You’ve got a friend in me (for now)

Henry has been living the solo turnout lifestyle for a while now. Almost 3 years while we were at the western barn, and while he started out in group turnout at the vet’s place, he eventually got banished again. Why? Because he’s a butthole and if he senses any kind of weakness or submission in another horse, he will chase them, or have random outbursts of rage.

This poor sweet goofy idiot just wants to be friends and play bitey face but Henry is mostly interested in sporadic homicide

When we moved to the new place I didn’t even bother trying him with other horses. Mostly because he makes me kind of nervous, since I never quite know how he’ll react, and I didn’t want him to hurt anyone. He’s content enough on his own, and it’s worked out fine.

And then February decided to be rainy. Like day after day after day. This presents a bit of a quandary for me, because 1) only one of the pastures has a shelter 2) I’m gone like 10 hours, all day long. I don’t really like for horses to be stuck outside with no option for shelter, especially since I work so far away and can’t get there at the drop of a hat if a more severe storm were to pop up. Of course, I also don’t want to have to leave them inside all day either, especially if the rain is spotty or light or the chances are like 50%, which is how this week was. None of us want them stuck inside for days at a time for no real reason.

So last weekend, knowing that the rain was coming, I started experimenting with how I could make sure they still got turnout, but also that everyone had the option for shelter. In the past I’ve tried putting Presto, JB, and Quinnie in the front field with the shed, and leaving Henry’s pasture gate open so that he could use the barn as shelter. But since him going to shelter would require putting himself very much out of the line of sight of the other horses, he refused to use it, just parking himself dejectedly at the fenceline. That doesn’t work.

Henry has played with the other horses over the fence and I never saw any aggressive behavior from him, so first I tried the easiest option of putting him in with them and making a group of 4. That lasted for about 10 minutes. He and Presto are well acquainted enough to where Henry isn’t TOO psychopathic towards him, and Presto knows to steer well clear. But JB just kept trying to go up and make friends with him repeatedly, and he made the crucial mistake of being way way too submissive about it. Henry sensed weakness, pounced on it, and started chasing him. I had to intervene and quickly put the kibosh on that. As I suspected, he can’t be trusted alone with the babies.

Presto wearing last years sheet because he ripped half the lining out of this years, proving me right for not selling the old one

Plan B was to make two pairs, which I really hate doing in general because I feel like 2 is the worst number for horses. They tend to get overly dumb about their friend, and one or both turns into a moron when the other one leaves. But… I didn’t have a lot of options, and was willing to try it. So the babies went out in the front pasture with the shed, and I turned Henry out with Quinnie in the middle pasture that opens up into the barn courtyard. I figured I could just leave that gate open and they could have the barn to use as shelter.

I put Henry with Quinnie and thought “Ok, here we go”. He marched up to her, they sniffed noses, he squealed and pinned his ears, and Quinnie looked at him deadpan like “Who the fuck you think you are, bucko?” and starts grazing, ignoring him completely. Henry was perplexed. You could see the hamster spinning at mach 5 on it’s wheel in his brain. He tried again, puffing up to her, ears pinned. She didn’t even so much as acknowledge his presence. And so began Henry’s love affair with Quinnie.

They’ve been out together all week now, and he is very much NOT the alpha in their relationship. He goes where she says, when she says, how she says. He’s been transformed from a psychopathic baby-chaser to a relatively pathetic puppy dog. She owns his ass.

But she’s also nice about it, too.  Not mean, just very clear firm lines. They’re always pretty close together and she seems to enjoy having an adult companion again. She still keeps track of what the babies are doing in the pasture next to hers, and they tend to all tend to hang out in the same area. One time I caught Henry trying to mess with JB over the fence and Quinnie came barging between them, reprimanding Henry and moving him back away from the fence. She ain’t got time for that shit, and she ain’t having it. She couldn’t really manage him when all 4 were together, it was too much chaos, but she can manage him pretty well one-on-one.


Having the barn for shelter on the rainy days worked pretty well. I hung a couple slow feed nets, so they wouldn’t have reason to wander out into the rain if they didn’t want to, and they chose to stay pretty dry. Presto is a little salty about the whole ordeal because Quinnie is his favorite friend too, but he seems to be getting over it. And Henry, while totally devoted, has not been stupid about it yet, knock on wood. Yesterday I rode him and no one had a meltdown about being separated.

on one of the rainy days I opened the cameras while I was at work and found them sharing a stall. It’s cute, admit it.

I like that Henry finally has a friend, and as long as he can keep himself together about it, he can keep her. We’re getting a few days off from the rain but I’ve kept them in their pairs. If he doesn’t try to kill anyone and can keep his brain in his head for riding, I’m happy to let him stay with her. We shall see. For now, they’re pretty darn cute. They both look like fat old mares… they’re BBFs – best broodmare friends. There’s a real Golden Girls aspect to them, especially when they’re standing nose to nail under the tree in the afternoon, taking a nap.

