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Why are horse helmets for guys so dorky?

Why are horse helmets for guys so dorky?

Here’s a plea to Troxel and other horse helmet manufacturers. Please, for the sake of all that is manly, please make a horse helmet for guys that doesn’t look so dorky. I spent weeks and maybe months looking for a good helmet. I ended up with very nice Troxel helmet that I like very much except for one thing. It’s GIANT…I mean watermelon huge. Hey, my head isn’t THAT big. All the girl helmets look cool but the guy helmets look stupid. And I’m guessing that’s one of the biggest reasons I never…that’s right NEVER see guys wearing helmets. Girls don’t wear them much around here either but you see more girls than guys wearing them. I’m still a newbie and I’m still riding horses I don’t have a long history with so for me it seems a helmet is a must. But I hate looking like a dork wearing one.

So Troxel, are you listening? Surely you can make something that’s safe and still looks good on guys. Help us guys keep our manliness and save a few brain injuries while you’re at it. 

Moonshine Returns Home

Moonshine Returns Home

We once again have fine east Tennessee Moonshine at our farm. This evening we went over to ride her and get Lance’s final evaluation before bringing her home. The report? Well, not so great. We observed Moonshine hunching up her back at canter and this is after she had been longed. After some demonstration and instruction from Lance, I hopped on and rode her around the ring a few times. She was tense and it was obvious to me she simply didn’t want to move. And I was on high alert and nervous as can be, given her odd performance last week. I walked her and she gave me no trouble doing it except I really had to push her just to walk. I wasn’t ready for anything more than that. Lance reiterated his advice that we should get rid of her and find another horse. I’m still not completely convinced of that but at the same time I realize the insanity of keeping a horse you’re too afraid to ride. I might be more open to it if I knew she would have a good home but who wants a horse you can’t easily ride? I’m afraid she’d be treated with a heavy hand and have a miserable and possibly short life. Uggg. I guess if I can’t work with her I’ll have a 20-year pasture ornament. I love this stupid horse, darn it. I almost wish she was mean to me so I could more easily send her to auction.

Lance brought her back tonight and the boys (Sinbad and Valentine) were quite attentive. We put Moonshine in a stall so the horses could sniff and nicker at each other for a while. Then we let her loose into our pasture so she could re-assert her authority. It was less dramatic than we expected but still funny. I shot a short little video of it (below).

But just so you know, we haven’t totally given up on her. We’re going to explore horse chiropractics and look into marbling (someone mentioned it in comments). In the meantime, it’s good to have a backup horse (Sinbad).

Even though she’s trouble, we’re glad to have our sweet Moonshine back.

My five hour trail ride mistake

My five hour trail ride mistake

Oh, my aching back, legs, rear, etc.! Saturday we spent a wonderful day riding horses next to a beautiful lake. This was supposed to be the day we got Moonshine back to try her new riding skills but due to the incident from a few days ago (Moonshine gets hit by a car), she’s on the injured list and wasn’t ridable. In her place I rode my backup horse, Sinbad, a well broke, ridable by almost anyone kind of horse, 25 years old and still full of energy. Mikki and I met up with our horse friend Shari, Lance (the guy training Moonshine) and some other horse owners. Shari and Lance were kind enough to pick up Valentine and Moonshine on their horse trailers (we need one of those!) and off we went for a day of riding. Now I knew I’d be a little sore because I use a cheap saddle and haven’t ridden any distance in 6 months or so. But five hours later, my rump we tender and I was ready to call it a day. Today, Sunday, I could barely get out of bed. I just may have overdone it. Perhaps we ought to bump a hot tub up on the priority list for future purchases!

Notes from the trip:

  1. Mikki’s horse Valentine LOVES the water. He was splashing around on it like a little kid. We were all pretty concerned he’d want to roll in it.
  2. When there are 11 horses together on a trail ride, it makes sense that some of them won’t get along. We had to rearrange horses a few times. For example, Sinbad is a tailgater and the horse in front of us was a kicker. Not a good combo!
  3. Horses are very good at walking over downed trees, though some like to jump over them.
  4. Fearing her own weight was giving her horse trouble navigating through some deep water, Shari bailed into the drink and emerged horseless and soaking wet. Her horse was easily caught and she finished the trip still wet.
  5. Cheap saddles make for sore butts on long rides. According to my body, five hours is considered “long”. You get what you pay for in saddles, apparently.

We’ll definitely head back to this area soon. I’m looking for a new saddle and possibly the add-on gel pads to hold me over. And hopefully a future trip will include Moonshine.

Below are some more pictures from the ride. Yeah, warm weather!

