and dug through all the paperwork my insurance had sent me from the claim. I went line by line, looking at what all they had done. You know what they did? Replaced the bumper and the grill. That’s. It. Absolutely nothing internal was noted, even though the truck had to be TOWED IN THERE because it had two MAJOR LEAKS with fluid absolutely POURING out the bottom of it in multiple places. Which they knew for sure, because it was noted on the original intake paperwork. So how the heck did only the bumper and grill get replaced? How did no one even think to drive it around the block? Really?

I also noticed that where they noted the “mileage in” (how many miles the truck had when they brought it in) and the “mileage out” (how many miles it had on it when they completed repair and returned it to me) was exactly the same. So yes, unequivocally and without doubt, provable right there in black and white, it definitely was not road tested. SO said that’s especially bad when there have been known leaks, because you need the pressure from the running working engine pumping things through to be absolutely sure that the leaks are fixed. You can’t tell that from running a diagnostic or just turning the vehicle on. Kinda looks like they just reattached a hose or two, put a new bumper on, and called me to come get it. In what fucking world is that sufficient, given the circumstances?

Top 30 Incompetent GIFs | Find the best GIF on Gfycat

This is going to get messy. Really messy. I can already feel it. SO says that unless they show that they did some kind of actual engine repair, he would want me to get a new truck, because he wouldn’t feel comfortable with it being a tow vehicle again. I’m trying not to absolutely lose my internal shit, so I’m waiting to see what they have to say for themselves and what they actually do here. They better fix this, they better fix it right, and they better pay for it all, INCLUDING THE EXTRA RENTAL FEES, otherwise I swear to christ…

Volcano GIFs | Tenor

Coming in Clutch

While Henry has been busy chucking his shoes into the next county and having Owie Footies, Presto has been coming in clutch. After his XC adventure I gave him the week off, since that was a lot and he IS just 3 1/2 (as of tomorrow anyway) but he remains happy and eager to do things, soaking it all up like a large, hyperactive, giraffe-shaped sponge.

very smugly modeling his new unicorn turnout sheet

He’s somewhere around 30 rides now (I’ve stopped counting, but he’s either at 29 or 30, pretty sure) and admittedly I’ve done it at a glacial pace. Over the last six months, if we’re being specific. Not the typical way to get the first 30 days on a horse, but it’s seemed to have worked fine for him. I wanted to go slow to allow his body ample time to adjust, particularly because he IS so gawky, and I’m pleased to see the slow but steady progress. He’s getting a little strength in his topline, his balance has improved immensely, and he’s still happy and fresh mentally. He still wants to come in and do stuff, and still meets me at the gate. I’ve given him the odd week or two off here and there, and dialed the pressure up sometimes versus dialed it way back other times, just based on the horse I have in front of me that day. I try to react to what he’s telling me and tailor his “program” to suit, rather than have a rigid specific plan in mind for him.

He didn’t want to go back out to his pasture

The real perk of all this slow, pressure-free time is that I’ve learned so much about him mentally. His instincts, his reactions, how he thinks, how he learns… it’s obviously really good information to have before you really start doing anything hard. I obviously already knew a lot about his brain in general from… raising him… but riding adds a whole different dynamic. He rides and thinks very much like a thoroughbred (which I am thrilled about) – he’s forward-thinking, he’s sensitive, he wants to please, he’s smart, he needs finesse not force, and he’s a bit goofy and hard to focus. That’s my type. We’re learning each other.

starting to bulk up a bit

I also feel like he’s right on the brink of that one last big physical transformation from baby to horse. The yearly growth spurt that he always does in late spring/early summer is waning, and he’s beginning to put on a little bit of mass. I mean, don’t get me wrong, he is still all legs and super narrow (and sunbleached to all hell), but his neck and hindquarters are starting to fill in a bit. His rides consist mostly of walking, which I think helps too. Slow, steady, miles, trying to build the foundation that he’ll need later when the “work” part starts. I feel like in a few months we’ll have a very different, very adult-looking Presto, and it’s pretty exciting. We’re close. So close.

