Saturday, July 30, 2016

SmartPak Medium Diamond AP Saddle Pad Review

SmartPak Diamond Pad

I really think that saddle pads are to horse tack as shoes are to a human's outfit. They are necessary and so don't always stand out, but when you have the right one it really makes the look. I love shoes for this reason and so I also love saddle pads. That being said, I am not willing to spend a lot of money on a saddle pad, because it is essentially just two pieces of fabric sewn together with a thin pad inside.
I decided to buy SmartPak's Diamond All-Purpose Saddle Pad mostly because they had a good promotion going on where I would save 15% and get free shipping. The standard price is $35 and I got mine for $30 due to the promotion. As far as saddle pads go, this is a really basic pad. There is nothing novel about its shape, it comes in very basic colors, and it is just a standard saddle pad. SmartPak frames their product in terms of classic-ness, saying that the style and design are classic, which is true, but classic can be a bit boring.
Hunter Green
I ended up ordering the Hunter Green color because I thought it would look good on Casey and I am hoping that since it is a darker color it won't get too filthy. It is a really pretty color in person, I would say that the color is the best feature of this saddle pad. It also comes in: Black, White, Jade, Navy, Sky Blue, Pink, & Purple. Although I think that this pad is a bit boring, I will say that SmartPak does try to make up for this by providing a lot of customization options. For more money, you can get either graphic and text (for $15.95), a monogram (for $9.95), or text (for $12.95). There are a bunch of different fonts, styles, and thread colors (17 colors). I personally did not opt for any of this customization because I didn't want to spend more money than necessary on a saddle pad, but I am sure that some people would love this feature.
Casey isn't too impressed
The other notable qualities of this saddle pad are that: the saddle pad is supposed to be breathable, there is a decent amount of cushioning, and it made out of a poly/cotton blend. This saddle pad is serving its purpose and I appreciate that, I just am not enthused about this product. The next time I get a saddle pad I want one with an interesting cut or a fun pattern (I have my eyes on a cool fox-patterned saddle pad).
Saddle pad in action

Ovation Airoform All Purpose Girth Review

As I'm sure many riders can sympathize, having to deal with girths is a bit of a pain in the butt. They always seem to be different lengths, even when they say they are the same length, they are easy to make wrong (with fuzzy stuff that warps outward, with too stiff leather, with elastic that stretches out too much), and they just aren't the most fun piece of tack to deal with. So when I started looking into girths I was not at all excited and I was a reluctant shopper. I didn't know what I wanted exactly, but I didn't want to spend a lot of money or get something that was poorly made.

After a lot of browsing around online, I found the Ovation All-Purpose Airform Chafeless Girth. There were several things that stood out to me from that really kinda ridiculously long name. Firstly, I know that Ovation is a very reputable brand, my trainer has it on her list of good companies to buy things from. Secondly, the airform aspect interested me because it sounded like it wouldn't be hot (heat wave here in Oregon). Lastly, the chafeless aspect of the girth seemed like a good idea. I have used a girth maybe once or twice in my life that did chafe the horse I was riding, but generally, I have not experienced any chafing problems, but it seemed like something to be safe instead of sorry about.
After I found the AP Airform Chafeless Girth I did toy around with the idea of getting the Ovation Airform Click-It Chafeless Style Girth, but when I looked at reviews it seemed that people were having trouble with the click-it aspect of this girth. Also, it was more expensive than the non-Click-It girth, and so I went with the cheaper option. It ended up only costing me $30 on Amazon which is a very decent price.
I ordered the girth in brown (hoping and praying that it would match the saddle I have been using). After testing it out, I have to say that it is not the same color as the saddle that I might buy and have been using, it is a darker brown. It is actually a closer match to my bridle which is a Havanna brown. The nylon-y material has almost a red hue in it as you can see in the pictures so that might also make it hard to color-match. The girth also comes in black.
Casey's girth size varies according to the girth and the saddle, but generally, she ranges between 50" and 54". I decided to order a 52" because it is in the middle. It is really hard for me to say if it runs true to size because all of the lesson girths at my barn are from different companies and they all vary in size so I don't know which is the truest sized girth to compare to. What I can say is that this girth fits Casey with all of the saddles that I have tried. My guess is then that it runs pretty true to size.
The girth itself is made out of a really interesting material (the Airoform). It is almost spongy in consistency and has a lot of little holes throughout to allow airflow. The Airoform is really soft and malleable (no stiffness at all). It is also supposed to be hypoallergenic. I cannot say how it feels for the horse (because I can't read her mind), but I would imagine that it feels a lot nicer than a stiff leather girth.
The girth also has two long stretches of nylon-y material that create a curved pattern around the girth. These are single-stitched and do stand out from the Airoform. I don't quite know what their functionality is - maybe to hold the Airoform softer material together? - but it does make the girth look interesting.
The buckles on the girth are stainless steel roller buckles. They are really easy to use, roll nicely, and so far do not make any squeaky noises. There is only elasticized inserts on one side, but I prefer that to having elastic on both ends (because I feel like the more elastic, the easier it is to overtighten the girth).
After riding with the girth I cannot say that it actually is any cooler for the horse. Part of that is that Oregon is so hot right now that Casey ends up drenched in sweat no matter what we do. I think that this girth probably feels nicer on her sweaty tummy than a leather girth just due to the softness of the material.
This girth is supposed to be easy to care for because it is synthetic and you can just sponge clean it. My experience is that it is easier to clean the sweat off, BUT the holes in the Airoform material are perfect little horse-hair-trappers and so overall I would not say that it is very easy to clean. Right now Casey's has her summer coat, so a few small caught hairs aren't bothering me, but I could imagine that this problem will only get worse when she grows out her winter coat. That being said, I really don't care if my girth is perfectly cleaned at all times so this one factor would not stop me from buying this girth again.