SLIDESHOW TO BE RE-ADDED IN THE FUTURE

Help Keep Our Trails Open!

Help Keep Our Trails Open!

In addition to our expensive horse hobby, we have an expensive Jeep hobby, too. We have a modified Jeep Wrangler and love to go off-road. Some of you may know that off-road trails across the country have steadily dwindled as certain interest groups have pushed to have them closed to “protect the environment.” I guess that’s not surprising, since a few off-roaders have given us all a bad name. What is surprising, however, is that the same battle is being fought over horses. That’s right; there are many, many people out there who want to deny trail access to horseback riders. Believe it or not, one of their most frequent arguments is that horses are bad for the environment. Their hooves tear up the trails and their manure brings in foreign plant seeds, among other things. I’m sure they have other complaints, but we’re still kind of new to this issue.

No horses signThe important thing is, if we want to be allowed to keep riding in our own national parks, we have to take action. Trails across the country are being closed just because someone complains, or brings up an environmental concern, and no horse people speak up. I suspect it’s simply because, like us, horse owners are not aware that this is happening. By the time they find out a trail is closed or about to close, it’s too late.

We recently joined a group in our area, the Southern Appalachian Back Country Horsemen. It’s a local chapter of a national organization, Back Country Horsemen of America. These groups, local and national, keep track of current events affecting trail riders and their members do what they can to keep the trails open: writing to government leaders; challenging efforts to close trails; keeping good relationships with their local Forest Service; participating in trail cleanups and maintenance. I urge you to look into an organization in your area, and do what you can to help keep trail riding alive. If we don’t fight, we’ll eventually lose all access to public lands. That would be a shame.

And Today It Was My Turn to Fall Off

And Today It Was My Turn to Fall Off

I do my own stuntsI guess it’s my punishment for laughing at the Kid when he fell off Sinbad yesterday. Yes, I did laugh – does that make me a horrible mom? I wouldn’t have thought it was funny if he got hurt, of course. But he didn’t, and it was. Funny, that is. But those things sometimes have a way of coming back to bite you. Kharma?

The weather was just so nice today – 71°F! – that we couldn’t resist saddling up two horses for a short lunchtime ride. Actually, I did all the saddling while Bill worked, to maximize our riding time. (Again, no pictures of the new tack! Sorry!) When they were all ready to go, Bill came up to the barn and off we went. We started out by heading away from the house, down a hill, toward the road like we always do. When we got to the road, we decided to go back and ride in our pasture. I tried to turn Valentine around and cross a shallow ditch. Normally, he doesn’t care a bit about crossing anything – water, logs, rocks, whatever – but he took issue with that little ditch. He stopped dead right before it, with his body sloping way down, and I just couldn’t hang on. Over I went. I was able to wrap my arms around his neck on the way down, so I landed on my feet and was unhurt. Then I thought, “Dang! How am I gonna get back up on this giant horse again?” Because that’s always my first concern when I think I’m coming off my horse. He’s really tall, and I’m really short – you can kind of see that in the photo. I have to use a mounting block. Luckily, there was a convenient stump nearby.

Then, out in the pasture, he got all squirrelly again. Neither he nor Sinbad were in the mood for riding, apparently. They both very much wanted to go back to the barn, and put a lot of effort into getting there. We rode around a little bit, despite their wishes, and when I finally turned back toward the barn, Valentine did a funny little sideways turn (he may have spooked a little bit) and nearly came out from under me. I managed to stay on that time, but I whacked my right ring finger on the saddle horn. The end of it is a lovely shade of purple.

So, not the pleasant little ride we were hoping for, but it sure was exciting! Maybe we’ll do it again tomorrow, if it doesn’t rain.

Incidentally, the tshirt image above can be bought on Cafepress (not affiliated).

The Kid Rides Again…And Falls Off.

The Kid Rides Again…And Falls Off.

I do my own stuntsExcept for the falling-off part, it was a great day. We went on a multi-horse trail ride over at the Watson farm. There were six of us: Shari on her barrel racer, Misty; her two sons on her gelding Rabbit and her Halflinger mare, Cree; me on Valentine; the Kid on Sinbad; and Bill on Champ. Who’s Champ, you ask? Interesting story.

