Archive of ‘Big Sky’ category

Hidden Lakes Schooling Show 08.16.2020

Even before Coronapocolypse came into the picture in early 2020 I didn’t have big plans to do much horse showing. The trainer I’ve shown with the past few years had moved away from Texas and I was really focused on my new fun fox hunting friends and trips. I was hoping to go to Belle Meade’s hunt week in February, but life and responsibility got in the way. However, the planning made me stop and think that I really ought to get more experience and coaching to prepare for jumping some bigger jumps. The highest I’ve jumped at shows is 2’6″ and in schooling is 3′ and only a handful of times. Most of the jumps in hunt fields range from 2’9″ up to 4′ at the more ambitious hunts. The coops Simon jumped at Burwell in October were more like 2’9″ to 3′. To that end I started researching hunter/jumper barns in my area and decided to take a few lessons at a barn called Bay Yard Farm.
I was attracted to Bay Yard for a few reasons. I knew a few people who rode there and seemed very happy with the program. Fellow blogger Kelly of Hunky Hanoverian has ridden at Bay Yard for the past few years and had blogged about her great experiences there. Most of Bay Yard’s clients are adults or mature junior riders and after riding at a more pony/kid focused barn I was definitely looking for a barn with riders I have more in common. They go to a few A shows every year and sometimes add in a local show here and there. Lastly, they do haul in lessons and and have a focus on hunters with a dollop of jumpers which suits my 2020 goals and my foxhunting hobby.

My first few lessons were delightful! It isn’t terribly unusual to start at a new barn and feel pressure from trainers to get a new horse, go to a bunch of horse shows, or do other things that can be perceived as high pressure. I have ridden with two of the four trainers at Bay Yard and both have been nothing but supportive and complimentary of my horses and riding goals.

At the end of July trainer JB texted and asked if I would be interested in going to a schooling show nearby. With no hesitation I responded “Yes!”. I was hoping to take Coco and started making plans to be sure she and I would be prepped and ready to show in mid-August. Coco then promptly whacked her leg on something and subsequently got a “no jumping for 2 weeks” order from the vet exactly 2 weeks before the show. Horses! Her 2 weeks would expire on Friday before the show that was on Sunday. I opted to continue to ride her on the flat with hopes she would be healthy and sound to show, but knowing that I may need to take Simon if she weren’t ready.

Photo from a fabulous BYF Junior rider/photographer. Coco is not very affectionate. LOL!

Thankfully she was sound and prepared in time to horse show! We entered the 2’3″ Junior/Amateur division mostly because it was the first division to go in the morning, but partially because it didn’t seem fair to ask her to jump bigger jumps after a few weeks off jumping and a couple of minor injuries.

To say that Coco was a good girl is an egregious understatement. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous how she would act. In the past she has been either a bit hot or very agitated at horse shows. She will seem calm and accepting of the situation only to blow up and express her disdain by misbehaving. She’s never been naughty or dangerous, but I’ve never felt relaxed with her at shows. This was completely different. We had hacked around the show grounds the day before and she had been a bit fractious, but on show day she was aware of surroundings yet amenable to do what I asked of her.

Scope has never been a problem for Coco. These jumps were quite small so she didn’t have the loveliest form.

We did two hunter trips and an equitation course and she answered every question I asked perfectly. She was a bit crooked in the lines and she has a bad habit of veering to the right, but she happily jumps the jumps and mostly gets her lead changes (especially when her rider asks for them correctly).

Here is a video of our second hunter trip. Pardon the ridiculously long trot around the ring before we actually start the course. She was a bit looky after the first hunter trip so I wanted to just trot around the ring calmly before we jumped again. And I couldn’t figure out how to mute the talking from the video so inserted some ridiculous YouTube music instead. Feel free to mute your computer now. Haha!

https://youtu.be/OQ11_ftmUUo

She is calm, keeps a consistent canter, gets her distances and looks like a lovely hunter. I couldn’t be more thrilled with our progress. The regular lessons have made a world of difference and I can feel that my riding has made drastic improvements. This is the first time in my life that I’ve been getting regular lessons and it’s helping so much! We got second place in the second hunter and we won the hack to end up as Reserve Champions in our division!

Happy girl over the tiny jump.

 

I’m hoping we can make it to at least one or two more schooling shows this year. If a rated show works out I might go to one of them since Bay Yard goes to those shows more frequently, but it’ll depend on my fox hunting trips. I’m going to start getting Simon fit for Burwell so will be taking him to more of my lessons and (hopefully) getting some practice over bigger fences. Learning and getting better is so much fun!

No scope no hope! The best girl!

