Archive of ‘Equestrian’ category

My Argument For Tailored Sportsman (and others)

Something I often read on various forms of media from Chronicle of the Horse Forums to Facebook posts to equestrian blogs are complaints about the expense of Tailored Sportsman breeches. Many of my readers know that I used to work for Justin Brands. Some of the footwear sold by Justin is manufactured in the United States. Tailored Sportsman breeches are manufactured in the United States. I’m not professing to be an expert on domestic manufacturing by any shake of the stick, but I do know that it generally costs more to make things domestically than it does to make them in Asia. It can be expensive to have small quantities of manufactured items shipped from Asia (I’ll talk about the cost/benefit of this later), but they don’t have nearly the same labor protection laws as the United States (minimum wage, mandatory breaks, affordable medical insurance, and others) so the labor costs are significantly lower. I’ve never been able to find out exactly where TS manufactures their breeches, but their website lists a New York address. If their manufacturing is in New York, then it is in one of the highest cost of living cities in the United States.

When you buy a pair of Tailored Sportsman breeches you are paying for an American worker’s wages. That American worker uses those wages to pay for a place to live, food to eat, etc. They contribute to the American economy. When you buy a pair of Tredstep or Ariat breeches, you are paying for an Asian worker’s wages to support an Asian person’s cost of living. It isn’t a bad thing to buy products made in Asian countries, I just don’t believe it is comparing apples to apples in terms of the cost of manufacturing which often translates to a slightly higher retail cost. Another advantage to manufacturing domestically is the ease of changing a product run more quickly. A domestic manufacturer can halt the production immediately of a product that isn’t selling, needs a design update, or has some flaw that needs fixing. Once the contract is made for a product to be made abroad the company contracting for the product is going to get it just like it is. This can sometimes benefit the consumer in terms of a company discontinuing a design line and thus selling what is left at drastically reduced prices, but that can be frustrating for the consumer who buys something because it is on super sale, falling in love with THAT one, and never being able to get it again because it is no longer manufactured.

Another example of domestically manufactured apparel for riding that I read complaints about the cost are the EIS Sun Shirts. I am ALWAYS telling people how fantastic these shirts are. They truly changed my life. No, really. I haven’t had a farmer tan in the two years I’ve been wearing them which also means I’m not generating skin cancer causing conditions (i.e. hellacious sunburns). These shirts are not cheap, they cost around $100. They are made with a fabric that is called IceFil. IceFil is produced by a Korean company called Ventex, but the fabric is imported once, made into a shirt and sold in the U.S. There are other companies making riding shirts out of IceFil fabric, including Tailored Sportsman, but they are usually made in Asia and shipped to the U.S. retailers. So the fabric goes from Korea, to India or China, then to the U.S. for retail sale.

Shirt is EIS (made in USA), breeches are Tailored Sportsman (made in USA), boots are Justin Eq (made in China, no longer available), saddle is Antares (made in France), saddle pad is Mattes (made in Poland), bridle is Dover Crown (I think made in India, but def not England or USA), stirrup leathers are Prestige (made in Italy), irons are from Beval (no idea where they are made), helmet is Ovation (probably made in Asia, but not sure where)

Shirt is EIS (made in USA), breeches are Tailored Sportsman (made in USA), boots are Justin Eq (made in China, no longer available), saddle is Antares (made in France), saddle pad is Mattes (made in Poland), bridle is Dover Crown (I think made in India, but def not England or USA), stirrup leathers are Prestige (made in Italy), irons are from Beval (no idea where they are made), helmet is Ovation (probably made in Asia, but not sure where)

Owning, riding and showing horses is expensive. I totally get why people want/need to save money and opt for less expensive options. I just hate hearing people say that Tailored Sportsman breeches are only for hunter princess snobs because they are SO expensive. Or that a bridle made by an Asian manufacturer is just as good as an Edgewood bridle. I’m not even discussing the quality differences between most imported versus domestic manufacturing or the reduction in the global footprint of not having to ship something across the world. I just think it is meaningful to consider where your dollars are going when you purchase an item that was manufactured domestically. I opt to have fewer pairs of schooling breeches and schooling shirts in favour of buying as many things that are made in the U.S.A. as possible. Below is a list with links of riding items that are made domestically. This is clearly not an exhaustive list and I’d point out that Grand Prix show jackets are manufactured in Canada, not the U.S., but I think that is close enough to call it domestic!
Grand Prix Show Coat
Grand Prix Paddock Boots
Nunn Finer Stirrup Leathers
Toklat Saddle Pads
Kerrits Riding Tights
EquiFit D-Teq Horse Boots
JoJo Bambootz Tall Socks
Walsh halters
Original Baker horse sheets and blankets

Giddyup Go!

