Belly Bands are… dumb?

A couple weeks ago I was scrolling through my facebook feed when my eyes caught on an article from Heels Down titled “Belly Bands are a Dumb Trend”. Meant to be attention-grabbing, obviously, and I suppose it worked because I stopped scrolling. It was a very confusing title to me because 1. I had no idea they were a “trend” 2. I tend to disagree with the idea that they’re dumb. I own one, after all.

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they LOOK dumb, I’ll give you that

So I opened the article and the gist was that people use belly bands because they’re trying to hide spur marks, and if you’re such a bad rider that you leave spur marks, maybe you should work on your horsemanship. This just compounded how perplexed I was. I agree with the latter part, but strongly disagree with the former.

I mean, first of all… have you seen a belly band? It’s literally this hideous chonk of black elastic that is, quite frankly, a freaking upper body workout to even put on. There’s nothing semi-attractive about it, nor does it make you look cool. It looks like a dang hernia belt. Or a girdle. People DO look at you more closely, to try to judge why you’re using it. You’re not standing out in a good way. If they’re trendy then I guess I’ve totally missed that boat, because I don’t know a single person that uses one without reason or just to look cool. It doesn’t, and it’s a PITA.

My real problem with the article started here:

“Some may even be prone to rubs from riders’ boots or girth-fit alone. But there are options out there for managing a problem like this. Most of them come down to proper education and horsemanship.”

See, I do own a belly band, and have used it with great success. I have a horse who gets extremely sensitive skin in the summer, and just about anything will give him a rub. Like his halter. Or a saddle pad. Or my leg touching him. Or looking at him funny. The horse was getting rubs and I wasn’t even wearing spurs. Let me repeat: not wearing spurs. But I do ride him for long periods, he does sweat a lot, and those two things create the perfect environment for skin irritation.

I tried to use one of those spur pads with the extended sides and he got rubs from the edges of the pad. Congratulations, now he had MORE rubs. I tried wearing two other different pairs of boots to see if that would make any difference, but no dice. I tried slathering the area in Vaseline before rides to reduce friction (yes, I voluntarily made my horse more slippery). I had the vet look at his skin, I treated it with products, and always carefully bathed all the sweat off. None of that fixed it. So I bought him sheepskin pads, picked up a cheap used belly band to put over top, and voila – my problems were totally solved. The existing rubs healed, and he didn’t get any more. Once we got past the sweatiest grossest parts of the summer I was able to stop using the belly band and it’s been hanging in the tack room since. Will I need it again next summer? I’d be thrilled if I don’t, but probably. We’ll see. If I do, I won’t hesitate to reach for it. So, given all that, I am very interested to hear what other options exist (according to this author) for managing a horse like this, particularly those pertaining to my alleged lack of horsemanship.

The article goes on to say that a belly band is a quick fix solution, and maybe you need to learn how to make your horse be more forward and light off your leg.

Girlfriend.

If I get my horse any more forward and light off my leg, he will take up permanent residence somewhere in the stratosphere. That animal is so sensitive I have to be really tactful and deliberate about how I use my leg. I’ve spent years working on getting him to accept the leg and allow me to actually use it appropriately. Trust me, I ain’t squeezing his guts out the whole ride. But you DO have to put your leg on a horse and be able to ride with your leg as an active aid… I can’t just ride around with my leg off his sides as a solution to prevent rubs.

very abused, this one

Are there people out there using belly bands to cover something up? Of that I have no doubt. Truth is, people can misuse even the most innocuous pieces of equipment (like sponges. people have literally abused horses with sponges.). If you’re using a belly band to prevent a particularly severe spur from leaving a mark so you can skate around the blood rule then you’re not that bright in the first place, because a belly band dulls the effect of a spur. If that’s your intended usage you may as well take the dumb-looking elastic girdle off and use a duller spur. I do agree that they should not be legal in competition for any sport (they already aren’t legal for some competitions) – I have never used mine in the show ring and would never want to, because see above comments about how freaking ugly it is. Taking it off for one day or just for your class shouldn’t be a big deal if you’re using it for legitimate purposes.

But I do think it’s incredibly small-minded, and if I’m being honest, a bit ignorant, to lambaste the product and all the people who use it just because there are a few people who also misuse it. Particularly when it’s a product that’s intentionally designed to protect a horse’s skin. By that logic there must be something wrong with all my sheepskin pads, too. Digging deeper into the article, it seems like what the author truly has a problem with is the misuse of spurs, and we can absolutely find common ground there. Shoot, the only spurs I even own are those teeny tiny little roller balls, and given my history on this blog I think it’s pretty clear that I would never defend rider-induced blood on a horse. What I just can’t get behind is the leap from “abuse of spur” to “belly bands are dumb” and roll them up in the same conclusion: people who use belly bands have bad horsemanship. That’s the point at which I admittedly get lost. And yes, I definitely have a real problem with someone questioning my horsemanship because I use a product that has actually worked to make my horse more comfortable.

