Thursday, March 23, 2017

Farm Logo Swag

Last year, I had a graphic artist friend design a logo for our little farm.  I adore it but hadn't made anything with it yet, save a few stickers that I put on our buckets and one of my show trunks.  I had a local embroidery shop do a green jacket for me, but he was sort of weird about doing any (brand new, so clean!) saddle pads that I brought it.  That is fine, since he is not a horse guy, but I kinda gave up and forgot about it.

Of course, now I have had a LOOOONG winter to consider ALL THE THINGS I need want with our logo.  I made an order through Cafe Press but wasn't super impressed and things were printed crookedly despite the fact on the designer it looked correct.  My husband's hooded sweatshirt and the baby's onesies were the only things that looked correct.  The shirts were a wash, but I will say, Cafe Press refunded my money for me at least!

Deciding that I needed an actual human with design experience (imagine that!), I found a great little company on Etsy called Prater Designs owned by a woman named Trish and we set about trying to put together an order.  She was fantastic, easy to work with, and patient with me.  


Everything looks great and came out so well!  I also did a sweatshirt, but forgot to put that out when I staged my photo haha.  My husband has two t-shirts; I have two t-shirts, two long sleeved awesome sports-tek shirts, and a polo shirt; and we have two hats!  Whoot!  

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Lund Saddlery Review

Back at the end of October 2016, I pulled the trigger on ordering a new five point breastplate because I just wasn't thrilled with the way my current breastplate fit Snappy.  It is a Stubben that I bought about six years ago, and while it is overpriced IMHO haha, I saved all that summer to purchase it, because STUBBEN.  

Stubben breastplate not a great fit
I figured a five point would fit her better, yet I wasn't crazy about the HDR or Nunn Finer versions and Stubben doesn't make a five point.  I had seen Lund Saddlery around Facebook and read a few reviews from other bloggers.  It seemed like well made tack for a decent price point, so I ordered it.  

Oddly, enough, though I knew I would have a wait a bit it to arrive...it never did!  I waited...and I waited...and I waited.  Finally in December, I sent an email to Lund and the owner was super apologetic.  Somehow my order had been lost in the shuffle, so he arranged for another one to be shipped.  I finally received it on January 9!  It was worth waiting for though, because I am pleased with the quality.  

The owner of Lund Saddlery was so apologetic that he even offered to send along a matching bridle (what?!) to make up for it.  I assured him that wasn't necessary, because I am aware that things can happen and I am not one to complain.  But he insisted and so we also have a brand new bridle to match!  If that is not the best customer service EVER of ALL TIME, then I don't know what is!

Overall, the English leatherwork (Sedgwick) is outstanding for the price.  All the hardware is stainless and looks to be substantial enough to last.  I admit I am not normally a fan of fancy stitching, but I really love the look of both the breastplate and bridle.  Of course, we have been in the Arctic Freeze for the past few months, so other than fitting both pieces to the mare and riding in them exactly ONCE, I have not put either piece of tack to the test.  I will update my findings later on, once show season begins and I have put hours into the tack. However, I think they both will hold up well and become some of my favorite pieces!

I would definitely recommend checking out Lund Saddlery.  They are a new company, so there is not a ton of tack yet available, but I know he has lots of plans coming along.  I have seen photos of saddle prototypes on Facebook.  Plus, there is a monthly contest to check out and enter! 




It also came with d-savers and a running martingale attachment!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Dyeing a Dressage Saddle

While I LOVE my child sized Stubben Juventus dressage saddle because it actually fits my tiny leg (I'm only 5' tall on a good day) and it fits my horse, I do NOT love the way the leather looks.  I found it used seven years ago and have taken great care of it.  But the seat has been fading for a while and last fall was just looking incredibly sad.  I knew I needed to do something to save it, but the thought of dyeing my saddle gave me a bit of pause.  OK, a lot of pause.


So sad.
I found a blog post last November about dyeing saddles and promptly saved it to my Pinterest.  I bought the materials I needed last December and stored them safely in my hallway closet.  Then I sat around and thought about this idea even more, mostly because I was scared to actually attempt to dye it (what if I totally screwed it up?!) and because the horses pretty much had December and January off.  It was too cold to ride or even think about dyeing a saddle anyway!

But this past week was our school vacation and it warmed up enough for me to consider that if I was going to attempt to dye this thing, I might as well give it a shot now.  