 

 

House on Wheels

Our story begins, more or less, in May of 2019. A year prior I had seen a photo taken by Gretchen Pelham on the cover of The Chronicle of the Horse during the MFHA Hark Forward tour when they foxhunted in my hometown (Miles City, Montana) and I nearly lost my mind to learn that it happened AND I WASN’T THERE! I immediately found Gretchen on Facebook and contacted her to find out how/if/when they would hunt in MCMT again and how I might go about obtaining an invitation to join the fun. Fast forward back to May 2019 and I find myself headed from Fort Worth to Miles City for a week of fox hunting!

When driving to MCMT from FW with a horse I prefer to layover at The Greenhorn Horse Hotel in Pueblo, Colorado. It is nearly exactly half way and is right off the highway so easy to find. Since I was traveling alone with just Simon and 2 of my dogs, I didn’t want to stay at a hotel and had planned to just sleep in the nose of the gooseneck of my trailer. I had brought along pillows and some blankets and thought nothing of it, Until it was about 11p and I was FREEZING cold! In my ingenious planning I forgot how cold it gets at night in May in the Rocky Mountains. Added to that I hadn’t brought anything to provide actual cushion for sleeping. Needless to say we hit the road again at about 5a the next morning mostly just so I could thaw out my extremities.

Chivas in our not very cozy, rather uncomfortable and decidedly not warm enough sleeping quarters.

The trip back to Texas was even worse. It started blizzarding in southern Wyoming, I barely made it to the horse hotel (I found out later the roads were literally closing behind me because of the snow) and REALLY froze that night. I’d like to point out that this was in late May, 4 days before Memorial Day weekend. I went on at least two additional fox hunting trips that would have been easier to have my own accommodations. I was starting to make new friends who fox hunted and traveled to hunts all through the season and would stay at some locations for a week or more.

I don’t know what flipped the switch, but I got to talking to Boot City about it more and more this summer and basically woke up one day and decided I NEED A LIVING QUARTERS TRAILER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m guessing the coronapocolypse was a contributing factor, but it was not the deciding factor.

I ordered my current 4 Star trailer in 2013 from Wayne Hodges Trailers and have loved it from day 1. 4 Star trailers are the best made trailers I’ve ever owned (Featherlite, Sooner, and Lakota) so I knew I wanted to get another 4 Star. I had never previously seriously entertained the idea of an LQ trailer because I assumed they were all at least $100,000 and I don’t want to pull some monstrosity of a trailer around. With my newfound interest in the LQ’s I started by looking at the inventory of the dealership where I got my current trailer and lo and behold they had a lovely (brand new) 3-horse LQ trailer that was around $50,000! I know, it’s not cheap, but it’s also not $100k! I reached out to the salesperson from whom I got my first 4 Star and so the journey to get an LQ began.

Karen is a delightful salesperson and she knows 4 Star REALLY well! She asked me all kinds of questions and we talked about what I liked and didn’t like about the trailer they had on the lot. By the end of our first conversation I had a pretty good idea what was on my must have list and my really want list, as well as my don’t want list:

Must Haves

  • Permanent rear tack
  • WERM flooring in the horse compartment
  • Horse stalls long enough for my not-small horses
  • Full shower and toilet
  • An awning
  • Three horses
  • Mid tack room
  • Hydraulic jack
  • Hay and feed storage for long trips

Really Want to Haves

  • Generator
  • As custom LQ as possible (not western in style!)
  • Hay storage
  • Plenty of storage in the LQ

Do NOT Want

  • Doors from the LQ to the mid tack to the horse compartment
  • Rubber mats in the horse area
  • A ramp
  • Anything longer than about 26′
  • Screen door
  • TV
  • Stove top

I decided to get a 3 horse with a mid tack instead of a 4 horse like I have now. I don’t think I’ve ever hauled 4 horses and after having my current trailer for nearly 7 years I think the mid tack would provide better space to use the way I want to use it; for feed storage and keeping things like buckets and muck tubs. Plus the mid tack allows me to haul 3 horses if I want to and I can still fill the mid tack room with hay if I’m going on a long hunting trip or something. Right now I can only stack hay in the 4th stall as high as the divider or it’ll fall onto the horse hauling next to it.

This is the drawing of the trailer after about three rounds of edits. It isn’t to scale as the mid tack is wider than any of the stalls!

Another thing I’m trying with this new trailer is 60/40 doors on the back. Boot City suggested this as it might make the trailer more inviting for loading if the horse opening is bigger. To get more LQ space AND to make the horse stalls longer this trailer will be 8′ wide and the one I have now is 7’6″, so that gave me 6 more inches to have and therefore I’m not losing the full 10% of the space on the rear tack area.

The mid tack will have 2 wide bars to hang blankets on as well as a bunch of hooks. I don’t think a horse trailer can ever have too many hooks! The floor in the mid tack will be rubber mats and the walls just aluminium so it’ll be easy to clean after hauling hay and other messy things. It’s big enough to store my tack trunk, buckets, muck tub and all that stuff. When looking through my trailer this past weekend I had a minor panic attack when I realised how much stuff I currently have in the dressing room of my trailer that will need to find a home in the mid tack or rear tack of the new trailer.