I think they’d be Dorothy and Sophia

Fingers crossed that we’ve found a good solution and Henry can actually have a friend that he doesn’t try to murder for once.


Guess who’s officially a teenager today?

Yup, it’s Mr. Hesalmostsweet aka Happenstance aka Henry aka Henny aka Handsome aka Boo.

Since we’ve got a tradition of birthday hats/headbands by now, he picked one that had an appropriate amount of sass to match his personality. Well he really wanted one that said “worship me and give me cookies” but I couldn’t find that so we settled for the next best thing.

Where does the time go, y’all? I can’t believe he’s 13. I’m not ready.

Also, man I really didn’t notice how terrible his halter looked until these photos. Ignore that.

This afternoon we’ll definitely celebrate Henry with lots of cookies, some peppermints in his dinner, and a nice long canter in his sidepull so he has ample opportunity to spook and be wild and pretend to try to buck me off. All his favorite things!

There’s Always the Circus

As I alluded to yesterday, if Presto doesn’t work out as an eventer I’ve decided that we’ll just go audition to join the circus. I feel like he is uniquely qualified, and let me tell you why.

First of all, he looks like a damn giraffe.

Honestly, we could paint the giraffe spot pattern on him and a lot of city-folk probably wouldn’t even know. The legs, the withers, the neck, the slightly flopped ears… you have to admit it’s pretty close. So right off the bat, he could be part of the “rare zoological feature”.

Image result for giraffe circus

It doesn’t stop there, though. See, he’s multi-talented performance giraffe. He also has a ball act, which (as I have proven in my Instagram stories) can easily be set to music for more flair or drama. His performance features myriad tricks, including but not limited to: (1)
kneeling (2)
twirling (3)
violent twirling (4)
a toss-stomp-reverse smoosh combo (6)
spins (5)
and even some freestyle rodeo moves, to add to his all-american appeal (rodeo is backup plan C, if both eventing and the circus don’t work out)

And of course, he likes to end every performance with a good snuggle session.

Every performance is a freestyle, so you don’t just get the same show every night. Sometimes he even throws new combos in there, trying out new material to keep the audience on their toes. Really, there’s so much stage appeal here, and I’m not just saying that because I’m his manager. This kid could be a star.

If the circus still isn’t convinced to take him as a solo performer, it’s possible that we could cast JB in a supporting role, for additional chaos.


I think Presto could potentially draw quite a crowd at the circus, given his appearance and skill set. Sure, he might be a bit of a diva about what he requires in his dressing room (please ignore the “45 buckitz of COOOOKEEEEES” scrawled across the bottom of his contract in crayon) but you have to admit he has star appeal. I refuse to wear this outfit though. I draw a hard line at that.

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The Home Stretch

You know what’s stupid? Breeding. Ok, it’s not stupid, I love it a lot, but if you’re into instant or at least somewhat short-term gratification, this is 1000% not the way to get it.

he cute tho

I picked the stallion and mare in 2015. Five years ago. We are five years into this and I haven’t even ridden the resulting offspring yet. And the worrying… my god. It starts before the horse is even born. What if something happens and the mare aborts? What if the foal is stillborn? What if something goes wrong during delivery and both the foal and the mare die? What if it has 4 eyeballs and 3 legs? What if it tries to die constantly for it’s entire life, because it’s a horse and that’s what horses do?

Not that I, uh… over-imagined any of those scenarios plus like 500 others or anything.

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And for the record, one of my nightmares did actually come true so now my neurosis is justified forever and ever.

But when they’re foals it’s all pretty fun (okay, when they’re not trying to die it’s fun) because they’re cute and fluffy and everything in the world is exciting to them. It’s literally a new horse, but in the cutest possible form. You are delighted to have successfully created said new horse, and you’re thinking “Ha! SUCCESS! I did it!”.

And then they’re weaned and you’re like well, ok… now what.

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They get ugly, and then less ugly, and then reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal ugly, and then less ugly, and then dumb, and then less dumb, and then re-dumb. They grow, and they change, and they learn, and then forget, and then learn again, and then grow and change some more. Sometimes you stand there looking at them like:

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And then other times you see a glimpse of the horse they hopefully will become someday, and that changes to:

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If there’s one thing you learn really quickly about babies that you’re raising for yourself, it’s that you have to take the best of what you see, and learn how to burn the rest from your memory. It’s a long long long long wait, and you’ll drive yourself crazy if you overanalyze them on the regular. It’s like looking at a 10yo kid and trying to guess what kind of 35yo they’ll become.

