Friday, March 21, 2014

Keeping it Together

I gotta tell ya, blogging without my co-star is hard.

And if I'm being truly honest, LIFE without my co-star is hard.

I don't think I want to change the title of this blog, even though it's now a lie, or at least a fib, and I'm not quite ready to change some of the blurbs (like my profile) that still talk about Junior like he's here and everything is the same, because taking him out of it seems... wrong... or final.  So eventually I'll get to that, but not just yet.  It's the weirdest things that are the hardest. I also haven't submitted the "deceased horse" notification to APHA.  Good thing I sprung for that 3-year membership last fall. :\

But I am thinking of adding new subtitle, maybe something like "The diary of a girl who dreamed of having a horse for 29 years, hit the jackpot by buying her soulmate on the first try, lost him to colic 5 years later, and is just trying to hold it all together and keep a sense of humor."

But that seems a little whiny.  I'll keep working on that.

Enough with the "trying to hold it together" part, and back to the part about remembering to keep a sense of humor.  :)

I've been trying to keep busy and work has been ever so helpful in that area.  We are doing two faculty searches in my area, it's recruiting season for next year's freshmen, I leave for a national conference on Tuesday and I still need to finish my poster presentation and come up with something (photoshop project) to hang behind our recruiting table.... and pack... and do some grading... and...

Oh, and after the conference I get to go on a BIG adventure!  I will blog about it afterwards, don't you worry your pretty little head.  Squeeeeee!!!

I'm also getting ready for another tack swap tomorrow.

Did I tell you about the last one?

It was HUGE and so busy I didn't get a chance to leave my table to shop at all! I teamed up with one of the trainers from my barn who brought stuff for 4 people so our booth was so full we couldn't even stand in it! I sold a lot of stuff, took a cut on several things, but there were certain things I couldn't bear to keep, like the SMB boots I bought at Congress and never got to use.  To me they represented a life cut short before it began.  We bought those because we had finally gotten to try the cows and seeing how much we liked it, planned to do lots more.  So they had to go.  I sold Junior's tail extension.  What are the odds that if I do show again it would be the right color?  And like his blankets, it seemed like asking a new boyfriend to wear your dead husband's clothes.  That's where my brain goes, at least.  The gal who bought it was very sympathetic when I unexpectedly burst into tears when she took the tail, and promised to send me photos.  She shows a rescued Appy, so that made me feel a bit better that a little part of Bug would still get to show.

So tomorrow is another one.  As you know, I make horse show tops, and I'm sharing my table with a gal who makes pants and chaps, which I refuse to make, and she refuses to make tops, so we'll see if we can combine our efforts.   I'm working on a new display for my decals. I hung one on foam core at the barn ages ago and when I went to update it for the last swap realized how filthy it was and how janky it looked so I bought a sheet of corrugated plastic and started over.  I think it's a good upgrade!

I've got an armload full of show tops, some stock decals, and the stuff that didn't sell at the last swap, including my western saddle.  I was on the fence about selling it at first, but now I definitely want it out of here.  I am trying not to have to ship it since I've tried that twice and it's a pain, so hopefully I'll have some luck.  I sold my training saddle at this same swap a few years ago, maybe I'll have good luck this time, too.

I'm still taking weekly private lessons.  Lillypony has been my main mount and I adore her.  She's sort of good at all the things Junior wasn't and not good at the things he was good at, so it's been a challenge.  For instance, you want Lilly to stop?  Just stop riding.  Bam.  Like a reiner without the slide. Wanted Junior to stop?  Got a few minutes while he ignores you and then does his best impression of a giraffe?  Want Junior to canter from a halt?  Kiss and barely touch a heel.  Want Lilly to canter at all?  SQUEEZE KISS SQUEEZE KICK SQUEEZE KISS TROT BOUNCE TROT BOUNCE KISS CANTER.    Though to be fair, Lilly's getting the hang of NOT stopping every time I adjust my seat or change diagonals, and Junior's canter button took a long time to get right.

