Archive of ‘Big Sky’ category
The alliteration in the title is really the only funny part of this post, but I couldn’t help myself!
Last winter, Simon and I had an incident while visiting another hunt. I came off and landed on my head and Simon got wrapped in hot wire and (understandably) kind of lost his shit. We both had some time off after the incident and both seemed to get back to normalcy pretty quickly. Not long after this I was having a lesson on Coco with my jumping trainer and, while chatting, the trainer mentioned something about Simon being kind of wonky in his hind end.
All of this information sat in my head marinating for a couple months. Simon didn’t feel off and he wasn’t exhibiting any significant behaviour that would indicate he was in pain. No head bobbing. No bucking. He wasn’t girthy. However, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t quite right. There were more subtle signs like being clumsier than normal. Just a feeling that he wasn’t moving out like he used to. He’s also been grumpier, not the easygoing horse I bought in 2017.
After my trip to Montana in May I scheduled a visit from a body worker for both Coco and Simon. Coco was totally fine and just enjoyed her massage (no one is surprised!). Simon, however, proved to be a bit of a hot mess! He was VERY sensitive to work on his back, more on the left than the right. His butt was sore. HIs poll was sore or at least sensitive. And his neck was sore. We made a plan to have him worked on regularly and also to have his saddle fit evaluated as soon as possible.
Trail riding in Eastern Montana on the Moore Ranch. STUNNING views!
So we did that for a few weeks and got his saddle adjusted (she assured me the saddle fits well and adjusting the flocking was all he needed) and he definitely improved, but he was still quite sore in his back and not showing enough improvement to believe that we were fixing the issue. In July he had a full lameness exam. I REALLY like my veterinarian and appreciate that she doesn’t start by throwing her entire medical bag at a problem. She did a bunch of flexions and it was pretty obvious that his hocks were sore so she recommended injections. There was no talk of doing any kinds of radiographs or scans. It was a very easy “yes” to do injections. It turned out that his hock joints were quite dry, so had likely been sore for a while. As with all joint injections he got a few days off and went back to work and definitely seemed more comfortable.
We gave it a couple weeks before he saw the body worker again. He was definitely better, but still sore in places we thought he wouldn’t be with successful injections. Ugh. We opted to put some more fitness in his plan and keep up with body work. Improvement was good, but there was still room for more.
A few weeks ago I videoed a ride to see what he looks like and noticed that his right hind wasn’t stepping up under himself like his left hind was stepping. I sent the video to my veterinarian and she agreed, so we scheduled another appointment for a second lameness exam. The appointment was a couple weeks out due to both of our travel and work schedules and in that time quite a lot of white hair was coming in on both sides of his withers indicating a possible issue with saddle fit. I sent photos to my saddle fitter (whom I love!) and she was very concerned so made an appointment to come out within a couple of days.
The angry white hairs that tattle on poor saddle fit. Photobomb by Jaguar!
The good news was that the first thing the fitter noticed was that his back had much better and stronger muscling than it had a few weeks prior. The bad news was that muscling was why the saddle was bridging and and not sitting balanced on his back. Thankfully Simon’s saddle is wool flocked so she was able to adjust the flocking for him. The gold standard of when a horse is comfortable is when he/she licks and chews. I’ll never tire of watching my saddle fitter work with my horses and after she adjusts the saddle and sets it on their back they lick and chew, when only minutes previously they were tossing their head and showing tension in their jaw. Simon licked and chewed and we were ready to roll with a well fitting saddle (while also knowing it may need to be adjusted again as his back continues to change).
In mid October Simon had his second 2021 lameness exam. My veterinarian again did flexion tests on both hind legs. I try to stay out of her way and not ask a million questions during her evaluation. She often has a veterinary student intern accompanying her so I just eavesdrop on their conversation and learn quite a lot. His symptoms indicated an issue with the hock and/or stifle joint(s) and (THANKFULLY….I think) a soft tissue injury was not suspected. Unsurprisingly she recommended doing radiographs this time around. She took images of his right hock and stifle only because there were no noticeable issues with his left hind. She found a bone spur in his hock and a less than ideally conformed stifle. Since his hocks had been injected fairly recently we opted to leave them alone for now, but she did inject his right stifle.
