Review – Mountain Horse Baily Hand Warmer

November 12, 2014

It has not gotten that cold out yet, but there have been a few chilly days.  They were chilly enough for me to try out the new Mountain Horse Baily Hand Warmers.  I picked up a pair in black back in early October from Smartpak.

They are fairly simple, made of thin polyester, about 7 inches long, and tube shaped.  They have the Mountain Horse logo in silver reflective on the top of the hand, and a thumb hole.  That is about it.  They are not lined, and are not bulky.

I am not a fan of gloves.  I will wear them when its really cold out, but they tend to annoy me because of the loss of dexterity.  When I saw these I thought that they might be a good meet in the middle.  They work as a gator, sealing in the warmth that escapes at the end of a sleeve, and cover the top of the hand and the palm.  And they do not restrict the fingers.

I have found them to be extremely comfortable, and as expected, add warmth without adding bulk.  I have been wearing them to do barn work, riding and to work on fencing.  So far they show very little wear.  The photos of them on this post are from today, after a good dozen uses. Although I could see the palms and thumb grooves wearing out eventually.  They are well made and about as durable as fabric this light weight and still warm can get.

All in all, a good purchase for $14.

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Games Practice 11/09/14

November 10, 2014

A couple of us from team Gone Rogue decided we want to practice this winter.  So we found an indoor that is about half way for all of us to meet up at.  Its one of those big white tent indoors on farm right on the edge of Berryville, just outside of Winchester.  It took me just over an hour to reach it, and it was an easy few miles off the main road.  Rocking M Acres, has some boarders, long-horned cattle and they host roping events.  The owners are extremely nice, and so are the two boarders we met.  It is a down to earth place.

This Sunday was our first practice, which we are planning twice a month for the next several months.   We have also invited a few other people to come and join us at their convenience.  Mainly an adult games rider crowd, we figured it would be an  opportunity for us to get our ponies out and work out some games skills and try some different techniques while having a fun social event.

For this first practice it was only three of us, which worked out great.  Val, Zoe and I met at the indoor, and got our games on.  We enjoyed playing at our own pace, and spent some time working on different skills with each of us.  Personally I want to improve my bottle placement on the B line barrel in position 1/3.  Val is perfect to work with on this because she has the fastest bottle placement I have seen on this side of the ocean.  She spent some time coaching me through it, and I think I have the idea down now, and just need to work on changing my approach to see if it will work for me.  We also worked on Zoe’s flag pick up.  She was unsure how she wanted to pick, palm up or palm down, and tended to approach the flag switching her hand.  I think She got it, and found the position that best suites her.  Val worked on her tool placement in toolbox, although I think she already knew she needed to just “place” the tool instead of putting it into the box with force causing it to bounce.

We played about ten different races, using up more than our two-hour session.  It was nice to get the hang of each other in a small group.  We found that our handoffs were nice and smooth, and we all three use much of the same techniques with the different equipment.  It was also decided that Petal much prefers handoffs from Poe over handoffs from Sprite.  Val and I also determined that we must reclip our ponies before the next practice.  Zoe was smart with a freshly clipped Petal.

After practice we stopped for pizza and got in a few more good laughs and reflected on our practice.  Hopefully next time a few more riders will join us, but if not, the three of us had an awesome time on our own!

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They had this giant mounting block.  We tried it out and you had to LOWER down onto your pony from the top.  We thought it was hilarious.

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No equestrian should ever feel inferior in a tack shop.

November 2, 2014

Last weekend I had a day trip out of town and I just happened to be driving past a tack store. Like any true blooded equestrian, I was *required* to stop and browse.

It is a larger tack store, with a wide selection. It’s neatly set up and well organized. Mostly English riding, with a separate little room for saddles. There are clothes, both riding and equestrian style, a nice section of gloves and supplements, grooming equipment, blankets, and other odds and ends.

It’s not one of those huge warehouse style tack stores that’s more like a tent sale. And it’s not one of those big tack stores that’s been shoved into too small of a space where you can dig for that amazing deal on something you never expected to find. There are also no used items, so no diamonds in the rough. But it’s a good utilitarian tack shop.

I chatted with some other customers, both initiated by myself and by the other shoppers. Discussing the fit and sizing of a barn jacket another shopper was trying on, and then discussing the differences in non-slip pads with another customer. This is one of the charms about being in a tack store. Everyone else in there shares a similar crazy streak with each other. It’s not uncommon to butt into a conversation with your own opinion, or ask another customer which color looks better with a chestnut, navy or black?

