Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Blog Hop: What's in Your Tack Box?

My first blog hop guys :) I'm a little late to the party but this one was easy to join in. I think I'm a horse supply minimalist. You be the judge.

Let's begin by admiring my little corner of the barn. I never let it get past me just how fortunate I am to have this entire barn to myself. It originally had 9 stalls. One was converted into a chicken coop. Three horses live in this barn but the other owners don't come around very often. I essentially have free reign over the barn aisle. But I always put everything away afterward just so I don't wear out my welcome.

no sharing, so lucky

This is the stall sign I designed and painted. I made this when we first moved in to the new barn and just haven't shared it with you all yet. Razzberry Boy is his show name, thus the berries ( and his nickname "the boy").

This is the barn tack box. I picked it up at Wal-Mart when all the back to school stuff was on sale. It has castors on one end and was made for a college dorm. But it was large and teal, making it the perfect candidate for a tack box.

Once we open it up the first things you'll find are my seat saver, saddle bags, and half chaps. These things nest well right on the top.

Moving the seat saver and bags out of the way, you'll find my treat bucket with at least five different kinds of treats in there. My paddock boots are stashed under the half chaps. I also have my rubber bathing bucket on the left. It's full of shampoo, detangler, sheath cleaner, anti fungals...all the necessities. And a strand of bailing twine, sooo many uses for that stuff.

Working our way down into the depths we come across my old bridle and reins I was using before Christmas. When the Micklem showed up this poor thing got tossed aside as a spare, no longer loved as it was before. Crazy how we horse people will forget about a $150 piece of strap leather when we get the new $200 strap leather. My beautiful plaited reins are also present and accounted for. 

Getting deeper still, we find some polos I've only used a couple times. I doubt my polo wrapping skills, I feel like I always wrap too tight. The vet is coming out late April and I will have my boy wrapped when she arrives. She can tell me whether the wrapping sucks or not. I also have a few first aid references in a sealed bag so they won't get wet and destroyed. My ten year old suede chaps, and even older Dodger's hat I purchased in the stadium, are down in the very bottom. You never know when either might come in handy. 

Finishing things off are a couple lead ropes and some clean wash cloths and towels.

Also in front of Razz's stall is a small grooming box. This holds all my super essentials, the items used every time I'm at the barn. My grooming bag. Baby wipes. Smaller bottles of peroxide, fly spray, detangler, etc. My helmet, main crop, and some bottled water are in here. And sun screen and bug spray for me.

But that's not all folks. I have a large, one of a kind wooden tack box at home. This was a gift from a very talented friend who sadly passed of pancreatic cancer a few years back. This box will forever be special. 

Down the side it says Diversus Color Equus, or horse of a different color in Latin. The top corners have been scratched and picked to pieces. I need to sand them down and figure out how to protect them.

Feel free to ask this one about those jacked up corners. She might just know a little something about it.

Inside is where my glorious saddle lives. If you listen closely a chorus of angels can be heard when you open the lid. The pull out tray on the right has my tack cleaning sponges, some bridle hooks, and a home made contraption my dad came up with to trap wood boring bees. But I like those bees and my house is vinyl sided so I don't hang it outside.

Under the saddle are a couple pads I never use. Brand new pads. Why?? 

Also the first pair of shoes I had put on Razz, a dee ring mullen happy mouth, and a browband from the coast of west Africa brought back by a freind getting her masters in art history. The browband is made of goat leather and stiff as hell. But it's beautifully beaded in a traditional tribal pattern with black, white and burgundy.

Under the tray I have Razz's fly sheet, the flotation hackamore I used on my arab, an extra halter and shedding blade, and maybe a couple more irrelevant randoms. 

So there you have it. My tack boxes. Basically everything I own horse related. My tack cleaning supplies are in the closet with household cleaning supplies. Razz's winter blankets are freshly laundered and stored in bedspread bags out in the garage. I have my own saddle rack in a tack room at the barn where I hang my micklem, girth, breast collar, and the 3 or 4 saddle pads I occasionally ride in. I don't own that much horse stuff compared to some. I would probably own more if the budget allowed. But then again maybe not because once I find something I really like I will use it every time, and replace it with the same item when it wears out.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

A New Haircut

Not really sure if I'm coming or going lately. I have driven back to NJ since my last post. The winter guard scene has almost become my new normal. One more trip to Dayton OH and then I am done for this year. And life can return to normal. I had a couple drafts written up hoping to find time to finish one while out of town, but that just wasn't going to happen. 

