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We Are Flying Solo

Showing posts with label reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reviews. Show all posts

January 23, 2020

How We Hay (Net)

It's that dark, cold time of year where the hay burners practice their money hay burning best.  Now that I know exactly how much hay costs, I'm always looking for ways to stretch it out & hay nets can play a big role in that.

The tradeoff of course is that, as anyone who has ever used a hay net can tell you, hay nets can be devices of human torture, seemingly designed to cause the maximum amount of rage & failure when it comes to getting hay inside of said net.  When you finally achieve this, you are now faced with the contradictory goal of convincing the horse to remove the hay from its hard-won net as slowly as possible.

*pausing for a moment to wonder why we do this to ourselves*

After much rage practice over the years, here is what is currently working for us:

Horze Slow Feeder Hay Net

I'm amazed this thing is still alive!  I first wrote about it when it was sent to me to try here in 2014 (awww, my shed didn't even have walls yet!).  Initially, it seemed like the mesh might not hold up to regular use, but I was wrong.  While I have patched it a time or two with hay string, that bugger is still holding hay, even though it gets violently snatched at by a Baby Monster. 
Encore remains the champion of "doing it HIS way"
It has stayed out both of the last two winters.  Recently I have had to fix the hanging corners, as the  material finally dry-rotted from UV bombardment, but it was just the binding tape.  The  netting itself is still mostly functional.  The holes are definitely small enough to slow a horse down considerably.  This might be its last winter, but six years is pretty darn good, I think.  I would totally buy another one.
Technically still alive

SmartPak Slow Feed Hay Bag

Since Solo hates the Horze net (he says the holes are too small & it's way too effective), he monopolizes this one.  I have mixed feelings about it, but I think overall it has done decently.  I got the larger size & yes, it is very large. 

Pros:
  • Durable - material is heavy-duty, no sign of stitching fails or wear after a year
  • Holds a lot of hay -- flake size is variable, but you could easily fit 3 fat flakes in here
  • Easy to load - big opening holds itself open with two metal bands, well-covered in fabric so no poking
Cons:
  • There is velcro closure at the top.  Who combines hay & velcro?  The velcro is still holding, but I'm constantly picking hay out of it, it annoys me.
  • I doubt the single ring hanger would survive as sole support on its own.  Fortunately, some helpful person had posted an additional support idea in the reviews & I adapted that.  I used some old leg snap clips & wove a rope out of hay string to create a weight distribution system that has kept that ring from tearing out.
  • I wish it was wider rather than longer.  I would wish this even more if I was a short person, because you have to hang it high enough to keep it off the ground, but still need to reach it to load it.  And because the hanger is in the center, it swings like crazy.
SP net plus my engineered supports
The size I got (2") is also not really a slow feed -- Solo can clean it out relatively quickly, pulling fat chunks of hay out of the gaps.  I bought this bag with a coupon & while I would not pay full price for it (although it appears it's on sale right now), I appreciate that it hasn't disintegrated & it works for now.

I'm always on the lookout for better options, though.  Have you found a hay net you love that doesn't make you want to throw it in the woods?  Unless it's $100, at which point I don't care, I'm never buying it, ha. 

January 12, 2020

Fun With Balls: Equine Edition

Yeah, have fun with that title, google. I'm generally not one to spend money on a bunch of animal "toys."  I never saw a big need with my horses -- after all, they can play with each other.  However, recently, Echo has been particularly dedicated at chewing up everything that can't outrun him & Solo tires of being harrassed (as do I).

I have a $5 horse ball hanging on Echo's side of the shed, which is daisy-chained to an empty apple cider vinegar jug.  Those occasionally get chomped, as the jug does make a fun noise, which is an Echo prerequisite, but they don't keep a Baby Monster busy for long.  I needed a motivating puzzle for his over-active face.
Pic from 2018 - Ball & jug on a string
I decided to try the Shires Ball Feeder.  I liked that you can use your own bait in it & the angled sides meant I could put it out in my paddocks without it rolling down to the creek after the first nose shove.  Sadly, the blaze orange (which I wanted for visibility) was constantly on backorder so I went for purple & figure I can always paint it or orange-tape it later.

What I Thought Would Happen

Solo has never been food-motivated, my attempts to clicker train him long ago ended quickly when he shrugged & said, Give me the treat or don't, lady, whatever.  So I assumed he might give said ball a sniff & a bump or two, but since it wouldn't constantly pour treats, he probably wouldn't be that interested.  I was sure Echo, on the other hand, my problem-solver who no longer gets treats because he will devour your arm, would be all over this device.