still got some goofy babyness in that face

On Sunday I tacked him up and rode him out to the back for a walk hack. We have a few little hills out there that make it a perfect mini-fitness center. I like to get him out there and do some laps in a really forward marching walk, to help build up that topline and strengthen his hind end. He was not blessed with a naturally super strong back or loin connection, so I need to be mindful of that and work to improve it. Presto is still pretty adamant that walking down hills is really stupid, and sometimes when he gets bored of walking he likes to randomly break to trot just to see if I’ll let him (I don’t, because clearly my one job in life is to ruin all his fun).

his bored “you’re ruining my life” ears

I admittedly haven’t done a training vlog update for him in a while, mostly because I was spending so much time making them and not getting enough response/interest for it to seem justifiable. Maybe we’ll just go longer in between them. I dunno. Sometime over the winter he’ll probably get a month or two off before we come back and start to dial things up for his 4yo year. We’ll see what his brain and body are telling me as we go along, as far as when and how long. I’d like to get him out to hilltop with the hunt (there’s usually a nice quiet mostly w/t group on the bigger hunt days) a time or two before his break, but we’ll see what happens. I’m trying not to have any set in stone plans or expectations at this point.

I remain pleased with how his new saddle is working out, I’ve been watching his back really carefully and he’s shown zero discomfort and seems to move quite well in it. I hit the saddle with a little Belvoir after our ride on Sunday, but it’s looking really good. I’m not having any issues with dye leech or discoloration, and I’m pleased with the lederbalsam finish. Do have a fiery hatred for swapping my leathers and irons back and forth between the boys’ saddles though. I’m strongly considering trying to search for another pair of secondhand FreeJump stirrups as well, instead of just leathers (I’ve got the leathers situation covered), because we all know it would just be a matter of time before I chucked a saddle in a trailer to go somewhere and forgot to move the stirrups over, and ended up with a stirrupless saddle. WE ALL KNOW THAT WOULD HAPPEN. But also I love the FreeJumps so much that all other stirrups are pretty much dead to me now, so… what’s a girl to do. I’m gonna keep my eyes peeled for a deal, that’s what I’m gonna do. If you see some FreeJump Pro’s for a smokin’ deal, let me know.

Drive me to drink

Okay I don’t really drink, aside from a cider or cocktail a few times a year, but if I did drink, now would be a good time.

Things have been a little… stressful for me lately. A lot of us have probably felt that way this year, I’m sure. The past month or so especially has particularly felt like one thing after the other, so I wasn’t all that surprised a couple weeks ago when I felt Henry taking some random off steps. The next day there were more of them and they were easy to see. Because of course. Of. Course.

It was minor, and felt and looked decidedly FOOT, so I decided to just give him a week or two, put some Magic Cushion in there, and try not to obsess over it. Because honestly, I just can’t drive myself crazy with that right now, I’ve got too many other things already occupying my crazy. You know how when you feel your horse take one off step and then spend the next couple days spiraling into a process of overthinking that includes everything from “it’s a bruise” to “he’s broken his coffin bone” to “clearly he’s snapped his collateral ligament” and before you know it you’ve mapped the horse’s retirement in your head? No? Um yeah no, me neither. Definitely never done that. Definitely not lots of times. Ahem.

Anyway. I groomed him, and I kept the Oatmeal Cream Pies coming, but otherwise I just left it alone and refused to think too hard about it. I figured if it wasn’t better after a couple weeks and the Magic Cushion, then we’d involve the vet and leap into the pit of despair. In the meantime Henry had his teeth done anyway, and it rained a good bit, so it wasn’t too hard to just give him some time and put it on the back burner for a little while.

Henry was none too pleased that Presto was suddenly getting more attention than he was. NONE TOO PLEASED.

Saturday was the day of reckoning. I jogged him in hand and he looked good, but I can always feel things more easily than I see them with him, so I decided to go ahead and swing a leg over and see how he felt. But, naturally, as I was grooming him I discovered that he had pulled a shoe. Come on man. Luckily it was a back one, otherwise we probably would NOT have been sound (especially because the barn owner said that during the couple of colder days we’d had during the week, Henry decided to display both his speed and his acrobatics in turnout, culminating in a baseball-type slide that landed him on his ass) or rideable. The hind isn’t so bad though, so I figured we’d kill two birds with one stone and go for a walk hack in his pasture to look for his shoe. Good news – he felt normal. I didn’t feel any weird steps, not even on slight changes of terrain. Bad news – man I could NOT find that stupid shoe. Turns out that was because Henry had managed to fling it over the fence into the other pasture. And not just a little ways into their pasture, but like… 30 feet into their pasture. Kind of impressive honestly.

