Archive of ‘Big Sky’ category

The “big time”!

I remember when I was 9 or 10 years old, I had a lovely horse ready to start showing and my friends and I would tell our other 4-H friends that we were going to start going to the “big time” shows, not just the little local and 4-H horse shows. We really thought we were a big deal! Mind you, the “big time” was AQHA shows. In comparison they really were a bigger deal than the local shows, but Montana horse shows are by no means the “big time”.

I find myself having a similar experience as a 30+ year old, though. As you may recall I went to a couple horse shows last summer and fall. These shows were non-rated, regional club shows. Also, not the “big time”. My goal all along with Sterling has been for us to at some point be good enough to compete at USEF A rated shows. In my mind, these are the “big time”. After our fantastic Derby experience at the November show my trainer felt like it would be worthwhile to go to some A shows! EXCLAMATION POINT! There are many reasons why this is exciting. The first being that my minimal initial investment in an unwanted yearling Thoroughbred was actually a great investment. The second being that it means I have made it to a point as a rider that I’m not entirely embarrassing, at least not all the time. The others being that I could finally go to the big, fun shows I’ve only heard and read about for years and show with my horsey bestie.

We settled on where would be our first show back in December based on schedule and proximity. I don’t have a lot of flexibility getting away from work so it was necessary my classes be on the weekend. I also am not ready to show in classes with fences bigger than 2’6″. This gives Sterling room to save my hiney when I make bad decisions without having to get himself over a ginormous jump. The Winter Series in Katy would be our maiden A show voyage. It turned out to be the PERFECT first A show. Never mind the drama that occurred a couple days before the show when Boot City had to stay up until 2:38a fixing Sterling’s chauffeur’s major coolant leak.

The weather was perfect, 60’s-70’s and mostly sunny. There were about 600 horses at the show so it was big, but not terrifyingly huge. We had pre-entered in the Modified Adult division and our trainer added the Limit Rider to get more courses under our belt. This turned out to be a fantastic idea. Our first couple of Modified courses on Saturday morning left a lot to be desired. Counting strides is often an insurmountable task for me, as is remembering that I have legs and how to use them when riding. I also seem to really like to lean forward, real forward. Poor Sterling has to pick himself and me up before he can jump over the fences. Our Modified placings were 5th and 7th out of twelve, so respectable but nothing to write home about.

The Limit courses were MUCH better! I actually remembered to count, YAY! I also used my leg a few times. I still leaned forward too much, but I think there is some muscle memory that needs to be retrained and that is going to take some time at home. We achieved two 2nd place finishes out of 5 in the Limit. We also got 3rd of 5 in the flat. I was pretty excited to end our FIRST day at the “BIG TIME” show so well!

Sunday was a bit of a reversion back to our old and not-so-pretty ways resulting in some rather ugly courses. Sterling was a bit tired so wasn’t as into saving me from my bad decisions so he tattled on my poor choices of not using my leg and forgetting how to count. We did get it together enough to get 4th of 6 in the under saddle flat class even after one horrendous canter takeoff smack dab in front of the judge with some extremely fancy horses. We didn’t stay long enough on Sunday to show in the Limit classes, but when I checked the results of the show later in the week I found that we had gotten Reserve Champion in the Limit Division! I am so proud of us!

Overall I was very pleased with the results of our first “big time” show. We have some homework to do and poor Jaguar is going to have to participate in my getting miles trying to NOT get in front of my horse when he jumps. I’ll leave it for another post to talk about the BEST part of the weekend. 😉

Photo by Jerry Mohme Photography. Sterling looks lovely and like he wishes his rider would get off his front end!

Photo by Jerry Mohme Photography. Sterling looks lovely and like he wishes his rider would get off his front end!

Longchamp (not the handbag)

To continue our horse-centric French rendezvous we made a day of going to the horse races at the Hippodrome de Longchamp.

Longchamp 4

I have a love/hate relationship with horse racing. I love the stories of horses like Seabiscuit and see them at the track in person, but I’ve been close enough to the sport to know that racehorses are to most of their owners and handlers (I know there are exceptions) not much different from cattle. Once they are done, for whatever reason, they are gotten rid of in the quickest and most lucrative fashion. I’ve seen my fair share of legs broken on the racetrack and my dad ran a stockyards when it was legal to sell horses to the killers in the US. Quite a lot of the horses on those trailers were from the track. However, there is a spirit in many thoroughbreds that nothing can fulfil other than racing. It is powerful to watch such majestic creatures run their hearts out because it is what they were bred to do. It was with that spirit that I found myself at Longchamp.