We went back and forth on a few more things and this is the final drawing of the trailer as 4 Star will build it:

This one is more to scale. Isn’t it so pretty?!

One thing you can see on the final drawing that we changed was the door to the rear tack will hinge on same side as the horse door. I’m silly excited about this because I’ve always hated how that door opens towards the road. And, if you have a horse tied on that side of the trailer the door can swing out and hit it.

The horse head side of the trailer will have drop windows with bars over the opening, which I also love. It allows me to drop the windows for air flow when it’s hot, but not have to worry about the horses sticking their heads out. The butt side will just have slats that will come with plexiglass in them. I’ll probably take out the plexiglass for most of the year because it’s hot in Texas, but we’ll see.

We also made the gooseneck drop a teeny bit shorter. I had to measure how high is the bed of our pickup to be sure we had enough clearance, but this will give us about 2″ more headroom in the gooseneck where the bed is located. Which brings me to the LQ part of the trailer.

It isn’t ginormous, but it has everything I think I will need! This is just a stock picture of the ProLine for the size trailer I’m ordering.

The LQ has what they call a 6’8″ short wall, which is the wall on the driver side of the trailer. On that side is the 64″ sofa and the wall has a small window with cabinets above the sofa. On that wall in the bathroom is a small closet to hang clothes. The curbside wall has the sink with the counter and a fridge under the counter. I could have had a stove top, but that seemed like wasted counter space. There is a microwave and a small cabinet for storage above the sink and counter. The bathroom has a pocket door and the shower is on the curbside wall. I find it quite amazing how much they can fit into a small space!

The last two things that I changed just before placing the order are Boot City’s influence. The first is to insulate the roof in the horse and mid tack areas. I’ve said it 100 times, it gets really hot in Texas and the insulation should keep it about 10 degrees cooler inside. The other thing I added was a hay rack on top. I REALLY didn’t want to have a hay rack on the top because I often find myself driving through low and narrow trees, but when I last went to the trailer dealership to look at some units they had on the lot we had a long discussion about where the generator could live. The old school option is in the rear tack, but evidently that is less than desirable because it takes up so much space. The second option was to have it in the mid tack room. I’d have to add a door on the driver side wall and Boot City would later have to build a box to cover it and all that would add about $1,500-2,000 to the cost of the trailer. The final option, and the one most LQ trailers these days have, is a hay rack on the top where the generator also lives. I’m opting to buy my own generator and Boot City will install it because getting added to the build was nearly $7,000 and I KNOW we can save money on that. The LQ company (Outlaw Conversions) will wire to the hay rack and then Boot City can hook it all up when we get the trailer.

The new trailer is 24′ long, so not even 2′ longer than the trailer I have now. I’m VERY excited about that. I’ve thought about added a foot or two to the LQ, but I think I’d rather have the shorter trailer and just make the outside area more lovely for living wherever I go. This is how I found the Airstream Supply Company where you can find the CUTEST RV things! Most are Made in the USA, too.

The trailer is estimated to be completed in mid December. Coronapocolypse has slowed down production for 4 Star AND they have more orders than usual, hence the long wait time. I’m SO excited and already have at least 2 long trips planned with the new trailer next winter and spring, barring any unforeseen events to prevent them (I’m looking at you COVID-19 and horse soundness).

My current trailer the day I brought it home. I LOVE this trailer and if it made sense I’d just retro-fit it with living quarters.

I’ll either sell the current trailer or trade it towards the new one when I get closer to the new trailer’s arrival. It looks like my 2 horse Lakota should be sold this week, so I’ll need to hang on to this one until the new one gets here. I’M SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!
I’d love to hear stories from readers about having an LQ trailer. Do you love it? Hate it? What would you do differently? I know there will be things I wish I did different, but I went with my gut on most everything and feel good about my choices.

Trailer For Sale!

A few years ago I got a wild hair and decided that I needed a smaller trailer for short trips close to home and purchased this delightful 2-horse Lakota Charger trailer from a friend of mine. She had decided that horsing was no longer in the cards for her and gave me the opportunity to buy a lovely little trailer that had hardly been used.

My sweet little 2 horse Lakota trailer!

 

About 2 years later this little trailer saved my hunt season AND allowed me to take Coco to some A shows. You see, White Lightning, our ’02 F350 truck needed QUITE the update. Boot City is a mechanic, which is awesome because he can fix literally anything with a motor, but our stuff often falls to the bottom of the list while other people’s vehicles get fixed. So White Lightning was out of commission from about September to May. This is where the little 2-horse trailer saves the day. I have an SUV that is big enough to pull a horse trailer so I was able to attend the full fox hunting season using my SUV to tow the Lakota AND I used it to take Coco to my BFF’s house so we could ride with her to a couple USEF A shows in Katy.

Passenger side. Note the newly repainted wheels.

