Thursday, April 17, 2014

Two Years

It's funny how time passes and some things fade from our memories, but others still remain sharp and clear. Two years ago today I lost my very best friend... and I remember that day like it was yesterday. I can still clearly hear the phone call, and feel my legs give way beneath me.

I remember seeing the peaceful look on his face, and cutting pieces of his mane and tail. I remember all the people who helped me that day, and every day since, to not just cope with the loss, but to maintain his legacy.

I remember my mom driving 2 and 1/2 hours south at 4 a.m. I remember Sam skipping school for three days straight. I remember my barn manager calling the cremation service. I remember my farrier coming out to take off Vias's shoes for me.

It's been 730 days since I've last seen his face, brushed his wild forlock or picked out his feet. I'd be lying if I said that the pain has subsided; I'd be lying if I said there weren't still days I cried for him. And I'd definitely be lying if I told you I didn't miss him. I'd trade anything in this world for just one more ride with Visa. Anything.

But I keep on keeping on, because that's what Visa did. So that's what I'll do. And every April 17th until the day I die, I will spend at the barn. I won't work, I won't worry, I won't care. All I'll do is enjoy my time around horses; That's Visa's legacy, my love and passion for horses. And this April 17th I'll spend with my horse, for the first time since Visa passed. Because my heart has expanded to include another hoofprint, and I know Visa would be proud of me for that.

Go home and hug your horse, and feed him an Oreo (Visa's favorite), or whatever his favorite treat is. Because in this world, you never know if that day will be your last chance to do so.
Jan. 31, 1993 - April 17, 2012

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Short and Sweet

Despite being sick with the head cold from hell, I went to my Monday night lesson. Things started off a bit hectic, with four of us in the lesson and two additional riders hacking all in the indoor arena. I'm not the best at navigating traffic, so that in an of itself was a bit of a challenge for me. We warmed up slowly on the flat as all the horses hadn't gotten turnout due to weather.

Miles was a bit lazy and stiff, but he opened up as soon as we did our first quick canter. Asking him to really gallop down the long sides helps him stretch out, I think. We moved on to some diagonal crossrails and they were meh, so-so. I just didn't have enough pace to work with.

I spent more time than usual just standing in the middle, mostly because I was hot and tired... damn head cold. But I'm happy to say that Miles wasn't too terribly grumpy when I asked him to go back out and work. I don't think he'll be like this all the time, but I was very appreciative at the time. We ended up doing one course of 2'3" jumps... because it was so stinking awesome. The best part was an oxer off a long straight approach and I was having trouble seeing a distance until only about 2-3 strides out. I saw a closer distance, I stretched up and waited and Miles was right there. As we went over I gave him a big "Good boy!" and everyone laughed.

After a nice long walk break, we finished the lesson with some flatwork. I asked my trainer to just watch us go around and give us any tips or feedback she might have. What did she say?

"Well Tracy, there's not much I can say about that. His trot is pretty perfect."

Damn, I was so happy I almost cried. I love this horse.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Transformational Tuesday

I've owned Miles for just over seven months now. Which is crazy, because on one hand it feels like just yesterday we brought him home on trial, but at the same time, it feels like I've known him for a lot longer. Anyways, the first weekend I officially called Miles mine, my mom came down to meet him. Of course, she absolutely fell in love with him, and he's been receiving gifts from Grandma (peppermints, girth covers, ear bonnets...) ever since. We had a fun little photoshoot that weekend, and while I've shared almost all of the photos with ya'll, I have to admit that I've been holding out on you.

In addition to a bunch of under saddle pictures, we also took some (admittedly not great) conformation photos. I was a bit embarrassed to show them publicly, but now I have comparison conformation shots. While I certainly see lots of improvement (neck and hindquaters), I also see some things we need to keep working on (topline).

Sept. 17, 2013 - April 12, 2014: The biggest changes I see are in his neck and hindquarters.

Sept. 17, 2013 - April 12, 2014: Here he doesn't look as ribby, but I think a few more pounds might not be a bad thing.

Sept. 17, 2013 - April 12, 2014: HOLY GASKINS!
So there you have it! Definitely not the most dramatic transformation, but it's pretty cool to see how far we've come already. I'm hoping that the one year mark will show more changes through his topline and NO MORE RIBS.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Of Course

My weekend, as told by Modern Family...

Woke up Friday and felt a little extra tired and like my throat might be sore. I briefly panicked at the thought of getting sick, on the weekend, with the weather predicted to be 70 and sunny... followed promptly by snow on Tuesday.

Woke up on Saturday and felt more sick... but I refused to succumb to sickness. So I went to my first wedding dress fitting. The seamstress really knew her stuff, and the dress is going to look nearly custom when she's done with it. Huzzah!

Then my mom and I went out to the barn to visit Miles. Brought him in from the field, and man, he's been playing hard in turnout! He literally slept through his entire grooming and getting him to do more than a Western Pleasure trot was like pulling teeth.

After that we went home, ate lunch and mom left. And then Sam and I proceeded to crash. Hardcore. And I took a five hour nap. That I never really woke up from. There went my Saturday.

