Friday, February 27, 2015

Custom Saddle Dreams

I mentioned in a previous post that I'm going to be ordering a custom saddle. Don't worry, it seems crazy to me too and in most situations I wouldn't even be entertaining the idea. In this case though after an extensive search I've decided it just makes the most sense. Plus it's not just any custom saddle, it's from Herritage Custom Saddlery!

English made saddles, available completely custom, with excellent reviews but most importantly they are in my price range! The saddle I'm looking at will be about $1800 for the fully custom option. I've already received an answer back from the maker that what I am looking for, short panel and short flaps with the options I want and that Katai needs, is possible so I've got the green light.

My goal is to order by the end of May. I've set that date for a couple of reasons, one is so that I can save up the money and the other is so that Katai has time to muscle up again after the past couple of quiet months. Then I'll be able to take more accurate measurements and hopefully have my saddle by the middle of July.

I think I've mainly figured out the design for what I need/want but I have a couple of months to make sure I don't have any changes.

I'm thinking this color...

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Book Review: Nature, Nurture and Horses

Time for my first book review!


This book starts out by explaining the concept which is that they are going follow four different horses, of Spanish breeding, through their training journey with the goal of all four horses becoming proficient in Dressage. I bought this book about a year ago when Katai was still quite green. I thought it would be an interesting way of looking at different horse learning styles and would give me ideas for how to adapt my training to fit Katai’s learning style. What was most interesting to me is that with the ability to write about these four different horses, all of the same age and very similar breeding, with the same handlers meant that there were very few external influences. It was extremely interesting to see how each horse reacted to each stage of the training.


Each section of the book was broken down into four parts, named after each of the horses and each of these parts followed the horses through different stages in their training beginning with their birth and their initial personality and moving on through the training process.


The good: Nature, Nurture and Horses is written more like a really good story than an instructional manual. I found it very easy to read and couldn’t put it down. I bought the Kindle version and read most of it on my iPhone but I’ve looked at the book version and it is beautifully put together with many large, gorgeous, full cover pictures, which are in the Kindle version as well. Since I’m a very visual learner this always helps me figure out the concepts that they are writing about in the book. 


This book was excellently designed so that you could either go through and read from start to finish about one horse or compare and contrast as you go through, reading about the different learning styles. I especially found it interesting when they adapt their training with one or two horses to slow down or change the order of things. I also found it really interesting and helpful that they followed a colt and three fillies and had some examples of how the genders can differ.


The bad: This is not a training manual. I know I picked up ideas for training Katai, especially when she was young and green, but this is really more good story than instructional.


Overall: I would give it 4 carrots out of 5 and would definitely buy it again.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday Snaps

I'll get the most depressing picture ever done first and then it's all about my adorable snuggly pony.

Saturday, February 21, 2015


These may not be exciting to anyone other than me but I am pretty thrilled and want to share.


First of all, I believe I mentioned that my friend H had moved to my previous barn, with J as a coach, last summer. I was so excited to have her there but then as things started to go downhill I felt guilty. When I left I didn’t want to put any pressure on her to leave as well since she was in a very different place with J based on her own riding but mostly on her pony since J didn’t think he was “completely worthless”. I talked to her, of course, and explained why I was leaving and she witnessed some of J’s behavior to me but I didn’t want to feel like I was dragging her away with me so I mostly kept my feelings to myself.


                    H's Adorable Pony

Fast forward to last week when I met up with H for lunch. We started talking about lessons and how things were going and I could tell she wasn’t happy. She was mostly positive and trying to explain how things were going in the best possible light but she was upset so I talked her through it and eventually, on the drive to a tack shop for some retail therapy, she vented her way to realizing that it was time for her to move. I was still trying not to influence her much but I could tell that she was starting to see a lot of the same things I did when I left so I was glad when she stated that she was going to start looking.


I gave her some of the contacts that I knew about and she looked into them but also looked into a few options with contacts that she got from her friends. She was going to set up a lesson with the trainer I’m going to start working with (Y) but there were reasons for her to look elsewhere.


H lives about 1-1.5 hours away from where I live and the barn we both boarded at was sort of in the middle. About 25 minutes away from me and about 45 minutes away from her but she had to contend with more traffic. Now I’ll be driving about 45 minutes to the new barn but it would have still been about 35-40 minutes away from where she lives so when she realized that a top dressage trainer had a barn and training program only 20 minutes from her house she jumped on it. Most exciting to both of us, since we both are passionate about ponies in dressage, this trainer is one of the people on the Pony Task Force!! She’s went to see a lesson and has officially got a spot at this trainer’s (who I will call P for Pony) barn. I am wishing her all the best and can’t wait to go see her take a lesson. It’s wonderful to know that she has found such a great situation and I’m extremely happy for her.