It was easy to tell the moment we laid eyes on the horses in the paddock that they were extremely well kept. Their coats glistened, their hooves were shiny and, to our surprise, most all of their manes were braided. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a racehorse (in person) in the US with it’s mane braided. Their tails were also thick and banged (cut bluntly). I definitely have not seen many American racehorses with a nice tail! The paddock itself was lovely. Lots of green grass and beautiful flower beds.

The paddock at Longchamp

The paddock at Longchamp

One of the differences between French and American horse racing that first struck me was the lack of pony horses. At all tracks in the U.S. racehorses are led onto the track, while on the track and often when leaving the track on pony horses. Meaning that someone riding another horse leads the racehorse. Pony horses are usually calm and put up with a lot of racehorse shenanigans. There was not a pony horse in sight at the French racecourse. The first race we watched were three-year-olds and they walked, pretty calmly I might add, from the paddock to the racetrack all by themselves. Most had a human handler or groom walking alongside, but they were pretty much on their own.

Headed to the track

Headed to the track

The other difference was that the track at Longchamp is turf (grass). All of the Triple Crown races in the U.S. are run on dirt tracks. Most American tracks have a turf track, but more often run on the dirt. I thought it was a curious difference. The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe race is run at Longchamp and is the second richest race in the world. The turf does make for a much lovelier view than does dirt. At first it made me a bit nervous because grass can be very slippery. In none of the races we watched did any of the horses have issues with the footing, thankfully.

Running on the turf around the bend to the homestretch

Running on the turf around the bend to the homestretch

We stayed for six of the eight or nine races being run the day we attended. We were there on a Monday afternoon so the stands were rather empty. We noticed a few other tourists, but most of the spectators were men and were betting. We had hoped to have a lovely picnic on the grass in the infield, but we couldn’t figure how to get to the infield so we settled in stands and enjoyed getting to watch the horses and general racetrack activity.

A small crowd made for great views, up close and personal.

A small crowd made for great views, up close and personal.

My favourite part of each race was how calmly and orderly the horses left the track. The jockeys would ride them about 1/8 further down the track than the finish line, then turn their horses around and canter back to the same gate from which they rode onto the field. None of the horses jigged or pranced as they left the track in a single file line back to the paddock. I’m not sure that my 7-year-old thoroughbred (whom has never run a race in his life) would have done it so calmly.

Calmly leaving the track after running a good race.

Calmly leaving the track after running a good race.

All in all it was an enlightening and enjoyable experience. The horses were gorgeous, the racing was good and the weather was absolutely perfect. The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe was to be run a few weeks after our trip. It would be fun to see one of the fancy races in Europe, but I’ll hold out for Ascot one of these trips.

American Tourists in Paris

Paris in less than four days; do it! We did! WAY before our trip we had a few “planning” dinners at Saint-Emilion in Fort Worth. We felt the authentic French atmosphere really helped us get into the groove to plan our trip in France. The amazing food and wine was just an extra added bonus. We agreed that we weren’t going to focus on doing the most Parisy of Paris things while we were there. No Eiffel Tower. No Louvre. No love lock bridge. Our focus was on horses and fashion and eating. However, we did happen to fit a few touristy items into the agenda. My partner in travel had been to Paris within the last year and had some destinations undiscovered that she wanted to experience so we focused on a couple highlights and let the rest fall into place.

In keeping with our hunting theme we first headed to the Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature (Museum of Hunting and Nature). Other than the arbitrary contemporary art exhibit that was there on a temporary basis, this is my favourite museum ever. Small enough to get through, but interesting enough to spend hours. I feel like I could go there 5 times and immerse myself in a completely different part of the museum every time. It had incredible hunting art, guns and knives, taxidermy and fantastic explanations of the focus of hunting through French history. Our most favourite was Reynard sleeping in a chair.

Reynard is an often used name for the fox being hunted by hounds.

Reynard is an often used name for the fox being hunted by hounds.

After our few hours at the Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature we decided to do the touristy of touristing and visit the Notre Dame. We were visiting on a Sunday and, to my delight, were able to go during mass. I felt tacky touring through the Notre Dame during an actual religious mass, but it was well worth the visit. You can’t help but feel some kind of spiritual presence in such a magnificent building. The mass was in French, but the emotion of the priest was palpable without fully understanding the words he was saying. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to hit the tourists being disrespectful and talking as they walked around the building.