On my first ride on Coco I failed to secure resources for photographic evidence of the event. I did not have this failure on the second event! I’ve spent the past month and a half gradually working her up to the big event of her first ride. Jaguar was the first ever horse I broke to ride all by myself. The method I used with him was based on a series of videos done by Roy Yates, an old cowboy. He did copious amounts of ground work with his young horses so by the time he rode them it was no big deal. I believe his methods to be sound, humane and effective and continue to weave them into my own.

I start by teaching the young horse to lunge, then add a surcingle which teaches them to accept the girth, then a bridle, then side reins, then a saddle with the bridle, and finally I ride them. You can tell a lot about a youngster by how they respond to the first time you tighten the surcingle. A highly sensitive horse will have a much stronger reaction than a more laid back animal. Sterling was very sensitive. Jaguar was kind of in the middle. Coco was VERY laid back. She has jumped up a little bit with the surcingle on and the saddle, but she’s never full on bucked. I hope this is a good thing!

Happy girl under saddle

Happy girl under saddle

The first time getting on a horse is always the scariest part for me. You have NO idea if they are going to jump out from under you, run away, start bucking, or just stand there. Never before had I done the first ride with an English saddle, either. Both of the western saddles I have are huge and it just didn’t feel right to ride her western. She was a perfect princess. She didn’t bat an eye lash when I put weight in the left stirrup and swung my right leg over. I had to sit for a minute and take deep breaths because I was so nervous. She, on the other hand, just stood chewing the bit.

When I work with the youngsters on the lunge line I teach them verbal commands to walk, trot, canter and stop. This helps them to make sense of what I want them to do on the first few rides when they have no idea what my legs are telling them. I clucked Coco forward on our second ride and just just walked on. I use my legs, too to teach them that pressure from my legs means go forward or faster. By the first few rides she will have figured out that leg pressure means go forward. A few more after that and she will trot from my leg instead of clucking. Cantering usually takes a bit longer, but it depends on the horse.

Learning to go forward among the goat menagerie

Learning to go forward among the goat menagerie

During our second ride we trotted in addition to walking. She was a bit confused and the pen I rode her in has a lot of trees so the lack of steering was kind of an issue! I have to be mindful to reward her every time she gives to the pressure of the bit to turn or stop, but not getting knocked off by a tree limb was important also!

Learning steering

Learning steering

All in all I’m absolutely tickled with how well our first two rides have gone. One can’t get overly complacent that the young horse is going to be easy peasy during every ride. I’m sure the first time we canter will be interesting, but I’m so grateful it is going as well as it is so far. It is exciting to have something to look forward to with Coco after the bad news about Jaguar. She won’t be ready to fox hunt for at least a year, but I hope to take her on some trail rides before the summer is over.

Awkward baby horse steering

Awkward baby horse steering

 

 

Unplanned Retirement

Last Sunday was an eventful day for me, one with a LOT of happiness. I rode Coco for the first time and she was a dream! I also rode Sterling that morning, after a failed attempt at a trail ride the day before, and I rode Jaguar that evening. Since Sterling was now 100% a failed trail rider I would need to get Jaguar legged up for the remaining trail rides with my hunt friends for the summer. Riding an old horse cold turkey on long trail rides is not nice. They need many more rides to be fit enough to work on an ongoing basis. When I rode Jaguar something was off. He wasn’t lame, but there was a hitch in his gitalong that didn’t feel right. We only walked and trotted and I took him over a few low cavallettis, but I could feel something weird with his hind end movement. The right side had a bigger jerk to the movement and the left side was much softer. Had I been a betting person I would have guessed he was off on his right leg.

