Super Organize for Superior Tack Storage!

It started with this convenient rolling cart so I wouldn’t have to carry my heavy saddle.

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Load it up with the Saddle, brushes underneath, hang some things on it, and away you go! Everything in one trip, so efficient. All things in their places.IMG_0457.jpg

I love my personalized “Saddle Mattress” protecting the saddle flocking from nasty hard metal racks, by the way. Every saddle should have one.

So it started with the rolling cart.

But things soon got much more complicated when people at the barn said this to me recently…

“Watch out for snakes in the Spring, Summer, and Fall. They sometimes come into the barn and into the tack cubbies. They can get in through the smallest of holes or cracks.

And they climb up and hide in your brush box or hang on the hooks among your bridles and surprise you…”

I shudder even now as I write these words. I have a real and true PHOBIA of snakes. It doesn’t matter that they reassured me that no rattlesnakes had ever been seen, only the “good” kind of snake.

I knew that if I ever found a snake hanging on a hook in my tack cubby, I would never be able to return to the barn.

Seriously. Call me a wimp, but I’ve had mice run out of it and across my feet and I’ve simply yipped a bit and stomped more next time to warn them I’m coming. but snakes?

Snakes are a deal killer for me. I can’t even put a picture of one in this article to illustrate it for you. Nope. I just hate looking at pictures of them. 

Enter my savior, my husband Bill: the Engineer and brilliant Anti-Snake Designer. He prepared to do battle with the warped doors of my tack cubby to seal them against all possible incursions of snakes – and mice, too, while we’re at it.

Fear no more, he said, this would be a SNAKE FREE ZONE. Weatherstripping was applied to every door surface, and a bolt to the outside so that the doors are securely fastened shut. No more holes or cracks for things to slither or crawl (shudder) through.IMG_0464.jpg

Regard the mini tackroom: A door for hanging things (note that beautiful snake proof weather-stripping!), hooks on the wall, and plastic storage boxes keep things dust free, organized, and mouse proof just in case a mouse does chew its way in somehow. The rolling saddle cart fits in the other side, although you have to take the handle off to fit it in. Well, we had certain constraints we had to work around.IMG_0460.jpg

A place for everything, and everything in its place. As you can imagine…I have a lot of other tack that lives in the garage at home. This has room for the daily essentials.

It may be tiny, but it’s my little (tack room) kingdom.

AND NO SNAKES. Not now, not ever.

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Forward into the contact: a continuing journey

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Horses are right or left handed, just as we are. They tend to lean on one rein (usually the left) and to be harder to bend in that direction.  

Starlight and I recently attended a Jane Weatherwax clinic where we worked on riding forward into both reins evenly. While it sounds like a simple concept, it’s one that we’re still working on as we train to show Third Level this year.

How hard could it be to keep the contact even? HA!

Looking at the “bad illustration” below, you can see Star is over bent in her neck (too much inside hand), resistant in her jaw (can you blame her?), a bit braced and hollow in her back and hence her neck is a bit high and braced as well.

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This is not a pretty picture.

Solution? Lower the neck, give with the inside hand, straighten the outside shoulder (don’t let it drift), make sure that inside leg stays at the girth if you are circling right (as I think I might be about to) and use your body to turn, NOT your reins. So simple, right? Oh, if only it were that easy. And ride forward to engage the haunches (engine)!

Star’s desire to lean on the left rein is made worse by my own decades long tendency to be rigid with my left wrist. My whole left side tends to have problems: left leg wants to creep up, hip collapses on that side, head tilts that way sometimes. Oh dear.

Star and I have worked out a co-dependent relationship: she will lean on the left rein and I will carry it for her with my stiff left hand.

Only I really don’t want to do that any more so it’s time to change the rules of this game.

Horses, God bless ’em, have long memories but also plenty of forgiveness (most of them). You can change the rules and stop hanging on that rein and pretty soon, the horse will start to carry himself as he figures out a new balance. Yes, this does actually work, I have felt it!