And so it goes for those first couple years, staring at varying versions of an ugly yak-creature that you’re pretty sure is a horse, at least biologically, until basically they’re 3 or 4 and ready to start their real life. And that stretch between 2.5yo and 3yo? It’s approximately 1,008 months.

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For real, while the entire first few years are slow AF, this particular stretch of time could not be more torturous. The horse is big and grown up enough to look like a real horse, but… it’s not a real horse. If I didn’t have Henry as a distraction I don’t know what I would do.

Originally I had wanted to put a handful of very easy rides on Presto around the 2.5 mark, but a particularly awkward growth spurt put the kibosh on that. If he can’t even figure out how to canter on the same lead in the front and the back, there isn’t much use in asking him to figure out how to carry a rider. Now, knock on wood, the balance seems to have magically re-appeared again. All the sudden one day I looked up and his lovely gallop was back, and I found myself staring at him starry-eyed as I have so many times in the last 3 years. Imagining what that will feel like to ride. Picturing him storming around his first cross country, the thing I literally created him to do (FIVE YEARS AGO). More and more, day by day, bit by bit… I can see it in him. He’s almost a real horse.

We are now officially about a month from Presto’s 3yo birthday. It’s shaping up to be a wet month, and I don’t have anyone around or in town to come help me with his first few rides, so we’re just waiting. What’s another few months at this point, when it’s already been five years in the making? And then consider that he’s definitely over a year, maybe year and a half away from actually going to his first event… those first rides are the culmination of one part, but also just the beginning of a whole new even longer process. Which is almost depressing when you think you’re finally at the end of what has already been a long process.

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So here we find ourselves, on the home stretch of this particular part of the journey. Hopefully. Maybe. It’s a really really long home stretch, that’s for sure. I for one CANNOT WAIT. It’s been a long 84 3 years. And hey, if the eventing thing doesn’t work out, Presto can always join the circus. More about that tomorrow…

Now I Get It

For the majority of my life I’ve always had horses that were green and/or young and/or remedial. Part of that was because projects were the only thing I could afford. The other part of that is that, luckily, they’re also what I’ve always tended to enjoy most. I like taking something and molding it into something better. It’s rewarding, it’s challenging, and it keeps life interesting.

what, you don’t buy random 17.1h halter-broke-only TB’s out of people’s backyards because it seems like a good way to spend the winter?

Sure, I fantasized about the whole “if I won the lottery I’d go buy an experienced horse” thing, but since it was so far outside of the realm of reality I never devoted that much thought or desire to it. Realistically I didn’t really even understand the appeal… a horse like that seemed honestly a bit boring to me. What was the point really? And if, in my price range, you gave me the option between the young/green/idiot vs the older/past it’s prime/but likely a lot easier horse… my dumb ass is gonna choose the idiot every time. I can’t help it.

Image result for i like danger gif

And, truth be told, because pretty much all I’ve ever had is projects (aside from my first horse who was older but actually WAS, in retrospect, fairly dangerous for 16yo kid), I’ve never kept one long enough to enjoy it as more of a finished product. The closest I’ve ever come was the lease horse that I rehabbed from a soft tissue injury and showed a little in the adult jumpers. He was further along in his training when he came to me compared to most I’d had, although he was T-R-I-C-K-Y to ride. Particularly the first 5 minutes where you had to convince him that he was, in fact, required to move beyond a stand still (every ride. every effing ride.).

he could jump though, if/when he felt like it

In my time as a barn rat, though, and then later at boarding barns, I was lucky enough to have access to some more “made” horses. I got to ride some nice ones, and it was of great benefit to me as a rider. I still never really found myself jonesing for one though. I can’t help it, I really love my projects. When it comes to horses, green is my favorite color.

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I’ll take two

But now, 6 years into owning Henry, I find myself in uncharted territory. He’s almost 13, we know each other really really well, and swinging a leg over his back is like slipping on your favorite pair of gloves. He’s not a dead-head, but he’s a pretty confirmed, trained horse by now. There are few surprises (even last week, when he spooked at the bushes because the lawn guys trimmed them and they were SHORTER THAN THEY HAD BEEN BEFORE OMG… it was still the reaction I expected). And although he is a spooky idiot and probably always will be, he’s predictable.

predictably terrifying, if you ask Presto

I think the best part, though, is that even when he’s off for a few months, or we do things we haven’t done in a while, he still just shows up and and does his job. He has buttons firmly installed, and they don’t come and go depending on the day. Like when just a couple weeks into riding him again, I got on bareback and ran through all of his confirmed dressage movements and he just… did them. Half pass? Ok. Halt-rein back-canter? Ok. Shoulder in? Ok. Counter canter loops? Ok. They weren’t perfect, he’s not as strong as he was, but… he did them without question. I have been riding for almost 30 years and this is legit a new experience for me.