Fast forward to Tuesday. Sterling needed a shot so I thought I would have my vet look over Jaguar while he was there. I made an appointment for Tuesday afternoon when I was returning from a work trip. My thought was that Jaguar was going to start needing some kind of joint injections, a pain management regimen for arthritis, or something similar to one of those options. He’s no spring chicken being 23 years young. He definitely is showing his age more than he had a year or two ago, but he had a fantastic hunt season and I love riding him on trail rides because he’ll do most anything I ask of him. My vet called early in the afternoon that he was already near my house so I told him to just go ahead and stop over even though I wouldn’t be home. He’d call me when he was finishing up.

This phone call has affected me far more than I would have dreamed it would. There isn’t really a name for what is wrong with Jaguar’s left hind leg, but there is something decidedly wrong with it. My vet thought for sure I would be able to tell him of a very specific event in which Jaguar had injured his left hind gaskin a few years ago and it was just now showing the full symptoms of what age and injuries combined will do to an animal’s mobility. The thing is, Jaguar has never ever been lame. Ever. Never had a hoof abcess. Never a pulled shoe that caused an issue. And never an acute injury requiring him to come out of work at all. Until now. My vet has diagnosed Jaguar with an injury to his left hind gaskin where it meets his hamstring and his stifle that will most likely not respond to any type of treatment and will require him to be in full retirement. No more riding Jaguar.

Jaguar and I at the Summer Slide in Denver in July of 1998. Just before we showed at the AQHYA World Championships in Reining

Jaguar and I at the Summer Slide in Denver in July of 1998. Just before we showed at the AQHYA World Championships in Reining

We are going to try a bute regimen for a few days to see if that might cut the pain a little bit. It will be promising if it does, but my vet sounded pretty skeptical of it working. The reality of it is that I will probably never be able to ride Jaguar again. He will now get his 100% deserved retirement.

Showing in reining at the MetraPark in Billings, Montana sometime between 1996 and 1998

Showing in reining at the MetraPark in Billings, Montana sometime between 1996 and 1998

I always thought that I’d know when I had my last ride on Jaguar. There would be some episode. Some illness. Some tangible reason when I would know that this was it. Not some vague nondescript injury that really isn’t that bad, but bad enough that it can’t be fixed and he can’t be ridden. I’m grateful that he’s otherwise healthy and I still have him, but I’m absolutely heartbroken that our partnership under saddle is done. No more fox hunts. No more trail rides. No more torturing him while I post without irons. As much of a mess as I am about this news I can’t even imagine how bad I’ll be when he dies. Until then, I’m going to enjoy every second we have together. He’s going to embark on his retirement with a weight loss program and focus on being the best damn pasture ornament there ever was.

Riding at a family reunion with my youngest cousin (who is in college now, this photo makes me feel really old).

Riding at a family reunion with my youngest cousin (who is in college now, this photo makes me feel really old).

Dark Horse Documentary Film Review

Let’s start this off by clarifying that I’m no film critic! I avoid movies where animals die or get hurt like most people avoid accountability. I despise sad endings and I don’t really want to learn anything from a movie. They are my respite from real life. I enjoy couples falling in love while singing Benny and the Jets on a bar counter. Girls who move from Kentucky to L.A. and make it as burlesque singers are more my tune. When a good friend suggested we go see Dark Horse, I was skeptical. In Black Beauty (this is a spoiler) Ginger dies. Old Yeller, well I don’t even need to remind you. I can’t bring myself to even think of watching Marley & Me. However, I lucked into some free tickets to Magnolia at the Modern and when I looked at the upcoming films, Dark Horse was the first on the list! I read the synopsis and it didn’t say anything about any horses dying.

I should also add that I’m not a huge fan of horse racing. I’ve seen some horrifying incidents on the track that have gotten me nearly to the point of being unable to watch any horse racing. I get excited for the big races (Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont), but avoid watching them live lest they end in another Ruffian. This film was an absolutely delightful surprise! Another spoiler, the horse does get hurt, but it isn’t horrifying and he lives.

The story of Dream Alliance is a fairytale. A lower middle class woman from Wales gets a super crazy idea to breed her very own race horse. We all know from recent posts that my experience with breeding has been a rough road so the fact that she got a healthy foal with four legs on the ground is a huge step in the right direction as far as I’m concerned!