Inside the Notre Dame during a Sunday Mass

Inside the Notre Dame during a Sunday Mass

Destination number three for the day was the Luxemburg Gardens. Have I mentioned how perfect the weather was during our entire trip? Lots of overcast skies, but nary a drop of rain and the delightful temperature almost every day of around 72F. PERFECT weather to visit parks and gardens. We knew before going that Luxemburg Gardens are home to one of, if not THE, oldest carousels in the whole wide world. My Mom LOVES carousels so I really wanted to see it during our visit. We wandered around the entire garden and watched at the adorable pond where kids were sailing little sailboats around and people were camped around in the grass with picnics. There were a lot of picnickers in Luxemburg Gardens. We came across this breathtaking bronze of some stags. With the green grass and sharp colours we had to get a photo.

Stag family in Luxemburg Garden

Stag family in Luxemburg Garden

We followed the sounds of a plethora of energetic kids to find the carousel. It was much smaller than I imagined it would be and there was no one around it. There were signs that said 1.5Euro, but the gates were closed, not locked, and no one seemed to be attending the ride. While the gates were closed, they were not locked, so we took it upon ourselves to open the gates and head in to get a closer view and photos. Just in time for a small Asian man to come hustling out of a little room and chastise us for going through the gate. It was hilarious! I thought he was telling us no photos, but turns out he was telling us no rides (or something like that). There was no way I was going to try to ride one of those tiny carousel horses, but it makes for a funny story. Right?! Interestingly, all the tails from the carousel animals have been removed. Perhaps from age the have fallen out over the years, or were taken off for reasons of durability.

Very old carousel at the Luxemburg Gardens in Paris

Very old carousel at the Luxemburg Gardens in Paris

We headed back towards our hotel and opted to wander down the Champs Elysees. Let me tell you, it is highly overrated. Full of American chain stores and overrated “high” fashion. My favourite part of the Champs Elysees was the car removal we watched. They evidently don’t tow cars like we do in USA, which I can understand considering the narrowness of most streets. However, I can’t say I’d be all that confident in this guy moving my car from it’s parking space. He bumped the sides and bumpers of this poor chap’s car a few times before he finally got it out and situated on the trailer. Nevermind the large crowd that gathered to watch. It was pretty hilarious.

This is how your car gets towed in Paris

This is how your car gets towed in Paris

Chantilly lace had a pretty face…..

I recently had the amazing fortune to spend 10 days with a delightful friend in France and England. It was the horsiest non-riding vacation imaginable and it was heaven! Not to be rude, but I generally have little or no interest in looking at other people’s vacation photos. So, rather than inundate the world with annoying photos I’m going to blog about a few of my favourite parts of the trip, include a few photos and keep the rest for myself to enjoy the memories that go with the photos.

Our first full day of the trip was spent visiting the Domaine de Chantilly with priority given to the Grandes Ecuries (aka Grand Stables). This trip was ALL about HORSES. Anything we could possibly do that involved horses, without actually riding one, we pursued. And let me tell you. These stables are GRAND.

View of the Grand Stables and Hippodrome (or race track in English).

View of the Grand Stables and Hippodrome (or race track in English).

I can’t even comprehend what went into building a stable like Chantilly. The focus and energy that went into horse care during a time when the horse was the hot rod is difficult to wrap one’s head around 100 years after the automobile has taken over as the choice of transportation. Horses today are just something that little girls (and some big girls) obsess about and are a luxurious hobby. These stables were the difference between Jay Leno’s garage to store priceless Maseratis and street parking an old Honda Accord in a bad neighbourhood today.

Imagine warming up your horse in this setting in preparation for a morning stag hunt (I should be wary of imagining such things considering women at the time the stables were built were assuredly NOT going on stag hunts).

From the description of the Grand Stables, this may have been where the hounds were let out just prior to hunts, but is now a lovely riding area.

From the description of the Grand Stables, this may have been where the hounds were let out just prior to hunts, but is now a lovely riding area.

We toured the stables and clucked at all the horses, however they were onto the clucking thing and were having nothing to do with the tourists. Most of the horses in the stables were Spanish types, which we found odd but they are likely more suited to living in a stall and doing public shows than the average Selle Francais. We also toured, and loved, the Musee du cheval (Museum of the horse). It was without a doubt one of the best presented horse exhibits I’ve ever seen.