 

Fast forward to now and White Lightning has been back in action for over a year and I find myself preferring to use it to haul my big 4-horse trailer SO the little Lakota is FOR SALE! Boot City has gone over it with a fine toothed comb and packed the bearings, fixed the brakes, painted the wheels, updated some wiring, beefed up the tie hooks, replaced the door latches on the ramp and checked and double checked the floor.

The inside of the trailer. The middle divider moves for easy loading. You can kind of see the saddle rack in the nose and the bridle hooks. The kitty does NOT come with the trailer (can you even see her?!).

This little guy doesn’t have a separate tack room, but I never had an issue with that feature. I bought a tiny tack trunk to store stuff in and the saddle racks are remarkably secure and my saddles NEVER came off of them during hauling.

Driver side. The back windows latch open so when it’s hot your horses can get extra breeze.

The trailer is rated for a total weight of 7525lb, so a load of about 4200lb. Pretty beefy for a nice sized trailer. We also replaced the jack since that is a normal wear item. Find me on Facebook (Tara Tibbetts) if you’re interested in this lovely little trailer. I’m excited for it to have it’s next happy owner.

THE END!

Traveling During a Pandemic

In late June I went to North Dakota to visit family. Ordinarily a trip like this would be just another plane ride, a few meals out, some social functions, some events, then a plane ride back home. However, this trip was during a pandemic, so things were a bit different. I am originally from Eastern Montana and have quite a lot of family in Western North Dakota as well as in Montana, but I live in Texas. At the beginning of 2020 the plan was to take Simon to Montana for a fun week of fox hunting culminating in attending the World Famous Bucking Horse Sale. Coronapocolypse changed those plans (as well as myriad others) causing the fox hunting and the BHS to be canceled. I still wanted to see family this year and it’s a milestone birthday year for me and my Mom, so we settled on 4th of July weekend when more of my family would be in town. To prepare for my trip I only went to work, the feed store and did curbside pickup for groceries for two weeks leading up to the trip. Since I was coming from a known hotspot of cases I absolutely did not want to risk exposure.

It seemed weird to take pictures in airports and on airplanes, so you’ll have to just take my word for the experience and enjoy some lovely photos of North Dakota. Texas has been experiencing a significant spike in COVID-19 cases, but when I left there still were not masks required except in certain cities or counties. Nearly everyone I saw at DFW airport was wearing a mask and wearing their masks correctly. I saw a couple people doing that weird thing where they have their mask over their mouth, but not their nose. I avoided those people. The airline required all passengers to wear masks and from what I could see all passengers abided by the rules. People always say the air on airplanes is bad, but with the HEPA filters and rotating air out and into the plane I’ve always believed them to actually be safer than say a classroom or small nail salon. At least the air moves and is filtered!

The airport in North Dakota was a very different story. Only a few people wore masks outside of the secure area for boarding. North Dakota was not seeing anywhere near the spike in cases that other states were seeing. The area to where I traveled has had very few cases, so the locals were noticeably lax about masks and social distance. It felt very odd to me.

I don’t recall seeing these before, but we drove by lots of fields of canola. They were SO pretty!

 

I spent most of my time in small rural areas with my family and the only place I regularly saw people wearing masks was at the grocery stores. Some retail stores had signs and were limiting the number of shoppers, but things really looked like business as usual. I did notice that most store employees were wearing masks, especially at stores that were large, national chains.

We hiked up to this pond on a lovely North Dakota summer day. I’d go back there in a heartbeat to get away from these triple digit temps in Texas!

One very interesting horsey tidbit was a rodeo we attended. It was a PRCA rodeo and it was during the 4th of July weekend, which is referred to as Cowboy Christmas. The weekend is called Cowboy Christmas, not the actual rodeo. In a normal year cowboys and cowgirls will travel all over the United States going to 4th of July rodeos on the weekend of the 4th in hopes of winning money towards their qualification for the National Finals Rodeo in December. This year was a VERY odd year for 4th of July rodeos and there were only 6 or 7 rodeos to attend in the entire United States when there are usually dozens to pick from. That meant that the rodeo we attended in a generally sleepy rural town was the biggest rodeo of its 97 year history! It ran almost non-stop for 3 days so that everyone who entered could compete. I grew up going to 4th of July rodeos, so it was pretty fun to attend one with all the current rodeo greats in attendance from all over the U.S. As for corona prevention, it was a pretty safe venue in that there were not many spectators and it was outdoors. Attendees brought their own picnic blankets or chairs to watch the action.

This picture is in one of the grocery stores we visited. Ray Schnell was my great grandfather!

