Monday, October 31, 2011

Bar-Bar's Blanket

I wouldn't call myself any sort of expert in the blanket repair area, but considering how rough Junior is on his jammies I've done my share of repairs.  And I've learned some things.

Old Man Cinnabar (Junior's former turnout baby-sitter) tore the leg strap connection off and lost some of the blanket fabric in the process.

The blanket has two layers at the edges; the pretty green outside, and a smooth nylon lining.  Both are sandwiched together inside the folded-over binding, and of course they were not torn evenly.  I chose to "patch" both pieces individually and then sandwich it all.  I have a stock of black super-heavy backed nylon I found at a fabric warehouse.  I've no idea what the denier is, but it's REALLY tough and REALLY heavy, heavier, in fact than what any of my blankets are made out of.  I also have a stock of black rip-stop nylon I used for the lining.  One nice thing about having chosen black as my signature color for all things horse is that this repair fabric matches EVERYTHING from his blankets to my tack bags and his hay net which is still in the repair pile. :)

Once I patched both sides I needed to decipher the actual shape of the blanket edge, which required some good-faith guess work in the end. Then I sandwiched the binding back on and gave it a few lines of super-stitching.  I needed to replace the dee-ring and used seat-belt webbing to do it.  Pretty much the strongest stuff you can find.  It's actually stronger than the dee ring.   The finished repair doesn't match, of course, but I don't think he'll mind.  Hopefully that'll last him a while.

Inside view of repair and new Dee-ring.

Outside view of non-matching patch, and you can see how much of the dirt transferred itself to the black patch.

Some things I've learned about horse blankets in the last few years combined with my knowledge of fabric/sewing:

1. Blankets are often more cheaply made than their prices reflect. This shows itself usually in popped seams.  If the lining in the blanket is not made with some extra "give" it tends to take stress poorly.  For example: take a look at the inside of a lined jacket/ blazer.  You will notice the lining is roomier than the coat itself.  You'll see this especially in the sleeves, and usually in a center-back pleat.  This makes it easier to move in.  The lining is there so you can slide yourself in and out and not much more.  Since lining is thin and inherently weaker that the wool of a jacket, the extra room means you can bend your elbow without being squeezed.  I wonder if one of those $400 Rambo blankets would be strong enough to withstand my pony, but that's a pretty big investment to have to keep doing repairs.

2. Blankets can cost nearly as much to repair as to purchase.  It took me about an hour to do the repair and I refuse to charge a friend with an elderly horse, even though she offered, but this repair would probably cost $40-$60 depending on how much they'd charge for materials.  Same with cleaning.  I made the mistake of having my first blanket laundered for me.  I was in a time crunch.  It was a $65 blanket and I spent $28 having it laundered.  Ouch.

3.  Some repair shops won't repair dirty blankets.  This can be a hassle for you, but please think of it from the shop's perspective: All that fine horse dirt and horse hair can do some serious damage to a sewing machine. I don't do a ton of this work so it's not going to kill my own machine to do it, but if my livelihood depended on the investment of my machinery working and not requiring costly and time consuming repairs I'd have made her wash it.  On the other hand, sometimes the agitation of the washing process can make a damaged area more difficult to repair, especially if the poly-fil is sticking out.  So having a consultation might be a good idea.  Ask the shop if they'll repair it dirty, or ask what you can do to minimize the potential further damage.

4.  Laundromats HATE horse blankets.  They hate them for 3 reasons (actually the same reasons you don't want to wash them in your own machine) and I've got a fix for each: 1. They are FILTHY. They leave muddy furry residue inside the machines.  The filthier they are the harder they are to get clean anyway - you end up washing them in mud, so hose them off and let them dry, or better yet, take your stiffest horse brush and brush as much of the dried dirt/poo/hair off the blankets, or throw them over a clothes line and beat the crap out of them.  2. TOO BIG.  Find a laundromat that has the 50lb or 75lb capacity front load machines.  They are awesome and actually have enough room for the blankets to move around and get clean.  3. BUCKLES can cause some damage banging around.  Worse yet the T buckles can get themselves caught in the drum holes which is also bad for the blanket.  My ingenious plan for this: Infant socks and a tagging gun.  Cover those little buckles with silencing padding.  I'm pretty proud of this one, actually.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

FOR SALE: Custom Tack Cabinet

Yup.  It's for sale.  And WHYon earth am I selling it after all that work!?!?  
That's a story for a whole 'nother post, but you'll have to wait a week or so for that one.

Stay tuned!!!!!