Since he’d felt good at the walk on Saturday, I took him into the dressage ring on Sunday to test the trot. I’m still operating as if he’d made himself footsore or had a bruise, and the dressage ring is the softest, flattest space we’ve got on the property, but also I figured if he was still sore anywhere then I’d feel it for sure in the corners. I only rode him for about 15 minutes, but he felt normal. Well… wild. Like after we had trotted once, he was certain it was time to gallop. There may have been some jigging and cantering in place. And spooking. God, lots of spooking. At trenches. At bushes. At birds. At the letters in the dressage ring. That’s the best indicator that he’s back to feeling good… he’s full of dumb beans.

This idiot has jumped some gnarly coffin complexes and ditch walls, but he lost his mind about this tiny trench in the neighboring pasture

We’ll get the hind shoe put back on this week, and then slowly start back up towards a normal workload. Hopefully I’m right and he was just footsore. The heat is finally starting to ease up a bit, so it would be nice to start doing more stuff with him. Maybe if I promise to take him XC schooling he’ll cooperate, considering the scathing death glare he gave me last week when I brought Presto home from Pine Hill. It’s like he KNEW. He knew exactly where we had been and what we’d done. I’m such a traitor.

But ya know, in order to do anything like that I’d need my truck back from the shop, and that is a whole ‘nother very infuriating, very tragic story in and of itself…

Foal Friday: The Quiet Moments

Most Foal Friday posts tend to be pretty action-packed. That’s usually when the foals are at their cutest, after all, and foal antics definitely make for some fun viewing. But the babies also have their quiet and peaceful moments too, and I know that we as equestrians often savor those moments just as much. There are few feelings better than standing outside at the end of a long day, taking a moment to just be still as the sun starts to sink and the air starts to cool, watching the horses graze or having them come over for a wither scratch and head rub. Those moments are maybe less exciting than the playful ones, but feed our soul just as much if not more. So for this week we’re taking a break from our regular, more exuberant pictures to take a glimpse into those quieter, more peaceful moments.

Even Ollie has the ability to be still sometimes
Sadie and her not-so-mini me
Oakley
Remi and Peyton are rarely far apart
But if they are it’s because he’s with his BFF
If Ellie spots you, there’s always one thing she wants…
SNUGGLES
Hey, Ollie wants in on the snuggles too
His momma is more interested in what might be in your pockets

And because it’s just not possible for everything to be completely peaceful and quiet, I wonder where Ollie’s personality came from…

Happy Friday, everyone!

Basically an Event Horse

If you don’t want to hear about what a good baby Presto is, you should turn back now. You’ve been warned.

On Monday my trainer was having an XC schooling day at Pine Hill again. I really wanted to take Presto but my truck is still in the shop, thus I am without a tow vehicle. Hillary (da real MVP) stepped in and said she’d really like to take Luna too, and offered to come pick me up. Heck yes. Baby horse brigade.

Photo featuring Presto and a Luna ear

Her rig is pretty big and getting in and out of gates and turning around can be a PITA, so we opted to just drop the ramp and load Presto on the road – it was early morning and it’s a pretty quiet road anyway, so there was no traffic, and it took us all of 30 seconds to toss all my stuff in the tack room and put Presto in the trailer. Bless him, he thought it was fun.

We’d made it almost all the way there when we heard a POP and realized we had a blowout. Great. We were having a bit of a hard time loosening a couple of the lug nuts but luckily a nice guy stopped and helped (which made me think about how having an impact wrench or breaker bar – mechanic SO votes for a breaker bar since you don’t have to worry about keeping it charged – in my trailer might not be a bad idea). Luckily it didn’t take very long before we were back on our way, so we arrived, got tacked up, and were only a little late.

I stuck Presto on the lunge line first, just to see what I had… last time he came to Pine Hill by himself and there were just a few horses on the property so I wasn’t sure if adding a buddy and more horses/chaos would spin him up or not. The answer is not. Like I could barely get him to canter. So after a few minutes with no excitement I called it good and got on.