Anyone else ever used a belly band? Do you think they’re covering up a bad rider or a lack of horsemanship, or is there a legitimate use? Where do you stand?

The Ethiopian Warmblood has been de-wolfed

Somewhere around January 1st I thought “Boy, wouldn’t it be nice if I could go the entire month without spending hundreds of dollars on vet bills…”. And then maybe 2 minutes later I realized that the boys were due for their shots and coggins. And then maybe 2 minutes after that I figured we might as well go ahead and check Presto’s mouth to see about those wolf teeth too, if I’m going to start riding him anytime soon. Oh, and he probably needs a float.

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Okay, so… maybe next month. I think by this point I haven’t gone a single month without paying the vet something since like… May? April? Come on, February, don’t let me down.

Anyway, the vet came out last Monday to do the shots and coggins, which was easy. Except Presto had a meltdown when I left him in the crossties and tried to paw his way to China, thus began 4 subsequent days of Camp Dontbeanasshole where he was put in the crossties and ignored for the entire time I was mucking stalls. Naturally he never threw another fit again, and indeed barely moved a muscle in any of those sessions, because they always save that kind of behavior for when we have company over.

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We checked his teeth on shots/coggins day and they did indeed need a float, and he did indeed have two wittle wolf teeth prime and ready for removal. I was happy to see that his wolf teeth were so little (ie normal sized) because his mother’s were so big that it took almost an hour to get them out, and that vet asked if she could keep them because she’d never seen any so big. Because if anyone is going to have a horse with anything freakish, it’d definitely be me.

Presto’s tooth appointment was yesterday. We started with the power float, and he had a couple decent size points in there, but they didn’t take long to smooth down. When the vet was satisfied with the teeth, he went and got his little wolf teeth extractor tool and essentially just… popped those suckers right out.

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it’s so little and cute

It took less than 5 minutes, and they are totally the cutest wittle baby wolf teeth ever. While the vet was in there he noticed that Presto had a couple premolar caps that were about to fall off, so he literally just tapped them with his tool and out they came. Those were much more impressive looking, at least, and really cool. There are a couple more caps that will be ready soon he said, but not quite yet. He’s shedding these baby teeth like a machine, and right on schedule.

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As we were finishing up, the vet asked me how old he was again (“2yrs 10months 5 days”, it’s totally normal to know that btw) then looked at him and said “he’s huge”. To which I reasoned that technically he’s only like an inch taller than Henry and he’s basically 3 now, so ya know, it’s not that bad. I tell myself that all the time and after a while it totally works. I did say that I’d held off putting a few rides on him because of the timing of his most recent growth spurt and he looked at him again and said “Yeah that’s probably a good idea. He looks like an Ethiopian Warmblood.”.

I died.

That’s probably the most accurate description I’ve heard of Presto yet. He’s definitely very gazelle-like at the moment, maybe mixed with a little ibex and Somali wild ass.

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Presto came out of his sedation well and ate his dinner normally. His mouth is maybe a little sore but it hasn’t seemed to slow down his consumption at all. And with the wolf teeth gone, we’re hopefully finished yanking things out of his body (hey, it’s almost a year to the day since he got his cojones chopped!) and he’s made the right of passage into being a real boy. Or a real Ethiopian Warmblood. Whichever.

Next stop, his 3yo birthday! Which reminds me… which birthday hat does he want?

I can’t quite decide…

Hairy Beast

It’s been probably a solid decade since I’ve had a riding horse who wasn’t getting at least two body clips every winter. This is Texas, it can still be 80+ degrees in the winter (it was last week actually), and it’s difficult to have a horse in full work that isn’t going to die of heat stroke if they grow a lot of hair. As has become usual by now, I clipped Henry for the first time in early October – it was still 90+ degrees so he was DYING – with a plan to clip him again in November. He grows so much coat that only clipping him once, at the beginning of Fall, tends to leave him with a winter coat about the same as that of most other un-clipped horses. If not for the fact that I leave his legs and a saddle patch untouched, by November you would never know that he’d already been clipped. He grows a really thick, long coat.

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And then he hurt himself, so I held off on the second clip. If he wasn’t going to be working, there wasn’t much point in taking the hair off. And then I started riding him again, but not enough to really NEED a clip, and then before I knew it we’d gotten to the end of December and he started shedding. He’s hairy enough to where he really could use less hair when I’m riding on these warmer days, but he’s not struggling, so for now I’ve decided to just leave it.