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Star demonstrates haunches-in. Note the mud-coated left foreleg (from kneeling to reach for tender spring grass under fence). My inside (left) leg should be further forward, on the girth, and my left shoulder could be a tad further back to be perpendicular to the fence.

Use suppling exercises such as:

  • shoulder-in
  • haunches-in
  • 10 or 15 meter circles
  • leg yield to shoulder in
  • shoulder in to half-pass

These are useful exercises for strengthening the horse and teaching balance.

Important: don’t hang on that inside rein!

Giving periodically with the inside rein checks that the horse is not depending on it for balance and remains on the aids.

The problem is remembering to keep the inside rein light along with all the other 2000 things we have to remember. And encourage the horse to move FORWARD (but don’t rush!) into the connection…

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Forward into connection with a nice outside rein connection

And after the rains…

The seemingly endless rains of January and February brought lots of green grass to the hills of Northern California.

The trails beckon enticingly, but the hilly terrain means that they are still treacherously slippery in places.

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The view from the top of Starlight’s hill. Makes you want to go explore those trails, doesn’t it? There are COWS in them thar hills, pardner!

We need a few weeks of warm, dry weather before Star and I brave the herds of cows and head out on the trails.

If you look very closely at the picture below, you will see a flock of geese is checking out one of our outdoor arenas. There is a small lake in it from the latest downpour.

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To my surprise today, a large flock of enormous Turkeys blocked the road out of the Ranch today. They went up on the hill as I grabbed my phone. Can you imagine what a horse might make of them? They look small in the picture but they were about three feet tall.

These were huge turkeys (no really!), exclaiming “gobble, gobble, gobble“, just as turkeys should! Wish I could have caught one with the tail fanned.

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Poppies! California poppies. Of course, whenever my husband and I see them, we hark back to the Wizard of Oz and the witch saying, “Poppies…poppies will make them sleep…”

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Meanwhile, Star is happy as a pig in mud – emphasis on “in mud – to bask in the sun. She seems to enjoy applying a light coating of mud.

Right now she is the oddest color I call “Hyena” since she is dappled brown/black/dun. 

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Yes, this used to be a clean blanket…and the horse was clean yesterday when I last saw her.

Soon she will be a gorgeous shiny black…for a few weeks, until her dedication to sunbathing bleaches her to a nice shiny dark bay for the summer.

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Starlight moves to Arriba Vista Ranch

Starlight has moved to a beautiful place of rolling green hills, trails, nice arenas, and she even gets to live next door to her half-brother. How fun is that? Yes, they get along well, no sibling rivalry (yet).

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The view from Starlight’s stall. You can ride those hills, and we will…

There are a lot of PREs (Pura Raza Espanol) horses here and some of them are half-siblings or cousins of Star’s.

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“Could we have lunch now? Or a carrot?”

Wouldn’t you know, we had a major cold snap the day I moved, with rain coming in the day after. Oh joy. Star was very full of herself and more of a handful than usual, but we managed. That chilly air on her freshly clipped skin felt so shivery, it was hard to be well behaved as she usually is…Here she is, wearing her new Rambo blanket.

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Above is the first arena I attempted to ride in today. It was a bit too open and breezy for a horse who was overly frisky today…so we went into the indoor arena. We’ll try outdoors again another day and it will be fine. Below is another arena for another day…So many nice places to ride, and I can’t wait to get out on the trail. Oh what joy! Trails restore my soul and Star likes them, too.

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New sand was going into the smaller covered arena today (yes, there are TWO covered arenas here), and I thought these birds wheeling in the sky looked lovely. IMG_0414.jpg

 

I think we will be happy here.

 

The miraculously relaxing blanket

Back on Track products have been a favorite of mine for a couple of years, ever since a trainer recommended the back brace after I hurt my back. My husband and I both use the back brace whenever we have some back pain and it works like a champ to sooth, ease pain, and provide mild support.

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Starlight trying on her new Back on Track mesh sheet before being tacked up. “Hmm,” she says. “Seems to fit well. Nice and snuggly.”