The rides have been good. Weekends are for trails. Tuesday evenings are working into my schedule nicely, I am using those as my serious schooling rides. Dressage or jumping, arena or bean field, we are working. Razz is giving me some nice bend in our circles and spirals. I am realizing just how out of shape I am too, with all the riding it takes to get the good stuff out of the boy. I've come to the conclusion that, for me anyway, dressage is akin to micro managed riding. There are too many years of me naturally sitting a horse my way. My seat is really efficient overall, but it's not always the correct dressage seat. I want to work on the boy's top line and in order to be successful I clearly need to bring my riding A game. So I have to constantly THINK. About every limb. My core. Are my thighs loose enough? (prob not) Right down to my fingers. I start focusing on my legs and the fingers go loose around the reins. And of course I stop breathing when in deep concentration, inviting more stiffness. Honestly it gets overwhelming sometimes, thinking about everything so hard. I'm just not wired to ride that way. Or maybe I am just too stubborn to want to change my seat. Or maybe I just don't want to turn my hobby into work. Either way the two of us are accomplishing nothing but good things these days.

We did have another long, nine day break. The trip was five days and I was down with food poisoning (I think) the next four. Yesterday was the first day I've felt like myself in what seems like forever. I got to the barn at 10:45 and went straight out to the pasture for Razz. He was happy to see me. You could tell by looking at him that it'd been a while since he'd had any attention. I spent twenty minutes out there grooming him all over with my fingernails, pulling out crazy amounts of shedding winter coat and letting the wind carry it all away. I couldn't help but think about what a great bonding moment it was for us as well, and I made sure to focus on his withers a little extra, in the same manner a pony friend would instinctually behave. Once in the barn I spent another two whole hours just grooming.

this was only the first time around with a curry

The winter shed kept coming and I decided if I was gonna ride the obsessive grooming would have to stop. Razz had some bite marks on him and I feel pretty sure they're from the new paint in the small paddock next to the barn. The two are working out a pecking order, even if it is across fences, and the bite marks are acceptable for now only. I also found a small infected wound on his upper inside left hind. In the area where they get all foamy. The infection had already came to a head and attached itself to the scab. It was only a matter of scraping the scab off and hitting it with some peroxide, followed with some of the all natural healing bee salve I make. Its a 100% organic concoction with a high bees wax content (wax is the first ingredient!!). I found another wound on his left hind heel in the soft area. I treated it the same way, peroxide and salve, but the location of it prompted me to do something completely out of my character.

Normally I align myself with the European school of thought concerning muzzles, ears, etc. I have always kept my horses as natural as possible. That shit is there for a reason, and we hairless, two legged types come along and think we know better than mother nature. I'm not convinced. My ponies have always had hairy fetlocks. But yesterday I trimmed Razz all the way around just so I could doctor his heel scrape better, and so he would match. I admit he looks a lot nicer with the trim. 

much better, no?
When I first arrived at the barn I was wondering why the doors were shut tight for such a temperate, breezy morning. Then I saw the chickens running loose. They destroy the barn aisle and aren't allowed to go inside anymore. I had to block them with my tack box. But they continued to poke around, frustrated that they were denied access. 

you keep on knockin' but you can't come in

Our ride went great. Completely stress free, just what I needed. I headed over to the sand pits alone and tucked in the woods on a skinny dirt bike path I'd never taken before. It ran into a familiar trail. Initially I had to help the boy get his shit together when we picked up the pace. He wasn't thinking about where he put his feet at all. Once that was sorted the two of us carried on just fine. We enjoyed five jumps while out and about. One creek, two ditches, and two fallen trees. Over one of the ditches Razz came into a perfect hunter form, knees equally tucked under his chin, neck stretched perfectly, albeit a little too scopey for such an obstacle. He treated it like a 2'6 vertical. We cruised over it like a Cadillac and I figured that is what real jumping in correct form must feel like every time. 

I was out for an hour and a half. Once back at the barn I gave the boy yet another heavy grooming session, and I can actually see the summer coat in places. I drove home with the windows down and the music up, and I thought about my horse and how much I love him for the rest of the day. Us horse girls are lucky to have such wonderful creatures in our lives.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Long Time Coming

After all the talk of wanting to jump, I finally got in the ring and did something about it. I showed up at the barn after work hoping like hell no one else was using the arena. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and to my surprise none of the other boarders were around. 

First things first, prepare the ring. I made a five jump course with no idea of their exact height. The lowest was probably a 2 ft crossrail. The highest probably 2'9 vertical. All five were centered in the ring with no lines between fences. It took a small chunk of time to set up. The two high school girls leap over things but they never make a course, it's always just one lonely jump and some ground poles. It didn't take long for me to realize why. Our jumps suck. The standards are lightweight and wobbly, the poles are extra long and thick walled (meaning heavy), only four jump cups w/o pins. Crossrails were supported by oversized traffic cones instead of standards. 

