Wednesday, June 9, 2021

It Is Official. The Saddle Gots To Go.

Eeyore can give side eye in western tack too

If I had any doubts about selling the BC Wexford saddle, last night put them to rest quickly. 

I’ve been eyeing an Advantage saddle (same brand as Gem’s) that’s sorta kinda not really for sale but available in the right circumstances as a potential trail saddle for Eeyore for the summer. After emailing back and forth with the maker this particular saddle is really similar in tree shape as Gem’s so I decided to ride him in Gem’s to see how it would work for us before purchasing a non returnable item. 

I like him in the western style headstall without a nose band.

And while the saddle won’t work for us, it was eye opening how amazing he felt in it and the amount of shoulder movement he had. At first he started off a bit tense and tentative but once he got moving I could tell he felt so much better. 

His canter felt amazing especially to the right which hasn’t felt quite right since his injury last spring. I always wondered if something wasn’t right still but after riding in this saddle I can tell you it wasn’t him - the Wexford no longer fit him either. 

I went to a small local western tack shop to look at saddles. I have this thing where I feel super awkward not buying from small shops especially if I’m the only one there and the owner is working. So I went to Pops and it was tiny and the owner was there and I was alone. I didn’t really like any saddles but I felt bad not buying anything. That’s how I ended up with the headstall. 

Any reservations I had lingering about selling the saddle are now gone. I have zero idea what I’ll get next but the Bliss by Loxely is high on my list thanks to all you folks. In the meantime I’m also looking for the right western based endurance saddle to spend the summer on the trails with. Being back out there has rekindled my old flame.  We shall see where this goes. I don’t plan on ditching jumping as I do really enjoy that too which means I’ll still need a basic jump type saddle as well. Looks like a lot of budget saddle shopping is required.

Monday, June 7, 2021

My New Obsession

 Living the farm life has been a life long dream come true. Sure there are the downsides that come with managing 30 acres made a bit worse with how run down it was when we purchased it, but the positives outweigh those ten fold. I anticipated some of the changes I'd see in my life when we moved in, primarily my new found love for being at home. Prior to this move I was always finding something to do out and about that took us away from home. Random day trips, excursions to new towns, hikes on distant trails, if it got me out of suburbia I was all for it. Since moving in, and especially after the addition of the front patio, I've found myself choosing to stay home more often than not. I don't have that drive to be "away" like I used to. 

Rarely in life do my crazy scheme come to life, but this turned out exactly as I hoped it would

There is one new hobby that has come as quite a surprise to me though. 

Last year we put in the flag stone patio which covers half the front of the house. The other half sat as dirt for a long time until I came up with a plan for it: a container garden with half flowers and half veggies. The project took just shy of a year to complete for various reasons, but eventually it was done and planted in time for the spring growing cycle. 

Folks...I am now completely obsessed with my garden. 

This one little row of spinach has provided us with more than we could ever eat. I've used it in fresh salads and in my favorite shrimp scampi recipe. The nice thing is that the more I pick the more regrows.

I'm not sure there is a task that I don't enjoy. Weeding is my favorite though. There is something about the combination of instant gratification, meticulous repetitive tasks, and complete lack of mental effort that soothes my anxiety ridden, over worked brain. 

The radishes were the first to ripen. It was sooo cool pulling them up out of the ground. I don't actually like radishes so all these were eaten by the hubby who loves them. 

The first thing I do every evening when I get home from work is check on the garden. Does it need watered? How are the vegetables? Any need picked?

Wyatt has taken over as the Master Harvester. He has picked everything except the cabbage heads because those needed a bit more knife work. I'm thrilled to see how involved he has become in the process from picking which plants to grow to checking them daily to harvesting when ready. He keeps an even closer eye on things than I do!

A gorgeous head of cabbage. There was a nasty layer of caterpillars between the outer leaves along with pockets of eggs, but they washed away nicely and I refuse to use chemicals. I need some chickens to feed the buggers to as I pick them off. Maybe next year. 

On its way to being coleslaw

So far we have had really great crops of cabbage, spinach, radishes and zucchini. Tomatoes are on the vine and green, potatoes are growing nicely under ground, and bell peppers are starting to enlarge. The cucumbers and watermelon plants are starting to vine. The only things that haven't worked out so well are carrots which never even sprouted and jalapenos which grew but were very bland and earthy tasting without even a hint of spice. 

So many zucchinis all in one day. I gave half to my mom, made two loaves of bread, grilled one and still have a bunch

The ripening of all these yummy veggies has led to finding new recipes to use them in. I snagged a delicious vinegar based coleslaw recipe from a friend to use our cabbage heads up and then made two loaves of zucchini bread with some of the zucchini. Additional zucchini was cut into 1/4" rounds and thrown on the grill with olive oil and salt and pepper. 