The jumping is much the same. I’ve taken my time working him back up, but on Sunday I put up a 3’3″ course and hopped around it a couple times. First of all, he knows when it’s a jump day, and all he really wants to do from the second I swing a leg over is canter. Which I find more amusing than I probably should, but I just can’t help but think his enthusiasm, and the fact that he obviously knows what’s on the agenda, is endearing. And the fact that he’s so excited to be doing his job, one he knows really well, that he’s more than happy to cover any of my rusty mistakes (could I find a consistent distance? any distance, just not 500 different ones…) because he’s confident and happy in his job.

Now I get it. I get the appeal of having an experienced horse, and I understand why it’s so fun. No it’s not boring. No it’s not monotonous and predictable. Yes it’s still very rewarding… I made the horse, now I get to enjoy him. Maybe I’ve been doing it wrong all along. Not in the respect of buying green horses and projects – that will always be my first love – but in not keeping them and enjoying them long term.

But maybe I’m also able to say that now because I look out in the pasture and see the next big project waiting for me, and knowing what all is in store. It makes it easy to appreciate the horse I’ve built, and at the same time I’m also really excited to get started on the next one. Maybe this is the way to do it – one older established horse, and one dumb baby idiot. Best of both worlds.

2020 WTW Baby Bets Contest

OMG OMG OMG it’s almost that time again!!! The first mare “up to bat” is officially at 300 days gestation today, which means that theoretically we could have a foal on the ground in a month or so. That means, of course, that it’s time for my favorite annual tradition – the Willow Tree Warmbloods Baby Bets contest!

babybetsFirst off, the prize package. The winner of this year’s Baby Bets contest will receive:


Money, swag, and practical items… hopefully we’ve covered all the bases!

This year we have four foals coming – the biggest crop yet at WTW. We’ve got two eventers and two sportponies, including the first two Usandro foals in the US (side note, frozen semen will be available for purchase this year from Usandro as well!).

We’ll do the rules just like always. All you have to do is exercise those psychic powers and comment here with your guesses for the following, for each foal:

  • Foaling Date
  • Foaling Time (doesn’t have to be to the minute accurate, just to the hour is fine – ie 2AM. If it happens in the 2AM hour, you get the points.)
  • Gender
  • Color
  • Face Markings
  • Leg Markings (again doesn’t have to be specific – “one sock”, “none”, “four socks”, etc will work)

So your submission should look something like this for each mare:

Peyton: 3/22 3AM bay filly with a stripe and two socks

But filled in with your actual guesses, of course. Everything you guess correctly will earn points. 10 points each for foaling date and time, and then 5 points each for gender, color, face markings, and leg markings… each foal can potentially net you up to 40 points. So even if you get a few things wrong, there are still ways to rack up some serious points. If there are any ties, I’ll put them all in a hat and get Michelle to pick a winner.

I will never not include a baby Presto pic in these contest posts

Submit your entries via a comment here on this post or you can message them to me on the blog’s facebook page. Just make sure you leave a link or an email address in your comment so I can contact you if you win.

The “Due dates” I’ve listed below are based on the average 340 days gestation, but keep in mind that average gestation can be anywhere from 320ish to 360ish. I’ve included pictures of both parents and whatever info is important so you can make your best guesses.


This will be Peyton’s first foal so I don’t have any historical data on what her gestation tendencies might be. Early, late, or right on time – it’s anyone’s guess. 340 days (average gestation) would put her “due date” at 3/17. As far as color genetics, both parents are obviously bay, but they also both carry the red gene. For those who want to get really specific, Peyton’s genetic color panel is Aa/Ee. (psssst… here’s a foal color calculator if you want to look at the chances for each color)


Again I don’t have any historical data on what Daisy’s gestation tendencies might be, but 340 days would put her “due date” at 4/8. The color possibilities with this one are a little more fun – Daisy is a grulla with a color panel of aa/Ee D/D. Usandro is bay/brown and homozygous black (EE).


Another sportpony! Stormie’s “due date” is 5/8, although last year she foaled a few days early. Stormie was originally grulla and turned gray, with a color panel of aa/Ee/Gg/Dd. Usandro is bay/brown and homozygous black (EE).


Another Presto half sibling and I’m SUPER excited about this one. The sire shares the ancestor Heraldik with Presto’s sire, so they’re a little more related. It will be interesting to compare them! This will be the sire’s first foal. Both parents are bay, and Sadie’s color genetics are Aa/Ee. I’m not sure if the sire has a red gene or not… both of his parents are bay but there is chestnut another generation back so it’s possible. Sadie’s “due date” is 5/17, but she usually foals a little bit early.