What Actually Happened

I loaded it with a handful or two of the Manna Pro apple nuggets, which both horses like.  I kept a couple in my hand for "training."  When Solo approached it first & gave it a nudge, I dropped a treat under it for him to discover, explaining the concept.  Treats don't come out the hole as easily as you'd expect.

My treat-ambivalent Solo figured that thing out in about three minutes & set to work.  He systematically rolled it, then paused to survey the ground around & beneath it for tasty morsels.  If none came out, he started over.

Echo observed his Solo-boss with a noisy thing.  Then walked over to me & stuck his nose in my face, exclaiming, HAI MOM, UR HANDZ SMELL LIKE NOMS!!!!  GIVESZ!!  As you can see about 15 seconds into the video...


I tried to tempt him with ground treats but he could not be convinced that they were more interesting than me.  I think they both just revel in doing the opposite of whatever I think they should.

After a little while, I took the ball out because it was going to be bitterly cold that night & it's plastic.  I put it back out when I was at work a couple days later.  I came home to find said ball had fallen victim to Echo's plan to get the treats out HIS way.
Once again...this is why we can't have nice things
It was only a flesh wound, though.  Fortunately, Ball had escaped under the fence before an internal injuries occurred.  Ball was still functional, so I added a handful of the larger, heavier treats from our Secret Santa box, in addition to the apple nuggets still in there.  The smaller nuggets were expert at falling into the valley around the hole -- good for stretching out the entertainment, but I wanted Echo to enjoy some instant gratification so he would use Ball appropriately instead of gnawing it like an obsessive beaver.

It worked!  Yesterday, he put his nose to the task with enthusiasm & I could see him chewing periodically, then going back for more.  Solo, meanwhile, didn't even glance at the thing.
NOW you're doing it right
I guess they eventually ended up where I expected them to, heh.

Do your horses have any boredom busting toys they love?  Homemade ones count!    

December 14, 2019

Boots Are Never 100% Easy: Review Of The New EasyBoot Fury

Echo remains barefoot for the time being (since last December) - because his feet are small, I think this is his best chance to develop the best foot he can grow while he is still young, before his workload gets to where he will require shoes.  Because I'm pretty certain he will, at least up front. 

To increase his comfort while he works towards the goal of a heel-first landing, I put boots on his front feet for most of our rides.  Which meant embarking on the (absolutely not) joyous task of finding which boot worked best for him.  I've learned in the past that different brands suit different foot shapes & different models suit different riding styles.

Solo's Cavallo Sports & his old EasyBoot Epics were both too big for Echo, so time to explore some new options.

I tried Scoot Boots after reading all the interwebz love for them.  Long story short, so far they have not worked for his feet.  Even with shims, they twist.  I'm going to give them one more try, since his feet have spread some, but if they still don't work, I will be selling some basically-new Scoot Boots soon.  I like a lot about them in concept.
Scoot Boots:  cool, but so far haven't worked for us
Making it trickier, Echo's fronts don't quite match:  he's got one foot that spends all its time trying to be upright & boxy, while the other prefers to languish on the lower side.  They're gradually getting closer, but hooves are always a slow torturous process.  Because they've already changed & will continue to do so, EasyCare's new Fury design caught my eye because it's adjustable.  I got the basic Sling version, I did not like the big metal buckle on the front of the Heart version, I envisioned it catching many things & introducing an extra hazard over jumps.  And uh, it's a heart & I am not 9 years old & I hate things with hearts on them.
Echo's EasyBoot Fury Slings
There are three points you can adjust:
  1. Length from front to back, via two screws in a sliding rubber plate,
  2. Heel height, via two screws on the back,
  3. Heel angle, which is just another hole to change the angle of the heel strap.
Points of adjustment; boots presented in natural condition, heh
I'm going to ignore the 3rd one because I didn't use it.  Length & height both have a decent amount of adjustability, so you can tweak fit through a trim cycle or if your horse doesn't have magical feet that fit stock sizes (like mine).  I measured a bunch of times, very carefully, but still ended up buying two sizes & sending back the one that didn't work.  I definitely recommend this approach.  EasyCare has a "fit kit" too, but if you buy from somewhere with free returns, that saves poor people like me a few dollars. 