I do have to admit that I am very slightly jealous. This is such an incredible opportunity for someone that loves ponies and wants to only every ride shorter equines. However, while every review is glowingly positive for P, I actually think that even if it weren’t for the 1.5-2 hour drive to study with P I would chose Y just based on teaching style, personality, and boarding options. I can hardly believe that I get to move a week from Sunday and it feels like Christmas J


The other exciting news I have is probably even less exciting to the general public but I am so happy and relieved that I can’t even describe it! As anyone who owns horses knows saddle shopping is like hell. Even if you have an unlimited budget it can be horrific trying to find a saddle that fits both the rider and horse for more than a month and if you add any type of budget to the mix it gets ten times more difficult. Now add oddly shaped equine to the mix and it really seems impossible. I’ve been wanting to consider custom saddles for awhile but my budget is just not $4000-$5000 dollars and that would only buy me a mid to lower end custom saddle brand (at least from the brands I was aware of). However, after much searching I finally found a custom saddle company that will make a completely custom saddle in my budget and that has almost only positive reviews.


          I think I'll pair it with this bridle

I believe I’ve narrowed down which of their models I’m most interested in and reached out by email earlier this week to get some more feedback on what my budget will need to be for what I want. I’ve made it my goal to order by the end of May/June and will make that work even if I need to get a part time job for awhile to pay for it. I’ve also listed some of my collectables for sale to help me get to my goal. I am so freaking excited that I finally found the answer to my saddle fitting woes! I promise I will share more information and pictures once I’m sure I’m heading down the right path and then Swanky Saddle here I come!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Moving Barns

So unfortunatly I've moved barns a few times. I thought it would be interesting to share the basics of each set up, the main reason I moved each time and what I am doing to get ready for my next, and final!, move.

Barn One:

In my backyard! The woman I was renting a room from at the time actually allowed me to keep Katai there for free. It was nice to have her out there but there was no safe place to ride, it was kind of junky, and I bought my own hay which added stress every winter as we tried to keep track of who had bought what.

When I moved into a new apartment I needed to move her since the woman I had been renting from wasn't interested in boarding so then I moved to...

Barn Two:

This place was really nice! The guy fed supplements twice per day, that I provided, fly sprayed them twice per day and as you can possibly see in the back of the photo above there was even a fan when it got hot. There was also a stall available if I had wanted to stall her. This was for the price of $150 per month during the summer and $200 during the winter with hay provided.

The main reason I moved was the lack of safe space to ride, no space to ride in winter if it were slippery, and no one to ride with. So then it was on to the...

Third Barn:

This place was good initially but not only did Katai loose gads of weight over the first winter, and she's a chubby pony!, but the footing was almost worse than riding on gravel and it was so dusty that people had to wear masks when they rode. It cost $200 per month with hay included. 

It was so nice to have a covered arena, people to ride with, and the price was reasonable but nothing else was great including the 45 minute drive. On top of that the owner was speaking about selling in the next year so it was time to move on. Right to the...

Fourth Barn:

I LOVED this place and still miss it. Boarding there was the most fun I've had with horses and horse people in a long time. Everything about it was great from the people, to the footing in both arenas, to the tacking space to the incredible pasture management. At $300 a month the board was really reasonable as well and lesson packages were extremely reasonable with a huge savings over paying per lesson.

I felt like both Katai and I were improving in leaps and bounds at first but then I started to see how cruel the owner/trainer was and knew that I had to leave quickly despite how much I loved everything else. So then it was on to the...

Fifth Barn:

I really do like this place. It's huge and there are a lot of people but they've all been great. The arena isn't bad but the footing isn't always looked after and in the evenings there are so many people riding that it's easy to get in traffic jams especially with a greenie that still occasionally loses steering. I've decided that I love stall board and the set up with tack lockers in the stalls is amazing. There is also amazing access to trails and three outdoor arenas that would be awesome in the summer however this was always a short term solution while I looked for a really great dressage instructor and now that I found one at an amazing barn I just can't wait to move there and stay there! The stall board here is $315 per month and I pay extra for a shared paddock so $340. 

In preparation for the move I've started putting some things together for the new barn. At the previous barn we had tiny lockers plus a space to store a saddle. At the current barn we've got nice big tack lockers with space for two saddles, a shelf and tons of hooks. Now at the new barn there's a smallish shared tack room and I'm guessing that space is at a premium so I've put some things together that I feel are the most necessary, at least outside of regular tack items like saddle and bridle.

I narrowed it down to two small storage containers.

The current barn isn't heated so I can't leave any type of liquid but this new place is so I can finally leave those things at the barn. I've got first aid stuff, grooming things, boots, and some odds and ends. Now I just need to figure out how much space I have for things like blankets and extra saddle pads and then I'll get those things figured out and packed.