He LOVES watching the other horses jump

The plan for this visit was pretty much the same as last time – just hack around with the group, go in the water, etc. I was hoping that this time I could trot around a bit, but we had no grand plans or expectations. Since we’d been a little late the group had already started jumping when we got out there, so in the beginning we mostly just stood and watched. Eventually they moved over to the little baby starter bank, and I thought Presto could do that. The holy trinity of cross county is ditches, banks, and water, all of which can be introduced to them right from the start in their simplest and smallest forms. This particular bank was a very small little step up and down that’s on the starter course, and he’s done banks plenty of times on the lunge line. We joined the line of horses walking down it, and at the last second I was like “maybe a down bank wasn’t the brightest idea for his first mounted XC obstacle…” but Presto didn’t even blink. He walked to the edge, peered at the bank, and stepped right down with zero fanfare. The line turned around and we all hopped back up it, which he found equally as simple. Well ok then.

After that we were off to the water. We walked across as a group then we each trotted back and forth by ourselves. While we walked across Presto was relatively certain he wanted to roll, but he forgets about that once he gets a little more speed. He had certainly remembered the water from last time and was much more sure of how to trot through it.

Presto back there seriously contemplating a quick dunk while we were walking

My friend Kathy was on her new OTTB, and we had gone through the water right after her at one point. She was going to jump a log after the water and asked if I wanted to as well. There was a super teeny one that was definitely under a foot tall, pretty much just a big ground rail, and I said “that one”. So she trotted over it, stopped, and turned around to wait for me to follow. I grabbed my neck strap just in case, but Presto literally trotted over it like it was a rail on the ground. I was laughing as I let go of the neck strap and pulled him up, at which moment the OTTB decided he HATED Presto coming near him (fair enough, most horses don’t like Presto very much, it’s like they can sense that he’s a pest) and wheeled around at him. Presto, ever respectful of horse authority, spun away from him as fast as he could, and since I was bent over laughing and had already let go of my neck strap, I was politely deposited over his shoulder in the process. Oops.

I’ve been saying since the first time I sat on this horse that sooner or later he was going to move too fast and I’d go right over his shoulder, and I was 100% right. HA. Luckily it was a very soft landing in a sandy area, and Presto was just standing there looking at me like “well that was a weird way to dismount, human.”. It was hilarious. I led him up to a BN box and used it to get back on, no harm no foul. We trotted back over the log (again literally trotted over) the other way and kept going to trot through the water. Presto was so proud of himself by that point, he cantered the last few steps out of the water like he was having a grand time.

We went around with the group through the woods, with Presto leading in spots. Last time he wanted to be in the lead but wasn’t quite confident enough to go up there on his own while we were in the woods, but this time he took charge. If other horses spook, he’ll get looky too (it’s like he respects his elders and their opinions a little too much sometimes), but he’s quite confident in his own regard. He was more patient about standing still this time too, when other horses left the group to go jump. Last time we had to make a lot of circles, but this time we made very few. He’s figuring it out.

When we came back out in the main field I wanted to pop over the teeny tiny Green As Grass level box, juts to end on a good note and also to make sure he wouldn’t be nappy about leaving the other horses since he’d just spent pretty much the whole ride standing in and traveling along with the group. I thought the little box might get a little bit more out of him than the teeny log by the water had. But he… literally trotted over it.

Calm down there, looney tunes

That made us all laugh. He was good about leaving the group though, he trotted away without resistance.

My trainer missed it and wanted to see it again, but clearly the box was boring. Looking at my other options I was like ok how about the BN faux ditch? It’s two itty bitty logs with some dark mulch in between. Historically some horses take real exception to that thing (it’s like they either don’t even notice it or they think it’s a portal to hell, there’s no in between) but he’s hopped over it before on the lunge line, so I didn’t think he’d be worried but I did think it might be enough to at least get a little bit more than a bored trot step. And omg, he was so cute.