The initial adjusting is somewhat fiddly.  You could do the length adjustment on the fly as long as you had a phillips head screwdriver with you.  The height rivets though, require both a screwdriver & a ridiculous little tool that comes with the boot.

You know those horrible "tools" that come with assemble-your-own furniture, that are tiny & awful to use & make you want to stab forks in your eyes?  Yep, it's that kind of tool, apparently made for tiny leprechaun hands that need no grip.  I'm hopeful in the future EasyCare will change this design so you can just use a flat head screwdriver or some normal human tool.  Or at least put a human-sized grip on it.
Said tool in my giant, decidedly non-leprechaun hand
After watching the videos, I spent an afternoon adjusting the boots to Echo's feet.  It was really nice to be able to accommodate the slightly different foot shapes.  Once you decide where you want to set them, you add a drop of LocTite (thoughtfully included with each boot) so your screws don't decide to go walkabout mid-ride.  All of mine have remained tight so far.

I've been using these off & on (I go barefoot when the ground is soft or we just do walk work) for about five months now.  Overall impression:  favourable.  I would buy these boots again.

Baby Monster in boots on a November trail
Pros
  • Even before adjusting, the boot itself fit Echo's foot shape perfectly & he has seemed comfortable in them.  When I first put them on, he stepped out better than I have ever felt him either barefoot, in boots, or in shoes.
  • Adjustability is awesome & exactly what I needed.  You can also put pads in them if you want.
  • Once I got the adjustments right, they've been very secure through W/T/C/small jumps.  I've learned that the length adjuster seems to be what prevents twisting, so you need that snugged up.  It won't put pressure on the back of the heel because that part cleverly moves with the horse.  No rubs so far.
  • Aggressive tread has had good traction everywhere I've used it (I'm mostly riding on grass)
    • I've gone through mud puddles, boggy ditches, streams with no issues.  I did not buy the special "mud strap," but haven't needed it so far.
  • Insanely easy on/off:  two steps include slipping on boot, then snapping pastern strap in place.
    Rear flips down for easy on/off
  • Boot itself feels heavy duty & durable, pastern straps are heavier duty than Scoots, I've not had any breaks there.
    • I used the extra pastern strap locks that came with the Scoots since I already had them, but I only put them on inside of each boot, since Echo is base narrow & more likely to interfere there.  I haven't put any on the outside since those straps fit very firmly over the metal knobs & nothing has come apart.  
      Just 1 strap lock on inside of each also helps me ID which I fit to its unique foot
    • I really like that they don't come with any of the weird warnings that the Scoots did about not using hoof stuff on, uh, hooves.  Apparently Scoots' material cannot deal with any type of chemical (they even warn against vetwrap, which raised my eyebrow).  EasyBoots are cool with you treating your hooves like hooves.
  • Fairly "clean" design means they're quick to hose off/clean.  They don't come with drain holes, but if that is important to you, you can drill holes in them.  They also dry quickly.
    • Once thing I like about EasyCare is they are practical &  understand horse needs -- one of their videos shows you how to take a saw to the boots to trim off unneeded heel material so it doesn't catch an over-reach.  I suspect this may effect returnability though, LOL.
No problem levitating in them
 Cons
  • My biggest dislike is probably that the adjustment for heel height does take a special tool, which is currently awful & that it's not super fast.  But it's not the worst & if you don't have enormous hands & aren't the clumsiest person ever (like me), your experience will probably be better than mine.
    • Height rivets notched on the inside for special "tool"
    • There are also two holes to choose from on the heel height adjustment, which means if you want to move it from one hole to the other, you have to take the rivets completely apart.  And then drop one piece, then curse loudly while retrieving it, then drop it again while trying to screw it back in with tiny leprechaun tool.  On the plus side, you shouldn't have to do this very often, because you can make minor adjustments via sliding, by just slightly loosening those rivets.
  • The heel capture strap, while padded (but could use more/softer padding), does put pressure on the top of the heel bulbs.  It's not constant, just when the foot is lifting.  It's something to watch, especially on sensitive guys like Echo -- I've not had problems with it in 60-90 minutes of riding, but the vast majority of our rides are 20-40 minutes & longer rides are all walking.  I broke them in slowly so he could callous if he needed to, & I watched his heels like a hawk, checking them after.
    • You DO want to be SURE this strap isn't too tight -- I made that mistake at first & it did make a bruise.          
    • I don't know what would happen on, say, a six-hr mountain ride.  I have noticed some pinkness under that strap after a vigorous ride, but it wasn't sore.
    • It's possible that I need to tweak the height adjustment more to help with this.
    • I have ridden in them in arena footing (said arena has small rocks in it occasionally, which Pony Princess Feet doesn't need to be stepping on) -- I was a little concerned that grit might get under this strap & rub, but that concern was unfounded & after an hour lesson, everything was still fine. 
    • My paranoia about this strap would be lower on Solo, who does not have any Princess Parts & whose skin has very few opinions.
  • One strap did break in the first month, there's a thin part around one screw.  Echo was just trotting slowly, nothing weird happened.  However, Riding Warehouse's great service took care of it, they have a year guarantee, so I exchanged it for a new one at no charge (thanks, people who understand customer service!).  I haven't had any problems since then & no other signs of wear so far.
    Arrow showing point where previous boot tore around screw
So I've been fairly happy with them.  I have noticed that he may be outgrowing them as his heels spread, which simultaneously makes me sad because they weren't free but happy because heels spreading!  It means the boots are doing their job of helping us move towards that consistent heel-landing goal!  We'll see how it goes - even if I do end up having to sell them, they've still been cheaper than 5-6 months of shoes while allowing me to live the joy of never worrying about pulled shoes, so worth it.

