Saturday, December 13, 2014

How Do You Measure a Year?

31,563,000 Seconds.
525,600 Minutes.
8760 Hours.
365 Days.
12 Months.
1 Year.

How do you measure a year?  In daylights?  In sunsets? In minutes? In cups of coffee?

I posted the same lyrics on the day of our 1-year anniversary. 

There is no denying that a Year is significant.  We celebrate seasons, anniversaries and birthdays every year.

It has been a year since I lost my goofy boy.

The day he passed was covered in snow and so very very cold.  Today it's in the 30's, there hasn't been snow for weeks, and it's raining.

I wonder what life would be like if he had survived.

I don't get to know.

What I wouldn't give to step into the TARDIS and go visit him.  To run my hands along his sleek roan coat, which was never shiny because roans don't shine, but it felt very shiny.  His big dumb white head with his always-dirty nose, his almost-arab-curled-in ears.  His big heavy feet (all four clumsy left feet of his) and his beautiful tail. I miss his eyes.  He had roan eye lashes, you know.  Such a tiny detail you wouldn't notice until you spent hours looking into his eyes.  I miss the view from between his ears.  I miss fighting with him.  I miss his affection.  I miss being a horse owner.

In some ways I've moved forward, but as I sit here and write, the tears are flowing faster than the keys.  I certainly feel better than I did a year ago, and for the most part I can talk about it and think about it without getting too sad.... until I think about it too much.  Sometimes something in a movie or a song will hit me too hard.

I miss him.  I will always always miss him.

When I look in the mirror of Erised I see him.  But I know that "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live."  JK Rowling taught me that through Dumbledore's words.  But I'd still use a Time-Turner if I could find one.

I sold all his blankets and his tail.  I super-cleaned all his brushes and divided them into two kits, one for Lilly at one barn and one for Kevin at the other. His embroidered halter hangs in my tack box but I try not to look at it.  His everyday halter and lead are still in a grocery bag tucked in the back invisible bottom compartment of my tack box.  I still can't bear to do anything with it.

There were some things that were "his" that I can't imagine using on another horse, like his show halter that sits in it's padded bag in the closet.  But there are things, like the plain one-ear headstall that I got way back when I was showing Banee in 4H that I have no problem using on Kevin because some things were "mine."

I'm not ready to have a horse again yet; neither financially nor emotionally.  Kevin was lame for a few weeks (bad farrier job, NOT my farrier) and I had a terrible time not freaking out about what kind of terminal injury/disease it might be.  Clearly I'm not ready to have that kind of commitment to be overanxious about.  But it's nice to be riding and have goals and something to look forward to and help keep me in some sort of riding shape. Kevin is not cuddly, but Lilly is, so at least there's that.

I was thinking I'd have more of a memorial project done by now but I don't.  I have plans for the one shoe of his that I have, and the brass name plate I got just before he had his surgery.   I did order a photo book from Shutterfly so that's a nice thing to have on my coffee table.  I didn't add any words, just pages of photos, some pages were themed and some were just a collage.

The front cover.

The back cover. 

"Learn this well, the last ride is never the last ride, & the end is not the end."

I'm headed out to the barn today for a little holiday barn party.  I'll bring the book, but I'll let Kevin help keep me moving forward.  Go hug your ponies for me.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Bit Warmers!!!

Hey!  Remember in the before time, in the long long ago when I spent a year perfecting a bit warmer pattern/tutorial and started selling it on Etsy?

Well guess what!?!?!

I have some FINISHED bit warmers for sale!  You can now have your very very own!  And you don't even need to sew!!!

I've looked closely at all the bit warmer options on Etsy and I'm still convinced mine are the best ones. They are also the highest priced ones. Yes, clearly I am biased, but I'm the only one who offers something that is both washable (outer layer) and totally safe to put in the microwave (inner layer).  Although it's clear that many of the ones on Etsy were inspired by my original tutorial which were polar fleece and I did put them in the microwave... but that was before I really thought about how polyester melts.  So I upgraded.   And they are a bit time consuming.  Lots of steps.  Worth it though.  Totally worth it.