I’ll leave entries open through 2/21, so that gives you 2 weeks to get your guesses in! The contest winner will be revealed after the last foal is born. Obviously I have no idea exactly when that’ll be, hopefully mid-May, so you’ll just have to stay tuned.

Who’s really excited for baby pictures?

Applying Minimalism to the Equestrian Lifestyle

Part of tiny home living, unless you want to live in a Hoarders house or pay for a giant storage unit, is minimizing possessions. Granted, at 399 square feet (plus a loft space) we aren’t going nearly as tiny as what most people think of when they picture a tiny house, but it’s certainly a change from a 1500 square foot, 4 bedroom 2 bath suburban home.

I have generally never been the type of person to collect a lot of personal (ie non-horse related) stuff. I don’t like clutter, I don’t like knick-knacks, and I’m a rather poor decorator since it all just looks like “stuff” to me. If you really want to psychoanalyze it, it’s probably due in large part to a couple things: 1) I’ve moved a lot in my lifetime. Like 17 times in 36 years. There for a while I moved every year basically. You know what sucks? Having to pack up lots of stuff. I learned how to live without things I didn’t like enough to carry up and down 3 flights of apartment stairs. 2) My mother collected all kinds of things. She was tidy about it, and decorative, but there were gas lamps, copper molds, chickens (like thousands of ceramic chickens), deorative plates, fabric, etc etc all over the place. It always felt like there was stuff everywhere, and like if I turned around too fast I might break something. She got joy out of collecting those things, and that’s fine… but I did not, and still don’t. It makes me feel suffocated.

I just collect naughty horses who destroy things

I’m also not really into clothes, or beauty products, or shoes, or jewelry, or whatever else normal people might have a lot of. I tend to wear the same types of things over and over, and the same two pairs of shoes, and I could not give less of a shit about all the different exfoliating scrubs or lotions or whatever else you’re supposed to use that I definitely do not. I’ve got like… 2 things. Hence why the idea of minimalism has been pretty appealing to me – it’s mostly in line with my natural tendencies. Granted, not the particularly “true” more extreme form of minimalism where they own like 4 shirts… that’s a bit much for me. But the idea of having things in much smaller quantities, and only keeping things that you actually use or need? Very appealing.

Except… you know what I AM into, in large quantities?


Yeah I know, that’s probably a real shock, right?

My real vice, when it comes to buying things and keeping excess, is horse stuff. In my own defense, horses do require a lot of shit. Like multiple blankets per horse. Different types of equipment. Boots for different purposes. Bits. So many bits. Sprays, ointments, shampoos. I mean… even if you try to minimize it, they still require a whole lot of shit if you want to be a well prepared horse owner. Also, look, I like having shit that matches and coordinates. Gotta have the boys looking cute. I also like have fun “toys”. However, I will be the first to admit that I’m like 15 steps past what constitutes well prepared.

The real question I had to ask myself though, was: do I want to minimize this part of my life too? If so, how far do I want to go, and then how do I get there?

For the first part I decided that the answer is a bit of a shaky yes, shaky only because – in answer to the second part – I don’t want to go to an extreme. I still want to be a very well-prepared and well stocked equestrian, and I want my horses to have everything they could possibly need in any forseeable training/care/riding/management situation. I have ample storage space, so I don’t have to worry about that part. The real opportunity to minimize comes when I turn the spotlight on myself.

This jacket earned it’s permanent place yesterday while I was doing chores in the freezing cold

Do I need 16 pairs of breeches? Probably not. So I picked out my favorites – a couple pairs of tights for summer, the one winter pair I own, the “regulars” that I reach for most often, the whites I show in, and the tan I keep for foxhunting. That left me with 9. Still a lot, sure, but… better than 16. I still feel prepared for any situation, so it doesn’t feel like any kind of loss. I did the same with show shirts (god I LOVE show shirts for some reason). Did I need 8? Probably not, considering how little I show. Pared it down to a couple of my favorite white shirts, a couple of colored ones for schooling shows or if jackets are waived, and the rest went in the cull pile. And so it went, weeding out all the things I really just don’t need, and honestly don’t even wear that much. I was left with a smaller but still comprehensive collection of things I truly love and use/wear on at least a semi-regular basis.

But… it’s pretty easy to just clean stuff out, isn’t it? The harder part is preventing it all from piling back up again. So I gave myself a rule: One in, one out. Basically, if I buy something non-essential, another item has to go. I’ve been applying the rule since the beginning of the year and so far it’s actually working. I’ve passed up several purchases already because by the time I sat there and tried to figure out what I would sell in order to buy it, I talked myself out of it. And, alternatively, I’ve added one thing because I liked it so much I was willing to let go of another similar item. Really it’s not minimalism so much as mindfulness. If I have to get rid of something else in order to acquire the thing I want, I have to really want it. Especially since I’m now pared down to only the things that I like and use the most. I can’t just pile stuff up because it’s pretty and fun. My goal isn’t really to spend less money (although that’s a natural side effect), it’s to have/accumulate less unnecessary stuff.

the ball was a necessity

Except gloves. It will be a cold day in hell before you make me stop buying gloves. At least they’re small.