To finish off our Chantilly horse fix we attended the Equestrian Spectacle. The show was lovely, not the most amazing horsemanship in the world, but they do the show most every day and the horses and riders are actually lovely. Definitely a flight of steps higher than Medieval Times in the US. They did all the announcements before the show in French and (evidently) a select few in English at the end. One of the ones they didn’t say in English was no photography, so I got yelled at by the cute French boy charged with chastising audience members for photography. BUT not before I got at least a couple of good shots. We think this location was probably where the horses were shown off during the heyday of the Grand Stables.

Breathtaking architecture and a beautiful horse.

Breathtaking architecture and a beautiful horse.

As a relative newby to the sport of fox hunting I really enjoyed the French take on the sport. The Chateau at Chantilly is full of art and homages to the sport of hunting. The French did/do a lot of stag hunting as well and it is depicted in their art. At the entry to the Chateau grounds there are stags on either side of the entry and then further at the actual structure are hounds. I would LOVE to have a larger than life bronze of my hounds at my front gate. Someday.

The stags. Kind of hard to see, but they are on either side of the entry way.

The stags. Kind of hard to see, but they are on either side of the entry way.

If you are going to France and you are horse crazy, I highly advise going to Chantilly. It is a short (and lovely) train ride from Paris and is an unforgettable experience.

Happy Independence Day Y’all!

Happy Independence Day! It seems like the older I get the more holidays sneak up on me. Generally I feel like I don’t plan for holidays very well and I now have a much greater appreciation for how much parents put into making holidays special. It takes planning and preparation to make holidays special and memorable. Since I seem to forget about them until it is the week of, not many of them are very memorable for me now that I’m an adult! I’m in charge of making them special and I’m not very good at doing so. Combined with Boot City’s general disdain for holidays makes most of them rather mundane.

This year’s Fourth of July was a pleasant exception. Not that I put any more effort than usual into planning but two very fun events occurred and I enjoyed both of them greatly! One of my girlfriends’ hubby had purchased a table to see the Fort Worth Symphony’s Concert in the Garden the week of July 4. He got called up by the Marines (he’s a reservist and I’m in awe of his dedication to his calling as a Marine) and had to be out of town so we benefitted and the evening turned into a girls night! How fun!

Cheers to great friends, great music and to this great country we call home!

Cheers to great friends, great music and to this great country we call home!

Eight of us girls packed up the coolers, loaded into the Suburban and headed to the Botanic Gardens for an absolutely delightful evening. The weather was PERFECT! Unbelievable for July in Texas! Nights out are extra special these days as our schedules have us pulled in a million different ways and we hardly see each other.

The Fort Worth Symphony puts on an amazing show. The theme for the night we attended was All American so lots of John Philip Sousa marches and the like. Towards the end of every concert are always a breathtaking show of fireworks. Combined with the All American music there were tears in nearly every eye. God Bless America!

Fireworks at the Fort Worth Symphony's Concert in the Garden.

Fireworks at the Fort Worth Symphony’s Concert in the Garden.

On the Fourth of July my hunt group got together for a Gymkhana, in American English it is called a Play Day. Our hostess is originally from England and it is much more fun to say Gymkhana. We did pole bending, flag races, bucket jumping, jumping stadium jumps and ended with a ride around the cross country course. Jaguar was born for these things. His reining training comes in very handy with the tight turns and quick stops. We did very well in the pole bending, the flag race and the bucket jumping.

The bucket jumping is my favorite. They set out a line of buckets, I think we started with 10 or so and then everyone takes a turn jumping the buckets. If your horse knocks over a bucket then you are eliminated. The hard part is that each time everyone goes through and jumps the buckets, one bucket is removed. The winner jumps the fewest number of buckets. It is VERY difficult to get your horse to jump one or two buckets when all they have to do is take one step left or right and they can avoid the work! We made it down to two buckets, but Jaguar was just too smart to stick it out and jump them.

My bucket jumper.

My bucket jumper.

The owner of the property where we rode is a primarily a polo player, but she keeps a very nice course of stadium jumps, too. We made our way around the course a couple times. I can’t quite tell if Jaguar pulls rails because he’s lazy or because he’s not in good enough shape to jump!

The lovely stadium course on a beautiful July Fourth.

The lovely stadium course on a beautiful July Fourth.

After all our horsey shenanigans we settled down to enjoy a tasty picnic lunch. I can’t imagine a better way to spend the Fourth of July than with my horsey family. I hope everyone had a fabulous holiday weekend, too!