By the time I headed back to Texas the Governor had issued a requirement for people in counties with more than 20 cases to wear masks. My flight back to Texas was very full, I don’t think any seats were empty. Everyone was wearing a mask on the flight and when I got to DFW hardly anyone was there (thankfully) and everyone was wearing a mask. The lack of people made it easy to keep social distance, which I was grateful for because I checked a bag and had to wait a bit for it to get to baggage claim. I also parked my car at the gate rather than in the Express or Remote parking areas to limit the amount of time I had to be in close quarters with other people. The parking garage was more full than I thought it would be, so perhaps travel has picked up a bit.

Another pond where we went hiking. No one thinks of this when they think of North Dakota, but it really is a beautiful state with very diverse terrain.

All in all I’m glad I went, it was really lovely to see so many of my family members. If my travel plans had been later in the summer I might have changed them due to the continuing spike in cases in Texas. Many of the family members I was visiting are over 60 and while they are generally a very healthy bunch, I’d feel awful if I was an asymptomatic carrier and got them sick. I felt like the airlines and airport did a good job of upholding CDC and state/local guidelines. I’m sticking to my pre-travel self-quarantine for a bit and only going to work, the feed store and doing curbside groceries. Just to be safe. And I’m really glad I went to a place that is MUCH cooler than Texas in the summer and had a very local COVID diagnosis rate.

No trip to North Dakota in the summertime is complete without a trip to the Medora Musical. They were selling seats with built in social distance and running two shows each evening to allow more people to attend with the limited number of seats. And those are real horses and riders on that hill!!! 

Well hello there!

Hi! It’s great to “see” you again! I took a REAL long hiatus from blogging. In short, I lost my mojo. I struggle a little bit with blogging because it seems inherently selfish. WHO CARES what I do, where I go, how I ride, when I ride, where I shop, what are my opinions, etc?! However, I’m a journaler. I have kept a journal nearly as long as I could write and I find it cathartic to write things out. My journaling activity really slowed down after I got married and “real” life started. Then I started blogging in 2014 and it felt right, mostly. I look back on many posts and they seem a bit contrived and superficial. I’ve struggled my entire life caring way too much about “what other people think” and this showed up in my blog. The voice often doesn’t sound like me.

I’m restarting BSBC (this acronym is pretty funny to me because I am Human Resources Manager professionally and I administer medical insurance plans and frequently refer to BCBS which is Blue Cross Blue Shield. I’m likely the only person who thinks this is funny) not because I think anyone gives a hoot about the things listed previously, but because I’m never going to write a book and I find it fascinating to read about other people. It only seems fair to share my own story as I enjoy reading the stories of other bloggers and to scratch the itch of journaling. I’m here to document my life experience, thoughts, maybe some opinions, and whatever else for no reason other than to be able to go back and read it myself and to perhaps share something that is beneficial to someone someday.

The world is a bit upside down right now, so in many ways it seems like a horrible time to restart. I feel like I should have something profound to say or share about the Black Lives Matter movement, and I don’t. Other than that I’m aware of the privilege I have because I’m white and I’m determined to be an anti-racist and an ally. In that same vein, I haven’t (at least yet, I’m knocking on wood over here) been negatively affected by the coronapocolypse pandemic. I’m incredibly lucky to be in Texas where we had a TREMENDOUSLY strong economy going into the pandemic and so far has stayed fairly strong during the otherwise turbulent economic situation. I’m also fortunate to live on a few acres, so even when we were staying at home, we had plenty of space and things to do to never feel cabin fever. Boot City and I do our best to stay away from people and when we are in public we wear facemasks and thus far we have remained healthy.

So here is my re-start. I turned 40 the day Governor Abbott announced the Stay at Home order for Texas. I’ve been happily married for 15 years. We don’t have human offspring, by choice. I’ve had and ridden horses my entire life. I currently own 4 horses, 3 are at home and 1 is leased out to a lovely teenager. I have WAY too many dogs. WAY too many. 9 in the permanent collection and 1 foster. I also have 6 cats, 10 goats, 9 chickens, a pony and a donkey. I’m going to keep the “I” perspective, even though a lot of this is “we”, but let’s be honest. Boot City probably wouldn’t even have a fish if he had never married me. I’m going to tell my story and hope that someone else is entertained, learns something, feels camaraderie, gets a laugh, whatever it is that my sharing can bring to the world, and even better if I make a new friend. This won’t be an exclusively horse focused blog either, although that is a big part of my life. I don’t know of many other writers out there like me. Kind of middle aged (it really is so weird to write that!), married when youngish, no kids (on purpose), fulfilling (but not crazy demanding) career, and a hobby that is very resource intensive both from a financial and time commitment perspective.

I hope that as I blog more consistently I am more able to interact with readers. I’m tired of the social media interaction that feels so contrived and brief. It’s a great way to connect, but not really the best place to nurture relationships. And if you are reading this, I’d love feedback! Even if it’s just to say “hey, I read this!”

I’ll leave with my current favourite photograph, from Caroline Vaughn. She took this at the Opening Meet for Brazos Valley Hounds last November. I’ve had a lot of wonderful horses over the years and while Simon is only 6, he’s proving to be a pretty strong contender for my “heart horse”. Until next time my friends.

