Reflecting on 2017 and the lessons learned

Oh, 2017. In a lot of ways this was a really great year for me. In other ways it was by far the most emotionally taxing. I do think I’ve come out the other side of it a wiser, more introspective person, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

if nothing else, I’m pretty good at scratching baby bums

It kinda seems like this year was an exercise in learning to cope with turmoil. It started in January with the political climate and then magnified times a million in March when Presto was born. The day he graced us with his presence was one of the happiest days of my life, for sure. I was just so impressed with him, how strong he was, how confident he was, right from his first breath. He stood up and nursed so fast, neighed a ton, and was cantering around within an hour of his birth. All the tension and nervousness of the preceding 11 months of pregnancy drained away, and I just stood there in awe of what a perfect little baby horse we’d made.

And then of course disaster struck when he came down with chlostridium 48 hours later, and the highest of highs became the lowest of lows within a matter of minutes. Despite getting him into the clinic within just a couple hours of the first symptoms, his prognosis was quite poor. Leaving him at the clinic that night was one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do, because I was terrified that was the last time I’d ever see him. I was so numb I couldn’t even cry. The world just felt like it had come to a grinding halt and all the stars blinked out of the sky at the same time.


But we underestimated that strong-willed little baby horse, and he rallied. The next three weeks were a series of major ups and downs as his body fought the bacteria and then tried to heal itself. He’d have good days and then terrible days as we struggled keep his bloodwork in check. At one point his protein levels were so low that it didn’t look like he could possibly bounce back. He was, quite literally, living on plasma transfusions and fluids.

I spent every day there with him, as much time as I could. Some days it was just a few hours, other days it was up to 10. I lived with a cement brick in my gut 24/7, too afraid to be hopeful, but really wanting to be. I lived in constant fear of a bad phone call. I updated you guys here and on social media as best I could, trying to be as positive as possible. I didn’t really want to tell you about the hours that he stood there in the hot sun looking listless, or the periods where his tummy would get so painful after nursing that he would throw himself on the ground and thrash until we got enough pain meds in him, or how much time I spent cleaning and putting ointment on his skin where the diarrhea had scalded all the hair away, or the days where I rubbed essential oils on his joints in a wildly desperate attempt to keep the infection from spreading to them. It was hard enough to live those parts. I didn’t want to talk about them. I still don’t really even know what I wrote about during that time, because I’ve never been able to go back and read the posts. I don’t want to. Looking at the pictures is hard enough.


After one particularly trying day I cornered the vet and asked if we should just put him down. I wanted him to pull through with every fiber of my being, but I wasn’t willing to torture him. She looked me dead in the eye and said that he wasn’t done fighting, so she wasn’t done fighting either. I squared my shoulders, nodded, got in my truck, and bawled my eyes out for the entire hour drive home.

I spent a lot of time crying in my truck over those few weeks. An hour drive back and forth each way sure does give a person a lot of time to think, stew, cry, and beg. I am not a religious person, but I appealed to every deity I could think of, offering up all kinds of fantastical trades and promises. I examined every aspect of my life and how I was living it, thinking that maybe if I could be a better person, the universe would let Presto live. But what really helped me cope, and what really gave me strength to get out of bed every morning and help Presto face it all again, was you guys.

I’ve never been a particularly warm or socially outgoing person, but boy did I learn just how many friends I had, and just how great they are. At a time in my life where I was feeling like I’d really lost hope in the human race in general, there came an entire army of goodness to show me that there will always be people out there that care and want to help. I was floored by it then, and I remain floored by it now. You may not have been there with me physically, sitting in that red West Texas dirt, holding an IV bag, fighting back tears every day, but you were there in spirit. When I started this blog in 2014 I thought it would be a fun little place to document Henry’s journey, and it’s turned into SO much more than that. I’m not sure where I would have been mentally during all of this without the support network that I had, and I’ll always be eternally grateful for everything.


The experience I had with Presto’s illness is not something that I would ever wish on my worst enemy, but I learned a lot from it. Never take anything for granted. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. The human spirit can endure a lot of hardship, if you have the right support. Appreciate everyone. Kindness matters. Remember how lucky you are, even when it seems like you aren’t. Little things can make all the difference. Life isn’t always fair. There is a lot of power in positive thinking. We put our hearts on the line when we love something, especially something as fragile as a horse, but it’s worth it no matter how it plays out. And last but not least, the horse community might come with plenty of flaws, but when the chips are down there is no better group of people.

Presto did get better, against seemingly insurmountable odds, and he did get to come home again. It took weeks for my anxiety level to start to go down, and for me to stop setting my alarm several times a night so that I could wake up and check his camera. I had just started to relax a bit when he came down with rhodococcus and once again we found ourselves on a dangerous roller coaster. Yet another thing that could have killed him, but yet another thing that he overcame. While he managed to bounce back pretty quickly from all of this, the whole ordeal left me with a lot of trauma on my psyche that has taken a long time to reconcile. In some ways it still hasn’t, I still feel like we got too lucky, and I can’t help but feeling like I’m always looking over my shoulder. I’ve had to figure out how to cope with that, which includes accepting the fact that some things are just beyond my control. I’ve had to learn how to enjoy what I’ve got, while I’ve got it, and stop worrying about all the things I can’t change.