Sunday I didn't even roll of out bed until after 3 pm. I felt like shit, and I had somehow misplaced my phone... which I still haven't located. I'm somewhat contemplating taking half a day off work to go take a nap so I can still make my lesson tonight... 'cause I'm the picture of a responsible adult.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Product Review: SmartPak Blankets

Product Details

SmartPak Ultimate Turnout Sheet & SmartPak Deluxe High Neck Heavyweight
Retail Price: $179.95
What I Paid: Full retail
Purchased: Sept. 16, 2013

The Review

When I bought Miles, I discovered he needed new blankets because none of mine fit. So I looked around, and settled on SmartPak's Ultimate Sheet & Deluxe Heavyweight, mostly because they got great reviews and were budget friendly. They arrived and fit true to size; Miles measured a 78" and that's what I bought. I liked the quality of the material, and the front closure system is well-designed and offers a lot of fitting adjustment.

I wanted to use these blankets all winter before I reviewed them, and I'm glad I did, because I've changed my mind. At first, I loved these blankets: they were fashionable and functional, held up to rain, mud and snow and kept pony nice and snuggly warm. Unfortunately as time went on (and the blankets got dirtier and dirtier) I realized the construction wasn't quite up to snuff, and the fit certainly wasn't working as well as I had originally thought.

Miles developed some nasty shoulder rubs from the way the stitching was done on the inside to provide those nice turnout gullets. See, those gullets come to a point on the inside, at the point of the shoulder... and they form a tab of material... which isn't stitched down and constantly rubbed my horse. Of course the matter wasn't helped when I tried to put Miles in a shoulder guard, which gave him rubs on his forearms. *sigh*

Anyways, I sewed those "tabs" down and added a circle of sleezy-type material to help decrease the friction, but these blankets still rubbed a bit and just never seemed to fit quite right through the shoulder, no matter how much adjusting I did.

The Short List

+ Style
+ Material Quality
+ Fits True to Size

— Overall Fit

The Recommendation 

Buy Rambo if you have a high-withered, lanky Thoroughbred, or delicate flower horse. They're definitely more expensive, but the quality and design is much better. I think the material is comparable, and both brands will last a good, long while. If you have a different body type, you could give these blankets a try, but I would encourage you to purchase one, use it through the winter and see how the fit is before buying several different weights.

Overall, I'm fairly disappointed in these blankets. The issue is simply lazy construction and poor design, which is disappointing, especially coming from SmartPak. I don't think I'll be recommending these blankets to anyone in the future.

Comparable Products 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Windswept & Vinnie Returns

Since Miles's chiropractor appointment on Tuesday there's not been much to report on the riding front. The Chiro's instructions were to ride Miles lightly, focusing on long and low with no framing or lateral work for a few days, before getting back to our usual routine. Luckily the weather has been nice enough that on Wednesday and Thursday I was able to ride outside.

Miles came out fairly stiff both days, mostly just not as willing to go forward. So I've focused on staying off his back as much as possible, and encouraging him to stretch out. On Wednesday I rode for about 20 minutes, and after cantering I got some really exceptional trot work, where (for the first time ever) I actually felt Miles move over his back. I must admit, it was a very cool sensation!

On Thursday Miles was a bit stiff again, but he worked out of it fairly well. I didn't get that over the back lofty trot again, but that's okay. We were alone, it was feeding time and it was crazy windy out! Thankfully Miles was excellent, and we even ventured outside the ring all by ourselves. Such bravery, haha.

I'm giving Miles today off, and I'm hoping to get in that bareback ride I promise ya'll on Saturday. A light hack on Sunday and then hopefully a lesson on Monday!

In other exciting news, Vinnie has returned to the farm! In case you're a newer reader, Vinnie is my trainer's horse who I showed the past two years. She takes him home every winter and brings him back in April. He's currently the definition of fuzzy-wuzzy, and pretty out of shape, but I got the chance to hack him for about 30 minutes and he was great. It was fun to ride him again, although I have to admit, my body fits Miles much better! Vinnie is so round I can't wrap my short little legs around him... no wonder I was having so many problems with my legs swinging over fences last year!!

Vinnie-Bear... so dirty and so hairy!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Viva Carlos Blog Hop: Our Commericial Moment

In the hopes of accomplishing the first step toward sobriety, I will admit to being a a complete and total tack ho recently. From my first 2014 Goals Review post, you see the only category I'm really succeeding in is the "spend all the money to buy all the things." Oops.

And the fact that my Rolex Bachelorette Party coming up (17 days and counting!) isn't really helping to tone down the spending. I mean... half the point of the entire trip is to buy stuff!

Anyways, all that means this topic is particularly pertinent for me: time to get back to reality and buy stuff that I actually need.
"What are you buying next? Not your "Wish I could" list but your actual practical pony shopping list. And if its a high ticket item you are saving for what is it and when do you expect to order/get it?"
Well, let's see. My list is pretty run of the mill, consisting mostly of restocking some items.

  • Replacement IRH Helmet
  • Fly Spray
  • Dewormer (if needed)
And... that's about it. Miles is getting a fecal test done this week or next, so I should know soon if he needs any type of dewormer. Jesus, that's a small list! Well... that was mundane. Let's spice it up! 

Of course, this post wouldn't be complete if I didn't cheat a little bit, so I also put together an "inbetween" list. These things are somewhere in the gray area... not absolute necessity, but not totally frivolous either... at least, that's what I tell myself to help me sleep better at night. 
  • Ogilvy Hunter Half Pad
  • EquiFuse Shampoo & Conditioner
  • Hoof  conditioner/polish (anyone have a favorite brand?) 
  • Flexible water scraper