Wednesday, June 28, 2017

What's in YOUR tack room? Trailer Edition

Here is the latest installment of "What's in YOUR tack room?" and this time we are looking at what I keep in my trailer!  First installment is here.

My first trailer was a neat 20' Eby stock trailer that I purchased in 2003 and paid for myself.  It is the first thing I bought and paid for new on my own, and I towed that thing everywhere from here in Maine to New Jersey and even Kentucky.  I loved that trailer and was sad to sell it, but it was pretty exciting to purchase another new one, just a bit longer (gotta fit husband's pulling oxen!).  So now it is not a "horse trailer" but a "livestock trailer" haha.  

My first rig - still own the truck (bought that new and paid it off as well!)

I admit, at first I was not super impressed with owning a stock trailer.  It just didn't seem as cool as the nice slant horse trailers with real dressing rooms and real horse windows.  Of course, it didn't take long for me to realize that a stock trailer, while not as fancy, is much more versatile than a regular trailer.  I have moved not just horses and cattle, but also hay, my belongings (three different moves!), a manure spreader, and jumps, just to name a few. I love Eby's craftmanship and while the new Frontier trailer is still nice, it is NOT an Eby.  

Excuse the dump trailer tailgate and my oldest son's lawn mower haha!
The new trailer is longer at 25' and we now have three sections instead of just two as in the Eby.  This means there is plenty of stall space for animals and I have a little "tack room" at the front.  We opted to do a second swinging divider instead of a wooden permanent wall in the tack room, which I like, but then I soon realized after we purchased it last spring that there were no spots to hang my tack hooks.  

I did some serious internet searching and found The Organized Barn.  I measured and analyzed and measured again.  I ordered what I thought I would need and delayed hanging anything up, for fear of messing it up.  Screwing into the metal panels of the trailer is kind of a one time deal.  You do it once and there is no turning back!  My husband helped me, as he is much handier than I am; I am the thinker/dreamer and he is the man with the tools!  ;-)  Overall, it worked out pretty well and I have used the set up at two shows so far.  There are two grids, two saddle racks, and a bridle rack.  I still don't have a great spot to hang my two garment bags (black one for dressage, green one for jumping phases), but I will figure something out.

I have two trunks for showing that stay right in my trailer.  I have not done overnight shows in a few years, but I used both of these in temporary tack stalls at shows.  One has wheels and a handle which makes it MUCH easier to move around (right side), but I have lugged the one on the left all over the place.  Totally a PITA, but whatever!  HAHA!

The trunk on the right is THE BEST EVER.  I have had it for several years now and I don't think I would buy anything else.  If you are considered a trunk, this is a great option by Stanley that is actually for tools.  It is a great price point and is well made.  It has become all the rage with eventers it seems, and I understand why.  It is lightweight and fits a Dover tack trunk cover perfectly.  Yes, I spent as much on the cover as I did on the trunk, but it was worth it!  I love having things look nice but also being budget conscious.  You could easily spend eight times as much as I did for the Stanley and the cover on a fancy custom trunk.  ;-)  
The trunk on the right is a Rubbermaid trunk my parents bought for me YEARS ago, like at least twenty years ago.  It has held up quite well and I was surprised to find the link to Tractor Supply haha!  The only drawback is that it doesn't move well, but if you don't need to move it (or if you are like me and just say screw it while lugging it miles from your trailer to your tack stall...) then I totally recommend it.

The Stanley plastic logo fell off and I bought a Dover name plate to glue in its place.
I keep saddle pads, girths, straps goods, boots (mine and my horse's), my show helmet, and brushes in here.

Quick word about that Troxel helmet carrier.  I LOVE IT and it is totally worth the money!  I have had it for years and it is perfect for showing.  It looks classy, fits easily in my trunk, and it is breathable.  Now that I look for a link, I don't see it anywhere online!  Maybe Troxel doesn't carry them any longer, which is too bad!
The Rubbermaid trunk has two large shallow trays in the top.  I keep all sorts of hardware (mostly all for overnight show use) on one side and my gloves, emergency rain ponchos, a blue bag of hairnets, pins, etc., and a mirror on the other.

Underneath, there are show sheets/coolers, leg wraps, and a first aid kit.
Other things I carry in my trailer include chairs (and apparently my random Horseware cooler haha)...