Resting between events.

Resting between events.

Horse Blanket Storage

The main reason I initially joined Pinterest was to save links to photos of horse barns and layout ideas for the feed room and tack room. I’ve gotten some good ideas from my Pinterest stalking, but never any that met my needs for horse blanket storage. So I came up with my very own idea and am posting it on my blog so OTHER people can be inspired by my blanket organization idea. As with any organization project it is of course a work in progress.

A few months ago I went through all of my horse blankets and made a list of them in my horse planner (yes, I keep paper planners still) by size. This is similar to my horse planner. Mine is the next larger size, but isn’t currently available on the website. I listed what I have and what I need to add to my collection.

The horse planner blanket inventory pages

The horse planner blanket inventory pages

I had already put the different sizes in these large, clear trunks that some friends gave us. I love them because they are see through so I can at least get an idea of what is in each trunk.

The blanket trunks before the re-org.

The blanket trunks before the re-org.

Most things I read about organizing horse blankets had them sorted by season, which I get, but doesn’t really work for me. I only have three horses and to me it made more sense to sort by size. I have a pretty good idea what I have for each season, I have more trouble figuring out the right size for each horse. I prefer to be able to quickly find the right size and determine if I have what I need. The sizes I have the most blankets in are 75, 76, 78 and 80 so each trunk got a poster that indicates which size is in the trunk and what blankets and sheets I have in that size. And since the trunks are see-through I can easily read the outside and know if I have what I need. If I don’t have what I need, I have an excuse to go horse shopping. Yay!

All of the blankets are thoroughly washed and inspected for tears before storing. If my collection gets much bigger I’ll buy the vacuum bags from Container Store to save space. I added the lovely clip art to the posters to add ambience to my tack room.

Labeled horse blanket trunks.

Labeled horse blanket trunks.

I’m pretty excited how neat and tidy my tack room is now. I also took the time to move my Gladiator armoire from our old dilapidated barn into the new tack room to use for additional storage. The more stuff I can get off the ground and into it’s place the happier I am.

South side view of the tack room.

South side view of the tack room.

You’ll probably notice that I also have a Snap-on tool chest, too. When married to a mechanic you take what you can get and I don’t think it’s that terrible to have a $2,600 tool chest to store leg wraps and horse brushes!

At some point I’ll do a retro post and put up the pics of when we built the barn. I LOVE my barn. LOVE IT. Having the right space to store horses and their paraphernalia has made my time so much more efficient and enjoyable at the barn.

Real Life

This past weekend has been one that covers all phases of life. I’ve been planning the trip to Florida for a few months. I have a group of girlfriends with whom I regularly go on little trips with. Usually we go to the far south of Texas to South Padre Island, but lately a lot of our trips have revolved around weddings and babies. We actually all became close friends after attending the many events prior to one of the girl’s wedding in 2008.

In the past three years there have been three weddings and five babies born in our little group! It has been a lovely time sharing these life milestones with such a great group of friends. This was our first destination wedding and it was in northwest Florida near Destin. The happy couple had gone on a long trip with his father and step-mother last year so when they got engaged a beach wedding seem perfect. The couple days before the wedding were soakers so the bride was understandably very stressed about the weather the day of the wedding. It POURED during the rehearsal dinner, too.

As luck would have it the weather the day of was absolutely perfect. Overcast all day with a breeze then the sun came out for a few hours just in time to shine on the wedding ceremony. My pics aren’t the very best, but you can see how lovely it was.

House party headed to the ceremony site.

House party headed to the ceremony site.

The lovely ladies of the House Party.

The lovely ladies of the House Party.

An absolutely breathtakingly beautiful ceremony.

An absolutely breathtakingly beautiful ceremony.

I enjoyed every minute of my short trip to Florida and I can finally understand why so many folks head there for beach vacations.

My travels after the wedding were quite a lot less joyful as Boot City and I drove 500 miles south of Fort Worth after I returned from Florida to attend the memorial service for his Dad. Boot City’s Dad passed away on Memorial Day last week. He had suffered from cancer for over a year so it wasn’t unexpected and was actually very peaceful. He had chosen to not treat the cancer so knew that his time was short and didn’t have the horrible pain and suffering that chemo and radiation inevitably cause.