Ariat Scout Zip Paddock Boot Review

Ariat Scout Paddock Boots
Even though I have years of experience working with and riding horses, I have not experimented with different kinds of boots. In Paraguay, I owned one pair of tall boots, and in Oregon, I owned one pair of tall boots. And that was enough for me... for a while. I really like wearing tall boots when riding. I think that it makes sense to school in the boots that you will compete in and I didn't really see the sense in owning multiple pairs of boots. That being said, this summer has been unnaturally hot here in Oregon and my tall boots just were not working out for me. I really wanted paddock boots that I could pair with half chaps for riding, but when I was just working around the barn I could wear on their own and not be overheated.
When it comes to boots I really don't like to spend a lot of money, but after trying on a cheap pair of paddock boots (in the $30 range) I realized that if I wanted something that I could wear all day I would have to go with a reputable and comfortable brand. Once I made that choice, it was really easy for me to pick what brand of boots I wanted to go with: Ariat. I own a pair of fashion "equestrian" boots made by Ariat that are cute and really comfortable. I had been using them for riding (even though they are not meant for that - you can tell by the zipper design) and they did work for that purpose, although the zipper got in the way. Ariat boots are known for being long-lasting and well-designed. There is a reason that about half of the people at my barn own Ariat boots, and the reason is that they are really great. It also probably doesn't help that the only tack shop in my area is a Wilco that pretty much only sells Ariat boots (the downside of living in Oregon is that western riding is so prevalent that it is really hard to get English riding gear).
I knew that I wanted Ariat paddock boots, and I knew that I would have more choices and better prices if I ordered them online, so I went on Amazon and went with the cheapest Ariat paddock boots that I could find. I ended up ordering the Ariat Scout Zip Paddock Boot. They cost me $80 from Amazon but usually cost $90. That is a really good deal for a high-quality boot. It's not a small amount of money, but considering that boots easily run in the hundreds, under $100 is a steal.
I believe that the Ariat Scout Zip Paddock boots only come in black and that is what I ordered. When it comes to boots, I think that black is the only color to go with. Black goes with everything, and the problem with brown is that there are so many different browns that it is almost impossible to match your boots to your saddle to your half chaps. Black is simple, because while there can be differentiation of the shades, mostly black is black.
In terms of sizing, since I own another pair of Ariat boots I knew that I should order a half size up. This gives me enough wiggle room that I am able to wear warm fluffy socks in the winter. Ariat boots tend to run a little bit small, so even if you don't want to wear thicker socks with your boots I would still recommend going a half size up.
The boots are made out of full-grain leather, and unlike many leather products, they were able to get worn in quickly. I had very little break-in time with these boots. The first day I wore them, the leather was a little bit stiff, but there was no chafing, I got zero blisters, and by the end of the day they had molded to my feet and were totally comfortable. I've owned them for several weeks now and they haven't continued to shift, but rather stay molded to my foot. The leather has some nice touches to it, like the embossed Ariat label on the front and the tongue of the boot. The boots also have a really nice stitching pattern. I think that they look elegant for a paddock boot. I know that the plain, rounded toe cap is not in-style right now, but I like the look of rounded toe caps (I think that the squared ones look rather severe).
Wearing my boots at work
The sole of the boot is made out of Duratread rubber. The rubber itself seems to be good quality. I have noticed no cracks forming in the rubber - BUT the stitching in one of my boots that attaches the rubber sole to the upper part of the boot has started pulling out a bit. It is only in one boot and it was perhaps a quarter of an inch of thread coming out of the rubber. I cut it off to hopefully prevent it from pulling out more and haven't noticed any more issues with it. I worry that this might impact the lifespan of my boot, but since it seems to be holding together well I'm thinking that maybe it was just excess thread? If my boots fall apart on me I'll be sure to update this to let you know.
Duratread rubber soles
When researching these boots, I found that Ariat really boosts about something called 4LR Technology that is used in this boot, as well as other boots in their line. 4LR stands for "Four Layer Rebound" and basically it is just the footbed within the boot. It is supposed to provide more comfort, support, and stability within the boot. Honestly, I have not spent that much time thinking about the footbed of my shoes before, so don't really know that much about this technology, but I can say that these boots are really comfortable. I work and ride at my barn at least 5 days a week and sometimes am out there for 8 hours at a time and I can wear these boots while working, walking around, and riding without any discomfort. So if that is due to this technology, well then, I tip my hat to you Ariat, keep up the good work!
I did also buy Perri's Zipper Half Chaps to wear with my new paddock boots when riding. I may do a separate review on them at some point, but honestly, they just aren't exciting enough for me to want to write about. They seem to be wearing down more quickly than I would prefer and so my intuition is that they will not last long. I won't order them again, but will probably spend a little bit more money and get either leather or synthetic leather half chaps, because I think that the reason the Perri's half chaps are getting so worn is because they are made out of a suede-like material that just isn't tough enough.
Ariat paddock boots paired with Perri's half chaps
In summary, these boots are awesome. Granted, they are the first paddock boots that I've owned, but they do their job, they fit me well, they are really comfortable, they look nice, and they were at a great price point. I'd definitely recommend the Ariat Scout Zip Paddock boots and now am saving up to be able to buy a pair of Ariat tall boots!