...several buckets, muck bucket, a tack room fake carpet for shows, and a pop up tent.  One tote holds things for showing at fairs (fancy stall signs and fabric for decorating the fair stalls) and the other tote has extra trailer ties and bungee cords.

And I have a step stool for mounting (my ancient one I bought for super cheap from Walmart years ago finally fell apart last summer).  I was SHOCKED they are so expensive but I figured this one will last as long as the previous one at least!  I also have a water container to bring water from home.  My horses tend to drink home water better anyway, plus it is never fun to lug water at day shows!

So far, I have been happy with the set up of our new trailer!  I think for trying to stay on a decent budget and make it look nice "for a stock trailer" haha, I have done well. And nothing here was staged, as I literally just opened the trailer and snapped some photos!  ;-)

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Handy husbands are nice to have around

Between my husband's cattle and my horses, there seems to always be something to build, improve, or repair around the farm.  The other day I randomly remarked that we ought to have a hitching post of sorts, a place where my husband can yoke his cattle and I can bathe my horses.  He usually ties his cattle to the side of the trailer or the dump trailer, which is fine, and I always just hose off or bathe my horses while holding their leads.  They are both well trained enough to stand and not move (Snappy still isn't fond of water, but she stands fairly still because she knows I expect it).  But an actually hitching post would be nice.

So the first night he digs the holes and cements in the posts.  The second night he notches in the rail across the top and we decide to add the small pressure treated 2x4 since we decided we didn't want his calves to think about going UNDER the railing.  

I will use the middle tie ring with a safety release knot in the lead rope, but my husband fashioned his own cable/snap things for his cattle.  Sometimes cattlemen just don't do the same things as we horse girls would do, and I have just learned to accept that!  😆

Saturday, June 24, 2017

What's in YOUR tack room? Showing Edition

I have no problem admitting I am a tack whore.  I love tack shops, browsing online for tack, and checking out used tack for sale online.  Also, I personally love reading what other people use for tack, especially for showing.  Because I have recently changed up many of the items I use for showing because they have either fallen apart or simply needed replacing for other random reasons (including the just because I need it reason), I have been considering doing a series of posts about what I use and what I love.  

So here is the showing edition!  I will break this down into the three phases...

For dressage, I use a DK Freedom dressage saddle.  This is new-to-me, having just bought it mid June and I had it fitted to Snappy on June 23!  So far, I love it and it is super comfortable.  After using saddle pads for years that looked like my horses were wearing a blanket, I finally got smart and ordered a PRI pony sized saddle pad from Just for Ponies.  It is just a little bit shorter than a regular pad and looks a lot more put together.  I have always used the Ovation Airform dressage girth because it is one of the only dressage girths I can find in an 18".  It is perfect for schooling and looks nice enough for showing (I have two so the show girth stays looking awesome) and it is a great price point.

For her bridle, I have a Bobby's Tack bridle with a regular caveson, which was SUPER hard to find!  I don't use a flash yet it seems that EVERY dressage bridle out there comes with a flash.  It was frustrating but I am glad I took the chance on the bridle sight unseen because for the price point, it is very well made and decent leather.  I am not a huge leather snob but I want things that are going to last, seeing as my last dressage bridle for showing lasted me twenty years LOL!  Snappy is happiest in a baucher bit, so she wears this one from Stubben.  While I would choose a loose ring or eggbutt French link, she very clearly dislikes both of those so I had to do a ton of experimenting to find the most stable bit possible.  (I tried a Micklem bridle thinking she would like the subtle stabilizing affect but she hated it with a passion.)  And of course, we have a gorgeous custom browband from Dark Jewel Designs because no self respecting dressage queen rides without a blingy browband nowadays!  ;-)