Dream Alliance as a foal

Dream Alliance as a foal

Dream Alliance was raised him on a “slag heap” as quoted in a U.K. press article. He wasn’t born in the posh stables of the Irish National Stud or some other fancy racing stable and he definitely didn’t have any blue blood! His dam was purchased for a mere 300 pounds and the stud fee was only 3,000 pounds. Most racing stallion stud fees are well into the five figures. Dream grew up amongst those who would become his biggest fans as though he was one of them.

Dream Alliance growing up in a sleepy mining town in Wales

Dream Alliance growing up in a sleepy mining town in Wales

Dream Alliance’s breeder knew that the cost of training and racing him would exceed her resources so they offered up syndicate ownership to the townspeople for a cost of 10 pounds per month to each owner. The group they ended up with was a far cry from the typical racehorse ownership crowd, but they were committed and exuberant! When he was ready, Dream Alliance was sent to training with Phillip Hobbs of Minehead Stables. All involved with his training were pretty skeptical of his potential, but Dream exceeded everyone’s expectations!

Dream Alliance in a steeplechase race

Dream Alliance in a steeplechase race

Dream won many races and placed very well in those he didn’t win, but he did get hurt just before one of the biggest races of his career requiring 18 months off from work to treat his tendon injury, heal, and (miraculously) go back into training. It was AFTER this nearly career-ending injury that Dream won the biggest race of his career, the Welsh Grand National. He continued to race after the Welsh, but after pulling up at quite a few races or finishing poorly it was determined that he had a career ending lung condition. By this time he was 9 years old, a much longer career than most racehorses in the U.S.

Dream Alliance in a win picture with a few of his syndicate owners, jockey, and trainers

Dream Alliance in a win picture with a few of his syndicate owners, jockey, and trainers

The film is beautifully done with quite a bit of actual racing footage and candid conversations with syndicate members. I plan to buy it as soon as I can add it to my iTunes library to watch over and over again and cheer for the working class chestnut with four white socks who beat all the blue bloods at their own race!

Here is the trailer for your viewing pleasure: Dark Horse Official Trailer

Boot City gets his Weld on

Most husbands are somewhat handy at wood working. Mine is decidedly not very handy at wood working; his speciality is working with metal. Therefore many structures that would be made of wood at a wood worker’s home are made of metal at our home. This makes for some VERY heavy duty bridle racks and saddle racks that you could hang a sofa from. Most recently Boot City stepped up to make a stall run for the “bed-ridden” Coco Chanel during her 6 week layup.

We had planned to have stall runs on all four stalls on the “new” barn from the get-go, but time and funding are not always readily available so nothing happened until there was an express NEED for a stall run. We did a great deal of internet research about design; how far apart should the pipes be, how far off the ground should the lowest rung measure, how heavy duty do the pipes need to be and all kinds of safety and convenience research.

Human nature is to repeat what we know worked in the past. My parents had runs off the stalls on their barn in Montana so that was the basis for our design. We altered it slightly by putting fewer pipes and having the bottom rung further off the ground to prevent trapping legs. We beefed up the size of the frame pipes and opted for 1 1/2″ sucker rod for the bottom 3 rows. This is the finished product plus horse.

Coco outside in her run on the first night it was open for business.

Coco outside in her run on the first night it was open for business.

Boot City is all about building things to be very sturdy. This time around he put posts in the ground at least every 8 feet and in the case of invasive tree roots he put them even closer so as to not have to harm the roots.The closer the poles in the ground are to one another the sturdier they are because there is less room between bracing for the horizontal pipes.

Poles in the ground. I promise that all of them are nearly perfectly straight. Boot City doesn't mess around.

Poles in the ground. I promise that all of them are nearly perfectly straight. Boot City doesn’t mess around.

The whole project took about three weeks from start to finish. I really and truly thought it could be done in a couple days, but that was unrealistic wishful thinking. The concrete had to set for the poles in the ground to be sturdy enough to weld on and the measuring and levelling is extremely tedious work. Boot City finished the fencing late on a Wednesday night and Coco will be forever grateful.  The plan is to complete her neighbor’s stall run in the coming months, but emphasis is now on putting in a property gate, updating fencing by the house and finished the “nursery” AKA the paddock fencing for Coco and her new foal come March.