I've also got two other exciting pieces of news but those will have to wait until my next post!

Monday, February 16, 2015

This is How I Instagram

went out to the barn tonight and had a great time. I was in an odd mood because I had just dealt with a serious employee issue at work and if the weather wasn't getting so cold later this week I would have just stayed home and watched Friends while de-stressing.

I'm glad I went though and so was Katai. She was SOOOOOOO itchy because she is shedding like a wild thing.

I probably shouldn't have worn black but this is after I brushed most of it off. I scratched all her itchiest places and then had a great, if speedy, ride. She is really starting to be able to carry herself nicely going her weaker direction. Hopefully photos of me riding the cute pony will follow at some point but for now I'll leave you with a photo of my most recent project.

I love these bell boots and they're the only ones I can find that come close to fitting. However, they were rubbing her when she was wearing them all the time. I finally decided that I could probably figure out a way to line the top with fleece or something and I did! I found a special glue that is flexible, waterproof and can be used on fabric so now I just need to test them out!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

TOABH: Names

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
Every horse seems to have at least three names:  the "real" one, the barn one, and that special one.  What are some of your pony's names?

Name: Katai

Lady - all of my female horses end up being called lady at some point
Brat Attack
Munchie - no idea really
Princess Pony
Baby Waby Brat Attack

Monday, February 9, 2015

Ahead of Schedule

Sometimes it's been easy for me to feel discouraged lately. I so miss taking lessons and the consistent progress that you can make with feedback like that. I've also been lacking consistency this winter for a few reasons and of course that means a lack of progress as well. 

But sometimes it is so clear that we have come so far and tonight was one of those times.

Squeeeeee! Look at her :) 

(Not at my messy lines)

She was soooo good! From last fall when I couldn't get near her with a running clipper to tonight with her standing stock still, even falling asleep sometimes, while I got both sides clipped. Tomorrow I'm going to bring it the rest of the way back in more of a trace clip but this was a great place to end while she was still being good. It's a little higher in the front than it should be but for my first time clipping a horse I'll take it!

Look at her little clipped spots!! She is just the most adorable little thing in the world.

Before this we had a great, if slightly discouraging, ride (so much for my plan from last week). She was feeling fresh and slightly naughty most likely because it's the first time I've ridden in about two weeks. She didn't do anything really bad but she was resistant and was really having trouble bending to the left. This is normal for her but she was completely ignoring my leg and in January I was starting to feel like she really had that figured out. She was getting so soft and nice and bendy so going back to stiff pony was tough for me. It's not like I can expect her to just maintain on two weeks off but still rough.

Tomorrow my plan is to finish clipping and either ride or lunge. I'd rather lunge her but last week I was having trouble getting her to bend to the left on the lunge and at least when I'm on her back I have more ability to enforce it so we'll see. Then on Wednesday she gets a well deserved break :)

Sunday, February 8, 2015


I posted this photo on Facebook saying that I really needed a blue ribbon with purple strips for Katai. Then my friend H commented that she needed the one with red pokadots for her gelding. It's so true...

Friday, February 6, 2015

Slow Progress

Unfortunately I had car issues this week so I was unable to make it out to the barn until today. In this span of cold weather in the single digits and lower teens my car window decided to fail and I just couldn't make myself drive 40 minutes out to the barn with the frigid wind whipping in my window only to work out in the cold. Luckily I had dressed Katai up in her nice warm blanket so I wasn't concerned about her. It's times like this when I especially love full board :-)

I finally got my car fixed and got to see my pony tonight. I had decided that based on the recent lack of consistent work and the chance that her feet might still be a little tender it would be a good idea to lunge instead of riding. I ended up being happy that I had! She, for the first time since I've got her, threw out a HUGE buck. I'm not sure that she would have bucked with me riding but it certainly showed that she was feeling better. She seemed stiff but not nearly as tender and was moving out really well. I did decide that I'm going to do mainly lunge work this week to continue to give her feet some time and to get her body loosened up and her muscles working again before I ask her to carry me again.

My plan for the week is;

Saturday - Lunge the pony, using the whole arena, at walk trot and canter in full tack. Work more with the clipper, bring extra stuff from locker and start to organize for move.

Sunday - Lunge pony in full tack and maybe introduce some cavaletti. Work more with clipper. Wash saddle pads and blankets.

Monday - Day off

Tuesday - Possibly ride. Work more with clippers.

Wednesday - Lunge in full tack with cavaletti. Work with clipper

Thursday - Ride or day off - Clipper work if I ride.

Friday - Ride or day off - Clipper work if I ride.