Like a lot of equestrians visiting tack shops, I didn’t really *need* anything. Although I was interested in picking up a new saddle pad. I have plenty, but they are all getting ratty and worn, and it’s nice to spice up your ride with a little fresh color. So after a bit of tittering around I went to the saddle pad section. They had their own brand in both economy (read: thin and crappy) and middle of the road, along with a section of Roma pads all in dressage and all-purpose cuts. They had a lot of pads all together, but there were a lot of repeats and not really much variety. They had maybe three or four with a print, and the others were all solid colored with piping. And even the solid colors were mostly the main stream navy, hunter green, white and black. As you may have gathered I was a little disappointed.

I wondered around a bit more, checking out the gloves and socks, which there was a pretty impressive selection of. And then I went to check out. There was one customer ahead of me chatting with the store employee. They clearly were acquaintances outside of the shop. The employee seemed a little snarky towards the customer. I listened as she off handedly bragged about her daughter and how it was “so weird to go to the Washington International Horse Show when (Daughter-Super-Princess) so and so was not competing.” The customer did not seem to take any sort of offense and I assumed this was the employee’s general attitude and maybe some of her personal charm???Note: three question marks to represent my questionable sarcasm.

I put my purchase on the counter (a well-priced tube of ivermectin wormer and an overpriced black all-purpose pad with white piping). The employee asked if had found what I was looking for, and without waiting for an answer, or making eye contact with me, she looked up at the customer walking up behind me and greeted her. Then she began a conversation with this customer, while rushing through my check out. She asked me another question at the end of checkout, and then again, without waiting for a response returned her attention to the new customer and all but shoved my purchase into my hands and off the counter.

I have to say I was quite put out. Tack stores are one of the few places that still tend to have honest and often enthusiastic verbal exchanges between customer and employee. Generally even a lazy employee will ask a customer a simple question to make them feel at ease. “What type of horse do you ride?” “Which discipline do you take part in?” “Is this your show color?” Or, hell, comment on the weather, “It’s gorgeous outside today, did you get in a ride?” More often than not the employee can pick out something more specific about a shopper and know to ask something more pointed, “Do you ride at such and such barn?”, “Are you going up to the Washington International Horse Show this weekend?”, “Is your daughter in such and such Pony Club?” Or maybe “You must be an eventer.”

While continuing my multi hour drive after leaving the tack store, I thought back to previous visits I have made to this particular store. And you know, this is not the first time this has happened. In fact, I could not think of a single time I had been in that store and not left with an unpleasant vibe. Some of the employees, all adult ladies, have been nice to me, although never overly friendly like they generally are at other tack stores. But there has always been at least one petulant customer service agent working the register that has looked down her nose at me and made me feel inferior.

No equestrian should ever feel inferior in a tack shop.

I spent the rest of my drive composing the perfect blog post about this tack shop, but of course I quickly forgot it and started this one from scratch.

I will close by saying that I have purposefully left out the store’s name and location. Although I suppose if I were to expect mediocre customer service at a tack store, I suppose it would be from a chain (hint hint).

Dublin River Boots. I Needed Them.

November 1, 2014

I am not a very girly girl.  I do not own a lot of nice clothes.  I mostly wear t-shirt and yoga pants, and just about everything has a stain of some type on it.  I do not have a big shoe collection.  I generally have one pair of shoes for each need.  One pair of sneakers, one pair of Muck Boots, one pair of Jodhpur boots, one pair of snow boots, and a pair of sandals.  Easy.

About two years ago I fell in love with the Dublin River Boot.  And just about all of the other boots of the similar style dubbed “yard boots”, “country boots”, “lifestyle boots” or whatever title you want to brand the fashion with.  I hemmed and hauled, “do I really *need* them”, no I didn’t really need them.  I spent months thinking about this.  I looked at the different brands, Dubarry clearly out of my league, Dublin, quality and priced accordingly, Sussex, eh…  This went on for well over a year.  I spent a few weeks in England seeing everyone and their dog wearing yard boots in a large variety of styles, and my feet kept begging me and assuring me that yeah, they can pull off that look too.  And look how dry and protected from mud they would be, while still being cool looking.

A few months after returning home I tramped on into the local tack store, and tried the Dublin River Boots, which I had decided after much deliberation were my favs.  I put the left boot on and it looked so good.  Then I attempted to put on the right boot.  It was a no go.  My stupid scar tissue filled kankle refused to bend into the boot.  I wanted to cry, but instead, I put the boots back in the box, returned them to the shelf and stalked out of the store in shame and defeat with my stupid feet wearing their usual stupid sneakers.

I quickly recovered, and went on an internet-window-shopping binge.  There had to be some of these boots with zippers.  I mean, come on, I am certainly not the only horse rider with previous riding injuries that led to ankles that do not bend properly.  I dug deep, and finally found a pair out of the UK, with a zipper up the back.  They were much more field boot looking, and certainly could pass for ‘tall boots’, but they did look cool.  Of course they were only available from the UK, which required some shipping, and I would not be able to return them affordably if the footbed was too narrow. So again, deliberation, I felt way too girly, and I decided to table the topic.  My feet cried.