If it sounds really dramatic, well… it WAS. I’ve never experienced such a wildly extreme yo-yo of emotions in such a short period of time in my entire life. It sent me reeling and rocked me to my core.

Yet throughout it all, Henry was my constant. He waited patiently in the background while I dealt with Presto’s illness, and he was there with his goofy faces to make me laugh again when it felt like I couldn’t. He never wavered from his sheer HENRYNESS… that cheeky personality that somehow manages the perfect balance between being 100% genuine while also being a complete turd. He was exactly what I needed both to keep me occupied and to keep me balanced. Nothing makes my soul happier than that horse, in good times or in bad.

Aside from being my therapist, Henry is my best dude. In 2017 our relationship evolved to even greater heights and I feel like we’re finally at a really good place where we have a rock solid partnership. We trust each other, we take care of each other, and we have a lot of fun together. He’s extremely kind to me when I mess up, but he still holds me accountable and expects me to do my part. I strive to always remember that my biggest responsibility is to be Henry’s guardian and advocate, and try to always tend carefully to the qualities that make him so great. It’s possible that he’s a little spoiled, but I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.


We started the year by dipping a toe tentatively into Training level, and we ended it with all the confidence in the world. I am still floored by what a great horse he’s become, and this year he’s exceeded all of my wildest expectations. I never ever thought we’d get here, yet… here we are. He’s the very rare kind of horse that can rocket around cross country on Sunday and go for a bridleless and bareback hack on Monday. I struck gold with Henry and I know it.

If there’s anything this horse has taught me, it’s that goalposts can always move. Dreams can always grow. And, of course, you should never judge a plain fat brown crooked-legged horse by his cover. He’s not a great mover and he’s not a particularly careful showjumper, but there isn’t a horse out there that I would trade him for. Everything that happened with Presto really helped me remember how to see the big picture and made me reexamine my priorities, which in turn made me appreciate Henry even more.

I spent the first couple years of our eventing career putting entirely too much pressure on myself. It took a while, but Henry has taught me how to relax and learn to savor the small victories. How to be happy with what we accomplish, and to not belittle those accomplishments by comparing our results to someone else’s. It took a while, but this year he really taught me how to have FUN again. True, pure, completely unadulterated fun, with no expectations and no deadlines and no strings attached.


Aside from my two fantastic beasts, 2017 was also full of other adventures. I went to Rolex and had a blast with friends. I got lucky enough to travel back to Europe, look at horses in 3 countries, pat some of the world’s most famous stallions, and see Germany’s best young horses compete. And somehow I even managed to branch off of this blogging thing and land a regular, paying gig writing for my favorite magazine. Is this even real life? MY life, at that?

I’m ending the year with a little bit of unresolved inner turmoil about life in general. Where I want to live. What career I really want to get up every day and dedicate myself to. What the next 5 years might look like. I’m at a little bit of a “where do I really belong” crossroads that will probably require some tough decisions, and a lot of courage, in the year to come. I finally feel ready to make them though, and I feel like a lot of that can be attributed to the year I’ve had and everything I’ve learned along the way. Life lessons are hiding in hard times.


Most of all, 2017 reminded me that I am beyond privileged to get to do the things I do, with the people and horses that I get to do it with. There was plenty of hardship, for sure, but there was plenty of jubilation too, much of which can be attributed to you guys. Thanks for riding along with me.

Favorite Pictures of 2017

The timing here kind of works out perfectly with these end of year wrap up posts, since it’s cold and dreary in Texas and not much is happening with us. Henry update: spooky, cheeky, WILD little turd. God I love him. There ya go, you’re current on his situation.

We kicked off my 2017 review posts yesterday with a few of my favorite things from the year. A lot of people also do recap posts with a quick month-by-month summary of events to hit all the key points of what went down. If you want that, I have an archive feature over in the sidebar where you can view all the posts by month. I feel like most of you who read along at least semi-regularly probably remember the general gist of what all happened though. Dunno what it felt like to y’all, but to me it felt something like this:

Image result for roller coaster gif

Tomorrow we can talk about my general overall feelings about the year and what I learned. Fair warning, things get heavy. But for today let’s take a little bit more of a fun approach to the regular year in review post. Instead of trying to write up a summary of each month, I went back through my Instagram and facebook and pulled out my TWO very most favorite horse-related pictures per month for the year. They may or may not be the best photos in some cases, or the prettiest, but they’re the ones that really sum it up best.


