I’ve never really given much thought to it but there are probably a lot of people out there who would love to be able to ride a horse but can’t due to a disability. Today I came across an article on Grit.com about a saddle maker that crafts horse saddles for special needs or handicapped riders. From kids to disabled veterans, I’m sure the right saddle could be a dream come true to those who thought they would otherwise never be able to ride a horse. If you know of anybody in this situation, perhaps these links could be useful:
Let this be a lesson to us all. Yesterday I was stung by a wasp who unbeknown to me was busy building a nest under one of our saddle blankets. Around here, wasps are everywhere right now! At times we are afraid to go into our tackroom, which is open to the barn on the top. Someone was coming over to exercise Romeo for us and I dashed into the barn to grab the saddle blanket. I don’t recall ever being stung by a wasp but I can tell you it felt like someone had stabbed my finger. I thought I had left something sharp under there and I had cut myself on it and fully expected to see blood. Although the pain eventually dissipated, boy did it throb for a while!
A quick search of the internet revealed a way to relieve the pain. Apparently alcohol is good for bee stings and vinegar is good for wasp stings (think a-b and v-w) but not vice-versa. This seems to have worked and today I had forgotten all about it.
So just a quick note to suggest safety when pulling out tack you haven’t used in a while.
I forgot to tell you all – I got something really cool a few weeks ago. I think I mentioned that I had been using my friend Shari’s saddle for trail riding. It is just the nicest, most comfortable saddle you could ask for, but I couldn’t keep using hers because she kind of wanted to use it too. So I thought I’d check on eBay for Eli Miller saddles, and I found a few. One of them just happened to be near where we live, so that’s the one I went for, and I got it!
If you’ve never heard of Eli Miller saddles, you are missing out. Eli Miller is an Amish leather crafter who made saddles and other tack until he retired and his nephew Henry took over the business, using the same techniques and quality craftsmanship and materials as Eli – they’re now sold under the Henry Miller name. These saddles are made on a solid wood tree with a coating of fiberglass and a material called “Rhino” that helps make the tree more durable. They are covered in buttery soft leather and the seat is a “suspended” seat (it doesn’t rest directly on the tree) with a gel cushion. Mine is just heavenly to ride – I have ridden for hours with no pain or discomfort caused by the saddle. It is also really beautiful – rich chestnut leather with a darker seat, and simple, elegant tooling along the edges. There are also other matching tack pieces – bridles, breast collars, etc. (Gee, I sure hope I get something like that for Christmas. ;))
After doing some internet research, I believe my saddle is a “Buena Vista” (model #104). While it wasn’t as inexpensive as my World’s Longest Yard Sale saddle at $60, I still got a really good deal. The saddle retails for about $800 and I got it for $400, and the seller delivered it to me. (She was very, very nice, and we may go trail riding together sometime. She also knows my friend Shari – small world!)
So if you’re in the market for a really good saddle you intend to keep for a while, I highly recommend an Eli Miller/Henry Miller. I’ve seen them in our local tack shops and several online stores. And don’t forget eBay!
Last weekend, we attended a major socio-economic event, a veritable cultural phenomenon: The World’s Longest Yard Sale. This thing stretches 630 miles along Highway 127 from Alabama to Ohio, and you can find just about anything there. Like regular old yard sales, most of it is junk. There are a few gems among the knickknacks, VCR tapes and 80’s posters, though, and we found a couple in our price range. Among other things, we got a hand-painted light switch cover; a John Deere hat; an “antique” concrete leveler; and a 17-year-old book about east Tennessee.
But our favorite finds, of course, were horse-related. We got a great lawn sign. It’s a big hunk of sheet metal, cut into the shape of a running horse with “Welcome” laser cut into the middle. It’s about 4 feet high by 5 feet long:
Isn’t it pretty?
My favorite buy of the day, though, is my new saddle. I’ve been borrowing my friend Shari’s saddle for over a year now and wanted to give it back. We looked at saddles, but most were more than we wanted to pay. Then at the end of the day, at a stand that was selling lemonade, tomatoes and a mish-mash of junk, were two saddles under a table. One was just too worn-out to even consider, but the other was okay. It’s a dark brown western saddle with no silver (I’m not crazy about the silver) and brand-new stirrup leathers and came with an extra strap and roping cinch. It’s pretty worn but not cracked or torn anywhere, and the tree (the rigid foundation that the saddle is built around, kind of like a car’s frame) is intact. Shari looked at it for me and said it’s okay, and that we didn’t get ripped off. The guy was asking $85; Bill, wonder-negotiator, got him down to $60! What a deal!
See you next year at the World’s Longest Yard Sale!
We’ve mentioned in several earlier posts that we don’t keep halters on our horses while they’re out in the pasture and promised to explain why. Well, now we finally will.
We often see horses in pastures wearing a halter, and many of our friends keep their horses haltered all the time. In the movies, certainly, the horses are always wearing something or another. We loved the fancy halters in “Racing Stripes,” for instance – they were dark leather with a brass nameplate on the side. And it makes sense, don’t you think, to have a halter on your horse? That way, if you need to catch a horse in a hurry, all you do is grab it and snap on a lead rope. So why don’t we leave halters on our horses?
Well, we leave them bare for safety reasons. There’s our paranoia about theft, of course – why make it easier for a horse thief to nab your horse? But that’s a very minor consideration, really. The biggest thing is that the halter is so easy to catch on things. Our pasture is very woodsy, and the horses love to wander through the trails between the trees. It would only be a matter of time before one of them snagged a branch with the halter, panicked and injured him- or herself.