Not shown is the Tan Kote and Resolene

I printed off the directions found on the blog above, and I mostly followed the same procedure.  
I went with Fiebing's not just because that is what the original blogger used, but also because I think they are a reputable company and it was easy to find all the needed products on Amazon for only $29.41 (thank you Prime for your free 2-day shipping!)  I ended up not applying the Resolene at the end, though I still could if I wanted to.  

The first day I cleaned the saddle up, removed the finish with the deglazer, and applied three coats of dye.  I ended up doing a fourth coat on the seat because I really wanted to be sure if was covered.  This may have been a bit much, but whatever.  Once I started with the deglazer (which is pretty much just acetone), I knew I was committed and wasn't really nervous any longer LOL!  I used a microfiber towel to apply the deglazer.

I dyed the entire top of the saddle and the top of the "billet panel", plus the billets because they were looking a little sad too.  I did not do the underside of the top flap or the underside of the saddle itself.  I left the saddle to dry overnight.  It looked lovely and black but terribly dull.  I did not take any photos of this step.  But it was fairly easy to apply the dye, and I used a sponge brush and evened it out as needed with the microfiber pad.

The next day, I wiped down the saddle well and barely any dye came off at all.  I applied the tan-kote with another microfiber towel and the saddle started to look magnificent.  I did the first coat and let it dry before doing a second coat.  I didn't glob it on and made sure to buff it well as I went.  

Oh my goodness, the difference was amazing.  I cannot believe I waited this long to dye it!  I looks so much better.  Right now, I have left it like this and have not applied the resolene.  I am a bit worried about how it will look, as I know you have to be super careful with application process.  I don't want it to be streaky and I know it is totally possible I could apply it like the amateur I am haha.  Also, resolene makes an acrylic resistant finish, so while it may assure that the dye won't come off on my breeches, it will make the seat impermeable to leather conditioner.  So, I figure I will give it a shot with a junky pair of my lighter colored breeches and see what I think!




I cannot stop looking at these side by side comparisons!


Monday, February 6, 2017

The Drama of Winning

There is nothing like the feeling of seeing your name listed on the scoreboard as sitting in first after dressage and having clear XC and stadium courses.   It is always a thrill to be called in first place in the lineup after a pleasure or equitation class.  I have been lucky to do well over the many years of showing and there is no denying that once you do well, you want to replicate that feeling again.

I am a true adult amateur, just bumbling along and trying to always do my best.  I don't hide the fact that I am NOT a professional.  I don't resort to big bits or gadgets though either, as I know that riding well and training a horse PROPERLY takes time.  I would rather take ten times longer than someone else (ok, let's be real, more like fifty times longer haha) and ride my horse in a snaffle than rush it along with a pelham bit in the show ring and draw reins for training rides.  I ride for the love of horses and the enjoyment I get out of having horses in my life.  No, not every ride is perfect and no, I do not ride at an upper level.  But that is not the point of horses to me, it is about the journey and my own enjoyment of seeing a horse I started from scratch move correctly and hold her own in competition.  I have always said If it isn't fun, I'm not doing it.  If I am miserable, why bother to continue with such an expensive and time-consuming hobby?

I remember a horse show "friend" years ago who always put herself down at shows, telling everyone within earshot how much she sucked, how bad she and her horse were going to do, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseam.  Sometimes she would even start days before the show on social media, writing statuses about how her horse deserved a better rider and she shouldn't even bother to show at all.

sigh

(Pro tip: Your horse just wants to hang out and eat grass, but yeah go ahead and believe he wants to go to the Olympics and is disappointed that he doesn't win every single blue ribbon in sight.)

I tried to be supportive and to always boost her confidence.  I gave pep-talk after pep-talk, exuding calmness to her at every show.  It was tiresome to say the least to listen to her whine.  After a while, it almost seemed as though she did it just so others would tell her how great she was and how wonderful she was going to be.  It was a strange way to dig for compliments, but hey, we are all different.  I don't need others to stroke my ego like that, but do your thing.  Admittedly, after awhile it became quite frustrating, especially as she began to do well in spite of herself and her poor attitude.  But I thought it was important to remain a good friend.  I even went so far as to help set up a statewide year end points system so she could have a way to feel good about her accomplishments and earn pretty year end ribbons.

She won her first championship ribbon in a breed pleasure class, and afterwards instead of basking in the delight of what she had finally accomplished with her horse, she went on and on about how it didn't really count because "there was only one other horse in the class".  Big deal how many horses were in the class!  To my eyes, she still accomplished a major goal including overcoming her anxiety enough to beat even just one other horse in the ring.  I distinctly remember telling her, "Enjoy it because you never know when the next ribbon or championship will come".  That has ALWAYS been my mantra with horses.  Enjoy every moment, every win, every success but you just don't know.  Even if you are the only horse/rider in the ring, at least you trained beforehand, showed up, and did it.