The jalapenos looked really good but tasted like earth. I'm not sure what happened to the flavor

I want to learn how to make sauerkraut for the hubby. I don't like it, but he loves it and grew up making it with his grandma. We have three more heads of cabbage that need picked ASAP and that is a lot of cabbage to eat in a short time, so sauerkraut is appealing.  

Zucchini bread made with brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. It tasted like Thanksgiving.

The plan is to re plant the containers came fall with the winter crops: spinach, leaf lettuce, curly mustard greens, broccoli, more cabbage and maybe some turnip greens as well. Hopefully we can have at least a little bit of fresh produce year round. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Oh Crap, Not This Again

Saddle shopping. It is the absolute worst thing ever. I’d rather buy jeans. Ugh. 

Enjoyed another wonderful trail ride this weekend and didn’t get lost this time. Yay!

Unfortunately my two beloved Black Country Wexford saddles will be listed for sale as soon as I get pictures around and posts made. I hope they sell quickly and with minimal drama. I bought them both used at really good prices, so I should be able to move them along without taking a hit. 

I’m super sad though. Even when Eeyore decided that he can’t possibly cross the exact same creek he crossed one week prior and heaven forbid he get his hooves wet so he launched over it like a complete moron, my butt stayed firmly and safely in my Wexford with no fear of being dislodged. Those saddles are so so awesome. 

I decided to take the red trail this time which also had a lot of re routing due t recent logging. It included this climb that I had never done before

The saddle fits Eeyore perfectly too. It is an exact match for his back no kidding. I doubt I could order a custom made one to fit this well. Hamilton’s medium version is a darn good fit for him as well. 


After being completely crippled all day Monday from my trail ride Sunday the light bulb went off. This saddle is KILLING my back. 

Now...I don’t expect any jump saddle to be comfortable after 3 tough hours of climbing and twisting terrain. It’s not what it is meant for. The very idea of a jump saddle is to make getting up off the horses back easy and comfortable. So after last week’s 2 hour trail ride I wasn’t thinking much about how awful my back felt the rest of that day or the next. So what? I’m out of practice of long rides. 

The climb was worth the effort as it ended with a gorgeous view of Lake Hartwell and mountains

Then I went out again this past weekend and could barely slide off his back due to a stabbing radiating pain from my lumbar spine and sacrum. As I drove home hoping the spasms would stop it dawned on me. Last summer when I was riding Eeyore 4 days a week for rehab, my back pain started. By the time September rolled around I was so debilitated in the saddle that I had to two point even in the walk and he dumped my butt in the dirt at my last lesson, September 2020. I did not however have any pain while riding the lovely Fenix during lessons with MD.

After that I stopped riding while I got my crap together and had surgery. I actually didn’t ride at all from beginning of September through January. Lo and behold I had no back spasm pain that entire time but I chalked it up to the surgery. 

It is a tough loop with a lot of single track climbs and twisting trails. This is my favorite type of trail and I did miss all the trotting I used to do here on Gem. Eeyore will get there eventually too. 

In January I returned to riding but only snuck in 2 rides a week both generally 30 minutes or so. At first everything was fine but then I started having the same back pain: mostly muscle spasms along both sides of my lumbar and into my sacral spine. The more time went by the more pronounced it became and finally started to linger the day after my lesson. 

I quit lessons a month or so ago for other reasons and started to ride less as well as I figure out some things and my back has felt amazing. Then the two trail rides and it finally hit me: this saddle is killing my lower back. I don’t know why because in all other regards it is super comfy but it has got to go. 

Eeyore was mostly good. Well, from mile 3-7 he was amazing. Before mile 3 he forgot to turn his brain on and was a turd and after mile 7 he was tired and bored and trying to figure out what the heck we were still in the woods for. But those 4 miles in the middle were so so much fun. I had a grin plastered on my face the entire time. 

So I’m on the hunt now for another saddle for Eeyore. Hamilton is going to wait as he is off to the trainers in two weeks (a story I’ll share on its own once he has left for KY) for the summer so won’t need a saddle at home until late August when he returns. regardless of the jump saddle situation I will be getting a western based saddle of some sort for trails. I'm hoping to find another one of Gem's type endurance saddles. 

The picture did not capture it very well, but off in the distance is a super steep uphill. Eeyore stopped at the bottom and looked at it then back a me a few times as if to ask if I was crazy. I debated hopping off and hiking it with him but he had been a big ass about crossing creeks and bridges that he had crossed easily the week before and I didn't want to teach him that I will get off when thins look tough. 