Once I felt good about my jump course I grabbed Mr. Razz Man from the pasture and proceeded to de-fluff his coat for close to an hour, and afterward he still had the vast majority of winter fur intact. The ritual just doesn't seem to be very effective these days, even though proof that it is lies all over the barn aisle floor. I push the shed pile, large enough to make a few a guinea pigs, outside for the birds to use in their nests.

The arena was still empty when I made my way back to the top lot. I figured the high schoolers would be there by now. I carried my crop, cell phone, and generic GoPro up to the ring with me. Of course I was on a time schedule so the phone was there to help me keep track and I left it at the gate. I strategically placed the GoPro at an angle on the fence rail in front of my five obstacle mini-course. 

Warm up was nothing to write home about. I have always warmed all my horses up with a lap of walk , trot, and canter in each direction before continuing on with the rest of my ride. That just seems like the natural way to prepare their bodies for work. Pretty sure I'm gonna change that order with Razz from here on out. We will do a lap of walk in each direction and then go straight into canter. I know a lot of people employ this technique. It certainly helps my pony get his drive from behind. We circled and figured 8 until I knew his old man muscles were ready. Headed over to the fence rail, turned the camera on, and our jump school began.

I started with the crossrails first. There were two crossrail obstacles, both 2 feet tall, one regular and one with three wide set poles. The other three jumps were verticals, the wind blew the pole off one of those and I never got to jump it. I had no cups for that one and tried to tension set the pole between the standards. The pole stayed up, just not long enough. Razz had only one rub the entire time. It was on our first trip over the tallest vertical and it stayed up. He would get really hot between jumps and my arms felt like jello after our ride. His breathing never became labored and that made me extremely happy. The sweat though...all that damn winter coat and the sweat. With 45 minutes left at the barn I started cooling down. Turned my GoPro off because there was no reason to capture laps and laps of walk on the buckle.

Untacking went fast. Never enough time. The Toklat woolback pad I've been using since January works great. His back was nice and dry, and I've never seen this pad come off wet or even damp.  Highly recommend!! Broke out the shedding mitt and knocked off a bit more of that unnecessary fur before treating and putting him in his stall to wait for dinner.

Later that night I watched my video. We had 18 minutes of hard word in our jump school. Trot, canter and jumping with just a couple moments of walk break. Our trot after jumping looked amaze balls. I will be switching those rubber reins back for future jump schools. Maybe my arms won't have to work as hard with them. I still have those beautiful plaited reins on. Not conducive for work though, not with this horse. They give way too much. I may even have to look into another bit. Razz goes in a slow twist eggbutt and lately he's been running right through it. What needed the most work? I have to learn to see my distances. Razz chipped about 70% of the jumps.

I was excited to share my jumping session with all of you. And after I watched it once my dumbass wiped it off the sd card. This is the only flaw I've found with my off brand camera. The software is basic as hell. Three buttons to navigate thru the menu, none of which are labeled. You just have to learn and remember which one is froward, backward, and select. Leave it to me to not scroll properly and begin recording. Every time you begin recording this camera saves under the same file name. No date stamp to make it unique. So I recorded over my 17 minute jump school with 2 seconds of my lap sitting indian style on the bed. I could have bitten a nail in two. Or thrown the camera into the living room. Either would have been gratifying. 

So instead I have two pictures to share. One of Razz right before we started our ride. He was dozing.

And one after our ride. In this one silly boy is proclaiming his love for peppermints.

I will be filming all my jump schools. Eventually I won't be stupid and wipe them before I post them. If I learned anything at all, its to rename my files the moment I pop the card in my pc. And I need ground poles in front of my jumps.

How about you guys? Anyone have some good advice to help an inexperienced jumper rider & overconfident horse see their distance?

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Catching Up

Apologies for the silence over here the past couple weeks. I have been extremely busy with my daughter and her winter guard team. 

We traveled to Norfolk, VA 2 weeks ago. 

On Thursday evening before we left, Razz and I enjoyed a power ride into the Croatan. It was just the two of us. As soon as we crossed the bridge into the bean field I asked for a nice forward trot, to which Razz responded with a sluggish "i don't wanna". Just so happened I was carrying my favorite crop (which I almost never use on him) and with an encouraging smack on the rump we were off. 

And it was on...