For me, I wear a Romfh dressage coat that I love for its easy care and lightweight fabric, but this year I splurged on an Annie's Equestrian coat because THAT TEAL!  😍  I have coveted it since I first saw it, so I finally gave in.  I have a Kerrits short sleeved white shirt and a handmade pretied stock tie and pin made by a talented friend.  For years I used a classic untied stock tie but the thing fell apart last year so I had to replace it.  I purchased the pin from her years back when she had her business going, but she stopped creating last year and I scooped up the tie for a good price when she cleared her inventory.  I have a few pairs of different white breeches, in various stages of wear.  For example, one pair is brand new with just two rides on them while one is an ancient pair I only use when I have to show in the pouring rain LOL!  I believe two of them are Ariats and one is a Tuff Rider.  I have such a hard time finding full seats that I like, that fit me, and have a decent material.  I wear Ariat Heritage field boots, because they seem to be the only tall boots that really fit me well.  I am short but I have a WIDE calf and I don't feel like going with a custom pair of boots.  The field boots seem to fit best around my ankle despite having a huge calf.  Five different repairs and new zippers later, I know I will need a new pair within the next few years, as they are just getting worn out but I dread it.  The new ones will probably never fit the same, never mind the exciting journey of breaking in new boots.  Right now, my lucky socks are a pair of blue and white stripe Horseware socks, like the ones in the middle here, because despite the fact I own 29 pairs of riding socks, these are the ones I use for showing (yes, I do wash them LOL).  I feel like I need a pair to match the coat's teal, but for now I have refrained haha.  I like the thickness and support of them unlike the nylon like thinness of other riding socks.  I bought a new belt this year to match the Annie's teal coat (obviously) and finally succumbed to the Mango Bay buzz.  It is super cute and well made!  And I LOVE my SSG gloves, which are fabulous in that I can literally throw them in the washer and dryer and they come out looking amazing.  Great price and the only place they wear out is underneath my rings, but that is to be expected.  My helmet is an IRH, which is super comfortable and looks good for showing.
The most recent turnout
Her browband in her first year of showing was also by Dark Jewel Design, but was maroon and gold, a nod to her racing colors.
Saddle pad was WAY too big, hence the reason I switched to the pony size!

For cross country
, I have done LOTS of colors over the years because everything looked good on a black horse haha, but I finally decided to stick with green and white last year.  Mostly because it is our farm colors and also because I just had to thin out the number of saddle pads and XC boots I own.  I sold nineteen saddle pads at an early spring tack sale this year and I STILL could sell more LOL!  

Right now, I use a Stubben Juventus jumping saddle.  Maybe eventually I can upgrade to another DK, but this saddle actually fits Snappy fairly well for now and the budget can only handle so many new saddles at once!  I have used several different XC saddle pads over the years, but I keep coming back to the Smartpak AP pad because it is easy on the wallet and holds up well.  I also like that it it thin enough to not create bulk under the saddle.  I haven't fallen into the Ogilvy fad just yet even though I do like the baby pad and because I feel as though I won't be changing my XC soon (famous last words), I could probably comfortably buy one and get use out of it LOL!  I also use a Christ Lammfelle sheepskin half pad for no other reason than that's the brand a former saddle fitter I used sold to me, but I do like it and it has worked well for years.  I have a Stubben girth that matches the saddle.

I upgraded our bridle and strap goods this year to all Lund Saddlery, so we have the snaffle bridle (with a green Dark Jewel browband, of course) and the five point breastplate.  I didn't know how I would feel about the Sedgwick leather, but so far after two events I can say it looks good and seems to be well made, so I am pleased.  I have both the web reins and laced reins, so I use the rubber reins for XC.  They are probably the best rubber reins I have ever used, because they are soft enough to not feel horribly stiff and thin enough not to create a ton of bulk in my small hands.  Previously, I used a Courbette bridle for at least twenty five years, first buying it for my mare Sparky in high school!  It was time for it to retire, seriously the "stainless steel" buckles were rusting out, hence the reason I tried Lund.  I still own and have used the Stubben breastplate as well, but while it fit Dreamy, it does rub Snappy's shoulders.  She goes in the same boucher bit as dressage, but I did order a fun rainbow bit from Evo Equine that is pretty much the same bit.  It was a custom order that I placed in February and it just arrived the middle of June!  I used Woof boots to match certain colors and had a pair of Centaur boots in black for years, but when they started to fall apart, I upgraded to the Majyk Equipe boots in black.  I have many pairs of bell boots, generally the Roma brand.  I don't boot in the back for XC, as none of my horses so far have needed it.