Taking it easy before a foxhunt. He’s the most photogenic horse I’ve ever owned. Such a handsome boy.
While we were at it, my veterinarian suggested getting radiographs of Simon’s back. This was a funny conversation. My veterinarian also rides and she told me that she did radiographs of her horse’s back, just because she can, and found a few spinous processes touching. Now she’s always worried his back hurts even though he is completely asymptomatic for kissing spines. She confessed that sometimes she regrets having taken the radiographs when they weren’t warranted. So when she asked me if I wanted to get radios of Simon’s back I told her I didn’t unless she thought it necessary. We laughed and she said she thought we should just to be sure if any of his back soreness was related to that and not his hind end hurting (fun fact; a LOT of horse back pain is a result of hind end lameness).
So, she would take a radiograph of Simon’s back and we’d all run to the computer to see what it showed. The first one, of his withers, was perfectly clear. YAY. The second one, of his mid back, showed only 2 vertebrae close enough to each other with an ever so slight indication of rubbing. Not enough to diagnose kissing spines, though. YAY. The last one, of the last 1/3 of his back towards his hip showed no impingement whatsoever. The veterinary takeaway is that the 2 vertebrae with the narrow joint space may be slightly uncomfortable since they sit directly under where the saddle sits, but most likely that will resolve with alleviating pain in his right hind and getting him super fit.
The overall takeaway from the exams are these:
- Simon will always require maintenance in his hocks and stifles
- He shouldn’t do a lot of jumping and small circles
- Foxhunting is really kind of the perfect job for him with these issues
- He should be kept as fit as possible and equibands were recommended
- His maintenance probably won’t be linear
Thankfully this is a good job for Simon! He’s such a good boy in the hunt field!
I went into this second lameness exam with my eyes wide open to the fact that he may come out of it requiring extensive time off, full retirement, some kind of surgery, or some other really extensive issue. I’m moderately relieved to find what we found and know that it’s manageable and he can keep his same job. I’m a little bummed that he probably won’t be able to do the Take2 Hunters because he is SUCH a lovely mover and jumper, but we haven’t completely written that off. As chill as he is, he may be able to school over fences very little and be calm enough to show.
Onward and upward!
There is a great deal of discussion in the world of hunters and jumpers right now (USHJA and USEF specifically) about how to define “amateurs” in the sport. Lots of talk about being a sponsored rider or a social media influencer or doing various barn activities for pay and whether those things prevent someone from being an amateur. And quite frankly, I think it’s all dumb.
Lets back up a little bit and I’ll share a bit about my and my family’s background in horses. I grew up in a very horsey family in Montana. My Dad grew up on big ranches and rodeoed in his younger days and when I came around he was active in showing Snaffle Bit horses (basically NRCHA now) and cutting. My Mom’s family raised and showed a LOT of Quarter Horses when she was a kid and she showed as well as rodeoed. She even went to college on a rodeo scholarship. When I was young she was doing mostly barrel racing, but she switched back to showing stock breed horses after I went to college. Before I was born my parents had race horses. Mostly Quarter Horses, but I think they had a couple thoroughbreds. Some of the mares they ran were broodmares that produced horses I rode as a kid.
Mom showing her homebred gelding, Casey a few years ago.
A few of my aunts and cousins are also still pretty involved in rodeo. One was Miss Rodeo North Dakota before I was born. One broke multiple arena records in barrel racing a couple years ago. One won the Goat Tying at the College National Finals while on a rodeo scholarship at Montana State University. Both sets of my grandparents raised horses in some form or fashion. My great grandfather was one of the founders of the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma. My Dad was on the Montana Board of Horse Racing in the 90’s.
Dad cutting in Idaho on Athena Beau. Probably in the late 80’s or early 90’s.
My first few horses were more rodeo types. They ran the barrel pattern and did pole bending, albeit pretty slowly. We went to lots and lots of nearby playdays and rodeos. I also participated in 4-H, which was when I got exposed to showing Quarter Horses and was hooked from age about 10 to well past college. I also showed a reiner the last few years of my Youth career in AQHA and NRHA events. Quite a lot when I was 16-18 (it was the only thing I was into that my Dad actually liked, so he was more on board with letting me show more, LOL!) Fast forward to adulting and I’ve been showing hunters in local, regional and A rated shows in Texas since about 2013 as well as foxhunting since 2010.