First “real” Training CT. Thought I might die. Didn’t.
Handsomest boy showing off his new Boy o Boy Bridleworks browband and Lund bridle. He makes my heart go pitter patter.


just a lesson day, but Henry was jumping like such a beast
Second Training and his face is so cute I can’t even. He was SO keen that day (a little too keen when he rocket launched over fence 2).

March (ready for the seismic shift in focus?)

one of the top 3 moments of my entire life, hands down, when I saw that little white foot and little white nose for the first time
Day 2 of his chlostridium fight and Presto had already defied overwhelming odds to survive that first night when no one thought he would. It was still a long rough road from here, and things got worse again before they got better, but at this point I was just overwhelmingly glad he was still with us. I’d gone to bed the night before thinking I wouldn’t have a Presto anymore by the time I woke up, and my heart was broken. He was about to prove to all of us what a fighter really looks like.


When Presto’s vet sent me this beautiful picture of his first semi-solid poop since the whole Chlostridium mess started. This was monumentous – it was the first real sign we’d gotten that we might actually win this. It also shows how dedicated – and personally invested – his team was in his recovery.
Presto’s first morning back at the farm after being released from the hospital. I remember flying downstairs first thing with my heart in my throat, terrified of what I would find, and as soon as I opened the stall door he stuck his little head up and trumpeted a loud neigh at me in greeting.  ❤

Okay that’s already two for April but I made the rules so I can break them too… one of my very favorite pics of Sadie and Presto was taken in April.

both of my babies!


that one time he was chunky for a minute
This awesome little horse came off the back burner and proved he’s always game for anything – even derbies.


aaaand Presto is sick again, this time with rhodococcus. Luckily he responded favorably to the meds and started to make a slow but sure recovery (with the help of a body clip to help keep his body temp down).
Yes this is a shitty screen grab from a video. Hear me out. This corner used to freak me the eff out, but at our second Training HT Henry marched right around the respectably large/technical XC course double clear. I started thinking that maybe we really did belong at this level. Plus Michele was visiting from Delaware and she came to cheer us on!


Remember when Presto was 4 months old and looked like a real horse? Yeah… that was fleeting. He was cute for like 2 days though!
miiiiiiight be my favorite pic of the whole year… derp on derp crime.


A new jump saddle meant a return to o/f work, highlighted by a gymnastics lesson on my birthday!
We got to meet pony jumper stallion Usandro (and his owner) in France! Which hatched into a plan that is coming to fruition soon…


Oh man, September. This was a big month. This one gets 3 pics too. Sue me.

Michelle and I totally fangirled over Olympic showjumping stallion Emerald while we were in Belgium. His groom and owners let us do it with no judgment, so clearly this is a normal occurrence for them.
Henry and I did our first USEA recognized Training, and XC almost felt a little TOO easy. He blazed right around like he thought he was The Shit, and I was thrilled with how confident and professional he felt. It was so fun, and this is the point where I thought I finally had a LEGIT event horse on my hands!
Presto got inspected, branded, microchipped, and registered with sBs! Little baby horse officially became “Like Magic WTW” and scored an 8 for his walk and 8.5 for his trot and canter.


I got to take Advanced horse Lofty (the unicorn) for a spin at Pine Hill! Did I photoshop him to look like that or is it true to life? You’ll never know.
Henry proved that fuzzy ears and a natural nose can still be damn handsome


I did the one thing I swore I wasn’t gonna do and entered Texas Rose’s recognized Training. It was definitely the biggest course we’ve faced yet, but Henry proved yet again that he is a ma-cheen and seemed to have a grand time skipping around cross country. We’ve got a lot of work to do in the other two phases, but this day right here was the highlight of my riding career to date. I’ve never been more proud of a horse in my life.
Presto proved that he definitely takes after his Uncle Henry in the mareglare department. He also solidly crossed over into the yearling uglies and everything got really A-W-K-W-A-R-D looking.


HOLY SHIT WE JUMPED THE PRELIM WAGON! Another major milestone moment for us. Well for me anyway, Henry wasn’t nearly as impressed by it as I was.
AND we got to go foxhunting, another big bucket list item for me!

A year of ups and downs for sure, but luckily a lot more ups than downs. I started the year with one fantastic unicorn creature and now I’m oh-so-incredibly-lucky enough to have two. I love my boys, and can’t wait to see what next year brings with them. ❤

Favorite things of 2017

Now that I’m home from vacation and back at work (sadly), it’s time to get back into the regular routine. And since it’s the last week of 2017, that means it’s time to look back on the year! There are a lot of ways to do that though, so we’re starting here with my favorite things of the year.

Liam and Presto’s Bromance

These two baby turds. They’re absolute hell on wheels and love to pick on each other (remember that time Liam took a bite out of Prestos face? Then remember that time Presto chased Liam away from all the food and wouldn’t let him eat anything?) but at the heart of it, they are total bros. These two spent most of the year side by side, literally, and watching them nap together was probably one of the cuter things I’ve ever seen. Because baby horses are real cute when they’re sleeping. Less so when they’re awake and morph into tiny demons.