The main motivation behind that decision? Blanketing. The complication of clipping is of course all the subsequent required blanketing, and blanketing is really really REALLY tricky when you leave the farm at 5:30am and don’t get back until 3:30pm. It could easily be 40 degrees when I leave in the morning, but 70 degrees by the middle of the day. Trying to blanket for that becomes nearly impossible, and obsessing about has already driven me relatively insane.

I have always felt like horses handle being a little chilly much better than being overly hot, especially Henry in particular. I’d much rather he be a little bit cold for the first couple hours of the day than to be standing under a blanket sweating for 6 hours. It’s also been beaten into me from an early age that it’s Very Bad if a horse is sweating under a blanket. They’ll be wet to their core, the blankets will be wet, and if I can’t get them dried off completely, they’ll end up way colder once the sun goes down. It’s not a cycle I want to opt into. Naturally, if they’re shivering then they’re TOO cold (and I will stand there for an obsessively long time staring at them to make sure they aren’t) but generally if they aren’t clipped, then most Texas days it’s better to err on the side of no blanket.

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Presto eating a stick yesterday, as one does

This would all be a lot easier if I could just work for home or be independently wealthy and not have to spend all day at work… then I could just take blankets off or change them throughout the day as needed. Unfortunately that’s not possible, so instead I drive myself absolutely bonkers trying to make the best decision every day.

Presto and the older mare are easy – they’re so freaking hairy I think it would have to be legit arctic for them to even notice, and they’re both pretty hardy. They don’t wear anything unless its really cold, and gonna stay really cold, and/or there’s a possibility that they might get wet while it’s also cold. Which is rare. The yearling got his coat a lot later than the others, but he puffed up quite a bit in December and is now sporting some really impressive 6″ goat hairs on his chin. I’ll put a blanket on that one before I put one on his other two pasturemates, but I also have to be careful because he is by far the most active and runs around so much that he makes himself hot once the day starts to warm up.

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Henry’s butt hairs tho

Henry is the trickiest one. When I was debating clipping him again I thought long and hard about it, imagining what I’d do in all these scenarios if he was clipped. I also considered doing just a partial clip of various styles. But really there’s just no good answer when the temperature swings so much between turnout time and noon most days. Since I already agonize way too much about how to dress the horses, I decided to not add any more stress to that unless I absolutely have to. He’s not going to any important shows, and he seems ok temperature-wise in his work for now. I’ll just keep trying to shed him out a bit, and if, once we get through February, he seems like he’s getting too hot or taking a while to shed out enough to be comfortable, I can always just clip him later.

The ability to do blanket changes might be one of the very few things I miss about the other barn… the worker was always happy to go pull Henry’s blanket off for me mid-morning. What I’ve noticed I’m NOT dealing with though, for the first winter in… 5 years? No little ulcery minor gas colics, and no skinny Henry. I’ve always had issues with him in the winter, keeping his weight on and battling some other ulcer symptoms. I think it had to do with increased stall time and not enough forage, mostly. But the ground at this farm is nice and sandy so it’s extremely rare that they have to spend much time cooped up, they get a longer turnout time every day, this is probably the best quality pasture he’s ever had in the winter, he’s got more turnout space and moves around a lot more, and I’m able to give him more hay at night than he’s had before. He’s never looked this good in January, and – knock on wood – no tummy issues. He’s also eating the least amount of grain ever for this time of year… I’ve been able to cut it in half, which I’m sure also really helps his stomach.

not skinny

Aside from the blanketing turmoil, keeping the horses at home is quite possibly the best thing ever. I probably won’t stop fretting about blanketing decisions on a daily basis though… it’s my newest hobby and I’m real good at it.

Airborne Again

Henry and I last jumped in early November. And then two days later he did… whatever the hell he did, and was mysteriously and disturbingly lame for almost a month. As soon as I paid a million dollars for xrays and two vet visits and those ridiculous glue-on rubber shoes he was totally fine, so now for the past 7 weeks I’ve been slowly and carefully legging him back up. Am I being ridiculously slow about it? Maybe. But I’d rather err on the side of caution and take the time to get him properly fit and conditioned again. A month off doesn’t seem like much, but we’d been in the middle of legging him back up to regular fitness (it was a long hot brutal summer that he really could not participate in very much) when he hurt himself. A half-fit horse that gets a month off ends up losing a lot of strength and fitness by the time all is said and done. It’s not just the cardio, it’s the muscles and tendons and ligaments that have to be ready for the workload too. There is only one Henry and I cannot replace him.

But now we’ve worked our way back up to a 5 rides per week schedule, and I’ve slowly been lengthening his conditioning days and asking for more in his dressage rides. It’s funny, this is the first time in my life I’ve ever had an actually “made” horse (ie not green or seriously remedial in some way) and god is there ever a lot to be said for that. The first day of pushing all the flatwork buttons was a little rusty, but after that everything came right back as if nary a day had gone by. On Thursday we did a bareback dressage ride and tossed in all his fun tricks – half pass, shoulder in, haunches in, 10m circles and figure 8’s, lengthenings at the trot and canter, counter canter zig zag, halt to canter, simple changes, etc. He did it all. I mean he spooked a lot, and it wasn’t always particularly correct, and I couldn’t get him within 10 meters of C because some kind of imaginary creature lives over there now, but hey. Close enough.