Those are the highlights.  I'm happy to answer any questions in the comments.  If you want to try them, DO watch the videos & DO get a couple sizes to try, it will make your life easier.
Has no interest in making my life easier

April 29, 2019

A Muzzle Saved My Relationship

Hmmm, that title could be true for so many scenarios, however, in this case, I am referring to a certain Baby Monster.  Who is basically a mouth with legs.

Echo has learned that human parts do not go in his mouth.  He even abides by the rule, with occasional exceptions when life is just too exciting to process without MOUTH ON ALL THE THINGS.  However, one loooong exception has become nearly insufferable:  trail rides.

I am currently ponying Echo out on trails while riding Solo.  Echo, at just-turned-5, still funnels all his curiosity & energy through his mouth.  Which translates to nipping Solo's neck, nipping Solo's rein, nipping Solo's bridle, nipping Solo's shoulder...every 2 minutes.  It's maddening for all of us. 

I have tried all manner of scolding, cursing, rope-halter-snapping, with the end result of discovering that Echo can react faster than I can possibly hope to move while attempting to smack his naughty nose.  I can see that he knows he's not supposed to do it, he jerks back so quickly he's scolding himself, but 90 seconds later, he does it again.
But mom, he's RIGHT BY MY NOSE!
It's an energy outlet for him.  He is walking next to a horse who is slower than him & while he politely matches the pace, he has all this life & inquisitiveness fair to bursting out & it finds a channel at the end of his adorable but infuriating face.  He alternates with sucking on & playing with his tongue, but apparently that is not sufficient.

A couple weeks ago, I got fed up with spending the ride scolding my horse & tired of rope-bruised hands beneath my gloves.  And I bought a muzzle:  Tough 1 Easy Breathe attachment.

I wasn't sure how it would go over.  I recently tried a fly mask with an extended nose on Echo - he decided it was trying to suffocate him & frantically rubbed his face on the ground until I removed it.  But I picked one with special big nostril holes & strapped it on just before we headed out.

Meet Horse-ibal Lecter: he's not enthused.
There was an initial period where he attempted to rub his face on things to get it off, but without the panicked edge of the fly mask.  And then...

We had a lovely, calm ride.  He walked & trotted nice as you please beside Solo with his face completely relaxed.  He could still take a big drink at his favourite water crossing.  He kept snorting occasionally, as if to reassure himself I wasn't trying to smother him again, but his conclusion seemed favourable.

His whole body was more relaxed & I think removing that nip-avoid-punishment cycle allowed him to find that place on his own in a way that we couldn't before.  Instead of having to resist the temptation to bait Solo into Nip-Tag, the option was never even on the table in the first place.  It's much easier for me to direct his choice towards "chillax" when there's fewer choices to begin with.
But...this face must be EVERYwhere...
The muzzle itself feels nice & sturdy & has a pretty big hole in the bottom, I quite like the design.  I added the extra velcro straps thanks to reviewer tips & they helped keep it in place.  I really really like the big nostril holes!