Also, if you google DIY Bit Warmer, it's all me or things inspired by me.  Even the eHow article which is clearly a rip off of my original post.... lazy. Although the youtube video is not me and made me giggle.... cause that won't warm anything up... it's just fabric.

They really are awesome if I do say so myself.  I am currently in a barn with no microwave, so I've been stuffing the pockets of the polar fleece shell with my hand warmers.  Totally works!  Then I stick the hand warmers in my pockets and go ride.

Seriously:  Happy pony + Happy hands = Everyone wins.

So head on over to Etsy and buy me out before Christmas!  The monogrammed ones are particularly cool.  And because you've been here since the beginning of the bit warmer saga four years ago, and because I like you guys so much, you can use coupon code VIPTEN and get 10% off.  Merry Holidays and Happy Christmas!!!!

And to those of you in climates warm enough to render this object useless: Shut it.  Seriously.  Or let me move in with you. I lost all feeling in my toes today and then it came back in a burning fire pain. Gotta love Raynauds.  Also, last Wednesday I bit my tongue while trying to talk through chattering teeth.  It still hurts.

Is it Spring yet?


Helo "helping" me sew....

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Real Trail Horse

I am very inexperienced with trail riding.  I have been on a few trips to a nose-to-tail trail riding place.  While in Grad school I spent a summer working at the Santa Fe Opera and enjoyed a great ride through the desert and hills walk/trot/canter on narrow paths with fit, happy, healthy horses that only did one ride a day.  That one was pretty cool.

Then I got Junior who was terrified of trees... and water... and geese.  We did manage a small handful of trail rides but they were always a bit tetchy.  The one barn we were at had a few miles of trails attached that I tried to go on as much as possible, but I don't think there was ever a trip without at least one spook, scramble, or spin. There was one, after a Cowboy Challenge that Junior followed along behind Rio like a teenager in love and didn't spook or stumble once, but the norm was a snorty nervous horse who may spin around at any moment.  We never had any real disasters, but it usually didn't make for an overly pleasant experience.  My few attempts at getting him into/through water were usually a scrambly jumpy mess.

At B's barn, she is keeping a paint mare named Lexi for a good friend of hers who had a stroke last spring.  I'd ridden her a few times, and with Kevin out lame for most of a month, I ended up riding her in our Ranch Horse Pleasure clinic.  More on both of those topics later.

A few days before the clinic, B and I were riding in the arena and she asked if I wanted to take the horses down to where she found we could get into the creek. They've only lived there about a year so they're still exploring the 80 acres of trails.  I said "Sure!" but in my head I was picturing trail riding on a strange horse... and all the potential disasters that lay ahead.

But I was on Lexi.

And it was amazing.

Not once did she hesitate, look at something, or even act like we were out of the arena.  When we got to the creek there was a slighty steep bank down and it was a little muddy.  I asked her to go down and she didn't hesitate but took incredible care to make sure she placed each foot carefully and took us right into the creek.  She pawed in the water a little but mostly just stood and looked around until I asked her to turn around and head back up the bank, which she did just as calmly and carefully as she went in.

I am growing rather fond of this mare.

Friday, November 7, 2014

WTF - The Questionable Tagline

I just found this on an ad in an online equine show periodical......

... I stepped off your mother........ that.... could be misinterpreted......

Oh, the horse show crazies.  I really don't get the point of those ads.  It's like a really pricey Instagram?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Horse Show

I had my second and final show of the season on Sunday.

My sweet Lillypony has been out with a popped splint so I started riding Super in my lessons in preparation for the show.

Super is a 20-something AQHA gelding with points in Hunter Under Saddle.  You wouldn't know it to look at him when he's packing along the lil'uns, but that old man knows his job and remembers the good old days. He was Junior's neighbor so I know him pretty well.  His people are very nice, too. I like to call him Super-man.

Super-Man tells it like it is...
It's a hunter/jumper barn so it's all-English-all-the-time, in fact I think there's only ONE western rider left in the barn... even the BO sold her last western saddle last week.