And my abs were SCREAMING the next day. Totally confirmed my theory that we should be riding bareback more often, because nothing quite murders my core like bareback dressage.

So after having had no problems throughout all that, I decided he finally seemed ready to jump again. We got a little rain on Friday and Saturday, which softened up the ground to absolute perfection, and I dragged some jumps out into the smaller flatter pasture, set them small for him (nothing over 2’9″) and in we went.

Naturally, Henry snorted his idiot head off at the coop. He’s only seen it 500 times before, just not in that exact spot. I honestly have no idea how he’s such a good cross country horse. But after a few laps of trot and canter he settled down, and after we’d warmed up I pointed him at the barrels. Where he proceeded to take off from at least a stride away and land bucking. I laughed. I can’t help it, he’s ridiculous.

Once he’d jumped a few warmup fences he leveled out, so we walked, I went and set my phone on the fence and pointed it at the coop to try to get some video, and then we did two courses.

first we jump it this way
and then we jump it this way

We didn’t do much, maybe 20 jumps total. We both still remember how, thank goodness, although my eye is a little off. He didn’t seem to mind, he mostly just seemed happy to be jumping again. It’s definitely his favorite thing.

For as silly as the GluShu’s looked they stayed on really well and seemed to do the trick, so I have no complaints. We were able to transition him back into regular steel shoes (with a leather rim pad) over a week ago and all seems fine so far. I spend so much time obsessively watching every step he takes that he probably thinks I’m an even bigger stalker than I already was, and he’s not wrong. I can’t help it.

Henry looked good coming out of his stall this morning so fingers crossed he feels good this afternoon and we can keep marching along back toward his regular workload! It was definitely nice to be airborne again with my favorite. It feels like home.

2020 US Event Horse Futurity

If you didn’t follow the inaugural US Event Horse Futurity on facebook in 2019, you really missed out. The training vlogs were fantastic, and it was so educational to see how different trainers approach different issues, and how the horses progressed throughout the year. I developed a bit of a fangirl crush on Maya Black, someone I didn’t know a whole lot about before the Futurity.

Futurity

You see some of these upper level people running around the big stuff with older experienced horses, but it’s such a different ballgame to see them with young horses and get a front row seat to watch how they train. It’s an entirely separate skillset. Some of the trainers were exceptionally good at knowing when to take the pressure away and just hack out or give time off, and knowing just how much they had to prepare without pushing the 4yo brain. It’s an art form that’s fascinating to me (and extremely applicable to real life), and the Futurity brought it to the public eye in a way that is rarely so accessible.

Anyway, if you missed it, the winner of the 2019 Futurity and the second place horse at the YEH Championships overall was Double Diamond C, by Diacontinus. Y’all might remember Diacontinus because I was stalking him a little in Germany in 2017 at Bundeschampionate, plus his sire is Diarado, who is also the sire of one of Presto’s half brothers (Manny).

Diacontinus

This week the Futurity posted the 2020 entrants – 11 new baby event horses throwing their hats into the ring to be crowned the next winner. It’s an interesting group, with a couple stallions, a few trakehners, a variety of warmbloods, some tb x wb crosses, a little 15h guy, and even a few dressage-bred horses. It’s a whole new collection of rider/trainers too, so we’ll get to see even more insight into how different people approach the process.

It’s a little too early for me to pick a favorite, since the Futurity has just starting posting pictures and videos of the horses on their facebook page, but if we’re going by pedigree I’m particularly interested to see how Galway, Protego, and Exmoor Xena come along.

Anyone else been following along and looking at the new entries yet? Who’s your early favorite? Did you glean anything useful from the 2019 vlogs?

Let’s Discuss: Bareback Pads

I am a big fan of riding bareback. Especially for long walking hacks, or those super hot summer days where it’s just too hot to be bothered to tack up, or even sometimes for dressage rides to get a better feel for what the horse is doing and my own aids. I’m convinced that it’s really beneficial when it comes to highlighting bad habits or position flaws. I ride bareback pretty regularly, at least a couple times a month even up to a couple times a week in the summer, and I feel like I would definitely do it more often if I had a good bareback pad. Right now I use a half pad or a saddle pad, which does the job comfort-wise but tends to slip and slide around, tending to become more of an impediment if you want to travel above a walk. It’s annoying.