And just because I hate posting without a photo, here's the latest horsemanship top I made.  Fingers crossed it doesn't come home with me tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Easy DIY Ribbon Display

I'm one of those showgals that saves all of her ribbons, and I do mean ALL of them.  I still have the first show ribbon I received from my very first class at my very first show - 5th place out of 5 in English Equitation on Dino. ONE of my ribbons, a 1st on Debon in walk/trot resides at his owner's house, but I have all the rest. I've been displaying all the ribbons (well, the ones from 2006-now) in my spare room (sewing room). There are three ribbons there that belong to Debon, otherwise they're all the ribbons Junior and I won over the 5 years we were showing together. The pre-2006 rosettes are packed away in a flat box and all the flat 4-H ribbons are in a scrapbook.

Five years ago when Junior and I came home with a handful of our first ribbons, I stretched a fishing line across the long empty wall of the room, and tied it around small nails.  It worked okay until there were too many ribbons to put on it (NOT a bad problem to have!) and it started to sag badly 'cause fishing line is meant to S-T-R-E-T-C-H so as to not break when you're fighting big fishies.

Ages ago I found a great blog post by Julia at Been There Dunne That about hanging ribbons using gimp and upholstery tacks.  BRILLIANT.  It's been on my to-do list for ages and I finally remembered to pick up the supplies on my most recent trip to the fabric store.

MONEY: The Gimp and Tacks were the only expense and with tax was about $13 because I had 40%off coupons for both items, otherwise it would have been about $20.  I forgot to measure the wall space so I overestimated and bought 10 yards of gimp, only using about 6 yards total for the three rows. I chose a color as close to my wall as I could get but you can, of course, choose any color you want.  Perhaps your barn colors?  Or fancy gold? I purchased 3/8" gimp, but I recommend the 1/2" instead. I chose brushed silver tacks, but there were many other color choices.

TIME: I have to admit I didn't time myself, but I think it only took about an hour and a half including gathering my supplies, moving the sofa out of the way, taking the fishing line down, and re-sorting the pile of ribbons, taking photos along the way, and the time I spent changing my mind about which ribbons went where.

You will need:
  • 1/2" Gimp braid 
    • The length of your display - the less stretch the better.
  • Upholstery Tacks 
    • Enough for one on each end of the gimp and one every 12-14" or so.
  • Measuring Tape
  • Pencil
  • Hammer (though they're pretty easy to push into drywall with just your hands) What's going on with that hammer, you ask? Aside from the fact that it's MUCH older than I am? It's wrapped in leather so as not to scuff the tacks, but it probably wasn't necessary, it was just still on there from putting together an Elfa cart.  
  • Level - I don't actually own a level, but if I had one I would have used it.  

 Step 1: Decide how far apart you want your rows and mark your end tack locations with a tiny pencil mark.  I measured first from the ceiling down to keep the rows level. The vast majority of my ribbons are 14.5" long so I put my rows 14.5" apart.   If you prefer, you could make the rows much closer, tucking the tails under the row below so that only the rosettes are showing on the upper rows.
Two variations of compact displays.
Step 2: Cover a raw end of gimp with clear tape if it isn't already - the cutter at the store will hopefully demonstrate this for you since that's usually how they sell it - this helps keep the gimp from fraying. Once you've got the end covered, fold the taped end under, stab a tack through the two layers of gimp/tape, and push/hammer the tack into one of your pencil marks.

Step 3: Pull the gimp over to your other end mark and make it snug against the wall, wrap where you will cut it with clear tape, cut through the tape, fold it under and tack the two layers onto the pencil mark.  The snugger it is, the fewer tacks you'll need to put in to prevent sagging, but don't pull so tight that you pull out the other tack, of course! The 1/2" gimp will probably sag much less than the 3/8" I used.

Step 4: Add a tack every 12-14", keeping the gimp level.  Keeping the tacks in the same spacing row to row will look best. The more tacks, the less sag.

Step 5: Repeat Steps 2-4 for each row.