Family Reunion!

Nine times out of ten when I tell someone I’m going to my family reunion (which happens every four years) they want to commiserate about how they have to go to their family reunion at some park in some po-dunk Texas town every summer. Everyone argues, no one has fun, and most people go out of a sense of obligation to Aunt Betty Mae, or some such thing. My family reunions are NOTHING like that.

Each reunion more or less has one family branch who is the host and does the majority of organizing. They pick a location by visiting various options and choosing the one that best fits our needs (there are usually 150 of us and we like to do stuff and eat together). They coordinate what events will be options, plan family meals and provide information and hospitality during the actual reunion.

This year was about 45 years since the first reunion, which was held near Banff in Canada. We don’t go to shabby locations for our reunions, which also makes them very special. We’ve been to Jackson Hole, WY; Estes Park, CO; Deadwood, SD; Bend, OR and other equally lovely locations.

This year we went to Suncadia, Washington!

The weather for the reunion this year was FABULOUS! It has been unseasonably warm in the Seattle area, but to a Texan unseasonably warm in Washington is always going to be nicer than seasonably warm in North Texas. We did all sorts of fun things together including picnics, tubing down the Yakima River, family history sessions with some of the genealogy experts in the family, a friendly game of family feud, and many wonderful meals shared.

My Mom and her cousins getting ready for their photo op.

This reunion celebrates my Mom’s side of the family and she has 50 first cousins so you can imagine why there are so many people at our reunions! The reunion this year had quite a few less people than normal, but it made it a lot easier to actually get to spend time talking to people. You see, my family is FULL of fascinating people. From a cousin who pretty much saved a Frank Lloyd Wright home from being demolished, to multiple auctioneers, to urban design architects, to owners of a kids’ theater on the beach in California, to teachers, to pot farmers, to ranchers. There are city dwellers, world travelers, and rural Americans. You can talk about politics, religion, education and people are respectful and genuinely interested in the viewpoints of other people. If you want your faith restored in humanity, then you should marry into my family and go to one of our reunions!

My Schnellfie!

I’m grateful and blessed that I know SO many of my extended family members and through social media and reunions I get to keep up with most of them. We often joke that we could drive from California to Maine and never have to stay in a hotel once!

 

Cheers to another amazing Schnell Reunion!

Art!

2018 has turned out to be the year of art for me. I have acquired some of the most beautiful and heartfelt pieces of art I could ever imagine. I’m blessed to have many gifted friends and family member artists so I’m going to take a moment to brag on these people as well as a couple pieces from truly amazing professional artists that are now in my collection.

First I’ll show you an “oldy” but a goody. A few years back, I don’t even remember how long ago, a friend gifted me this wonderful watercolor piece she did for me of a fox hunt. I had it stored away in a tube for a long time and when my company moved to a new office building and I got a new office, I knew I’d finally get it framed and hung. It makes me so happy to look at this view from my desk every day.

I love the modern interpretation of such a traditional sport!

 

This past winter our old foxhound, Peaches, was included in artist Lesli Devito’s Dog-A-Day series. She painted this just after we lost Peaches, so it holds a very special place in our hearts. I love how Lesli captures the spirit of the dogs so well, but adds an element of modern with the colorful background. I don’t feel like I’ve found the perfect spot for this painting just yet. For now it lives in my sewing room and Peaches smiles down on my sewing projects like a good girl.

Peaches by Lesli Devito.

 

In March (also my birthday month, so extra YAY!) I entered the drawing that Paperchases and Petticoats for a piece by artist Swenn Jedraszczyk. I was ELATED when I won the drawing and I did a little informal survey on my Facebook page to pick which horse to have drawn. The hands down winner was Jaguar, my 25yo Quarter Horse. Swenn is in France so it took a little time to get the piece completed and then mailed over to the US, but it was worth the wait! I LOVE this piece! I received it without the frame and haven’t yet gotten it framed myself. We are planning to do a full home restoration so I’m going to wait for that to be completed before it gets it’s place of honor in our home.

This is from Swenn’s Instagram post when the piece was completed. I can’t wait to get it framed and hung in our “new” house.

 

And last, but CERTAINLY not least is an absolute stunner painted for me by my Aunt Soni. This painting means so much to me for so many reasons. I have a ginormous family and my aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents were my best friends throughout my childhood and really into adulthood. When I was in college my Aunt Soni and Uncle Mike offered me the opportunity to live with them in the Twin Cities in Minnesota to do a summer internship in the big city. This was one of my first forays into being an adult and my aunt and uncle were the most gracious hosts and supporters. I had the best time living with them; going to amazing restaurants, a LOT of concerts and just hanging out.