Our cow neighbors put a horse in their pasture a few weeks ago and we’ve been keeping an eye on him. A couple of nights back, it was really cold, so we approached the neighbors and told them they could keep their horse in our barn when it’s cold. They declined, but we found out that the horse, who doesn’t have a name (cue music…“I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name…”), belongs to their son, but he’s too busy to keep a horse and he’s interested in selling him. So of course we’re interested in buying him. We’ve been feeding him carrots over the fence for a month, and named him, for goodness sake! But, having learned from our experience buying the green-broke Moonshine on a whim, we asked if we could ride Champ today to see if he’d be a good horse for us. They said fine, so after church we dropped the Kid off at Shari’s and went home to tack up Valentine and Sinbad. Then we rode over to Shari’s, picking up Champ on the way. Shari and her kids were ready to go, so we threw the Kid up on Sinbad (with his own helmet, purchased last week) and Bill rode Champ.

The Kid was pretty nervous, and was having trouble keeping his feet in the stirrups. The horses were all really squirrelly – probably because they were from three different “herds” all mixed together. Still, everything was going fine as we wound our way through the trees. Until, suddenly, the Kid fell off. I didn’t see it happen, but turned around in time to see him hit the ground. Luckily, he wasn’t hurt. He was, however, extremely reluctant to get back up on his horse. We finally convinced him to ride Cree instead, because she’s much smaller (about 13 hands) – not as far to fall, don’t you know. I’m sorry to say that he didn’t really enjoy the ride, even after moving onto Cree and not falling off any more, so we’re going to have a heck of time talking him into doing it again. 🙁

The rest of us had a really good time, though. It was a short ride, but fun nonetheless. Champ was easy to ride, not spooky at all and very obedient. Alas, our horse expert friend Shari has advised us against adding him to our horse family. It seems that the sweet guy is over 20 years old and probably arthritic. She warns us that if we were to buy him, he probably wouldn’t be sound enough to ride for very long. Such a shame. We’ll think about it though, and of course keep you posted.

And darn it, we forgot the camera, so no pictures of our horses in their new tack. Maybe tomorrow – it’s supposed to be about 70. Jealous? 😉

The tshirt above can be purchased on Cafepress (not affiliated).

Too Cold to Ride?

Too Cold to Ride?

It’s that time of year again when you have to wear three layers of clothes and a goofy hat to go outside. I don’t like winter! Here we are, all excited about riding, with three horses to ride now – and it’s in the 30’s. In the daytime. And windy, too. We’re so disappointed. It’s not actually snowing (the picture is from last winter), so maybe we should just suck it up, bundle up and ride. But it’s just so cold!

I spent a lot of time outside yesterday, actually, cleaning out the spare stall, seeing as how it’s not actually a spare stall anymore – we now have three of each (horses and stalls). It was supposed to be 15 last night, so we thought Sinbad should have a stall too, whether he wanted one or not (his owner says if he’s locked in a stall, he’ll knock the walls down to get out). So we shifted everybody down and gave Sinbad the stall closest to the pasture and left his door open. As it turned out, we had an overnight low of 12, so I’m glad we did it. Sinbad didn’t seem to mind either, once he confirmed – 7 or 8 times – that the stall door was still open.

Tonight it’s supposed to be 18, so everyone will be inside again, but tomorrow it’s supposed to start warming up again, with highs in the 50’s this weekend. Yay! We’re getting 100 square bales of hay on Saturday, and then we’re going to ride. I can’t wait. I haven’t gotten to use my beautiful new Henry Miller bridle yet. If all goes well, I’ll post pictures soon of Valentine in all his fancy tack.

So how’s the weather where you are? And when do you think it’s too cold to ride?

Long Riding

Long Riding

A few weeks ago we posted about the guy who is riding across country (he’s currently in Tennessee). In the comments, Elise mentioned her friend’s aunt did something similar. You’ve got to check out End of the Trail.  Bernice Ende rode 5,000 miles on her 8-year-old thoroughbred mare Honor and with her dog Claire. She made the trip alone, human-wise, over the course of 16 months from May 2006 to October 2007. If you click the “Current Information” link at the top of that site you can see more information and pictures. I really admire someone who can take a 16-month horse ride. I imagine it takes a lot of skill, some money in the bank and a very comfortable saddle. During her trip, Honor went through 14 sets of horseshoes. I hadn’t heard the term before but I read this kind of trip is called “Long Riding”.

Long Rider Bernice Ende

Long Rider Bernice EndeI’m not sure I’d want to take that long of a trip but I can appreciate the desire to get away from the world and live without deadlines and much responsibility. I’m sure she discovered a lot about herself and America along the way. I’ve bookmarked her site so I’m ready in case she decides to do it again.

Thanks for the note, Elise.

Also, Bernice probably couldn’t have done it without a decent sponsor and it looks like a company called Outfitters Supply filled that role. It looks like they really helped her out along the way so I think it’s worth clicking over to their online store to check them out. They carry a lot of trail gear I haven’t seen in the other online stores I’ve been to. I’ve never done business with them, they’re not paying me anything for the link and we’re not affiliated.