The thing about funerals, especially those for people who were ill or elderly and it isn’t so sad and tragic, is that they are always a great time to see friends and family members that you wouldn’t otherwise see. I always appreciate that about funerals. In this case we saw many members of Boot City’s family who I have only met once or twice. Many folks had great stories to share about Raymond so it was fun to hear those tales. If I heard it once I heard it 100 times that Boot City is the spitting image of his Dad.

Boot City with his brother and cousins

Boot City with his brother and cousins

We spent about 18 hours in the car driving to and from the memorial so we talked a lot about Raymond and the memories Boot City has of his childhood with his Dad. Lots of crazy trips to Mexico, driving and flying around south Texas and Mexico and Raymond’s propensity to mumble, mostly in Spanish. Our summers will forever be bookmarked by the passing of our Dads. My Dad passed away Labor Day weekend of 2006 and now Boot City’s passed away on Memorial Day. I think it is a great way to begin and end the summer to remember our Dads and the many happy memories we have of them. I, for one, always feel lucky that I have/had such a great relationship with both my parents and that I have/had time time with them that I was blessed to have.

The big 2-1!

Little, baby Jaguar circa May 1993

Little, baby Jaguar circa May 1993

There are some things that happen in your life and for no apparent reason they are burned into your memory. I remember taking Daughty to Colorado with my Dad in the spring of 1992 almost like it was yesterday. I remember how the barn where Juniper lived smelled. I remember that it rained. I remember meeting the Wolfs, who owned the farm where Doc’s Juniper stood at the time. And, I remember when, eleven months later, Jaguar was born. I was 13 years old. Yah, I know, I just gave away my age.

We had had foals before, but from the moment Mom and Dad planned to breed Daughty to Juniper I knew this one would be mine. They wouldn’t let me have a 2 year old in 4-H until I was 15 and when this foal turned 2, I would be 15. I was beyond excited. As a foal Jaguar was mischievous. He would run up behind me and put his feet over my shoulders. I thought it was adorable until Dad reminded me how not adorable that would be when he weighed over 1,000 pounds so we put a stop to the silliness. He bit. He bullied. He acted like a normal foal and I absolutely loved him.

Showing as a yearling. We were Grand Champions at the county fair!

Showing as a yearling. We were Grand Champions at the county fair!

The 4-H colt program started when the horse was a yearling. You had to show them in hand to exhibit their training and cooperativeness. Much to my delight Jaguar was brilliant. He learned new things faster than I could teach him. We won nearly every class we showed in that year. He could do Showmanship with the very best. He never put a foot wrong and would square his feet in about 3 steps. It was so much fun to show such a smart horse. His smarts would also lead to many of his greatest difficulties. Our first such experience was taking him to the Montana State 4-H horse show in a one-horse trailer. He was fine getting in to head to Great Falls for the five hour drive. Coming home was a different story, and I can’t say I blamed him those trailers are terrifying! We nearly had to beat him to get him in that trailer. He learned a valuable lesson, though and he’s gotten into every trailer since without a moments hesitation.

Showing in bareback as a 2 year old.

Showing in bareback as a 2 year old.

His two year old year just continued to show his brilliance. He never ever took a step wrong when I broke him to ride. I was terrified of him bucking so I did all kinds of crazy things to him before I even acted like I was going to get on the saddle. I put tires on the saddle. I concocted crazy contraptions with whips and raincoats to simulate a person. I’m sure that by the time I actually rode him he was relieved to be done with the shenanigans! We worked very hard all year and he was a very broke 2 year old by the time we got to the fair. The judge, however, was horrible. She decided that there was no way I could have possibly trained him so well on my own so wouldn’t give us higher than a blue ribbon (Grand and Reserve Champion were the winners, everyone else got a blue, red or white ribbon depending on how they did) in any of our classes. I was furious and so frustrated. Jaguar was starting to show a lot of promise as a reining horse so my parents and I made the decision to quit 4-H and move on to only show in the American Quarter Horse Association and National Reining Horse Association shows. I learned young that people like to punish others for being better than them at something, even if it was legitimately earned. Nice lesson for a 15 year old kid, right?!

Sadly I don’t have any photos of Jaguar reining. They are all in Montana, still. He was a fabulous reining horse, but the same troubles would always bubble up. As soon as Jaguar figures something out, he makes it more interesting for himself. Like spooking at chairs by the arena that have been in the same spot for 3 days, but he just now noticed them. Or anticipating parts of reining patterns and doing them before he’s supposed to. After three or four years as a reiner he had to move onto a new career because he knew all of the patterns and there was no way you could trick him to wait for cues.