My Aunt Soni has always been very creative and artistic. She made the most%I0lovely scrapbooks of their trips to Europe and around the US. @er homes have always been impeckably dekorated. More recently s`e has started painting. Her Mom, my Grandma Swana, painted%:C too. A even have a piece in mq house |hat my Grandma Swana painted benore I was born. Well, you can#imagine my delight when#Aunt Sofi offered to paint a portrait on my horse, Sterling. I sent hmr a bunch of photos and#she paifted the most breathtakifg portrait of Sterling I could mver imaoine!

It is a large painting, 30″x40″, and she captured his likeness absolutely perfectly! Let me tell you, painting a grey flea-bitten horse is not for the faint of heart! Those little bitty black specks had to have been a nightmare to get just right. What really stopped me in my tracks, though, was his eye. It looks alive and just like Sterling. His perfect white eyelashes with the eager expression are so him.

The most lovely portrait of my Sterling!

 

This portrait is hanging proudly in my office. Everyone who comes to see me gets to feast their eyes on this happy po

Big Girl Pants

Y’all. I think Coco has found her Big Girl Pants! A little help from some hormones and better riding doesn’t hurt, but we had an AMAZING  weekend recently! I took Sterling and Coco to my trainer’s place outside Houston a couple weeks ago. This was Sterling’s first leg of his trip to his lessee and I took Coco to a small schooling horse show as well as a few lessons with my trainer.

The first day we were there both horses acted like lunatics; first when they got off the trailer and then later because we separated them into separate pens so they would (hopefully) not hurt themselves. By the time I rode Coco for our lesson that day she was pretty much exhausted so was a super easy ride. She jumped all the jumps with no hesitation and we even got in a few nice flying changes.

The horse show was on Sunday only, but we opted to take Coco and the other horses showing to the show location early Saturday morning. This allowed us to ride in relative peace and get her away from Sterling. It turned out this was a really really good idea. She schooled fantastically and was generally pretty chill about the venue. Much better than she had been at the previous two small shows I’d taken her to. Perhaps she was getting the hang of this leaving-home-and-showing thing.

Fast forward to Sunday morning. My division was going first so I got on pretty early to attempt to warm her up in my ring before it was closed. Long story short, the warm-ups were ALL chaos, she was very agitated and amped, and the start time was delayed AN HOUR! Needless to say, by the time my ring started I felt like I was riding a hot wire. My trainer had another student showing in the same division so she had me get off and take Coco to her stall to chill out until the other student was done. Coco never really chilled out, but I do think it was a better idea than continuing to wait around with the other horses and make her more frazzled.

We were showing in a 2’3″ division with 3 hunter trips and a hack plus a warm-up trip over fences. My trainer sent us into the warm-up trip and with the guidance to trot the first fence in every line. Just get her around soft and easy. And I’m so pleased to say that it was just that, soft and easy. She definitely relaxed and was happy for the first time in a few hours.

Looking happy and fancy! Photos are all from Ernesto Photography!

For our second trip we opted to trot the first fence and my trainer said that if she felt good go ahead and continue cantering. If she felt hot, then bring her back and trot to each jump in the lines again. Well, she felt great so after trotting the very first fence we cantered the entire course. We did one lead change and it was spot on.

She’s definitely very green over fences, but I don’t think we have to worry about her scope!

For our second two trips I took it very slow before starting to canter, but we cantered both trips entirely. She is SO FUN TO JUMP! She seems to really like it and you can really feel her spine curve over the jumps. She overjumped the jumps on the first course by quite a lot, but settled down a bit for the last few trips. All her lead changes were perfect, especially when I didn’t look down.

She looks so happy to be jumping!

After our four jumping trips we opted to skip the hack. The thing about schooling shows is that there are often horses and riders that are a bit on the rough and ready side. Either the horse and/or rider are inexperienced or maybe don’t ride under the guidance of a trainer, so they can be a bit crazy. Being that some of the horses in my division were also very green, it just didn’t seem like it would give Coco a good experience in case one of the other horses got out of hand or they did something that would unnerve Coco (like ride up too close behind her, or pass her too close, basically anything to crowd her would be bad).

All things considered I was ecstatic about our day. It had the makings of being a true disaster, but through the fantastic guidance of my trainer and a little patience on my part, it was an unforgettable day. After six long years of waiting I finally feel like I really might have my fancy hunter. Don’t get me wrong, we  have a long road ahead and there will be plenty of bumps in the road, but she proved she has the talent and she likes jumping and showing. Those are things you can’t train or teach any horse.

 

Not a bad horse show day!

 

The icing on the cake was that we ended up Reserve Champion in our division, even without doing the hack! My barn-mate was Champion! Coco won the two over fences classes that she cantered in their entirety and was 2nd in the first hunter and 3rd in the warm-up. There were six horses in our division. What a good girl!

 

She deserves ALL the pats!

Little baby jumps!