Of course, in typical head case fashion, instead of taking this as a gentle wake-up call to STFU and enjoy her moment, she took at as me saying that her horse would never win another ribbon or championship.  OMFG..................that is NOT AT ALL what I meant.  But that doesn't matter because even if you try to explain yourself, some types of people will never understand.  They only hear criticism, because that is all they tell themselves anyway.

headdesk

So needless to say, this person is no longer a friend (because who the heck needs "FRIENDS" like that, anyway??? LOL).  It even went so far as her husband immediately unfriending me on Facebook and all types of silly drama.  Okie dokie, crazy people.  I finally just stopped attending the same shows (honestly because of a two year hiatus from showing anyway, but I did not go back to those shows this year either), and I made a conscious effort to not put effort into that type of person.  I unfriended her in real life and online because I just didn't have it in me to deal with a head case.  Just no.

I get it.  I really do.  I understand we all want to BE THE BEST and WIN ALL THE THINGS.  It makes us feel worthy and accomplished and all that.  And yes, sometimes we do win all the things.  But sometimes we don't.  But in the meantime, WHO CARES?  I only look down on others if they are a head case nut job (or mistreat their horses), not if they win or lose or whatever.  If someone is truly trying, training their horse correctly, and doing their best, GREAT!  This is supposed to be fun, this horse show thing is supposed to be about the relationship and training with our horses, not about the ribbons.  Look, Snappy won a shit ton of ribbons and awards in 2016, but we may never win a first place or championship in 2017...or ever again!  

Who knows!  

Who cares!  

I will just keep trying my best and enjoying every accomplishment, whether that is another win or just surviving our first canter dressage test (gulp...haha...nah, not nervous or anything).  

And truly, I think THAT is why I do well sometimes.  Not because I take shortcuts in training, not because I have a fancy horse, not because I have a trainer who rides my horse for me, not because I am some professional rider (NONE of the above are remotely true actually!).  I think I do well because I have a healthy self esteem and attitude about competing, success, lack of success, and reality.  

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

2016 Show Season and Year End Awards Recap

When I considered what I wanted to do with Snap Dancer about a year ago, I figured just getting out to a few shows would be a success.  I had no idea how she would take to a new career of "show horse" and honestly I was nervous about the both of us taking the previous year off completely because of my January - September 2015 pregnancy.  

We started at a local fun day, just to see what the mare thought of the little dressage ring.  I felt pleased with her yet discouraged by my severe lack of core muscles (thanks baby human haha).
First outing in 2016
Our first dressage show felt like a fluke.


First dressage show - two great scores and a high point rider award!

But each time we competed, I felt her grow more confident and rideable.  
Bravest 2-phase in August!  No spooking!
First 3-phase in October and she was super!
Snap Dancer's first year of showing ended up being a fairy tale. I know that sounds silly in a way, and we only competed at intro level, but I know we will never be able to replicate the amount of success we had in 2016!!

All told, we competed in 11 horse shows:
  • 4 dressage shows
  • 5 two-phases
  • 1 three-phase
  • 1 open show
  • Plus 1 xc clinic and 1 fun day
















And we ended up with:
  • 12 first place ribbons
  • 6 second place ribbons
  • 1 third (egg/spoon) 
  • 1 fourth (showmanship)
  • 4 high point awards

I was pretty excited by the end of our show season in October, but I still had year end awards to look forward to! Snap Dancer ended up winning FIVE championships. Definitely a fairy tale year! I nearly couldn't wrap my head around it each time the awards were announced.

Maine Horse Association - 71.56% - Introductory Level Champion (out of 5)



Maine Combined Training Association - Introductory Level Champion (out of 11)


State of Maine Dressage Association - Intro A Champion, Intro B Champion, High Point STB


To say I am proud of this little mare would be an understatement.  She was such a good sport about giving this dressage and eventing thing a shot.  I know we will never have such a successful year again, and who knows if she will ever win another ribbon or championship. But that doesn't matter to me because she did it now and how could we ever expect to do better than this!  

I have some ideas about what I would like to do this year with Snappy, and time will tell.  We will see how she feels and how her canter comes along.  I know that I will always remember 2016 as a great year. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

What has happened to bridles lately?