I showed in four classes: W/T Equitation Pattern, W/T/C Equitation Pattern, Adult W/T Flat and W/T/C Flat.

We won both patterns, which was pretty cool.  Here are the patterns!
Walk/Trot Eq. Pattern
W/T/C Eq. Pattern

After the show the judge told me I "mastered the pattern" so that felt good. Not sure which one she meant so I'm going to pretend she meant both.

I was 2nd in the Adult class of 4 and DFL in the WTC, which isn't surprising since it was against almost all lesson kids.  There were 7 in the class and Junior's OP (on his new horse!) and I tied for 6th. In addition to my TERRIBLE sitting trot, I also failed to set him up correctly for a trot to canter transition and he picked up the wrong lead.  We had been schooling walk to canter transitions but not trot to canter so I messed it up..... RIGHT in front of the judge.  Oh well.

My friend SF (actually the former BM from the barn before this one) has been riding the BO's horse, Scooby, so we had to capture the first time we got to show together.... who knows if we'll have the opportunity again!

Seriously, I fail at the sitting trot which is embarrassing because I ride western.  I think the difference is that with longer western stirrups I can open my hip angle and sit deeper and in an English saddle I feel like I can't get my weight down. Something to work on, I guess!

Ohai, Scooby!

Monday, October 6, 2014

It's Quarter Horse Congress Time!!!

It's October in Columbus, Ohio!  That mean's the Congress is in town!

Since 1966 Quarter Horses have been gathering for what is now the largest single-breed horse show in the world with 20,000 entries in 2013. This year's Novice Amateur Western Pleasure has the highest entry count at 176.

I will be visiting several times this year and will be giving you all the highlights from the non-exhibitor's perspective.

Yesterday I met up with B and A (A owns a cutter named Cowboy and board's at B's place) to watch some cutting and do a little shopping.  The Trade Show doesn't officially open until the 7th, but most of the larger retailers such as Rod's, Chick's, Cashman's, Sean Ryan, etc. were up and running.  I didn't buy anything yet... but I've got a list as always.  I did find this plain little work saddle.... 'cause crystals under my thigh seem like a great idea.....

If you are willing to give out an email address, you can watch all three arenas streaming online.

iequine LIVE Streaming Here!

For more information, visit the Congress website: Quarter Horse Congress Website

I'll post more after my next visit!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Introducing.... Kevin.

Friends, I would like you to meet Kevin.

His name isn't really Kevin.  His registered name is Assets Until Dark and his barn name was Knight and is now Austin, but B's taken to calling him Kevin and for some reason it's grown on me.  Maybe because I think of that giant bird in UP.

He's a 10 year old Quarter Horse, and was a stud until about three years ago. He bred mares.  That fact would have freaked me out, except that he is a perfect gentleman.  I rode him on Tuesday in the arena with a mare in full-blown heat.  He didn't even look at her.  Looks like he's a gelding through and through.

I haven't sticked him, but we think he's about 15.1 at the wither.... you may notice he's a bit... downhill.  That fact would normally bother me, but he doesn't feel heavy on the forehand at all.

He's a Western Pleasure dreamboat.  By far the best little loper I've ever had the pleasure to sit.  He's been shown in reining, horsemanship, and hunt seat equitation.

As with all new horse & rider combos, there's a learning period where there's some half-hearted boundary testing and there's some groping in the dark for buttons supposedly installed.

I love having something to work on.  With Lilly I spent my time just trying to get her to go up a gait, and honestly I didn't get too far until I grabbed a crop and put spurs on, which made me feel like a failure, but I'm over it.  With Kevin, I've been working on finding buttons, most of which are right on the surface, a few of which are not as glow-in-the-dark.

For instance: The Elusive Pivot.  I can only get him to pivot on the outside hind.  That's not right. Time to study and see if I can figure out how to correct that.  The irony that Junior sometimes forgot which foot to pivot on is not lost on me, nor is the very obvious possibility that it's just something I'm doing totally wrong. Most likely operator error.