I have never really found a shirt I like specifically for XC, usually just wearing a polo shirt in order to get the correct color.  Generally it is hot and sweaty no matter what, so I don't necessarily buy into any of the promised cooling shirts.  Right now, I am using the sport-tek side blocked polo shirt or long sleeved shirt, both in green, from Prater Designs.  Trish did a great job creating lots of different clothing with our farm logo and so far I have liked both of the shirts I picked out for XC.  I generally wear my white breeches but sometimes change into the tan color if it is just so hot.  I also use the same boots, gloves, and helmet as dressage.  I have a Tipperary vest, in black, which made it easy to change colors though I figure if I ever move up the levels (someday!) I will invest in a better vest.  And as far as socks, I currently am using a cute white, green, and orange pair with four-leaf clovers on them (of course).  They are not technically riding socks, just fun socks from Target.  And I recently started using C4 belts and have a plain green, green pattern, and of course, clover pattern already.

The current XC turnout

As you can see, I have done lots of colors...

Even pink plaid!

I do love this color!

The helmet covers crack me up.

This was the first time Dreamy ever ran XC in 2007 and I was wearing the maroon from when I competed with Sparky!

Dreamy in 2008

For stadium
, I either wear the same as XC, since some events nowadays have you do your stadium round right after XC, or I change it up a little.  I always use the same saddle, bridle, breastplate, and boots, but I change the pad to either a square white with black trim or a fitted white fleece pad from Toklat to look more classic. I had the hardest time finding a fitted pad that would work with the shape of the Juventus, but the Toklat one seems to do the trick.  I hate when everything else on my turnout looks lovely, but the saddle pad doesn't fit the saddle correctly and looks weird.  Again, I either use my white breeches or tan, but I go back to the white shirt and stock tie and this pretty blue and super comfortable coat from Horseware.  I do own a brown tweed Devon Aire jacket (cannot even find a link for it) and an unmarked gray jacket I bought used, so sometimes I change it up for fun.  This is especially true when I have done under saddle classes, where a dark navy coat on a black horse just looked washed out.  Even though I don't show in those classes now, it is nice to have options for coats just in case.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Social Media

Besides Blogger, I use Facebook and of course, Snap Dancer has her own page as does our farm.  Starting in the fall, the school where I teach is going to begin a student enrichment group (one of many) to help "brand" our school district through Twitter and Instagram.  

Hmmmmm.  This is a good idea, however I do not use either platform.  So, in an effort to remain tech savvy and engaged with the district, I started both Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Pretty sad looking so far LOL!

I am still not totally sure how either of them work, and I definitely don't have a strong hashtag game.  I also don't totally understand how I should use each one.  Do I post the same things over and over?  How boring!  It already feels redundant when I post about a horse show to my personal Facebook, Snappy's page, and the farm page.  I am not really sure how I want to use them yet, if at all.  

Sounds like a good summer research project for this teacher!  ;-)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Hilltop Horse Trials - June 18, 2017

Our second event of the year was this past weekend at an equestrian center in New Hampshire.  It was a gorgeous summer day when the sun was behind the clouds and blazing hot when the clouds parted LOL!  Despite the heat, Snappy was quite good.  My thirteen year old agreed to come along as my photographer and he did a great job.  

We warmed up easily for dressage and put in a decent test for a 28.1, which landed us in third place out of a division of five riders.  

Cross country went well and the only fence she was pretty sure was a big no was a 2' black drainage pipe thing.  She paused at the base of the fence but I was ready and pony kicked her over it haha.  No way you are stopping on the little fences, mare, because I know you are brave deep down!  There were thirteen total fences, ranging from tiny logs (see pic below of fence #1, the smallest fence on course) to railroad ties, coops, and a little brush fence.  I think had I not been riding her forward in a brave and quiet manner, she would not have been as good as she was.  I tried to get her to canter in a few spots where we had plenty of space and decent footing, but she is still not having anything to do with the canter.  She is so unsure of herself and lacks confidence in the gait, so as much as I want to move her up, she still cannot do a Beginner Novice level dressage test.  :-(
Snappy thought it would be best to NOT go over one of these.  I convinced her she was incorrect.  ;-)

I knew the girl ahead of me in dressage fell off on the XC course (she was fine), so I figured I had moved up to second place.  I checked my XC score to be sure it was correctly listed as clear (it was), but they hadn't updated the placings on the board and I didn't think much of it.  We jumped the stadium course well and I loved how much more easily the course rode because they expanded their ring this year!  Granted, we only trotted around over itty bitty jumps but it was a good upgrade to the facility.  