Late night welding

Late night welding

Run, baby run

I’ve been on an inadvertent blog hiatus. I had the past couple months all planned out for posting then the bottom fell out of my schedule. For reals. One morning the week after the Fourth of July Coco came in from turnout very lame. I hoped for the best and that it was merely a sole bruise and gave her a week to show improvement by just treating it as a sole bruise. I couldn’t quite bring myself to keep her locked up and after 5 days of no improvement I called the vet. He diagnosed her as having injured the ligament she had surgery on about a year and a half ago. Come to find out I hadn’t been given the best recovery instructions after that surgery which made her more susceptible to injuring the scar tissue. The vet indicated that she showed signs of having been favouring this leg for quite some time and that this injury was bound to happen. The main sign being that her hoof growth was imbalanced. The good news was that she isn’t in work and being pregnant gave her body extra production of things good for healing. The bad news was that she would be confined to her stall for at least four and up to eight weeks requiring wrapping, poulticing and icing twice daily and hand walking for 30-40 minutes every day.

It's hard being a pretty princess trapped in a stall all day long.

It’s hard being a pretty princess trapped in a stall all day long.

The first 10 days went as well as can be expected. My social life was gone and spending 30-40 minutes walking in Texas summer is not my idea of a good time. She was a fantastic patient for wrapping, poulticing and icing. The hand walking was quite exciting a few times and I have the bruises to show for it. When you keep an 1,100 pound animal confined to a 14×12 box all day long they develop some pent up energy and frustrations that they take out on you during their 30 minutes of “freedom”. The vet returned to check her after 10 days and gave the go ahead to only wrap and poultice until it had been 14 days then move to only icing twice a day and continuing the hand walking. He also advised we consider building our stall runs so she could get some exercise on her own, but in a confined space.

My bruise a few days after an altercation with Coco during one of our afternoon walking dates.

My bruise a few days after an altercation with Coco during one of our afternoon walking dates.

This guidance really gave us the push we needed to get to work on the stall runs that have been in the plan since we built the new barn in 2012. The barn my parents had when I was growing up had runs on all the stalls and it made a huge difference in keeping stalls clean and allowing the horses to stretch their legs, not to mention how much better it is for their minds to not be confined to a stall all day long. We researched designs for height, spacing of bars, and different pipe materials. We knew we would build out of oil field pipe because we already had some and it is easy to acquire being in Texas. So stay tuned for a step-by-step pictorial of the building process!

Stopping for a water break on one of our sunset walks.

Stopping for a water break on one of our sunset walks.

Resurgence of an Addiction

It has been established on this blog that I grew up in Eastern Montana. I was an extremely fortunate child to have been born into an already horsey family so my love of the equines was developed at a very early age. Both my parents grew up with horses, both for work and for pleasure. When I was born my Mom was into barrel racing and my Dad was into team roping. Not surprisingly, I was on a horse as soon as I could hold my head up and sit up by myself. I definitely had inherited the horse gene and couldn’t get enough of them.

My first foray into organized horse events was as a barrel racer. My parents got me a saintly old Quarter Horse named Casey. I’m confident Casey carried many little girls and boys around the cloverleaf pattern before he came to our house. He wasn’t at all fast, but that was just fine. I didn’t have, and still really don’t have, much of a need for speed. He was safe and kind and put up with the shenanigans that a little girl does to her horse. I put glitter on him. I braided his hair. I brushed and brushed and brushed him. All of the signs were there that I would ultimately not end up being a barrel racer.

When I was old enough my parents signed me (and my brother) up for 4-H. 4-H is a program that teaches kids leadership, humanity, responsibility and a myriad of other life skills. Most importantly, it has a horse program. You couldn’t start the horse program until you were 10 years old and I was counting down the days! In preparation for entering the horse program, my Mom and some of the 4-H moms from our club signed up for a riding clinic conducted by the trainer at Diamond N Ranch outside of Billings, Montana. I have no idea how they found it or why they attended, but the rest is pretty much history. This was our introduction to the Quarter Horse show world and it didn’t take long for me to be hooked.