Handsome Custom-Designed Tack Cabinet For Sale
Built September 2010
1/2 Plywood with 3/4" bottom and Door
Casters on bottom and also under the Door for stability and smooth opening/closing
Stain and Outdoor Spar Urethane (Varnish) inside and out.
Saddle Racks for 2 English or 1 English/1Western Saddles 
Saddle Racks are carriage-bolted through 1.25"reinforced back wall - very stable, and also removable.
Hooks inside right side of box for additional hanging space.
Door is deep and has 2 bridle racks and storage for sprays, bandages, etc.
Bottom Sections sized to fit specific Elfa (Container Store) Baskets (Not included)
Key Lock Hasp Closure (2 Keys)
Outside Dimensions: 30" wide x 36" deep x 58" high (not counting casters)

You Move.
$800 Cash only. Offers considered.

Cabinet Exterior - Newly Built, August 2010
Interior Newly Built - September 2010

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What The Friday?!? #4

Sometimes the research I have to do for my job leads me to strange things...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Photos courtesy of Chloe Faure Photography.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Is Thin In?

Does my horse look skinny to you? He's the one on the right, in case you're just joining us.  The other one is the Mustang who thinks Junior belongs to her. Photos courtesy of Max's Chloe.

I look forward to quizzing TJ on her BCS skills on Saturday morning before we spend the day at QH Congress. 

Knowing the BCS needs to consider the whole horse, I cannot see the ribs, can you? I can certainly feel them, but not see them and if the second photo with the awesome sunset lighting didn't pick them up more than a hint then they're not too bad. I think the topline is obviously bony with the hip points and the sacrum being most evident.  He still has a fatty spot behind the shoulder, though. 

Poor guy is built funny.  He's got a big strong chest but such a wussy hip.  He's missing balance between those bone structures.  It was pretty well masked when he was Fatty Boombatty, but not so much anymore.  

I'm also a terrible muther for the lack of real muscle building exercise he's been receiving.  

Anyway, plans are underway to fix it, I'm just looking for opinions on the visual.

I showed my mom the same pictures and her immediate response was "He's so skinny!!!"  Now, keep in mind that my Dear Mother had QH's in the 60's when horses like Wimpy were king.  BULK! So she can't be my only source of outside opinion.  She thought Junior looked good when he was an 8.5 on the BCS.  Eeew. Sorry, Mom, done picking on you now. :)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Teachable Moments

I took advantage of the blustery day today and saddled up and headed to the woods.  The sound of wind through drying trees makes the woods a lot scarier than they are when they're quiet (Thank you, Captain Obvious)  so if that was the biggest problem yesterday that made the difference between walking calmly through a 100 foot path and freaking the heck out, we needed to try and re-create that situation, removing the 30 second timer and working through things thoroughly.  Junior grew a hand when we were out and he gave me lots to work with, including when he refused to go any further and we got to have the same type of moment we had when he refused to go further into the woods yesterday.  We happened to be along the driveway when he refused so I definitely knew it was disobedience more than real terror.  I was able to work him until he went past the spot, but it took us a while to get very far as he insisted on playing the same game every 5-10 feet.  He did give up on heading for home, but when we got to the bottom of the trail loops and turned for home he tried to trot home so we took some time convincing him he wasn't allowed to do that.

Then I REALLY tortured him by making him do the creek crossings several times.  We even got to do a deer spook and had to keep traveling around the spot the deer jumped up from until that was tolerable. Then I REALLY REALLY tortured him by making him go into a very muddy and deeply standing water spot.  You know the kind where if you stepped in with a boot you'd probably step out without it?  The kind that pulls shoes off... the scary kind.  We were not wearing shoes and his instinct was to stay the hell out of that kind of mud but I made him do it and stand in it, shaking, until he sighed and I let him walk out... and then made him walk back through which he did on a moderately loose rein, licking his lips.

I ended up with a calm and content looking horse who stood nicely for me to rub him down well and pick his feet.  He was rewarded with a nice thick flake of Timothy hay so I think we had a very productive day. We ended calmly and were rewarded with yummies.

I have to admit that when he refuses like that and spins around and does mini-rearings I get a little nervous, but it seems we are finding a language that doesn't make him MORE upset and eventually he gives in.  His protests are heard and then patiently and kindly overruled.  I think he is working through his fears and trusting me more and more, just as I'm trusting him more and more.

Such a better day than yesterday.  :)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cowboy Challenge #3

"Now is the time to find out whether the lessons you've given him have sunk in, whether he's ready and willing to depend on you as a master and to follow what you tell him.  If he does, you'l know your work has been successful.  If he doesn't, you'll have learned where the weakness lies.  In any event, at the end of the day you should know a whole lot more than you do now, which, to my mind, is the real purpose of going into Trials such as these."   - Margaret Cabell Self,  "The Horseman's Almanac"1946, In reference to Hunter Trials

Even though I went into the day with the above quote in my mind, I don't really think I learned a thing, but... I am afraid my horse did...