Saturday - Ride but also would like to clip pony! I think she's almost ready now and after about a week of clipper desensitization I'm sure she'll be ready. Now that I'm moving to a barn with a heated arena, she'll be back in a more steady work schedule, and it's getting warmer outside. My plan is something like this,

only without the neck clip since I don't have a hood. I'll also leave most of her belly covered. Then as it gets warmer I could clip a bit more off.

I'm so excited to get more pony time this week!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

#I'dratherbewatchingrolex - January Analysis

So many exciting things have happened so where to start!

After some soul searching I realized that the reason I've made most of the decisions in my life is ultimately because of my desire to have horses in my life. It has been and will continue to be one of the most important things in my life so that made my decision(s) easier. Once I broke it down to that point I realized that as awesome as it would be to do more traveling what I needed to move to a new place, or stay here, would be the promise of a great barn, fun place to ride, great trails and most importantly a wonderful instructor that I could respect and trust. Of course all of this would have to be in my budget or within the budget over the next couple of years. 

Unfortunately the more I looked into it the more I realized that without being a member of the local horse community and without being able to visit the area a few times to tour barns and sit in on lessons, which just isn't in my current budget, I just don't have the information I need. I could end up finding some place amazing or I could end up in an area where I'd have to drive over an hour to find a good barn. 

Meanwhile I was looking around here for the same type of opportunity and was able to set up a time to check out a few lessons with a local dressage trainer that follows a more classical methodology. Those lessons were amazing and right in line with what I'm looking for :-) So the same day I went to check out two of the barns that she teaches at. Both were incredible but one is further away and she mainly uses it for horses in full training which I'm just not interested in. The other was probably the closest to heaven on earth that I'll ever find. It's a completely private facility - the tour felt sort of like a tour of FBI headquarters - with no website or public info to speak of. It came HIGHLY recommended from several horse people who know the owner, and previous owners, incredibly well. 

The indoor, heated, arena looks regulation sized. I felt like I was in a sports stadium or something when I walked into it. Great dust free footing, incredible stalling arrangement with so much personalized care. I was so impressed but having the trainer, that I would now do just about anything to study with, available was the truly important thing. So I'm all set up to move, again...

I really didn't want to leave the last barn that I took dressage lessons at and if it hadn't been for J I'd still be there. This current barn was always sort of a temporary answer until I could find a better Dressage instructor but I was feeling so lost over the past month that caused me to find this place and now that I have and they have an opening I'm moving in. They only just recently started to accept pasture boarders and the spots have filled up within a couple of weeks. If I'd waited, I'd very likely have ended up on a long waiting list. As it is I'm in and moving her March 1st. 


I'm also still seriously applying for jobs closer to the cities. This barn is closer there than to where I'm living now but it's still only about five minutes further from my current barn so I'll easily be able to continue to spend lots of time at the barn while I find a different place to work and move myself.

I did learn a couple of things that I'll need. The new instructor is incredibly traditional and expects more of her students, turnout wise, than what I've riden in for lesson in the past. Not like she's picky about expense or brands or something, just well fitted appropriate equipment. That means that my brown paddock boots and corduroy half chaps that are both falling apart are just not going to cut it anymore so I picked up these. 

Tall boots have been on the list for awhile however, since I've been wearing my winter boots it just hasn't been a priority but now they are. I chose Ariat Contours based on reviews and the price point. I waited until they were on sale at the local tack shop and got them at a pretty good discount. I'm wearing them around now with my feet slowly going numb but I'm totally in love. I've never had properly fitted tall boots so I'm feeling kind of like its Christmas. One more thing off the list :-)

Meanwhile Katai has been doing great. I finally found a great, barefoot trimmer in this area that is willing to travel to me and so her hooves are starting to truly look good. I've still been topically treating thrush in her central sulcus that just hasn't ever really gone away. Some incredible soul finally mentioned to me that her heels were just too long and unless I could get her frogs to make more contact with the ground they would never really get any better. Now after two good trims they are already looking better than they have since I got her.

The bad side of that is that she's been sensitive. I've been shopping for boots that would fit her but unfortunately I haven't been able to find any that would fit quite right. I spent almost a month making ductape hoof boots with gel liners but even those barely stay on because of the shape of her hooves which makes me even less convinced that the real thing would stay on especially since I'm like a ductape boot guru.

Luckily she seems to be feeling about 80% better but I've given her the time off riding of course to let her heal. Instead I've been working with the clippers and on our relationship. Just lots of grooming and of course hoof boot making. We're doing good, better than we've ever been together and now there is trust that goes both ways :-) Unfortunatly as far as goals about the only things that's really been accomplished is changing the name of this blog but February should be much more productive!

I just can't wait to see what we can accomplish this year!


With my current decision to move I didn't have to think that long to decide which barn I would move to if I could. The barn I'm movi...