Ah, Deutschland. Our adventure to Europe for Bundeschampionate was one of my favorite trips ever, if not THE favorite. We started with Belgium, then France, then Germany, and while I love pretty much all of Europe, there was just something about Germany that grabbed my soul. It was my first time there, but it just felt like home to me. It was beautiful, the horses were fantastic, and we met so many great people. 10/10 would absolutely go back, and 10/10 could also totally live there. The paprikaschnitzel is a big bonus, too.



While we’re on the subject of Germany… Diarado was an interesting stallion to me before our trip, but after seeing so many of his offspring (seriously like a dozen) and then seeing Diarado himself in person at Schockemohle, I turned into a borderline stalker Super Fan. He is small and unassuming to look at, but the power and technique he puts on his foals – CONSISTENTLY – while also stamping them with his type is seriously impressive. I am really excited to see the two Diarado foals that Michelle has due in 2018, they could be something really special.



Okay sure, kittens in general, but really y’all know I’m talking about one kitten in particular. If you had told me at the beginning of this year that I would have a friggin cat and that I would be totally in love with it, I would have laughed in your face with no hesitation, yet here we are. Grem is absolutely hilarious and has fit into our little menagerie really well. She is a ton of fun to have around, and I’m so glad that I did the totally crazy and impulsive thing of smuggling the runt kitten home with me from a Presto visit. I grudgingly maintain that I’m still not a CAT person, but instead I’m a Grem person.


Stall cameras

These totally deserved a nod in here, because they’re probably the only thing that kept me sane throughout the first half of the year. Initially I was glued to them when Sadie was pregnant and I obsessively watched her behavior on the cameras leading up to Presto’s birth. Then after Presto was sick, I checked those cameras 24/7 for the first few weeks that he was home. Not kidding, I spent hours watching that kid. Paranoid does not even begin to cover it. Being able to pull up the cameras and see what he was up to was a total lifesaver, or at least huge anxiety reducer, for me. Except for that one time when I opened the app in the middle of the night and found that he’d squirmed under the fence into the stall next door and called Michelle in a total panic. But hey, thank goodness for the cameras. All horses should have them.


Henry’s cross country face

Last, but certainly not least, one of my favorite things in the world. I never get tired of looking at pictures of Henry on cross country, because it never fails that he looks like he’s having The Best Time that any horse has ever had doing… literally anything. This horse brings me so much joy on a daily basis, and it means a lot to me to see him enjoy his job. It doesn’t hurt that his “I’m having fun” face looks a whole lot like an ecstatic squirrel. He’s always made this face, but I swear the bigger the jumps get, the happier his face gets. We didn’t get to show a lot this year, but he sure as hell seemed like he was having a blast out there anyway. He made the move up to Training feel easy and fun… and that crazy face made all the pictures fantastic.

When horses know you’re on vacation

Last Thursday I spent an inordinately long amount of time saying bye to Henry when I left the barn. I was flying out to Utah the next day for a family Christmas vacation, the first time I’d be out of town for Christmas since I got Henry in 2013. Two of the very specific instructions I gave him, as I bid him farewell, were “Don’t hurt yourself. And there’s a cold front coming, PLEASE DO NOT get sick.”. Surely you can see where this is going.

We left Austin on Friday afternoon, flying into Vegas and then driving the 2.5 hours to Cedar City, Utah. We found our Airbnb, got dinner, and went to bed. The next morning we were getting ready to head out and explore the town when my phone rang – it was the barn owner. We all know there’s only one reason for the BO to be calling you in the morning when she knows you’re on vacation. My heart stopped and my mind ran through every expletive it knew (which are many) in the split second it took me to pounce on the phone.

What I had been doing, up to that point

And of course, she said “Henry looks a bit colicky this morning, he just picked at his breakfast and now he’s laying down. He’s not rolling, but you can tell he doesn’t feel well.”. Pretty similar to what he did last winter after a cold front that necessitated them staying in for a day or two. I asked her to give him Banamine and walk him for half an hour, and I’d text my vet and tell him what was up. Last time the Banamine and walking fixed him right up, but I wanted the vet on alert just in case. He responded immediately and said no problem, just keep him informed.

The only thing worse than a colicking horse is being far away and thus unable to witness or assist in any way. I am NOT a very good hands-off type of owner, and I was panicking. So I paced the floor, waiting to hear back from the barn owner.

Kolob Canyon

An hour later she finally called back, saying that he seemed to feel just fine now and was hanging out in the round pen, screaming for food. Times like these make me glad that Henry is such a big baby about pain… stoic, he is NOT. But in instances of a minor tummy ache it means that we catch it fast, which makes all the difference.