Stay tuned for more about Kevin, and more about the rescue saddle I mentioned in my last post.

Cool little sock.

Hi, Handsome.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Diary of the Overanxious Horse Owner: The Reboot

I started this blog because I bought a horse.  I had wanted a horse for as long as I could remember.  I was excited and freaked out including having a panic attack in the truck while my trainer and I drove him back to our barn.  I started this blog as a way to "vent" and to verbally process what I was going through as a first time horse owner.... a very nervous and anxiety ridden first time horse owner.

And now, on what would have been our 6th Anniversary, I'm still just as overanxious, but no longer a horse owner.  Losing Junior is still fresh, even though it's been almost nine months.  It's better now, of course, but there is still a hole in my heart that will never fill completely.  I have a near constant urge to hold his face, to let him snuffle my hair, to go with him on all those adventures we had planned.  But I'm a realist and those are simply things I don't get to have.  The unfairness of it all feels like a vice on my chest, but letting go is getting easier as time goes by.

So what's with "The Reboot"?  Well, it's time to make one more step in moving on, by rebooting this blog and focussing on the future instead of the past. You may have noticed a new look to the blog site. As painful as that is, it needs to happen.  He wouldn't want me to dwell on the past.  It's still going to be the same blog, but I'll be doing less mourning and more doing.   I'm going to try to avoid bringing everything back to Junior, but I guarantee everything I do that has anything to do with horses makes me miss him.  I'm not going to change the name of the blog, though.   I'll be a horse owner again someday.

For starters, I'll tell you about the Horse Show!  It was just a barn show like we did last summer, but our barn shows are so much fun and have ribbons and a real judge.  I think they'd be considered "schooling shows".   I count this as a pretty good milestone, although I did require a kleenex later in the day when Junior's Other People and I were reminiscing.

I showed my Lillypony in Walk-Trot Equitation Pattern and Adult Walk-Trot Equitation (rail only) and we won both of our classes.  I still have difficulty getting her to do upward transitions when I ask for them, but I learned that spurs and a crop sure help... oh ponies.

I am also doing a half-lease on a horse!!! This all happened very quickly and somewhat by chance. Here's the tale:  I sold my western show saddle (Uh, the one you spent so much time finding?  Yeah that one.) so I decided to try an old saddle my friend was trying to get rid of, just so I would have something to ride in until I decide what my next real saddle will be.  I asked B if I could ride Zip in it for a minute to see if I liked it.  She happened to have a horse coming to her farm so she could try him for a client of hers.  I took one look at the horse and wanted to ride him.  If I had been ready to be horse shopping I probably would have bought him right there. Instead I got to ride him and I finally understand the phrase "I could lope this horse all day" means! Her clients decided to buy him and keep him at B's farm while they get to know him and take lessons.  Then after winter they'll take him home to their house.  While he's at B's, or at least until I get sick of him (HA!) I'll be riding him three days a week.

Sporting my "new" 30-year-old rescue saddle.

So that's what we'll be doing for now.  Here's to looking forward.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Pony Post and Gratuitous Cuteness

I keep feeling like I need to post, but there isn't much to write about.

I decided to spend a full TWO MONTHS "home" in Minnesota and Wisconsin this year because let's face it, there's nothing else to do in the summer but ride and well, that's just not the same without my Bug.  So I said to hell with it and got a plant-sitter and headed west.  After two months of living out of a suitcase and three laundry baskets, and sleeping on 7 different beds, it was conceivable that I could be ready to go home.

The break was glorious though I did NOTHING horsey at all.  Lots of eating, tubing down the creek, boating/fishing on the river, campfires, fireworks, family, and friends.  Battery fully recharged and ready for another school year.

Upon my return I resumed riding my Lillypony, who is even more adorable when she's not all covered in sasquatch fur.