I love tack, don't get me wrong.  I have way too much tack when you consider I only own two horses and one is retired haha.  But lately, on blogs and other social media, I have been horrified to see what is happening to bridles!  OMG!  I love the classic, sophisticated, refined look. I searched FOREVER to find a new dressage bridle last year without a flash.  Seriously, it is like never mind if your horse actually needs a flash (mine doesn't!) let's just put one on every bridle because no horse can do dress-ahhhhhhggggggge without one.  OMG.

I had a hard time looking at the Micklems, but I admit they grew on me.  I bought one once in a weak moment and neither mare liked it, so I sold it.  I still dislike the stupid drippy browbands, so I just die a little inside whenever I see one.  And roll my eyes.  

Why so drippy?  And I have seen worse, this was just the first one I saw in my googling effort.
Clearly I am becoming a curmudgeon in my young age.  But holy cow, the new fangled bridles out there are just......no.  JUST.  NO.

Yep.  Pretty much.
PS of Sweden for $342?  No thank you.

What the ACTUAL eff?  That noseband thingy is just ugly AF.
Stubben, my most favorite brand of all time, what have you done?  AND $520?  UHHHH NO.  
It only looks mildly horrific from the front, but that crownpiece and browband made me a little twitchy....
And then I see THIS?  WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK, STUBBEN?
I feel kinda sad lately about the stupid fads in tack.  Not much going on with the crap winter weather and SO MUCH ICE, so yes, I have spent way too much time online lately.  

Is it spring yet?  *sigh*

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Being An Adult Amateur and Loving It

This is my guest blog for Horse Junkies United, published on December 26, 2016.

It would be easy to look at my horse’s array of only blue and red ribbons from her first show season and make the incorrect assumption that I am some sort of amazing rider. But of course, the color of the ribbon only tells half the story. What you don’t know is I am a true adult amateur, competing at the tadpole level on my aged retired racehorse on her third career.

That’s right, we competed this year in Introductory level dressage tests and Pre-Elementary events. Yup, walk-trot baby dressage with 18” jumps, and I loved every moment of it. Even better, my mare is not an OTTB as you might assume when I say “racehorse”. She’s a Standardbred, not a breed one normally would associate with trotting down centerline. So while our strong ribbons are not from a high level of competition, what they represent to me means more than any blue or tricolor rosette.

After training my previous Standardbred (now retired) from never-been-sat-on through First Level, my riding aspirations are pretty tame. If I could bring along this new mare to that same level, I would be thrilled! I don’t need to move up the levels with this horse or any horse. I have taken her from a twelve year old racehorse and failed broodmare who had never been backed as of four years ago, to a fun and safe low level horse. Besides taking lessons on her, I have done all the training myself and THAT matters more to me than what level we ride at or what color ribbons we earn!

I adore dressage, but it also drives me incredibly crazy. I am not a naturally gifted dressage rider. I was taught to ride hunt seat at age six, so my body wants to be in a forward seat. It is my comfort zone. And I am a short 5-foot-nothing, so I will never look long and tall and elegant in the saddle. OK, I have moments of elegance, I suppose. But I am short and stubby and I want to ride forward like I am about to go over a fence!

While I define myself as an equestrienne, I am also a mother, wife, and full time school teacher. I have to find time to ride every afternoon between helping with homework and cooking dinner. I took last year completely off from riding (as did my mare) because I was pregnant with my second child. Regaining the strength and core muscle from that alone was more work than any dressage test or cross country course I will face!

I will always be an adult amateur, and while I do not have my sights on ever becoming a professional or riding at elite levels, I do think it is important to always learn and be the best horseman I can be. As a school teacher, I believe in education. I think I am a fairly bold rider and am willing to try new things, but I also want to be safe and have fun. Above all, it is more important to me to give my horse confidence and create success situations for her (which does not always equal success in competition – there are other types of successes!). Would I love to have a fancy, young horse to bring along? Sometimes, I admit I long for that opportunity. And perhaps someday it will happen. But for now, I am thankful I have my own horses living in my backyard, and I can carve out time to ride and compete despite life’s numerous responsibilities.

So while my Facebook friends may roll their eyes as I posted yet another show update, complete with a photo of my mare sporting another first or second place ribbon, I can assure them all that the ribbon is only half the story. The effort, sweat, tears, and sacrifice that went into earning that ribbon is what makes me proud of my horse and her accomplishments this year. I honestly would have been just as happy with a green ribbon, or even nothing at all, just for the chance to do what I love. And of course, despite a fairy tale first show season, we are planning to move up to Training level next year and I know our ribbon streak will end. But that doesn’t matter, because I know that success as a rider is about the journey and my commitment, not the color of the ribbon or the level at which I compete.