I asked her to leave him out as long as she could that day, so he could move around, and soak his dinner/give him a flake of alfalfa for a few days. Again, it’s what we did last time, and it worked, so why mess with success. She called me again late that evening and said he’d acted totally normal throughout the day and at dinner, seemed thrilled with hitting the alfalfa jackpot, and was tucked snugly into his stall with his blanket on. I relaxed about 20%, but not enough to let my phone out of my sight, and not enough to quell the panic at seeing “NO SERVICE” in the upper left corner as we went about our vacation weekend.

Bryce Canyon, my favoriteFound the horse trail, but no horses

Luckily I never got another phone call and we did manage to have a fun weekend in Utah, filled with lots of parks and hiking. We hit Kolob Canyon, Zion, and Bryce Canyon over two days, and they were all beautiful. The weather was perfect, too, with just enough cold and snow to make it feel like Christmas, but not enough to make it miserable. We played some games, drank some hot chocolate, tromped through the snow… all the cool things you’re supposed to do on Christmas holiday.

Of course, I won’t officially relax again until we’re home (we don’t land back in Austin until tonight) and my own eyes have personally accounted for the dogs, cat, and Henry. That naughty horse. I swear he did this on purpose, pretty sure I saw a gleam in his eye when I was leaving. He is in SO much trouble.

Happy Holidays!

We’re flying out to Utah today, so I’m taking a rare long weekend away from the blog!


Naturally I’m sick with friggin black lung or something, because it just wouldn’t be a family vacation if I wasn’t sick. No joke, I’m the person who once got chicken pox on spring break and food poisoning over Christmas. It’s my one talent.

Henry had a pretty light week, capped off by a bareback and bitless ride yesterday in which we played with our lateral work. I never would have thought that this horse would have a half pass, much less one that still exists when bareback and bitless. Sometimes he legit feels like a real horse with some real buttons. When did that happen?

I always have a Lion King inspired “everything the light touches is our kingdom” moment with these pictures

I’m such a sap that it was hard saying bye to him. We’ve never been gone for Christmas since I’ve had him, and it’s become tradition to go out on Christmas Day and give him a nice mash. I have one waiting for him when I get home (because it was almost 80 yesterday and ain’t nobody want a hot mash when it’s already hot), and he has no clue what day it is, but still. Plus I won’t see him for 6 days, which is a lot when you’re normally riding and seeing your horse 6 days a week. But hopefully he enjoys his little vacation, and I told him to make good life choices while I’m gone.

no promises

I am kind of looking forward to having several days where I don’t actually HAVE to do anything though, and this will be my first non-horse related vacation in… I dunno… years? I mean, Utah ain’t got nothing on Bundeschampionat, but it’s a different kind of fun.

OH – and for everyone who liked the Henry glass yesterday, Michelle made a Presto glass too! HOW FRIGGIN CUTE IS IT???

Last but not least random thing for today: a quick screenshot of Usandro freejumping earlier, in case anyone was wondering if the pony got hops. Affirmative, he gots ’em. Once he’s finished with the quarantine and collection his owner is going to do a nice photo shoot for us so we have some current pictures to share for mare owners. And if you don’t own a mare but think you might want a Usandro foal, I know a few super nice mares (of all sizes) available for custom foals and can totally help make that happen for you. #enabler


I still have to pack and get everything set out for our dog sitters, because I’m nothing if not fantastic at procrastinating, so I hope everyone has a happy holiday, whatever that may be! See ya Tuesday.

Santa came early!

The blogger Secret Santa gift exchange has become one of my favorite things every year since I started all this craziness. The equestrian blogging community is very diverse, but we all have one thing in common: our love for our ponies. Tracy is kind enough to coordinate this little shindig every year (which, I can only imagine that trying to coordinate bloggers is much like herding cats) and it’s fun to try to pick out stuff for someone else that you probably have never met, yet it still feels like you know them on some level from reading their blog.

I was kind of behind the eight ball this year and didn’t get my package shipped out to my SS until Monday (and forgot to write in the card explaining a couple of the items – fail) so I doubt it has arrived yet, but Olivia was clearly much more organized than I was. Which would surprise precisely no one that reads both of our blogs.

Poor Olivia, her first year participating and she got ME. I feel bad for anyone who gets me, I know I’m hard to shop for. She nailed it though, with a cute tote from One Horse Designs (I love cuss words, so this is super apropos), treats for Henny, and a toy for the dogs (or cat). The treats went into Henry’s trailer stash – yes he has treats in my truck, in the barn, and in the trailer, is that weird? – and Stewie has already started tearing the dog toy apart. The tote was put into service to carry my riding clothes to work, and it has gotten more than one chuckle. So, many thanks to Olivia, everything is awesome!

it’s a little too big for Grem

Presto’s Christmas presents also arrived from Europe. Yeah, I went back and ordered the bridle too. They got a brown cob in stock right after the sale ended, but said they would toss it in my shipment and honor the sale price, so who can say no to that? He may only be 9 months old, but he’s got some fancy strapgoods waiting for him. The halter might actually fit him pretty soon, it was quite adjustable so I put it down to all the smallest holes and it seems pretty close to yearling size. The bridle will just sit in the closet and wait for him to get older. Oh – and Riding Warehouse just started stocking this bridle, so for everyone who was asking me where to get it, now you don’t have to order from overseas!