I'm dealing with some big problems right now (not horse-related), but this was one I was able to solve.  Not only was I happier, Echo was happier, & Solo was definitely happier.  Win win win.  I know Echo will grow out of the mouthy phase someday (omg, please let it be so), but until then, the muzzle is painless, easy to use, & at $20, doesn't break the bank.

How about you? How have you dealt with your mouthy babies mouthing the world?

January 21, 2019

Glove Quest, Round I-Lost-Count

Since it's ludicrously frigid outside (at least in the Northern hemisphere), I thought I would assist you in whiling away your time by helping you spend money.  You're welcome.

We all have our own physical quirks that make shopping for gear agonizing fun.  This joy is multiplied if you also want said gear to last more than one week & you don't make $100,000 a year.  When it comes to gloves, I have to scour size charts & reviews with extra fervour to determine whether something might fit my enormous hands with crazy long fingers.  I can't ride sans gloves because my delicate, wussy skin falls off when...it touches something.  Whee.

Also an expert on using things ALL the way up
I am still using my Horze Lyon gloves (reviewed here), which I still love & can't believe remain functional after 4+ years.  They don't have holes yet, but are wearing too thin to use in winter.  I've also been struggling with another issue:  phone use.

Miss you button: GET IT?!!
While I am definitely not sitting on my horse texting or browsing the interwebz, there are times when I need to operate the touchscreen (I MISS BUTTONS. SO. MUCH.) without having to remove gloves.  I use GPS sometimes, especially on new or extensive trails.  I've been using the free Equilab app to track riding/longe sessions, which means I want to start it right before I get on.  Half the time I forget to leave my left glove off when I lead Echo out to the mounting block, so I have to remove it to start the track.  Annoying.

In a much MUCH rarer, but much more important scenario, I recently had to dial 911 when I witnessed a nasty fall.  I was sitting on Solo & I was the only person who had my phone strapped to me (I use a calf holster, so that if I fall, the phone doesn't contribute to a back or pelvis injury the way it might on a belt).  Those seconds to pull off a glove felt really really long when I wasn't entirely certain whether the fallen rider was (a) alive or (b) suffering spinal or brain injuries (she wore a helmet, got a concussion, but was fortunately otherwise ok).  This wasn't an experience I'd thought much about before, but I sure do now.

I didn't need anything super insulated since I already have the SSG 10 Below (also wonderful & durable).  And I categorically refuse to pay $40+ for a pair of hand covers for horsey riding.  I set out on my quest.

Contestant #1:  Noble Outfitters Perfect Fit 3 Season Glove

Pros:  Technically less than $20 ($19-something at SmartPak).  Claimed to be "cell phone compatible."

Cons:  NOT touchscreen compatible.  I suppose technically you can still sort of use a cell phone while wearing these gloves.  I mean, they don't cover your mouth.  :/  But you certainly can't operate the screen; I even tried using my off-hand, just in case they were designed by some thoughtless person who assumed everyone was right-handed.  Nope, the right one was just as ineffective as the left.

I was also mildly irritated that the published size chart showed how to use a dollar bill to measure your hand.  It's 2019, people:  I'm not a millennial, but I still have fully embraced electronic payments & I would guess I'm in the majority of people who don't carry cash anymore.  After ~15 minutes of googling, I finally found a size chart with real measurements on it.  The gloves still didn't fit very well though & the material felt pretty cheap.

Summary:  A "meh" would be excessively generous.  Returned them.  Thankfully SmartPak makes that easy, although it would be even easier if there was a UPS store in my rural area.

Excuse usage dirt
Contestant #2:  Ovation Tekflex Stretch Comfort All Season Riding Glove

Pros:  I got these on clearance, but regular price is still less than $20 ($18.99 I think at Riding Warehouse).  The XL fits my giant mitts decently.  And they ARE touchscreen compatible, no misleading claims here.  I was pleasantly suprised at how super-grippy they are as well, they would be great in any discipline.  Material feels sturdy & I like that they extend a little farther down my wrist for more sun protection in summer/warmth in winter.  They aren't insulated but my easily-frosted extremities were comfortable at 40-45 degrees.

There is a simple size chart consisting of normal measurements using a ruler.  The olive green accents were on sale, but they do come with other colors.  The accents are very subtle though, which I prefer.  Especially when I was competing, I hardly wanted attention called to my not-always-obedient hands.