I put the blanket on her to try it for size, and WOW, instant transformation from suspicious – “what are you dressing me in now?” to “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh, that’s kinda nice…”

Back on Track products are woven with ceramic particles which reflect the body’s own heat, providing soothing and therapeutic benefits of long wave infrared radiation. http://www.backontrackproducts.com/How-Back-on-Track-Products-Work-22.html

IMG_0403.jpgHere are the results of a study done: http://www.backontrackproducts.com//Clinical-Studies-14.html#horses

The products are machine washable (line dry) and the therapeutic properties do not wash or wear out. This product is not only relaxing, but it will actually help her back, shoulder, and hind quarter muscles have better blood flow and thus recover more quickly from exercise

But back to Starlight. Within seconds of putting on the blanket, her eyes half closed, her neck dropped, and she got a far away look…it was the same look I get as I sink into the perfect temperature bubble bath with a pile of favorite magazines at my elbow to flip through desultorily. BLISS.

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“You may leave me now, while I commune with my blanket. I think I’ll just catch 40 winks.”

 

 

 

 

Does a bit of bling make you a dressage diva?

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My mare and I are on the cusp of Third Level. Flying changes come and go – occasionally she does a few easily clean and straight, and other days, it’s, “huh? I have no idea what you’re talking about.” All other third level moves feel fairly easy; the changes will come soon enough. Probably.

So I allowed myself the indulgence of buying a new (admittedly unneeded) show shirt at the Animo Black Friday Sale. 

Admittedly, the shirt above falls in the rather blingy (but oh so fabulous!) category. Does this make me a dressage diva? It is an interesting question.

Such a (negatively) loaded term. I immediately think of a small overweight woman bouncing along on an enormous horse, weighed down with bling everywhere. “NEVER!”quoth I.

Yet one most know oneself. The truth will set you free.

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Know Thyself

Diva definition: “a usually glamorous and successful female performer or personality.”

Having attained a certain age (well over 50), perhaps I’m entitled to enjoy a little glamour here and there. Well made, glittery shirt? Sure.

As for success, well, it comes and goes. Doing what we can to be successful AND have fun.

Dressage Diva: Yes, in the true sense of the word. Bring it. I’m old enough to enjoy the glitter if I want to. That said, let’s try to stay reasonably tasteful. One can go TOO far. As in this:

 

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Coming soon: Starlight embraces her inner dressage diva with her own glittery coronet (aka browband). Just wait until you see her Christmas Present.

 

 

Cue the smiles: baby pictures of Starlight

Like any fond parent (“horse mother”) I see the beginnings of greatness in the picture below of Starlight at One Day old, kindly sent to me recently by Janne Rumbough, Starlight’s breeder.

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Look at Starlight cantering already on those long, spidery baby legs. Her momma is pretty gorgeous, too, if you ask me. Here’s a close up of one day old Starlight…IMG_1293.JPG

You can see she from her coat and gangly legs that she’s really just newborn, and yet she already looks like a nice package. It’s amazing how quickly they get up and get running! Essential, of course, because in the wild they might have to run from a predator, but still amazing when you think about how long a human baby has to be carried around.

Below you’ll see Ms. Starlight at Three Years Old. Notice that her mane and forelock are roached, and her dock is trimmed. This is traditional for the presentation of Andalusian PRE mares.  If I were showing her in breed classes I would need to prepare her this way.

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Now she’s looking pretty grown up and elegant, with a lovely reach and an eager expression. That star stands out nicely against her black coat!

The picture below shows her cute backside. She’s almost saying, “excuse me, are you admiring my nicely rounded hindquarters? Humph.”

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Such fun for me to see baby pictures of my big grown up girl, who is now 16.1 hds. The same sweet and interested expression is there, and the same leggy elegance, but now she is filling out and muscling up.

Here is her wise, kind face in July, 2016. I just love to kiss that nose – and she doesn’t seem to mind it.

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