Can we talk about this gorgeous glass that Michelle (Presto’s other mom) painted for me? HOW FRIGGIN CUTE IS THIS? She even managed to capture the crazy in Henny’s eyes! I’m a little obsessed with it.


And last but not least, some of you may have guessed that last week’s post about adults riding ponies/honies was actually going somewhere. If you did, you are correct! Tomorrow the pint-sized jumper phenom Usandro (Sandro Boy x Welcome Sympatico) enters a breeding facility in France to begin the process of producing frozen semen for USA export. There will be a limited number of doses available for sale here in the US for the 2018 season, and we’re excited to see how he crosses on the American mare base. I’m working on getting a facebook page up for him in English, and will keep y’all updated on when the semen arrives. If you’re interested in breeding to him, let me know and I can get some info to you ASAP! Merry Christmas, America, have some French pony jumper semen!

Horse people are weird.

The Good Traveler

Out of all the horses I’ve owned before Henry, I wouldn’t have called any of them excellent haulers. Most were fine, a few were turds (Sadie and Cruz, I’m looking at y’all), but most fell solidly in the average range. They would get on the trailer within a few minutes, with a little encouragement, and they might paw or kick a little, especially if the trailer wasn’t moving.


When I got Henry I was warned that he didn’t like backing off the trailer, but otherwise he was good. The day I picked him up we got stuck in traffic forever, and that horse rode back there without so much as a peep. For those first two years we didn’t really travel that much, but he got into every trailer I put him in without much complaint. I turned him around to let him unload if I could, although the few times he had to back out were definitely… not that majestic. After riding in Bobby’s Brenderup a few times, he started to get a lot more comfortable with backing out. It was like it just took him a while to get his brain to work in reverse.

Bobby’s Brenderup

When I got my trailer he had to get pro about it real quick, since a) we started hauling a lot, and b) it was a straight load. He always loaded great as long as I went in with him, so for a long time that’s just what we did. Then one day I whacked the hell out of my head in my rush to duck under the chest bar as he was loading, and I decided it was time he learned to get on that trailer by himself.

I’d like to pretend this was some grand horse training moment and I had to use some kind of skill to teach it, but here’s what really happened.


I tossed his lead rope over his neck, stood next to the ramp, and gave him a little tug forward. The first time he got about halfway before he realized he was alone, at which point he stopped and slowly backed out. We tried again, and this time when he got halfway I started clucking. He thought about it for a second and flicked his ear back at me, at which point I said “You get in that trailer!”. And he did. Because he’s Henry.

He’s been self-loading in my trailer ever since.

Yeah, I know. Wow at my fancy horse training.

The real test for his newfound skill was this past weekend when we took Trainer’s trailer to go foxhunting. It was as opposite of a configuration as possible – a step up slant load. There were also other horses in there, and Henry pretty much always hauls alone. There’s also a rear tack, so the loading space is a bit narrow. I led him up there and clucked, fully expecting him to flip me the bird, but after a second he stepped right on up. Huh, how about that. Isn’t it nice when horses make us feel like we’re some kind of competent horse trainer, even when we didn’t actually do a damn thing?

Presto has already spent more time on trailers than most 4 year olds

As far as traveling goes, he’s pretty good. A couple times a year he gets mad for whatever reason and tries to buck a couple times to express his displeasure (he mostly did this in Bobby’s trailer) but that’s pretty rare. He doesn’t paw, and he’s pretty chill. I’m exceptionally grateful for this, because we’re on the road a lot. Last week he was on a trailer 4 out of 7 days.

Having a horse that is this easy to travel with has been awesome, especially since I’m alone 99% of the time. It has definitely made me determined to get Presto to be this reliable and easy… hopefully he can train himself, too.

Equestrian Gadget of the Year

I’ve never named a Gadget of the Year before, but if I had, it probably would have been the Ultimate Hoof Pick pretty much every year. I love that thing a lot more than is probably normal. And this year I have a new contender that is worthy to sit side by side with that magical hoof pick!

I finally started consistently using studs on Henry this season. It’s been a good 15+ years since I’ve had to stud a horse on a consistent basis, so when I was putting my kit together I opted for a couple of cool things that didn’t exist back in the day. One of those was the Bionic Wrench.

giphy (22)

I admit I originally got this thing because a) it looked kinda neat, and b) I vividly remember how much I used to hate using wrenches to remove studs. Especially if they were wet or muddy or had been torqued in there really tight. I lost a lot of skin off my knuckles. Plus I had to carry around a couple different wrenches because not all of my studs were the same size, and I inevitably always reached for the wrong one.

Clearly all of those things scarred me deeply, because I’m nothing if not a total cheapskate, yet I opted to spend the $25 on the Bionic Wrench instead of a few bucks on a couple of traditional wrenches. It was worth every penny.