While it’s not true minimalism by definition, and it’s not particularly “strict”, this was the method I picked for myself because I thought it was one that I could actually sustain. Other people would maybe have more success with a different approach, but I know myself well enough to know what’s realistic for me. My horses get what they need (yes, I’m putting Presto’s ball in the need category, fight me) and I still get to be well-equipped and have/buy stuff that I like. But the purchases are more mindful and more intentional, and that’s really what the overall goal was. Will I stop window-shopping? Never. I’m always interested to see what’s new and great, and eager to try things and see if I’ll like them. Now I just have to be a little more sure before I click buy.

The “right” way

As I was sitting there last week watching yet another facebook fight unfold about what is the right age to start a horse under saddle, I couldn’t help but chuckle. Equestrians are so funny, because I feel like most of us that have been riding/training/keeping horses long enough know that anytime you think you’re totally right about something, a horse will come along to prove you wrong. Never say never is a motto with many of us. And yet in the same breath we will staunchly defend our ideal of what is the “best way” to do anything, while ridiculing those who do something different. But what if… what if both sides are right?


I mean, I think we can all agree that riding a weanling falls well into DEFINITELY DO NOT DO, VERY BAD territory, and that waiting until they’re 8 is probably a tad unnecessary. There are always hard lines when it comes to cruelty or abuse (well… usually…), and extremes in the other direction. But dropping both extremes, there is a lot of territory that exists in between. What about starting a horse at 2? Or, on the other end of the spectrum, what about the people who wait until 5 or 6? They probably both have their reasons, and they’re probably both valid. If we know anything by now it’s that what’s right for one horse may not be right for another, and on the same note, what’s right for one person might not be right for another. There are people who choose to let their horses be relatively feral for their early years, and those who choose to do a lot of handling and ground work. People who bring horses up the levels quickly, and people who take a long time to develop them. Very different approaches, but again – maybe both are right.

I’ve seen a lot of these scenarios unfold. There are people that are exceptionally good at reading a horse, understanding when they can ask for more and when they can’t, when the horse needs a break mentally or physically, how to artfully add strength to a horse without adding wear and tear. I have no doubt that those people can and have successfully started many horses at 2 and not done any detriment to the horse’s long term soundness – in fact, some studies show that the horse may be better off because of it. You also see the people who don’t possess a lot of patience, or aren’t so good at knowing how to quit while they’re ahead, or are very workmanlike and more intense, or are just so skilled that they can get a horse properly trained up in a very short period of time, and those people are probably more successful waiting until a horse is older. Some people like to spend a long time just casually trail riding the babies, some like to go right into a structured work program. There are also the horses that are ready to work a bit earlier, and those that aren’t. It’s all different – sometimes VERY different. A lot of times what someone else does isn’t what we would do. But does that make it automatically wrong just because it’s not what we would do? What if it’s actually the very best thing for that particular person and that particular horse, given their circumstances, personalities, and skill sets?

is this a skill set?
how bout this?

At one point the facebook argument devolved into dithering over a difference of just a few months, what exact time growth plates close, etc etc. By the end I was just chuckling. I’ve probably been drawn into this same argument myself many times in the past, I’m sure. After all, I believe what I believe because it’s worked for me and it suits my views based on what I have observed and what I’m good at. But by this point I also have no doubt that someone else could have a very different approach and still be right. Many roads lead to Rome.

We see the same thing over and over with things like the will-never-die draw rein debate, or wool vs foam flocking debate, or blanketing, or fencing, or straight load vs slant load trailers, or whatever other thing everybody’s all riled up about this time. When it comes to training and horse management, there’s just a whooooole lot of gray area. Extremes are probably not good, but everything in the middle – and there’s a whole lot of it in the middle – might be very right, depending on the variables at hand. It’s tricky in the age of social media, where we’ve kind of been trained to constantly give our own opinion or feedback. I personally like the debates that social media invites, I think it’s helpful to hear and consider different opinions, but maybe not so much when it devolves into name calling or “everyone is wrong except for me”. Sometimes people are very convinced that their way is the only way. We’ve probably all been guilty of that at some point.