Another scenario we’ve read about is horses getting a hoof caught in the halter when scratching themselves. I’ve seen my horse rubbing his chin with a rear hoof, believe it or not, and halters are pretty loose in that area. It seems like a remote possibility that he could get his hoof caught, but a possibility nonetheless.
And, last but not least, there’s the fact that our horses cannot leave anything on themselves or each other alone. When we got their fancy new personalized halters and went out into the pasture to try them on the horses, Moonshine did her best to pull Valentine’s off. (Yet another reason why blankets wouldn’t work out for our horses.)
So they’ll just go around in the buff. Better safe than sorry – which pretty much sums up our horsekeeping doctrine.
Temperatures were in the upper 50’s today, warm enough to make me want to be outside, doing chores I’ve been putting off. One of the fun chores I’ve been putting off is saddling up my horse Moonshine to get her familiar with having a saddle on her back. She had been ridden by previous owners but not often. In fact, the first time I “rode” her, she reared up and dumped me off the back. I’ll have to write about that someday. I’ve ridden her since without incident, but hardly at all. It’s time to start enjoying this pony from a saddle. In the absence of a round pen, which we’re working on buying/building, we have a few options for working our horses. We could longe them (halter and lead them in around in a circle with the lead rope, using a whip to gently coax) and saddle them and walk them around to get them familiar with having a saddle on their backs again. We did some walking today. I have this new saddle and wanted to attach everything and adjust it for my horse. The first thing I noticed was just how stiff my new saddle is. I mean it’s like a pair of new cowboy boots that needs breaking in before it’s comfortable. Next, it occurred to me that riding horses is probably not something you decide to do when you have a half-hour to spare. It takes that long just to brush your horse and strap a saddle on. (We weren’t in a rush or anything – I just had this revelation that horseback riding isn’t something you could probably do on your work lunch break.) Although it took us a while to strap this new saddle on, Moonshine was patient. This is the first time in a while she’s had access to all the yummy green grass in our yard so she was content just standing there eating. Once we had the saddle on and adjusted, of course I had to sit on her to make sure the stirrups were long enough. I admit, I’m still a little nervous getting on this bolt of lightning but this time I had my cowboy boots and long jeans on and figured our lawn was soft. I didn’t ride her but I mounted her 3 times without incident. Mikki and I then walked her down the street past some neighbor homes. She seemed to not want to go near the caged yappy dogs down the road but reluctantly agreed after some coaxing. We’ll have to keep up the walking to desensitize her to barking dogs.
As I mentioned in Vacationing with horses on my mind, I recently spent some time in Arizona and got to ride a horse while I was there. As I’m riding along at dusk, some pit bull comes running over to us and the first thing I think is “crap, what if this horse is afraid of dogs and takes off?” Fortunately for me, that didn’t happen. The horse I rode was pretty laid back and didn’t mind all the other dogs we encountered on that ride, including lots that would wait until we were near their fence and then run out towards us, barking viciously. That’s how I need Moonshine to be.
So for now, we’ll be walking our horse like a dog. In fact, Mona over at the Horse Approved blog wrote about that very subject earlier this month in her post Walk Your Horse Like a Dog. Not only does it get them familiar with your neighborhood and your tack, I have to agree with Mona that it’s good bonding time.
Something all the experts will tell you is that when you’re working around horses, you need to wear the right kind of shoes. Have you ever had your dog step on your feet? Well, guess what – your horse will do that too. And need I remind you, your horse weighs considerably more than a dog, and has really hard feet to boot? (ha ha) I can tell you from personal experience that it pays to have the right kind of shoes.
Until this weekend, I had been really lucky. I didn’t have any boots, but I always tried to wear sturdy shoes. Valentine swept over my feet a couple of times, but I was quick enough to get them out of harm’s way. Then last weekend, I finally got my boots, and I love them! They are Justin work boots – ugly but tough! Very comfortable too. (I got them at C&S Tack.) Valentine likes them too – he tasted them both thoroughly. Maybe they look like apples to him.
I can’t tell the rest of the story without spilling Bill’s big news, so I’ll have to tell you…he got his own horse! That’s all I’m going to say. You’ll have to wait for his post to hear all about Static’s Blue Moon. But anyway, I was leading Blue Moon out of her stall yesterday, and she stepped squarely on my foot. It stung, let me tell you, but I was wearing my boots and they held up great. Today, the same darn thing happened, on the same foot – and I was wearing tennies. Big no-no. And I know why, now. Unfortunately for me, she stepped on the little toe I broke last year. I sure hope I’ll be able to wear my boots tomorrow. Owie.
A great source of information is your local tack shop. Halfway between the town where we live and the closest “big city,” tucked off the highway where you would never know where it is except for a roadside sign, is the best little tack shop around: C&S Western & Tack Shop. They have EVERYTHING there – tack, barn stuff, shoeing supplies, grooming supplies, boots – you name it. And the owner, Charlie, really knows his stuff. He’s been a great source of information and advice for us. He knows just about everyone in the area, too, so he knows who to talk to if you need something he doesn’t have (like hay). There’s a bulletin board full of resources in the shop, too. Charlie is also one of the nicest people we’ve met in a place full of nice people, and he has the best stories. If you’re ever in Greenback, Tennessee, look them up!
Many times over the last few weeks I have felt that horse ownership is not for beginners. Seriously – I think that people who have horses or supply horse stuff don’t even consider that horse stuff might possibly be used by someone who hasn’t always had horses. This is one of those times. I got the bridle/halter combo today, and it came in a big Ziploc bag. No pictures, no instructions, nothing. Here’s what I have to work with:
The bridle/halter was supposed to arrive in the mail today. The box did in fact arrive, but for some reason all they sent was one rein. I don’t know much about tack, but I don’t think I can make this work. The ride is delayed yet again.