Being able to grip each side of the tool and squeeze them together gives you a lot more power with considerably less effort. It’s much easier to get the studs tighter when you put them in, and much easier to remove them afterwards. The head of the tool grips all the sides of the stud, so there is zero slippage, and it can still grip the stud even if it’s covered in mud or turf. It fits any size stud, taking the guesswork out of figuring out which tool you need. For me this thing has been fantastic, making it much easier to get studs in securely and out quickly.

I also used it to tighten some loose nuts on a couple of my jump standards, and loosen a couple of stubborn, painted-over nuts on my horse trailer windows when we replaced the screens. Even if you don’t stud your horses, it can be a really useful tool to have around the barn. The amount of time, skin, and cussing it’s saved me definitely make it worthy of being my 2017 Gadget of the Year.


First time foxhunting!

WE FINALLY GOT TO GO FOXHUNTING! Or in this scenario, bobcat chasing. Whatever you call it, we galloped around for like 2 hours and it was freaking awesome.

very interested in the trailer containing the hounds

This started as many of our adventures do, with Trainer saying “Hey Chance, you wanna ________?”. To which my answer is almost always yes, because duh. My friend Kathy was kind enough to invite some of her eventer friends out hunting with Independence Foxhounds, and a whole bunch of us showed up to see what this thing was all about. Independence is a small hunt, and they were very kind about letting us newbs have a lot of leeway with attire and tack. So if you’re used to very formal hunting, prepare to be offended by my appearance in these pictures. I, however, am very appreciative of not having to run around last minute and try to pull together something very formal for a first-time, lets-see-what-this-is-all-about kind of thing. Especially since the only really hunting appropriate thing I own is tan breeches. They even sent out an email mid-week saying we could wear raincoats, since rain was in the forecast.

Might look ghetto, but whatever, I was PUMPED

Since the place where they were hunting is about 2 hours away from me (isn’t literally everything?) I left Friday afternoon after work and hauled to Trainer’s place. We set to work with the important tasks on Friday night, like preparing the flasks.

Then Saturday morning we were off bright and early to load the boys and head out. It’s been a long time since Henry’s been in a slant load, he kept trying to walk straight in and chested the divider. Derp. And since he was in the last spot, he also had to back out on kind of a slant, and step down at the same time. Double derp all over the place. Bless him. But we made it, got tacked up, and he immediately took up the role of Uncle to Trainer’s 3yo OTTB, Jack.

Mr. Jack and Uncle Henny

Everyone got mounted up with little drama, flasks in one pocket of the rain jacket, phone in the other (bc I gotta get pics of THIS!). We got a mini-briefing on rules and etiquette, sorted ourselves in second flight behind Kathy (poor Kathy, being responsible for all us idiots), and away we went.

Henny doesn’t look pumped yet because he didn’t realize what was coming.

We started out at a very civilized walk/trot, with periods of stopping and waiting as the hounds struck off looking for scent. We hung way back just kind of waiting and staying out of the way, while also being VERY ENTHUSIASTIC to be out hunting.

Or taking hits from the flask, if you’re Trainer.

Then the hounds kind of went rogue after some deer and things hit pause while the staff went off to round them up. That’s when David, poor David he had no idea what he was getting into with us, came back and asked if any of us wanted to go for a gallop. Um. Yas. Yas we would. At that point we split off into two groups… the ones that wanted to run around and be idiots went with David, and the ones that wanted a more relaxed w/t experience stayed with Kathy.

There’s poor David at the front of our group. Amy’s face when he asked if we were ready to go kind of sums up how the next 2.5 hours went.

And that’s how we ended up first flight. I think all of us thought that David was going to take us for a loop and bring us back, but basically we spent the next two hours galloping around. First for fun, then catching up to and following the hounds. We’d gallop for a while, then take a few minutes for “refreshments” (ie drinking and chatting).

It’s not hard to make eventers happy
Amy’s souvenir tree

Most of the trails were pretty open and flat with a few creek crossings, but it got a little wild a few times when we weaved through the woods. I took a tree branch to the knee that turned into a pretty bruise, and at one point while galloping behind Highlander (the draft/paint X) he tossed up a poop/dirt clod out of one hoof that got me right in the chest. And that’s how I got horse poop all over my saddle. Lesson learned – don’t gallop behind Highlander.

As with many things he does, Henry took this quite seriously. He listened intently to the hounds and horn, always very very interested in them but not scared. I think he caught on that we were following them, and the longer we were out there, the more into it he got. The hounds ended up finding a bobcat and chased it for a while before it climbed a tree. This led to more galloping around on our part.

Henry started out a little slow but by the end he was finding a whole new gear and was still full of run by the time were done, after almost 3 hours total of being out. He basically pranced back to the trailers.

If he looks quite impressed with himself, it’s because he was

And for the data geeks among us, the GPS map from the master’s horse and the hounds is pretty cool. Her horse covered almost 11 miles. No clue how far we went, but we went there fast. I should turn on my GPS next time.