Friday, July 29, 2016

So you want to be a working student?

When I was in college I knew that I wanted to be around horses and I was willing to do almost anything in order to get to ride. Unfortunately, I had a lot of things working against me. I was in college so didn't have the most flexible schedule in the world, my riding skills were really rusty (it had been five years since I had ridden, I had almost zero basic horse care skills (because my barn in Paraguay did not have the riders actually take care of the horses, just ride them), and I had no money to really spend on lessons. And so I decided that the best route for me to take was to work off riding time, or, in other words, become a working student. I am not the ultimate source of knowledge on working student gigs, but I know something and so will share my knowledge here. I have framed my information around a series of questions that I know that I had before becoming a working student; hopefully these questions and answers will be relevant to you!
What is a working student? Working student gigs vary widely in terms of work-load, expectations, benefits of the job, and riding options. The basic concept of a working student is that a person works and in exchange, they get to ride horses and possibly get lessons. Working student jobs seem to differ significantly based on the area that they are located in. I live in Oregon and so there are not many high-level trainers in the area. Due to this, the working student jobs are a lot more casual. I know that on the East Coast, where there are lots of high-level trainers, there are some working student jobs that are almost like full-time jobs and can involve housing and board for horses. If you are serious about wanting to become a working student, then it is vital that you do some research into what equestrian community surrounds you in order to be able to evaluate your options in an informed way.
What do I need to become a working student? In order to be a working student you really just need to have a good personality and work ethic. You may or may not need to have experience with horses, but you do need to be willing to learn, willing to work hard, and willing to become a part of a barn community. In order to get a job, you will probably need to compile a list of barns & trainers in your area (in order to look for a job) and you will need a resume. Even if you have no experience with horses, having a resume that highlights your best attributes and skills shows trainers that you are serious about wanting to become a working student. You might have an interview before you get a working student job, so it is also important to have proper attire (this will vary based on the barn and type of riding, but the two basics are boots and a helmet).
How do I find a working student gig? Once you have collected all of your research and prepared your resume, then it is time to start reaching out. The first working student gig I got was through word-of-mouth and mutual friends. For that reason, if you have any friends or family who are a part of an equestrian community, ask them to spread the word that you are looking for a working student job. You never know what might pop up. I got my second working student job by sending an inquiry e-mail to every single barn I was interested in. Basically, my e-mail just gave basic information about me, explained what I was looking for, thanked them for their time, and had my resume attached. I heard back from two different barns and went out in person to meet with the main trainer. I went with the barn that best fit with what I wanted. Not every barn has an e-mail address, so another option could be calling barns to ask around. This process will take time, so don't freak out if you don't hear back from people right away. I spent a month looking before I got my first working student job, and the second job I looked for two weeks. If you really think that it is not going to work out then consider building your knowledge and skill set. Find an equestrian organization to volunteer at in order to learn more about horse care. Maybe take some lessons to build your riding competence (the benefit of this is that you could potentially get a working student job at the barn you take lessons at). Then add those things to your resume and try again. Be patient!
What do I do if I am nervous about reaching out to barns/trainers about a working student job? The best thing I can say in response to this is that being able to pursue your passion is worth a little discomfort. The worst thing that could happen is that you get rejected for a job or ignored. But if that happens, then don't feel defeated, there are always more barns and more trainers you can talk to. The best thing that could happen is that you get a working student job at a barn that you love. I am an anxious person and it was definitely uncomfortable to put myself out there in order to try to find a working student job, but it was completely worth it in the end.