Touch pads on thumb/touchy finger
Cons:  None so far.  If I was being really picky, is it really necessary to have a product name with EIGHT words?

Summary:  I love these gloves far more than I expected.  I would definitely buy them again if they hold up.   

Giant awkward thumbs-up: thanks, Ovation!
What about you?  Have you found an affordable glove that you love?  How do you deal with the phone issue?  My old Sony phone had a "glove mode," which actually worked; the new LG is rather crappy & does not. 

July 24, 2016

A New Favourite: Grooming Hands Gloves Are Hands-On...And Hands-Free!

Tell me if this sounds familiar:  currying off layers of sweat crust & dirt, I manage to drop my body brush at least twice.  I keep the gel curry on one hand to knock the dust off the soft bristles, but then I need to put something down so I can grab fly spray.  Even staging items at strategic equine corners has me juggling tools.  And my spectacular grace & coordination are somewhat legendary...

Maybe I'm just "special?"  <-- i="">obvious statement is obvious

Even included sweet handwritten note!
Even More Exciting Than Sliced Bread

Thanks to Melissa & Barb from GroomingHands.com, who asked if I'd like to try un-droppable grooming, I have discovered a miraculous world where I can groom my horses, pick up other things, AND not hit myself in the face with a brush AT THE SAME TIME.

I know, it seems impossible...but I had to find out!

Testing

Materials needed:  one sweaty horse, one clumsy human, two hands -- check.

Pre-test equine (Solo finds dinner more important...)
The Massage & Grooming gloves were described as a versatile tool which reduces static (not so testable in swamp air, but could be handy in winter) while allowing you to reach all your horse's itchy spots, work out dead hair, massage muscles, clean sensitive areas, & maintain manual dexterity.  A lot to promise, especially to a documented skeptic.

Hands ON!
Thankfully they come in multiple sizes, as my enormous lady hands require a large, but they fit comfortably, so I got to work.  I started at the base of Solo's ears & worked down his neck to his withers & shoulders, which always build up layers of dirt.

Results

Not only did they do "all of the above," I was honestly amazed at the amount of shed hair & gunk they lifted out of his coat.  You can see in the pre-test pic above, he's pretty "summer slick."  But when I got to his back & haunches...wow:

Where did all that come from??!
So yes, these are now part of my daily routine & I'm guessing from the sighs & drooping eyelids of relief that both horses are happy about it.

Even More To Love

On top of being great to use, Grooming Hands is our favourite kind of company:  a self-started small business, built by a lifetime rider & groom as a labour of love.  Founder Barb Schuster had an idea during a PA winter & threw her heart & savings after it (as a single mom, no less!).  You can read her story here.

Solo definitely agrees & gives them four hooves up.  Even sensitive Encore leaned into the massage & I really liked the immediate tactile feedback of grooming with a glove, so you can adjust pressure & use different textured areas as you go.

The website is full of videos, tips, & helpful resources to explore; other features include:
  • Machine washable or just put them in the sink with some dish soap
  • Extra massage tips on middle & ring fingers
  • Smooth spots on thumb & index finger for soft wipedowns
  • Latex free for allergic folks
  • Not just for horses -- dogs, cats...hmmm, maybe myself...
Thanks again to the super-friendly Grooming Hands team for letting me try & share!

www.groominghands.com

March 5, 2016

How To Get To Good: Be A Better Lab Rat


Encore & I always look like this. Ha.
You get on your horse, warm up & organize your various pieces & parts, & then you begin work.  Ask him to move forward, connect back to front, create suppleness & adjustability, aiming for the best you can create at both of your levels of ability.  Obvious, right?

We often even think of that process as "easy" in that we can say, "Sit up straight, apply leg, maintain steady, elastic rein connection, do that breathing thing."  And if we do all those things properly, our partner will reward us with a round, rhythmic canter, stepping up through his withers & pushing energy out through the bridle.

Stop me now if that works out for you every time.  Anyone?  Buhler?  Yeah, the devil's in the details.

Solo: Master of Subtle Opinions...
On Monday, your horse decides "leg" means "let me show you my best llama impression!"  Wednesday, his response is, "Eh?  Did you say something?"  Thursday, your left elbow is convinced "steady connection" is best achieved by "death grip against my horse's locked jaw."  You're sorted on Saturday, wow, that canter felt great -- so when you have a chance to get on a different horse, you apply the same process...only to enjoy the Trot At Terminal Velocity with as much bend as a 2 x 4.