My second AQHA show horse: Hesa Black Associate

My second AQHA show horse: Hesa Black Associate

I showed Quarter Horses all through junior high and high school and even a little bit during college. I did all kinds of different show events from Showmanship to Western Pleasure to Hunter Hack and finally Reining. I loved every second of it, and now that I’m an adult and I can appreciate what my parents did (paid for!) to allow me to show.

My first real English horse (the taller one on the right) and my cousin on a horse that my parents had for a few years.

My first real English horse (the taller one on the right) and my cousin on a horse that my parents had for a few years.

As a kid I would voraciously read any and every horse book and magazine I could get my hands on. This is where my obsession with English riding was born. My Mom got me lessons when I was about 10 with a lady in my hometown who had supposedly ridden English at some point and later I did all the English flat classes and some jumping at the Quarter Horse shows. It just wasn’t the same as what I read about in Practical Horseman or Dressage Today. There wasn’t a dedicated jumping trainer anywhere near my hometown, so even though I did do some jumping I know now that I pretty much did so horribly wrong!

So, here I am as a (mostly) self-sufficient adult with the means to combine my love of horse showing with learning how to properly ride a horse over jumps. I posted about going to my first USEF “A” rated show back in February. This spring I was able to make it to four more shows in Tyler, Texas. Originally called the Tyler Four. I felt like I was home again. Granted, when I was showing I felt like a 12 year old kid learning how to do things correctly, but it was so satisfying to be back in the show pen (that was to see if Caitlin reads this, I’m supposed to call it a show ring). Sterling is turning out to be an absolutely delightful partner in the hunter ring. We didn’t clean house with blue ribbons, but we (I) steadily improved and (mostly) didn’t make the same mistakes repeatedly.

You know it's an addiction when you don't mind horse boogers ruining your perfectly nice shirt and still going in public with said horse boogers on your shirt.

You know it’s an addiction when you don’t mind horse boogers ruining your perfectly nice shirt and still going in public with said horse boogers on your shirt.

We have a few weeks off from showing now that it is about to be blazing hot in Texas, but I can hardly wait to start again. In the meantime we are doing lots of work on the flat (no more unsupervised jumping) to make him and me stronger. I even joined a horseback rider focused boot camp for 60 days to make my core and my stringy legs stronger for when we are back in the show ring. This is in addition to torturing poor Jaguar with posting without irons. No pain no gain!

Being a horse show horse is a LOT of work and VERY tiring.

Being a horse show horse is a LOT of work and VERY tiring.

The Case of the Lost Hunt Coat

If you follow me on social media, you may have noticed a few weeks ago that I posted about my dry cleaner losing my hunt coat. I purposefully didn’t name the business and was willing to give them a chance to make things right. So this is my story about doing business with Twin Kell Cleaners.

I dropped my hunt coat off with the cleaner early on a Tuesday morning and emphasised to the woman I left it with that it HAD to be ready to pick up by 8a on Friday morning. She was a big grumpy and seemed quite put out by my request (really, is it unusual that someone would want their clothing back in 2 1/2 days?!) but committed to have it ready after 5p on Thursday.

I left a touch earlier than usual on Friday morning to give myself plenty of time to stop at the cleaners before work. I rolled up at about 7:30a and had even kept my ticket with the bar code for them to scan and (hopefully) make it quicker and easier for them to find my coat. The nice lady takes my ticket, goes to the back and starts rolling the hangers to get to my number. After a few minutes of this I can tell something isn’t right. She smiles at me and asks the other nice lady at the desk to come back and help her look. They go item by item through at least 500 garments to no avail. They ask the washing girl if it is in with the washed items (egads!). Still no coat. By 7:50a they admit to me that they have lost the coat. I explain, as nicely as I can when starting to panic, that I HAVE to have this coat before I leave for the horse show that afternoon. They are going to continue to look and will call me before 2p.

Now this isn’t just any old hunt coat. This is a hunt coat that my Mom made for me when I was in high school. It is a lovely charcoal tropical wool with a RED pinstripe and RED silk satin lining. And it fit just perfectly.

The red pinstripe coat in action.