This summer Dublin came out with the Wide Calf River Boots.  They only added 2cm to the calf, but I thought that might just be enough space to force my ankle in.  I spent a few months doing ankle bends in anticipation, and waiting to see if any other new styles hit the market that I would prefer.  In October, I decided it was go time.  I shopped around and found Smartpak offered free return shipping, just incase, and placed my order.

The next three days were filled with ridiculous amounts of package tracking checks.  The minute they arrived at my door I started sweating.  I opened the box and felt the soft leather.  I pulled the left one on, and admired my foot and leg.  Then I went to work on the right boot.  It took a little work, and changing to my thinnest sock, but I got the bastard on.  I am not going to lie, I had sweat beading on my forehead and my husband asked me if I was “ok” and if I “needed any help” more than once.  But I got it on, and it looked and felt so good.  I strutted around the house, striking poses in my new boots and kept them on for the rest of the evening.

I have now been wearing them for about a week.  I have ridden in them , I wore them to work, I have been doing my barn chores and house work in them, and I love them.  I even got compliments at work from non horsey co-workers.  Each of those co-workers won a gold star in my book.  I love them.  they are soft and sturdy and so well made.  They are quality footwear.

They are getting Considerably easier to get on, and I am sure in another few weeks of wearing them I’ll manage to boot my right foot without breaking a sweat or a single grunt.
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Finding the Right Hay-Guy

October 31, 2014

When I was a kid, my mom took care of acquiring hay for the ponies.  She had herself networked through our Pony Club with deliveries from another member.  She would leave a check in the hay room, they would leave a receipt  with the hay.  Easy.

When I moved my ponies out with me, several hours away, I needed to find my own hay source.  Being thrifty (read – cheap), I spent several years bouncing around trying out different hay sources.  Some were good, some not so much.  One year, when it was a really bad hay year and diesel prices were particularly high, pushing hay to record high prices in the area, I made a few treks to the local hay auction.  There would be trucks and hay wagons with varying quantities and types of hay ranging in quality.  People would bid, and the winner took the hay.  Sometimes I got lucky and wound up getting bales for just over $2 a pop (when it was generally running closer to $5/6 a bale, if you could find hay at all).  Sometimes it was closer to $4 a bale.  One time the hay sucked, but I was desperate.  I would find crushed soda cans and tumble weeds after the ponies finished off a bale.

Two years ago I got lucky and a friend called and said her friend had a load of hay in their trailer they needed to get emptied out that day.  They needed to use their trailer to take a sick cow to the vet.  They were willing to bring the hay over and help me unload it for a ridiculously low price.

One spring the neighbor delivered me a round bale, which the ponies loved.  But it was not convenient for travel.  Although I liked it for home feeding.

When that hay ran out I decided it was time to acquire a real hay guy with some consistency.  Over the years people had recommended two people.  One was an older gentleman that lived near me, who had rather high prices on his hay, and was a little gruff and not to the most pleasant person to work with.  The other was also close to our house, with similarly high prices and very easy to talk to on the phone.

So I picked the second guy, lets just call him Jerry.  Now Jerry is a character, big smile, puffy hair, super friendly and helpful. He was just as happy to help me load up 20 bales to get me through travels for competition season, as he was to help me stock my barn with hay for the winter.  And Jerry, the dude knows hay.  And he is really into hay.  He wants to know what you are feeding to start off.  For me, that’s two sport ponies.  Then he wants to know what they like and don’t like.  Do they prefer a finer cut, or a thicker stalk, and he recommends second cutting for ponies.  But he also suggests you look at his hay before you make a decision.  This man is a hay aficionado.

Jerry is a little harder to get ahold of than hay-guys I have used in the past.  Sometimes it takes him a few days to call back.  So I don’t wait until I have two flakes left.  I also make sure I schedule some time when I go to pick up hay. Jerry is not grab and go farmer. He has a few minutes to chit chat about music and local happenings, and he is easy to hold a conversation with.

When it comes to quality, Jerry’s hay is excellent. Since I am feeding ponies I don’t want anything high test, none of that flaky alfalfa green. I want clean and dry with a fresh smell. My ponies nibble up each and every stalk of Jerry’s hay, and there’s not a crushed soda can to be found either!

This summer we moved across the county, a good 45+ minutes from Jerry. I called a few other hay-guys out near our new home, but in the end I went back to Jerry, and made the trek across the county.  Quality hay from a dependable source is worth it.

 

 

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