Fortunately, we have helmets to deal with the subsequent *headdesk* repetitions!  But what gives?

I posted a teaser quote from a current reading project, so now I'm following up on my promise for more.  Mary captures the individual approach horses require from us, even from one ride to the next, with a great analogy:

"Imagine that each horse, in his evasive movement, resembles one entrance to a maze, which has at its center the good movement we are seeking. With every horse we go on a unique journey & initially, in particular, the feelings he gives us & the difficulties he poses may be strikingly different. The knowledge we glean from one journey may only serve to confuse us on the next – at times we may even have to do the exact opposite of something we previously experienced as being a surefire way of getting us to the center."

Y U play hard to get, cheez??
My suspicions are supported:  our horses really do use us as experimental laboratory mice!  I knew I could hear snickering as I blundered about in search of that cheese with perfect bascule...

What I like best about her imagery though, is that it shines the focus on each ride, each journey, as a puzzle (there could be a puzzle-lover bias here, heh) instead of an assumption.  To solve a puzzle, we have to think about the process, breaking it down into progressive steps towards our goal of a nice transition or a balanced circle.

Mentally, this automatically puts me in the moment, listening to my body & feedback from my horse, then trying something different if we aren't at "good" yet.  At the same time, it subconsciously gives me the critically important freedom to do "the exact opposite of something" that I tried before, creating the opportunity to discover, hey, if I let go, my horse really doesn't run away.

BAM.  (extra hunter Solo for Lauren, hee)
Which I have far better luck with than my approach from past years, of "I did all the things, this is still sucking!"  Trapping us in a dead-end, repeatedly walking into the same wall, blindly hoping it will just fall down & present a full cheese platter.

Now I have a cheese craving, dangit.

February 7, 2016

Allow Your Horse To Believe In You

The concept of "belief" can at first sound nebulous, but in our riding, it directly translates to the essentials of trust and confidence.  In ourselves, in our partners, and theirs in us.

I've been picking away at a captivating book -- that speaks my language:  "The Natural Rider:  A Right-Brain Approach To Riding," by dressage and biomechanics author, Mary Wanless.  There is a long list of insights to discuss already & I'm only halfway through!

But one that continues to jump (pun not intended!) out at me speaks to both the foundation & the everyday process of training & schooling.  This is what we must carry with us in order to succeed in defying gravity in all its forms:


Yes, Solo once had a (exceedingly strong-willed) mane!  There are many layers of warm fuzzies in this blast from the past...June 2007, our clinic with Ian Stark (collected reports here) which took us to a brave new world. 

October 26, 2015

Orange Is The New...Orange: Including My New Favourite Neck Strap!


Solo getting his glow on in last fall's gear
Autumn:  beautiful riding weather...and rifle season for deer!  This means it's time to play "decorate in reflective strips & blaze orange" to make sure there is no room for uncertainty -- I am indeed a dork on horseback, NOT an enormous doe.

Once again, the great folks at Horze.com can help you & your partner stay safe with more accessories (enabling sequence initiated)!  Even outside of hunting seasons, being seen is critical, particularly if you ride near roads or in low light.

Orange You Glad I Can Use This Pun?

This October, they sent us a pair of their blaze orange reflective splint boots along with a matching nylon harness/yoke.  Both are emblazoned with broad reflective tape & bright print to appropriately scream, "HEADS UP!"

Sexy turf horse safety (sorry the orange looks yellow in pic)
One of the things I've appreciated about their products is the feeling that someone was thinking about what really matters to the average rider:  affordability & simplicity without completely sacrificing practical durability.

The boots are neoprene lined with solid, even stitching; they slid right into place & stay put while jumping without having to use "velcro death grip."  Which for those sensitive-skinned TBs, means no rubs either.  You bet they are lined up for use as turnout boots too (free bonus: finding your horse in a dark pasture gets much easier).

Can you see the boots??  ;P
I loved the easy clip around the neck of the yoke, which was also adjustable there & at the "make your own girth loop" attachment.  Visibility + neck strap rolled into one!  Although I think mine has the buckle stitched on incorrectly for the girth loop -- no worries, though, with their 100% happiness guarantee & free shipping both ways.
Reflect upon the visibility power!!
And my favourite part of both?  Hose 'em off when you're done, hang to dry, all clean!

Remember:  Knowledge IS Power...And Safety!