The entire way over to the forest I kept my boy in the nice, forward trot I was looking for. We paused to catch our breath for a moment before crossing the busy road and heading into the woods. Once in, I asked for a canter and lost my left rein in the transition. That's weird, I never do that. Seriously never. It was no big deal. Razz stayed on the trail as I collected my slack. We made our way through the thick growth and a couple areas of standing water before coming into the open clearing from which all other trails lead off. Most of the way through here we walked, giving Razz a much needed cool down and allowing me to absorb all that surrounded us. These woods have really etched out a spot in my heart. 

We were fast approaching the epic water crossing that serves as gatekeeper to the back country. I found a ditch to jump and hopped over it, back and forth, six times, enough that Razz was pinning his ears and cow kicking before take off. I decided to try to get him to cross the water. We had never crossed it by ourselves before. And I didn't want him to successfully refuse after all the progress we've made converting city horse into country packer.

I've posted a video of the water crossing here, it is a low lying 4 wheeler path that has collected all the rainwater we get. It's not connected to any other source, and in the heat of the summer it doesn't exist. Razz knew it was ahead of us even though we couldn't yet see it. His stride shortened and I could tell he wasn't digging the idea. Good thing I carried my crop. A few tight circles going in, and and couple smacks half way thru the puddle, and we did it!! I was so proud of the boy. It was hardly any struggle at all to get him across. The tight circles are an old cowboy trick I learned at the TN ranch so many years ago. Its a mind game, the horse eventually figuring out it's much easier to go forward than continue to make tight circles. 

Once across the water I rode a trail that follows alongside the railroad tracks for a mile or more, its just inside the woods and straight as an arrow. Ahead in the distance a feral cat was also using this trail. We trotted to catch up with it. I got some seriously amazing collected, sitting trot out of him & life was perfect in that moment.

I then decided to ask for a balls to the wall gallop. The trail was clean and straight, and my horse was willing. The feral cat shot left into a thicket when it saw how quickly we were gaining ground. It was hard to get Razz to stop when I finally asked. Going back to the barn at a walk was difficult also. Pony was waaay sweatier than I ever intended him to be. And still loaded with energy. Re-crossing the water was no big deal. He trotted out of the deepest part and inadvertently washed my boots off. What a wonderful ride we had that day. 

Then we left for Norfolk on a stormy Friday. I snapped this shot of the ocean just before we loaded.

The trip went well. Both varsity and jv traveled and we took an activity bus. WGI is the circuit we follow. They have copyright rules which prevent a lot of media from being taken. We do get to video our own teams' performances but those aren't shared online either. Not until end of the season. 

Got home late Sunday night, back to work Monday morning. Pretty much shitty weather all week, meaning no barn time. And back on the road Thursday.

This time only varsity traveled. 12 girls, 4 adults, 2 rented suvs. Destination Princeton, NJ. We kept a full schedule. I did get a quick hour in the art museum. The ancient stuff is in the basement and that's where I spent my time. 

First thing you see coming down the steps are a pair of Chinese temple guardians which were super intriguing. Pictured below is a close up of one. In the background is a 2,000 year old earthenware horse. This is the largest Han dynasty example of a horse. It is just under 5 feet tall. I stared at it from all angles for a good ten minutes. Never took a pic, wtf?? It had a couple repairs but was still amazing.

A few more of my favorites:

Tlingit (Alaska Native) Female Moon Mask

Roman Figural Head, only a couple inches tall

beautifully detailed 4 ft tall Guanyin (Buddha's female counterpart)

I ended up purchasing a book of the entire collection since I only visited one floor. The campus was lovely, as was the small town accompanying the campus. I even came home with a Princeton Equestrian tshirt.

Go Tigers!!
We got back late Monday evening. Tuesday right back to work. At this point I've been going for 15 days straight without any down time. Wednesday after work I got my left inside arm tattooed. I had rescheduled this appointment twice before and finally got it done. My artist free handed a venus flytrap and bug in between two existing tattoos. The idea was a mandala in the background but neither of us liked the way it turned out so we will cover the background with more flowers instead. When finished you won't even know that mandala was ever there.

yes, i forever have a bug in my armpit now
Saturday morning I got up and spent more hours with my daughter's guard team even though we aren't travelling this weekend. Instead I was making prototype pieces for a prop adjustment we had to deal with after our last competition. Finally, finally, shortly after lunch, I made it to the barn. Ended up repeating my entire grooming ritual twice. Talk about shedding. 

Once tacked, a friend and I took off to the sand pits. We jumped lots of stuff. And came across a neighbor's paddock whose ponies were actually turned out for once. I've ridden past here many times but the ponies are always in a different turn out right beside thier barn. Not today.

It didn't take long for the bucking and farting to ensue.

The weather report looks good for the next week or so, and I have two weekends at home before we go right back to New Jersey (this time Monmouth College). The days are getting a little longer too. Fingers crossed for lots of good riding.