Yeah that’s right, I said next time. Because holy shit that was fun, I totally want to go back. Galloping and/or giggling for 3 hours was basically all of my childhood dreams come true, and it’s some seriously awesome conditioning for the horses, especially with the different terrain and footing.

Except I want to be a little less ghetto next time, so I’m gonna try to pick up a plain navy or black coat for cheap. Luckily they’re all over eBay for like $25, since nobody wears the wool coats anymore. Henry also thinks he’s earned a hunt bridle, but I’m not convinced yet.

Maybe after a few more hunts, kiddo.

I can’t thank Kathy enough for inviting us, or Independence enough for letting us come see what it’s all about. Foxhunting has been on my bucket list forever and it was just as fun as I thought it would be. We will definitely be back!

An Ode to the Barn Worker

Our main barn worker retired a couple weeks ago.  Laura is a tough, gruff, wiry lady, the kind you’d expect to see working as bartender at a biker bar or something. She doesn’t take shit from anyone, but at the same time she’s incredibly kind and caring. Originally Laura worked in corporate America, at a big company where she got up every day, put on her suit and heels, and played the 9-5 game. Then one day she looked around at her life, realized how deeply unhappy she was, and walked away from it all to pursue a career that would make her feel happy and fulfilled.

her handwritten notes on Henry’s stall

First she worked at the race track, as a hot walker, then a groom. She worked longer hours and more days and made less money, but her heart was happy. Every single day she felt like she was making a difference in the horse’s lives, and every single day she got to enjoy being outside and moving around instead of chained to a desk in a cubicle. I can identify with that part of Laura in a major way, and I admire the courage that it took for her to walk away from stability in favor of something more satisfying.

Eventually Laura made her way to my barn, which is of course where I crossed paths with her. When Henry moved in he was fresh out of rehab for his saucer fracture and required a pretty strict routine for his first month or so. Laura impressed me right away with her dedication to making sure that he was taken care of appropriately. No matter how inconvenient, she did it all to a “T” with no complaints.

who do you think put all these fans in the crossties for him?

It didn’t take long for Henry to become one of Laura’s favorites. She thought his cheeky personality was quite funny, and I was getting texts in the middle of day asking something like “Can Henry have banana?” or “Henry wants some of my Bugles, can he have some?”. She shared all of her snacks with him, but his particular favorite was her extra salty sunflower seeds. Eventually she got to where she would buy two bags at a time, one for herself and one for him.

Laura also knew the behavior of every horse, inside and out. When Henry colicked last winter, she called me and said “Henry is half-heartedly eating his breakfast, and every once in a while he stops to paw. I’m worried he’s colicking.”. And she was right, he was. But she caught it so fast that a little bit of Banamine and a 20 minute walk fixed him right up, and for the next few weeks she soaked his hay every day and gave him alfalfa, “just to be sure“.

Henry isn’t the most maintenance-free horse to take care of. In the summer he really can’t stay out past 10am or he’ll sweat to death, and in the winter he requires close attention be paid to his blanketing needs. Laura had no problem with any of it though, always stopping in the middle of chores to bring him in, or coming back down to the barn late at night to put his blanket on. I never had to worry about whether my horse was too hot or too cold. And she always tossed him extra hay.

and let him clean up the aisle after a hay shipment was unloaded

If she saw me packing up my trailer to go somewhere, she’d stop what she was doing and help me pack, despite my protests. Before I could even turn around she’d be tossing hay up in the bed of my truck or packing Henry’s grain. That’s just her nature. It didn’t really matter if you needed the help or if she had other things to do… she’s a helper, and she was going to help. And every single time we got back from the show, she was the first one asking me to see pictures and video. She thought Henry was just a blast to watch. But really, that shows you how invested she was in “her” horses, and how much she genuinely cared about them. Laura even asked about Presto all the time, and became deeply invested in his journey too.

Laura’s husband had a stroke a few years back, so pretty much every spare minute she had was spent taking care of him. They lived in a mobile home on the property, and she would buzz back and forth from the barn to the house, making sure everyone was taken care of. That was her job, 24/7. But eventually her husband required more and more care, and she decided to retire and move closer to family so she would have some help. A decision I totally understand and respect, but I miss Laura a lot, just the same, and I think Henry does too. If nothing else, he’s wondering where the heck the nice lady with the sunflower seeds went. I still send her texts and pictures, because I know how much she’s missing the horses, too.

who wouldn’t miss this charming face?

Barn workers in general are overworked, underpaid, and a lot of times very under appreciated. Because of that, good ones can be really hard to come by, yet they have one of the most important roles in our industry. They’re the ones that interact with our horses the most, and they’re the ones that are entrusted with their overall health and well-being. So if you have a good one like Laura, make sure they know how much you appreciate them and everything they do for you and your horse… I guarantee they will be happy to hear it.