I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that I should invest in a good bareback pad, but so many other things have always come first. I think I’m finally to the point where my other tack situations are well-managed (or, uh… overmanaged) and since we’re not so much in major competition mode right now and I’m sitting on some Visa gift cards, it seems like it might be time. Except… holy crap there are SO MANY bareback pads on the market. Since I’ve never owned one, trying to choose has been really daunting.

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Here’s what I know:

  • I know that I don’t want one of those cheap fake fleecey ones that have the girth attached way too far forward. I don’t like the material and they don’t stay in place well and everything about it fills me with hatred.
  • I know that I want one with a generous contour cut, to allow for high withers. Because thoroughbreds.
  • I know that I prefer one with english girth billets, so that I can use my own girths.
  • I know that I don’t want a “treeless saddle” or stirrups/stirrup attachments on the pad.
  • I know that I need enough padding to where when Henry inevitably spooks, he won’t break my vagina with his aforementioned high withers.
  • I know that the only bareback pads I’ve ever tried before are the cheap fleecey ones and the Thinline, and I didn’t like either one.

Beyond that, I know literally NOTHING.

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ah, 2008 Colin Farrell

So I’ve been scouring the internet for a while, looking at all my options. When I found ones that looked interesting, I emailed or messaged the company to ask for more information. Most were really helpful. Some never responded. I think, from all of my obsessive stalking, I’ve narrowed it down to four contenders. They vary a lot, both in style and in price.

My old faithful Riding Warehouse does have a decent selection of bareback pads. The Horsedream and the Stargazer, while plush and dreamy AF, are massively over my budget. But they do carry the Best Friend pads, which I’ve found generally good reviews for. It comes in navy (always a bonus), it isn’t fleece, it has a little contour to the topline (I’m not convinced it’s enough, but maybe), and I think the girth is attached far enough back to work. Of course, it does have the western cinch style girth, which I don’t want, and it’s not as padded or structured as I had in mind. But, at $65 it’s the cheapest of my options.

Going to the next price point, I found the Barefoot Ride-On pads at $185ish. Still has about the same amount of padding, but it’s a little more structured, has the english billets, and also has some dees if I wanted to attach a breastplate or something. Unfortunately this is the only company that didn’t respond to my messages/questions, which bums me out. Also the color options are boring/awful. Not sure the good things are enough to be worth 3 times as much as the Best Friend, and the lack of communication from the company bothers me. A lot.

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If you bump up the price point to $280 we get to the Brockamp pads, which are beautiful. The US Brockamp dealer answered all of my questions in a lot of detail and was super nice, which means a lot. Brockamps are made in Italy, and the foam is structured to give the rider more stability as well as give the horse’s spine more clearance, which prevents rubbing or binding. Really important qualities for Henry in particular who is really bothered by both of those things. The Brockamps seem to be very popular in Europe and thus are perpetually back-ordered. They come in a huuuuuge range of colors, and the US dealer has a few in stock, although not in either color I would want (navy or dark green), so I’d have to wait 2-3 months for the next shipment to come in to get one of those colors. But they DO have every feature I’m looking for, albeit in a bit higher price point than I had in mind (still nowhere near the Horsedream or Stargazer range though!). Then again, if I had a pad like this I’d probably ride bareback a lot more.

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Good padding and structure
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NAVY
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I love rainbows

And then, because if there are beautiful and expensive things in the world I will definitely find every single one of them, there are the Trailmaster pads. They start around $250 for synthetic or $350 for leather, varying according to what exactly you want (I actually like the synthetic more – small miracle). They’re handmade in the USA completely custom, with just about any colors and fabrics and features you want and available in high wither cut. I mean come on. They are just gorgeous. More minimalist for sure than the Brockamp, a bit less padded and without as much structure for the rider. I love that they use wool felt topped with a thin layer of memory foam. I feel like it would put me closer to the horse for flat work, with the tradeoff being that it’s less secure. Hmmmmm. The owner of the company was again helpful at providing info and answering my questions.

Trailmaster Bareback Pad Original (synthetic fabrics)

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I’m torn. My wallet says to go with the cheapest option, but after seeing the really nice ones it’s hard to be enthusiastic about the others. I do think I ride bareback enough to justify a nice pad, and if I had a nice pad I would probably ride bareback even more. Plus a good one should last for quite a long time. But then again, it’s not a small chunk of change. And if I did opt for a nice one, I’d have to choose between the Brockamp and the Trailmaster.

Halp me.

How many is too many? No don’t answer that.