The red pinstripe coat in action.

Losing my hunt coat was definitely an inconvenience, but it was a huge sentimental loss, too. My Mom is an amazingly talented seamstress. She made all of my horse show clothes when I was growing up as well as all my formal gowns and all my regular clothes until I was in junior high (which is when one becomes way too cool to wear clothes that Mom made). She had always said that NOTHING was as hard to make as hunt coats. The fit has to be just perfect for the fabric to lay correctly.

The nice lady from the cleaners called around 1p and didn’t have any better news. The coat was officially lost. They suspected that they accidentally gave it to someone else, but wouldn’t know that until or unless someone returned it and there was no telling if or when that would happen. She did advise me that Twin Kell would reimburse me for a new coat if I had to buy a new coat. Well, if I was going to show I really had to have a coat. I had already texted my trainer about the debacle and she had rounded up some coats I might be able to borrow so hopefully all wasn’t lost.

I left work, picked up Sterling at home and drove as fast (and safely) as I could to Tyler in hopes of getting there in time to try on some coats at Quail Hollow Tack. If the cleaners were willing to reimburse me for a new coat I might as well get one. If they did find my coat at least I’d have a second in case something like this happened again. I got there in the nick of time to unload Sterling and run over to the trailer to try on coats. The Grand Prix Techlite in Navy fit me PERFECTLY! AND it is WASHABLE! No more worrying about any dry cleaning incidents!

I showed the next two weekends with my new coat and no word from the cleaners. I had my receipt for the new coat tucked safely in my purse, but just hadn’t been able to bring myself to go request the reimbursement. Lo and behold, two days before the last spring show in Tyler the cleaners called. Someone else had in fact picked up my coat and had returned it to Twin Kell. I was absolutely delighted. I did mention that I had to buy a new coat and that they had promised to reimburse me if I did buy one. She asked me to hold on and passed the phone to one of the owners. My heart sunk. I just knew he was going to tell me that he was sorry I had to buy a new coat, but that since they now had mine they weren’t going to cover the cost of the new coat. In fact, all he asked was how much the new coat cost and that they would have a check ready for me when I picked up the missing coat that afternoon. I told him the cost and offered to provide the receipt. He didn’t need to receipt and the check would be ready by early afternoon. I could have hugged him through the phone! What delightful customer service!

I picked up my coat that evening and sure enough there was an envelope attached to the hanger with a check in the exact amount I told him. I’m a forever Twin Kell customer now. I’ll tell anyone who will listen about how well they treated me when they truly didn’t have to treat me well if they hadn’t wanted to.

My beautiful hunt coat is now back in my closet, safe and sound.

My beautiful hunt coat is now back in my closet, safe and sound.

Conscious Incompetence

I was perusing Facebook recently and came upon a post with a link to an article titled How to Embrace “Incompetence”. Sometimes one just feels compelled to read something and so I did. I didn’t read the article word-for-word, but I did skim the highlights and what I read really hit home. The article is about Noel Burch’s philosophy of learning which contains four stages;

• Unconscious Incompetence

• Conscious Incompetence

• Conscious Competence

• Unconscious Competence

In case you are wondering, I’m at stage 2; Conscious Incompetence. This means, in a nutshell, I know what I’m supposed to do but just can’t seem to get it done.  At least not all of the time. Often when I talk to people and they ask how I did at a horse show I have some sort of snarky response about how great Sterling was, but his rider not-so-much. People who have known me a long time, and especially horsey friends will feel the need to reassure me that I’m a great rider. The thing is, I may be a great rider, but I still don’t really know what I’m doing when cantering around a hunter course! There are SO many pieces to put together and all of my riding muscle memory is from riding western or riding English, but in western style.

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One of the biggest differences between western in English riding is how the rider uses their legs. In western riding the rider will give an order with the leg and then leave it alone. In English riding there is constant contact and support with the leg with occasional stronger cues. My western trained legs KNOW they shouldn’t just be hanging there, but they still seem to be incompetent to get a move on and do what I want them to do all the time. Hence the competent incompetence.