Once I have a working student job, what do I do? Among the things that you should do as a new working students are: make sure you have the proper equipment (again, proper boots and a helmet), learn about your new duties (what are you doing, how should you be doing it, what is your schedule), and get to know your new barn climate (who are the people, who are the animals, how do lessons work, etc). Ask any and all of your questions, because it is better to ask a perhaps silly question than to do something incorrectly. The most important thing is to take your new job seriously. Always show up when you say you are going to, work hard, and just be a good staff member. I often see people get the opportunity to work off lessons and they just don't take it seriously. They call in "sick" the day that they are supposed to be cleaning the barn or they just don't do a good job when they do show up. It is easy to think that an unpaid job is a joke or that it matters less than a paid job, but a little professionalism goes a long way. When I first started working at my current barn, I was the lowest ranking worker. I had to scramble to get any shifts and I was often passed up if someone with more seniority wanted to do the work, BUT I always showed up and I always worked hard, and so after a few months I had top rank and so had my pick of the schedules and the duties. Your trainer will appreciate your hard work, and they will give more opportunities to those who try and are always there.
Is a working student job hard work? Yes. No getting around this. Working student often do a lot of physical labor (think shoveling horse manure, wheeling wheelbarrows, sweeping aisles, free lunging horses, etc. You have to show up whether it is 100 degrees or freezing cold and rainy. You will also have to work long hours at times. I have been at the barn for 10 hours straight before. I am often there earlier than the boarders come out and stay after it gets dark. Sometimes this can feel like the worst thing ever, but when you think about the fact that so few people are actually able to work with and be around horses, I think that it is totally worth it.
What is the most important thing to remember as a working student? Take the "student" part of your role very seriously. Try to learn everything you can about everything related to horses. Ask questions if you don't know something. Watch other people's lessons (you can learn a lot from this). Get to know the boarders at your barn and ask them about horse ownership. If the farrier or vet comes out watch them do their job (but don't get in the way!). Volunteer to do as many things as you can, because you can only learn skills from practicing them. If you are able to ride, ride as many horses as possible. Take as many lessons as you can. I learned so much from being a working student and I grew so much as a horse enthusiast and a rider.
How do I know when to move on from a working student gig? At some point, you may come to realize that a working student job is just not working out for you. This could be due to many different reasons. I have worked at two barns, and the reason that I left the first barn is that I really just outgrew it. It was a tiny barn and I so appreciate the opportunity that I had to work there, but I had limited options for horses to ride, I wasn't able to take lessons there, it was a far commute for me, and I wasn't able to get the specific higher-level training that I really wanted. The decision to switch to a different barn was difficult, mostly because I had such an emotional connection to my first barn and the people there, but it was the best decision for me. When moving on from a barn it is important to remember to be kind and considerate to the people that you are leaving. I told the barn owner in advance that I was going to be looking at other barns, I told her how much I appreciated her, and I have kept in contact with her. Equestrian communities are tiny and so burnt bridges can really hurt you later in your equestrian career. Although it is hard to leave a barn, if you feel in your gut that you are not getting what you need from your working student job, then you should leave it. Staying in a situation that is not right for you is just a waste of your time and energy and can burn out your passion (something none of us want to happen).
Being a working student is hard work, no joke, but it is so rewarding. Getting a working student job was the only way that I was able to be around horses while I was in college and it gave me some of the best experiences of my life. If you have any questions that I did not address, please ask them in the comments and I will respond! If anyone else was a working student and has relevant information to provide, please leave that in the comments as well.