She is currently for sale as she doesn't seem to love life as a lesson pony and has taken to dragging the kids around.  Not maliciously, just that pony-mare "Yeah, no, we're going over HERE" type of thing.  She'll be happier as a one-kid pony. So I'm enjoying her while I can and trying to convince her to canter WHEN I ask for it and pretty please on the correct lead.  She's very picky about how she's asked for things, and I am just not asking for things the right way.  It's not her, it's me.  Thankfully I start my lessons back up after next week so I can re-learn how to ride.

I've also gone up to B's new farm and ridden Zip, who tolerates me about as well as Lilly.  Sigh.  Oh how I miss my big roany pony and how well we knew one another.  Zip's a reining horse and is pretty fun. I finally (4th time I've ridden him) asked for a spin correctly enough that he spun quick enough to make me dizzy.  :)  WIN.

I don't think I ever mentioned that the rabbit was re-homed back in November.  She was cute but she hated me and ate all my furniture so when Junior had his surgery she went back to the humane society from which she originally came, along with a pile of supplies and a donation check.  I got her off of craigslist, and found out later she had come from the humane society, which forbids their adopters from rehoming their adopted animals.... Ooopsies. They require the animal to be brought back to the shelter for rehoming. So after some conversations with the incredibly helpful and understanding volunteers/staff, I returned her to them.  Shortly thereafter, she was found to have breast cancer (apparently a common ailment in rabbits), had a mass removed and was rehomed to a family that loves her and can't imagine why anyone would give her up.  So that ended better than I could have imagined which lessened my guilt somewhat.  I would have never found the mass because she didn't let me touch her.  Everything happens for a reason.

I began volunteering at said humane society, too and currently am working with the cats.  I had an urge to do SOMETHING back in January when I was feeling very lost but I wasn't able to start the volunteer training until right before I left for vacation so I didn't start the actual volunteering until this month.

Somewhere in the past few months, I decided I should get a cat.

So a new furbaby has been introduced into my life.  He's been given the name Sir Helo Von Earsby and I'll call him Helo. It's pronounced Hee-low for all of you cool kids who didn't watch Battlestar Galactica.  He has been tremendously fun. I admit it's a transition again, to having a baby in the house. So far the cheap ikea sheer curtain is the only casualty, and oddly enough, I have two more brand new panels in the closet for when he's old enough to stop doing that.  See, sometimes hoarding pays off!

Yeah, I know.  Ears. Crossed paws. Perfection.

By the way, it's really hard to get any work done when he's either trying to sleep on me or trying to play with whatever I'm doing.  I lost count of the number of times I had to remove him from the keyboard while typing this post.

Until the next time I do something interesting...

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Day

How horses help soldiers...

Throughout human history and even as recently as World War II, horses were used extensively in battle.  World War I saw an incredible amount of horses. Great Britain lost over 484,000 horses and an estimated 6 million horses were used on all sides in the war.  The horses were used as Cavalry mounts, pulling supply wagons, and heavy artillery. Horses of all sizes and lineage were used, but there was a royal decree in WWI that height of 15hh was ideal for mounts.
Soldier and horse in gas masks.
The "Military Seat" is actually the style of riding I was first taught, being the foundation of the New Canaan Mounted Troop and the Silvermine School of Horsemanship where my first instructor was trained.

You may have read Michael Morpurgo's novel "War Horse", or have seen the stage play or feature film of the same name.  The story covers the life of Joey, a thoroughbred horse raised by a young boy, then sold to the war effort.  The boy enlists in the army in an effort to find his horse.  Historical fiction, of course, but still an intriguing look at the life of horses in the war.... and Benedict Cumberbatch is in the film.... riding... so... you know... there's that.

 I was fortunate to be able to see the play with my mom in NYC.  The horses in the play are puppets created by the Handspring Puppet Company and are incredible in their ability to express realistic horse body language.  It was easy to ignore the fact that they were puppets, and sometimes even the horses were confused....

Me, before seeing the play at the Lincoln Center in October, 2012.
Yes, I was annoyed by the nylon halter in the poster. Pretty sure it was all leather in WWI.

But let's be serious for a moment.