Hi, my name is Amanda and I’m a bridle addict. I like the thrill of looking through all the different new bridles. I like looking at the different styles and features, and the more unique it is, the more intrigued I am. I love opening a box and having a waft of that intoxicating new leather smell hit my nose. I love oiling or conditioning it for the first time, working the leather in my hands to soften it. I love putting it together, getting all the parts adjusted “just so”. There are few things in the world as satisfying to me as this. And all of those things combined are probably how I now find myself with 9 bridles.

if this photo alone doesn’t turn you into a bridle junkie then we just can’t be friends

I like having a bridle for any occasion, and I definitely don’t like having horses share the same bridle. Henry’s got a dressage bridle, a bitless bridle, a cross country bridle, a flash jumping bridle that is currently not in the rotation, a hackamore bridle (different from the bitless!), and a hunt bridle. Presto has his cob bridle that he’s pretty much totally outgrown, his new padded horse size bridle, and now… a green bridle?

look at heem

See, I’ve been looking at those colored QHP Shiva bridles for a long time. The navy one is what originally caught my attention of course (#navy4life), but in my mind’s eye I just didn’t think I would love it on Henry. Plus he, even by my own admission, already really does have a bridle for everything. I just wasn’t sure that I would actually use it (yes I realize my logic is not always consistent considering I still haven’t used the hunt bridle for anything aside from a photo shoot. I plead extenuating circumstances on that one.). So I resisted the Shiva for a really long time.

And then I started doing mostly green for Presto, which turned my attention from the navy bridle to the green one. But green… on a bridle… was it too much? I kept seeing customer photos of it, and I really liked the look, but did I like it for me? Plus I didn’t need (my most dangerous word) another bridle, especially for a not-even-3yo. And then one day Decopony posted another pic of it on her instagram story and this time I made the mistake of responding saying that it was so pretty, and then she was like as it turns out I’m in the mood to clean out some stock for the new year, let’s make a deal.

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And that’s how the last remaining Full size green/brown Shiva bridle in her stock made it into Presto’s possession.

have you ever seen a more excited animal?

I remained a little bit unsure about the green bridle from the moment of purchase all the way up until the moment I put it on Presto. I thought that the green would look good on his coloring, but considering his face markings and his crazy forelock and the fancy stitching and the buckles on the noseband, would it be too much? Tacky? I mean I dunno if I’ve mentioned this y’all but it’s green. This was very far outside of my usual wheelhouse. My deeply ingrained h/j roots were screaming in terror from whatever deep dark recesses of my brain they’ve been shoved down into.

But I tacked him up, put on his new green/navy reversible breastplate with the green side out (I love that thing and it cost me all of $10 with some gift card creativity), put his green bridle on, and… loved it. Like waaaaaay more than I thought I would. There’s something about it that just works on him. It’s quirky and fun and looks really good with his dark coloring. And it’s subtle enough that once you get 20′ feet away you can’t tell it’s green. It’s not like “OH MY GOD HELLO I’M A GREEN FUCKING BRIDLE”, it’s more like “hey girl, sup, I heard you like green?”.

why yes, yes I do

So, ya know, TLDR – that’s why the non-broke horse now has 3 bridles. But hey, that’s still half as many as Henry. I think I’m doing okay.

Also I’m using this as the catalyst event to finally allow myself to get the dark green gloves that I’ve been drooling over for months. Please no one ask me how many pairs of gloves I have, then I’ll have to write another post just like this one (it’s 7, I have 7 pairs, last time I checked I only have 1 pair of hands but I LOVE GLOVES).

The Making of a Farm Boy

My SO is, and always has been, very typically suburban. He really truthfully had no freaking idea what he was getting into with me, although bless him, he’s been pretty patient about it. He was raised in the suburbs of Chicago, then lived in the suburbs of DC, and then moved to Austin. He’s definitely never lived in the country, or even spent much time there, aside from attending a few polo matches when he lived near Middleburg (do those even count?).

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He’s not TOO much of a prissy city boy though. He was originally a mechanic by trade, he’s handy, and he likes hiking and mountain biking. Although his experience with animals has been mainly limited to pets, he definitely loves them and has a bit of a bleeding heart. Like he won’t even kill a cockroach, he’ll catch it and take it outside.

Granted, it’s taken me YEARS to get him comfortable with being close to the horses. At first he would stand as far away as possible, extending his hand with a treat in it, yanking it back several times out of fear of being bitten before the horse could manage to snatch it fast enough. And then once the treat was successfully administered, he’d pretty much immediately go wash his hands.

He’s always said he’d like to live more out in the country, though. But he hates driving very far, especially regularly, and a store being 15 minutes away is relatively horrifying to him, so I was never sure how that would quite work out. When the farm-living opportunity came along, it definitely took me a while to talk him into it. Mostly because of the tiny house aspect, not because of the farm aspect. He has a lot of stuff and loves having a lot of stuff, so I know he’s going to have a hard time with 400 square feet. There’s not much I can do about that part, he’s going to have to struggle through it and figure it out. BUT, I have been using this fall/winter to slowly ease him into the farm life side of things.