Weaver Leather Poly Lead Rope Review

To go along with my new beautiful halter, I had to get a matching lead rope. Luckily for me, Weaver Leather makes both halters and lead ropes, ensuring that I could get a color match (because as we all know, there are many, many shades of a single color). I ended up ordering the Weaver Leather Poly Lead Rope.
The price was what drew me to both of my Weaver Leather products. I ended up getting my lead rope from $12.79 on Amazon. The prices on Amazon range from $10-20 depending on the color. That is about as cheap as I feel comfortable going on a lead rope. I don't want to spend a lot of money on something that is going to live outside and get dirty, but I also don't want a flimsy rope that will snap on me.
Weaver Leather Poly Lead Rope
Speaking of color, there are sooooo many color and pattern choices. On Amazon there are 38 different choices. This can be a bit overwhelming. I sat for about half an hour just comparing all of the different choices that I had, but this is also awesome because you really can get a lead rope that you enjoy. I was trying to match my lead rope to my turquoise halter and so ended up getting the blue/turquoise/green color (and yes I realize how terrible a description that is, but it is how Amazon labels them). The colors are basically a spiraling stripe up the length of the rope and the turquoise in the lead rope does indeed match the turquoise as the halter (perfect for my little OCD heart).
Long enough to double as "reins" for my makeshift halter/bridle
The lead rope is 5/8 inch by 10 feet. Those numbers meant nothing to me though, so my assessment of its dimensions are that: the rope is the right thickness (where is it easy to grab, but not so thick that it is hard to multiple loops of it) and it is really long. I don't know what I was thinking 10 feet would look like, but this lead rope is definitely longer than what I normally use. I can stand really far away from my horse and still be holding onto her. Personally, I think that the lead rope is a bit too long for me. I don't like having to make four loops of the rope just to lead my horse around. That being said, I know that most people prefer a lead rope to be longer rather than shorter, so maybe I'm just the weirdo who doesn't like a too-long lead rope.
Super long lead rope
In terms of quality and strength, this lead rope is meeting my expectations. The clasp is a non-rust solid brass 225 snap (again, I have no idea what those numbers mean). The clasp seems sturdy and solid. I haven't had Casey spook on me since getting the lead rope, but once she does I'll give an update on how it held up to the challenge.
Blue, Turquoise, and Green
The rope itself is advertised as having a soft and broken-in feel and I can attest to yes, this is true. I used to rock climb and so I am incredibly picky about my ropes. I absolutely despise stiff ropes (I find them really hard to work with), so having a nice soft rope is a must for me.
Clasp in action
The edges (as in the two ends) are heat-sealed. When I got my lead rope the end without the clasp was starting to unravel a bit. The three colors were independently heat-sealed and those seals were fine, but the three colors had not been sealed together properly. It was a little concerning to see that, but the great thing about a heat-seal is that if it starts to come apart you can just apply more heat for a better seal. I spent probably 30 seconds holding a lighter to the end and pressing the three colored mini-ropes together and voila, brand new heat-seal. Since I "fixed" it, I haven't had any further problems with the heat seal, and so far my lead rope is holding together very nicely!

The Importance of Hobbies in Relationships

I feel incredibly lucky that I am able to pursue a hobby that I know for many people is completely unattainable. Any equestrian sport is expensive, time-consuming, requires access to a car (since the facilities are usually outside of city limits), and did I mention expensive? I am extra appreciative of the fact that I am able to ride horses because for some many years in my life I was unable to be around the animals that I love. I had a period of 5 years where I did not have access to horses and it was terrible. It is really hard when something that is central to your identity and happiness is inaccessible to you. Being without my hobby made me at times depressed and very, very bored.
That being said, now that I have access to horses it does take sacrifice. It takes a lot of time and money, although since I work at my barn it takes a lot more time than money. Since I spend so much time at the barn that means I have less time for other things, including, but not limited to, spending time with my partner.
I love spending time with both of them
My partner, Jin, is great. He is incredibly supportive of my hobby and patiently listens to all of my chatter about what I did in my lesson that day. He comes out to the barn even though he is terribly allergic to hay. He never makes me feel guilty for spending hours at the barn. In return, I try to be supportive of his interests too.
Supportive boyfriend and horse
This weekend there was a soccer game in our town that was between two big European soccer teams. Jin got us tickets to go watch the game because he is a soccer enthusiast. We went to the game and it was really fun (we had awesome seats which helped). I had other things that I was going to do that day, but deciding to go to the game was a really good decision. It made Jin happy, it was a lot of fun, and spending time on my relationship is never a waste of time.
The soccer game
Mostly this weekend was just a good reminder to myself that relationships are two-way streets, and putting forth a little bit of effort to show your partner that you care about their hobbies too goes a really long way.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Qualities of a Barn Dog

When I got a dog, I knew that it was only a matter of time before they would come out to the barn with me. That didn't mean that my dog would necessarily be a barn dog, but I always planned to test them in that setting. Luckily for me (and for Eden), my little dog turned out to be a great (part-time) barn dog. He comes out with me every time I go to the barn (about 5 times per week), and it is his happy place. There are certain qualities that make Eden, and the other dogs, good barn dogs, and these are just a few:
Eden doubles as a part-time barn dog
An appreciation of the finer things in life. In Eden's opinion, the enjoying the finer things in life involves eating a lot of gross things. Horse manure? As delicious as an ice-cream sundae. Horse treats? Far superior to the dog biscuits that I give him. Horse hoof scraps? Literally the best thing in the entire planet! Both a toy and treat. A two-in-one!

Horse poop, yum!