No matter where you are, always be aware of your local laws & regulations.  NC has a new law this year, making it legal to hunt deer with rifles on Sunday on private land (previously only bow-hunters & falconers could hunt Sundays).

So check your area's natural resource agency webpage:  we must all be responsible when sharing land & do our best to help prevent accidents.

U.S.: Get started finding yours here (although missing, uh, ours, LOL)
Our state's law requires all hunters to wear blaze orange in season & our Hunting Safety Education officers have done a great job making it a universally recognized symbol statewide.  We can use that to our advantage even if we're not the one in the deer stand.

Thank you again to Horze for sharing; check out more of their great line of safety gear (oh, I covet the sheet!!) & be seen, be safe, no matter what!
www.horze.com
 

July 24, 2015

Halt That Headshaking!

Nature no touchy!
Summer brings not just sweat, but the War of the Flies (sorry, William Golding).

You're attempting to make centerline approximate an actual line or ramble scenic trails or enjoy a sunset handgraze...only the tormented buzzing & biting around your horse's eyes & ears has you worried he might sprain his neck during the incessant attempts to shake the beasts off.

Bid Those Flies - And Sweat - Goodbye

It felt like my lucky day when our friends at Horze.com sent us their -

1.  Extended nose flymask (UV protection for your pale-nosed friends!
2.  Fringed mesh fly veil

Fine, I'll nom-model  (1)
I hatez dinner pauses  (2)
What Makes Them Different?

You know those days when it's so hot & sticky that the mere thought of anything touching you makes you shudder in aversion?  Well, the horses agree.  And fly spray can only do so much (particularly in places where you can actually hear the deer flies snicker every time you squeeze the spray-bottle trigger).

So I really REALLY liked that both of these combined a physical barrier with fabrics which maximized airflow.  A horse's ears appear to be a very small body part, but, being thin-skinned & packed with blood vessels (i.e. gnat nirvana), those twin radar dishes play a huge role in heat exchange, just like your head & feet.


The mask was made of a quality-feeling structured screening, much like the SuperMasks I use to screen eyes in the trailer.  However, where I almost never use the latter in turnout as the heaviness of both the mesh & fleece seem to layer grit & sweat on Solo's face, the unique combination of the technical wicking material & much narrower jaw cut of the Horze mask means he's more comfortable.

What, Does He Nicker Twice For Yes?

Not quite, although I did learn this winter that he has an "I want my blanket" nicker, LOL.  But he freezes & sticks his head out when I approach with it now (Solo must have tasty eyeball juice, the flies seem to prefer it to Encore's?) & when removed at night, there's only a small patch of sweat on his crown.

Yes, he also is a member of the Pig Sweat club.

The veil struck a similar nice balance.  The retro-hippie-rasta vibe was just a bonus!

I use old-school browband veils while riding Solo every summer (alas, Encore gets mad at his own bangs touching him & violently shook OFF a cotton bonnet, although I may have to try this once...), but his ears are unprotected unless I add a conventional fly bonnet.  Bonnet fabric usually ends up soaked in sweat & the tight-fitting ears mean the deer & horse-flies bite through them anyway.

Adding the loose mesh to a veil was a novel idea.  Airspace between ears & mesh creates a little wider "DMZ" protection from bites.  The super-light mesh kept things cool, although I wouldn't try to add it to a turnout halter, I'd be worried it would tear off during vigorous tree scratching.

And we still had the strings functioning as the perfect forelock (vital for Solo The Follicularly Challenged), constantly moving to deter landings while not obstructing vision or trapping heat.  And um, hi, $7 is the kind of budget-friendly I'M talking about, thank you!

Who's got bangs now, dudez??
Be Prepared To Trim Or Size Down

Both items have a bit of an odd measurement.  Lengthwise, they were fine for Solo & would be spot-on for Encore (both are a normal 'horse' size, but Solo is short from ear to mouth; if I had money to burn, I'd buy cob cheekpieces for his bridles).  But the jowl straps were ENORMOUS.

They may be purposefully designed that way, it's simple enough to trim off the velcro ends.  There is certainly plenty if you do happen to have a horse with the cheeks of a Shire!

Or, if you are a just-in-case person, you can invent velcro patterns like I did:


You can check them out along with Horze's other Fly Weapons here.  Thanks once more to the great folks at Horze.com for diversifying our arsenal!!
www.horze.com