Did you know that today, horses are still helping our soldiers, but in a different way. Many veterans enjoy the benefits of Equine Assisted Therapy.  Equines provide soldiers with both physical therapy and psychotherapy through a variety of non-profit organizations including PATH, Horses4Heroes, and Saddles For Soldiers and many more national and local organizations.  Some centers simply offer time with the horses, others follow researched-based curriculum that targets PTSD, reintegration challenges, and physical therapy for limb loss, traumatic brain injury, and other emotional and physical challenges.

Equine assisted therapy is fast becoming a proven and well-researched field. Researchers are finding again and again that time with horses can help people of all ages and backgrounds progress through physical and emotional difficulties.

One such program is actually offered by the same horses that carry fallen soldiers to their final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery.

PATH International Photo
Other organizations throughout the country help soldiers and their families cope with the physical and emotional challenges.

On my list of things to do if somebody ever hands me 100 acres and a few million dollars, is to set up a ranch style resort for veterans and their families to reconnect and strengthen their relationships following their service.  I envision guided trail rides and camping where the family gets to accomplish tasks together such as camp set-up, campfire building/cooking, scavenger hunts, moving cattle, etc.

Until that day comes, thankfully, there are hundreds of volunteers and generous donors working to provide Equine Assisted Therapy to our veterans.  Thank a Veteran today and do whatever you can to ensure our fallen are remembered and our living heroes are supported.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sparkly Pretty Things

As Laura and I mentioned, we've been scheming on a project together.  I didn't expect my trip to Texas would result in homework, but I'm glad it did!

Here's a sneaky peek at the Showmanship jacket we're working on.  Those of you who follow Buckstitch Becky's on facebook have already seen it, so sorry for the old news. I promise more in the next few weeks.  I'm still working on the 30 appliques and haven't even started applying (photo is just a sample) the crystals yet: HUNDREDS of genuine Swarovski crystals in 5 colors (Blue Zircon, Aquamarine, Black Diamond, Silver Shade, and Crystal) plus Dark Grey "pearls" in two sizes. Oh, and the apps have some hand painting.  

These projects are time consuming and all that detail work makes my head spin.  But it's going to be SO AWESOME when it's done!!!  Since we're using one of Hobby Horse's Justine Tunics I will likely enter it into next year's Designer Contest and maybe I'll keep going UP in placings.  Ha!

2013 Contest Post Link - 2nd Place
2012 Contest Post Link - This is the one I made for R Lil Bit of Cash, 3rd Place

Sunday, April 27, 2014

When Bloggers Collide!

I recently needed to go to Texas for a work conference.  About a year ago, upon learning I'd be going there this March, I casually emailed a stranger-blogger who I knew lived where I was going and mentioned I'd like to meet her.

Kinda expected to be told to please stop stalking her,  but instead she said "absolutely!!!"  I assumed we'd meet up for coffee or something, but after I lost Junior I needed to focus on something in the future so Laura of The Roany Pony fame, invited me to stay with her for a few days.  She even offered to let me ride Spencer Spectacular.  (Insert squealing fangirl moment!)

So as soon as the conference was over, (and I took a power nap in the hotel lobby) I was picked up on a street corner by a stranger and driven away to an unknown fate...

And it. Was. Awesome!

Even more awesome than I could have imagined.  I'm incredibly sad we don't live closer to one another because we would HAVE to be best horse show friends.

Laura really did let me ride Spenny and I gotta tell ya, that boy floats. FLOATS.  I admit terror at his gi-friggin-normous 17hh size, especially after only riding a 13.2 pony for the past few months.  Spenny, however gave me no reason to worry.  He did everything I asked and moved off the slightest pressure.  We didn't try anything hard, just trotted around and even did a few laps at the canter.  FLOATS.

I also got to spin him around at Showmanship which was super fun.

And he's also seriously adorable.  He seems to love to have his photo taken.

Showmanship Fun!

Taking a photo of Laura while she gets ready to take a photo of me on Spenny.

I even made a new kitty-friend.

On Saturday we drove up to Pilot Point and took a driving tour of all the fancy-schmancy ranches and training barns.  It was fun to see the signs of so many of the trainers who advertise in the magazines.  We also made a trip to the Smith Brother's store.