Moving from Conscious Incompetence to Conscious Competence requires lots and lots of practice doing things correctly. I’m right in the middle of four horse shows in a row over five weekends and this is giving us quite a lot of opportunity for practice, practice, practice. The great news is that my horse is awesome. Almost no matter how things go in the warmup, or lack thereof, he’s always good in the ring. This gives me the good fortune of getting to practice creating new muscle memory and learning from my mistakes generally without having to worry about my horse spooking at something or refusing jumps. He’s also settling in much better at each show. Eating all his meals and drinking his water. Things Jaguar would never in a million years have NOT done! My trainer lives five hours away so I really only see her at horse shows. This means we are learning on the “stage”, but it has the added benefit of being at a horse show. You can never ever duplicate the energy of a horse show at home.

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Hopefully by the last weekend I will have, at least in part, moved to some level of competence and be rewarded with that elusive blue ribbon.

The Black Dot

In the horse breeding world there is a term, not really an official term, but when you say it others familiar with horse breeding know exactly what you are talking about. It’s called “the black dot”. We have  a black dot here at the farm and we are pretty darn excited about our black dot.

A little background on how you get a black dot. You may recall a couple posts back I told everyone we were going to breed Coco Chanel. On Good Friday (how appropriate, right?!) I took Coco to the reproduction vet to leave her there until she is (hopefully) in foal. About ten days after I dropped her off I got a Facebook message from the stallion owner that she had shipped semen to the vet and would be sending me an invoice. I was so excited and really nervous all at the same time. You see, the last time I tried to breed a mare nothing went right. After two years, a lot of heartbreak and an obscene amount of money we threw in the towel on breeding Noelle and I purchased Coco as a weanling. I was only going to be cautiously optimistic this time.

The vet texted me a couple days after I paid the shipped semen invoice and said that Coco had been inseminated, she had ovulated and that I could come pick her up. So I loaded Jaguar in the trailer and headed to pick up Coco. Jaguar is her best friend and since she hasn’t ridden in the trailer all that much I thought she’d appreciate having a buddy. Coco was WILD when we went to get her out of her stall. The vet said she’d been that way the whole time she was there. Most of the breeding done at the repro vet I’m using are cutting and barrel racing horses so Quarter Horses. Coco was easily 6″ taller than any other mare in the barn and I’m sure she was also the feistiest. She hasn’t been in a stall for more than a couple days since she had a minor leg surgery a year ago, she justifiably had cabin fever! She still needed a little bit of coaxing to get in the trailer, but load she did and off she went to wait for her ultrasound in 14 days.

April 25 was exactly 14 days after her ovulation and also the day Sterling and I returned from our horse show. So, I unloaded Sterling, turned the trailer around, and loaded Coco to head south. It was a Sunday so no one else was there except employees. We walked around a bit while we waited for the vet to get back from checking stallions (I presume). Coco was well behaved and I was getting more and more anxious. After about 20 minutes the vet showed up and we headed into the breeding barn to find out what our next step would be.

Coco got a little sedative to make the experience a little less uncomfortable. We led her into the stocks and the vet prepped her for the ultrasound. If you are a human (and I would venture to guess you are if you are reading this blog) and you’ve had a baby you may be wondering how ultrasounds are done on horses. I didn’t take any photos, but the vet has to put his arm inside the mare into her reproductive parts while holding the ultrasound camera. And this my friends is where you find the black dot. He had a very serious look on his face the whole time, and quite frankly I think he was messing with me, but after just a minute or so he pulled his arm out, looked up from the computer screen, smiled and said “she’s pregnant”. YYYYIIIIPPPPPEEEE!!!!!!!!!

I was too nervous and didn’t want to be “that girl” so I didn’t take any pics of Coco’s black dot, but here is what a horse black dot looks like at 14 days gestation:

A horse embryo at 14 days. AKA The Black Dot.

A horse embryo at 14 days. AKA The Black Dot.

So, now what? We wait a couple more weeks and head back to the vet to check for a heartbeat. At this stage of the game, statistics for a full term pregnancy are more in our favour than against us, but I’m not taking anything for granted! Coco is definitely eating more and her demeanour has changed somewhat. I’m looking forward to documenting the whole process and being able to look back on it when baby Cartier/Coco Chanel is all grown up and jumping jumps. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pretty excited about naming this designer foal, too.

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