I mean, he was still so unimpressed that he trotted immediately after he landed, but that was his first actual effort. “Ditches”, banks, and water (all in the simplest, littlest way possible)… check, check, and check. He’s basically an event horse now right? 😉

very serious business

I remain really impressed with his brain. He’s definitely not a deadhead by any means (thank god) but the more we do, the more I can see all the things that I wanted when I bred him. Those were his first “jumps” if you can even call them that, and he had zero hesitation or confusion about it. It’s like this game makes total sense to him… I’m pretty sure I could have just gone around and trotted the whole GAG course without a problem if I’d wanted to. He won’t actually start jumping or XC schooling for real until next year, but it was fun to get a tiny glimpse at what’s waiting in there in it’s rawest form. I also think it’s really good for him to go have these very easy, laid back experiences now, so that a good foundation is in place when it actually comes time to start asking more of him.

Presto is getting this week off as we get some rain and a cold front (god only knows how much galloping and yeehawing is going on out in his pasture today with a 30 degree temperature drop) and yesterday I went out and gave him an oatmeal cream pie and some belly scratches. Tough life for that kid, I tell ya. Next outing – maybe a trail ride in the next couple weeks? We shall see…

Oops I dyed it again

Yeah, I dyed another saddle AND put a Britney Spears earworm in your head at the same time. It’s called balance, y’all.

But it’s a good thing I don’t have a lot of extra money and time, or I would probably make a little business out of buying up faded, ugly-colored saddles, giving them makeovers, and re-selling them. I just LOVE it. This is now the 4th saddle I’ve dyed and it’s a little bit addicting.

Spoiler Alert

Anyway, as I mentioned a couple weeks ago, Presto got his own saddle – a Mark Todd Charisma monoflap. Henry’s back is more curvy and Presto’s back is more straight, so Henry’s Devoucoux just was not going to work for Presto long-term or as he started getting ridden more frequently. I was able to find the Mark Todd for cheap on a UK facebook group (although the seller was actually in Spain) that looked promising fit-wise, even if it was a bit ugly. I was confident that I could make it look better, so best case scenario it would fit Presto and I could make it pretty and have a decent saddle for him at least for a little while until he grows out of it, or worst case scenario it wouldn’t fit Presto and I could fix it up and re-sell it for a small profit. Seemed like a worthwhile gamble. I ordered my dye supplies the same day the saddle left Spain (and naturally, the saddle got here first).

Luckily it fits him quite well. It’s a massive improvement over Henry’s saddle, for sure. He may grow out of the width before the next year is out, unless he decides to pop a massive wither (which is entirely possible) but we’ll see. The tree is sound, the billets are in decent shape, and there are no tears or anything like that. But it definitely looked… rough.

BARF

It was very thirsty and had this weird tricolor thing going on. The skirt area was an awful orange, the seat was more reddish, and the flaps were a proper brown, with a strip of orange at the bottom. There’s nothing flattering about that color scheme. It was actually quite a nice little saddle, just stuck in a really ugly wrapping that was hard to see past. Especially when the horse it’s going on is dark bay (well, when he’s not super sunbleached, anyway)… red or orange tones really stand out and not in a good way.

For my dye I decided to go with a deep chocolate brown, about as dark as you can go without being black. Partly because I like that color a lot, and partly because I wanted the saddle to be all one tone when I was done, which meant I needed to match the darkest part of the saddle, which was the color under where the stirrup leathers lay. You can darken a saddle, but you can’t really lighten one, so if you want a super even finish you have to match the darkest part.

I also decided to try out a different finish this time. In the past I’ve used Resolene or Tan-Kote or both, and they were fine and did the job, but I didn’t LOVE them. I’ve been lurking on leatherworking groups for a while now and based off of what I’ve learned I really wanted to try a wax-based finish this time instead, so I ordered one that got a lot of good reviews. For the dye I stuck with the one I’ve always used, Fiebing’s, because it’s always worked really well.

This time I stripped the saddle with straight acetone instead of buying deglazer, since I already had acetone in my house (hello nail polish remover) and didn’t want to spend another $10 on deglazer which is basically the same thing. It required maybe a little more elbow grease to get the top finish totally removed with the acetone, but in the end it worked out just the same.

After the first pass with the deglazer I had missed some spots, especially near the stitching and seams. Here I’m pointing to a spot I missed, and you can easily see how the fully deglazed leather is much more dull and flat-looking than this shiny spot.

Once I was satisfied that it was properly deglazed, I let it sit for a while and then prepared my dye and supplies – ie a glass bowl, a foam brush, a couple rags, and the dye itself. I like to dye it in sections, so I started at the skirt, then did the knee pad, then the flap, then the panels, then the underside of the flaps, and ended with the seat. That’s the part where any imperfections will be most obvious.