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the biggest selling point of the tiny house was agreeing to let him put a fireplace/tv on the porch

For now he lives at our house in the city most of the time, but comes out to the farm every Friday after work and stays through Saturday afternoon. Naturally, I save all of the “bigger” projects for Saturdays. Partly because some of them are easier to do with two people, and partly because I want him to start learning this stuff. If he’s going to be living here in the near future, he should understand how to do things and be able to contribute.

It started very very simply. His first official farm helper job was to dump and scrub all the water troughs and water buckets. Turns out this is also his least favorite job, for reasons unknown. Since he hated that so much, he quickly volunteered for other things, like driving the manure spreader (I didn’t warn him about the dust factor when it’s windy, so the first time he came driving back up to the barn covered in dirty shavings dust was only funny to one of us), moving hay from the storage barn to the main barn, fixing the lawnmower, changing batteries/lightbulbs, etc. Each weekend it’s progressed more and more.

that time the wheel popped off the lawnmower and he had to fix it

In introducing him to all of this stuff I’ve realized that certain things are NOT inherent to all people. Like… how to lift/carry a hay bale. That very first day we had to move hay he looked at the bale, grabbed it in a big bear hug, and crab-walked it over. I died. It was hilarious. It never would have occurred to me that people don’t know to grab it by the twine. I don’t know that I’ve ever had to explain some of these tasks to the totally uninitiated, so this is a learning experience for me too. Also apparently normal people don’t have tons of calluses on their hands, because he tossed about 3 bales before I had to go find him some gloves. Who knew.

He’s done it all without much complaint, though. He painted Chew Stop on the fences, and only complained a little bit when it got all over his hands (even through his gloves, which he wears pretty much at all times when he’s outside) and burned his skin. He’s gotten good at moving hay bales now, and it doesn’t make him sore anymore. I can’t even describe the delight I felt the first time he texted me on a Thursday and said “I just found a ton of hay in the pocket of my hoodie”. THAT is the true mark of initiation, for sure.

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He made me take a pic of him on the tractor so he could show his friends hahahaha adorbs

He’s learned to drive the tractor, and learned the proper pattern for dragging the arena, which he does every weekend. He airs up the perpetually cranky tractor tire. He re-stapled all of the ceiling insulation tiles that the storm blew down, and fixed all the bushes, and helped me pick up the scattered branches. He even volunteered to help me clean stalls, which… I draw a hard line there. Let’s be honest, he will not clean them to my standards, and he’s not ready to learn yet. That wouldn’t end well. I did let him pick the poop out of the stall runs, though, since that’s easy enough, and he didn’t hate it.

He’s even learned the difference between coastal and alfalfa hay, and what a flake is. I’ve instilled the concept of ALWAYS CLOSE THE GATE BEHIND YOU to the point where if I go through a gate and leave it open he asks if he should close it. I mean, that’s never the case, I never accidentally leave a gate open, but it’s impressive that he’s now aware enough to ask.

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He’s even slowly gotten more comfortable with the horses. One time at night check he actually KISSED one of them. He’s pretty confident at giving them treats now too… I mean he still washes his hands immediately after and definitely looked a little green the night Henry laid a big sloppy wet lick on my open mouth, but he no longer yanks his hands away or backs up when they get close. He’s also starting to see and appreciate their personalities, laughing at the silly things they do. Last weekend I gave him his first official big horse task – turning Henry back out while I babysat Presto for the farrier. I did explain how to take the halter off (he’s learning how to do things, I’m learning how to explain things better) but otherwise he completed the task with no issues and no further instruction. That’s the first time he’s ever had to lead a horse anywhere or be solely responsible for one.

He’s also realizing just how much work it is, and that the labor ain’t no joke. There’s always something more to do. But, like me, he gets satisfaction out of it. There’s something really great about doing relatively simple basic labor that’s really rewarding, especially when you spend most of your days behind a computer screen. You can easily see what you’ve accomplished, and that it means something.

We’re making progress. I think there’s hope for making a farm boy out of him yet.

Storm Warning

While I will never complain about what has so far been a mild winter (even by Texas standards) it is weird as hell to have a spring/summer type of mega thunderstorm blow through in January.

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it’s heeeeere

The forecast for Friday was super doom and gloom. They were calling for straight line winds of up to 75mph, tornadoes, and lots of hail. The farm was along the southern most tip of the projected affected area so the forecasters went back and forth for days (and even the day OF) trying to decide if it would actually hit us or not, and when. I had extra shavings delivered, in case the horses had to stay in all day, and watched and waited. And waited. And waited.