Coco and me at a local show during the summer of 2020
I say all this because I think I have a pretty unique perspective in that I or my family have participated in a LOT of various equestrian organizations and events. And I think defining divisions based on amateur versus professional status is a huge waste of time and resources for all organizations that do.
Jaguar and me reining in Montana in the late 90’s
A person’s ability to ride well has absolutely nothing to do with how they earn an income. It has to do with natural ability, time spent in the saddle, good instruction and getting out there and doing the thing. If we want our sport to be attainable for the “average” person to participate we have to make it more affordable. And one of the best ways to make it affordable is for participants to find ways to cut costs. That may be exercising horses for their trainer, repping brands that give them tack/apparel/feed/etc, giving riding lessons, and other similar activities that would currently prohibit them from being an “amateur” in USHJA/USEF competition.
How do you “fix” this? While I don’t have a slam dunk answer, the basic idea to start from would be to separate divisions by Rider achievement OR Rider age OR Horse achievement OR Horse age OR any combination those things. I’m not going to spell out a rulebook in a blog post but the premise would be similar to what eventing does now, but with more separation. The AQHA has a Leveling program that is also a good starting point (but they also separate amateurs and pros, so throw that part out).
For Rider Achievement separation, riders would be required to win a certain number of blue ribbons or points or something to participate in classes with fences higher than 2’9″ and on up for fence height (I don’t do jumpers so I don’t recall the fence heights, but something like the .9m). Require those ribbons/points to move to the next fence height. If someone doesn’t show in their achieved division, say 3′, for 3 years, they have to “requalify” to jump that height again, but you could let them do it within the show season and then move up as soon as they get it. There would also be different Levels at each rated jump height. This would separate the rider showing 3′ at 4 or 5 shows a year from the rider showing 3′ 25 weekends a year. Depending how the levels were differentiated (points would make this easier than ribbons), it could also keep the Rider who only shows at a few of the big shows (Devon, Indoors, WEF etc.) but wins those big classes from being eligible to compete against the infrequent weekend warrior.
There could also be age separated classes at each height division if Riders generally felt like that was needed. I know in some of the stock breed associations there is a whole division for riders over 50. I don’t know that that would work and/or be necessary with divisions separated by achievement, though. However, if all the governing body had to do was keep track of show results to separate divisions, it would make the separation of divisions a whole lot more objective, which to me would be a lot more fair.
Photo by Jerry Mohme. Showing my first thoroughbred in the hunters.
The Horse Achievement division could really remain similar to what is in existence with the Green and age divisions. It would be great if horses imported from Europe with show records could come with their record and not “get” to start over in divisions for which they are overqualified, but I don’t really have a dog in that fight so I’d leave that to the US based breeders to influence because they are the ones who really get the shaft there.
At the end of the day, the hypothetical advantage that professionals have is that they show often and on many horses. If divisions are separated by achievement, riders who don’t show much won’t compete against those pros or amateurs who show a lot. And it might even encourage trainers who have clients with limited resources to take them to a rated show here and there because they would actually have a shot at a ribbon when competing against those who show as infrequently as they do. And that trainer could even show and not have to go up against a Liza Boyd or a Nick Haness just because they give beginner riding lessons.
Hit me in the comments. I’m sure this will be fruitful for discussion.
On Saturday, May 15, my girl Chivas crossed the rainbow bridge. She was about 15 years old and it was just a few weeks shy of being a Derrbetts for 15 years.
My parents had lost their Jack Russell in May of 2006 and asked me to find a puppy for them. I had some connections to a Jack Russell breeder via the Russell Rescue group in Texas. This breeder had WAY too many dogs and was in a position to need to find as many of her dogs new homes as quickly as possible prior to a local humane society coming on site and taking possession of remaining dogs. I was told that Chivas was a puppy and went home with her and another dog that would be our dog. Mom named her after Dad’s favorite scotch; Chivas Regal.
Mom and Dad came to visit that July and had decided that life without a dog was easier, so were not going to take Chivas back to Montana. Alas Chivas became my dog. The following years with Chivas were nerve wracking at times, always full of unconditional puppy love, and included myriad adventures.