Trail riding selfie

Trail riding selfie

My Dad used him to rope on at brandings and to sort cattle. My Mom showed him in some local shows and basically won everything they could possibly win. They finally told me in 2006 that I needed to take him to Texas. I couldn’t really believe my Dad had actually given me the option to keep him. He always sold my horses and never gave me any input on the decision. It was bittersweet when they brought him down because about a month after they visited Texas my Dad died from a blood clot that was a result of an injury from an accident he was in while riding a horse he had. For that and a myriad of other reasons Jaguar is one of the strongest living reminders of my relationship with my Dad.

And how many 34 year olds have pets (if you can call a horse a pet) that they had when they were 13 years old? Jaguar has seen me through ALL of major life events. Think about it; prom, my first boyfriend, starting high school, graduating from high school, going off to college, graduating from college, moving away from home, my first job, my wedding. He’s been in my life for every single thing. I can remember getting mad at friends or parents in different times in my life and going out to the barn and spewing my frustrations to Jaguar and the other horses I had at the time.

Jaguar the fox hunter!

Jaguar the fox hunter!

Jaguar turned 21 last Saturday. I don’t know why this birthday seems like such a milestone, but it really does. I love that horse to pieces! My parents bought and sold so many of my horses while I was growing up that I learned quickly to never get attached to them. I still don’t really get attached to them (or at least I think I don’t, we’ll see when I actually need to sell one!) like I feel attached to Jaguar. He bucks on most every fox hunt and acts like an idiot for the first 45 minutes of every trail ride, but when push comes to shove he’ll always step up. I can put any inexperienced rider on him and he’ll be absolutely perfect. I was trail riding with hunt friends last weekend and we had an episode that caused Jaguar to spin around faster than I could stay on and I remember falling on the ground and him stepping over me so the other horse running by wouldn’t step on me.

So, cheers to Jaguar! Easily the best horse I will ever have the pleasure of riding! And he earns extra credit points for being the absolute best baby sitter of baby horses you could ever ask for. Just ask Coco.

Best buddies.

Best buddies.

Sew; a needle pulling thread

I sew. Not especially well, but not terribly either. My Mom is an amazing seamstress and if I’m ever 25% as good as she is then I will be happy. She made all my horse show clothes when I was a kid and all of my formal dresses for dances. I think she actually made all my clothes until about junior high. Teachers used to oooohhhh and aaaaaahhhhh over my outfits at school. I always thought they were really weird until I got older and realized what they were ooohhhhing and aaaahhhhing about. The clothes you buy at the store just aren’t that well made. Mom always scoffed at the formal dresses at stores and how uneven the hems were and most weren’t lined. No way was her daughter going to a formal dance in one of those ghastly things. I still have some of those dresses. My favorite is the black lambskin dress she made for my junior formal. It was suede so it didn’t scream HOOKER like a smooth leather dress of the same style might. It looked more like velvet.

I digress, as usual. I have my Mom’s first Bernina sewing machine. It is the best machine on the planet, hands down. It doesn’t do a bunch of fancy things, but it does what it does very well and has stood the test of time. The thing is as old if not older than me.

The best sew-chine ever

The best sew-chine ever

I did some sewing projects for 4-H when I was a kid. God bless my Mom for having the patience to teach me to sew. That had to be brutal because I’m confident I was not a good student. I never got very into it then, but in college I did make myself a few duvet covers and pillow cases. Now that I’m a grown-up I see the benefit in making my own clothes and some house wares. If I make my own gowns for events then I’m sure to not see anyone else in the same dress. How embarrassing when that happens! And now that I’m riding and starting to show horses again I’m making some of my riding clothes. Do you know that a custom hunt coat for showing runs at least $500 and most are closer to $1,000?! I have absolutely no intentions of making one for anyone else but I could save myself a LOT of $$ by making my own and no one else will have one like it.

Lately I’ve had an issue with a dog (Bunny) eating my pajama pants. I leave them nicely folded on my sweater chest and come home and half the leg is eaten off. I’m now down to just a couple pairs of pajama pants. I’m going on a couple trips in the near future and I don’t think anyone wants to see me wandering around in just a t-shirt so I pillaged through my fabric collection recently and cut out some new jammy pants. Today I finally made the durn things.

This is the pattern. No, I'm not Learning to Sew, but that means they are easy to make.

This is the pattern. No, I’m not Learning to Sew, but that means they are easy to make.