By the time it finally formed and started marching across Texas, it was a couple hours later than they’d originally said. Every time I checked the weather app they’d changed their mind about whether or not it was going to continue to form far enough south to hit us. The storm was definitely just as nasty as they’d said, though. Some places were getting 70mph wind and golf ball size hail. Parts were dumping rain at a rate as much as 15″ per hour, but it was moving so fast that luckily no one really got too much. There were several areas of rotation that could be tornadic, and at one point one of them was pointing right at us. It was close to hurricane-like. We get a few storms like that per year, but never in JANUARY. So odd.

buckle up, kiddos

By 8 I could tell we were definitely going to get slammed, so I went out and gave everyone more hay, shut all the doors, and hunkered down inside. It hit around 9, and it hit very suddenly and violently. It sounded like a train was circling the house, the wind was howling so hard (50-60mph, they said later). The windows were rattling, the power was flickering, and I could hear things blowing around outside. The satellite went out and I lost the connection to the barn cameras, so the dog and I just sat and waited.

Luckily it WAS traveling really fast, so within 20 minutes it had passed over. I went out and checked on the horses, who seemed to have not even noticed. The rain had blown so hard that the entire aisle of the barn was soaking wet, but the horses and stalls were dry. Some of the ceiling insulation had blown out and I saw a lot of little scattered branches, but in the dark it was hard to tell much else. Since the horses and structures seemed to be fine, I went to bed.

The next morning the SO came and we walked the property checking for damage. Luckily the leaning power pole (that is slated to be fixed soon) hadn’t budged, and there was no major damage to any trees. Lots of little limbs down, and the bushes along the back of the house were blown completely over the fence, but considering the wind, it wasn’t bad at all. The letters from the dressage arena and my jumps were blown all over the damn place, though. My barrels were scattered across various ends of the pasture, blown up against the fence. But, thank goodness, that was all easily fixed.

The corgi rode in his K9 Sportsack when we walked the property, and Presto was OBSESSED. 

We had everything sorted and cleaned up by Saturday afternoon, so no real harm done. That was a completely bonkers storm though, for this time of year. Hail and tornadoes in January?? And Dallas had all this same weather on Friday night, then SNOW on Saturday morning. What the heck? Luckily it wasn’t even all that cold down here, much less snowing… that would have made me exceedingly grumpy.

Global warming is nuts. Anyone else having crazy weather?

Kitten update

As you may remember, at Thanksgiving the SO (hereafter known as Crazy Cat Dude or CCD) brought home a black kitten from the local rescue because he’s a sucker. This delighted me, mostly because I was the one that acquired the last two animals (okay 4 if you count horses), and now we’re totally almost even. Ish. If you’re bad at math.

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the only time I’m more like Leslie Knope than April Ludgate

We went back and forth for a couple weeks on his name. I wanted something monster related, preferably movie monsters since the other cat’s name is Gremlin. May as well have a theme, and let’s be honest, cats are both dramatic and monsters, so it kinda works. We never really found anything we both loved, but we did settle on one we both at least liked – Count Orlok, or just Orlok for short. CCD is super into classic horror films, and don’t tell CCD but I kinda think the cat looks like Count Orlok, so it fits.

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especially the fucking razor sharp claws

Of course, right now CCD is living at home and I’m living at the farm, so I’ve spent approximately 4 total hours with the kitten. Mostly I just get constant updates and pictures and videos. He’s a cute cat, less shy than Grem, definitely less sensitive, and a little dumber. They’re definitely very different. Honestly I think that works out well in this dynamic. He’s very happy and naive and bold, but not at all alpha or sensitive or timid. He just wants to play and sleep and be a dude, bro.

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how can he even breathe?

At first Grem was pissed, as cats usually are when you introduce a new cat into an established household. She hated him, and she hated CCD for bringing him into her kingdom. She wasn’t aggressive, she just didn’t want anything to do with either of them. Majorly majorly offended. Every time I stopped by the house to pick up mail or a package, she would come running up to me, screaming and demanding that I pick her up and pet her and take her away from that horrible place. Oh how the tables have turned. I used to be her second choice, taking whatever affection she deigned to throw my way. Now I’m her clear favorite and she loves me. HA.

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Grem spent most of the first month staring at him like this, wishing she could kill him with her laser beam eyes. He was oblivious.

She’s definitely coming around, though. Once she finally settled enough to start playing with him a little she decided he wasn’t so bad after all. Turns out she can WAP him all she wants and clamp her teeth around his head to her hearts content, and his goofy dumb ass just loves it. That’s way more fun than when she tried to do those things to the dogs, who would flee in abject terror. I think Grem has now decided that Orlok must be her toy.

She no longer sits around staring at him like she wants him to die. She doesn’t quite love him yet, but she doesn’t hate him anymore. She is, however, holding a bit of a grudge against CCD. I’m definitely keeping the preferred parent status even while being largely absentee, so this is working out pretty well for me.

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It cute.

We still have to figure out the best way to fit the animals and all of their accoutrements (CCD will not stop buying cat toys and furniture, omg you should see the living room) into the tiny house, but that’s a post for another day.