My primary goals for Simon in 2018 are these:

  1. Walk, trot and canter off leg
  2. Correct leads when asked
  3. Open and close gates/sidepass to and from solid objects like fences
  4. Steering
  5. Go in contact
  6. Get out and about as much as possible

#1 is coming along nicely. #2 is a bit of a challenge to the right. As with many former racehorses, the left lead is easy but the right lead is SO HARD (American racetracks run in a circle that is counterclockwise so the horses turn left around the track). When we practice getting the right lead and he gets the left lead time after time, he has to keep working. As soon as he gets the right lead he gets lots and lots of pats and then gets to walk for a bit.

Last night we were working on cantering and getting leads and I got a wild hair to pop him over a couple of the crossrail jumps I have set up in my arena. When Sterling was starting out and we had trouble getting the canter, I would pop him over a small jump and land in the canter. So I wanted to try that with Simon. He felt SO good over the jumps so I begged Boot City to come take some video so I could see if he looks as cute as he feels over jumps.

(Enjoy the super cheesy music on the videos. I couldn’t help myself.)

He is SO CUTE over these teeny tiny jumps! SO. CUTE.

And every time we went over the jump to the right he landed on the right lead. I think we may be onto something here!

He’s only four years old and I promised myself that I won’t even try to get him jumping a full course until he’s five. Even after a short track career, and some known issues with one of his knees, I want him to have lots of time to grow and mature before his body gets worked very hard. Plus I really do need him as my hunt horse, so that is his first priority!

I am LOVING this horse and the fact that, as of today, he’s the youngest in my string and hands down the easiest!

Justify’s Uncle

I’m still riding the high of Justify’s Triple Crown win this weekend so wanted to a post about his uncle!

Photo credit to Barbara Livingston. This is by far my favorite race photo from Justify’s bid for the Triple Crown. This one is from the Preakness.

 

Justify is by Scat Daddy out of a mare named Stage Magic who is by Ghostzapper. As you may recall from my previous post, Simon is by Ghostzapper. Which means that Simon is Justify’s uncle! This relation has strongly contributed to my obsession with Justify. I’ve also been closely following McCraken’s racing career, but it has not proved to be quite as illustrious as Justify’s (McCraken is a son of Ghostzapper and contested the Kentucky Derby last year, coming in 8th).

 

I’ve owned Simon for a little over a year now. I purchased him in January of 2017 and after his vet check and communication with his last race trainer I opted to give him a very easy 12 months. His race trainer indicated he had some issues with one of his knees and he came to me with some injuries from a run-in with some mares in the pasture he had been living. I’ve had off the track Quarter Horses, but never a thoroughbred and everything I read about OTTBs (off the track thoroughbred) indicated that time off would cure most ailments horses have from their track life. Plus I had two other horses to ride and show so it worked out better for my schedule.

I rode Simon maybe a dozen times in all of 2017 and he was always a lazy plug. ALWAYS. I took him on a couple trail rides and you’d have never known he had been a six figure yearling race prospect and was only three years old. He crossed bridges, didn’t spook at wildlife and seemed to really not care if he was in front, in the middle or at the back of the group of horses we were with. Basically he was a dream trail horse, albeit a very tall one (most trail riding horses are closer to 15hh and he is nearly 16.2hh).

One thing you cannot deny about Simon is that he is very handsome. I love that he has the big blaze on his face, but nary a white hair on the rest of his body.

 

I opted to not use him for foxhunting last season (his intended job when I purchased him) to let him grow up some more plus I rode another member’s horse for the season to give that horse some much needed miles. It was a win-win for us all.

 

Well, now it is time for Simon to have a job. I’ve committed to getting at least 3 rides on him every week and building his skills to make him a pleasant hunt horse. He needs to stand quietly for mounting, move off leg quickly, stand still when necessary, sidepass to open and close gates and (most importantly) tolerate hounds around his legs. As I write this post he stands great for mounting and has started moving off leg nicely. He will sidepass in the open, but he thinks I’m nuts when I ask him to sidepass towards solid obstacles like trees, fences and gates. He hasn’t been around hounds yet, but he does fine with my dogs around him.

 

I am also trying to get him out on trail rides as much as possible. This serves many purposes. He gets practice loading and riding in the trailer, going out on uneven terrain, riding with other horses, crossing water, seeing wildlife, and afterwards he has to stand tied at the trailer while we have a snack or lunch. We have been out twice this summer and Simon has been perfect in every way. I am astonished at how well he’s taking to his life of leisure, still at only 4 years old!

Our most recent trail ride. That is the Brazos River behind us. Photo cred to Bart Robbins!

 

Suffice it to say that all is going very well with My Man Zapper these days. We hope to get many more trail rides and some play days on our calendar this summer. By November he should be a seasoned trail horse so all he will have to adapt to will be the hounds and riding out alone. I am so lucky to have this special horse!

Do you have an OTTB? I love to hear stories from other OTTB owners, especially those who got their horse right off the track. They are special horses and so often overlooked.

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