The day proved to be cold and wet.  I'm doubtful we broke 50 degrees and the wind was bitter.  I was layered in UnderArmor and Thinsulate so I was mostly comfortable, but the wind was determined to kill us all.  We got to the Park at about 11:30 and there were only a few other trailers.  The Youth Challenge was supposed to start at noon, but they were holding off to see if anyone else showed up.  B and I were riders 2 and 3.  I think we started the 7 riders about 1:30pm and by then we were cold and the horses had been thoroughly spooked by a combination of mini horses pulling carts, a pair of lovely grey Percherons pulling a big green covered wagon, and someone's giant rain shelter tarp blowing off of their trailer.  Junior was on high alert and snorty but I wasn't worried.  We were under control.  Didn't seem like he has much experience with carts, but we were okay.  Much better than poor Zip who nearly crawled out of his skin.

It was a shortened course and didn't look too difficult:

  1. Step Down
  2. Woods
  3. Hay Feeder
  4. Water crossing
  5. Mound of Dirt
  6. Bridge
  7. 2nd Bride with plastic wildlife all around it
  8. Rope Plastic Calf
  9. Pick up trash bag and hang it on the 2nd T post
  10. Gate
  11. Step-up
  12. Dismount and pick up Right Hind foot.

I knew we'd have issues at the gate again. I worked 16 hour days all week and had no chance of practicing.  There was also the roping of a plastic steer but aside from my aim being sucktacular he's never been bothered by ropes, and he was so good last week I wasn't worried at all.

I was the first rider to go.  Just before they called us to start he started hopping around and being an idiot.  I am clueless as to why.  It took some convincing to even get him onto the course.  The announcer even had to grab the bridle and lead us in.  We got about 10 feet from the group out towards the step down and he spun around and refused.  We argued about it for a while with several more spins and false starts until another rider led us down the step.  We headed off towards the woods; the same exact path we took last Sunday, but this time the wind was fierce and he was shaking and snorting.  After some spinning and threats of rearing I eventually got him into the path but when he got to the low muddy spot he refused to go further and after some spinning tripping over the brush on either side of the path the whistle blew and we had to skirt the woods the rest of the way.  Even the hay feeder he snorted at.  He refused to go into the water.  We got over the hill and the bridges fine.  When I was handed the rope he started dancing around and I almost didn't get him stopped in time to throw the rope at the head.  Missed it, of course.  Then we went to pick up a black trash bag full of cans from the first T-Post and that did not bother him at all, of course.  We deposited it on the 2nd post.  We got the gate open fine but didn't get it closed again.  Back up over the Step-Up was fine but he tried to take off while I dismounted.  Lifting up the RH foot was fine.

Aside from the rider who DQ'd we were DFL and not at all surprised.  I didn't bother to look at the scores. We wouldn't have bothered to stay for the results, but I didn't want to seem rude.  It's best to clap for the winners even if you're freezing and know darn well you didn't place.  The guy that won the buckle was the clear winner and seemed pretty nice and had a cute little girl in a helmet on a been-there-done-that large pony.  She ended up with 3rd, I think.  Everyone's horse had an issue with something or other, but aside from the DQ'd horse (went so far off course she just called it quits) we were the ones with the most trouble.  It felt like last week never happened.  I guess we should have left it with that.

The part that's hard for me to swallow, is that he might have just LEARNED that if he refuses long enough he doesn't have to do it.  Because they give you a 30 second time limit on each obstacle you have to move on if they blow the whistle. You can't stay and school the thing, you have to move on.  I get it, of course, but I'm not sure if this will have bad effect on our training.  We've been doing so well with the woods!  So we only got half way through the woods, and he we didn't go into the water at all.  He refused long enough and I had to turn him away. He went through those woods last Sunday on a loose rein with no problems at all, so I know that going there and practicing at the site when it's quiet won't help.  He'll go when it's quiet, but I can't re-create the situation we were in today.  I know the wind was too much for him and he hadn't been worked all week, plus with the rain he's been inside most of the week.   Excuses excuses excuses.  Just not our day.  I fear that we're going to have to spend a good deal of time in our woods this fall in the scary scary wind and see if he can get over it.

Ugh.  What happened to that wonderful trail pony I had last week!?!?! There is no video evidence of today's ride, and believe me when I tell you that's a good thing.  It was not pleasant to watch nor to experience.

The only good part is that he got on the trailer like a grown-up both times so if nothing else, it seems we've made progress there.