We were told she was a “puppy” when we got Chivas. She was never bigger than this and this was within a couple months of when she became a member of our family.
The August after I got Chivas my Dad passed away from complications from a horseback riding injury and Chivas made her first of many trips to Montana. We had puppy dog barrel races in Mom’s backyard with family and friends, which provided much needed levity during a very difficult and sad time. I cannot find any photos from the event, but trust me, it was epic.
ALL the dogs really would have loved to have Edith as a snack. Chivas was no exception, but she was a good girl. Always.
Chivas also frequently attended the World Famous Bucking Horse Sale in Miles City. She experienced all the weather options that Montana has in May. From sunny and in the 80s to a blizzard. Her last visit to Miles City was in 2019 and having been left for a few hours in Mom’s backyard, Chivas decided to go look for me. She got out of Mom’s backyard and took herself on at least a 13 miles walkabout. We figured out the distance based on who saw her and where they saw her. Mind you she was 13 years old then!
Chivas made many new friends over the years. The baby goats were always her size when they were first born. This was much loved Marigold.
She went on a few walkabouts when on visits to other cities. Once she ran out the front door of the family member whose home she was staying in McAllen, Texas. We found her (in the dark) within an hour. She also ran out the front door of a friend’s home in Fort Worth. We drove around and looked for her for a bit, but finally gave up because it was impossible to find a 10lb dog in a big city. We had happy hour on their porch and sure enough she found her way back after a few hours. In November of 2019 she was exploring around the end of our driveway and wandered down the busy road where we live. A man saw her and picked her up, unbeknownst to me, but got her scanned for a chip and we were reunited a few days later. I was convinced she had been dinner for a coyote and sobbed in relief when I got her back.
She had a knack for being places where she shouldn’t.
Some of Chivas other adventures included wildlife encounters. One morning I was cleaning stalls. It was dark outside and I heard a commotion towards the back of our property. I didn’t think anything of it and finished my morning chores before heading to the house, where I found Chivas shaking and bleeding from a couple small holes. Based on her extreme discomfort, where the injuries were and what I heard, we believe she was attacked by an owl (of which we have MANY). We think the owl tried to pick her up and the bigger dogs attacked it and prevented it from taking Chivas. She was in extreme discomfort for about a week and would cry anytime we touched her sides, but she made a full recovery!
Chivas playing in the snow with Sterling. He was about to turn two when this photo was taken.
Chivas and Boot City didn’t get off to a great start. He was trying to pick her up to remove her from an area being treated by an exterminator and it scared her enough that she ran away from him anytime she thought he was trying to pick her up for a couple years (mind you he didn’t hurt her at all, she was just very sensitive to men). She was so fearful that one day she climbed the 6′ fence out of the backyard and was gone for almost an entire day after he had merely opened the sliding glass door to the yard when she was outside. When she showed back up she had a cooked hamburger patty in her mouth. We assumed the neighbors were having a cookout and didn’t think much of it until a few days later when we were chatting with the neighbors and asked about their cookout. Turned out they hadn’t been cooking burgers and we still have no idea where she got that hamburger patty!
A photo with two of my nearest and dearest.
I’m so fortunate to have been Chivas’ person for 15 wonderful years. I’m grateful for digital photography because I have literally hundreds of photos of her from the past 15 years to remember all our fun times.
Chivas’ signature smile.
I’m on a roll with these philosophical posts, aren’t I?! This week’s topic is the obsession with “new”. New horse. New truck. New trailer. New saddle. New boots. New horse boots. New breeches. New show coat. New sunshirt. New fill-in-the-blank technology. New bridle. All the new! Don’t get me wrong, I like new. Probably too much. I definitely purchased new things in the past year of coronopocalypse that I absolutely didn’t need. Where does this obsession with new come from?!
I’m not going to present a bunch of original research or anything scientific, just my perspective. I look at the accounts and people I follow on social media as well as the podcasts I listen to and the books and magazines I read and you know what? Hardly any of them talk about old stuff. I live in the United States and live a very very privileged life. My basic Maslow needs aren’t even a passing thought beyond what to have for dinner (something that is usually organic, grown locally and if it is meat it’s probably grass fed, READ privileged) and when to pay the mortgage for the lovely property where we have lived or 15 years now. I then fill my brain space with the things I don’t have that I want in the future and I have really begun to annoy myself!