Step 6: Add your ribbons in whatever arrangement you prefer.  After a few trial versions I decided on the tri-colors in the top/center and radiated out from there, giving a bit more room to the higher placings and packing all the 4th-6th ribbons into the bottom row, overlapping outwards.  I'm saving the excess to add a 4th row if I start showing again.  It's hard to be reminded that Junior will never bring home another ribbon, but I'm so proud of each little victory we had, whether it was a blue in a big class, or a DFL in a class where he made some small improvement in consistency or manners.  Some of our best rides went un-pinned, and some pretty crappy rides placed high in smaller when I was the only one in a class.  Just the luck of the draw.  Some ribbons, like the 4th in Trail at our final show are so special because they were personal victories.  Each one is a memory.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Plans We Made

I gave you a teaser post last fall about mounted archery but never gave you the full story.  I had taken a community ed class winter/13, then over the summer was given a bow to play with from a family friend. I got myself a target, some arrows and a hip quiver.

My plan was to get good enough to post some video of our attempts.  Sadly, I got to shoot off of Junior only once.  There was SO much potential there.  He wasn't bothered even a tiny bit by the sound of the bow or the arrow hitting the target.  In fact, on our first day I started by shooting just standing, holding his rope.... he didn't even seem to notice, even though the bow made noise and it made many of the other horses alert to the sound of the arrow hitting the target. I mounted up bareback in a halter (yes, and a helmet, thank you, I'm not a complete fool) in the round pen just to see what would happen.  What happened is that we walked around and I shot a few dozen arrows, hitting the target nicely.  I kept the quiver on the gate and took three arrows at a time, shooting as I passed the target and reloaded.  I had been doing research on how to train for this so I was starting slow just to get the motions of loading and shooting down before attempting any sort of speed. I wasn't really interested in competing, and I haven't heard of any troupes nearby anyway, but I have a group of acquaintances who were getting together to shoot with their horses.
My bow was too long or my target was too low, or both, but we were going to work with what we had.  I have more interest in the plains tribes style rather than the Mongolian style you see in most of the competitions.

Junior was great.  I could maneuver him easily with my legs and he wasn't bothered a bit by any part of it. I had big plans for us.

We gathered a bit of a crowd that day, with a lot of strange looks, and I'm pretty sure some random lesson parent was taking cell photos.... I wonder where those ended up... and when the BO came by I made her take our picture, just for proof.

I sure wish it wasn't the only time we got to do this. :(  This would have been so much fun.

I know I may have an opportunity to get back to this goal, but like many so many other things it was something I wanted to do with Junior. He was so wonderful.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Keeping Him Close

I had seen a few artists who made horsehair jewelry at Equine Affaire.  I had a plan that when my dear Banee leaves the earth that I'd like a bracelet from her tail hair.  Her owner kindly agreed to the request.  Thankfully, Banee is still doing fine and she will turn 35 next month. Hopefully you've forgotten by now that she's just 2 months older than I am....

So when I lost Junior I decided I'd have one made of his hair.  The vets collected the hair for me on that horrible night while I held his head and wept. The hair sat in a shopping bag for a long time while I browsed the internet for an artist.  I found one on Etsy that I really liked.  It was a beautiful but simple design.

After several emails with the artist, I decided on a style.  I only needed to prep the hair.  Taking the hair out of the bag was awful.  His beautiful tail was just filthy from the trauma of that last hour.  The arena dirt just fell out of it.

Washing the hair smelled just like giving him a bath and brought back a whole slew of memories of how long it took to acclimate him to bathing, how once when I didn't have a wash rack he got away from me (for the first terrifying time) but stopped as soon as he hit the grass, and how good he looked when he was all clean and his socks were glowing - which only happened before a show because it was a LOT of work. I remembered how he was so smart that he learned to step on the hose to stop the water, so bathing was a constant battle of hose handling as he nonchalantly moved his feet around until he made contact and I'd yell "OVER" and he'd grudgingly move.  He was always making sure I was in charge. So many little things I miss about him.

Through many tears I managed to get it all washed and dried and I separated the amount to send to the artist.

After a quick turnaround, I received this:

and I have been wearing it each day since.  Of course, opening the package (thoughtfully wrapped up like a gift) sent me into tears, but that was to be expected.  Not only is it a piece of my heart wrapped around my wrist, but it's a beautiful piece of art.

I am very pleased with the purchase so if you've been hunting for something similar, please take my recommendation for Kathy from "Tails of Love" on Etsy. LINK HERE