I still want a jump saddle though so I’ll be hunting something. I’m absolutely clueless as to what to look for at this point. I know what doesn’t work for me from past attempts, so at least I can rule Stubben, Custom, Bates and Prestige out. I really, really, really want a CWD but that’s not in my budget unless I can sell these for a high enough price. We shall see. 

Anyone have any good suggestions on where to begin? It has to fit a very wide, flat backed horse with big shoulders. I’m open for any and all suggestions. Dusty has suggested that it isn't the saddle and is instead the horse and that I would make a lot more money selling the horse versus the saddle, but I'm pretty partial to the Big Orange Butthead even when he is being Super Butthead.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Eeyore the Trail Horse

 Sunday morning I hit up my favorite trail system. There were only two other trailers in the lot when I pulled in. Eeyore unloaded like a pro, stood nicely to get groomed and tacked up and then walked away to hit the woods. 

The hardest part of the ride was convincing the Chubster he didn't need to eat every since green thing he saw

None of that above paragraph was possible when I first got him. He really has grown up nicely. 

Eeyore loves being out and about and went down the trail with ears forward almost the entire way

It was hot, nearing the 90s, but thankfully most of the trail was in the shade. My favorite green trail has been recently destroyed by logging which re routed a good 2 miles to a paved road instead of single track in the woods. My last outing I had tried to take the grey trail, but ended up lost only a mile into it. 

I've had Eeyore for 3 years now and have never cut his mane. I've given up hope that he will ever have anything except a floppy, thin mohawk. 

This time I decided to hit the grey trail backwards, keeping the markers on my right instead of the left, which would hopefully show me where I had gone wrong the last time. I don't think I have ever been on the grey trail. Green was always perfect for conditioning Gem - it was 6 miles and ran into the 9 mile red trail near the end so for my longer conditioning rides I could add that too.  I'm glad I tried out grey though - it was a lovely trail.

When I saw this meadow I knew there was no way I'd get Chubby through it without stopping for lunch. 

Eeyore handled pretty much everything I threw at him perfectly. We went over bridges, across creeks, past a sail boat, covered single track twisting through the woods and open access roads. He even passed other horses coming his way without batting an eye. The first time I rode him on trail solo he threw such a tantrum about not being allowed to join another horse that I got off for safety and he broke my toe. Such a big improvement!

This was the only spot I got off to navigate. The entire creek crossing was stone and he hesitated. I was worried that with his shoes on he would slip and we'd both fall, so I led him across by hand. 

He wanted to canter and trot quite a bit and I let him as long as we were in the shade and his breathing was normal. Fat Boy isn't in good enough shape cardiovascularly to handle more than long slow miles at this point. I want trails to be fun, not a punishment so we mostly walked with some short burst of trotting and cantering when the trail was right. 

I also opted to switch out to his Wonder Bit this ride. He is so responsive to it that it allowed me to ride mostly on the buckle versus being in his mouth and him still blowing through me in the single joint full cheek snaffle.

Everything was going swimmingly until near the end. We popped out on a gravel access road which I knew was close to the end. In theory all we needed to do was go down the hill, cross the road and a creek and we would be back at the trailer. Except somehow I ended up at the dead end road crossing by a dove research area exactly where I ended up the last time coming from the opposite direction. It takes skill to get lost the same place from both directions folks. 

The look you get 8 miles into a 6 mile trail ride 

I turned us around, with a big sigh from Eeyore who apparently remembered that we did this the last time in the same spot, and tried to figure out where I went wrong. The last time I saw that red crossed over this road, so I went back to that and took that trail a ways. Red is 9 miles though and we were already pushing 8. I had no clue if I was heading in the right direction down red or not, so I turned us around again determined to figure out where I lost grey. 

Not a happy pony. The only time his ears weren't forward all day

Eventually I found grey again, in a tiny off shoot trail that I missed the first time, however I could go right or left and couldn't for the life of me remember if I was traveling with the markers on my right or left. I had a mini panic attack thinking we might be heading back the way we came which would be another 8 miles before we were done. Thank goodness for the All Trails App on my phone that I use for hiking. I pulled that up, found the interactive map and where I was, turned around to go the correct way and made it back to the trailer in one piece. 

Eeyore was tired at the end, but looking sharp. We walked and puttered around so much at the end that he was mostly dry at the trailer. I hosed him off and we made the 40 minute drive back home without incident.  