One of my favourite things about foxhunting is the continued tradition of attire and tack. There are some things about hunting that need to modernise, but it’s nice to know you only need new stuff when what you have breaks, rips or falls apart!
I’ve made a concerted effort to stop following accounts on Instagram and Facebook that focus on new stuff. I don’t want to read about the latest breeches, I love my tried and true Tailored Sportsman breeches that are high quality and made domestically. I don’t need another new saddle (there is another post here, I have so many thoughts on saddles…). I recently bought the nicest bridle I’ve ever owned and that baby should last me the next 30 years if I take good care of it.
It’s exciting when someone gets a new horse, but it kind of makes me sad how quickly people go through horses just because they are chasing a ribbon or a trophy. I understand that riders progress as they gain skills, but there are plenty in all disciplines who just use up a horse then move onto the next one and do the same thing again on repeat. I want to read more about people (especially hunter/jumper/dressage/eventers) who buy a young domestically bred horse and bring it along either themselves or with a trainer then show it for the next 20+ years in various disciplines as the horse ages and it’s body changes. I want to read less about people who import a 5yo warmblood that jumped 1.3m in Europe, take it to the hunter ring in the U.S., then sell it a year or two later to do it all again with another horse. Those “sales” horses frequently end up in the cycle of being shown hard for a year or two then getting sold, repeat, until they are broken. I recently learned about a horse bred and raised by a friend that had what appears to be a pretty short, but reasonably successful, career in the hunters and is now quite lame and is more or less a lesson horse and it is still in it’s early teens. Of course this happens with horses that are meticulously cared for and not shown to death, but it happens the most to horses that are shown in this new year-round schedule with few or no breaks longer than a few weeks.
Old horse. New tricks! Jaguar is 21 in this photo and it was the first time he ever jumped around a cross country course. Mind you he started as a reining horse. My family has owned him every day of his nearly 28 years.
I have plenty of the things I listed previously and I absolutely don’t need anything new. At least not in the near future. I’m going to do future blog posts about my old stuff and how it has aged, including my horses. Would I buy it again ? Did it require much maintenance? Was it difficult to bring along/break in? I am going to use my privilege to support local and domestic manufacturers and buy less stuff. I’m writing this here more for accountability in a public setting than to make a grand statement.
Lauren recently did a brutally honest post about tack hoarding. She hit the nail on the head when she identified the obsession with having the latest and greatest of all the things as coming from a feeling of inadequacy. I come to that feeling from a different perspective than Lauren. I grew up riding and it has always come pretty naturally to me. My feeling of inadequacy comes from a deep seeded fear of missing out (FOMO) and not being “cool” combined with having grown up in the AQHA world which is constantly derided and ridiculed by hunter/jumpers. This has made for a constant desire to fit in which I sought by having the “right” stuff.
Cheap new boots that barely lasted 15 months. Yes, they were comfortable and fit well, but I’m done buying poor quality. Boot should last years and years.
In my old(er) age I care less and less about fitting in and what other people think of the things I wear and do. Boot City sets a pretty good example here because he has not given a f$*k for 20 years or more. We talk about it frequently. He had some incredibly major life events before he was 30 so he has the perspective of your average 75+ year old adult. It is really nice to have a life partner that doesn’t contribute to any of one’s feelings of inadequacy. Quite the opposite really. In my annual goal setting and long-term planning I have changed my perspective from what I want to get and acquire to what I want to do and experience.
We all know with horse ownership that tomorrow is never guaranteed. Every single horse is one incident away from being a pasture ornament or worse. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have Jaguar every single moment of his 27 (28 next week!) years and I don’t take for granted that I’ll ever get that again. Every ride with Simon and Coco is a blessing. I’m going to enjoy every moment and take every opportunity to be grateful for them and the joy they bring to my life. I’m not going to worry about if they are wearing the latest boots and I am riding the trendiest saddle brand and if I have the trendy appropriate “extras” to identify my discipline (I’m looking at you bonnets, figure 8 nosebands, martingales and other things that serve a purpose but often get used by riders who have no idea what is their function other than part of a trendy costume for a discipline).