The last day before Laura drove me to the airport, I selfishly introduced her to the sport of Geocaching. I'm not an avid cacher, but I thought I'd check and see if there were any nearby and there happened to be one in the park right by her house!  So we took her adorable 5 month old basset hound and went hunting.  Thankfully we found the cache (eventually) and I was able to get my Texas badge.... I think Laura might have caught the 'Caching bug, too!

Laura even gave me some homework, so I'm busy working on that post-worthy little item.  One word: SPARKLY.

A huge THANK YOU to Laura and Spenny for a really wonderful (and much needed) Texas Horsey Adventure!!!!!

And for the record, she promised to come up for Congress in the very near future, so we'll have an Ohio Horsey Adventure to post about some day.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Oh, Hi.

I just noticed it's been a month since I last posted.  Sorry, I don't know where the time went.

By the way, did I tell you I received a hand-written sympathy card from Smartpak?  I cancelled our SmartBugOff auto-ship and there was a "please tell us why you are canceling" set of boxes so I sighed and clicked the "Horse has passed away" option.  Then not long after I received a sweet card from them with a nice personal note.  Nicely done, Smartpak.

And as if we haven't had enough to mope about, sadly, I need to report that my best girl is gone.  Dear old Banee is young again and running through a green field somewhere, and I'd like to imagine she and Junior are swapping stories and having a good laugh.  Though I am very sad that she's gone, I've been prepared for this for a decade.  She was 34 years old, for heaven's sake, so it was her time.  She lived a grand long life and I am grateful for the lessons she taught me.  I'd been thinking a lot about her since I lost Junior because I had the scenario in my mind that he would be there for me to help me through losing Banee, just like he helped me though losing Lany.  I guess because losing him was such an unexpected shock, getting the news that Banee was gone wasn't as hard as I'd expected.  I burst into tears, of course, but it was short lived and I'm very much at peace with the knowledge that she lived a long and spoiled life and that she was able to leave this world with dignity and grace.  I don't feel the need to do a whole post on her, since I've really said all there is to say about her, but if you want to know more, there's a "Banee" tag on the sidebar that'll take you to the MANY posts that feature her, including our final visit last summer.  My only regret is that I don't have video of her nicker.  It was the sweetest you've ever heard.

Well, now. We have had simply too much sad shit happen lately, so let's just take a deep breath and move on to happier things.  Yes, let's.

I've been riding in my lessons once a week and in addition to Lillypony (who I've decided is my Therapy Pony) I've ridden two other lesson horses now, Beau and Super.  They're both sweet and they were fun.  BO is looking for another lesson horse that's more my style (ie not a pony or a 3' jumper) so I'm "helping" her by sending her all the ads for horses I think might fit the bill ie horses I would consider buying if I could even fathom that thought for more than a moment.   For now, I am enjoying getting to know Lilly and the other lesson horses.

I tagged along last weekend to an IEA show to be the BO's gopher and to help Lillypony make her IEA Zones debut.  Oh, and my barn's middle school team is headed to Nationals!!!  Woot!  This is why I try very hard to do all the things BO tells me to do in my lessons; she clearly knows what she's talking about.

Lilly was so popular at the show.  It was a lot like taking Debon to a show.  People just squealed over Lilly and a somewhat alarming amount of people asked if they could take a picture with her.  I know she didn't look like much when she was still a sasquatch, but after a body clip and a bath she looks super friggin adorable.  I'll get a photo on Saturday.  Adorbs.

On Saturday morning I begin my training at a local Humane Society to become a volunteer. I'm excited to have something to do with myself as well as all the doggy/kitty/bunny time I'll get in.  Who's really helping who here?

Then in the afternoon I get to go ride Lillypony AND Zip!  Zip's person moved out of our barn last fall because she got a farm of her own... jealous... but she's been hauling in to my barn while her indoor is still in progress...jealous... so it'll be a fun weekend.

I PROMISE there is a neat post coming about something that happened in March.  Soon. Promise.

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.