I’ve found this particularly amusing lately as I get people asking “why haven’t you started riding Presto yet?” and literally the same day from someone else “he definitely needs another year”. I’ve got people thinking I’m crippling him by lunging him w/t for 5 minutes twice a month, and people who think he should already be well on his way to broke and I’m doing him a disservice. Not joking, I’ve heard both. Because if there’s anything we horse people have, it’s opinions. I respect both sides, and, to be honest, maybe there’s validity in both. Maybe, based on those peoples’ own experiences, they’re right. At the same time, I’ve had my own experiences that have formed my own ideas about what’s right for ME and for how I start my horses, and I fully recognize that my way isn’t going to be viewed as The Right Way by many. Shoot, my own “right way” has varied even from horse to horse and over time.

The same concept is true for so many things when it comes to horses. No two people do everything exactly the same way, yet… their horses are still happy and healthy. Just because I think I’m right doesn’t automatically mean the other person is wrong, and vice versa. For so many things, “right” can take many different forms, depending. The horses seem to care a lot less about all these nitty gritty nuances than their humans do, and they definitely aren’t saying rude shit to each other on the internet. Maybe we can take a cue from them. Maybe, even though someone else’s way might look a lot different from ours, we can just look at their happy healthy horses  and say “okay… maybe they’re right too“.

Or, ya know, we can just keep fighting about stuff on facebook. It’s entertaining, if nothing else.

Lawd he chonky

By far the best thing about our new living situation is being able to have 100% control over my horses’ care. I was a boarder for 20 years, and while there is a lot to be said for the relative ease of it, nothing holds a candle to having your horses in your backyard and being able to customize their care however you please. Knock on wood, both boys are thriving. Henry in particular.

ok aside from his ranch horse mane

He’s always been a difficult horse to manage in the winter. He loses weight, he gets ulcery, and the past few years he’s even been prone to little colic episodes. I’ve always thought that it had to do with a few things: 1) the pasture not being as good in the winter. Most places he’s lived didn’t have the best grass at any time, but especially not in the winter. 2) increased stall time. Pasture board has not been an option for him, and the soil in this part of the country can be particularly awful when it’s wet. Like… extremely slippery, suck the shoes right off of their feet type mud, and pastures destroyed very easily by turning horses out on them when they’re wet. So winter has inevitably meant that there may be times when he had to stay in for days at a time, and none of his stalls had runs, so he wasn’t able to move around much. I’d go hand walk him, but that’s definitely not the same. 3) not enough forage. Most boarding barns won’t feed more than 2 flakes per meal, which I get, hay is expensive here. But that’s just not enough, especially if the pasture isn’t good, and extra-especially if they’re going to be inside for long stretches. Throwing them 2 flakes of hay at 5pm means they’re out by 8, which usually meant they’d be standing for the next 10-12 hours with nothing.

I tried a lot of things to get around this. I bought extra hay and stuffed slow feed nets. I fed supplements. I tried different feed. I treated him for ulcers. I sweet-talked the barn help to come back down and throw him more hay, and asked them to give him a flake of alfalfa in the morning before he got his grain, and also would they mind turning him out in the all-weather arena for a few minutes if the pastures were too wet (thank god for that particular barnworker, he put up with a lot from me). Often boarding means that you try to make the best you can of the situation you’ve got. Still, though… problems persisted every winter.

“at least there weren’t demon balls at the boarding barn” – Henry, probably

Having complete control over everything this winter, and a facility that’s a bit more horse-friendly, has made all the difference in the world. First of all, the winter pasture here is quite good. Henry’s especially, because he’s out by himself and there’s more grass in his spaces than one horse can eat. Second, the soil in this particular sliver of the area is very sandy, which means it’s basically never muddy, and even when it is, it’s not slick. It can take an amazing amount of water and still be totally perfect for turnout, so he’s not stuck inside unless it’s actively deathstorming. Third, they’re not stalled as much. They’re turned out by 5:30am and I’m bringing them in around 6pm, plus they have runs off their stalls, so they’re still able to move around quite a bit even when they’re “in”. No more standing in a 12 x 12 for 14+ hour stretches. Lastly, I control how much hay he gets and when. He gets a flake of alfalfa and a flake of coastal with dinner, then at night check I give them more coastal. He likes to spend a few hours every night standing in his run staring into the woods, and he takes one good long sleep inside in his shavings, so usually he’s still got a teeny bit of hay leftover by breakfast. Never an empty stomach.

This pasture though.

All of those things combined have led to a chonkier, happier, healthier winter Henry than I’ve ever had before. No signs of ulcers whatsoever this year, and I’ve even been able to cut his grain way back. He’s eating less than half the amount he was before. He’s shiny, he feels looser in his body, and most of all he just seems happy. I’m able to ride him super consistently since the footing is so good, and he seems relaxed in this quieter environment (except for that cursed ball, of course).

I think it probably also helps that so far we’ve had a relatively mild winter, although Texas is apparently planning on getting white girl wasted tomorrow. Still though, the cold snaps haven’t lasted very long.