Who even knows what he is chewing on here...
 A lack of fear. You would think that being around giant thousand-pound animals with hard hooves and often-nervous temperaments would make a little 11-pound dog just a tad scared at times. But Eden has no fear of horses. You would think that this would be a bad thing, that it would be good for a small dog to fear a big horse, but when you think about how dogs react to fear (barking, growling, snapping) then you come to realize that if a dog is afraid of horses then it could lead to a really bad situation. Since Eden is not afraid of horses, he mostly just ignores them. Which allows the horses to mostly just ignore him. And so everyone gets along in a clueless kind of way.
No fear of horses!
Maybe a little fear of cows though
Endless energy. When we go out to the barn, Eden does not rest at any point. There is too much to do! He has to run around in the fields, eat all of the gross/delicious things, play with his best friends, sniff the cat's butt, bark at the scary ATVs next door, follow Mommy around, sneak into the arena and then get chased out, and avoid getting trampled by horses. There is so much to do at the barn and there is no time for rest. Of course, as soon as we leave the barn, Eden falls asleep in the car. Like completely passes out and won't wake up for anything. All of that running around does take a toll on a tiny dog.
Endless running
Only slightly talkative. Since my barn (and I would assume most, if not all, barns) is out in the country, it is very quiet and peaceful. There is nothing worse than a yapping dog to destroy this peace and quiet. Eden is definitely not perfect in this regard. He has some very specific phobias (bearded men, ATVs, the barn's fat cat) and if they appear then he will bark incessantly, BUT for the most part, Eden is not a barker. Part of this is just his nature, but the other part of it
Intelligence, or maybe just trainability. I try really hard to be consistent in my training with Eden. He has set rules and there are consequences if he chooses to ignore the rules. I make the rules according to Eden's safety and the safety of the people and animals that he might interact with. One such rule is that he is not allowed in the arena. Ever. NO EXCEPTIONS. This is a rule because Eden is really little and horses are really fast and spooky and I don't want anything bad to happen. Even though this rule was created for his own safety, it was really hard for Eden to learn. He loves to follow me around, so when I go into the arena to free-lunge a horse he wants to come with me. I tried for weeks to teach him to stay outside of the arena. I would yell at him and chase him out when he entered the arena. I would reward him for sitting outside of it. I really tried everything, but I couldn't seem to train him. I can't even take credit for the fact that he now knows this rule. He was actually taught by Casino, a really grumpy Thoroughbred gelding, who was being free-lunged one day and decided to take a kick at Eden and then chased him to the arena fence. I was terrified in the moment, positive that this was the end of my dog's life, but it only took that one life-threatening incident for Eden to learn the rule. And so I have Casino to thank for helping me to train my dog.
He might look silly at times, but he is very smart
Loveable. There are many people and animals at the barn and if a dog does not get along with any of them then the dog does not get to roam around on their own. This a very specific rule at my barn, but I would imagine that this rule exists at many barns simply because of liability issues. Eden gets along with everyone and so he is allowed to be on his own at the barn. He puts up with the lesson kids picking him up and cuddling him. He lets the fat cat chase him. He greets every single car with a wagging tail. He plays with all of the other dogs at the barn. He is incredibly loveable and loving. Not every barn dog has to be super friendly and people-oriented, Foster (the primary barn dog) is really independent, but in order to be in such a busy setting where people are coming at going, being loveable is a really great trait.
Both Eden & Calvin are very loveable
What qualities do you think a great barn dog has? Did I miss any?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Weaver Leather Adjustable Halter Review

I am in the process of preparing to buy my first horse. Since this will be my first horse I literally own nothing for a horse and so am in the process of acquiring the basics. One of the most basic things that you can own for a horse is a halter and so I went online and found what seemed to be a high-quality nylon halter. I purchased the Weaver Leather Basic Adjustable Chin and Throat Snap Halter for $12 on Amazon.
Perfect fit on Casey
I ordered the color Turquoise, but it comes in nine different colors. I love the color that I chose. It looks great on Casey and is incredibly bright. The price on Amazon varies depending on the color that you choose. They range from $10-20 which is a really decent price for a halter.
The halter is made out of double-ply nylon. The nylon features box stitching at stress points which should give the halter more strength and should make it last longer. I specifically chose nylon, because although I love the look and feel of leather, it makes no sense to own a leather halter in rainy Oregon. I am really familiar with nylon halters and they have many good qualities. They hold together really well, can stay outside in the rain without any problem, are washable, and have bright colors.
Super colorful
This specific halter is standard in terms of the nylon, but doesn't have some of the higher-end features of other nylon halters. For instance, the holes in the straps are just heat-sealed, rather than having metal grommets to protect the shape of the holes. This may impact the longevity of the halter's lifespan, but only time will tell. The benefit of the heat-sealed strap holes is that it is really easy to add more holes if you need them. You can just heat a nail and punch it through the nylon.
She loves it!
The hardware on the halter is heavy-duty and brass plated. The buckles are the right size so that they are not hard to get the straps into and I didn't have any problem with the straps wiggling loose (even with Casey running around like a crazy horse).  One of the nicest features of the halter is the built in throat snap. Throat snaps are really handy any time you need to get better access to your horse's face, such as when you are trying to get tar weed off of their face. It also allows you to put the halter on more like a bridle if you wish to. Throat snaps are not standard on halters and I appreciated this detail.
I ordered the size "average" for Casey. She is a 15'3 hand TB with a pretty average sized head. The halter fit her really well without me having to adjust the halter at all. The halter is on the middle hole (out of 5) of the chin strap and it fits her really well. The poll strap on Casey also fits on the middle hole (out of 5). This tells me that this halter could fit a wide range of horse heads. The other sizes that Amazon offers are "small horse" and "large horse."
Bright and cheery!
I would also say that Casey seems to really enjoy her new halter and that it is not rubbing her anywhere. She seemed comfortable in it and looked great good with it on.
Overall I really like this halter. I don't know if it is the best halter in the world, but I'd definitely say that it is one of the best halters in its price range.