Friday, May 14, 2021

Morning Shower Thoughts

 As I grabbed my bottle of hair conditioner, slathered it on my right leg and began to shave, a smile spread across my face. My aunt Jozia, passed now for way too long, had given me the tip to use conditioner instead of shave gel or soap nearly 20 years ago and now every time I shave I think of her. It is only a brief memory out of so many things I could think about yet it remains the most common association I make with her. This tiny tip thrown out to me as I complained one day of getting a rash after I shaved during my teenage years has not only stuck with me for two decades but has also shaped a tiny part of who I am. I have never shaved without using conditioner since that time and of note have also never had another post shave rash. 

It got me thinking about all the people who have flitted through my life, brief or otherwise, and what marks they each have put on me. I am who I am today due in part to every encounter I have had with countless people throughout my 39 years. 

In regards to horses, I owe most of my experiences to another one of my Aunts who took me in during summers off to ride, canoe, camp and explore the outdoors in any way possible. That isn't a tiny blip though. My Aunt C made me who I am today through years of love, dedication and memories. My shower thoughts this morning were more along the lines of parts of me that came from people who barely touched my life before moving on to other things yet had a long lasting impact that they have no idea exist.  

In horses, this distinction goes to a woman named Bryce who boarded at the first barn I had Gem at back in 2009.  She wasn't an instructor or a trainer, but had noticed my many woes with Gem and offered to help where she could. I only stayed at that barn for a month before moving Gem to a training barn and maybe rode with Bryce a few times however one piece of advice that she gave me changed the way I rode and still impacts me 12 years later.

She told me that the horse and the rider should equal an energy level of 10. When Gem came out a fire breathing dragon at an 8, I better be calm at a 2. Eeyore benefits from this advice to this day. When I rode on Tuesday he started of high as a kite - I'd say a solid 7. I remained calm and relaxed and let him canter a few circuits both ways to relax. After that he sunk to a 3 because he is fat and decidedly not an Arab who can go all day. If I had stayed down at a 3 as well, well we would have western pleasure shuffled our way for the next 20 minutes of the ride. Instead I reminded myself that I now needed to bring up the energy and went on to have a much better ride. 

I'm sure Bryce has never thought of the crazy lady out horsed by her equally crazy Arab mare again. She has no idea that her words of advice stuck with me and shaped how I approach my horses for the last 12 years. 

As the scalding hot water started to fade, it dawned on me that this is a two way street. There are people who I have briefly interacted with and likely no longer remember but who may have been impacted by something I said or did, for good or bad. I think in today's world of social media that gives us access to thousands of more people who we may only have the chance to interact with one time, it is really important to keep in mind that our words and actions can have a huge impact on someone no matter how insignificant it may have been to us. I'm sure my Aunt Jozia would be shocked to know that I rarely shave my legs without thinking fondly of her. I'm sure Bryce has no idea I still use her advice and remember her name to this day. Those are two of many, many examples I could share and happen to be examples of positive encounters. If I stop to think about it, I am could easily come up with examples of times someone affected be in a negative way that still lingers and is a part of who I am today. 

Please be kind out there folks. Help when you can. Mind your own when you can't. And stop to silently appreciate and thank those in your past life who flitted in just long enough to leave a permanent mark on you. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Trying Something New

Eeyore has continued to be his original annoying self which is less than ideal. It is due to a combination of factors. First, I got rid of Fat Camp because I abhor it. Picking through the grass is an absolute chore and I Hates it. Since Eeyore does well stalled and Gem does well out with a muzzle, I made the executive decision to say screw the hours of picking poop in tall grass and now Eeyore stays in his stall overnight. He really doesn’t mind, but it does mean he is super well rested. Second, he is getting, albeit slowly, more fit. A more fit Eeyore can be a bit of an asshat. Last, I haven’t been riding as consistently again. Trainer has canceled out on the last several lessons for various reasons, the weather has been on and off wet and my only other consistent riding day (Friday) has been taken up with the kiddo’s new electric guitar lesson. Eeyore does the best with a two day on/1 day off schedule and I haven’t been making that happen. All those things combine to give me the Eeyore I currently have. 

Our spinach is coming in nicely. I was able to pick enough to add fresh spinach to the shrimp scampi I made for dinner Monday night. It was delicious. 

When I went to ride Tuesday knowing my lesson would yet again get canceled today due to a really crappy forecasted 50F and rain (it has been sunny and in the low 80sF) I wasn’t really wanting to fight my horse. That isn’t fun. Or productive. Instead I recalled Michelle’s latest post about her lesson on Remus where the new instructor had her riding on the buckle. 

I thought “why not?” as Eeyore was laying all 1500lbs in my hands. I know he baits me into a pulling war to get his way. I know that dropping the inside rein when he tries that has helped in the past, so why not try this?

It wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies like with Remus. We weren’t gloriously riding around calm and sane and amazing. But we also weren’t fighting each other any longer either. Amazing how you can’t play tug of war with yourself. 

Wyatt ended up being the youngest person in the world to complete the non rider division of the virtual Tevis. I’m so proud of him. 

I did lose his nice trot an awful lot. Eeyore loves to canter. It is his go to when he is celebrating, when he wants to get out of actual work, when he is pissy and not in the mood etc...We were trotting along with him trying to pull me out of the saddle when I dropped the reins down to the buckle. He nearly tripped on his nose. Things were actually going really nicely for a couple circuits of the arena until he realized I couldn’t half halt his ass into oblivion every time he started to think about cantering so he cantered. I tried to use my seat to bring him back to a trot but yeah...not good enough for that. Instead I picked the reins back up and got him back into a trot then returned to the buckle and tried again. 

Again we’d go nicely for a bit until he cantered again. Repeat. A lot. A whole freaking lot. 

But you know what? Even though it wasn’t perfect it was still 1000x better than going around like we were. I’m glad I tried it. I’m glad Michele wrote about it. I’m super interested to see how it impacts us next time I ride him which hopefully will happen sooner than later. 

Monday, May 3, 2021

A Family Affair

Up until 4 pm Sunday afternoon I was having one of the absolute best weekends I've had in recent memory. It was perfection. Until it wasn't...but I will get to that. 

It started on Saturday morning when I had the random idea of heading to Aiken to hit up Dover for the pile of items I've been needing to fully outfit Hamilton with his own tack. I had driven up to Tryon a month ago only to find out that Dover had moved out of TIEC which was a big bummer and waste of time. I've been putting off ordering online hoping to somehow make it to s brick and mortar store sooner or later. 

I tried the Soft Up Classic Free Jumps versus the Pro model and really prefer the Pro. I need to call Dover to exchange, but if anyone is interested I'll sell them to you for less than what I bought them for to avoid returning. I hate returning things. They are grey (not blue as on the box) and I rode in them one time. Let me know if interested. 

After the kiddo's parkour lesson we headed south and ended up having a rather epically awesome day that included spending way too much at Dover, snagging ice cream for the kid at the local Sweet Shoppe, hiking 5 miles in Hitchcock Woods and ending with the absolute best shaved ice creation at the Vampire Penguin. 

Then Sunday came and it got even better. 

Anyone recognize these black tipped ears???

I hadn't ridden Eeyore in way too long - maybe a week and a half I think - and he came out the OG Eeyore. In fact, he was so full of himself I threw him on the lunge to get his bucks and wiggles out before I got on him. I can't even recall the last time he saw a lunge line. Under saddle was a major reminder of what I used to deal with on the regular. He was UP, he was throwing me the middle finger with every request I made, and he was stiff as a board. I ended up letting him canter to his heart was full and the sweat was lathered up and then we got started on what I had wanted to accomplish. Sheesh horse. I ma so glad we moved past that behavior. 

After Eeyore I was hesitant to ride Hamilton. I just didn't have it in me to have another ride like that. Having just dropped a college education on his new tack and needing to see if he was still oddly lame, I new I had to tack him up and see what I had. And what I had was the best ride on him to date. 

Re using because I forgot to take any pics of Eeyore

He was soft, he was calm, he was sound, he was handsome in his new gear. It was the exact ride I needed after getting off the Big Orange Butthead. Inexplicably, the Hubby wandered down to the arena while I was riding, another event that hasn't happened in ages, and had his riding helmet with him. He wanted to hop on Hamilton and take him down to the pond. I wasn't going to argue that!

He did a little work in the arena first and then they headed out. 

Hamilton was a happy camper to walk down the driveway, past the house and into the woods. A feat I can't get Eeyore to do without rearing, bucking and trying to bolt back to the barn after three years of attempts.  

Dusty said he wanted to trot in the woods but he didn't let him.

His only issue came when he popped out of the woods to the pond itself. Then he started trembling and was scared of the water. A few passes back and forth saw him calm down enough to head back to the barn. 

If that wasn't awesome enough, once they were back Wyatt asked to ride so I grabbed all my old endurance gear that I miss so much and tacked up Gemmie. She was foot perfect as always with kiddos on board. 

He outgrew his paddock boots. 

This got me dreaming an scheming of summer family trail rides and finally getting to us the three horse trailer I bought in the fall that hasn't moved since. I was riding a pretty big high until Wyatt had a accident on his bike jumping a ramp and broke his right arm. That was a pretty shitty end to a great weekend. Thankfully it is a simple buckle fracture requiring a splint for 6 weeks without surgery needed. He is feeling better today with the splint in place.