Cutting out the pattern pieces and the fabric generally takes almost as long as sewing the actual pieces together. I like to cut out the fabric and then sew them together on a different day. I have a tendency during projects like this to get to a point where I just want the thing done so I hurry and inevitably mess up something. Making these pants only took a couple hours. It was a nice way to spend a Saturday morning.

Putting the pieces together

Putting the pieces together

The next time I use this pattern I’ll add a little to the tushy and make the waist shorter. I don’t know where I got it, but I’ve got some junk in the trunk. I measure a full 2 sizes smaller on top than I do around my hips. I don’t have a tiny waist so it isn’t terribly hard to fit things since I’m so straight, but making my own clothes allows me to get stuff to fit better.

Sewing on the waistband

Sewing on the waistband

Voila, I have new jammy pants! I still need to add the drawstring, but I didn’t have anything at home so will need to buy some ribbon or something. I think this fabric is fun. I’ve learned my lesson and put my clothes in the closet now so these should last for a while. My next sewing project is a dress for a friend’s rehearsal dinner at the end of May. I was going to make my dress for the wedding, but needed a long dress and was running out of time picking a pattern and fabric. I’m hoping to make something like a Mexican muumuu, but appropriate for a dinner party. We shall see!

My new jammy pants

My new jammy pants

Let me show you my foxhound

Tis the season for hound shows and last weekend I helped put on the Southwest Hound Show here in Texas. I should start with a disclaimer that I am very much a novice when it comes to hound shows. I’ve only been to a handful of shows and they have all been in Texas. Every year I learn a little bit more about the hounds and what judges look for. Having grown up showing Quarter Horses I have a very basic understanding of conformation (hounds really aren’t THAT different from horses, right?!) and my experience actually watching the hounds hunt has added some understanding to my basics. But they remain very basic basics.

The SW Hound Show has two categories of hounds that are shown; Americans and Crossbreds. Generally the American hounds are a little stalkier than the Crossbreds. That is about the extent of my knowledge of their differences. Mind you there are many differences between hounds of the same breed dependent upon the territory they are bred to hunt and what quarry (fox vs coyote). The classes are also split between dogs (males) and bitches (females). The announcer had quite a good time announcing the bitches’ classes.

"Bring all your American Bitches to the ring"

“Bring all your American Bitches to the ring”

Different judges have different preferences and the judge for this show seemed to prefer the leaner hounds. As with any type of “judging” it is very difficult to stay consistent all the time and at times he wavered from his pattern of choosing the leaner hounds, but even my novice self caught on to this preference. I don’t recall if he gave a full explanation, but I would venture to guess it has something to do with what his hounds look like and what is their quarry. He is from a hunt in Virginia that exclusively hunts foxes. In Texas we generally hunt coyotes.

Showing American Hounds

Showing American Hounds

The judge looks over the hounds as they walk around the show ring, then each handler brings their hound to the center of the ring to show them to the judge. This involves both standing up the hound to judge the conformation as well as to have the hound run back and forth on the boards to judge their movement. Correct structure, straight movement, no major lumps and bumps are all important. The biggest difference between the hound shows and “other” dog shows I’ve been to is that the hounds are working dogs. They don’t get baths or have their nails clipped before the show. Many of them have scars and scratches from disagreements in the kennel or excitement on a hunt. This is probably my favorite thing about the hound shows. These hounds are for reals. One of the officers from the Masters of Foxhounds Association was at the show and he told us at dinner one night that 2 of the top 5 sled dog packs at last year’s Iditarod had fox hound blood in them. Fox hounds are badasses.

The judge evaluating a dog hound

The judge evaluating a dog hound

I would be remiss if I left out the Junior Showmanship class. Can you imagine anything cuter?!

All the Junior Showmen and girls were winners!

All the Junior Showmen and girls were winners!

Last, but certainly not least, was the pack class. This is where the huntsman gets to show off how well his or her hounds respond to commands. The hounds are taken into an open area and are judged entirely on following commands. It is absolutely delightful to watch the trust and admiration the hounds all have for their huntsman. The huntsman has the assistance of one whipper-in (basically one other person to help keep them contained). At this show they took the hounds down to a designated spot then returned to the judge. What a beautiful way to end a lovely day. I’m sad I won’t make it to the big hound show at Morven Park in Virginia this year, but hopefully next year it’ll fit into my vacation plans.

The pack at work

The pack at work

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