UPDATE 1/15/2017: This halter only lived for 3 months before Casey murdered it. She ripped through the heat-sealed holes. In addition, the bright color did not last long before it became faded and murky. It can be washed and will regain some of its original brightness, but never seemed to stay clean after that. We upgraded to a leather halter rather than buying a second one of these.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Heritage Performance Gloves Review

So, as is common in a barn setting, one of my gloves disappeared. As in, I have absolutely no idea where it is - and I have searched absolutely everywhere - and I logically know that it must be somewhere - and yet I still have a belief that it has vanished from the face of the earth. Most likely the barn thief (*cough-cough Calvin) now has it in his possession and I will never again see it.
Since I loathe riding without gloves (because my fingers get terrible blisters - especially due to the rubber reins that I am currently using & about to replace), I needed to find replacement gloves. What I wanted was something reasonably priced, tight-fitting (the elastic wrist on my old gloves had really stretched out and they were terribly loose), touch-screen friendly, and hopefully cute! After a little browsing around on the internet, I found what I thought I wanted. They were the Heritage Performance Gloves and they had all of the specifications that I wanted. I ordered them through Amazon.
Heritage Performance Gloves
 When my gloves arrived I immediately tried them on to determine the fit and it was perfect. Just snug enough without being too tight or too wiggly. They were the right length in the fingers (I LOATHE excess finger fabric). I ordered a size 6 and my hands are probably average for my height (I'm 5'3"). I think that I have shorter than average fingers, so if you have longer fingers than I would probably order up a size.
Perfect Fit
The color I ordered was Ridge Blue. I really did almost get black gloves, but the blue was just so pretty that I couldn't resist. They come in many other colors and some patterns that are also cool (looking at you Gallop print).
Blue Ridge Color
The price point of these gloves was great. I got my pair for $11 (thanks to Amazon's great prices). It looks like on Amazon they range in price from $10-20, which is really a good price considering the quality of the glove. It is also worth considering Heritage Gloves's awesome warranty - "All Heritage gloves are warranted against defects in material or workmanship for 90 days from date of purchase." That means that if they should break all-of-the-sudden, I don't lose out on all of my money (although after judging the quality of these gloves, my guess is that people rarely have to use the warranty).

Thick enough to keep my hands clean, but thin enough to still be able to feel
Speaking of quality, these gloves seem to be great quality. They are made out of synthetic leather and nylon spandex. The synthetic leather is touchscreen friendly and I was able to use my smartphone without any issue (yay for not having to take gloves off to text!) The spandex is stretchy, allowing it to be a closer fit, and the outward seams are all double stitched to prevent ripping. They are machine-washable, so cleaning them will be a breeze. After my last pair of gloves, I paid a lot of attention to the quality of the elastic on the wrist and it impressed me. It wasn't too stretchy as to make me concerned about them stretching out, but they were stretchy enough to accommodate a variety of wrist sizes (including my tiny wrists).