The Kid Rides!

The Kid Rides!

The Kid RidesOne of the benefits of having an older, well-broken in horse to ride is that anyone can ride him. We confirmed that last weekend when we threw the Kid up on our foster horse, Sinbad, and handed him the reins.

It would be a better story if we could tell you that the Kid had been begging us to ride, jumped up there with no hesitation, and took to horseback riding like a duck to water, but the truth is, he was a bit reluctant. In fact, we tricked him into going outside, where the horse was waiting, and coerced him into getting into the saddle. Then we told him we’d hold the horse the whole time he rode, only to let go of the bridle once the Kid had gotten more comfortable. Shame on us! But the good news is, he was in fact able to control Sinbad, and by the time we went up the road a little ways, turned around and came back to the barn – with Sinbad under the Kid’s direction the whole way – he admitted that horseback riding was fun after all.

Hopefully, this was the first of many rides. We have little hope that riding will replace video games in the Kid’s world, but maybe someday he can add it to the things he enjoys doing. We’d better get another horse, just in case. 🙂

More Trail Riding!

More Trail Riding!

Horse Crossing SignI went trail riding again on Saturday. I’m sure you all will get tired of hearing about this soon, but I am still just so excited – I’m riding my horse! On a regular basis! It’s just so cool.

Anyway, I went with Shari and her friend/coworker, Christina. Christina happens to be a large animal vet, so I’m happy to be getting to know her better. 🙂 We went to a place nearby that is just a nice, easy network of trails. They wander through woods, around cornfields and next to a lake. The weather was perfect, and the horses were all very well-behaved.

Shari brought her gelding, Rabbit; he’s a Quarter Horse, about 15, maybe 15.5 hh. I had my 16.2 hh Tennessee Walking Horse. And Christina had her 17 hh Thoroughbred, Wilson. Can you just picture that? Since Bill, our official (and only) cameraman, didn’t come this time, you’ll have to picture it in your head. To help you in your imagining, though, Rabbit is a bay, Valentine is of course black, and Wilson is a dappled grey. He’s a former racehorse who also was a show jumper, and Christina rides him with English tack. What a motley crew – Shari on her Western saddle, in jeans and a baseball cap; Christina on her little English saddle in breeches with half-chaps and a riding helmet; and me on Shari’s nice trail saddle (looks like a Western/English combo) in jeans and riding helmet. You wouldn’t think we’d make be a good trail group, but we did. The horses all got along famously, and as long as we were only walking, things went pretty smoothly.

Every once in a while, though – okay, several times – Wilson wanted to go just a wee bit faster. Valentine wasn’t going to take that laying down. He was like one of those drivers you encounter, who isn’t going too fast until you try to pass them, and then they speed up. The faster Wilson went, the faster Valentine wanted to go. And let me tell you, a 17 hh Thoroughbred can go pretty darn fast.

I’ve learned something else too: a former show horse is not necessarily a good trail horse. My horse, as I’ve mentioned before, was a fancy show horse. He was what you call a “big lick” Tennessee Walker. That means he was one of those horses with the big ol’ pads on his front feet, keeping his back end way down and lifting his front feet way up in the air. Pretty impressive in a show ring, but not so very practical for everyday walking. What I’m saying is, he has one gait that is really, really smooth. It’s called a “running walk.” All his other gaits are, shall we say, uncomfortable for the rider. His walk is okay – rougher than a normal horse, but tolerable. His trot is really bouncy. His canter makes it nearly impossible to stay in the saddle. We never made it to a gallop, thank goodness. I think a project in the near future will be to find someone who knows how to direct a gaited horse, so I can learn how to keep Valentine in that nice running walk. I could sit that all day.

We also took our horses into the lake. That was an adventure. Rabbit would not go – Shari had to get off and lead him reluctantly in. He has a “thing” about water. Wilson would absolutely not go. Christina got off and tried to pull him in; he pulled her out. She got back on and Shari and Rabbit stood behind, with Shari slapping him on the rump with a crop as Christina tried to get him in. No way, sister. Finally they settled on getting him to stand at the water’s edge, which he finally did. And Valentine? The first time we tried, I got him to the edge but he turned around. Then after the Wilson fiasco, I tried again and he went right in. I was so proud – two experienced horsewomen, and I, the novice, was the only one whose horse obeyed with no trouble! Later, we found a better, smoother beach and all three horses went right in, and had a high old time, pawing and splashing. We can’t wait for summer, when getting splashed will be fun for the riders too.

All in all, it was a really great day. Can’t wait for this Saturday! I wonder where we’re going?