I am an incredibly fortunate equestrienne. I have two very lovely horses to ride (as well as a superb retiree and a couple ponies). I get to keep these creatures at home in the lovely barn we built for them and on grassy pastures on a few acres that are incredibly close to the downtown of one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. Yet I find myself constantly “shoulding”. What do I mean by “shoulding”? I should ride more. I should show more. I should go to more clinics. I should put on more fly spray. I should body clip. I should, I should, I should, I should. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with shoulding and just don’t. At all.
Jaguar enjoying some winter sunshine. His days of my shoulding are mostly behind him, other than the occasional questioning of some kind of geriatric horse maintenance.
Having a full-time job. Taking care of dogs/horses/cats/goats/chickens/ponies/donkey. Keeping up a small acreage. Curating relationships with friends and family. It all takes resources, all of which are finite. The biggest one being time. The second biggest one being cash. And those two things drive a lot of what shoulds happen and which ones don’t. The part that I struggle with the most with my shoulding is the why.
I’ve lived far too much of my life doing things because (I thought) other people thought that I should. Buying clothes I didn’t really like because someone else said they were cute. Overextending myself socially because I didn’t want to say no and hurt someone’s feelings. Going on trips that may have not been in the best interest of our budget because I didn’t want to miss out on anything. It’s only taken about 4 decades, but my self-awareness is finally maturing.
One of my biggest “should” struggles in a photo.
My greatest should struggle right now is Coco. What should I do with Coco?! ??????? !!!!!!!!!!!! She’s nine this year. I’ve had her at home for 8.5 of those nine years. If you had asked me when Coco was four what I thought she’d be doing when she was nine, I’d have told you showing in the Adult or Amateur/Owner hunters. The reality is that she’s only been to a couple rated horse shows and I’ve still never jumped a 3′ course of jumps on any horse, much less her. There are myriad reasons why we aren’t further along, but I find myself questioning my path forward with this horse ALL THE TIME.
My greatest mistake with Coco 5 years ago was not putting her in more precarious situations sooner. I should have taken her on trail rides, gone to more local shows, and just gotten her out and about. She is the “fanciest” horse I’ve ever had so I was nervous about “ruining” her, which is dumb. I’m a good rider and I don’t ask my horses to do stupid things. I was never going to ruin her by riding her like I rode all the baby horses that came before her, all of which have gone on to wonderful careers under saddle in various jobs. I’m getting her out and about now and it’s going really well. Her first few trail rides were comical (she was NOT getting her pretty hooves WET, OMG. But she will cross water just fine now) but she’s gained a ton of confidence.
I should show her at rated shows, but I just don’t feel it yet. My two primary resource challenges make me question biting the bullet and entering a show every time I get serious about doing an entry. I want her to foxhunt and hopefully will get her out this fall with hounds to see what she thinks. But there is always a little voice in my head that tells me I’m wasting a really nice horse so I should sell her to someone who will tap that potential. My dream of all dreams would be for her to be equally good at showing AND fox hunting. Serious shoulding going on here.
This horse has pretty much found his calling in the hunt field. And he loves him a photographer to cheese for!
Simon is a much easier should. His shoulds are more about body clipping (ugh). Fly sheets. Pulling his mane. And other banal shoulds that won’t remarkably change his future, just his day-to-day existence. Sometimes I think I should show him, but it would also be dumb to show him when I SHOULD be showing Coco. This past hunt season went really well for Simon. He was fit. He stayed sound. He got better and better all season. It’s easy to forget that he’s only 7 and (hopefully) has many years ahead of him to hunt and trail ride and maybe even go to some horse shows. I don’t feel the pressure that I should be doing anything different with Simon, and that makes him more fun for me to ride. Which is dumb.
At the end of the day, all a horse wants to do is eat grass and be safe. They don’t care about their potential. They don’t care if they win or lose. They don’t care if they have a show record or not. They don’t care how big are the jumps. They don’t care about any of it, unless they are hungry or scared.
I continue to struggle with my shoulding, but am getting better at prioritising things for myself, my family and my animals. No one can make these choices for me and at the end of the day, no one other than Boot City really cares in the long run. I regularly remind myself of this when I start shoulding and it helps me make better choices.
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!
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!
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:
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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.
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!!!
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.