Perfectly sized elastic
There are a couple of cool features that make me really love these gloves. One of them is the cool name tag area on the elastic wrist. Since gloves do tend to go missing, it is really nice to have a designated area to be able to write your name where it doesn't look obnoxious or tacky.
Name tag area on elastic wrist
Another really cool feature of these gloves is their design. It is a rein-cut design and so there is extra padding where you need it for extra protection while holding reins. There is also extra padding provided on the tip of the thumb. All of these extra padded areas are double-stitched to ensure that they won't be coming off anytime soon. Not only is there extra padding, but the synthetic leather is designed to be extra grippy to help you keep hold of the reins.
Rein-cut design
Rein-cut design
When I put the gloves into action today I continued to be impressed with them. It was a really hot day and I was sweating, but my hands did not get overheated at all (which was great, because is there really anything worse than sweaty hands?). I felt like I was still able to feel the horse through the gloves, but was given protection against the rubbing of the reins. I didn't feel any uncomfortable chaffing through the gloves and kind of forgot that I was even wearing gloves, which is as it should be in my opinion. After riding, I inspected the gloves and they still looked brand new. Only time will tell for their durability (I will post an update in a month or so), but considering the high quality of the stitching, my guess is that these gloves will last for quite a while.
Preparing to ride
Gloves in action
The cons of this product are that they are not made in the USA (they are imported from Indonesia) and I am skeptical that they will be warm enough for winter riding (even here in Oregon where winters are not at all intense). That being said, considering the price point and the quality I would definitely buy these gloves again and they are a new riding staple for me.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Basic Horse Knowledge Test for Non-Horsey Partner

I was inspired to interview my non-horsey partner about "basic" equestrian/horse knowledge by the article "When Non-Horse People Answer Questions about Horses" by Emily Bogenschutz on Horse
My partner (Jin) is not a horse-lover, although he is a very good horse-lover supporter and through me has gained relatively a lot of knowledge about my favorite four-legged mammal. I wanted to know exactly how much he knew about what I am constantly rambling on-and-on about (and what he is just nodding his head along to without actually understanding). He did take about two months worth of weekly lessons last summer at my suggestion and so I am assumed that he should be able to answer basic questions.
Proof Jin should  know the answers to at least some of these questions
I came up with a list of things that I thought were simple & basic questions that I figured he could get correct. The rules were that I couldn't help him or ask the questions in a different way. I could only repeat them. The rules for Jin were that he had to answer each question, even if it just involved guessing or making up an answer. Here are his responses to the questions:
1. What is a gelding? A gelding is a male horse. No, wait. Yeah, I'll say a male horse.
2. What does "OTTB" stand for? OTTB? That's four letters I have to guess! That's really hard. Original True Thoroughbred breed.
3. What is a "green" horse? A GREEN horse? Well I know a horse can't be economical (like a car). I'll say... a healthy horse that eats a lot of grass and poops a lot.
4. The "frog" is part of what on a horse? What kind of body part is named after another animal... on an animal! The back leg muscle. Cause they're like a frog.
5. What does it mean to curry a horse? Bring a horse back to health.
6. What do "lame" and "sound" mean when referring to a horse? Lame means that they're hurt and can't jump or be ridden. Sound is the opposite of lame. The horse is healthy and can be ridden normally.
7. What is this (see photo below) called? A bit.

8. What are the four gaits of a horse? Like an open and shut gate? I don't know, I have no clue. 
9. What is a canter lead? Does it have to do with their foot? It's which foot they lead with when they canter.
10. What is the rhyme "rise and fall according to the leg on the wall" referring to? Their trotting/cantering pattern. The lead foot has to be the one on the outside? On the wall?
11. What is the difference between a posting trot and a sitting trot? Posting you have to kinda rock back and forth so you put less strain on the horse. Sitting trot you kinda just lift yourself constantly off the horse but you stay there.
12. When I say I am free-lunging my horse, what am I doing? You're forcing the horse to run around without anyone riding it so it gets warmed up.
13. Why would you need to go into "two-point"? I don't know what two-point is. How am I supposed to know why to get into it if I don't even know what it is?
14. What is the difference between an English saddle and a Western saddle? You (referring to me, Zea) say one is more comfortable than the other (English). One has the knob thing where I can hold on to... the Western I think.
15. What is the difference between hunters & jumpers? What?! I only know that you go to a hunter/jumper barn and I have no idea what those mean. Jumpers have the goal of always trying to get the horse to jump higher and hunters try to perfect... they're more concerned with their form (how the horse walks, trots, canters, and runs).
16. What is a "hack"? When the horse swiftly changes direction. That sounds violent, like a hack.
17. What is this facial marking (see photo below) called? You told me this before... Equine foreheadal birthmark.
18. What color is Casey (see photo below)? Chocolate brown. Like Haagen-Daaz. 
19. Can you name three different breeds of horses? Arabian, Draft horse, and Palomino. Wait, I know more than that. Is Thoroughbred a breed? 
20. What is the best thing about horses in your opinion? I think the best thing about horses is that you can form such a close fortified bond with such a huge animal. And you can do that despite the sheer power that they have. I think it commands respect.
So overall, Jin did pretty badly, but it was interesting to see which things he remembered about what I talked about and he gets an A+ for effort!! Mostly it was really funny hearing him talk about horses. I was cracking up the whole time.