Baby jumps!

 At Hilltop, they pin the divisions in the ring right after everyone does their stadium round, so I was super surprised to hear them call us as first place!  The first place horse must've had a refusal on XC or a rail in stadium (I have no idea what), but whatever it was moved us up!  Yay!  Ribbons are fun but getting out there and showing my horse is the best no matter what.  Snappy was a good horse the entire day, despite the fact she refuses to eat much and barely drank any water (so frustrating).  At least she had Ulcergard on board, but darn it mare, it is frustrating how oddly picky she is about eating!


We won a brush and all competitors got a little bag from Meader's Supply.  Cool!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Snappy Earns a New Saddle

Seven years ago, it took me forever to find the dressage right saddle for Dreamy.  I tried many different saddles and eventually settled on a Stubben Juventus which I adore!  I made it work well enough for Snappy last year with a Mattes pad and a lot of cringing, but she is built downhill and I knew the saddle really didn't work for her.  With Dreamy essentially retired, I knew it was time to get the Stubben looked at for Snappy.  Ashley Hutchinson of Whole Horse Works came out last week and evaluated the fit on both the dressage saddle and my other Juventus which is a jumping saddle.

Because of her downhill build, the dressage saddle was sitting too low in front.  However, because of her wither shape and large shoulders, there was no way we could go with a smaller width tree (it is a 31 cm, medium wide) because then it wouldn't fit.  While the back gussets work well for her shape, she really could use front gussets.  Of course, the saddle is designed so there was no more room in the front for much more wool.  She did get the lumps and bumps out and did add a smidge more wool in the front, but there was no way to add enough to make it actually fit.  I asked if she could create gussets on the front, but she felt she couldn't.  So, we used the Mattes pad with front shims to get the saddle nearly perfect, but it just isn't going to work long term.  I knew that was going to happen.  :-(

The Juventus jumping saddle was actually a better fit for her and needed the flocking adjusted.  For now, I can use it because I ride more often in the dressage saddle anyway.

So, then it became a "so, what has front gussets and will work better for this horse?" question I pose to Ashley.  She is a big proponent of DK saddles, but I had no idea about them until she suggested it.  The basic idea is that the DK saddles are built on a flexible tree that adjusts from extra narrow to extra wide; the actual tree itself is designed to be adjustable without the need of different size gullet changers.  And instead of wool, use Flair air panels.  Each of the four panels can be inflated/deflated to create a perfect fit, unlike the CAIR panels on a Bates, for example. The tree points are much longer than most saddles, and I want to say Ashley told me the ends were nine inches away from the withers, therefore eliminating the typical pressure points and atrophy on the side of the withers.  Because we know horses are asymmetrical, the DK system can help fit any horse.  

Now, I know there are several opinions out there about all different brands of saddles, and the air panels of the DK are not liked by everyone.  I personally think this is going to work well for my horse.  And best of all, because I am not going to have Snappy in my life as my main riding horse forever as I one day hope to have a young horse to train up, I can use this same saddle for a new horse.  

DK saddles sell for $6000, which is WAY out of my budget.  Like not in a million years in my budget LOL!  In searching for a used one, I was advised to purchase a 2008 or newer, as that is when DK Saddlery's owner, Danny Kroetch, changed the tree design. Because the DK's are made in Canada, Ashley recommended I try to find one there, as the exchange rate is quite favorable.  My search so far has proven to turn up nothing appropriate.  The saddle is either too old for what I want or has wool flocking (meaning a saddle fitter took out the air bladders and put wool in).  This is fine if that is what you want, but because I am looking for the adjustable air panels, I would have to pay $$ for the wool to be removed and air bladders put back in.  While Ashley can do this, it just made the saddle more expensive and the exchange rate no longer mattered.  I kept finding saddles and sending the serial number to Danny, who I spoke with for a while when I first decided to try Ashley's suggestion.  I have stumbled upon a DK Freedom that looks like it will work perfectly and is a great deal.  So hopefully as soon as it arrives from Michigan, I can have Ashley out again and we can make it work!  Fingers crossed!!