I figured I would show what it looks like when you first put the dye on and it looks like a weird streaky oil slick. Don’t panic, it’s just residue and it buffs right off.

Once it was all evenly painted, I got to buffing with a microfiber rag. A lot of people use sheepswool for that part, but microfiber is what I had and what I’ve always used, so it works fine for me. I buffed and I buffed and I buffed and I buffed, until it felt like my damn arm was going to fall off. But even after just one coat and some buffing, it already looked way better.

I left it to dry overnight, then came at it the next morning with a really light second coat and a lot more buffing. Once you’re done putting the dye on, you need to keep buffing until no more dye is coming off on your rag – that’s the best way to prevent dye leech and staining your breeches or saddle pads. So I would buff it for a while, go back inside, then come back out and buff it some more. Once I thought nothing else was coming off, I gave it the ol’ white paper towel test – rubbing the seat for 10 or so seconds with a paper towel – and yay, no dye transfer. It was ready for the next step: the finish.

*I will add a caveat here and say that before you think you’re finished with the dye coats, make sure to check the saddle thoroughly in natural light. It much easier to see any spots you missed or areas that might be uneven.

if that’s not satisfying I dunno what is

I was kind of excited to try the new wax finish. It was a little different from what I expected… I was thinking it would be more the consistency of, well… wax, but it was liquid. Really liquid. I ended up going for same pour-in-bowl-then-paint-on technique that I do with dye. I started just on one flap to test it out, putting it on, letting it dry for 5 minutes, and then buffing (which is exactly what the directions say to do).

I’m not sure if maybe my dye coat was just still too fresh or what, but the more I buffed, the more it started to lift my color and make it uneven. I stopped as soon as I saw a patch that was now a shade lighter than the rest. Minor crisis, but ok… still recoverable at this point. I deglazed the area to remove the leather finish I had just applied, put more dye on the spot to even it back out, and decided to change my approach. Originally I had the idea of making my own finish by mixing beeswax and oil, before I decided to just try the Bee Natural. You know what’s pretty much already beeswax and oil? Most of the german lederbalsams. A nice thick, wax-heavy one like Passier especially. I already had some at home, so once my fixed spot was buffed and dry, I started the finish again but this time using the lederbalsam. And guys, I think I’ve found The Way.

It worked amazingly well. It did require a lot of lederbalsam… like I globbed that stuff on there and buffed it with a rag, several times over. Three generous coats in all. The saddle absolutely drank it up and asked for more. The oil gave it some moisture and the wax gave it some shine but also provided the leather with a nice grip, ending up similar to how the french saddles feel – soft but grippy. The difference in the leather from start to finish is pretty remarkable. When I was done I gave it the white paper towel test again and there was still no dye transfer, so I’m happy with that. Will the waxy top coat prevent any and all dye leech? No. If it gets wet, there could be a little bit (as with most saddles). Obviously lederbalsam is not a sealant. But it does allow for conditioners or oil to still penetrate the leather, which for saddles I think this is the much better choice. Our minor crisis worked out fine in the end.

And now that I’ve ridden in the saddle some, I have to say I’m mega impressed with it. It has a very similar feel to my Devoucoux (which thank god, because my whole fear with an English-made saddle is how they tend to ride and feel very different from the French ones) with a similar balance point and shape. Considering the Mark Todd was 1/4 of what I paid for the Devoucoux (which was a used, cheap, lucky find in and of itself, all things considered) it’s a pretty high compliment in my book. The only slight bummer is that it’s a 17.5, and I really always need an 18 (my Dev is an 18 with an extra forward flap), but I figured it should be workable and it is. My knee is definitely to the edge of the flap, but not quite over it. Presto seems to like it too… no more rocking, and no more half pad that needs to be shimmed 6 ways to Sunday. Now he can wear just his Mattes full pad, which I ordered for him months ago and never could use until now.

Now it just needs its own stirrup leathers so I can easily swap my Free Jump irons back and forth without having to deal with swapping the leathers between Presto’s saddle and Henry’s jump saddle. I’m kind of sad that it’s over so soon though… I want to dye more things. It’s fun. Like a makeover but way better because it’s a saddle and not a human.