Presto is in the middle of some particularly interesting growth spurts, so while he doesn’t look quite as good (unless you’re really into llamas) he’s got more room to run and play than he’s ever had, and plenty of grass and hay to eat, so he’s healthy and happy too. Knock on more wood, of course. Because horses.

Image result for nervous looking gif"

Saturday Workday = Sunday Funday

My weekdays tend to be stretched pretty thin, time wise, between work/commute/riding/cleaning stalls. The fact that the days are getting longer (praise) definitely helps, but still… Monday through Friday’s daylight hours tend to be packed pretty tight. Therefore most of the non-essential or not-daily tasks around the farm tend to get saved for weekends, which also usually works out fine since SO comes out on Saturdays. This Saturday though, he was off with his rocket club, so I was on my own. I decided to stick to the same “Saturday Workday” format though, since it makes Sundays nice and relaxing.

I finished my unicorn jigsaw puzzle over early morning hot chocolate on Sunday and it was just about the most luxurious morning I can possibly create for myself

I do let myself sleep in on weekends, in that I don’t set my alarm. Generally this means I’m awake sometime between 5 and 6, because I’m so wired that way by now. It’s still nice to not wake up to an alarm, no matter what time it is, and 5:30 feels pretty nice when you’re usually up at 4:45. I fed the horses, turned them out, and went back inside to start doing laundry and putting away dishes (and possibly got distracted by the puzzle for half an hour) while I waited for the stores to start opening up. Then I drove into town to pick up a new bag of cookies for the horses (they were down to like a few handfuls, it was almost an emergency). I got home, cleaned stalls, spread new shavings, dumped and scrubbed and refilled water buckets, put their evening hay in, and then raked and swept the barn aisle and tack room. Then ran the manure spreader, walked all the fence lines putting t-post covers back on (Presto loves to pull them off and it drives me BATTY), and re-set the jumps in the field. I dragged the arena, replaced some light bulbs in the house and barn that had burned out, and put a fresh coat of Chew Stop on the section of wooden fence that those idiots will not stop gnawing on. I fixed a few fence boards that were coming loose, picked up dog poop, gathered up all the trash from the barn/feed room/house, and hand-washed Henry’s embarrassingly dirty jump pad and flatwork boots. To cap off the morning I went back inside and cleaned the house, and finished doing laundry with a load of linens. By noon, everything was done and in order. Very productive and satisfying morning.

Before (don’t judge me)
After (ok judge me now)

Then my dad came out to see the property, since he’s never seen it before, and I gave him the tour complete with a “this is where the tiny house is gonna go” highlight. He’s so nice that he brought an apple for the horses, but my turdhole jerkfaces don’t like apples and were rude AF, sniffing it before rejecting it with an “eeewwww grosss” expression. Thank goodness for the retired broodmare, she stepped up the plate and ate the whole thing. Mine are the worst. Then we headed into town for a late lunch at my favorite local restaurant, where I soldiered through chicken fried chicken and red velvet cheesecake until I wanted to puke. Yeah I know… real tough life.

while I was busy painting eye-watering cinnamon shit on the fences, Presto showed me his newest trick
mah ball fren is tursty
oh hello, no I not know how dis ball got in here it wuddnt me

The perk of a busy Saturday was a leisurely Sunday. I slept til 6:15. SIX. FIFTEEN. And I’d passed out before like 9:30 the night before, so that was some solid sleep right there. Guess I was tired. I rolled out of bed, fed the horses, put a little air back into Presto’s already long-suffering ball, turned them out, and went back inside. I finished my jigsaw puzzle. I laid in bed reading for an hour. I watched my recorded Project Runway episode (look, it’s literally the only tv I watch, give me this one indulgence). I puzzled the total mystery of who tossed the ball over the fence.

Gee, who could it have been…

I put on some riding clothes, brought Henry in, tacked up, and rode. I went back in and ate my leftovers from lunch the day before, got lost in Reddit, then came back out and cleaned stalls and cleaned/refilled the water troughs. I brought Presto in, groomed him, and sticked him.

string test says we’ve only got a couple more inches to go

As soon as I turned him back out he went straight to the pond and rolled. I quit. Then I read some more, pondered over how to coordinate a pad with some burgundy sparkle boots in a way that didn’t feature overwhelming blobs of burgundy, shopped online for my next puzzle, took a shower, and started dinner. I went out and brought the horses in, fed them, and parked myself with my book again until it was time to do night check and go to bed.

Truth be told, I’m not sure a weekend gets any better than that. Getting enough done to feel like a productive person: check. Having enough downtime to recharge: check. Lots of playing with ponies: check. Oh, and the weather? Mid 70’s and sunny both days. I could do this every weekend. Sign. Me. Up.

Hope everyone else had an equally delightful weekend? What were you up to?